When we decided to feature women who are making a difference in the Conejo Valley, we didn’t have to look very far. Our community is teeming with talented and accomplished women making their mark in every area, from politics and business to education and the arts. These extraordinary role models share some of their wisdom, lessons and secrets of their success, sure to inspire women everywhere.
The Ventura Chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners recently honored many of these women at the 17th Annual 2016 BRAVO Awards celebrating outstanding women in business and leadership. The annual signature awards event recognizes women for their vision and perseverance, which creates a brighter future for women business owners and entrepreneurs.
NAWBO Woman Business Owner of the Year
Nellie R. Akalp, Founder & CEO of CorpNet.com
Nellie is an entrepreneur, author, speaker, wife and mother of four.
Words to Live By: Be passionate, genuine and authentic!
Favorite Quote or Motto: “Do what you love and love what you do each and every day… otherwise, why do it at all?”
Mentor: My husband and business partner of 23 years, Phil Akalp. He always pushes me to continuously improve myself in all aspects of my life, whether business or personal. If it weren’t for him, I wouldn’t be the wife, mother and business expert I am today.
Most Important Lesson: I’ve learned that success is something you achieve based on how much you put into whatever it is that you would like to see success from. Certainly others can help you, just as others can provide obstacles, but ultimately you make your own success and your own failure. If you want to have success and be successful, you can’t make success your goal. The key is not to worry about being successful, but to instead work toward being significant, and the success will naturally follow.
Most Rewarding Accomplishment: Starting a company in 1997 and selling it eight years later at the age of 30 for a very large sum of cash to a publicly traded company, then taking three years off to start all over again with the launch of our current business, CorpNet.com, which was recognized on the Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing privately held companies in America in 2015. In my personal life, my biggest accomplishment has been giving birth to my four beautiful children who teach me something new each day and continue to teach me that life is so beautiful when seen through the innocence of children. Of course, being happily married to my husband and business partner of over 18 years is the cherry on top.
Advice for Women: If you want to get someone’s attention – be different, disruptive, distinct and make an impression!
Future Goals: I want to continue to develop myself as a more prominent and inspirational voice to entrepreneurs, startups and the small business community.
NAWBO Lifetime Achievement Award
Hannah-Beth Jackson, State Senator, 19th Senate district, (Santa Barbara County and western Ventura County)
Words to Live By: It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.
Mentor: Hazel Wightman, donor of the Wightman Cup in tennis. A trailblazer in her craft, she never gave up and always pursued excellence. She held out a helping hand and gave sage advice to those who sought her help and guidance.
Most Important Lesson: Never give up on your dreams.
Most Rewarding Accomplishment: My daughter, Jennie.
Advice for Women: Don’t apologize and don’t ask permission to be who you are.
Future Goals: Equal opportunity for all Californians to achieve the American Dream.
NAWBO Innovator of the Year
Andrea Gallagher, President, Senior Concerns
Words to Live By: The sign “It CAN Be Done” on his Oval Office desk was Ronald Reagan’s constant reminder that great things, impossible things, were within his grasp. I have the same sign on my desk.
Mentor: There is something to be learned from everyone and every experience. I constantly ask myself, “What is the lesson I am supposed to learn here?”
Most Important Lesson: In order to achieve your goals, you’ve got to put plans in place.
Most Rewarding Accomplishment: Being successful in my encore career.
Advice for Women: 50% of the women in America today are single. Don’t leave your financial future to someone else—take charge!
Future Goals: To have a national voice in the aging of America.
NAWBO Visionary of the Year
Maryann Ridini Spencer, President, Ridini Entertainment Corporation
Maryann is an award-winning screenwriter, producer, author, journalist, public relations and marketing specialist and business owner.
Words to Live By: “There is a light that overcomes the darkness, there is no darkness that can overcome the light.” (John 1:5)
Mentor: My mother. By example, she was an amazing role model as a wife, mother and successful working woman. She also had tremendous vision, faith, passion, compassion, intelligence, foresight and boundless love, energy and creativity.
