It’s no surprise to learn Roberta Surina’s first job was in the business of beauty.
Upon first meeting her, every strand on her own head is perfectly positioned; her makeup is remarkable; and with a quick change of her orange work apron into evening attire, she’d easily be ready for a night on the town.
While still in high school, she simultaneously attended vocational school to earn her certification to work as a hairdresser in her native state of Ohio.
The salon where she worked just outside of Cleveland was adjacent to a chain retail store. She casually entered a contest for a trip to Aruba and was pleasantly surprised when her name was drawn.
“Oh, that was something!” she exclaimed, reminiscing on the trip with her mother, sister, and aunt. “I was just 16 years old. We had so much fun, just us girls.”
The strength and support of the female bond has been a necessary aspect in her life since her childhood. Surina admitted that one of her favorite topics on which to speak is her involvement with the Marathon chapter of Business and Professional Women.
Founded in 1930 by Dr. Lena Madesin Phillips, BPW International has become one of the most influential international networks of its kind with affiliates in 80 countries across five continents. Its members include leaders, entrepreneurs, business owners, executives, professionals, and young career women.
The international organization has consultative status with the United Nations and maintains representation at the New York City, Vienna, Austria, and Geneva, Switzerland headquarters. BPW’s aim is to develop professional and leadership potential for women at all levels and ultimately sustain them economically. From entering (or re-entering in Surina’s case) the workforce to starting and advancing their own business, the organization’s projects essentially assist women in creating a nurturing environment in work, education, and health for women’s development.
Surina explained that her mother was ultimately the primary breadwinner is her family of five. Her father was a machinist but assumed the role of nurturer in the family and prepared most the meals for Surina and her two siblings.
“My mother was in real estate for many years,” she remembered. “She was influential is showing me and my friends that we could be independent and have our own careers.”
After high school, Surina continued her professional path as a beauty consultant with Revlon. Traveling roughly 2,000 miles per month, she managed the company’s products in seven department store chains.
“I was ‘Miss Revlon’…pretty much married to the job,” she laughed.
A tragic car accident claimed her brother’s life, so she opted for early retirement in 1980, and Surina headed south to the sunny Florida Keys.
“I was retired with one year’s severance pay,” she remembered. “I didn’t work for a whole year and it was wonderful!”
She eventually landed a gig managing the estates of wealthy Keys residents before 12 years ago; she opted to hop back into the corporate world. Surina calls Home Depot a great corporation in a small community that continues to grow despite the depressed economic climate.
Continuing that she really earned her education from the school of hard knocks, she hopes to eventually retire and complete her studies.
“I love coming to work here and seeing all my co-workers who are like my family,” she smiled. “I’d like to retire someday, but I honestly like coming to work!”
As a credit specialist at the Marathon store, she helps customers structure payments for large purchases like appliances and materials for home improvement projects. She also heads up the store’s installation program.
In a way, she’s still in the business of beauty. Instead of the hair on your head, she helps gussy up the appearance of our most prized investments – our homes. Upon meeting her, be prepared for a warm, heart-to-heart hug and a smile.
“More than anything, I focus on being self-motivating and having a positive mental attitude,” she exuded. “If you are happy, then you can help spread happiness to others!”
The Business and Professional Women of Marathon meet the first Thursday of each month at Boatman’s Resort on Sombrero Boulevard. New members and guests are encouraged to attend for networking, guest speakers, cheers, jeers, eats, and treats. Join the ladies at their next meeting on Thursday, Sept. 2 from 5:30 – 7:30 pm. For more information or to speak to the membership, contact President Lynn Ritli at (305) 395-1336.