2014 Women's Business Enterprise Stars Biographies

The WBE stars shared their insights and expertise with the WBENC community in a series of videos throughout the Salute. View the videos on YouTube or view photos and highlights in the April 2014 President's Report.


Identity Systems, Inc.

Founded in 1986 by Judy Anderson, Identity Systems is the industry leader for custom employee identification systems, signage, and graphic design. Judy gained experience while working at a badge manufacturer in Ohio. After struggling to raise her young family while working in the office, she requested to work from home and was denied. She then resigned, determined to start her own company. Not only did she launch a successful business that reflected her values, she revolutionized employee identification. She took name badges from simple plastic tags that said "hello my name is" to customized programs for each individual client. The badges now include branding, slogans, and colorful designs.

Within the first year of forming Identity Systems, Judy pursued a relationship with Walmart. She was able to call up the VP of Marketing and pitch a few ideas. Following the call, she sent over a few hand-drawn ideas. He liked them and shared them with Sam Walton, who personally called Judy to develop her ideas and place an order. They added the now famous tagline "Our People Make the Difference" to the badges. The first order placed was for 80,000 name badges. 26 years later Identity Systems produces nearly a half million badges a month for Walmart.

Today, Identity Systems also produces POS signage, spiral number flip signs, table tents, lanyards, and many other promotional items. They work with many different industries spanning from retail and restaurants to healthcare and hospitality. Identity Systems products are seen in many of your daily stops at client partners like Dollar Tree, Giant-Martin's Grocery Stores, Motel 6, Pep Boys, and Universal. Notably, Identity Systems sits on the vendor round table for Walmart.

When Judy decided to pursue WBENC certification she was warned about the extensive process. Understanding the value of the investment in becoming certified, she relentlessly pursued certification. She understood the importance of becoming certified in today's market considering the tenure of WBENC and its Corporate Members. Since then Judy has enjoyed building a network of diverse WBE's throughout the community, "So many people are willing to help, even if they aren't in your industry they help you and they want you to succeed. It's an incredibly supportive organization of strong women."

Judy encourages aspiring entrepreneurs, "Go full steam ahead and get certified. You'll learn so much and grow." She is a champion of change, "I say embrace change, that's your future. We never see a world that is not changing, so that is your opportunity for a new presence, to have a new idea." Judy continues to dream big and innovate, "There may be a time when I take more vacations, but I don't see a time when I'm willing to walk away. I'm always looking forward."

Back the 2014 WBE Stars main page >




Nancy Freeman-Balkcom is President of MySupplies, a Freeman Forms & Supplies Company. MySupplies was established in 1970 as an independent business forms distributor. Mirroring changes in the industry it evolved from a forms company into a national distributor of office supplies and furniture - rebranding as MySupplies in the early 1990s. Shortly after joining the company at the age of 15, Nancy took over the day-to-day operations of the office products and office furniture division, which quickly became the company's largest revenue source. At the age of 29, Nancy became the CEO of the company, at the helm of one of the oldest independent distributors in the Southeast.

Today, MySupplies services government entities, major corporations, and universities, providing an exceptional experience to customers, earning customer loyalty and building long-term relationships. Ms. Balkcom still works with clients who knew her when she was 15. In the late 1980s, the office supply industry faced extensive consolidation - 65% of the industry disappeared. Ms. Balkcom attributes her company's survival to her ability to sustain her business with advancements in technology and long-term relationships, "44 years in business stands for more than just longevity. It represents years of community relationships, customer relationships, and long-term supplier relationships. It still boils down to the basics of business relationships, because without those relationships, some of which we still have today, my business would never have survived."

Her business has thrived, since 1970, as MySupplies offers customized solutions to a commoditized industry, providing purchasing solutions that fit the individual needs of our customers; whether it is assistance with budgeting, streamlining accounts receivable processes, order approvals or simply "no hassle" service. Mrs. Balkcom has cultivated an experienced staff of smart, well-trained, and empowered individuals. She advises, "Employees are the backbone for any organization. You must build a culture that recognizes the strength of building customer loyalty and hire people that are going to be a culture fit. I believe in hiring for attitude and training for aptitude."

Ms. Balkcom found an opportunity to build even more relationships through WBENC, with other WBEs and corporations, "My company has grown as a direct result of WBENC. The knowledge, friendships, and networking opportunities that the organization provides have proven to be a valuable component to our business growth." In addition to serving on the Board of Directors with the Greater Women's Business Council, Ms. Balkcom is also the Voice Chair for the State of Georgia. She serves as an advisor to the GWBC Mentor Protégé committee, volunteer to the GWBC HR committee and she serves on the Women's Enterprise Forum. Mrs. Balkcom has received numerous awards by the Greater Women's Business Council, as well as local and national recognition. Believing it is important to give back, Ms. Balkcom instituted the MySupplies' Rewards for Charity program, which provides financial support to over 15 local charities.

Back the 2014 WBE Stars main page >



EventMover, Inc.

In 2001, Lisa Michele Chretien founded EventMover, a transportation service provider specializing in the transportation of exhibits, displays, products, and staging for domestic and international trade shows, special events, and promotional tours. The company engineers the combined resources of van line, contract carriers, flatbed, airfreight, and vehicle transport carriers to most effectively and efficiently serve their customers. Lisa explained "We have the ability to look at all options for our clients rather than one option and find the best transportation solutions for their needs and budget."

Having been in the business since 1984, Lisa Michele has 30 years of experience in sales management and operations with major transit companies, "I saw firsthand the value that brokering offered by allowing greater flexibility and efficiency with each customer's transportation requirements than a single carrier could provide." That insight inspired Lisa Michele's business model. With her extensive knowledge of the industry, she is diligent about keeping EventMover's brand focused, staying true to their core capabilities.

Lisa Michele admits she had much to learn about running a business, "It's been an incredible education; going from sales to running a company. There is so much to learn. When you are selling, you're just looking for your next commission check, you're not looking at all the critical components that run the whole machine." She took the risk though, surrounded herself with great people, mentors, and advisory boards to guide her along the way, "I don't believe that you can ever balance and manage every area yourself. Learning to work on your business and not in your business is one of the most important lessons I've learned."

Since pursuing WBENC certification Lisa Michele has played an active role in the organization; being named WBEC-West Advocate of the Year in 2013, along with being appointed Forum Vice Chair for the WBEC L.A. Forum. She also had the opportunity to attend the Tuck-WBENC Executive Program in 2013, and is an active participant in her WPO chapter. Being involved with WBENC has opened doors for Lisa Michele, "It has allowed me to develop relationships with corporate America, provide them with an understanding of what my company offers, and help Supplier Diversity guide me to where my best fit is in their organization." In addition, Lisa Michele has integrated several WBE's into her own supply chain.

Lisa Michele believes it is critical to take risks in business, "Never taking risks is the biggest risk of all".

Back the 2014 WBE Stars main page >



Atlas Data Systems, LLC

After hitting the glass ceiling working for another company, Jacquie Cleary was ready to create her own opportunities. She saved capital and resigned from her position to launch Atlas Data Systems. Atlas provides customized solutions around program and project management, and business analysis serving clients in the pharmaceutical, chemical, financial services, telecommunications, technology, insurance, manufacturing, and software industries.

Jacquie assists clients with identified gaps by supplying individual performers to fill a specific, short-term need, or Managed Communities. An Atlas Managed Community is a strategic resource pool, with individuals often supporting multiple projects simultaneously, or reassigned to a new project as their initial project concludes. The community members are selected based on the overall needs and culture, not a particular project requirement. Atlas works closely with its clients on the capacity planning and resource allocation of the community members. This has not only provided savings by eliminating the need to select and ramp-up new resources, but has increased the quality of deliverables by retaining important knowledge of the environment and organization.

Atlas also ensures the needed on-boarding and training occurs so that the community members are able to work effectively within the client's organization and culture. By assuming the majority of the human resource responsibilities and providing individuals who seamlessly integrate into a client's team, Atlas makes it possible for customers to simply focus on the actual delivery of their goods and services.

Recently, Jacquie became the sole owner of Atlas, "Being 100% on my own now, I'm excited to see our capabilities and services continue to expand. Driving passion through the company will help me achieve the cultural shift I believe the company needs for continued success and growth." She believes you ought to put your heart, body, and soul into everything you do, "I thoroughly enjoy developing my team and learning from them at the same time. I get a kick out of watching them succeed and I love it when they begin to add their own ideas to our culture and strategies. It is one of the most rewarding aspects of running my business."

In 2001, one of Jacquie's clients encouraged her to get certified as a women-owned business and directed her towards her local RPO. Jacquie embraced the WBENC community and has taken advantage of the educational opportunities, including: attending the Tuck-WBENC Executive Program, Merck Mentorship Program, and the Accenture Diverse Supplier Development Program. Jacquie has leveraged her certification by attending events and building relationships to grow her business, which she attributes to her success, "I completely believe in the mentoring of other women and the mentoring I receive in return. As my company has grown, the network of women business owners has provided me with many useful insights and I look forward to continued learning and paying it forward."

Back the 2014 WBE Stars main page >



M. Davis & Sons, Inc.

Since its establishment in 1870, M. Davis & Sons has been operated by five generations of the Davis family. Today Peggy (Davis) Del Fabbro is at the helm, continuing to champion the core values of MDavis: quality and safety. MDavis is a merit shop contractor serving the pharmaceutical and industrial markets' needs, including: industrial construction, fabrication, engineering, and maintenance.

Peggy worked part-time in the company during high school and college, and then joined the company full-time after finishing a degree in accounting and gaining experience at another organization. Starting in the accounting department, Peggy worked her way through the company, learning every aspect of the business, including all of the technical operations. Peggy still surprises people on job sites, "A woman in construction, it's not the norm, still. But, I've grown up in it, it's what I'm used to, and I enjoy it. You get to see so many different things in the different areas that we work in, the different manufacturing plants, it's really neat."

With great respect for the four generations of owners who came before her, Peggy strives to maintain a family business atmosphere, no matter how big the company grows. Currently MDavis employs 300 people. "I feel a tremendous responsibility towards our team and their families to keeping them working and working safely." says Peggy. Providing the highest quality services has been a value at MDavis since the beginning. In the 1970's, Peggy's father added safety as a value, "My father had the foresight to realize that safety was something we really needed to instill in our company and culture, so he started our safety program then."

Five years ago Peggy became the majority owner of MDavis, "We did research on different organizations out there, and WBENC really stood out. We decided to get certified and it's one of the best things that I have ever done." Since becoming WBENC-Certified in 2009, MDavis has been able to meet new customers and win more business with existing customers.

Moreover, WBENC has helped Peggy become a better leader, "It has been great for me, I've learned to step outside my comfort zone, I'm not used to business development or networking but I've learned to do it through WBENC." She also stays active in WBENC to help other WBEs succeed, "I want to give back now, to try to help other WBEs to take advantage of the certification and really use it."

Through it all, Peggy never forgot her legacy, "Four generations before me showed what hard work and determination could accomplish."

Back the 2014 WBE Stars main page >



LILI HALL, President/CEO

Twelve years after starting her career in the fashion and apparel industry, Lili Hall was recruited by a noted Minneapolis design firm where she instantly fell in love with the industry. Confident she could successfully build her own design firm, she made the leap and launched KNOCK in 2001, "The time is never perfect, and I am proof of that, if you're waiting until you have it all figured out. If you've got a great idea, I would recommend that you do it."

Now in its thirteenth year, KNOCK has grown to be a full-service creative agency driven by strategy, culture, and design. The firm creates store environments and experiences, packaging concepts, as well as online, digital, and mobile components; all designed to compel a consumer to make a purchase. Lili utilizes her deep experience in the retail industry as the lens through which the agency's designs and concepts are formed. KNOCK's clients range from upstart entrepreneurs to some of the largest brands in the country; including Target, Caribou, Best Buy, and Levi's. Now an established business, KNOCK preserves its entrepreneurial spirit by frequently innovating, adding capabilities quickly and strategically, "by anticipating and defining what the next evolution of retail marketing can be, we have new opportunities to deliver great creative and build on our success."

Lili is committed to KNOCK being an instrument of positive change to both the local and global communities. She moved KNOCK's offices from downtown Minneapolis to a developing area in need of stable commercial landowners. She also donates pro bono hours to local and national nonprofits and foundations.

Lili and KNOCK have been recognized with several industry awards. KNOCK was awarded one of the "Best Places to Work" by the Minneapolis/ St. Paul Business Journal and has received several of Target Corporation's "Best of the Bullseye" awards. In 2011, Lili was awarded the Ernst & Young "Entrepreneurial Winning Women" award. The program and the training that followed encouraged Lili to evolve her role in her company as a leader, enabling the agency to strategically grow and set even bigger goals.

Becoming WBENC-Certified in 2009 opened many opportunities for Lili. She says that you must invest in networking as a WBE, "You have to invest in attending events, you have to invest in building those relationships, it's something that happens over time." In addition to building relationships with larger clients, Lili uses the WBENC network to work directly with other WBEs, incorporating WBEs into KNOCK's supply chain and working with start-up, women-owned businesses to launch their brands.

Lili believes that every entrepreneur should think big, "As long as you believe and are willing to put your heart into your work, you can achieve anything."

Back the 2014 WBE Stars main page >



JANE HENRY, President
Xcution, Inc.

After years of building a career as a consultant with the Top 5 consulting firms, Jane Henry decided to "settle down" in one place and start a family with her husband. She took a secure job with a corporation called Enron. Six months later, she was a part of the historic mass layoff only to be called back in later the same day to project manage the divesture. In this moment, she had started building the concepts behind her future company.

Through that experience, Jane realized that all the tools and management processes available had not prepared her to help with the human side of the business. She called her first big meeting after being brought back and nobody showed up, "I realized it had nothing to do with books, templates, PowerPoint's, and everything to do with the people." She employed her extensive communications skills to bring people to the table, pulling the workforce back together, and enabling them to deliver 15 IT systems to support 750 new jobs, "What I learned through that Enron experience was that there is a process to change, and it doesn't have to be difficult, it doesn't have to be complex, it's just about making conversations happen."

After Enron, Jane continued to work throughout the Houston community as a consultant in capital program management, human capital strategy, performance management and measurement. In 2007, Jane was considering growing her business when she attended the WBEA's Houston Golf Tournament and was so inspired by all of the people she met that she knew she could do it. She became WBENC-Certified and quickly began to grow Xcution, hiring her first employee in 2008. By 2011, Jane was operating the second fastest growing business in Houston, "I attribute the majority of that growth to WBENC and the knowledge that the WBEs have given me." Jane graduated from the Tuck-WBENC Executive Program, Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business Program, and became a member of the Vistage Group.

Today, Xcution's 30 employees bring focus back to the "soft skills" side of execution to help individuals, teams, and organizations gain a deeper understanding of how business goals translate into workforce needs. "Our domain expertise is stepping into that unknown space and being okay with not having the answer," says Jane. Xcution focuses primarily in the exploration and production piece of the oil and gas value chain. Recently, the worldrenowned MD Anderson Cancer Center signed Xcution as a preferred provider, hoping to leverage similar transformation work in their cutting edge programs. Xcution's work is creating a cultural shift that is changing the way people conduct business.

Back the 2014 WBE Stars main page >



Eagle Consulting, LLC

Eagle Consulting is an international upstream oil and gas consulting firm that provides field supervision and in-house engineering services for drilling operations, in addition to health, safety, and environmental representatives. Eagle Consulting's international operations include the Gulf of Mexico, and the shale plays in Pennsylvania, North Dakota, Texas, and New Mexico.

Throughout her high school years, and briefly after graduating from Louisiana State University, Jennifer worked in her family's business and was tutored in her father's core values: honesty, fairness, follow-through, and determination to succeed.

After working financial services in the healthcare industry for over a decade, Jennifer returned home to New Orleans in 2005 to assist in preparing the family's business for sale. After reviewing the specifics of the business operations and familiar facets of oilfield consulting, she realized this was a golden opportunity for her to apply her knowledge and capabilities in a business of her own and made a capital investment in the business.

During the next four years, Jennifer worked studying and learning all aspects of the business. In 2009, in recognition of her work and accomplishments she was appointed Chairwoman of the Board, President and CEO.

By 2010, the spiraling economic downturn and the Gulf oil spill hit the entire oil and gas industry hard, but with Jennifer at the helm, Eagle Consulting was uniquely positioned not only to survive but ultimately thrive.

"Years of honesty, integrity, and demonstrating that in every business situation we want to partner with our clients allowed us to build strong business relationships. We were right there with them dealing with the same problems and offering solutions for both of us to benefit from." Says Jennifer.

Shortly after Jennifer assumed the role of President, one of her clients suggested she certify with WBENC. Several Eagle Consulting clients were already WBENC Corporate Members, so she was able to expand her business while also making new connections throughout the WBENC community.

Jennifer credits WBENC with a huge part of her success in, not only business and marketing, but also the ability to make many valuable connections, seemingly unavailable to her otherwise. A few years ago she was pursuing a target client when the process was starting to drag, but a chance encounter at an RPO event put her in front of the individual essential to moving the sales process forward,"You never know who is going to show up, just that one little chance meeting." By the next National Conference she was reviewing and signing an MSA. Now, Jennifer never misses a WBENC event, "You get out of things what you put into them and this is a real good example, because sometimes it's just the showing up that will get you the introduction."

Back the 2014 WBE Stars main page >



Exam Coordinators Network

Throughout the 1990s, Barbara Levine was working as the Vice President of Claims Litigation for an insurer based in Florida; commuting daily up to two hours each way with three small children at home. She prepared the legal defense for insurance claims that often required the use of independent medical evaluation. Frequently, she found that the reports were unusable for simple and easily fixable reasons. After unreliable and indefensible medical evaluations resulted in numerous settlements, Barbara became convinced she could do it better.

She partnered with a physician to create a different kind of medical exam company, one founded on both Barbara's legal background and her partner's medical background. Barbara notes, "There are no barriers to entry in our business, anyone can hang out a sign and say ‘I do this for a living'. By bringing the medical and legal expertise to the table we felt we could bring another level of expertise to the process."

In 1999, Barbara, her husband, and their partner created Exam Coordinators Network (ECN), providing medical examination and evaluation services to insurers, third party administrators, hospitals, risk managers, employers, and attorneys. At ECN both a lawyer and a physician review every file, with unparalleled customer service, professionalism, and exceptional turnaround time.

The company began small, operating only in Florida with great success. Over the years, changing legislation made it difficult for ECN to remain only in Florida. In 2004, the company made the leap to become a nationwide provider. Since 2007 they have achieved 30% year over year growth; and today, they have over 80 employees. They expect to continue growing as the laws for the Affordable Care Act go into effect, which requires insurance claims decisions to be reviewed by a third-party, opening a whole new market for ECN.

Barbara became WBENC-Certified in 2008, and in 2010 was named one of the Ernst & Young Entrepreneurial, Winning Women. She advises that simply having the WBENC Certification does not automatically generate business, "You have to earn the business and continue to earn the business. And you have to become a part of the WBENC community, go to the events, meet and talk with people, do business with other WBEs, support each other, help each other, it is all about networking." Through WBENC events ECN has developed relationships with major Fortune 500 corporations as both a prime supplier and a tier two teaming partner.

Barbara says that as a business owner, "The most important thing is staying positive, being persistent and staying committed to your vision. Be credible, be authentic, and you can craft your life the way you want to live it."

Back the 2014 WBE Stars main page >



Consumer & Market Insights, LLC

Consumer and Market Insights (CMI) is a performance management company located in Dallas, Texas and Washington, D.C. with expertise in marketing research, project management, community outreach, education, and training services. Royalyn Reid started the company in 2007 after working for several years as a market research subcontractor, as well as providing education and training services.

With each client, CMI strives to identify and address current and emerging challenges with actionable, low-risk solutions. CMI provides clients the knowledge to make informed decisions, and according to Royalyn, "So often with marketing research the scientific rigor goes over everyone's head, so it goes in the ‘to do' stack. But when we can make it practical and deliver it in such a way, using the humanistic behavior parts of it, we know that we're making that impact."

CMI's education and training team creates curriculum and holds training events and team building exercises that target client needs. CMI identifies and fosters the driving forces that make each client unique and leads to a competitive edge in the industry. They specialize in improving customer service, increasing customer satisfaction, diversity training, boosting employee morale, as well as company branding and loyalty. CMI has experience with an array of federal, corporate, and municipal clients.

Beyond her work in CMI, Royalyn has become a recurring subject matter expert on Fox News Radio and Good Morning Texas. She has presented to various chambers of commerce, professional organizations, and community groups throughout the country. In 2009, she served as a panelist for the United States Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship.

As a WBENC-Certified WBE since 2004, Royalyn has attended Harvard University's executive business course "Aligning Sales and Strategies" and the Tuck-WBENC Executive Program. The valuable lessons she has learned from those programs helped Royalyn overcome barriers and grow her business, "Gaining knowledge from the discussions with my professors, the rigorous assignments, the group discussions, and the collaboration with people from around the world was a life changing experience."

CMI has created its own Supplier Diversity program, striving to meet or exceed 15% of their subcontracting needs with MWBEs. "There are a lot of amazingly talented women who have great companies and are excellent at the service they provide. It is important to make certain that our business relationships are beneficial to all parties, including our WBE partners." Says Royalyn.

Royalyn is a passionate businesswoman. She advises that, "Being an entrepreneur is one of the most rewarding endeavors you will ever experience. Make sure you are ready for the challenges that are a part of the experience, especially in the early years. Have a vision, a plan, and a dream."

Back the 2014 WBE Stars main page >



KIM SAWYER, President & General Counsel
The Locator Services Group Ltd.

Kim Sawyer is the Founder, President, and General Counsel of The Locator Services Group Ltd. (TLSG), a leader in the corporate asset recovery industry. TLSG builds win-win relationships with their clients, recovering on average one million dollars for each target client, within the first 18 months of engagement. The boutique firm identifies and recovers unclaimed funds such as lost vendor payments, outstanding refunds, and unredeemed securities, for Fortune 1000 companies. In the past two years, TLSG has recovered an excess of $50 million on behalf of its clients.

Kim founded TLSG in 1994, after working as a General Counsel at an asset recovery firm where she saw an untapped industry with a huge potential if she modified the business model. She observed that the industry was reactive; companies would first find unclaimed funds and then reach out to the clients, providing one-off recoveries and a relentless sales process. Significant amounts of monies slip through the cracks at Fortune 1000 companies because of the sheer volume of transactions and dollars processed annually. Kim saw an opportunity to establish relationships with targeted clients, and work on a proactive and rolling basis to identify and recover their assets, as she states, "The bottom line is we increase cash flow, profitability, and sustainability by generating millions of dollars due back to our clients that they otherwise would not receive."

What is remarkable about Kim, beyond the fact that she single-handedly revolutionized her industry, is that she has done so despite a learning disorder called Dysgraphia, which affects one's fine motor skills and writing ability. Even though Kim was told she would never go to college, she earned a Bachelor's degree, received her Juris Doctor from Boston University Law School, and founded TLSG. Her learning disorder impacts her ability to work in a regular office environment, so she was motivated to create a nontraditional business environment to address her unique work process needs. Now she leads a flourishing business.

Kim credits WBENC with her company's growth and profitability, "WBENC provided me with opportunities and resources, through the programs that they offer, to excel at the services that TLSG provides and to develop a greater appeal to the larger corporations TLSG courts as clients." She was selected to participate in her RPO's mentor program where she was paired with BlueCross BlueShield. Through the program, she learned how to step back, look at her company's big picture and focus on strategic decisions instead of day-to-day operations. Kim also graduated from the Tuck-WBENC Executive Program.

Kim was selected as a winner of the 2011 Enterprising Women of the Year Award, and was nominated for Ernst & Young's 2011 Entrepreneurial Winning Women Program. Additionally, TLSG was named one of the Top Ten, Women-Owned Businesses in Massachusetts by Diversity.com, and recognized as one of the 100 Fastest-Growing Urban Businesses in America by the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City.

Back the 2014 WBE Stars main page >



Atlas Tool, Inc.

At the age of 19, Elizabeth Schmidt was not thrilled about her parents moving her to the United States, however, it was the 1950's and her father saw great opportunities for his family. It turned out he was right, for there Elizabeth met and married her husband and together, in 1962, they started Atlas Tool Incorporated.

Atlas Tool began by building tools, small stamping dies, and machining aircraft parts. Today, it is one of the leading tool and die suppliers to the automotive and defense industries. Their son, Mark, joined the business in 1987. As a family-owned business, Elizabeth is very proud of the longevity of the company and of the fact that 50% of the employees have been with the company for 20 years or longer.

When they founded the company everything was done using manual labor. Today, most of the work is done using computer operated machinery, says Elizabeth, "We just kept applying the latest technologies." In order to stay on top, Elizabeth also invests in providing continual training for her employees, "We have some of our staff attending community colleges where we pay the tuition to make sure that we're staying on the forefront of technology. And then we have scholarships going to develop new talent and give high school students in our community an opportunity to advance."

When Atlas Tool recently celebrated their 50th anniversary of being in business, they invited all of the retired employees and Elizabeth was blown away by who attended, "The oldest person that came was 92 years old and the proudest moment was to greet this man and to show our appreciation to the people that helped us grow." She says they treat their employees like family, "We are in the trenches working with our employees every single day, and are very much involved and enjoy every moment that we are able to do that."

After Elizabeth's husband passed away in 2004, she became WBENC-Certified and has taken advantage of the many opportunities available to WBEs including joining the leadership program, "You're always learning something by talking to other businesswomen that are facing the same challenges. You walk away and you've learned something, and you hope that you have contributed something too." She advises other potential entrepreneurs, "You have to have a passion for what you're doing, and you have to work hard, nothing comes from luck or wishes. Most everything comes from hard work."

Back the 2014 WBE Stars main page >



Sutter Design, Inc.

After attending the Corcoran School of Art in Washington, D.C., Karen Sutter worked for twelve years at a local graphic design studio before transitioning to working as a free-lance designer, and eventually to opening her own company, The Sutter Group. Early on, she teamed up with a local printer who offered her office space in exchange for fulfilling their graphic design needs. From there, she built up a large client base and grew her company to twelve employees.

At its core, The Sutter Group still operates as it did when founded in 1987, as a full-service marketing company. However, the constant technological advancement and changes to the graphic design industry forced the company to continually evolve. Over its twenty-six year tenure, the company progressed from print design to interactive and digital mediums including: web design, digital marketing, e-learning, social media, mobile applications, video, and animation. Today, The Sutter Group works with major automotive brands including Jaguar, Land Rover, and Porsche. In addition, they serve clients in the government, non-profit, and enterprise sectors.

