2010 Women's Business Enterprise Stars Biographies

Read more about WBENC's 2010 WBE Stars.  These exemplary women business leaders are recipients of the nation's premier award for excellence among women's business enterprises.

LaSonya Berry
McPherson, Berry & Associates

LaSonya Berry has an exceptional track record of helping businesses and individuals achieve their full potential. A dynamic human resource professional, she has lent her expertise to a wide array of government agencies, nonprofit organizations and Fortune 500 companies such as IBM and General Electric for over 15 years.  In 2000, she founded McPherson, Berry & Associates (McPherson|Berry), a multifaceted consulting firm dedicated to providing first-class executive coaching, leadership development, performance and talent management solutions to diverse clientele. As president and CEO of McPherson|Berry, LaSonya draws on her broad-ranging experience to design effective, growth-producing organizational development strategies for companies of all sizes.

While an operations manager at IBM, she became known for her superior project management skills, as well as her unique ability to quickly diagnose and solve complex challenges. She led a team that generated over $50 million annually in revenue, and transformed countless new employees into knowledgeable, productive team members via specialized training and mentoring. Her propensity for achieving significant bottom-line results earned her IBM’s COM Award and the prestigious IBM Leadership Award. Since being at the helm of her firm, the company was recognized with the coveted Trailblazer Award by the Georgia Women’s Business Council, a region of the Women Business Enterprise National Council. She has been awarded one of the 25 Most Powerful Minority Women in Business, one of the 2009 Business Journal’s Forty Under 40, and one of WBENC’s 2010 Business Stars.

LaSonya possesses a distinctive blend of business acumen and social consciousness. She is as skilled at grooming the next generation for success as she is at managing multimillion dollar contracts. Inspired by her experiences as a Workforce Development Program trainer and her passion for working with youth, she established GET POISED, a nonprofit organization offering leadership and life skills training to adolescents and those in life transition.

A two-time Clemson University alumna, LaSonya holds a BS in Industrial Engineering and an MS in Human Resource Development. She will complete her PhD in Educational Leadership in 2009. She is also co-author of the books “Becoming the Professional Woman,” “Customer Service and Professionalism”, the “Young Woman’s Guide”, and the “Young Man’s Guide”.  LaSonya serves as a board member for the Greater Women’s Business Council (WBENC), Georgia SHRM State Council Member, the past Director of Community Relations for the Southern Crescent SHRM, United Way’s Women Legacy Council member, International Advisory Board member of PWN and adjunct professor at Keller Graduate School of Management.


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Jennifer Collins
The Event Planning Group 

Jennifer D. Collins is privileged to hold a front-row seat in the lives of people enjoying memorable and often life-changing experiences.  Whether it’s a company celebration, promotion of products or messages, acquiring new skills or receiving awards, she produces meetings and events that impact, engage and inspire.
She’s come a long way from her beginning roots of independently planning family reunions and other social events. And it was because of these experiences that she channeled her love for planning by launching The Event Planning Group, LLC in 1997.
Twelve years later after opening with one account, Jennifer has built an award-winning, event management company that delivers success for corporate, non-profit and government clients – many of whom have been with the company for a number of years. Having produced programs on a domestic and international level, The Event Planning Group is known for consistently delivering exceptional strategic and logistical execution.
As an active industry spokesperson and entrepreneurial advocate, Jennifer serves on the education and training committee of the Maryland/DC Minority Supplier Development Council; she is an advocate for the Women Presidents’ Educational Organization (WPEO-DC); and is Past President of the Greater DC Chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO).
Jennifer’s dynamic business acumen has been recognized nationally.  She received the 2009 Outstanding Women’s Business Enterprise Award for the DC region from the Women Presidents’ Educational Organization.  For the third consecutive year, the Washington Business Journal has named The Event Planning Group one of the Top 25 Meeting and Event Planning companies in the Washington, D.C. region.  The State of Maryland has named the company one of the Top 100 Minority Business Enterprises.  In 2008, Enterprising Women Magazine also recognized The Event Planning Group with its 2008 Enterprising Women of the Year Award.  Jennifer now is an advisory board member of Enterprising Women Magazine and also serves on the board of NAWBO-Greater DC.
She is active in her community as a speaker and mentor for communications students at her alma mater The American University.  Jennifer also remains active with public service organizations Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated and Girls, Inc. of Washington, DC – an organization providing educational programs to young girls in high risk, underserved areas.
Jennifer is an alumna of the 2007 TUCK-Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) Executive Exchange Program at Dartmouth and received her Bachelor of Arts Degree from The American University in Washington, DC.


