There wouldn’t be a HeSo without a Mama Heso. On this fine Sunday morning, when mother’s are given just an iota of the appreciation they deserve, I would like to introduce my amazing mom. She has inspired me with her passion and drive in the arts and in business. She is incredibly supportive and intelligent. One of the things I love most about her is that as she enters her 60s she is starting a new career and embracing self-improvement. She makes me look forward to growing ‘young at heart.’
What were some of your goals and fears when you were in your young to mid 20s?
I wanted to be an actress in my mid twenties. As for my fears, I was afraid I’d never fall in love.
Can you describe some of the jobs you had in your 20s?
I loved doing freelance promotions for Citi Bank, going from branch to branch introducing new products to their customers. But I got a very bad taste for corportate culture from that experience.
One of the district managers wanted to hire me to work for the bank as a trainee on a fast track. There was an available job that I wanted and knew I’d be good for. He told me that he believed in promoting from within, and that he was being transferred and didn’t want his legacy to be that he said one thing and did something else.
He told me that there were four branch managers I’d have to work with. If they each agreed that I should get the job, he would hire me. So I was interviewed by four people. They all told him I was right for the job. He told me I couldn’t get the job but that I could work at any of those banks because all the managers wanted to work with me.
I asked him why he wasted my time having me interview for a job he’d never give me, and he told me that he never thought all the managers would agree on anything and that he expected that they too would have been more loyal to an existing employee than someone who was a freelance agent. I was seething, and although in theory I could understand his position, I also felt that he had an obligation to do what was best for his company, and I didn’t trust him after that. I knew that eventually I’d work for myself.
And you did end up working for yourself! You started Property Tax Savers, Inc 22 years ago. What were some of the challenges you were facing right before you started PTS?
We were on the verge of bankruptcy. Our monthly expenses were over $18,000 since we were carrying four houses (My dad builds homes). James had just told me we’d have to put the house we were living in on the market. We had three young children and it was very stressful.
What were some of the challenges you faced once you started PTS?
Before I started my business, most of the work was handled by attorneys. No one was actively going after people who were paying unfair taxes due to inflated assessments. People told me I couldn’t fight city hall and win, but I have over a 99% success rate. People said that homeowners wouldn’t want to hire someone who wasn’t an attorney, but I have to turn people away every year because I have too many clients. I knew I could offer a valuable service, so it was easy to ignore the naysayers.
But the biggest challenge was time. I was working over fourteen hour days during my busy season. I tried to take my kids out for meals everyday but that wasn’t enough. And I was so anxious about getting things right that I’m sure I wasn’t much fun when I was around my family.
Also, in my field you start working in April of one year, and don’t get paid oftentimes until the following year. Then some municipalities decided to sue me and some of my competitors saying we were practising law without a license, even though the state statutes expressly stated that property owners could hire lawyers or representatives to challenge their assessments. We won the case.
What are you most proud of about PTS?
That I started it on my own without any model to follow. I never knew what an assessment was until I researched how to lower my own taxes.
So you’ve been working with property taxes for years and then suddenly you throw yourself into what seems like the complete opposite field – theater. What prompted you to get involved with producing?
I always loved theater, particularly musical theater. And I love talent, and want eveyone to experience what I experience when I hear something extraordinary. Producing gives me the opportunity to share what I love with others. If I don’t make money on my projects I feel as if I supporting the artists I love.
Can you describe some of your recent projects?
I produced a concert both at Joe’s Pub and at our house with my favorite non-famous tenor Brian Charles Rooney. I can, and have, sat on the floor in a small room listening to him sing for hours. When I looked at the faces of the people in the audience while he was performing, I felt as if I were in the right field at the right time for the right reason.
I co-produced “The Best Is Yet To Come” and it was nominated for a Drama Desk Award for best revue for 2011. We had a stellar cast. I gave as much support to our performers as I could. I went to the show at least three times a week, sat in the front row, and let the cast know how wonderful they were each night. I worked on a show in development for two years called “Becoming Tennessee”, with my friend and mentor Michael Parva. The writers had a falling out and that show fell apart. It broke my heart, but it got mended when I started working on “Bedbugs: The Musical”. The writers, Paul Leschen and Fred Sauter are brilliant, quirky and fun as is my director, Robert Bartley.
Everything about this show seems to be falling into place exactly as it should be. We have a great musical, a great director, a great cast, a great musical director. I am so over the moon excited about this project. It will become a cult classic, much like “Little Shop Of Horrors” and “The Rocky Horror Show”.
I can’t wait for the showcase this fall! I’ve seen most of it and I know it’s going to be amazing. What do you love most about producing?
Feeling like I can bring joy to thousands of people.
Have you learned anything about yourself since you started this new career?
This sounds so simple, but when you are doing what you should be doing, things fall into place for you. You meet the right people to get what you need to get done, done. It’s always been hard for me to trust people in business relationships. But you have to give a lot of freedom and control to a lot of people. I’ve learned that I actually love collaborating. I always thought of myself as someone who loves working alone. I guess I love working alone and I love working with people. It depends on what I’m doing.
You’ve lived a full and happy business/personal life. What advice can you give us youngsters who are just starting out?
The best way to go about finding a job is to do what you love to do and figure out a way to make money doing it. The jobs that have meant the most to me, have worked out that way.
I used to love participating in Walk-A-Thons. So much so that I was asked to be a college borough representative for The March Of Dimes because of how many sponsors I got. I became a borough director and worked there for two years.
I love saving people money and I found a way to get paid doing that. Indeed, when my husband asks me what I want for Christmas, my stock answer is for him to shop the day after Christmas. I oftentimes print out extra coupons to give to other pepole. For 22 years I’ve been saving people money on their real estate taxes. If you add all the cumulative savings over the years, I’ve saved people, it comes out to over $10,000,000!
I get very upset at how often people who produce shows don’t make back their money. I also realized that when they do, tickets are often scalped, and don’t sell for as much as they should. So I wrote and filed a patent for auctioning tickets for entertainment venues.
And since it’s mother’s day, I have to ask, what are you most proud of as a mother?
My goals, as a mother, were to show my kids that they could make a difference in the world, and to teach them that there are consequences to their actions. I’m proud of bringing our family to Nicaragua to help build a school when our kids were very young. I believed wholeheartedly that it would be a life changing and life affirming experience for everyone!
Daddy and I were able to send all of our kids to college and two of them for post-grad programs without having them accrue any debt.
And what I’m most proud of is the end products themselves. Three great children who are highly functioning, incredibly giving, creative people who are strong individuals. The best thing I did for my kids was to marry their father. That was the smartest thing I ever did in my life.