Women Who Lead

The 40 business owners and co-owners presented here are building wealth, hiring employees, living out their dreams and inspiring the next generation.

Spotlight: Jean Kane
Spotlight: Maya Santamaria
Spotlight: Jennifer Smith
Spotlight: Fatimah Hussein
Spotlight: Susan Park Rani
2017 Women Who Lead

Spotlight: Jean Kane

Jean Kane’s snooze button doesn’t get much use. When her alarm sounds at 4:15 every morning, Kane says she bounds from bed.

“I like to see the sun come up,” says Kane, 55, the CEO and majority owner of Welsh & Colliers MSP, the commercial real estate company she’s helmed since 2012.

Kane’s morning routine starts with a run, bike ride, swim or training session.

“When people ask, I always say I’m a wife, mom, CEO and fitness fanatic,” Kane laughs. “I’m competitive and I like winning. I like to start the day with a workout. Sometimes I think and sometimes I just want the rhythm of the activity.”

Workdays that follow are action-packed. Kane doesn’t run one of Minnesota’s largest commercial real estate firm from behind a desk; instead, she’s on the move, meeting and supervising almost 300 employees who offer their clients a full range of brokerage, property management, construction, capital, architectural and facility services.

“I do best working in teams. I like to assemble professionals that I can rely on,” she says. “My inner circle knows me well and I think they would say that I’m a straight-shooter. They know when I’m feeling confident or when we’re going to need to buckle up.”

She recalls the cratering real estate environment of 2008 as a tricky crisis to lead through.

“We knew it was a downturn in the cycle. I tried to confront the situation head-on,” she says.  “My role as a leader is to be a connector, to assemble the talent to solve a challenge. And I always have a Plan B and a Plan C.”

Kane grew up in Austin, Minn., where her father ran the local Coca-Cola bottling distributorship, in addition to his distributorships in Owatonna and Rochester. With three older brothers, she says she’s always felt comfortable around men, which has helped her feel at ease in a male-dominated field.

But at the end of her day, Kane, a wife and mother of three, heads for home.

“I’ve never been one to go out with the guys and drink,” she explains. “I didn’t ever want to be thought of as a party girl. To me, leadership is about character.”

Instead, she has thrown her efforts into involvement with the trade association for commercial real estate; she joined the local chapter and eventually became the third female national chair of the 17,000-member group that promotes lobbying, education and networking.

“I want to be known as someone who works to benefit our industry,” she explains.

Welsh Companies
Inception: 1977
Headquarters: Minnetonka
Leadership: Jean Kane, CEO; Thomas E. Elmer, CFO; William M. Wardwell, executive vice president, Brokerage; Mark D. Parten, executive vice president, Property Management; Sherief El-Banna, senior vice president, Architectural Services; William Krake, president, Construction; Rhonda Allen, senior vice president, Human Resources
Employees: 274
Revenue: $129 million
Description: Welsh Companies, in affiliate partnership with Colliers International, is a full-service commercial real estate company, with expertise in brokerage, corporate solutions, real estate management, facility management, construction, architecture, development and financing.


Spotlight: Maya Santamaria

Maya Santamaria owns and runs five companies, but don’t expect to find the trailblazing leader in a corner office wearing a power suit.

Most nights, she’s on the move at El Nuevo Rodeo, her Minneapolis restaurant and dance club, checking entrees in the kitchen, greeting musicians backstage and welcoming patrons in the cantina, all while wearing a little black dress and high heels.

“I book acts with national music promoters and there are a lot of moving parts. These are my contracts, my relationships and my responsibility,” she says. “It’s a cutthroat business and a cash business. Mama has to be watching.”

As CEO of an entertainment, event and broadcast conglomerate, Santamaria, 45, moves from English to Spanish and back again. Calling herself bi-cultural as well as bilingual, she finds the easy shift to be a business advantage.

“Being Latino in this day and age is a privileged position. Previous generations didn’t feel empowered like we do today,” she explains. “We feel sorry for people who don’t have that other half.”

Born in Albuquerque to college professor parents, Santamaria came to Minnesota to study anthropology at Hamline University, and later Native American and Latin Studies at Augsburg. Her first job took her to Mexico, her ancestral homeland, to work with indigenous women to help them market their handiwork in the U.S.