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Kari Heistad
Culture Coach International

Kari Heistad's work as CEO of Culture Coach International (CCI) focuses on helping companies to put culture to work for them instead of against them. Intent upon helping companies to understand the bottom line impact of cultural and diversity issues, the work of CCI is both practical and strategic in nature.   Changing demographics are forcing companies, both nationally and internationally, to recognize the changing face and needs of not only their workforces but also their customers. As companies seek to capitalize on untapped markets, cultural competency has moved from a business luxury to a business necessity in today's marketplace.

Kari leads a team who bring more than 75 years of cross cultural and diversity experience to their work. In her own work, Kari draws upon her travels to 16 different countries and her experiences living and working overseas. The CCI client list includes Ocean Spray, the Boston Globe, American Power Conversion, Johnson and Wales University, Novartis, Massachusetts General Hospital and Boston Medical Center.

In addition to the work of CCI in the USA, Kari has worked closely with organizations in Greece and Ireland where she has provided training programs for the American Embassy, the European Conference on Culture and the Media, the American College of Greece and the Irish Management Institute. She is currently leading an Irish team that is localizing the CCI content to the Irish market.

Before founding, Kari served as the Executive Director for the United Nations Association of Greater Boston, where she developed an innovative Model United Nations curriculum endorsed by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. The program has in the past decade impacted over 250,000 mostly inner-city high school students around the world. Kari has also created cross-cultural curriculum projects for MIT and the Dreams of Freedom museum. Based upon her curriculum development projects, Kari was awarded in 2002 a Fulbright scholarship to study multi-cultural education in New Zealand. She completed her work in the summer of 2002 and wrote an innovative photography based curriculum titled: A Photographic Introduction to New Zealand and the Maori.

Kari currently serves as a board member the United Nations Association of Greater Boston, the local Sons of Norway Norumbega lodge and other groups. On a national level she has served on the board for Ski For Light (a program that teaches the visually impaired how to cross country ski) and the national Model United Nations Advisory Council for the United Nations Association of the USA.

She has served as a speaker before 12,000 people through her keynote addresses, training programs and speeches before business and cultural groups on both a regional and a national level. Kari holds a Master’s in International Administration from the School for International Training, and a bachelor’s degree from Bates College. She speaks fluent Norwegian


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Kim Oster Holstein
President/CEO and CIO (Chief Inspiration Officer)
Kim and Scott’s Gourmet Pretzels, Inc.

Kim Holstein takes the ideas of social and corporate responsibility personally.  And as President/CEO and CIO, Chief Inspiration Officer of Kim and Scott’s Gourmet Pretzels, Kim ensures that her passion for pretzels makes a difference in the world. 

At a chance meeting at a Chicago book signing in 1994, Kim met her future husband Scott.  And in a twist of fate, he supported her passion for pretzels.  Together they founded Kim & Scott’s Gourmet Pretzels, Inc. in 1995.  They set out to transform the pretzel, from a snack to an anytime meal, and to create a pretzel revolution.   

Kim is surely satisfied that their all-natural gourmet pretzels are flying off the shelves of Whole Foods Markets, Target, Costco, major grocery chains, smoothie chains, coffee shops, movie theaters, and airports around the country and world.  But it’s Kim’s bigger commitment to the company’s mission to nurture, love and feed the stomachs, spirits and souls of the world community that keeps her churning out pretzels with a purpose.

