10 women of influence to be inducted into the
Minnesota Women Business Owners Hall of Fame
You may know their names. Now here’s a chance to hear the mind-blowing, inspirational stories of these past and current business leaders.
Fall is the season to reap what we’ve sown and show gratitude. It’s the ideal time for hundreds to gather in celebration of 10 entrepreneurial women of influence. These women business owners will join a very elite group of close to 80 previous honorees when they are inducted into the Minnesota Women Business Owners Hall of Fame. This year’s honorees will be honored during a gala event to be held on November 5, 2019, from 5:30 to 9:00 at Golden Valley Country Club. This year’s theme is, “Bridging the Generations.”
“This year’s honorees reflect the celebration of blending of the past, present, and future women business owners. In addition to the trailblazing women who are acknowledged for their significant roles in Minnesota history, we are honoring women business owners who have arrived and whose ongoing contributions are continuing to inspire others to blaze their own trails,” comments Mary Nutting, president of the Minnesota Chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO-MN). “You may not yet know their stories even if you know their names. What they’re doing paints an incredible picture of what’s possible for all of us.”
As the longest-running NAWBO chapter, NAWBO-MN supports the national organization’s vision of strengthening the wealth-creating capacity of its members and to promote economic development within the Minnesota entrepreneurial community. “It is about helping women to grow and develop their businesses that will ultimately produce greater revenue and employ more people. We are committed to helping all women business owners and supporting a diverse membership who want to grow for the greater good of our economy,” added Nutting.
About the Minnesota Business Owners Hall of Fame
The Minnesota Business Owners Hall of Fame was established in 2013 to honor women who made substantial and lasting contributions to Minnesota’s entrepreneurial community. Additionally, each inductee must have:
- Made a major impact on women’s entrepreneurial development in Minnesota
- A meaningful connection to Minnesota (such as place of birth, education, and/or business location) and
- Demonstrated leadership qualities or a spirit of entrepreneurial innovation that can serve as an inspiration to future generations of Minnesota entrepreneurs, and
- Been publicly acknowledged for their accomplishments by winning a major business award and/or receiving similar recognition from their industry
2019 honorees have done much to support Minnesota’s women in business
“This year, as we honor our fabulous inductees, we also celebrate the blending of the past, present and future women business owners who are together creating a new way of divergent business ownership thinking!” says Nutting.
This year’s honorees are:
● Pam Borton, Borton Partners, Minneapolis
Pam is president and CEO, Borton Partners; co-founder and partner, Women ON Point; and founder of TeamWomen and the Empower Leadership Academy for Girls. As a leadership expert, coach, trainer, speaker and author, she is committed to helping others realize their full potential.
Her background stands apart with 27 years of Division 1 women’s basketball coaching, including 12 years as head coach at the University of Minnesota in the Big Ten. There she led her teams to a Final Four, Elite Eight, three straight Sweet Sixteens and numerous NCAA Tournament appearances.
A philanthropist at heart, Pam has founded two non-profits. She launched TeamWomen in 2011, an organization dedicated to empowering women through networking, mentoring and professional development. In 2014, Pam founded Empower Leadership Academy for Girls, providing girls in grades 5-12 with the tools and support they need to become the next generation of leaders.
She has been recognized with several awards including the 2016 Twin Cities Business Magazine Marvelous Mentor Award, Top 10 Global Women of Leadership Pillar Award, (Real) Power 50 Award and New England National Coach of the Year. She was also a two-time nominee for the Naismith National Coach of the Year Award. Additionally, Pam was honored with the creation of the Pam Borton Endowment at the University of Minnesota in the College of Education and Human Development, the only endowment of its kind in the world.
She holds a master’s degree in sports management, along with a range of rigorous coaching certifications. These help her fulfill her abiding passions for organizational health and personal wellness.
