Iconic Women of Distinction Awards 2020October 8, 2020
An Iconic History
The mission of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) Southern Nevada is to educate, empower and promote women business owners to experience success in all economic, political and social arenas. The organization provides informative and success driven monthly meetings which include time devoted to networking with other women entrepreneurs.
The first meeting of Southern Nevada’s chapter of NAWBO was held on February 26, 1990. The inaugural class had 52 members and the meeting was standing-room only. That earlysuccess was contagious and, only two years after forming, the first NAWBO National Conference was held in Las Vegas. The conference had record attendance including nearly 200 walkins. In 1995, just five short years after forming, three NAWBO Southern Nevada members were elected to the Nevada delegation for the White House conference on small business.
In 1998 the chapter launched the Women of Distinction Awards, honoring women from all walks of life for their work in improving Southern Nevada’s business landscape. This year’s Women of Distinction Awards, known as WODA, features remarkable women from a variety of industries and backgrounds. Their strength, poise and success are an inspiration to Southern Nevadans. Nevada Business Magazine and NAWBO applaud their hard work and honor their commitment to the Battle Born state.
Congratulations to the 2020 class of WODA finalists.
Special Thanks to the Congressional Delegation of southern Nevada, the Nevada Governor and the City Delegations of southern Nevada for providing Certificates of Commendation and videos honoring the Women of Distinction Awards finalists.
Arts | Entertainment | Media
KSNV-News 3 Las Vegas
Krystal Allan joined the News 3 Team in March 2011. She co-anchors “Wake Up With the CW” and “News 3 Live at Noon.” She started her career on the Gulf Coast as a weekend anchor/reporter in Biloxi, MS. At News 3, she started as an education reporter. The daughter of two educators, Krystal lends her time and talents to organizations championing children and education. She enjoys volunteering with Communities In Schools, and loves spending time in local classrooms. Krystal was honored with an Edward R. Murrow award for covering the October 1st mass shooting. Born and raised in the Midwest, she uses the speaking gifts she honed at her childhood church to serve the Las Vegas community.
LaGuardia Media and Public Relations
Leslie LaGuardia transplanted from upstate New York in January 2014 to Las Vegas. She has a degree from Mohawk Valley Community College and her company, LaGuardia Media and Public Relations, offers a wide spectrum of marketing services. As a breast cancer survivor, Leslie has spearheaded galas for breast cancer research. She also raises monies for local and national charities through donations and silent auctions, and actively volunteers for organizations like Opportunity Village, Special Olympics, Susan G. Komen, Three Square and countless others. Leslie enjoys gourmet cooking, ballroom dancing, charity volunteering and her two rescue pups, Jack and Coco Bean.
Screen Content Management
Jennifer Walsh was instilled early with a desire for independence and self-reliance. This desire, along with encouragement from her partner, led her to pursue entrepreneurship. Screen Content Management (SCM) began as a photo and video production company. After realizing, many struggle with familiarity and implementation fo digital signage, Jennifer began to focus SCM on that medium. After completing due diligence research and development, SCM began marketing their services throughout the southwest. Today, the organization holds relationships with Harley Davidson, Cardinale Way Mazda, Harsch Investment Properties, Patrón Motorsports and John Force Racing.
Business | Retail | Manufacturing
Anna Stewart Billings is the general manager of the Anne Fontaine Boutique at the Forum Shops at Caesars. She is a philanthropist, leader, educator, mother, wife and grandmother. After serving in various retail sales leadership positions, Anne Fontaine recruited her to build her Las Vegas flagship store. There she has exceeded all sales goals with revenue accomplishments, community outreach, building clientele and charitable contributions that outshine other retail establishments in the country. Anne feels it is important to be part of the community that has been so good to her. She loves Las Vegas. If she can make a difference in a child’s life or help a woman get back on track, she will.
The Paragon Group
Christy Echols established The Paragon Group in 2012 to bridge the gap for small, women and minority-owned companies, private and public entities. A uniquely diverse background from her family’s small business to corporate, construction, and government contracting has given Christy an extensive area of perspective and expertise in understanding both sides and recognizing the gap in between. “Having a front-row seat, we see the opportunities that small, women and minority-owned firms face in their business daily. Providing a compass for them to navigate the journey is huge for our firm. Seeing and hearing the impact that it makes is priceless.”
Leah Martin Law
In 1999, Leah graduated summa cum laude from UNLV with a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies and Political Science. She then graduated from UNLV’s law school in 2002. Leah gained valuable experience in some of Nevada’s top firms over the next several years. In 2011, she established her own firm, focusing on business formation and licensing, contracts and litigation. Leah is certified to practice law in the United States District Court for the District of Nevada and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. She is a member of the American Bar Association, State Bar of Nevada, Clark County Bar Association, and Southern Nevada Association of Women Attorneys.