Together with her leadership team, Kim shaped Pretzels for Peaceä, an initiative that donates pretzels, time and a portion of its proceeds to not-for-profits that make a positive difference in the world.  Some of the organizations that have benefited from Pretzels for Peaceä include: the ALS Foundation, the Avon Breast Cancer Walk, Breast Cancer Network of Strength (the organization formerly known as Y-Me), Children’s HeartLink, Homes for Our Troops, National Heart Association, the Special Olympics, and Trees for The Future.

Kim’s huge passion for empowering kids has led to the development of the company’s Pretzel Power program.  In building this important initiative, Kim & Scott’s Gourmet Pretzels, Inc. is committed to inspire students with lessons on being entrepreneurs, giving them opportunities to learn about securing their own futures. Kim and Scott speak to students, sharing “Twisted Tips for Entrepreneurs,” and teaching them about starting a business.

Also, as part of Pretzel Power, Kim & Scott’s is raising funds to support education. The company contributes “Pretzel Dough” to schools by donating a percentage of sales. Kim and Scott recently wrote a children’s book “Pretzel Power” and are scheduled to tour the country, holding “Raising Dough” twisting events to support schools.

And Kim and Scott’s Green Team is behind the scenes ensuring the company, suppliers and subcontractors are all working to make the world a better place today and for generations to come. 

Kim’s leadership has led the company to be certified as a Women’s Business Enterprise, the nation’s leading advocate of women-owned businesses as suppliers to America's Corporations. Not only were Kim and Scott’s product and philanthropic efforts highly praised in 2004 by Fortune Magazine as a company “Breaking Big” and recognized by Inc. 5000 as a “fastest growing company in America,” but also has been deliciously touted by USA Today, Entrepreneur, CNBC’s Power Lunch, CNBC’s Donny Deutsch’s “Big Idea,” Food Network’s Dean Brothers and Food Network’s Roker on the Road.  Al Roker even called the pretzels “the talk of the Windy City.”

While the Pretzel Power machine is twisting and turning, Kim is hopping the red eye to QVC to promote and sell new products to an audience of 87 million. 

And here’s a bit about the twisted heart of the business.  Each all-natural pretzel is made from scratch and twisted by hand.  The company boasts its pretzels are made in a nut-free facility, a great source of whole grains, and free from trans fats, preservatives and hydrogenated oils.  As a mom of three young kids, Kim is definitely devoted to serving up a healthy snack and meal choice for families.   

Before launching this pretzel empire, Kim rose through the ranks at Chicago ad agencies including Ogilvy & Mather and D’Arcy Masius Benton and Bowles.  Kim received her Bachelors of Business Administration from University of Texas School of Business and Masters of Science in Advertising from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. 

As of September 2009, Kim is the Women’s Business Development Center of Chicago’s Entrepreneurial Woman of the Year.  Additionally, Kim is an active member of Women Within International, Illinois Restaurant Association, National Association of Specialty Food Trade, Association of Children’s Museums, Children’s Nutrition Association, and National Association of Frozen & Refrigerated Foods.

Outside of her passion for pretzels, Kim enjoys spending family time with her husband and three delicious kids.  And in her spare moments, she enjoys yoga, pilates, meditation, reading, biking, and educating herself about feng shui, Chinese medicine and functional foods.  


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Sandy Hunter
Founder and Owner
Hunter Hawk

M. S. (Sandy) Hunter is the founder and owner of Hunter Hawk, Inc. 

Hunter Hawk is a 16-year old manufacturing and project management company that specializes in the reverse engineering and manufacture of critical mechanical equipment components for industrial applications at refineries, power plants, mining operations, original equipment manufacturers, government, biotech, municipal accounts, etc.  The company also represents a number of pump original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), engineered industrial products, and specialty service companies.  Hunter Hawk is WBENC and State of California certified as a women’s business enterprise.

With over thirty years of industrial sales, marketing, and management experience, Hunter’s success has been powered by the vision and tenacity that she credits to two generations of strong women – her mother and two grandmothers – who worked outside the home to support their families.  Today Hunter has taken leadership positions in her industry and community.  She is Founding Member of Women’s Network of Contra Costa County; Founding Member of JUGS (just us girls saving) Investment Club; Board Member of Pacific Energy Association, and member of Society of Manufacturing Engineers Association. 

