Lifting Limits: National Association of Women Business Owners 18th Annual Bravo Award Winners 2

Honoring Women Who Create & Inspire Ventura County

Creative. Talented. Humble. Powerful. These shining stars have shattered the glass ceiling, empowering others to shoot for the Moon!

Marta Alvarez, Founder/Owner/Engineer, YCE, Inc., Civil Engineer & Land Surveyor

Innovator of the Year

“Have a very clear idea of what and how you want your business to be, make 200% sure that it is what you really want, and then be determined/be stubborn, call it what you want, but don’t give up on your dreams!”

As a child, Marta dreamed of being a stewardess, but changed her mind as a teenager, deciding to pursue engineering instead.

“I loved math and science and figuring out how things worked,” says Marta, who aspired to have her own company throughout college. “I worked at various companies and government agencies from junior high through college trying to really figure out what I liked best in engineering and where I wanted to go with it.”

A true innovator, Marta believes taking calculated risks is necessary for growth. She strives to keep learning and stay current with technology, “to always improve and move forward” and “not be afraid to try new things.”

In addition to NAWBO’s award, the Society of Women Engineers named Marta “Engineer of the Year” in 2016, an honor that has bolstered her community outreach efforts.

“I want to continue to give back to the communities we serve by being a role model for this great profession and continue to award scholarships to engineering and agri-business students,” she shares, noting YCE’s recent scholarships to two “very deserving young ladies.”

Angela’s plans to expand her business with quality clients and “not necessarily by increasing the quantity of projects” allow her to continue “providing the best service that I can to my clients, giving back to my community and to my profession, being ethical in all that I do,” and maybe even a little time for traveling the world.

“I guess part of me still wants to be 
a stewardess!”

Tobi Jo Greene, Executive Director, The Girls Empowerment Workshop

Education Advocate of the Year

“Learn strong communication skills, learn to value yourself and speak assertively. Do not be afraid to stand your ground and ask for what you want. Women often put the needs of others before their own, and while that is a beautiful quality, it often holds us back out of fear we may hurt someone’s feelings or outshine another person or partner.”

Tobi Jo Greene discovered her passion for helping teens learn “to value and respect themselves and have healthy experiences that shape them into adults” after serving in the Rape Crisis field.

“Paired with my time as an educator in sex education, I learned that this is something I deeply care about,” says Tobi Jo, who began by establishing a small program in Oak View.

Driven by determination and a deep belief in the value of her work, Tobi Jo developed her workshop, and “…because teens are hungry for this information, the program grew.” Today, thanks to school, administrator and community support, Tobi Jo reaps the rewards of her program.

“Watching girls learn to value themselves, leave unhealthy relationships, leave workshops with the belief they are worthy and capable of creating the life they want for themselves” fuels her to grow the program, with plans to license her curriculum for use by educators nationwide.

When she’s not empowering teens, Tobi Jo is likely participating in her favorite pastime: “Mountain biking, mountain biking and mountain biking.”

Jill Haney, Montecito Bank & Trust

Corporate Leader/Partner of the Year

“Work hard. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Treat people with respect. Learn from the people you admire.” 

What started as a “temporary” position has become a decades-long career for Montecito Bank & Trust’s Jill Haney.

“I saw an ad in the paper for a receptionist position at a bank and applied for it.” The job had been filled, but Jill was offered an open teller position. “I took the job, thinking it would be temporary, and 38 years later, I am still in the same industry!”

As vice president/branch manager of MB&T, Jill takes pride in her job, helping clients and volunteering in the community. Her family is also a source of happiness.

“Personally, I am most proud of my son and grandchildren. They are my biggest, and I think best, accomplishments,” says Jill, who points to her parents’ example.

“They showed me that you need to work hard and do what you believe to be right.” Jill plans to retire in 10 years and spend more time with family and friends. “They are what is most important to me in my life.”

Tracie Karasik, President, TLKmultimedia

Young Woman Entrepreneur of the Year

“Success comes to those who own their destiny by taking an active role in defining their future.”

Scouted by UCLA as a competitive basketball player at age 10, Tracie Karasik is no stranger to breaking through barriers in male-dominated fields.

“As a woman working in the primarily male-dominated fields of film, photography and technology, I’ve found that being a woman has contributed greatly towards my success by pushing through barriers and possessing a certain sensibility and intuitive approach that my clients appreciate,” says Tracie, founder of local multimedia company, TLKmultimedia.

“I was always interested in film and photography as a teenager,” says Tracie, who found her passion for technology while earning a bachelor’s degree in Cinema and Television Arts and Multimedia Production from Cal State University, Northridge.

In college, “my parents purchased their first Apple computer, and my world was forever changed.” Despite working in the film industry, “deep down, I had a drive for entrepreneurship, so I started TLKmultimedia at 24.”