Corporate | Government Services
Julie Brander, MBA
SCORE Las Vegas
Chair of the SCORE Las Vegas Chapter and The Women’s Initiative
Julie is a highly regarded business expert and advocate for small business. Her dedication and common-sense approach have enabled her to help thousands of entrepreneurs realize that owning a business is feasible. She has 20 years experience and started a manufacturing, wholesale, retail and non-profit business. Julie is currently the SCORE Las Vegas chapter co-chair directing a team of more than 65 volunteers. In 2019 Julie recognized an opportunity for SCORE to provide greater support to female small business owners and established the SCORE Las Vegas Women’s networking breakfasts. Julie resides in Las Vegas with her husband, Jeff, and has three daughters and four grandchildren.
Director of Marketing
A native Nevadan, Amanda Klein is proud to be Vegas Born. She currently holds the title of United States of America Pageant Mrs. Nevada. Her platform, Project Tiny Human, raises awareness and provides resources to the 60,000 Nevadans struggling with infertility. Amanda is also the director of marketing, individual segment, for Anthem, Inc., parent company of Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield. She is Co-Chair of the Southern Nevada Leadership Board for the American Cancer Society and an Alumnae of the Executive MBA Program at UNLV. Amanda recently formed Nevada Fertility Advocates, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving access to infertility.
City of Henderson
Michelle Romero was elected at-large to the Henderson City Council in April 2019, representing Ward I. Councilwoman Romero serves with the mayor and fellow council members as the legislative branch of the Henderson community, responsible for setting policies and making decisions concerning many aspects of local government for Nevada’s second largest city, which has been recognized as one of the best places to live in America and one of the nation’s safest cities. Prior to her elected service, Councilwoman Romero served the City of Henderson for 25 years in several capacities, most recently as the Henderson Redevelopment Agency Manager from 2007 until 2016.
Creator and Master Instructor
Tsikki Thau is an internationally acclaimed author and meditation and stress management expert, with over 30 years of experience. She is considered a foremost authority in mind-over-body techniques, merging science with holistic methods in order to overcome stress related obstacles. Tsikki is the visionary behind S.N.A.P. – an instant stress relief method, The Will Power Seminar and Vibe-Up, all proven, scientifically-based technologies designed to reprogram the mind to achieve a positive state of being. Tsikki’s mentorship has transformed the lives of clients of all ages, worldwide. She also authored, “Color Me Love”, a book to alleviate stress in youth and promote communication through color.
Youth Leadership Authority Southern Nevada Devil Pups
Marie Tomao has a passion for helping others, specifically teens and veterans, be the best they can be personally and professionally. She believes in serving others in the name of God. Marie is the founder, CEO, president and executive director for Youth Leadership Authority Southern Nevada Devil Pups, a non-profit that helps youth gain self confidence and responsibility. She believes it is through the honor and grace of God that she has seen opportunities in her life. In addition to her partner, Sam, Marie has two children and four grandchildren. As she says, “They are my heart and soul and the reason I wake each day with a fierce resolve to help others. I want to be the example.”
Clark County Medical Alliance
Immediate Past President
Michele Volker is the immediate past president of Clark County Medical Society Alliance, of which she has been an active member for more than ten years, having recently completed her term as co-president. Michele’s career includes work in education, community engagement, resource development, personal health and wellness. Michele’s most recent initiative is serving as a community leader for the newly formed HOPE means Nevada, an organization focusing on Youth Mental Wellness. Her husband is Dr. Warren Volker, the chief clinical officer of Intermountain Healthcare (formerly Healthcare Partners Nevada). They have three children, Adam, Alex and Alyssa.
Gaming | Hospitality | Convention Services
Senior Brand Marketing Manager
With over a decade of gaming marketing experience, Allison Alexander has created hundreds of promotions for casinos around the globe. In July, Allison joined Aristocrat Technologies team as senior brand markeing manager where she designs and develops strategic brand initiatives. Her recent career accomplishments include creation of a strategic year-long promotional model which garnered her an Addy Award, as well as, two “Game Changer” Awards from her former company. Active in the Las Vegas community, Allison, an accomplished singer, lends her voice to local organizations. Professionally, Allison enjoys participating in American Marketing Association and Vegas Chamber activities.