Most Important Lesson: Our reality begins with our thought.
Most Rewarding Accomplishment: Professionally, two work goals stand out of equal importance: The feeling of joy when I viewed the rough cut of a movie I co-produced/wrote, “The Lost Valentine,” starring Betty White and Jennifer Love. The film became an award-winning Hallmark Hall of Fame classic and part of CBS’s “Crown Collection.” In March 2016, I secured a publishing contract for my first novel, Lady in the Window.
Advice for Women: You can have a productive, balanced and happy work and personal life as long as you have organization and a good support network.
Future Goals: Personally, continuing to enjoy a full life with my husband and family, and professionally, reporting for “Sustainable Ventura News” (VCStar.com), hosting “SimplyDeliciousLiving.com” (PBS-TV) and furthering my writing passion by penning more screenplays, novels and cookbooks.
NAWBO Rising Star of the Year
Adriana Perez, Esthetician/Owner, Skincare By Adriana
Words to Live By: “Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it,” -Maya Angelou
Mentor: I don’t have just one. I’ve received guidance and advice from fellow esthetician/spa owners, teachers, everyone at Women’s Economic Ventures and the ladies in my weekly Mastermind group. Without everyone’s collective help, I’d be lost.
Most Important Lesson: Focus your energy on what you’re good at. If you don’t do something well, hire someone who can and let them handle it.
Most Rewarding Accomplishment: Hiring my first employee (to keep up with client demand) after less than a year of moving into my new, larger location. I’m proud to know that I am helping to create steady, well-paying jobs here in our community.
Advice for Women: Don’t be afraid to make changes. Think about what you want to accomplish, then figure out the steps required to get there. Once you have a solid plan, go for it!
Future Goals: Open another location and expand my treatment menu to include body treatments (scrubs, wraps, etc.) and employ more estheticians and body technicians/massage therapists.
NAWBO Young Woman Entrepreneur of the Year
Allie Anderson, Owner/Designer/Manager, Shop Allie Anderson and Presh Events
Words to Live By: Never Give Up! At an early age, I learned the true definition of “never give up” when my family was trying to adopt a sibling for me since mom couldn’t conceive anymore. I remember my mom explaining they had tried their best. “Never give up,” I said. We didn’t, and now my brother is a freshman in college!
In business, there have been many obstacles along the way: expenses that have led to tough decisions, staying motivated through long hours of working and not letting my age get in the way of my dreams are just a few examples.
Great things can come out of tough times and I never give up trying. From that, I have built two amazing businesses and am currently in the process of expanding.
Mentor: My mother has always been my support and inspiration. She has pushed me to give everything I have into whatever I am passionate about.
Most Important Lesson: When I first opened my online store, Shop Allie Anderson, I had no idea what I was getting into. I began selling sorority Greek-lettered accessories online, when a lawyer told me to stop selling the Greek-lettered items. It scared me to death and I immediately took down the listings! I found out how to get licensed, and I’ve learned not to let anything scare me away from my passion.
Most Rewarding Accomplishment: My most rewarding accomplishment by far is the NAWBO award for Young Woman Entrepreneur of the Year!
Advice for Women: Let’s face it. Women live in a men’s working world. While our society is making slow progress toward equal opportunity, there are still problems that make women feel less than men at work.
I will never forget the day my business partner and I showed up prepared to run a wedding rehearsal and the officiant arrived ready to run the show. He talked over us, telling the wedding party what to do, how to hold the flowers and where to stand. He was doing our job. Once I noticed the bride, my client, looking at me with frustration from his attitude, I had enough. Where he was wrong in his direction, I announced it loud and clear. He was very surprised and stopped talking; I took that opportunity to do my job.
From that experience, I realized how important it is for women to take action when they feel their job is being overrun, by a man or woman.
Future Goals: I hope to inspire more young women like me who have a drive to follow their passion and dreams.