● Jeri L. Meola, EGL ACE Research, Minneapolis
Jeri was president of SMS Research Advisors for 25 years prior to selling her business to Padilla. As a market research professional, Jeri is a master at the whats, hows, and whys of gathering voice of the customer insights.
Jeri is nationally recognized within the market research industry as a member of Sterling Who’s Who and has been awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO). She has also received the Red Cross Humanitarian Award.
Passionate about the community, Jeri has held leadership positions in vital charitable organizations including the United Way, Women Venture, Performance Excellence Network, NAWBO, Women President’s Organization, Heart Association, Sales and Marketing Executive International, and St. David’s Center for Family and Child Development. She has been a top 10 fundraiser for the past 15 years for the Golden Valley Humane Society Walk for Animals.
She loves golf and has had back-to-back eagles in a league match. She has started her next venture based upon this accomplishment and formed another company this year, EGL ACE Research.
Jeri was born and raised in Ohio. She holds an M.A. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from Western Michigan University and a B.A. in Psychology from Edinboro University. She and her partner Judy have been together for 32 years.
● Mary Pennington (posthumous), Afton House Inn, Afton
For more than 50 years, Mary managed the landmark Afton House Inn after acquiring the property in 1907. The rambling old frame hotel with its old-fashioned dining room was a popular eating place for generations. It was known for its warmth, hospitality and good humor. “Mother Mary,” as she was known, managed it until her death in 1946.
She was born in Denmark and moved to the U.S. when she was 20 years old. She first went to North Dakota, but after a few years she moved to Afton where she married Charles Pennington. Mary passed away at age 78.
As a woman business owner in the early twentieth century, she was well ahead of her time and was widely known for her generosity and kindness. That the Afton House Inn remains a Minnesota landmark today is a testament to her impact and legacy.
● Bonnie Russ, Mahoney, Ulbrich, Christiansen, P.A., St. Paul
Bonnie graduated from the University of Minnesota with a Bachelor of Science in Accounting. She worked for a large international firm as well as a large local firm before starting her current CPA firm, Mahoney, Ulbrich, Christiansen, and Russ, in 1989 with three colleagues.
She has been instrumental in growing the firm to approximately 70 employees. She has championed the firm’s “best places to work” culture, for which it has received many awards over the past 12 years. Although she was initially the firm’s only woman, it grew to have 40% female owners, which is highly unusual for a professional firm of its size or larger.
Bonnie has also been a leader within the CPA profession and business community with significant participation in several organizations over the years. She was one of the three women who formed the Minnesota affiliate of the American Woman’s Society of Certified Public Accountants and served as the group’s first president. She is a former Chair of the Minnesota Board of Accountancy. She has also served in numerous officer and leadership positions with the National Association of Women Business Owners.
She has been very active in the community for more than 40 years. As a single parent when her daughter was young, Bonnie was a Girl Scout leader and an active participant in many school functions. Her passion for parenting education led her to join the board of the Working Family Resource Center where she served for more than 20 years.
Bonnie currently serves on the Board of Lifetrack. She is also a member of Horizon 100, treasurer of the Roselawn Cemetery Association, and treasurer of the Falcon Heights Church Foundation. She is a member of several professional CPA associations.
Her past service work also includes the Audit Committee of the United Way of St. Paul, Client Security Board of the Lawyers Professional Responsibility Board, MN Board of Accountancy (chair), National Association of Women Business Owners (President-MN Chapter ).
● Jennifer Smith, Innovative Office Solutions, Burnsville
Recognized as a ‘culture innovator,’ Jennifer is passionate about creating workplaces where people love to work and are inspired to make a difference. As the Founder and CEO of Innovative Office Solutions, she seeks to inspire people to love what they do and who they do it with.
Under her leadership, her company has become the largest independent office solutions company in the Midwest and one of the largest in the nation. The Innovative success story is a result of employees guided by a shared vision, a set of core values and a brand promise that sets the tone for all interactions. This has resulted in Innovative being named among the “100 Best Companies to Work For” by the Minnesota Business Journal every year since its inception.
Innovative has re-invented how they go to market, offering clients new categories such as cleaning and facility supplies, educational supplies/furniture, workplace branding, managed print services and technology, along with office products and furniture and design.
Passionate about community, Jennifer serves on the Forum for the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) Board; Dealer Advisory Board of Essendant; LDI Board Member, Minnesota Vikings Women’s Advisory Council; and the InSports Foundation, the charitable arm of Innovative Office Solutions. She has received many accolades, including EY Entrepreneur of the Year for the Upper Midwest; Most Admired CEO by the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal; The (Real) Power 50 by the Minnesota Business Magazine; 50 Fastest Growing Women Owned/Led Companies in North America, presented by the Women’s Presidents Organization; 100 Best Places to work for seven consecutive years; and ranked for ten years on the Inc 5000 fastest growing privately held companies in America.
Growing up in the small town, family-owned office supply business, Jennifer’s mom and dad taught her at an early age that relationships matter. That philosophy guides her today.
● Lana Siewert-Olson and Joan Siewert-Cardona, Ideal Printers, St. Paul
Lana and Joan are president and CFO respectively of Ideal Printers Inc, a women- and family-owned printing company providing quality commercial print and mailing services to the Twin Cities for 40 years. Ideal has grown from 40 to 82 employees since they began running the company with their spouses in 2002. During that time, they expanded the operation from traditional print to include digital print and mailing. They are proud to be EEOE and CERT certified, and of the culture that permeates their business.
Lana has chaired the Printing Industry Midwest board of directors and currently serves on the Printing Industries of America Board. She was an active NAWBO board member for many years. Joan served on the St. Paul Chamber Board and Foundation Board of directors and chaired many committees.
In 2018, Ideal Printers was named a Twin Cities Business Journal Family Business Honoree and has received the St. Paul Chamber Duebner Award, ESABA Business of the Year and Minnesota Business – 100 Best Companies to work for and Star Tribune Top 100 Workplaces. Lana and Joan were named NAWBO Women Business Owners of the Year, and WBDC Minnesota Women’s Business Enterprise of the Year, Lana was NAWBO Young Business Owner of the Year in 2004 and Joan was named SPACC Volunteer of the Year in 2017.
● Alana Griffith, Empirehouse, Inc., Mounds View
Alana began working at Empirehouse in 1972 part-time, and full time in 1974. In 1982, she was promoted to vice president of marketing. She became a board member as a secretary in 2008. In 2009, Alana became one of the owners, and in 2011 was made a corporate vice president.
Empirehouse is a NACC-certified architectural glass and metal contractor serving the Midwest construction industry. Over three generations, Empirehouse has progressed from small glass installations to iconic building enclosures. The company was founded in 1950 by John and Betty Griffith and is now a Minnesota Certified Women-Owned Business Enterprise.
In the male-dominated construction industry, Alana stood out through her dedication to others and by serving as president for the Construction Specification Institute. She brought unique learning opportunities in engineering for school-aged children to the Minnesota Chapter of CSI and ran a successful program for 15 years focused on 6th graders. Alana is also a member of the Producers Council Midwest, Construction Specifications Canada, the Minnesota Construction Association and serves on the University of Minnesota’s Construction Management Program Advisory Board.
She retired from Empirehouse on December 31, 2016. Alana now mentors three articulate and high-powered young women, ranging in age from 22 to 32. She continues her education in construction products, practices, and methods.
● Mary Tjosvold, Mary T. Inc., Coon Rapids
Mary Tjosvold co-founded Mary T. Incorporated with her mother, Margaret Tjosvold. In 1976, Mary T. Inc. launched by opening Camilia Rose Group Home, one of the first community-based settings in the United States to serve people with multiple disabilities. Prior to that, people with multiple disabilities were typically placed in state institutions. Since then, Mary T. Inc has expanded into home health care, rental and senior housing, human service program options, independent living services and hospice care. The company operates multiple locations in Minnesota and three other states. In 2014, Mary T. Inc. opened Crooners Supper Club which has become a premier music venue.