Mary Lynn Palenik
Mary Lynn Palenik M.A.Ed., CIA, PfMP, PMP
Enterprise Project Management Office
Association of Women Executives
President and CEO
Mary Lynn Palenik is an executive with over 30 years of professional experience. She has been a member of the Las Vegas community since 1991, and actively supports various philanthropic organizations through board service. Mary Lynn serves on the Governing Board of University Medical Center, is a member of the Board’s Audit and Finance Committee, the Strategic Planning Committee, and the Pediatric Subcommittee. She is also a Nevada Board Member of Communities and Schools.
Michele Rothstein is the CEO and founder of Balloons with a Twist, a full-service party planning company in the Las Vegas Valley for more than 25 years. Rothstein oversees all aspects of the business and is consistently evaluating consumer demand to add new services. Rothstein combined her passion of making people smile and part-time college job of making balloons animals into a successful, multifaceted business. She is also the co-founder of 30DaysSugarFree.com and the creator of MasterCalendarLasVegas.com, a comprehensive listing of local charity galas and fundraisers. Michele is deeply rooted in the Las Vegas community and has been recognized many times for her charitable efforts.
Medical | Healthcare Services
Director of Marketing
Rebecca Orlov is the director of marketing for THT Health, the dedicated health plan for the educators of Clark County. Prior to her work in healthcare, Rebecca produced television and content campaigns for Fortune 500 clients such as Toyota, PlayStation, Revlon, Hewlett-Packard, Wrigley’s, Novartis, and more. Rebecca has a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Film and a minor in Communications from the University of Arizona. She is part of several inspiring communities that focus on mentorship and inclusivity. She founded both the Washington, D.C. and Las Vegas chapters of SheSays, a global community advocating creative leaders, and is a member of Step Up Women’s Network.
Co-Founder and President
Dina Patel is an Acute Care Pediatric Nurse Practitioner by training. She received her Master of Science in Nursing from Wayne State University with a major in advanced practice nursing with, women, neonates and children. She led the Nevada Care Program, the only comprehensive maternal-child HIV program that was instrumental in the reduction of mother-to-child HIV transmission in southern Nevada. Dina has extensive experience in development and implementation of 5 NIH awarded grants. Her passion has been to develop evidence-based maternal-child programs globally which led her to co-found a non-profit organization HealthySunrise Foundation (HSF) in 2013 where she serves as president.
Kate Zhong, MD
University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Adjunct Professor, Founder, Women Brain Health Initiative, Department of Brain Health
Dr. Kate Zhong is a geriatric psychiatrist, pharmacologist and brain health researcher. She is an adjunct professor and founder of Women’s Brain Health Initiative at UNLV as well as the creator of Cleveland Clinic’s healthy brains platform. Dr. Zhong is the CEO of CNS Innovations, a company dedicated to accelerating clinical research in prevention, diagnosis and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. A champion for brain heath, a trail blazer for innovative research and a passionate advocate for women supporting women, Dr. Zhong is engaged in the southern Nevada community. She serves on multiple boards both nationally and locally and is recognized for her contribution in the field of brain health.
Philanthropy | Community Service
Georgene “Gina” Glass
Georgene “Gina” Glass, CHW
Dreamsickle Kids Foundation
Gina Glass is the founder and executive director of Dreamsickle Kids Foundation, the first Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) organization in Nevada. From 2007 to 2018, Gina was in the personal insurance industry, holding insurance licenses from various states. Gina has a BS in Criminal Justice and is also a verified Community Health Worker (CHW) in Nevada. She recently expanded her CHW certification to have specialization in SCD. Gina is passionate about advocating for SCD and rare disease in Nevada and beyond. She hopes that Dreamsickle Kids Foundation will continue to be the leading SCD organization in Nevada supporting those families affected by SCD and all other rare diseases.
NDL Group, Inc.
Director of Marketing
Project Marilyn, Inc.
Wendi Schweigart is the director of marketing for NDL Group, Inc. and founder of Project Marilyn, Inc. A lifelong resident of Las Vegas, Wendi graduated from Bonanza High School and attended UNLV. She has over 20 years of experience in commercial land development, leasing and property management. In addition to Wendi’s labor of love, Project Marilyn, she is chair of the CREW (Commercial Real Estate Women) Cares Committee and serves on the board for the American Cancer Society. Wendi is passionate about issues involving women and young girls as well as raising awareness for cancer research and support.
Christina Vela, MPA
St. Jude’s Ranch for Children
Chief Executive Officer
Christina Vela, CEO of St. Jude’s Ranch for Children, has more than two decades of professional and progressive human and social service experience that includes developing and administering foster care, homeless and supportive services to children, youth, transition age-youth and their families. She has worked at the non-profit level for much of her career. More recently, Christina has been the coordinator for the State of Nevada Coalition to Prevent the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children. Christina holds a master’s degree in public administration from University of Nevada Las Vegas where she is now pursuing her Doctorate in Public Policy.
