September 9, 2013

Wichita Business Journal
Lainie Mazzullo

Note: This story was originally published in print in 2003. It appears online for the first time today as the Wichita Business Journal looks ahead to its 2013 Women in Business awards program on Sept. 17.

Sonia Greteman
Sonia Greteman, founder, Greteman Group

Sonia Greteman, founder of advertising agency Greteman Group, isn’t afraid to speak her mind.

You can’t be, she says, in a business where opinions and perception help sell products. In fact, Greteman says, letting your opinion be known is an important trait in any business.

And, she says, it’s often more important for women, who are sometimes seen as too aggressive if they are opinionated. That’s a stereotype Greteman has chosen to abolish through her actions.

“There are a lot of people who don’t have an opinion,” she says. “I think the fact that I voice my opinion is powerful and that I’m passionate about what I believe in. In our world of white-bread conformity, it feels like so many people don’t take a stand. I have a lot of buddies that I disagree with. I think some women are scared they’re not going to be accepted if they have an opinion. I think I approach it almost more like a man in that way.”

“Sonia makes the work force better for women by shattering stereotypes,” says Deanna Harms, vice president at the firm. “Forget weak and demure, retiring and unopinionated. Sonia knows what she wants and speaks her mind. She throws her entire being into accomplishing the goal.”

Building a family

Greteman says she tries to be a role model to young women she meets through her experiences in business. She does that by example. Her senior management team is two-thirds women.

She says it might have been better for her to hire men in the interest of diversity, but the best people for the jobs happened to be women.

Harms says that by giving women employment opportunities, Greteman helps promote women in the work place.

“She doesn’t believe gender should be an issue. Only ability,” Harms says. “She succeeds in a man’s world without abdicating her place in it as a spiritual, spirited woman.”

But Greteman is quick to point out that everyone should be given an equal chance, not just women.

“I think it’s important to recognize any business leaders, men or women,” she says.

Volunteering in the community is also important to Greteman, who says being a mentor and involving oneself with charities are vital characteristics for business leaders. She has volunteered with the Women’s Sexual Assault Center, Habitat for Humanity, Kansas Humane Society and Great Plains Earth Institute, to name a few.

Greteman started the firm in 1989. Since then it has reached $18.5 million in capitalized annual billings and has a staff of 18. The firm does advertising, marketing, public relations and interactive work for clients that include Ryan International Airlines, Royal Caribbean and the Kansas Health Foundation.

Along with creating a successful business, Greteman says she’s most proud of the environment she’s been able to foster at work. Employees tend to stay for a long time, she says, and everyone works well together.

“We’re all a family here,” she says. “We just have a pretty tight group.”

Harms says Greteman is a good leader because she knows how to work together as a team.

For Greteman, getting an award for her contribution to women in the work force is more meaningful than most other accolades.

“It seems like creative businesses award themselves a lot and pat themselves on the back a lot,” she says. “A lot of the awards I receive don’t mean a lot to me anymore, but this one means a lot.”

© Wichita Business Journal, 2013