Hunter has continued to hone her education throughout her career, starting with a BA in Business Management from St. Mary’s College, in California, to her Certificate in Marketing at UC Berkeley, Quality Management classes at UC Berkeley and Cal State Hayward; the Entrepreneurial Certificate Program at the J.F. Kennedy School of Management in Walnut Creek, CA, and Management Development for Entrepreneurs Certification at UCLA.  She participated in the Shell Oil Products / Motiva Mentor / Protégé Program.

Hunter is a single parent of two intelligent and beautiful adult daughters and resides in Concord, CA.   


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Denise Kanaar
D & D Logistics LLC 

D&D Logistics' Denise Kanaar is a business woman working in a male dominated profession. Denise decided after 30 years in education to pursue a new career.  She was looking for a career change and did she ever make one.

She dove into a male dominated industry of logistics and transportation. She knew several people in transportation and was very intrigued with it.  She was encouraged by a very seasoned transportation dispatcher to begin her own freight management business.  

Denise began her business in the basement of her condo, while teaming up with two trucking companies and one customer that trusted her as a professional.  It was through these beginning partnerships and working diligently that D&D Logistics has become a successful freight management company.   

In the past four years Denise and D&D Logistics has increased their revenue by $17 million and is determined to continue down that path. They believe it's all about building key relationships with customers and carriers and providing them with personalized customer service.   

The Staff of D&D logistics are efficiency experts that use proven carriers and a state of the art logistics management program to make their service better than the best.  They go above and beyond for their customers, being available with live support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  Their customers and carriers know that they will resolve any issue or answer any question in a timely manner.   

Denise is actively involved in several organizations locally and nationally. She is an active member in the local Women's Chamber of Commerce, is certified by the Women's Business Enterprise National Council and serves on the WBEC Great Lakes committee. 

She believes in giving back to her community personally and through her company D & D Logistics. She volunteers time and donates to several organizations such as Susan B Komen, St. Judes, THAW, Rescue Mission and numerous others.   

Denise cares about the future of the environment and has D & D Logistics, LLC partnered with the Environment Protection Agency by being SmartWay certified.  She continually reassesses her company's environmental footprint in an effort to do her part in saving the environment.


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Julie Levi
Progressive Promotions, Inc.

Julie founded Progressive Promotions more than 20 years ago, and is a leader and innovator in the promotional products arena.

From its humble beginnings in a New Jersey home office in 1987, Progressive Promotions' revenues have grown exponentially over the last decade, driven by the company's strategic ability to help prestigious Fortune 500 companies build brands and drive sales with unique promotional gifts and products chosen for optimum impact.

As President, Julie has consistently grown the business to become a trusted creative advisor and a resource for clients such as American Express, Ogilvy & Mather, Avis/Budget, Panasonic and Kraft Foods.  Progressive Promotions has won the International Golden Pyramid Award for Creativity, and earned the American Express Supplier Excellence Award for three years in a row.

A graduate of the prestigious Harvard Business School Owner/President Management Program, Julie holds the distinction of being one of 140 individuals in the United States to have earned her Masters of Advertising Specialties. Julie graduated from Douglass College, the women’s college of Rutgers University, with degrees in Economics, Women’s Studies and Political Science. She attended the Undergraduate Fellows program of the Eagleton Institute for Public Policy.

She is an entrepreneur who is passionate about giving back, and for six years, served as a director of the board of the Specialty Advertising Association of New York. She currently mentors and coaches business owners with businesses under $1 million to help them get over the hump. She also speaks on the "The 7 things I know now that I wish I knew then," a program designed for business owners, and serves on the boards of Girls Learn International, and the Fire Island Synagogue.

Julie is a member of the Women President’s Organization, and Progressive Promotions is a nationally certified women-owned business. She has received The Women President’s Educational Organization Award, Enterprising Women 2009 Award and was honored by The Women President’s Organization with its Economic Empowerment Award in 2002.

