Cincinnati Chamber unveils the new five-year strategic framework to foster regional growth

What We Do >

Membership >

Talent Hub >

About >

Advocacy >

Events >

< Back

What We Do

Explore our programming, resources, and membership options that drive growth.

See how we celebrate, enliven, stimulate, and cultivate community in the region.

See how we meaningfully connect leaders and celebrate our business community

Explore the work we’re driving to move the region forward

Explore our talent solutions, including leadership programs and HR consulting

See the stories and legacies that lift our communities and inspire action

< Back

Membership

Explore membership and discover growth opportunities for you and your business

Why Chamber Membership

Join the Chamber

Feature your business with a Member Spotlight in our Weekly Connection Newsletter

These events offer members points of connection, timely insights, and solutions

Monthly Member Briefing

Member Benefits 101

< Back

Telent Hub

Explore our full suite of best-in-class leadership development programs

Explore our initiatives focused attracting, retaining, and developing talent

Explore the Workforce Innovation Center’s HR consulting services and resources

< Back

About

Learn more about our mission, vision, and values

Meet the diverse group of leaders passionately supporting our mission

Meet the people serving our region inclusively with passion, Integrity, and fun

Interested in joining our team? Check out our current openings

FAQ

Questions? Here’s a list of things we think you may want to know

Read articles and learn more about the Cincinnati Chamber through our related news articles

Cincinnati Chamber Announces Liz Keating as VP of Government Affairs and Advocacy
Metro celebrates 50 years of impact – looks to the future

< Back

Advocacy

Read articles and learn more about the Cincinnati Chamber through our related news articles

Cincinnati Chamber Announces Liz Keating as VP of Government Affairs and Advocacy
Metro celebrates 50 years of impact – looks to the future
Recognize & Celebrate businesses & people

Great Living Cincinnatians: Honorees

Celebrating the leadership, vision, tenacity, and love of community shared by the recipients of the Great Living Cincinnatian Award, presented annually by the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber since 1967.

Donna Salyers

Awarded In 2024

Donna Salyers has a great story. She’s a self-made woman who makes things and makes a difference, a former newspaper columnist and TV show host, and current mogul of Fabulous-Furs, the world’s largest faux fur retailer. So. What is her story?

“My family was from Northern Kentucky, and my grandma taught me how to sew,” said Salyers. “We were a blue-collar family, and I graduated from Dixie Heights High School. I began working in Covington when I was 13 at a store called Goldsmith’s, where Coppin’s now sits.”

Which is rather ironic because Salyers’ family now owns Hotel Covington, to which the restaurant Coppin’s belongs. Her fate has been tied to that corner of Covington; she didn’t know it at 13 but her future husband would also purchase the large former Woolworth’s building one-half block away and transform it into a banquet hall and facility. The success of the Madison Event Center lifted the neighborhood and surrounding real estate, leading to another transformation. Coppin’s, Kentucky’s first skyscraper and high-end department store, became home to Hotel Covington, the boutique hotel that solidified Covington’s business core revival, and which U.S. News and World Report named the best lodging hotel in Kentucky in 2022.

“Life is a puzzle,” she said. “It’s ironic how the most dreadful events can become enormous blessings. ”

Salyers has a different word for the ironic sequence of events that led her life down the path it went: serendipity. Or, on the flip side of the same coin, divine intervention. Whatever you call it, it’s been an undercurrent throughout her life.

She still remembers the first thing she ever sewed: a gingham dress, from two yards of fabric, with gathering stitches that broke, which she wore to church. Her grandmother taught her the tricks of the trade. Salyers credits her mother, too, for being proud of her and letting her learn how to take nothing and turn it into something.

“I think that’s how a hard-working blue-collar family thinks: ‘We surely don’t have the money for it, but you can always look within yourself, and you’ll find a way,’” said Salyers.

Neither of her parents finished high school, but her father taught himself how to be a stationary engineer through reading, and the tricks of the investment trade. The self-determinism rubbed off on young Donna.

“They were very hard-working,” said Salyers. “They never asked, ‘Who’s going to come save me?’ You became very self-sufficient and very creative. That’s what it fosters.

She worked right out of high school, and met husband of 57 years, Jim Salyers, during a three-day excursion to Indian Lake with a girlfriend. He was from Cincinnati, she was from Northern Kentucky, and they stayed in touch after the trip was over, and married within two years.

She continued to sew, a hobby made more essential in her home after having two children. She found herself occasionally turning to the Enquirer’s syndicated sewing column, which ran in the 1970s.

“At some point, I wrote a letter to the editor and said, ‘Your sewing column is so awful, even I could write a better one,’” said Salyers. “And they wrote back, saying, ‘Send us six samples. We agree, it’s horrible.’ They said, ‘These are pretty good. You’ve got a weekly column.’ And there I was. I was off to the races.”

Her sewing column success led to a television show, Sewing, Etc., which aired nationally on CBN, and eventually took her to New York City for a series of segments. On her first trip, she saw the denizens of the Big Apple decked out in full-length fur coats, mink and sable, and longed for something similar.

“Of course we didn’t have the money, but I had connections because I had been writing my sewing column,” said Salyers. “I found some really nice faux fur, made a coat, wore it to New York and it stopped traffic. It was absolutely gorgeous.”

Some five years later, in 1988, Salyers was financially prepared to purchase a real fur coat, when, in another stroke of serendipity, she happened to hear personality Paul Harvey on the car radio. He described how a toy manufacturer in London skinned cats alive to use their fur as mink teddy bears. She stopped in her tracks and decided to combine the money she’d saved to buy a coat and the accolades she’d received on that New York trip-past into a business proposition: Fabulous-Furs sewing kits for making fur coats.

Officially established in 1989, Fabulous-Furs took off, adapting to the demands of the market and evolving from a sewing kit company to finished goods over the course of a decade.

“Along the way amazing things happened,” said Salyers.

The Miss Universe Pageant in New York requested coats for 15 contestants. Salyers built a 12-year relationship with home shopping network Shop HQ. Oprah Winfrey included Fabulous-Furs in her Favorite Things lists. Fabulous-Fur products are repeatedly featured in the Neiman Marcus Christmas book.

Simultaneous to the development of Fabulous-Furs was her husband’s real estate investment in Covington, which kickstarted a fervent campaign on the Salyers’ part to revitalize the community after decline and neglect in the late 1980s.

“Our attitude was, ‘We’ll do anything to make this work,’” said Salyers.

And work it did. She helped her husband transform his real estate purchase into the Madison Event Center. She has expanded the Fabulous-Furs empire to include Fabulous-Bridal. Fabulous-Furs products are available in 46 countries, through 4,000 wholesale accounts. The two brands are part of the Salyers Group portfolio, along with the Madison Event Center, Hotel Covington, and North by Hotel Covington.

Salyers was inducted into the Cincinnati Business Hall of Fame in 2018. She has served on the board of the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce and is a member of the Council of Trustees for Horizon Community Funds of Northern Kentucky. In late October of this year, Salyers was named one of just four 2023 inductees into the Kentucky Entrepreneur Hall of Fame. She found out about becoming a Great Living Cincinnatian shortly thereafter.

“I was absolutely shocked,” said Salyers. “And then I still didn’t quite believe it, so I went back to the office and looked up some of the [other inductees.] I mean, some very, very accomplished, amazing people. So I’m just shocked and thrilled and all those superlatives you would naturally feel.”

Nominate a Great Living Cincinnatian

Recipients are selected from candidates by the Cincinnati Chamber’s senior council based on the following criteria: – Community service – Business and civic attainment on a local, state and national or international level – Leadership – Awareness of the needs of others – Distinctive accomplishments that have brought favorable attention to their community, institution or organization