In 1987, when Denice Manus cajoled her sister Stephanie into opening a gas station, she thought she'd hit the jackpot, a simple business that would generate all kinds of profit.
She'd soon question if she'd taken on too great a challenge. 
"We all thought that it was going to be a gold mine," she said. "We were going to be able to go from rags to riches. Unfortunately we found that in this business you have to work diligently. You have to be in your business in order for it to function well."
So the Manus sisters got to work at 12th and French in downtown Erie. But they found the already difficult task of running a business was often even harder for women, especially women of color. 
"It was a struggle trying to work through the system and trying to get the system to give us the same benefits that others got," Denice Manus said. 
Those early struggles would pay off.
The two learned to adapt, and the business began to thrive.
"If something should happen, we get up, and we go. We deal with the problem, and then we move on," she said. 
Over the years, their business has served as a steppingstone for other women.
They've hired people who had been incarcerated or who struggled with homelessness, people who needed a chance and who were determined to turn their lives around.
Overwhelmingly, that's paid off, and it is, perhaps, the largest source of pride for two women who climbed the ladder themselves, then offered other women a hand up.
"I love it," Manus said. "When you see the success of someone like some of our girls who were here and ended up being managers for other companies and picked themselves up and moved on, it's just a great sense of pride, knowing that you helped somebody achieve something they probably would not have thought of."