Mary has been recognized by several organizations as a leading Minnesota businesswoman and humanitarian. She received the Outstanding Achievement Award from the University of Minnesota. In 2012, she was awarded the Local Legend Award by General Mills at the Martin Luther King Holiday Breakfast.
Mary T. currently serves on the University of Minnesota College CEHD Board and the Board of Northeast Bank. She served as a member of the Board of the American Refugee Committee between 1997 and 2009 and chair of the Board from 2002 to 2006.
A leader in her field, Mary T. is committed to the concepts of productive conflict, cooperation, team organization, entrepreneurship, governance, ethics, and corporate culture. This is illustrated through her business, volunteer activities, writing, and speeches. She has co-authored several books with her brother, Dean Tjosvold, Ph.D., on cooperation, team organization, leadership, and productive conflict management.
In 2002, Mary T. opened the Margaret Tjosvold Nursery & Primary School in Santa, Bamenda, Cameroon, West Africa to provide educational opportunities to the local children. The first graduating class of sixth graders produced the top five students in the 2008 Cameroon National Examination. This was quite an accomplishment for the students, teachers, and community.
In her role as the chair of the Board of the American Refugee Committee and through her worldwide travels, she continues to make a difference by advocating for and supporting individuals and organizations that work to eliminate violence toward women, to stop child trafficking, to empower people through microfinance and to preserve the environment.
Mary M. Tjosvold has a Ph.D. in Education Administration from the University of Minnesota and completed the Owner/President management program at Harvard Business School.
● Elaine Wyatt, Women Venture, Minneapolis
Elaine Wyatt is the CEO of the nonprofit Women-venture. She manages all aspects of the organization, with key responsibilities in board governance, community partnerships, fundraising, and strategic planning. Women Venture’s twenty-person staff helps women launch and grow profitable and sustainable businesses. The organization serves more women annually than any other economic development agency in the state. Under Elaine’s leadership, it has developed six new training programs, increased revenues by 53% and grown annual lending nearly four-fold to $800,000. For every dollar the community invests in Women-venture’s clients, they return $20 to the local economy.
Prior to her leadership role at Women-venture, Elaine was the chief advancement officer at Girl Scouts of Minnesota and Wisconsin River Valleys. There, she substantially increased earned and contributed income. She led the Girl Scout 100th Anniversary project by implementing a two-day Birthday Celebration at Mall of America with 140,000 attendees; executing a Centennial Gala, honoring 100 Girl Scout Alumnae with 1,100 attendees; launching a Day of Service conservation project with 26,000 participants resulting in saving $6M in clean-up costs; and implementing the “Where Can Girl Scouts Take You” advertising campaign, generating $76M in media impressions.
Elaine has an extensive background in finance, serving in COO, CFO, and senior financial consultant roles, before transitioning into non-profit leadership and philanthropy. Elaine has a deep passion for helping women and girls realize their full potential by addressing racial and gender disparities.
When not at work, you can find Elaine watching the years’ Academy Award-nominated movies, reading Pulitzer prize-winning fiction, enjoying the great outdoors and spending time with her husband, dogs, four daughters, grandson, family, and friends.
“If you have never attended the NAWBO-MN Hall of Fame celebration, now is your time. This is one of the most inspiring and motivational women’s business ownership events you will ever be a part of,” states Mary Quist-Newins, NAWBO-MN’s past president.
General admission tickets to this year’s Minnesota Women Business Owners Hall of Fame celebration are $120 each and may be purchased here. The evening will include a cocktail reception to meet the inductees and a cash bar. Inductees will also speak during the evening.
Media Note: For additional information, or to arrange an interview, contact Media Relations, Inc. at 952-697-5240.
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