A Few Outstanding Women

[This new monthly column features items from Bruce Corrie, PhD, who blogs at and is a professor of economics at Concordia University. —Ed.]

By Bruce P. Corrie
Wednesday, December 23, 2015

I have been inspired in recent days in the work of these outstanding community leaders who are not only trying to grow their business ventures, but are also actively building the community.

Lea Hargett, small business owner and president of the Minnesota Black Chamber of Commerce, made a compelling case for growing Black-owned businesses in Minnesota at the recent annual meeting of the chamber. Reflecting on recent Census data that documents declining economic assets in the Black community, Lea made a strong case why investing in Black-owned businesses, especially micro-businesses, is a very effective strategy for economic development. Latest data from the Survey of Business Owners show Black-owned businesses creating jobs and growing in numbers, sales and payroll faster than non-minority-owned firms. Lea is usually the first person to support collaborative efforts focused on policy issues and has been working hard to build the chamber over the past few years. She constantly advocates for policies and strategies to grow minority-owned businesses in the state, especially in the professional services area.

Bo Thao owns small business RedGreen Rivers LLC, which connects female artisans in Laos to markets in the United States. Her business was very popular among visitors to the recent Little Mekong Night Market in Saint Paul. When she is not growing her business she is active building the new network, Coalition of Asian American Leaders or her work with the Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in philanthropy. Recently, President Obama appointed her to the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, a national board to help integrate the talents and needs of the Asian American community in federal agencies. She is one of the few people in Minnesota with the honor of having the same day named after her both for Minnesota and Saint Paul.

Pamela Standing, founding member of the Minnesota Indian Business Alliance, is also a small business owner, making specialty jams and other delicious treats. The Jalapeño jam she gave me had me buzzing around like a bumblebee for a few days! For years I have watched her persistently work to create a broad collaborative and network around Native American economic development. Recently she did some pioneering work connected with the implementation of the Buy Indian Act which, although established in 1910, is yet to be fully implemented. Recent data from the 2012 Survey of Business Owners, found Native American businesses growing faster in sales, numbers and job creation than non-minority firms. Effective strategies to grow these businesses will benefit all. Pamela and the Minnesota Indian Business Alliance have been hosting world cafes all across Minnesota to get the input of the community on how best to grow Native businesses.

Hyon Kim, small business owner and entrepreneur focused her energy and money in recent months on a very tragic situation — the plight of refugees from North Korea, many of them female, who undergo great hardships and abuse as they search for freedom. The United States has accepted only a very small number of these refugees and so her international conference at the Humphrey School aimed to bring visibility to this issue. With an active group of volunteers this conference was successful.