Returning to Minnesota, Santamaria tuned up her performing career, founding and fronting the award-winning Sabor Tropical salsa orchestra. As the 13-piece band gigged in Latin clubs, Santamaria got busy on both sides of the stage, buying the Minneapolis music venue and becoming skilled as a music promoter.

“But one day, I decided to retire from performing,” she says. “Ten years was enough.”

Eventually, she was spending hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to promote her businesses on local Spanish radio. That prompted her to first lease and then buy broadcast properties. As general manager, she oversees ad sales to Twin Cities businesses that seek to use her airwaves to connect with the region’s growing Latino population.

But sometimes that’s a tough deal to close.

“This is a progressive city but there’s still a group of people in marketing positions who don’t get it. They’re not ready to put a percentage of their marketing budget to target the Latino community,” she says. “But we see people who come back around after telling me no at first.”

She regards the three-year contract that she negotiated with the Minnesota Twins as a top achievement; in 2016, the first year of the contract, La Raza 1400 AM/1470 carried about a third of the team’s games in Spanish broadcasts.

“The Twins are building a strong fan base in the Latino community,” she says. “Others could do that too.”

A divorced mother of two, Santamaria thinks that her 75 employees regard her much as her children do.

“I’m strict and I have my eye on everything,” she says. “But I’m approachable. And fair.”

Santamaria Enterprises
Inception: 2001
Leadership: Maya Santamaria, CEO, CFO, COO
Employees: 75
Revenue: $3.5 million
Description: Santamaria Enterprises is a 5-company conglomerate that consists of corporations that specialize in the Latino Community in Minnesota. Holdings include Latino Restaurant, Nightclub and Event Centers, Latino Marketing and Consultant Agency, Spanish Language Radio Stations, Telemundo Minnesota Television Affiliate Station, Latino Concert, Entertainment, Festival and Events Production and Promotions, and Real Estate holdings.
Web: elnuevorodeo.com, elnuevorodeorestaurant.com, 27eventcenter.com, laraza1400.com, telemundomn.com

Spotlight: Jennifer Smith

Jennifer Smith got an early jump on her career selling office supplies.

Today Smith, 49, is CEO of Innovative Office Solutions. In 2016, the Burnsville company that she founded shattered its previous revenue record by hitting the $100 million mark for the first time.

Smith was 12 when she began helping customers select the right ink cartridges for their dot matrix printers at her father’s office products business in Northfield.

“Half the revenue was retail and half was business-to-business; my dad had accounts with St. Olaf, Carleton and Malt-o-Meal,” she says. “I saw it all.”

Smith’s own retail dreams focused on fashion. She landed a job as a shoe buyer for Dayton Hudson during her final semester at Hamline University.

But less than a decade into her glamorous career, a family emergency changed her path.

“My mother developed a debilitating illness so Dad sold the business; he was still working as a salesman there so he could help her,” Smith says. “We had two little kids and I was running back and forth to Northfield when I decided to quit my job and buy the business back.”

Smith admits she was over her head, but thinks her fresh eyes on the office supply

industry gave her an advantage over competitors who were doing business as they always had.

“The Internet didn’t exist yet, but I’d come from Dayton’s where we were doing the precursor to online ordering and I jumped on it; we could service customers so much better,” she says. “We were ahead of the trend curve.”

Smith went on to sell the business two years later, with a revenue of $12 million (when she bought it, it had a revenue of $1 million). For a time she worked for the big box retailer that purchased the company.

In 2001, she left to start Innovative Office Solutions, capitalizing on her proven skill of seeing and seizing opportunities.

“Now the Internet was here, but there wasn’t personalized service in our industry,” she says. “I’m a risk-taker and I thought there was a logistical model that could make us better. We put our customers with a team that knows them and stays with them. We’ve gone from phones and faxes to live chats and texts.”

Smith’s style is to share her big-picture vision and not micromanage her 220 employees. Her husband is her CFO (“I need someone I can trust to watch the cash-flow.”) and her 24 year old son has begun his career in the business.

Smith often reflects on the guiding lessons she learned watching her father.

“He had a positive attitude and he never sweated the small stuff,” she says.

Innovative Office Solutions
Inception: 2001
Headquarters: Burnsville
Leadership: Jennifer Smith, CEO; Julie Owen, COO; Brooks Smith, CFO; Jason Player, CIO; Jennifer Rosenzweig, CSO
Employees: 217
Revenue: $100 million
Description: Innovative Office Solutions is a Minnesota based Certified Woman Owned business. Innovative provides work productivity solutions in the areas of Office and Facility products, Workplace Furniture, Company Promotional and Branding and Technology.

