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2010 Most Influential Women Honoree: Paula Shumaker

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Paula Shumaker has been offering encouragement and support to others for as long as she can remember.

Her first experience with leadership, she says, caught her by surprise when at age 23, she attended her first church women’s organization meeting. During that meeting, a letter of resignation from the group’s president was read by another member.

“She asked if anyone felt it in their heart to step up and become president. There was silence,” Shumaker adds. “I asked what it took to be president. Before I knew it, I was elected.”

That election set a course for Shumaker, who has continued to find ways to lead.

“It taught me that a willingness to help is one of the most important attributes of leadership,” she says. “Find a need and fill it.”

She did exactly that when she founded the Executive Women’s Club in November 1980 at the age of 28. At the time, she says, there weren’t many women business owners, and she felt women navigating the business world could help each other by offering support. In the past 30 years, she says, hundreds of women have found a positive learning environment and encouragement from the group, as well as taken advantage of networking nights and retreats. Shumaker stepped down as a board member 10 years ago.

“I took myself off the board … to make sure that it wasn’t ‘Paula’s Club,’ but truly a club for all women,” she says.

In November 1985, Shumaker launched Perpetual Motivation with five clients. The resource for training and motivation grew to comprise a client base of more than 150 businesses before she sold the company to a junior college in 1992.

“It was an innovative idea with a business video and audio library,” she says. “VCRs were a new trend.”

From Perpetual Motivation, Shumaker went on to create a business she continues today, the e-publication Monday Motivation. The publication goes out every Monday to subscribers in 50 states and has more than 30,000 readers.

Her civic contributions include serving on the boards of Greene County Mental Health Association, Today’s Woman Magazine and American Red Cross, and she’s one of the founding members of the Make-a-Wish Foundation of the Ozarks.  

Shumaker spent seven years as the executive director of Junior Achievement of the Ozarks, and eight years as executive director of Ozarks Literacy Council.

Under Shumaker’s leadership, Junior Achievement saw students and companies receive international awards each year, she says. Ozarks Literacy Council increased the number of children it served to 9,000 in 2008, compared to three children in 2001. The number of adults helped by the council increased as well, to more than 200 in 2008 compared to 109 in 2001.

Each experience taught Shumaker that encouragement and a positive influence go a long way.

“I believe my biggest influence was and is believing in the best in people, believing in a positive outcome, regardless of the circumstances, and then working to make things happen,” she says.[[In-content Ad]]

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