WHEELING - For Jean Shepard, the challenges of starting and maintaining a successful business have been many. However, a positive outlook and a vast support system have helped her achieve that goal and many more.
The West Virginia Division of Rehabilitation Services honored Shepard with the Ability Works Award last month at the West Virginia Cultural Center in Charleston. The award recognizes disabled individuals from West Virginia who set and achieved vocational goals with assistance from the DRS.
A Wheeling native, Shepard found being the chosen award recipient out of six eligible individuals from six West Virginia districts to be overwhelming.
Photo by Rebecca Olsavsky
Lady Bug Cafe owner and operator Jean Shepard displays her Ability Works Award in front of the shop at the City-County Building in Wheeling.
"It was very personally and professionally rewarding because I put a lot of work into where I am," Shepard said.
After the ceremony, she also received the United States Attorney Award for Distinguished Service from U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin's office.
Besides being the 2013 state winner of the Ability Works Award, Shepard has another reason to celebrate this year. The owner/operator of Lady Bug Cafe, located in Wheeling's City-County Building, she noted the business has been open for two years now. Lady Bug Vending, a extension of her business, provides vending services at Wheeling locations, including the Federal Building, the police department, 911 center, and the sheriff's department, and at the Weirton Municipal Building and the West Virginia Northern Regional Jail in Moundsville.
Shepard attributes her success to a "large support network" consisting of family, her rehabilitation counselor and the DRS. Legally blind due to a condition called diabetic retinopathy, she initially became involved with the DRS for assistance regarding orientation and mobility services. After participating in the DRS' Randolph-Sheppard Program, which trains DRS clients in food service management, her rehabilitation counselor offered a suggestion.
"She told me, 'Jean, a vending area in the City-County Building is available for a Randolph-Sheppard vendor. Would you be interested?'" Shepard reminisced.
Indeed interested, Shepard gained further financial, food and safety training prior to opening Lady Bug Cafe. Reaching her goal of operating the shop was "like seeing light at the end of a tunnel."
All she needed was a name, and the Lady Bug Cafe immediately came to mind.
"I just like lady bugs," Shepard stated. "My granddaughter loves them, too."
The business' lady bug logo is also significant to Shepard as her sister designed it.
Family proves to be a core part of Shepard's life. Raised as one of six children to Michael and Shirlene Shepard, she believes that "people's origins and roots are important to who they are."
Like family, customers also hold a special place in Shepard's heart. She believes that knowing one's customers is vital to maintaining a successful business. Shepard and her staff know some of their customers' food choices so well that they ask them if they want "the usual" when ordering.
From witnessing her own path to success to offering advice to her three children and six grandchildren, Shepard believes that self-assurance is key to achieving goals. She simply advised,"Never forget who you are. Never doubt yourself." A domestic abuse survivor, Shepard lives her advice as she sets small goals, attains them, then continues to set goals again.