There aren't many women pushing 60 who would consent to their face being blown up to billboard size (14 feet) for a gazillion I-71 commuters to critique as they streak past every day.

Nor are there many chain store owners with customers loyal enough to pay $25 to be bused around the city to all their stores. Fewer still are bosses who treat employees to impromptu jobsite pedicures and manicures and invoke a "family comes first" mantra of management.

Most local arts supporters aren't willing to dress to the nines and rumba — after a hip replacement no less — to win a local Dancing for the Stars competition and raise $40,000 along the way.

And how many grandmas would abruptly change their late-life plan to raise a special-needs child, rejecting dismal status quo predictions from doctors and start a school for for others like him? Safe to say Donna Speigel, 58, owner of 12 Snooty Fox clothing and furniture consignment stores, is not most people.

"She's a human dynamo, no doubt about that," says Dennis Speigel, her husband for 30-plus years. "When she passes they should examine her for a potential energy source. She starts at 5:30 a.m. and is still going strong at 10 or 11 at night," says the owner of International Theme Parks Service Inc., who met his wife when both worked at Coney Island 40 years ago.

"She gets an idea and lets nothing stand in her way," says Joyce Spiecker, manager of the Anderson Township store who has worked 23 years at Snooty Fox. "If she hits a stumbling block, she stops, jumps over the block and keeps on going when the rest of us might just sit it out . . . and she stays pretty positive about getting whatever it is done."

Carolyn Smith, manager of the Harper's Point Snooty Fox, remembers her first work day. "Donna heard I liked Regis, that I was from the South and liked Krispy Kreme doughnuts. So the first day she had a little TV set up in the store tuned to Regis and a box of Krispy Kremes." She's that kind of boss.

And though Smith briefly left for a job that better utilized her accounting degree, she was back a month later. "She just has the mind for marketing, coming up with ideas. She uses it to the N-th degree. She doesn't act like the owner. When customers come in they really enjoy talking to her, and she listens to them. I wouldn't be here 15 years if she hadn't been that way."

The employee loyalty is heartfelt and exceptional in today's corporate world. "The stores are like one big happy family," Spiecker says. "She won't ask you to do anything she hasn't done herself, and I think that's a fantastic trait for any boss."

A self-confessed clothes horse as a kid, Speigel has an affinity for the business. Laughing at the thought of the more than 200 pieces of clothing a day that have to be tagged and put on the floor at the stores, she remembers getting five new dresses at the beginning of the school year at age 7 and labeling them "Monday, Tuesday" etc. Her mom and stepfather moved to Cincinnati from Scottsdale in 1969 and she worked at Coney Island, where she met Speigel, and later at Kings Island. After college she became the first female director in the Taft Theme Park Division. They later moved to Richmond Va. for work at Kings Dominion but returned to Cincinnati right about the time she wanted to find a place to unload maternity clothes after the birth of a son, Austin, now 33, and daughter, Taylor, now 29.

"I couldn't find one that didn't smell like mothballs," she says. So she set her sights on opening a shop in 1980 in a small 700-sq.-ft. space on the edge of Terrace Park — to be near the money.

"I set the standards high. It's easy to take everything. But I wanted it to look like a boutique, not a resale shop," she says. She stayed away from store names with "re" or "used" or "seconds" and came up with a snappy name and logo of a wily stylish fox.

A tireless promoter, "always motivated to be the best I could be whether it was best babysitter, cheerleader, student," she didn't hesitate to approach well-dressed women in grocery stores or at events, giving them a compliment, her card and assurance that they should bring her their couture cast-offs and high-end ready-to-wear. "If I made them money I'd say, 'tell a friend.' "

Word spread.

"I never had to take out a loan. I always paid for it myself," she says. That first shop was energized by a story in the Cincinnati Enquirer and "it never stopped." She started looking at a second location, then a third and a fourth, following the money and the growth into the suburbs to West Chester and Harper's Point. Women brought in clothes with upscale tags like BCBG, Ann Taylor, DNKY and Ralph Lauren. Plus sizes, maternity clothes, bridal gowns, men's and children's clothes followed.

Furniture stores were added about eight years ago, all because of Speigel's marketing finesse and customer rapport. "I noticed the industry was going into furniture, but not just antiques," she says. So she chatted up some customers one day in the Anderson store and found them enthusiastic.

"But I was nervous. I had just turned 50. I didn't know furniture, didn't know what kind of numbers to expect, and I thought 'no I don't want to mess up.' But it ate at me and I knew I wouldn't be happy unless I did it."

The first furniture store, in Mariemont next to its sister store, took off after one week and a second storefront opened up in Erlanger next to her clothing store there. She snapped up the space. Then the Harper's Point people called.

Speigel says the majority of the furniture and clothing sells within two weeks. Furniture moves the fastest. Merchandise is replenished daily. When people bring in merchandise, always clean and ready for sale, they are given a number for tracking. They get 50 percent of the selling price when the merchandise moves.

