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Interview with Natalie Skilliter, Former VP of Vella Inc., Now Owner of Corner Kitchen

As Sheryl Sandberg stated in her book “Lean In: Women Work and the Will to Lead”, there really isn't no straight path to success. Basically, there isn’t an invisible career-ladder which would enable one to climb straight to the top of their careers. Sometimes the road to success is more like climbing a jungle gym.  Natalie Skilliter, Former Vice President of Vella Inc., now the owner of Corner Kitchen, located in the Oregon District, Dayton’s oldest Historic neighborhood may be able to identify with this sort of analogy. She left behind her role at one of Dayton's most prestigious public relations firms to return to her passion and love of the restaurant business to establish her own budding enterprise. In a Lean In Dayton Interview, Natalie discloses how the two worlds have helped her achieve crucial customer fulfillment skills which have been an invaluable attribute in both her careers.

Lean In Dayton: You run a successful Public Relations and marketing communications firm, Vella Inc. What led to your decision to not only go into public relations but lead the firm?

Natalie Skilliter: I don't do that anymore. Now I contract with Vella Inc. because recently, I opened my own restaurant. I do some projects with Vella Inc., but I am no longer as involved.

Lean In Dayton: Sheryl Sandberg discusses in her book, “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead”, that early on in her  childhood, she started to portray certain qualities that would have been perceived as unconventional to most young girls. She even ordered her siblings around. Did you always know that you would be a leader someday? And when did these qualities start to develop?

Natalie Skilliter: When I read, "Lean In", that part really resonated with me. I too had been called bossy at a very young age. When I was little, my sisters and I tried to start a newspaper for our neighborhood. I was the editor of that. Well, we didn't get very far but I remember people asked when I was younger, "What do you want to be when you grow up?"  I always said, "a business woman". I really didn't know what that meant but I think I possessed deep seeded leadership skills right off the jump.

Lean In Dayton: From my perspective, a person that is skillful at public relations is powerful. So one could say that you have a lot of influence. How does it feel to be able to shape and mold a public image?

Natalie Skilliter: It’s really a privilege that people instill that level of trust in you, to handle not just their professional brand, but their personal brand. And we all have a personal brand that we project into the world. So being able to help companies shape that brand is really a privilege, that they trust in me and my team to do it accurately and with integrity. It's a lot of fun but it's very political too. There's a lot of different groups you have to navigate and a lot of sensitivity that you have to have. So it’s challenging and fun.

Interviewed by Julene Allen

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Julene Allen