NAWBO VC Member of the Year
Maura Raffensperger, Owner, Your Chief Simplicity Officer/Business Coach
Words to Live By: “There is more to life than increasing its speed.” -Mahatma Ghandi
Mentor: My late mother. After I got engaged, she handed me a check and said, “You can use it however you want: for a wedding, as a down payment or for a fabulous trip.” After a slight pause, she added, “If it was me, I’d choose the trip.” She modeled the joy of traveling for me.
Most Important Lesson: It’s okay to ask for help.
Most Rewarding Accomplishment: “Completing the list” by hiking to the top of all 276 peaks over 5,000 feet on the Sierra Club Hundred Peaks Section list.
Advice for Women: Always maintain your female friendships, no matter how busy your life becomes. They will keep you laughing and sustain you when life gets rough. This was something else I learned from my mother. She kept in contact with favorite friends from kindergarten, nursing school and volunteer organizations. When my father died, they were all there to support her, either in person, or by phone or email. It was beautiful to see.
Future Goals: Professionally: I have a plan to create six online mini-courses on the topics I see my clients struggling with in their businesses. Personally: I’d like to have hiked in every National Park. And my life list won’t be complete until I have seen the Northern Lights!
Greater Conejo Valley Chamber of Commerce Woman of the Year
Marilyn J. Hogan, Vice Chairperson, Hogan Family Foundation, Inc. and Secretary, Vice Chairperson of the Board of Directors, Pleasant Travel Service
Lynn Hogan co-founded Pleasant Hawaiian Holidays with her husband Ed Hogan, which they built into a $500 million-a-year travel company and sold in 1998. They also created the Hogan Family Foundation, one of the area’s largest nonprofit organizations that manages numerous philanthropic educational and humanitarian programs throughout the community.
Words to Live By: “Contribution compensation” and “knowledge is power.”
Mentor: The late William H. Hannon, philanthropist and Southern California real estate developer, who since 1962, provided the Hogans with counsel on their business dealings, guided them in the purchase of their first hotels and became a close friend.
Most Important Lesson: Even in the worst of times, as Winston Churchill said, “Never give in! Never give in! Never, never, never, never—in nothing great or small, large or petty. Never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense.” Early in their careers, someone embezzled from them and nearly cost the Hogans everything. They stayed the course and found ways to move forward.
Most Rewarding Accomplishment: There are many: Growing their small retail travel business in 1959 into the largest wholesale travel company in the world serving Hawaii; operating their own airline and, now, chartering several of their luxury aircraft; raising four children, who all still work in their businesses and in the Foundation; having a successful marriage approaching 65 years.
Advice for Women: Be persistent. Take calculated risks. Think out your strategies in business and life. Always have a “safety net” or fallback position.
Future Goals: Take good care of our health and mentor our third generation grandchildren to go into business; perhaps one of the family businesses.
Bonnie Atmore, President & Chief Empowerment Officer, FOOD Share –Ventura County’s regional food bank
Words to Live By: Decide what matters most to you and proceed accordingly with focus and purpose.
Mentor: Mel Livingston, past chair at FOOD Share. She was my mirror and light. Melissa led with clarity and empowered us all by ensuring we had access to the resources and support which enabled us to meet our mission in the most efficient, effective manner possible.
Most Important Lesson: You can have everything you want in life, you just can’t have it all at once.
Most Rewarding Accomplishment: Falling asleep in my husband’s arms knowing what I did, said or supported ensured that someone’s tomorrow was just a little more bright, light and possible.
Advice for Women: “Take your sister along!” Know the power of picking up the mirror and shining a light, and saying to her, “Do you know how capable you are? Whatever your heart holds near and dear is possible.” Share your intentions, you’ll be amazed and grateful to see how many people want to help you get to your “there.” It becomes contagious and before you know it, we all get to our “there” following this enriching path.
Future Goals: Continue to decide what matters most and proceed accordingly with focus and purpose. “Where your pleasure is, there is your treasure; where your treasure is, there is your heart; where your heart is, there is your happiness.” -St. Augustine