Katie Laska learns success from everyday teachers

Each year, five women are chosen by the Punxsutawney Career Women’s Club for Career Women’s Week, which this year runs through Nov. 13. The criteria used for choosing these women are based not only on their professional efforts, but also on the contributions they have made to community and family.
The club was founded in 1930, originally known as Punxsutawney Business & Professional Women’s Club. Sept. 8, 1998, the club name was changed and incorporated as a non-profit organization under the name of Punxsutawney Career Women’s Club, with objectives to promote growth and respect of women in the workplace; improve self-esteem in all careers; educate women; and support community projects.

PUNXSUTAWNEY — Katie Laska has advice for young women out in the world seeking a way in life, whether it’s personal life or business life.

Look for and surround yourself with good teachers — and not necessarily the ones you find in school.

“Get up, work as hard as you can, go to bed tired and do the same thing the next day to be successful in whatever you do, and take lessons from people who do that,” said Laska, who has owned Laska’s Pizza along North Main Street for 23 years and Caterina’s Dolce Cucina downtown for three years.

“Life is not a 9-to-5 day,” she said. “You have 24 hours of life to live, and you want to be successful at it. People want easy days, easy nights — they’re missing the whole concept. Strong women and strong men built this country by working a hard day of labor and then getting up and doing it again every day.”

Laska cited three women who have taught her how to go through life, starting at a young age.

She recalled her two grandmothers: One who kept a neat home, made baked goods and maintained an attractive yard and planted her flowers from the seeds.

“She taught me to be neat and orderly and organized,” Laska said. “She didn’t have a career outside the home, but she kept busy all day long keeping the house. She had pride in her home, and it showed in her work.”

Her other grandmother, Laska said, walked to work and made pizzas for years until she could open her own pizza business.

“For someone to be that independent and strong in that day shows a strong work ethic,” Laska said. “That was impressive, because it and taught me to be a hard worker, and to go forward, be strong and pick yourself up and keep going.”

She said a third person, her husband Rick’s mother, Mary Laska, taught her about spirituality, something she described as not understanding “until you get it.”

“I believed in God, and I knew right from wrong, but something wasn’t clicking as far as being spiritual,” Laska said.

“It’s different when you find spirituality, because you know how to talk to God, how to pray and work through your problems,” she said. “You need quiet time to talk and to pray. She taught me through her actions, and how she handled her life problems. I learned how to have that one-on-one (with God). This is like really knowing what it means. Once you find that, I think you know the difference.”

Her mother-in-law’s guidance and examples of patience, kindness and listening, she said, taught her, among other things, how to be a better mother to her four children, Jeremy, Angela, Nikki and Ashlee.

Laska said young women should also surround themselves with good friends and a good support group. She said she confides in her friend, Diane Lellock, oftentimes on different matters.

“She tells me what she thinks, and sometimes I listen,” Laska said. “All women need a support group. You don’t always listen, but it’s something that you need to have in life.”

Even though she has surrounded herself with friends and family that have guided her in life, Laska said she’s still learning new things every day.

Days that aren’t particularly going well, she said, can produce simple examples — such as a smile from a stranger or someone holding open a door — from which she learns.

“Maybe if someone opens a door, I think, ‘I should be more like that today,’” Laska said.

Laska said she has also found wisdom as life goes on.

“You find peace in life when you’re not wishing you were 20 again,” she said. “You can’t go back, and you wouldn’t want to go back because you’re wiser.”

It’s easier to find people who teach bad things than those who teach good things, Laska said, and therefore, finding the right teachers for the proper situations is important for anyone’s life.

“Put yourself in an atmosphere with good people,” she said. “If a woman seeks a career life, she should align herself with those kinds of people. You’ll learn life lessons — maybe not as quickly as you like, but it will stick.”

Giving back to the community is also tantamount to success. Laska is a member of the boards of the Punxsutawney Area Chamber of Commerce, PRIDE and the Punxsutawney Weather Discovery Center.

She also urges young women not to forget those who have helped them along the way: “Don’t think of success without other people along the way. Without others, you are nothing. This wouldn’t be Laska’s Pizza without the customers.”

Laska admits much of her life is dedicated to her two businesses, but when she does have that rare minute to herself, she enjoys yard sales and collecting vintage pieces of Punxsy advertising.

She also said she has a common piece of advice that she gives to her youngest daughter when facing life’s trials: “If all else fails, put on your big-girl panties and deal with it. Be strong and just do it.”