The Sutter Group is a forward-thinking agency, always looking around the corner to the next trend in technology. They are committed to bringing innovative ideas and unimagined solutions to their clients, "We're constantly evolving, and I think that is part of what makes the company so successful."

Karen builds a strong partnership with each client. She tells new clients, "I want to know all about your company so my team and I can be more informed about it. It may turn out that what you are asking us to do for you is not really what needs to be done." As a result, The Sutter Group has maintained long-term relationships with its clients, many of whom have been working with the company from the beginning. When the 2008 financial crisis hit their clients' industries hard, The Sutter Group was able to weather the storm due to earned client and employee loyalty. Karen also attributes survival to client diversification into more industries.

One of her larger clients told Karen about WBENC in 2005, and within a few months she was certified. Since then, she has become very active in the WBENC community, often speaking at local RPO events and even providing pro bono marketing services. Karen also had the opportunity to attend the Tuck- WBENC Executive Program. She advises other WBEs, "Use WBENC's programs, such as brown bag lunches, to learn about WBENC's corporate sponsors to determine whether you can help them."

Back the 2014 WBE Stars main page >



ARTEMIA Communications, Inc.

Barbara Wichmann was first exposed to the magic of publicity and public relations at the age of five, when she accompanied her journalist father to a press conference. This proved to be a formative experience that has stayed with her to this day. Growing up in Europe, Barbara's innate curiosity made her a keen traveler, and by the time she reached college, had extended her travels across several continents. These experiences shaped her perspective on life, and inspired her to think globally, ultimately leading her to settle in the international microcosm that is San Francisco, in close proximity to Silicon Valley.

While advising clients as a strategic communications and public relations consultant in the mid-1990's, it became evident to Barbara that some of her clients' overall branding, sales, and marketing materials did not effectively convey their unique technological solutions. This observation, in conjunction with resounding encouragement from her peers, sparked the creation of her full-service agency ARTÉMIA Communications in 1995.The new company enabled her to assist clients across several disciplines, aligning strategic communications with the client's marketing, creative, and sales initiatives, ensuring highimpact, consistent messaging and positioning – a key element to building successful brands.

Leveraging her international background, Barbara and her team initially focused on launching foreign technology start-up companies in the U.S. market, whilst assisting U.S. companies in overseas market entries. Since its early days, ARTÉMIA also developed substantial expertise in supporting Fortune 500 corporate clients in key market sectors including utilities, telecommunications, energy, high-tech, clean-tech, healthcare, and healthcare IT.

Throughout the years ARTÉMIA has witnessed many changes. The key to staying ahead of the game, Barbara says, is to continually innovate, "We really do our homework; we anticipate industry trends, changes in regulations that impact our clients, new communications channels, and things of that nature." In 2001, when the dotcom bubble popped, Barbara faced and overcame immense challenges head-on, "The dotcom crash provided an invaluable lesson on the importance of regrouping and refocusing to continue growing in the face of difficult circumstances. You have to innovate and be prepared to reinvent yourself. You have to stay agile." What truly sets ARTÉMIA apart, Barbara believes, is its unerring commitment to sustainability and diversity, "We not only develop and implement diversity programs, but we promote sustainability and green business practices for both our clients and our own firm." ARTÉMIA is one of the first U.S. strategic communications agencies to receive triple ISO certifications, as well as being a certified San Francisco Green Business.

As a WBENC-Certified WBE since 2009, Barbara is a proponent of active participation, "It's not just about paying for your certification and being done, it's the opposite. I see it more as a platform for networking, for education about best practices. We learn from others who have done it successfully before us or are just approaching it differently."

Barbara is a 2010 graduate of the UCLA's Anderson School of Management MDE Training, a 2011 graduate of the Tuck-WBENC Executive Program, and a regular speaker at industry conferences.


Back the 2014 WBE Stars main page >