Jennifer Bradley is celebrating seven years at her own public relations company, JB Public Relations, and has a wide variety of clients in the healthcare, hospitality, amusement and real estate industries. Bradley has 19 years of media relations and community relations experience in Las Vegas. Each year, Jennifer chooses a charity to assist pro bono and has helped a multitude of non-profits. She is also on the Women’s Executive Council and was recently recognized by the Las Vegas Metro Chamber with a Business Executive Award. Bradley’s awards include the 2019 PR/Marketing Agency of the Year by the Silver State Awards, Women of Distinction and Humanitarian of the Year Award, among others.
Orbis Solutions, Inc.
Kelly Connery is an owner of Orbis Solutions, Inc. (OSI), a virtual IT Department, focusing on solutions to promote companies’ productivity and profitability. OSI provides all the support and services that you would expect from a large full-service IT department at a fraction of the cost. Kelly has been in the Las Vegas valley for over 22 years. She moved from Michigan to Las Vegas to attend/graduate from UNLV. With 14 years of sales experience with Fortune 400 companies, Kelly has won multiple awards for leadership and successful sales performance. Kelly is also very active in the non-profit world and is a 2015 graduate of Leadership Las Vegas along with Henderson Leadership 2017.
White Tie Organizing
Founder & Professional Organizer
In 2017, Julia Oberweis made one of her dreams come true by establishing her own professional organizing business, White Tie Organizing. After living in the Caribbean for ten years, Julia moved to Las Vegas in 2010 and, prior to that, Boston was her home for 20 years, where she was a clinical instructor at Forsyth School of Dental Hygiene. Julia enjoys volunteering her time to organize behind-thescenes spaces for local charities, Hope For Prisoners is her latest project. Julia aspires to serve people by sharing her wealth of knowledge and experience in creating aesthetically beautiful and sophisticated spaces. You can find her 32-day “Fall In Love With Your Home Again” video series on InstagramTV
Real Estate | Construction
Signature Real Estate Group
Vandana is the corporate broker of Signature Real Estate Group and has been in real estate for over 17 years. She was a director on the Board of Directors at The Greater Las Vegas Association of REALTORS® (GLVAR) and the Nevada Association of REALTORS® (NVAR) from 2013-16 and in 2020. She was also the 2015 Asian Real Estate Association of America Las Vegas Chapter (AREAA) president. She has been awarded by AREAA three years in a row, among other honors. Vandana believes that REALTORS® should be involved in their communities and she actively helps her community by educating homeowners and donating time and money to organizations.
Angelina Scarcelli CCIM, CPM
Director of Operations
With over twenty years of experience, Angelina serves as the director of operations for the Real Estate Management Services department of Colliers International Las Vegas. Currently, Angelina oversees, as broker, the Colliers portfolio in Las Vegas of over 3 million square feet of mixed product type such as retail, industrial and office. She has earned the Certified Property Manager (CPM) designation – the highest level of commercial property management expertise and recently obtained the Certified Commercial Investment Member (CCIM) designation as well. Angelina currently is a member of several affiliations in Las Vegas such as IREM, CCIM and CALV.
Owner and CEO
Sinni Singh is owner and CEO of Flintrock Products, a multimillion-dollar organization in Oklahoma, whose materials can be found in bridges and roads across America. Within her empire, she also has businesses in California, Missouri and Nevada. Sinni has worked with young people at a homeless youth shelter in Las Vegas, providing meals, giving out scholarships to children, teaching mediation and offering healings as acts of selfless service. Sinni also works with the Home 4 Divine Healing Center where individuals who sign a “payit-forward” pledge receive her services for free. She hopes to continue to grow by taking master-level classes while remaining a strong businesswoman and leader.
Entrepreneur of the Year
The Hydrant Club
A “classically trained” journalist, Cathy’s passion for communication began at KYW Newsradio in Philadelphia, PA and evolved to encompass nearly every platform and aspect of media. After exploring The Downtown Project in Las Vegas, Cathy realized her passion for working with dogs. She closed her consulting practice and started The Hydrant Club, a membership club catering to the needs of an urban dog community. A highend educational facility offering day school, overnight boarding and private instruction along with a social club, The Hydrant Club has a mission to help people and dogs communicate. She also provides general communications strategy counsel.
