Lena Epstein is a power woman and what I like to call a “Leading Lady” in our community.
By Rachel Schostak
Photos provided by Lena Epstein
She runs her family business, is heavily involved with the community and passionate about politics. She most recently announced her intention to run for the U.S. Senate in the upcoming 2018-election cycle. I had the opportunity to interview her and find out what drives her passion and insight on her road to success.
1. What is your current profession? Tell us about a bit about your journey and background. I am a third-generation co-owner of Vesco Oil Corporation, an environmentally conscientious supplier, that provides its automotive and industrial customers with a full range of high-quality lubricants and supporting services. Vesco Oil generates more than $175 million in annual revenue and employs more than 200 people across Michigan and the Midwest. During the last 15 years, I have held leadership roles at the company and thrived on the excitement of my industry and the challenges of operating an oil distribution company through good times and bad.
2. Tell us about your typical day. My life has many dimensions and thus my “typical day” isn’t so typical. It may include an early-morning business meeting, several hours of desk time, a networking luncheon, several more hours devoted to business, a political fundraiser and a peaceful dinner with my husband at a favorite restaurant. My political activism has found me adding early morning and late evening media interviews to the mix. This October will bring the addition of a baby girl, with all the joys and demands of parenthood.
3. Congratulations on being pregnant! What are you most excited about for motherhood? My husband, Eric, and I are ecstatic, excited, nervous, a bit scared and very reflective as we await the birth of our daughter. We are already feeling the joy and anticipating the challenges and awesome responsibilities. We can’t wait to embark on parenthood.
4. What do you love about your job? People and family. I have the pleasure of working with my family, to continue the wonderful 70-year legacy started by my grandfather, Eugene Epstein. It is a privilege to be part of a phenomenal team of professionals at Vesco Oil.
The past few years have also found me engaged in the political arena. I have met and worked alongside bright, energetic and enthusiastic individuals committed to creating a better America for our children. This has allowed me to feel that I, too, can make a difference in this world.
5. Any current passion projects or organizations you are involved with? I have had the benefit of many inspirational mentors during my career. I am continuously awed by their contributions and commitments to their communities. Thus, I have begun sharing some of my experiences as a millennial businesswoman and enjoy bringing “lessons learned” to others through speaking engagements, nonprofit board involvement, and one-on-one mentoring. It has been invigorating to share my own experiences with others, and what I have learned in return is immeasurable. I’ve starting blogging as a means of engaging others in conversation about important aspects of navigating life and career. I encourage you to check out my work at www.lenaepstein.com.
6. Secrets to finding balance? Finding balance is a top priority in my life. It sounds easier than it actually is. Our lives take on many dimensions. I am a newlywed, a friend, a business partner, a working professional, a political activist, an engaged community member, a daughter, a sister and aunt, and a person with an array of personal interests. With our first child due in early October, a wonderful new dimension is about to be added to my life.
I use my calendar to manage my day, and to reflect on my priorities and my commitment to friends and family. Ironically, personal and family time is likely the easiest to slip through the cracks or be postponed. To keep that from happening, I schedule it and reflect on whether it has been given the critical time it deserves. Probably the most important step you can take to create balance and manage time within your life is to hold yourself accountable for your actions, inactions and priorities. By that, I mean take a few minutes at the end of each week to look back on how well you balanced your time against your personal and professional responsibilities. Did your actions reflect your priorities? Give yourself a non-critical review that allows you to course correct next week.
More times than not, I find myself re-negotiating my time to make it all fit. Prioritizing is critical and that includes finding time for family, friends and yourself, as well as business responsibilities.
7. Being a successful woman in business is never easy, but the leading ladies who succeed never let “being a woman” get in their way in the business world. My professional life exists within a male-dominated industry. I have prospered in this environment and have been careful not to fall prey to stereotyping my male colleagues. I expect the same from them. I treat my male (and female) colleagues with respect and hold them to that same standard. I have, at times, come face-to-face with situations where I did experience age discrimination or gender bias. Nonetheless, being unquestionably qualified and professional, and having a healthy dose of tenacity and perseverance are the ingredients that have allowed me to overcome these obstacles.
8. Any advice to those starting out in your profession? I can’t begin to stress the importance of mentors in my career and in the careers of many other successful business people. Mentors are a powerful tool for those starting out in any profession. Tapping the insights and knowledge of others may be the most important education you can get.
9. You have a lot going on! Why run for a senate position now? I am continually inspired as well as humbled by those who have come forward and encouraged me to take this step. The last few years have provided an unprecedented opportunity for me to see our state and national political system up close. I was able to see firsthand that each of us has the ability to engage in this great democratic process. This then allows us to make a real impact on both our state and our country’s future. I see it as my responsibility to be involved and make a difference. I look forward to the opportunity to meet great people throughout the state, hear their concerns and share in their aspirations. It is an exciting time for my family and me. I am more than ready to take on the challenges ahead and eager to represent the people of the great state of Michigan in the United States Senate.”
10. What would you tell your 23-year- old self? Patience. Patience. More patience. Rome, and successful careers, weren’t built in a day. The actual 23-year- old Lena wanted everything yesterday. A bit naïve, she also thought that the world was fair. It’s not. I would encourage my 23-year-old Lena to brace herself for the bumps along the road. All roads have them. And to recognize the competitive nature of a global and competitive world. Most importantly, I would tell my 23-year-old self to reflect often on my priorities; living a values-driven life is what’s most important.
11. Where do you, personally, get your daily news fix? I absolutely love the news, regardless of whether the issues and media are foreign, national or local. I’ll tap conservative commentators and publications as well as the liberal media and all things in between. I’m seeking knowledge and the facts about the issues of the day. The goal is to recognize, and where possible, understand all perspectives.
12. What do you do to make you feel beautiful, confident and ready to take on anything? I stay healthy. I eat well and get plenty of sleep. I incorporate yoga, meditation and spiritual reflection in my life. Personally, achieving a degree of inner beauty is the key to feeling confident and secure.
13. Who is your style icon? An easy question. For me, my style icon was the late Elsie Epstein, my paternal grandmother. Grandma Elsie dressed with distinction. Her clothes were an intelligent mixture of the classic and the latest style. She carried herself like each piece of clothing was made specifically for her. I was in constant awe of her ability to pull off elegance in such a casual manner.
14.What is your power outfit or accessory? I feel my most authentic and confident wearing yoga pants and a hoodie, curled up on my couch with my husband. The casual, relaxed, me is by far the best version of myself. (SHOP YOGA PANTS HERE)
15. Who inspires you and why? I’m probably going to hear people groan when I say this but, it’s my husband, Eric, who inspires me. I have learned more about what is really important from him than anyone else in my entire life. He possesses an amazing level of common sense, workethic, loyalty, bravery and tenacity. He provides me with constant balance and inspiration.
16. What are YOUR “words to live by” OR favorite quote? “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” – Eleanor Roosevelt.
17. YOUR “LOCAL LOVE LIST”: Please share with us any of your favorite LOCAL stops in Detroit or Metro Detroit (from food, coffee, shopping etc.) My favorite local fare is my husband’s specially prepared grilled cheese sandwich, served at home.
There is no doubt that with her strong work ethic, drive, and passion, Lena will continue to lead the way in all of her endeavors!
Follow Lena on social media here: