Beyond the Boardroom

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Mary Beth Ludwig

Author: Alexandra Russell
January, 2016 Issue

Since its start, Santa Rosa-based Anova has helped thousands of Northern California families living with high-functioning autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, social and emotional challenges, learning differences and other neuro-developmental impairments.

“Starting Anova was one of those experiences in life that happens to you,” says Mary Beth Ludwig. “On August 29, 1994, my son Kyle was born and I knew that something unexpected had happened. It took a few years to have a clearer understanding of how disabled he was, but inside, I knew all along that something was different. I sensed that everything I had learned in my professional life up to that point was preparing me to craft a way to keep him living at home with his family, where he belonged, while allowing me to work—a challenge that’s shared by most parents of children with disabilities.

“Anova was one of those things you do that takes you along—when you transcend your own will to merely survive and realize you’re building a ship that will carry your child to safety. I helped build the ship that is Anova out of a life-or-death necessity for my child, but, along the way, I gained the knowledge and strength that will also carry many others in-need to safety. Building Anova and raising a child with a serious disability has been enormously challenging, but my family’s journey is one I’d never trade for another.”


How did Anova start?

I have a degree in accountancy from University San Diego and worked as a CPA before founding Anova. My dreams and visions for Anova came to fruition in the summer of 2000, when I met Andrew Bailey, who provided the clinical expertise that helped me give life to Anova. By combining his expertise with my personal journey and business background, we were able to take a shared vision to our community.

Where did you grow up?

I’m a Sonoma County girl! I grew up on a farm in Bennett Valley. My dad built our farmhouse when I was young and my parents still live there. We were very active in 4-H, so our lives revolved around our animals’ feeding and milking schedules. Looking back, I realize we raised most of our own meat, milk and eggs. We always had ducks, geese (they were mean), goats, swine, sheep, an occasional steer and, of course, dogs and a cat. Most people don’t know I’m an international cow milking champion.

What do you love to do outside of work?

I love to be at home with my kids and dogs. I’m definitely a nester, always decorating or thinking about decorating. My front porch with a cup of coffee on a warm morning is my favorite place to be. I’ve strategically planted trees so I can watch new life unfold in the spring and enjoy the gift of their leaves changing colors in the fall. By midafternoon, coffee will give way to a nice glass of Chardonnay and planting seasonal flowers. Working in the dirt is very therapeutic, and I love all the beautiful colors against my white house.

Do you keep up with fashion?

I have a 14-year-old daughter, Natalie, and, from the time she could choose her own clothes, I thought fashion would have to keep up with her! She’s my live-in consultant and helps me keep my look fresh and now.

Describe one of your craziest life moments.

I’d have to say it was when I secretly lived in the barracks with SEAL Team Three in the Philippines for two months during the Gulf War crisis. There’s a lot more to the story, but like they say, I could tell you but then I’d have to….

If you could spend one hour doing absolutely anything, what would it be?

I have a very busy and full life, so never really stop doing. So, if I had an hour, I’d choose to do absolutely nothing: just be.

What lesson did you have to learn the hard way?

Joy is experienced out of being in alignment with myself. I’m still learning.

What’s your greatest extravagance?

Traveling. I actually had to learn to spend money on experiences, which I used to consider a total luxury. Now, I realize it’s been the experiences in my life—not the things I have—that’s shaped who I am and what I have to share with others. That being said, I also have a thing for purses and shoes.

What are the hardest and best things about your job?

They’re one and the same: It’s that, as the co-creator of Anova, I’m completely responsible for my own experience.

What’s your go-to coffee shop order?

Wine, right?





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