Michaela Steinbach, general manager of Mario & Son in Liberty Lake, WA, was one of 14 winners of the prestigious 2020 Rock Star Awards. The Coverings Rock Star program recognizes emerging leaders in the tile and stone industry by awarding the best and brightest young talent. The 2020 edition commemorates its sixth year and furthers Coverings’ mission to support the growth and success of the industry by distinguishing talented young leaders, as well as fostering networking and educational opportunities.

“Coverings is honored to welcome this exceptional group of emerging leaders into the Rock Star program,” said Jennifer Hoff, president of Taffy Event Strategies, LLC, the event management firm for Coverings. “We look forward to seeing continued advancement and evolution for each of these young professionals as well as the impactful contributions they will continue to bring to the tile and stone industry.”

A committee of tile and stone industry leaders carefully evaluated nominations to select Steinbach and the other 13 outstanding young leaders who represent a broad spectrum of industry professions.

Recently, Stone World had the opportunity to have Steinbach share her thoughts on becoming a Coverings Rock Star.

SW: How did you first get involved in the stone industry?

MS: I first got involved in the industry in 2008, after taking the job of receptionist at Mario & Son, just after they expanded into the new building. The economy was still booming at that time, and it was such an exciting buzzing environment; I couldn’t help but get drawn in.

What was your first job in the industry and how did it evolve to what you do today?

MS: Well, as the receptionist, I got to see a lot of small- to large-scale projects going on and I was so interested in all of it. The creative designs and unique use of beautiful natural stone — I knew it was special. It didn’t take long before I started asking to take on more and more responsibilities, and soon became a showroom sales person. During that time, the economy tanked so we all had to come up with creative ways to do business and I enjoyed the challenge. Since then, I have continued to find ways to improve the process and put my energy toward finding solutions, which eventually led me into a stronger leadership role.

What does your current job entail?

MS: My current job entails overseeing our internal procedures and communication, and looking for ways to steadily improve our process from the inside out. On the front end, I am continually evaluating the client experience, and it is my job to make sure our sales staff is equipped to consistently offer an excellent experience to our clients. 

Educating others in the industry has been the most rewarding part of my career so far. Whether it be through classroom-style education like the Women in Stone Wine and Stone event, helping designers find the best use of stone for their design and application or showing our incoming sales staff the ropes, I have always found joy helping others gain interest and success in the stone industry.

Do you have a mentor or words of advice that you follow that have helped you become as successful as you have so far in your career?

MS: The owners of Mario and Son, both Joey Marcella and Mike Marcella, have always stood behind me and encouraged me to approach situations using my own intuition and experience, while offering advice as needed. They have taught me to be confident in the business, not to sell myself short and not to let anything get in the way of a goal.

Do you find it challenging at all being a young woman in the stone industry?

MS: I think the industry has come a long way in including women as an integral part of the picture. I feel fortunate to be a women in the stone industry in this day and age. It hasn’t always been that way. Early on in my career, I was told that many people may not take a young woman seriously in this business, but I was determined, so I just didn’t let it phase me and did whatever needed to be done to establish a level playing field. I try not to take things personally. I have never been afraid to stand my ground and be assertive when needed. 

I am also grateful to be a part of the Women in Stone, which offers comradery, education and networking opportunities to women in all aspects of the stone business. It is priceless to have a group of women to turn to who know exactly what it’s like in the industry.

What are some of your most memorable experiences to date of working in the stone industry?

MS: I was given the opportunity to attend the Stone Fabricator’s Alliance’s (SFA) Italy Tour in 2018. That experience will forever stand out as one of the highlights of my career! The organizers and hosts arrange 10 days full of the most exclusive behind the scenes experiences available in the industry – all straight from the source. From hiking into the Henraux quarry and eating lunch right there in the quarry cafeteria, flying over the quarry in a helicopter, touring quartz factories, block processors, meeting the most remarkable people, seeing how it is all made behind the scenes – even Antolini’s secret showroom. It is definitely one of the best opportunities in the industry. It adds such a fire to your passion for the industry — just indescribable.

Early this year, another very memorable experience was gaining the Natural Stone Institute’s Accreditation status for Mario & Son as the company’s accredited agent. It took nearly a year of ongoing commitment, and was such a huge accomplishment to complete the requirements. I learned so much during the process and really recommend it to anyone who wants to elevate their business, and help better the industry by doing so.

What advice would you offer to other young professionals beginning their career in the industry?

MS: Be yourself! No matter what situation you are facing, an honest and genuine approach is the best way to quickly find your place in this industry. We all have something unique to offer and the industry can benefit from what you already have to offer. 

What does it mean to you to be named a Coverings Rock Star?

MS: I am honored to be named a Rock Star, especially among such a talented group of people. To me, it means someone is passionate enough to make a mark on the industry and allow that passion to rub off on others.