Always hungry for new marketing techniques, Speigel jumped at an employee's suggestion about eight years ago. "Rent me a bus and I'll take customers around to all the stores," she said. Now they have 70 buses running all-day shopping trips several times a year. Bargain-hunters pay $25 for the bus, a mimosa/coffee/Danish breakfast, a boxed Panera lunch, snacks, games and shopping at almost all the Snooty shops before dessert. The trips are so popular travel agents arrange tours as well, and custom trips are available (www.shopsnooty.com).

Impeccably dressed, Speigel is a walking advertisement at community events. "Almost everything she wears is from the store," Smith says.

"You have to put yourself out there and visually show people that resale can be first-rate," Speigel says. "You have to be selective in the merchandise, price it to move . . . to make the consigner and the shopper happy. We want to have the nicest stores. I want to sell, sell, sell."

And sell she does. The 12 stores are averaging "well over $100,000" and the week of April 18-25 was "the best week in business since we started," she says.

Shortly after Speigel took a leap into the furniture business another challenge arose. Grandson Dayton, now 8 and Taylor's son, came into their lives with motor problems that were initially diagnosed as cerebral palsy.

"Dayton wasn't diagnosed until he was 17 months old "¦ and it turns out the diagnosis was wrong," she says. He has a rare genetic disorder, Angelman Syndrome, a neuro-genetic disorder that occurs in 1 in 15,000-20,000 live births and is often misdiagnosed as cerebral palsy or autism. Characteristics include developmental delay, lack of speech, seizures, and walking and balance disorders that require lifelong care.

The Speigels, who are raising Dayton, took him to the prescribed once-a-week therapy and doctors predicted he'd never walk or even be potty trained.

"I left appointments in tears thinking, 'I'm not doing anything to help him,'" she says.

But everything changed the night Speigel caught a "60 Minutes" report on Conductive Education, developed in 1945 by Hungarian doctor Andras Peto, an intensive, multi-disciplinary approach to education, training and development for individuals with cerebral palsy, spina bifida and other motor challenges. The premise is that by repeating tasks and integrating movement with learning, the brain creates alternate paths to send messages to muscle groups, creating the desired movements. Through this, a child can gain movement and skills, and achieve greater levels of independence.

Her internet search showed a school in Grand Rapids, Mich., and for two years Speigel took Dayton every three months for a month at a time for three hours a day with "conductors" who teach children how to move during fun, everyday activities.

"He went from not moving at all to rolling over. I knew I had to do something. I told Dennis, 'we have to open a school here,' " she says.

They secured an unused building, rent-free with an option to buy, from St. Elizabeth Hospital in Covington, worked with the help of Century Construction, Snooty Fox employees and customers and others to get it in shape for a Conductive Learning Center of Greater Cincinnati summer camp in 2006. Eleven children attended that first year and now they have eight five days a week with two teachers and two to three aides, including students from Xavier University's occupational therapy department. Teachers are not licensed therapists but instead go through Conductive Education training.

"Without the school I'd just be taking him once a week for therapy and occupational therapy. And though they did a great job, they are limited by insurance and don't have time to spend with these children," Speigel says.

At the center children are in a group setting with others who are motor challenged. "They work on the whole child and kids motivate each other," Speigel says. Parents are very involved and learn how to apply the techniques at home. Speigel was told Dayton wouldn't walk. Now he sits upright and walks.

"Dr. Peto believed that children with cerebral palsy deserve to be all that they can be, and that motor challenges can be worked on just like the ABCs "” in a group setting as students, not patients," Speigel explains. "At 22 months old, I had a little guy who did not move when I first took him to Michigan. Then he rolled over. Then he sat up. We saw such great progress."

To finance the school Speigel turned to Snooty Fox. Stores sells annual Platinum cards for $10 giving shoppers a 10 percent discount and access to special sales with all the card profits going to the school. And the Erlanger store has an Angel Fox section where everything is $1.

"Between Angel Fox and the Platinum cards we scholarshiped all the kids," Speigel says.

"Conductive education gave me hope. The belief that a child can be all they can and to talk to them as though they can "¦ you never know what they can do. We just had a boy who hadn't moved. His parents were sent home by regular therapists who said there's no hope. He's rolled over.

"We've given people some belief and hope that with prayer and hard work something can be accomplished. It's a little ray of sunshine, especially when parents meet other parents and have a support group and can compare notes."

The endeavor requires all of Speigel's marketing, retail and management expertise. "We're helping as many students as we can."

"Every day you think she's reached her limit," says Peggy Bitzenhofer who answered a bookkeeping ad more than a dozen years ago and keeps Speigel on-track. "Then she'll come in and say 'I had this thought over the weekend,' and a new sale or promotion or funding venture will come. Just when you think you can't deal with one more thing, she makes it happen."

Never shy about putting herself out there, whether it be on a billboard advertising the store or selling "60 Minutes" on a story about the bus tours or the Conductive Learning Center (watch it on the shopsnooty.com site), or winning the local dancing competition to raise funds for the arts, Speigel doesn't hesitate.

"Whatever puts the name of the school out there is worth it," she says. â–