Spotlight: Fatimah Hussein

Fatimah Hussein made a strategic decision about what to call her company.

The 29-year-old entrepreneur, who produces culturally sensitive sportswear for Muslim girls, calls her athletic fashion line ‘Asiya.’ 

Among Muslims, the woman Asiya is revered. As chronicled in the Quran, Asiya, the wife of the Pharaoh who lived in the time of Moses, was strong and faithful.
“Asiya was courageous and she fought against injustice. It’s a great name for what we’re doing,” says Hussein.

A few years ago, Hussein noted that a lack of modest clothing was creating a barrier for Muslim girls who wanted to be active and join sports teams.

“When I saw this, I thought there must be something I can do,” says Hussein, who enjoyed playing softball and soccer as a girl and continues to be active with regular workouts. “Some parents wouldn’t let their daughters participate because they worried that their girls would not be able to keep their heads covered. We don’t want girls and women to have to choose between their religion and being active.”

Hussein and her team went to work, spending a year testing more than 80 fabrics to find one that would be lightweight, flexible and wick moisture away from the body. The line is about to go into production in Brainerd and will be distributed nationally through online channels and trade shows.

“We can match school and team colors. That’s important,” Hussein affirms. “Girls on teams want to fit in with their friends.”

Last August, the startup took first place in the Minnesota Cup’s Social Entrepreneurship division, winning $30,000 in prize money to further develop the brand.

“The sportswear is made and created by the people that it’s for. We want girls to be the center of our company. The company is not for me, the company is for the community.”

Born in Somalia, Hussein was five years old when she arrived in the U.S. with her parents and sister, leaving a refugee camp in Kenya for a life in Minnesota. She’s proud that she and her sister both have earned master’s degrees.

Hussein dreams of being able to devote all her time to Asiya; right now, the wife and mother of two young children works full time as a Ramsey County social worker.

At her job and at her company, she maintains a style that is low-key, which she sees as consistent with her values.

“I listen 90% and talk 10%,” she says. “It’s important for me to be modest, and that means being humble inside and out.”

That doesn’t mean that her goals are small.

“We think we can be a worldwide company for Muslim girls and women,” she says. “We want to be a brand that people are proud to wear.”

Inception: 2016
Headquarters: Minneapolis
Leadership: Fatimah Hussein & Jamie Glover, co-founders
Employees: 2
Revenue: Currently pre-revenue; began accepting pre-orders through a Kickstarter campaign in October 2016
Description: ASIYA™ is culturally appropriate activewear. Our innovative fitness fashions and fabrics are easy to move in, to play in, to compete in. ASIYA honors and encourages Muslim women of all ages — young girls, tweens, teens, mature women — to experience a new level of confidence, cultural integrity, comfort, and health.

Spotlight: Susan Park Rani

When she was 11, Susan Park Rani’s South Korean mother put her on an airplane and she flew by herself to Minnesota, where her Korean-born father was studying engineering at the University of Minnesota.

“I had never slept in a bed, used a fork or flushed a toilet,” says Rani, recalling the culture shock of her arrival in 1971. “Of course, I spoke no English.”

One of her defining characteristics — determination — showed itself as she adjusted to her new life in Minneapolis. On Saturdays, she took the bus to the downtown library.

“I spent hours studying picture books to see what the words meant,” she says. “I learned be self-sufficient.”

That grit has followed her throughout her career and has led to her to the top leadership role at Rani Engineering, one of Minnesota’s first woman- and minority-owned engineering firms.

Inspired by her father’s profession, she studied civil engineering at the U when a mere 10% of her classmates were female. After she graduated in 1982, she began a career with the Minnesota Transportation Department.

At age 34, she left state service to form her own company, starting with two employees.

“I thought that if I failed in the first five years, I could grovel back for my old job,” she recalls.

She funded her business with her credit cards, noting that banks were uninterested in loaning money to a young female engineer.

Today, Rani Engineering, which specializes in land surveying, civil and rail-signal engineering, has some 50 employees and has completed large-scale public and private projects in more than 25 states, including work on the light rail line in the Twin Cities.