A mother of two future entrepreneurs, Julie lives on Long Island, New York, with her family, and spends the summers recharging her batteries on Fire Island.


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Katherine McKinney Mlakar
Chairman of the Board and Owner
The Millcraft Paper Company

Kay McKinney Mlakar, Chairman of the Board and Owner of The Millcraft Paper Company, has been recognized locally, regionally and nationally as a leading business woman.  The Millcraft Paper Company has a unique three-generation history as a woman-owned business, which was started in 1920 by Kay’s grandmother and grandfather. 

Today, The Millcraft Paper Company is one of the largest independent paper merchants in the Midwest with national capabilities (it has facilities in Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and converting facilities in Ohio, New York and Maryland), and a global network. Millcraft specializes in supplying printing paper that supports corporate marketing efforts as well as diversity and environmental initiatives. Millcraft supports strong “Green” initiatives by promoting paper and trees as renewable, biodegradable products.  Millcraft is proud to hold a chain of custody certification from the Forest Stewardship Council that represents this commitment. 

Recent honors and awards include the Top 100 Women’s Business Enterprises Impacting Supplier Diversity (2007); Top Ten Women Business Owners of Northeast Ohio (NAWBO/KEYBANK) (2007); Diversity Business.com Multicultural Awards: 18th Top Woman-Owned Business in America, 42nd Top Diversity-Owned Business in America, 3rd Top Woman-Owned Business in Ohio, and 3rd Top Diversity-Owned Business in Ohio (2007).  Kay was also featured as “25 Top WBEs in the Nation” by Women’s Entrepreneur Magazine (Sept/Oct 2006); and in The Cleveland Plain Dealer’s Business Section in 2008.

Kay’s focus has always been centered on customer relations, with a corporate mission of being the easiest to do business with for their customers and suppliers.  Because of Millcraft’s being independently owned and operated, the company is able to take a team approach to understanding their customers’ needs and thereby customizing their inventory and services to meet those needs.


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Sue Pistone
Chief Executive Officer and President
Sue Pistone & Associates

Sue Pistone, Chief Executive Officer and President of Sue Pistone & Associates, is known as “The Encourager” for her relentless focus on cultivating the strengths, abilities and talents of her clients, whether they are individuals or groups.  Her Houston-based Personal and Professional Development Firm helps clients throughout the country use the principles of organization, time-management and strategic-planning to clear away clutter, reach goals and achieve results.

Sue has always had a passion for people and sales.  She began a real estate career in 1975 and at the age of 29 was an owner in a real estate brokerage company.  For several years, she taught real estate at the University of Houston. 

Sue founded Sue Pistone & Associates in 1985. As a speaker, she draws on her extensive career and knowledge of human nature to deliver messages that are inspirational, motivational and informative, delivered with enthusiasm and a knack for finding the humor in every situation.

In her role as CEO/President of Sue Pistone & Associates, Sue has created a team that shares her devotion to guiding CEOs, executive directors, entrepreneurs, sales professionals, executive assistants, managers and others to increase productivity and profits through results-oriented coaching and development.  Clients have included Dow Chemical Company, General Dynamics, Dale Carnegie Institute, KBR, Inc. and InveStar Bank.

Sue Pistone & Associates provides customized training as well as standardized programs on team building, relationship strategies, leadership development and personal branding.  In addition, the company offers three trademarked programs: “Life is time…Make it count! ®”, which teaches the importance of time management and the tools to use it wisely; “S.O.S. –The Simple Organization System™,” which focuses on prioritizing tasks to become more organized and effective; and “S.T.A.R.S.™ Retreat – Strategies-Techniques-Actions Resulting in Success,” which teaches building a solid foundation through teamwork.  Sue and her team speak at conferences, seminars and other business functions, and the company offers SpeakerPro Bureau to connect corporations with other dynamic keynote and workshop speakers. 

Sue’s company has been certified as a woman-owned business through the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council since 2001.  She is also Vice President of the Women’s Business Enterprise Alliance (WBEA) and an outspoken advocate for women’s enterprises in Texas and nationally.  In 2009 Sue received the coveted WBENC STAR award and in 2007 she was the alliance’s Volunteer of the Year.

