Sewickley resident honored as 'Star' by small business organization

| Wednesday, June 26, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Catherine Tyson of Sewickley said she thinks her own struggles and life experiences have helped her to help others and be a success at her job.

And now they have made her a “Pennsylvania State Star” by the Association of Small Business Development Centers.

Tyson, 61, was recognized for outstanding client service and dedication to University of Pittsburgh's Small Business Development Center during the past year.

As senior management consultant at the Institute for Entrepreneurial Excellence, or IEE, a part of the Katz School of Business at the University of Pittsburgh, Tyson has worked for Pitt's Small Business Development Center for 20 years.

Ray Vargo, director of the center at the IEE, nominated Tyson for the award. Each year, nominations are made from each of Pennsylvania's 18 small business development centers. Tyson will receive her award at a reception to be held at the National Association of Small Business Development Centers conference in Florida in September.

“I felt Catherine was deserving not only because of her many years of service but because she so dedicated to each and every client and treats them like they are her first client,” he said.

Vargo said because Tyson once had her own small business, her experience is reassuring to the clients, and she helps them achieve great success.

“She tells them they can get through this and can turn obstacles into opportunities.”

Tyson provides assistance with business planning, market research and plans, financial analysis, budgeting, human resources and exit strategies.

“I'm continually finding my work challenging, but fulfilling,” she said.

Once the owner of Nature's Garden, a natural-foods store on Beaver Street in Sewickley for seven years, she said owning a small business is not easy and not for everyone.

“I often think of my job as working with people's dreams and trying to keep these dreams from becoming nightmares,” said Tyson, who closed her business after giving birth to her first child.

She and husband, Ray Tyson, have a total of six children and three grandchildren between them.

“I know my family and friends are weary of my preaching about supporting your local business district. Think about where you spend your money. The Internet has significantly impacted competition for most businesses.”

Tyson, who grew up in Bethel Park, where her parents still live, said moving to Sewickley at age 25 without knowing anyone and starting her own small business was life changing in many ways.

Her biggest piece of advice for business owners is “to persevere.

“Don't give up. It takes awhile to establish a business. People often give up too soon.”

Not being a person who seeks or requires recognition, Tyson said, she was surprised to receive the award.

“It has been nice. My husband has always been a big promoter of me and the institute. He has enjoyed telling everyone,” she said.

“A neighbor brought star-shaped cookies last week. That was nice.”

Joanne Barron is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-324-1406 or

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