Sonia Petkewich is the founder and CEO of Taurean Consulting Group and a Mastermind Community Leader for BOAR Courageous Community. As the CEO of Taurean, she is a leader in helping IT organizations solve their technology hiring needs by sourcing, interviewing and placing the most highly skilled technology professionals on a contract, contract to hire or direct hire basis. As a Mastermind Community Leader for BOAR, she leads and coaches a group of CEOs who run small business. She helps leaders unlock their potential, increase their confidence and lead with greatness. Mentoring young women and career professionals is a privilege Sonia takes to heart.
Juanny Romero is the CEO of Mothership Coffee Roasters and Sunrise Coffee, the longest running chain of independent cafes in Las Vegas, since 2008. After starting Sunrise Coffee, Juanny wanted to roast her own coffee. She created a roasting program in 2012 and named it Mothership Coffee Roasters. Her focus has been to commit her work to the community by raising the bar of employment with health insurance for her staff and their families. She also works to have a transparent supply chain that empowers women farmers. Juanny works with local non-profits to raise funds and volunteers to create actionable change in the community. Her passion is creating beautiful spaces for the community.
Linda Bridges, M.A.
Girl Scouts of Southern Nevada
Chief Communications Officer
Linda Bridges is the chief communications officer for the Girl Scouts of Southern Nevada. Now in its third year, Linda formed the G.I.R.L. Media Team, a corps of media-trained Girl Scouts who represent local Girl Scouts in media interviews, photoshoots and local advertising campaigns. In 2018, she formed the inaugural Troop State Capitol, a bipartisan delegation of women members of the Nevada legislature, to advance key issues affecting girls and young women. Linda moved to Las Vegas in 2013 joining the leadership team of Catapult Groups, a coaching firm for CEOs, company presidents, and managing partners where she developed marketing strategy and competitive positioning in three US markets.
Morgan Stanley Wealth Management
Domenica D’anna is a financial advisor at Morgan Stanley Wealth Management, where she specializes in managing “sudden wealth” – whether it’s from the sale of a business, an inheritance, or an unexpected financial windfall. She has an extensive background in financial planning, private banking, and holistic wealth management. Domenica enjoys helping her clients grow and protect their wealth through clear and concise financial planning and providing tailored solutions that address their needs and financial complexities. Domenica was born and raised in Las Vegas and aspires to be a role model for girls and women to be the best versions of themselves personally, professionally and financially.
Black Joy Consulting
A’esha Goins is a small business owner, internationally recognized certified business coach and the founder of CEIC, a Nevada non-profit organization. She started Black Joy Consulting, a company with an honest approach to government affairs, business coaching and mentorship. Most recently, in her role as community leader with a passion for micro business development and cannabis advocacy, A’esha established the blog, Blackabis.com to break the stigma African Americans have faced around the decriminalization and legalization of the emerging cannabis industry. She currently serves as a board member on the Clark County Citizen’s Advisory Council.
Vice President and Relationship Manager
Berenice Church is vice president and principal relationship manager for Wells Fargo in Las Vegas. Berenice manages a portfolio of business banking relationships with local as well as corporate business owners and strives to help them succeed financially by giving them guidance in their banking needs and other areas of finance by being their trusted advisor. She has 22 years of banking experience in which she has a diverse background. Berenice is an Executive Board Member for Women’s Chamber of Commerce of Nevada as well as the Women’s Chamber Legacy Board, among others. She holds an Associate of Arts with Business degree from the University of Phoenix.
Renee Coffman, PhD
Roseman University of Health Sciences
Dr. Renee Coffman is president and co-founder of Roseman University of Health Sciences. Prior to establishing Roseman University, Dr. Coffman became a founding member of the faculty at Western University of Health Sciences, where she also held the position of Facilitative Officer for Student Services. While at Western, Dr. Coffman and four colleagues received Honorable Mention for the AACP Innovations in Teaching Awards. Dr. Coffman is passionate about improving lives through education and healthcare. She still teaches pharmacokinetics to pharmacy students at Roseman and enjoys interacting with students and her time in the classroom immensely.
Justice of the Supreme Court of Nevada
Justice Abbi Silver was the chief deputy district attorney for the Special Victim’s Unit at the Clark County District Attorney’s Office for 14 years. She was elected to the Las Vegas Municipal Court, Las Vegas Justice Court, Eighth Judicial District Court, Nevada Court of Appeals, and Nevada Supreme Court. In 2014, Governor Sandoval appointed Justice Silver as one of three judges to the Inaugural Nevada Court of Appeals, and in 2017 she served as the first female Chief Judge of that court. Justice Silver has been practicing law for over 30 years, and has presided as a judge for over 16 years. She is the only judge in the history of Nevada to be elected to every court in Nevada’s court system.