Co-founder and "chief taster," Amy's Kitchen, Inc., 1650 Corporate Cir., Petaluma 94954, 707-576-1204, amys.com

Tell us about yourself and your company: Amy's Kitchen, a Sonoma County-based company that produces frozen and canned meals made from vegetarian, organic ingredients, has been a family-owned, family-run business for the past 25 years. As one of the owners and founders of the company, I have played many roles.

As a successful female professional, what were the biggest obstacles you faced and how did you overcome them?: Frankly, it is difficult for me to think of myself as a "business woman." With absolutely no "business" experience or training, I've simply had to learn by doing as I went along.

My background has been in the arts, studying calligraphy, doing collage and watercolor painting. It is within those fields that my most influential mentors were found.

This foundation in color and design has been enormously helpful in my role as art director, responsible for the design of our packaging.

Who was your most important mentor?: My business mentor has been my husband, Andy Berliner. I've also learned a lot from our customers.

As to my other mentors, I would put my parents first, since they helped instill the values upon which Amy's Kitchen has been built -- that people matter.

It is also from them I learned at age 8 -- long before anyone except the most "far out" folks had heard of the subject -- about the value of organic food and the need to avoid chemical preservatives. Without this knowledge, Amy's Kitchen could not have become what it is now.

Current reading: I rarely read anything dealing with business. I do read every letter and email our company receives from our many customers. Leisure reading is usually children's books.

Stress relievers: My favorite stress reliever is walking along the beach. I also find calligraphy, collage and watercolor a welcome relief from the ongoing demands of business.

What is your biggest challenge today?: The greatest challenge for me has been the constant effort to maintain balance between work, family, community service and my own physical, creative, mental and spiritual well-being.

What advice would you give to a young woman entering your profession or the work world today?: If there is any advice I might give to business "newbies" it is to do your best to see that you find something to do that you love and believe in and that your business dealings as closely as possible reflect your deepest and highest personal values and that you do not neglect your own physical, mental and social needs in order to "succeed" financially.