But the business has suffered some setbacks. The sharp drop in the price of oil created one of the most difficult passages in her career. In December of 2015, she had to lay off 10% of her workforce that had been assigned to projects on the rail lines in North Dakota.

“I felt horrible. It was like losing part of my hand,” she says. “We’d known this work was going to end at some point, but we thought it would be gradual, not abrupt.”

Rani expresses deep affection for the U.S., and suspects that she appreciates the potential and opportunities in her adopted country more than natives do.

She believes her origins have shaped her as a leader.

“I’m still that 11-year-old girl at heart. I know that it’s okay to be scared and uncomfortable. If I fall and scrape my knee I can get up and try again,” says Rani. “I have patience for people who want to learn.”

Rani Engineering
Inception: 1993
Leadership: Susan Park Rani, president; Craig Johnson, director of operations; Andrew Wells, group leader of civil engineering; Stephane Robert, group leader of land surveying; Phillip Rainier, chief financial officer
Employees: 45 - 50
Revenue: $5,446,000 (2014)
Description: Rani Engineering is an award-winning, Minneapolis based women-owned/minority-owned engineering firm that specializes in civil engineering with special expertise in surveying and rail signal services.

2017 Women Who Lead

Sharon Avent
Title: CEO
Company: Smead Manufacturing Company
City: Hastings
Year: 1906
Industry: Office Products
Revenue: $100 - $500 million
Description: A provider of solutions for efficient document management, Smead is a woman-owned company known for its high-quality, environmentally responsible products and innovative organizational systems.

“We don’t want to be the biggest, we just want to be the BEST. No matter what we produce or sell — as long as we stay true to our values —Smead will survive for many years to come.”

Alyza Bohbot
Title: Owner
Company: Alakef Coffee Roasters Inc. & City Girl Coffee
City: Duluth
Year: 1990
Industry: Coffee
Revenue: $2.2 Million
Description: Alakef Coffee Roasters was born out of a passion for coffee and the search for the “perfect cup.” A small, family-run company, Alakef has been craft-roasting in Duluth since 1990.

“My greatest achievement thus far has been developing our new City Girl Coffee brand. Through this brand, we are purchasing all of our coffee from women-owned and -managed farms, and then working with organizations to give a portion of our profits directly back to the women we work with to help them be sustainable and profitable. I am extremely proud of the work we are doing to bring awareness to women’s equality to the forefront of our industry.”

Lindsey Bruber
Title: President
Company: SIMEK’S Inc.
City: St. Paul Park
Year: 1972
Industry: Consumer Packaged Goods - Frozen Foods
Revenue: Undisclosed
Description: Wholesale reseller of quality frozen packaged foods to major food retailers.

“Whether it be helping a busy mom get a delicious meal on the table for her family, or helping to provide food for children in need, SIMEK’S exists to make a difference.”

Kristie Case
Title: Owner
Company: Teeny Bee Boutique
City: Saint Paul
Year: 2013
Industry: Children’s Retail
Revenue: $150,000 - $200,000
Description: Teeny Bee Boutique specializes in quality, functional and stylish clothing, toys and books for babies and toddlers.

“There will always be more reasons not to start a store than there are to do it, but if you feel it in your soul that this is something for you, you just have to do it!”

Lisa Christianson
Title: Owner/President, Christianson & Company
Company: Christianson & Company Commercial Real Estate Services
City: Bloomington
Year: 2001
Industry: Real Estate
Revenue: Undisclosed
Description: Christianson & Company guides clients, such as commercial real estate investors, developers and business owners, through the processes of buying, selling and leasing office, industrial and retail properties.

“Big picture, I am proud of being a woman-owned business in a male-dominated industry.  It’s taken 15 years, but I think the guys are finally starting to believe that we are the real deal.”

Deborah Delaney
Title: Founder
Company: Touching Lives Adult Day Services & Touching Lives Communities LLC
City: Savage
Year: 2004
Industry: Health Care – Home and Community Based Services
Revenue: $1-2 million
Description: Touching Lives Adult Day Services Center is a place where a vulnerable adult can come during the day to participate in one-of-a-kind programs and care services designed to enhance social and physical well-being while supporting cultural values, traditions and preferences. Touching Lives Communities is a residential care home where vulnerable seniors experience superior health care services in an environment sensitive to their cultural background so they can maintain their identity and feel more at home.

