How do you make it to the top? “Find what you’re passionate about,” says Moneta Group’s Nancy Georgen. “You can be good at something, but if that’s not what you want to do, it doesn’t matter how good you are. You’re not going to get the satisfaction and you’re not doing the best you can.” We talked to three ladies who learned this by heart early on, and as a result they’ve reached their dreams.

Kathy Beilein

President/GM, Laura McCarthy Real Estate

Growing up, Kathy Beilein estimates that she lived in 13 different cities. “My parents were constantly picking up, moving and redecorating. And I’ve always loved houses,” she says. “When I’ve moved to a city, the most important thing was getting a sense of the neighborhoods and the houses. That’s what I gravitate to.”

Beilein began her career in retail, joining the Macy’s training program in the mid-’70s, and working in Kansas City. She moved to St. Louis when she was recruited by May Company, but when she and her husband started thinking about children, she knew her lifestyle would have to change. “I traveled two to three weeks out of the month in various states and also to Europe and Asia. I was gone a lot and it was a crazy lifestyle.”

The switch to real estate gave Beilein the flexibility to have a career and raise her two children—one of whom, Jill Azar, joined Beilein at Laura McCarthy a year and a half ago. Beilein was an agent for 13 years before becoming a branch co-manager, and moved up to her current role 11 years ago. Although she started in the industry during a difficult time, when interest rates were in the double-digits, she says the last four years have been the biggest challenge she’s faced. “We had so many strong, productive years and suddenly found ourselves in an environment where buyers were few and obstacles were many. There’s so much lately that’s not within our control, and it’s about learning to live with the market we’ve found ourselves in and not succumb to it.”

Though she initially was reluctant to take on a management role, Beilein has risen to those challenges, as well. “I have a great management team, and as a group, we are very supportive of the agents,” she says. “Our job is to be positive, but not Pollyanna. You can be Pollyanna, but what does that accomplish? It’s about working through the labyrinth to make business happen.”

Nancy Georgen

Family CFO, Moneta Group

Nancy Georgen started at Moneta as an intern, and has risen through the ranks to the title of Family CFO. “I actually started in the file room, not the mail room. I moved up to the mail room,” she jokes. As a senior at Clayton High, she was referred to Moneta through the Youth Employment Service (YES) and stayed on, in various roles, all through college at Fontbonne University. “I was given the opportunity to try different positions in the client service area and that really appealed to me,” she says. “After I graduated, they were interested in starting with retirement plan services, and that was a natural progression for me.”

Georgen later earned her J.D. from Washington University Law School, and credits her long tenure with Moneta to the open culture that allowed her job to grow as she did. “The opportunity to advance my career and grow at Moneta has been fabulous. I’ve been a principal for 30 years and I’ve had a satisfying career without having to move.” She adds that she’s excited to celebrate her 40th anniversary with the company and looks forward to continuing to help her clients well into the future.

“The thing I love most about my job is I get to help people,” Georgen says. “It’s very satisfying to help clients navigate during difficult situations to manage their goals for their family.” She adds that because of her long tenure, she’s been able to develop 25- to 30- year relationships with some of her clients. “I know more about them than some of my own family members,” she adds.

Alongside her work, Georgen also has served as a board chair for the Crossroads College Preparatory School Board of Trustees, where her sons attended school, and a member of Fontbonne University Council of Regents. Currently, she is a board member for Health Protection and Education Services and also works with Gateway Greening. “When you’re doing charitable work, it needs to be a charity you’re interested in and passionate about. That’s key, because then you feel you’re getting back more than you’re giving.”

Robin Sheldon

Founder/president, Soft Surroundings

While her company is all about comfort and relaxation, Robin Sheldon is serious about her work. “We think of ourselves as doing a lot more than just selling things,” she says. “We’re even featured on a fibromyalgia website as clothing people with that disease can tolerate. It’s an important responsibility.” The company produces almost everything it sells—from clothing and beauty products to home furnishings— rating fabrics numerically for their softness. “Our customer is primarily the Baby Boomer, who is underserved today,” she says. “Companies are shooting a little younger and a little hipper, but this customer base is still vital and sexy and attractive, and we’re happy to serve her.”

Sheldon’s road to opening Soft Surroundings was paved by solid groundwork in the industry, in a variety of capacities. She was introduced to the catalog business when she and her husband lived on a farm in Virginia, where they founded their own catalog. “We did everything from buying product to packing boxes and putting labels on the catalogs. There were no free meals at my house; when you came over, you had to put labels on the catalog.”

From there, Sheldon went to her second career, working in interior design for Bloomingdales, and subsequently launched a catalog for the National Wildlife Federation. She later served for more than five years as VP of merchandising for Coldwater Creek before going back to her roots to launch her own catalog with St. Louisan Grant Williams. “That was Soft Surroundings,” she says. Since launching in 1998, the business has grown to include six retail outlets nationwide (with more openings planned for the next year) and an increasing Internet presence. “Soft Surroundings has always been built around things that are soft to the touch, whether that’s bedding or apparel, and we always thought it would show much better if people could actually touch it,” she says of their success at growing a brick-and-mortar business. “People still prefer to have the experience—to touch things themselves and try it on and take it home.”