Sue is a member of the National Speakers Association (NSA) and a recipient of the Presidential Service Award. Sue has served on the Board of Directors for the National Speakers Association, Texas Association of Realtors and Houston Association of Realtors.  She is a past President of the NSA/Houston Chapter and has received the chapter’s John Wolf Award.  Sue is also a member of the Texas Real Estate Teachers Association (TRETA).

When Sue is not helping clients reach their potential, she enjoys recharging her batteries by spending time with her four children and seven grandchildren. Her hobbies include reading, movies and traveling. Sue’s life motto is “Life is time…Make it count!”®


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Terri  L. Quinton
Alliance of Diversity Printers LLC

Terri L. Quinton is CEO of the Alliance of Diversity Printers LLC, a printing, warehousing and fulfillment firm with a national and global footprint made up of minority and women owned print businesses. Quinton is also founder and president of Q2 Marketing Group.  Prior to founding Q2 and ADP-LLC, Quinton was co-founder and president of Q2 Communications, Inc., an award-winning, full service commercial printing and graphic design firm headquartered in Dallas, Texas.

Quinton has brought her concept of strategic alliances to fruition with the creation of the Alliance of Diversity Printers LLC. The company provides services related to the print industry and has a network of minority and women owned service providers that work in concert with the Alliance.

Quinton began her career in Wichita, Kansas working for Southwestern Bell Telephone Company in their computer operations and then the Comptrollers staff.  On a fast-track career path, she held numerous corporate positions with Southwestern Bell in Comptrollers, Data Systems, and Marketing. She became the highest-ranking, African-American female at SWBT (first out of 70,000 employees) before leaving to become General Partner and Vice President-Marketing for American Telecommunications Management Corporation. ATMC managed four limited partnerships involved in telecommunications  and was headquartered in Dallas, Texas. There she was instrumental in growing the start-up firm into a $5 million business in 3-1/2 years and signing their largest account (7-11) to an installation and servicing contract worth over $1 million annually. Upon leaving ATMC, Quinton provided marketing and equipment evaluation consulting services to Bahamas Telephone Company, Alltel Telephone Company and Intellicall, Inc. before officially forming Q2 Communications, Inc.

Quinton has vast experience in sales and marketing from both a corporate prospective and as a small business owner working with other small business owners to develop and market their businesses. Her work in sales and marketing put Quinton in contact with numerous start-up and medium-sized businesses who sought her expertise to enhance their marketing efforts. Her experiences, knowledge and expertise was penned into a book authored by Quinton entitled “Get in the Game…A To Do List to Market Your Business.” The book has received rave reviews from minority and small business owners for its practical approach to developing a marketing plan for their business.

Quinton is the first female elected to chair the National Minority Supplier Development Council’s Minority Business Enterprises Input Committee (MBEIC) representing over 17,500 minority owned businesses and 1,000,000 employees nationwide. In this position Quinton serves on the Executive Committee and Board of Directors of the National Minority Supplier Development Council.

Quinton served three years as the chair of the MBEIC for the Dallas/Fort Worth Minority Business Council as well as served as the South Central Regional Chair and National MBEIC Secretary. Quinton serves on the Executive Committee and Board of Directors of the Dallas/Fort Worth Minority Business Council.

Quinton has received several awards for her efforts on behalf of minorities including the prestigious E Award (of Excellence) for Minority Business Advocacy from the D/FW Minority Business Council two years in a row and recognition from the Department of Commerce. Q2 Communications, Inc. was awarded  the Supplier of the Year Award from D/FW MBC  and Regional Supplier of the Year Award from the NMSDC.  Quinton is on the advisory board of the K-State Multi-Cultural Alumni Association, the Celebrating Life Foundation, and supports numerous other non-profit causes. She is a part of the Women's Business Council – South West where here skills assist women-owned businesses, especially those owned by women of color.