“There are so many moments of joy. The most rewarding is to watch our participants who started attending the center with incredible fear, build strong friendships and feel a sense of purpose in life again. My staff is amazing and they bond with the families to become part of the family.”

Jill Erickson
Title: Owner
Company: Spoils of Wear
City: Saint Paul
Year: 2016
Industry: Fashion Retail
Revenue: $150,000 annual projection
Description: Women’s fashion & lifestyle boutique focusing on local production, organic textiles, and fair trade practices, among other socially and environmentally sustainable qualities.

“Find a business owner or manager who that will allow you to shadow her for a while.  The experience I received working for two local, woman-owned businesses has been invaluable in my journey.”

Kerry Forbes
Title: Managing Partner
Company: Caribou MSP Airport
City: Minneapolis
Year: 1995
Industry: Retail/Food & Beverage
Revenue: Undisclosed
Description: Caribou Coffee operations throughout Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

“The Women Presidents’ Organization (WPO) has been tremendous. I have been able to learn and gain different insights from other business women not in my industry, providing fresh perspective.”

Judy Galbraith
Title: President & CEO
Company: Free Spirit Publishing Inc.
City: Golden Valley
Year: 1983
Industry: Book Publishing
Revenue: Undisclosed
Description: A publishing company that specializes in children’s picture books, professional teacher resources, classroom activity books and other educational resources.

“I love seeing my staff work synergistically, developing their skills and experiencing success in their roles at Free Spirit.”

Leah Goldstein Moses
Title: Owner/CEO
Company: The Improve Group
City: Saint Paul
Year: 2000
Industry: Research, evaluation and planning consulting services
Revenue: ~$2.5 million
Description: The Improve Group helps companies, governments, nonprofits and philanthropies make a meaningful social impact. It finds new insights through rigorous studies — and then helps leaders use that information to make strategic decisions.

“Every day, I have moments of wonder that we get to do things like find ways to help kids successfully transition out of foster care or help rural communities engage their residents.”   

Kelly Gribauval-Hite
Title: CEO
Company: Mercury Technologies of Minnesota Inc.
City: Pine City
Year: 1992
Industry: Waste Management
Revenue: Undisclosed
Description:  Mercury Techologies provides hazardous/universal waste management, recycling and consulting.

“What part of your work brings you the most joy? Every day I can physically see the positive changes that Mercury Technologies has made to protect the environment. Our no-landfill policy enables our clients to meet their recycling objectives and minimize their impact on the environment.”

Lili Hall
Title: President/CEO
Company: KNOCK inc.; Neighbor; TREAT & COMPANY
City: Minneapolis
Year: 2001
Industry: Branding, design, advertising, strategy and store experience
Revenue: Undisclosed
KNOCK, inc. is a Minneapolis-based full-service creative agency driven by strategy, culture and design specializing in creating impactful brand stories and retail experiences.
Neighbor is a collaborative production company that uses technical expertise and storytelling prowess to educate viewers, captivate audiences and amplify messages.
TREAT & COMPANY makes products and experiences people can’t wait to see and try and touch and share. Multi-skilled, multi-curious and multi-collaborative, it eliminates ugly, cleans up messy and makes complicated feel easy.

“Because I chose not to take on substantial debt to finance the business, I haven’t ever had easy access to capital, and that has been my greatest challenge, especially during tough economic times…But KNOCK not only managed to survive — it thrived. Part of the success is because of diligence and restraint: we keep a very careful eye on cash-flow, and a very long view on sustainable company growth. As a result, KNOCK Inc. has been recognized by the Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing private companies in America for 5 years in a row (2010–2015).”

Lauri Holland
Title: President
Company: Holland ID Services LLC, DBA Mobile Electronic Fingerprinting
City: Bloomington
Year:  2003
Industry: Fingerprinting Services and FBI Background Channeler
Revenue: $800,000 - $1 million
Description: Provides on-site fingerprinting services for corporations, large groups or business executives across the U.S. Fingerprinting affects corporate executives, the healthcare industry, education, traveling abroad, banking and numerous other industries.

“If you do quality work and care about your clients’ needs, you will always be busy. Don’t underestimate yourself or feel intimidated by big businesses; the personal interaction is very important, and if you choose partners do it very carefully”

Ali Jarvis
Title: Founder/CEO
Company: Sidewalk Dog
City: Minneapolis
Year: 2009
Industry: Media
Revenue: under $1 million
Description: Sidewalk Dog Media is a resource for Minnesota dog-lovers, with a go-to website for pup-lovin’ events, a dog-friendly directory and more. Sidewalk Dog is also a leading advocate for Minnesota dogs in need and the rescues and shelters that serve them.

