Women is...: Phyllis Applebaum Getting It There

Phyllis Applebaum Getting It There

how she got there: Armed with a $3,500 inheritance from her father and an eighth-grade education, Applebaum fought City Hall to become the first woman with a messenger's license in 1974. After 17 unsuccessful hearings, she burst into a commissioner's office and demanded a license. She got one.

first job: "I went to work at age 12. I was a big, chunky girl and could pass for 15 or 16. I worked at a bakery, unloading equipment and working the cash register. It was there I learned I had a talent for dealing with customers."

biggest mistake: "My first few years in business I had a zero-tolerance attitude. I held on to control so tightly that I didn't realize I could be working smarter by getting out of the office and networking. Then I met Hedy Ratner [co-director of the Women's Business Development Center in Chicago], who showed me how to work a room. But back at the office, I had hired people who could only act like robots. It was very painful in the 10th year of business to have to undo the mess I had created by hiring people who could think and grow the business."

favorite pastime: Though she's clawed her way to success in a tough, male-dominated industry, her favorite pastime is her flower garden at a weekend home in Wisconsin.