Quinton, is originally from Topeka, Kansas, has a Computer Science degree from Kansas State University and an M.B.A. from Southern Illinois University – Edwardsville. She has attended additional educational programs at  Northwestern's Kellogg School of Business Advance Management Educational Program and Dartmouth's Tuck School of Business. Quinton resides in Dallas, Texas.


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Claudette Stroble
Founder and President
Orlando Conference Management Group, Inc.

Claudette Stroble is the founder and President of Orlando Conference Management Group, Inc., a meeting management company specializing in corporate meetings, customer events, incentives trips, franchisee and association meetings. 

Miss Stroble launched Orlando Conference Management in 1993 with the objective of managing meetings coming into Central Florida.  Under her leadership, the company was quickly recognized for its professionalism and earned a reputation for outstanding service.  Requests from clients led to an expansion of the company to handle meeting in other locations.  Miss Stroble’s experience during her career with General Electric was a key factor in the success of this transition.  With only minor changes to the organization, the company began to manage conferences around the country and around the globe. 

The company coordinates all the elements of an event including hotel selection and contract negotiation, development of the registration website, coordination of transportation, food and beverage, audio visual, recreation and team building activities.  Orlando Conference staff manages the program on-site.

Miss Stroble’s professional background includes 25 years with General Electric in various marketing communications positions.  Since founding Orlando Conference Management Group, she has become involved in supporting organizations that encourage women’s entrepreneurship.  Her company has been certified by WBENC as a woman-owned business since 1999 and she has been involved in the review process for certifying other women business owners since 2005.  She is also active in the National Association of Women Business Owners and has served as Secretary of the NAWBO Orlando board.   

Miss Stroble is Secretary of the Executive Committee of The Beacon Awards, a program that focuses on diversity in the work force.  She also serves as Chair of the Beacon Awards Dinner Committee.

She is on the Advisory Council for the Department of Advertising at the University of Florida and is a member of the Advisory Council at the Florida Museum of Natural History.  She is a long-time member of Meeting Professionals International.

Miss Stroble has a BA in Communication Arts from Good Counsel College, White Plains, NY.



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Laurie Travis
LT Eventions

Laurie Travis, recently hailed as "the moxie maven of swanky strip-side soirees" (RACKET Magazine, November 2007), has built her Las Vegas empire from the ground up. A balloon business based out of the back of a 1992 Dodge Caravan has evolved into LT Eventions, a multi-million dollar event production facility with over a hundred employees and a massive warehouse in which her signature events are created. 

Laurie prides herself in her portfolio of projects for Fortune 500 executives, high-profile social clients, celebrities, television networks, hotels and resorts, casino marketing events, and her status as preferred vendor for decor and destination services for the largest gaming corporation in the world. Having been featured in RACKET Magazine, Event Solutions Magazine, CaterSource Magazine, on HGTV's Design Star, and in a new series for Lifetime Television, Laurie and her creative staff at LT Eventions have been recognized nationally for their fashion-forward event concepts.

“Our success is in the collaborative efforts of our sales, design and production staff to exceed our clients’ expectations and perpetually reinvent our design product to keep in tune with current trends… and sometimes start new ones!” says Laurie, grateful for her staff of hand-picked industry experts and the wealth of special event resources available at her fingertips. LT Eventions is a supporter of the community to include minority, and women owned businesses. 

In an effort to share and give back to the community, LT Eventions has donated 1.5 million to non-profit organizations in 2009.

LTeventions is experienced in high profile events, we have control of the outcome because of assets of owning & manufacturing our own product, so we then can offer the best price.  LTevention is  100% woman owned and Laurie is very passionate about doing business with and supporting other women & diversity owned businesses.

History of Business: LTeventions Business was incorporated in February 2005. It is a party planning and event production business which flourishes well in a city of entertainment like Las Vegas, Nevada. Its largest client is Harrah’s Entertainment with includes the Harrah’s Hotel and Casino, Rio , Bally, Paris and Hilton to name a few.

The Company also does events for Mandalay Bay and MGM as well as other types of parties such as weddings, Birthday and other local events.