“Each time our audience tells us that our website has had a positive effect on their quality of life, it reinvigorates our passion for the work we do.“

Laura Karow
Title: President
Company: Gunnar Electric Inc.
City: Eden Prairie
Year: 1969
Industry: Construction
Revenue: $10 -12 million
Description: Gunnar Electric is a full-service electrical contractor specializing in industrial, commercial, and residential new and renovation work.

“I love helping new apprentices (especially women) get into in the construction industry. The construction workforce is aging rapidly, and it is imperative to be recruiting new workers into this skilled trade. Teaching and mentoring new workers is my favorite part of my job”

Jennifer Lang
Title: Owner/ President
Company: Minneapolis Glass Company
City: Plymouth
Year: 1937
Industry: Glass and Glazing
Revenue: Undisclosed
Description: Customers choose Minneapolis Glass for superior glass design, fabrication and installation, and exceptional service. We are a local, family-owned business that is proud to be a certified woman-owned company and union glazing contractor.

“Even in a historically a male-dominated industry, you should never be afraid to learn and take risks. Your knowledge and tenacity can be your greatest assets.  Never be afraid to speak your mind; it will garner respect from even the harshest critics.”

Christine Lantine
Title: President/Owner
Company: Maud Borup Inc.
City: Minneapolis
Year: 1907
Industry: Wholesale Candy & Food Gifts
Revenue: $10-$20 million
Description: Maud Borup is a wholesale food gift company specializing in gourmet candy, snacks, beverage and baking mixes for mass and specialty retailers.

“We hope to acquire a complementary business to ours in 2017. Our fear is that we won’t find one!”

Mary Lauer
Title: Owner/Designer
Company: Lauer Enterprises inc. DBA oh baby! and que sera’ & Happy Family Designs Inc. DBA oh baby! Brand
City: Twin Cities
Year: Lauer Enterprises: 1995; Happy Family Designs: 2012
Industry: Retail
Revenue: Under $5 million
Description: oh baby! is Minnesota’s whimsical retailer of locally designed children’s clothing, accessories, artwork, bedding and carefully selected complementary brands from all over the world including clothing, footwear, furniture and accessories. Que sera’, oh baby!’s sister store, grew out of the need for interior design beyond children’s spaces. Happy Family Designs, inc., is the wholesale side of oh baby! Brand.

“[My greatest achievement has been] Designing and manufacturing my own label in Minnesota for 21 years. This is my greatest achievement and also my greatest challenge.”

Kaeko Leitch
Title: President
Company: Abacus Engineering
City: Mankato
Year: 2010
Industry: Engineering (Plumbing, HVAC and Electrical)
Revenue: $600,000-$700,000
Description: Abacus Engineering designs plumbing, HVAC and electrical systems for commercial buildings.

[When asked to give advice to young women entering her industry] “Don’t get scared by the negative comments. Focus and work hard, then you will succeed. Don’t take anything personally, otherwise the stress will fail you. Always be willing to learn and explore on your own. Be ready to work more than 8 to 5 every day.”


Melissa Lonsky
Title: Owner
Company: Family Speech & Therapy Services
City: Andover
Year: 2004
Industry: Health Care/Education
Revenue: Undisclosed
Description: Family Speech & Therapy Services provides speech-language therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy and feeding therapy for children, in our outpatient, medical clinics and within schools.

[When asked her favorite saying] “’Behind every successful woman, are a lot of other women.’  99% of our staff are women and this couldn’t be more true! Our team is amazing.”

Heather Manley
Title: CEO
Company: On-Demand Services Group Inc. & Crooked Water Spirits & Heather’s Dirty Goodness Inc.
City: Minneapolis
Year: On-Demand Services Group: 1996; Crooked Water: 2013; Heather’s Dirty Goodness: 2011
Industry: On-Demand Services Group: IT consulting; Crooked Water: Distillery; Heather’s Dirty Goodness: Seasonings
Revenue: On-Demand Services Group: > $10 million; Crooked Water Spirits & Heather’s Dirty Goodness: <$1 million
Description: On-Demand Services Group is a 20-year-old, family-owned technology consulting company providing talent for Contract/Contract to Hire/Direct Hire needs on-site and offshore in the Philippines. Crooked Water Spirits is the first Minnesota women-owned and certified distillery making bourbon, gin and vodka products. Heather’s Dirty Goodness is a seasonings company focused on low-salt and high-quality unique ingredients.

