Gayle D. Fitch

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President & CEO, Crickett Staffing Services Inc. • Ossining, N.Y.

Her late husband, Charles, encouraged Gayle D. Fitch to open a business 21 years ago. “I wasn’t certain that it was a good time to start a business, but he convinced me that the business would pick up as the economy started to round the corner,” says Fitch. With $500 and a dream, she opened Crickett Staffing Services Inc., which provides temporary administrative staffing. Today, the firm ranks among the top in the field, serving New York’s northern suburbs. “I have reached a level of success where I can give back to my community,” she says proudly.

A graduate of Pace University, Fitch abandoned notions of law school after working for a placement agency. “I fell in love with the business. When an opportunity to rent a small office presented itself, I decided to try starting up my own staffing firm,” she says. She credits her success to a would-be client. “While giving me a job description over the telephone, he asked me if I understood what he meant when he said he has ‘never had any luck with equal opportunity.’” She subsequently sought ways to handle racism and sexism in the business world, enhancing her service in the process.

Lean times and drastic choices aside—she once had to lay off all her staff and start again—Fitch says she is honored to know “very dedicated and hard-working professionals who have been nothing less than an inspiration.” She is a member of the New York Association of Temporary Staffing Services, the National Association of Female Executives and the African American Chamber of Commerce of Westchester and Rockland Counties.

The mother of a 14-year-old honor student, Fitch was moved when she watched Oprah Winfrey’s trek to Africa on television. “I knew for sure that if I had the time and the money, I would give the impoverished children orphaned by AIDS in Africa another day of gifts and love, and extend that effort into providing them with a better life through housing and health care,” she says.

—M.M.