Laura J. Travis is the sole owner and stock holder of the corporation and holds the title of President.  She has been involved in this type of business for over twenty years. Her first company was Beyond Balloons which she closed in 1997. She then became a partner with Ray Molina in Beyond Designs. From there she opened LT Events. From there she was the Sales Manager for Victoria’s Destination until 2005 when she left and began LT Eventions.


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Michele Vignes, C.P.A.
Universal Personnel, LLC

Michele Vignes, C.P.A., is the President/CEO of Universal Personnel, LLC, a firm that specializes in recruiting and supporting professional staff for the oil and gas, utilities and chemical manufacturing industries. Headquartered in New Orleans, Louisiana, the company has a 30-year history.

As President, Michele has guided the company through a period of unprecedented challenge, restructuring, and growth.  Months after she became President in 2005, Universal was forced from its New Orleans office by Hurricane Katrina.  Recovering from this natural disaster proved to be not only daunting, but an extraordinary opportunity for growth as well for Vignes and for the company. In adapting to the changed world post-Katrina, Universal has adopted marketing, management, cultural, and infrastructure changes that have positioned the company for a new era as a professional staffing provider with safety as a number one priority.

Under Michele‘s management Universal Personnel became a Certified Woman Owned Business in 2004.  She is committed to playing a role in fostering the diversity goals of the Woman’s Business Enterprise National Council and using her experience to encourage other minority-and female-owned businesses. 

Her business affiliations include membership in the Women’s Business Enterprise Council -South, the Women’s Business Enterprise Alliance-Texas, the Louisiana Chemical Industry Alliance and the American Staffing Association.  

She also sits on the Advisory Board of Tulane University’s Family Business Forum and is a member of the Society of Louisiana Certified Public Accountants (LCPA) and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA).  Her Community involvement includes support of Desire NOLA, a non profit organization dedicated to fostering small businesses in New Orleans and membership in United Way’s Women’s Leadership Council, which is dedicated to improving the quality of life for women and children in the New Orleans region through leadership, philanthropy and advocacy.

Michele graduated cum laude from the University of New Orleans, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting.   As a Senior Auditor for KPMG Michele earned her C.P.A. and practiced Public Accounting for approximately four years before joining Universal in 1992.

Michele is the mother of two sons – Stanton, 17, and Lee, 14.  She lives with them in New Orleans.


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Judy Zimmermann
President & CEO
Artcraft & Foremost, Inc.

Judy Zimmermann is the President & CEO of Artcraft & Foremost, Inc., which encompasses Artcraft Health Education, Artcraft Promotional Concepts, and other related businesses including the direct marketing entity known as Promotions Now.  As the leader of these firms and the ‘firm’ known as the Zimmermann family, Judy’s goal is simple:  to accomplish as much as possible in each 24-hour day.

With her husband Harold and their four sons, Judy is fortunate to have a formidable team to call upon whenever new opportunities or challenges arise.

Judy is a Registered Nurse who enjoyed various positions within Hospital Nursing for 12 years. During that time, she raised four boys and attended night classes to finish her Batchelors Degree.  After her youngest child was born, she was able to combine her love of health care and education by serving in various school and community settings.

Twenty-six years ago Judy became involved with Artcraft, quickly building her own base of business. Her Nursing background enabled Judy to add value immediately with the company’s numerous healthcare clients, and Judy became an industry leader in selling brand reminder items to the Pharmaceutical and Healthcare communities.

As Artcraft grew, Judy developed the strategic plan which allowed the company to secure ‘Top 25’ national status as a distributor of promotional products. She also spearheaded Artcraft’s purchase of a Canadian Health Education Company, which helped Artcraft prepare for sweeping changes in the Pharmaceutical sector.  Finally, Judy pushed Artcraft to establish rigorous standards for overseas manufacturing, encompassing product quality, social and environmental factors.  

Today, Judy divides her time between the operations of Artcraft, strategic planning, and spending time with Harold, her four children and eight grandchildren. The future, as always, is uncertain.  However, Judy’s forward thinking and principle-based leadership will ensure that Artcraft will continue to be successful it its endeavors.


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