Her parents’ lessons “to pursue and cultivate my passions, to embrace my talents, to work hard and to work smart, to strive for greatness, to be a leader, to have courage and grit in times of struggle, to have a positive attitude no matter what life throws my way, and to go out into the world to make a difference in the lives of others” coupled with her desire and strong resolve to “go boldly towards the direction of our goals and dreams” inspire Tracie.

Just as “planning, goal setting and taking action” are vital to success, so is supporting other women.

“We not only need to work towards advancing our own careers, but to be encouraging of other women,” says Tracie.

With plans to expand her company nationwide and, ultimately, globally through online education,” Tracie continues to forge ahead in her career, while striving for balance.

“I strongly believe that if you build a healthier you, inside and out, you’ll be the best version of yourself—for you and for others.”

Kathy Long, Ventura County Supervisor, Third District (RET)

Lifetime Achievement Award

“Women should trust their instincts, build on their knowledge base and experience, and not be afraid to take some risk. Relationship building is important to support you when you hit bumps in the road, and to mentor you. Build a core group of ‘go to’ friends/associates that you can call on and count on.”

Kathy Long’s 26 years of public service has yielded many rewards—from strengthening opportunities for women and families, serving on the County Medical Oversight Board to bolster our health care system and reopening Santa Paula Hospital for the communities in the Santa Clara Valley—to working toward the expansion of the VC Medical Center and providing for the improvement of health, welfare and public safety for the residents of our county.

Kathy’s decades of experience in elected offices began in Michigan, where she worked in the Mayor’s Office before moving to Los Angeles in 1981. Working in City Council until 1986, Kathy moved to Camarillo to start a small business, and then went to work for VC Supervisor Maggie Erickson Kildee in 1991.

“She retired in 1996, and I ran and was elected to the seat in 1997,” says Kathy, who says “engaging community in solutions and being a good listener” are essential to her success.

With almost three decades of service under her belt, Kathy recently retired and enjoys spending time reading, golfing, gardening and traveling, as well as “swimming and enjoying my backyard and my husband and cheering on my son as he finishes graduate school.”

Shanté Morgan-Durisseau, Founder & Owner, Morgan Communications

Community Advocate of the Year

“Approach life positively, even looking at the negative experiences as learning opportunities, and don’t let your fears leave you with regrets. If you don’t try, you’ve failed before you even get started.”

“Faith, focus and good friends and mentors” fuel Shanté Morgan-Durisseau’s success as an educator, communicator and advocate.

“My mother was my inspiration; Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. has been the vessel for most of my community service; and Jesus Christ has been my strength,” says Shanté, describing her faith as a “guiding light for everything in my life from raising my children to decisions in my career and my work in the community.”

A professor of communications and critical thinking at Cal State University, Channel Islands, Shanté’s inclination to serve others began as a young child.

“I toggled between wanting to be a lawyer and a writer. I knew individuals who had been treated unfairly by the justice system and there were laws in place that had not been equitable to African-American people,” she explains. “It seemed to me the best way to fight for justice and right wrongs was to become a lawyer.” In high school, journalism became a career option. “I loved to write short stories and read biographies.… It seemed like the perfect fusion of my passions by using my writing to fight for justice.”

Today, Shanté finds working with college students enables her to make a greater impact. “As a professor, I’m able to see the ‘lightbulb’ come on in my students’ eyes as they are exposed to new concepts and theories about race, culture and gender. I help them become critical thinkers, and I think, better global citizens.”

As a parent, Shanté takes great pride in her children (20 and 14) “growing up to be good people who I envision as givers and not takers from the world.” With plans to earn a doctorate and continue her work in intercultural communications and race, gender and communications, Shanté cherishes her free time, when she can luxuriously “just snuggle in a blanket on my couch and watch comedies.”

Heidi Whitcomb, CEO, Ventura Rental Party Center Inc.

Women Business Owner of the Year

“Follow your passion and have a lot of tenacity. Push your limits and get uncomfortable. You’ll feel stronger the next time. Listen to your gut and follow it. Make sure to prepare for a rainy day and always stay humble, no matter how much success you have.” 

Her love of “celebrating life’s great events” sparked Heidi Whitcomb to establish a special events division in her parents’ rental company.

Thanks to her parents’ guidance and support and resources from the American Rental Association and the National Association of Catering Executives, Heidi’s business venture experienced “huge” success early on.

An even bigger achievement to Heidi is her family. “I am most proud of my success as a wife and mother. My husband, Mike, and I have been happily married for 34 years and our biggest accomplishment is three beautiful children, who are now kind, gracious and thriving adults.”

And while she’s optimistic that her business will continue to thrive, Heidi hopes to spend more time “serving in philanthropic ways and ‘smelling the roses.’”

“I actually love to work and help people celebrate life events, so the ‘smelling the roses’ part is proving to be a bit difficult,” but “We are expecting our first grandchild in the fall, so I am sure this will slow me down a little.”

When she does find time to relax, Heidi loves traveling, hiking, gardening and spending time with friends, family and her sweet Lab, Libbey.