When Barrington resident Deborah Leydig opened her business in June 2007, she soon learned running it went beyond turning a profit.
"I did not realize what a great part of the community I would become," said Leydig, owner of Norton's U.S.A in Barrington, a retail store stocked with all American products. "You realize your customers help you through good times and bad. You serve on committees, and children look up to you."
During an event on May 26, the Barrington Area Chamber of Commerce selected Leydig among four other nominees for an ATHENA Award for showing leadership in her chosen profession.
More than 6,700 individuals in hundreds of communities located across the world have received an ATHENA leadership award since 1982, when the nonprofit ATHENA International started, according to the organization's website. The organization works to balance out leadership roles, supporting and assisting women leaders and professionals, the website stated.
Leydig worked in various fields before starting Norton's U.S.A in Barrington. She started in fashion design, working for Geoffrey Beene, Ellen Tracey and Jones of New York.
In the 1980s, she designed and sold gift-wrapping paper to department stores under her own designer label, according to the chamber. By 1987, she became a professional actress.
While researching the role of Barbara Ehrenreich in 2003 for a stage adaptation of Ehrenreich's book, "Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America," at Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago, Leydig learned how many manufacturing jobs in the U.S. had been moved outside the country.
By the late 2000s, she opened Norton's U.S.A, a retail store offering American products from pet supplies to clothing to snack food. Leydig said she was excited to even be nominated for the ATHENA Award.
"To be nominated among so many talented and courageous women is exciting to be part of that group," she said.
Suzanne Corr, president and CEO of the Barrington Area Chamber of Commerce, said Leydig serves as a role model for local business owners.
"She rose through the ranks of her career to develop a small, successful business," Corr said. "She received this award for mastering leadership qualities identified by the ATHENA leadership model."
The other Barrington area nominees included Kildeer Village President Nandia Black and Susan McConnell, who founded Let It Be Us, a nonprofit that supports children in the Illinois foster care system, as well as Georgeanna Mehr, president of Hoffman Estates Community Bank, and Deborah Rivera, general manager and co-owner of bakery Ambrosia Euro American Patisserie in Barrington.