By Lauren Sable Freiman | Photo by John Goldy
Sharlene Ramos Chesnes has worked since 2002 to build InterChez into a full-service logistics, translation, and consulting company, serving both national and international customers. But as a woman in business, and specifically as a Hispanic woman in business, she’s found that the depth of her experience and list of her accomplishments do not just speak for themselves.
“You can have all the plaques on the wall that show your education and stand behind a reputation of success in what you do, but as a Hispanic woman in business, you are still questioned and challenged as to your credibility,” Ramos Chesnes says. “It seems you always have to take that extra step to be taken seriously.”
In fact, Ramos Chesnes says that when she attends sales calls with a male employee, potential clients typically assume the male must be the owner of the company.
“Titles aren’t important as long as the business is moving forward, but any time there is a male involved, people assume he is the lead person. It’s frustrating,” she says.
Luckily, Ramos Chesnes doesn’t lack the tenacity or drive to power through adversity. As the youngest of six children raised by a single mother in a Puerto Rican neighborhood on Cleveland’s near west side, she absorbed her mom’s strong work ethic, independence, and drive to support her young family. As the youngest of the bunch, Ramos Chesnes says she especially learned to watch, listen, and be aware of her surroundings.
“Adapting to change was in my DNA, and I had to be ready for anything,” Ramos Chesnes says. “Some people may look at the situation as a negative experience, but I look at my upbringing as a sprinkling of tools to use later in life.”
Both adaptation and change have been key themes throughout her career, as Ramos Chesnes used her education in fashion merchandising at Kent State University to begin her professional career designing window displays for the now shuttered May Co. and Higbees stores on Public Square. As the retail industry began to change, she recognized that it was time to reinvent her career path as well.
And reinvent herself she did, many times. She tried her hand at retail management, earned a teaching certificate, worked as the executive director of a family resource center in Ashtabula, and taught Spanish at an independent school.
“The path I’ve gone down has presented itself to me,” Ramos Chesnes says. “When an opportunity opens up, I am willing to step in instead of being fearful and looking at it as something I don’t do. From fashion merchandising to retail management to executive director to teacher and now to logistics, these opportunities all presented themselves and the timing was just right.”
Ramos Chesnes is now opening a new chapter as she takes sole ownership of InterChez, a company she had built with former husband Mark Chesnes. With 40 employees, the company continues to grow while helping manufacturers move freight from one point to another. Still, Ramos Chesnes embraces change, stepping in to fill a need for a customer, creating a family-friendly work environment for her tight-knit group of employees, and creating a transition plan for the company.
While each of her three children have worked within the company at some point, Ramos Chesnes says the goal is for her oldest daughter, Cassie McClellan, to assume leadership of the company when the time comes for Ramos Chesnes to embrace retirement, and change, once again.
For more info: interchez.com