Suzanne LaChapelle intended to follow friends to the West Coast shortly after graduating from Ohio University, but business success intervened. After an internship and freelance work for Procter and Gamble, so many clients had been referred to her fledgling graphic design business, it was clear Cincinnati was the place to stay.

"It was not my intention to do this," LaChapelle says of her now 20-year-old business, LaChapelle Design, "I never had a business plan or business training and learned by making mistakes."

For LaChapelle, not having a plan worked. Through the years she’s been recognized as a leader in her field, named as one of Cincinnati’s top 10 women in technology by Women and Business in 2006.

"Hindsight is 20/20," LaChapelle says, "During my first 10 years in business, I had no women mentors. I try to reach out so that other women don’t make the same mistakes I did."

LaChapelle reaches out in a big way. She founded Cincy Digital Women in 2001 that evolved into The Women’s Circuit (TWC) by 2003. Through TWC, which has more than 400 members, LaChapelle provides a forum for women (and men) in technology to grow through educational meetings, online support, outreach, and mentoring.

"Sue has been a stellar mentor to me," says Linda Pitt, a marketing and public relations consultant who nominated LaChapelle. "She’s been the ‘go to’ person for questions I was afraid to ask others, lending insight into countless situations and positively impacting my career. Through my work with TWC, I know her generosity continues to benefit and inspire countless others."

LaChapelle’s generosity is evident through TWC’s annual IT Classic Golf Outing, which raises money for causes such as Crayons to Computers as well as three $500 scholarships for girls interested in information technology.

LaChapelle was also instrumental in forming the Women’s Network for Entrepreneurial Training (WNET) Roundtables, serving on the steering committee. The program was established by the Small Business Association’s Office of Women’s Business Ownership.

"It’s speed dating for business," LaChapelle says of the annual networking event that brings together as many as 400 women business owners with the resources they need to be successful.

LaChapelle has lived in Cincinnati since her high school years, when she attended St. Ursuline Academy. When the Girl Scouts contacted her to participate in the Girl Scout Challenge Award, LaChapelle gladly stepped out of her comfort zone. She and eight other professional women she rallied went into inner-city schools not served by traditional Girl Scout programs to engage girls in leadership topics.

"These are girls that are worried about drive-bys," LaChapelle says, "But it’s amazing. In every group we saw, leaders are emerging."

Because of her reputation for leadership and bringing people together, representatives for the State of Ohio contacted LaChapelle to serve on the steering committee for the statewide We Are IT day that encourages middle school girls pursue careers in technology.

"A lot of girls don’t look at technology as a viable career path," LaChapelle says, "We need to let them know there are cool careers in technology, that girls can do it."

And, of course, LaChapelle will be there to help those girls reach success.

"I’m happy to help," says LaChapelle, who lives in Loveland with her two young sons. "I don’t always feel like I’m mentoring. I don’t do this for awards; I like to go under the radar. I just want women to know I’m here and want to help them become successful."