Breaking the Industry Mold and Succeeding Gracefully

This article appeared in Seton Hill University’s E-Magnify®

By Amy Yard, Contributing Writer

She's one of Pennsylvania's best and brightest, being named to Pennsylvania's Best 50 Women in Business in 2001 and Westmoreland County's ATHENA Award in 2006. Yet she is quick to credit her success to "yesterday's" women, who worked tirelessly over the past several decades to give "today's" women the opportunities that now abound. However, make no mistake, Mary Catherine Motchar, President of Arbor Industrial Supplies, Inc. in Greensburg, PA, is no slouch herself. Overcoming tragic circumstances early on and then tackling an ol' boys network, she succeeded in a nontraditional industry, breaking all the stereotypical molds.


"Think of yourself as a person first and a woman second, and you will accomplish anything that you set out to do," says Motchar. And that strategy has worked for her.

As head of a $2 million industrial distributing company serving Western Pennsylvania and West Virginia, she has maintained and grown her business for the past 16 years, providing employment with good wages and benefits to others. Truth be told: her average employee has been with her for 14 years.

But life hasn't always been that easy.

After graduating with honors from Norwin High School in 1970, she began attending Indiana University of Pennsylvania while raising a family that included a newborn. However, everything changed when her husband was killed in an automobile accident, and she was left to raise their 11-month-old son by herself.

That life-altering event did not stop her from rising again. She graduated from Business Careers Institute in Greensburg and went to work for Gulton/Femco in North Huntingdon, PA. From their she sidestepped to an industrial supplier where she worked for a decade as their office manager, working her way up from bookkeeper to inside sales, etc. Yet, Motchar, then in her early 30s, knew that her employer's business would be passed along to the owner's sons by the time that she was in her fifties, and she wanted more for herself. So she and two other gentlemen left the company, and Motchar began Arbor Industrial.

The rest is history.

"I had great support from my son and other family members," states Motchar. "And I soon found out that when I went calling on customers to ask them to do business with Arbor Industrial, that these customers dealt with the other distributor because of the service and knowledge that I provided, not because of who the other distributor was. That was very encouraging."

So what does an industrial supplier sell, exactly? Cutting tools, carbide indexable tooling, abrasives, coolants, gaging, and hand tools.

Schooled in various machine shop courses, Motchar certainly breaks the mold when it comes to the industrial supply industry. She overcame many obstacles including securing funding from banks, which wouldn't give loans to women to begin a business.

"Most banks wanted a man's signature on the loan application," admits Motchar. "However, I thank a branch manager at one of the local banks for using some creative loan financing to help me get a line of credit to buy inventory that I needed to have. I'm glad that women today have it much easier."

Motchar isn't all business though. She has broken even more barriers for women in her community of Westmoreland County, PA. She was the first woman board member for Boy Scout Troup 293 and was elected the first vice-president of the Greensburg Business & Professional Women's Organization. Currently she keeps herself busy as Chairperson for the Winners' Circle Awards luncheon where the esteemed ATHENA Award, the Advocacy of Women Award, and the Award for Community Service is presented annually each May.

What is her advice to today's women?

"Take ‘I can't' out of your vocabulary," Motchar instructs. "My role model, Dr. Leora Baron, made me realize that I had so much to offer and taught me not to be afraid to get ‘involved' in the community. And she was the one who taught me to take ‘I can't' out of my vocabulary."

Motchar lives each day as if it were her last, and recommends that others experience life to the fullest. Ten years from now, she hopes to be doing the same type of work, but maybe taking a bit more time to "stop and smell the roses."

Last updated by ArborIndustrial Sep 8, 2011.

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