“I have three main passions in my life: Family, Food and Booze (hey, no judgment!). I joined and established companies around these passions…so every day I have joy and unbelievable gratitude that I can do what I love.”

Patricia May
Title: CEO
Company: Tembua: The Precision Language Solution
City: Lakeville
Year: 1993
Industry: Linguistic Services.
Revenue: $1-10 million
Description: Tembua provides translation in over 150 languages and 4 dozen file formats; interpreting by phone, by video, in person and in a full conference setting, and foreign language DTP. Tembua also provides video work — subtitles and voice-overs — so clients can train, communicate with and sell to people whose first language is not English.

“For 23 years we have focused on quality: Quality is our primary operational objective. But our first core value is honesty. We speak the truth to our clients and vendors”

Rose McKinney
Title: Founder/CEO
Company: Pineapple RM
City: Anoka
Year: 2011
Industry: Public Relations
Revenue: < $1 million
Description: Pineapple RM is a communications firm focused on reputation management including brand strategy, public relations, crisis communications and training.

“Public relations is an ever-broadening, ever-changing industry. You will always be learning new things and exploring new ways of communicating.”

Jessica Netter Ducharme
Title: President
Company: Electrical Builders Inc. (EBI)
City: St. Cloud
Year: 1974
Industry: Energy/Construction
Revenue: Undisclosed
Description: EBI is North America’s leading specialty construction and maintenance contractor for the power generation industry.

“I am very optimistic about our business in 2017 and beyond. Since renewable energy has held the spotlight for the past decade, life extension is needed for most baseload plants, which requires repairs and improvements to allow them to run safely and efficiently beyond planned life.”

Cheryl O’Brien
Title: President
Company: Technology Management Corporation
City: Shorewood
Industry: IT/Telecommunications
Revenue: $500,000 - $1 million
Description: TMC specializes in low-voltage IT consulting and architecture. Its objective team of experienced IT professionals consult with a variety of clients in many industries to help leaders grow their companies.  

“There is a famous philosopher named L. Ron Hubbard and I live by a quote of his. “Do is often defined as ‘talk’ or ‘refer’. But that doesn’t get anything done. Do is the action which leads to DONE.” This perfectly aligns with rolling up my sleeves and getting the job done. It makes clients very happy because now a days “DONE” is rare.”


Stacy O’Reilly
Title: President
Company: Plunkett’s Pest Control
City: Fridley
Industry: Pest Control Services
Revenue: $40 million
Description: Provides pest control services to homes and businesses in the Midwest.

“These core services that societies need are about people, problem-solving and communicating clearly.  In the Midwest, pest control is about food safety and helping our economy deliver quality food products to the global market.”

Kristin Pardue
Company: Rêve Consulting
City: Minneapolis
Year: 2009
Industry: Innovation  
Revenue: Undisclosed
Description: We are a strategy and service design company helping people and organizations innovate and grow.

When asked what advice she’d give young women entering her industry: “You need to develop empathy for the clients you are going to serve. So seek roles where you can be involved in strategic decision-making as well as implementing those decisions. Ultimately, you need to understand how to get things done in an organization before you are ready to show others how to work differently.”

Kay Phillips
Company: ATEK Companies
City: Eden Prairie
Industry: Manufacturing
Revenue: $40 - $50 million
Description: ATEK Companies designs and manufactures a variety of products including tank monitoring devices, machine-to-machine monitoring devices and cloud services, door access and safety products, portable memory devices and aluminum casting/machined products.

“Manufacturing is a great industry for women and offers so many different opportunities to contribute, grow, lead and do really meaningful work.”

Barbara Potter
Title: President
Company: T.J. Potter Trucking Inc.
City: Becker
Year: 1984
Industry: Transportation
Revenue: $22 million
Description: Originally hauling primarily sod and hay, once T.J. Potter had authority, it licensed for 48 states, Alaska and Canada and began hauling building products. Over the years T.J. Potter got into heavy haul and the utility and energy sector, and expanded to become one of the largest fleets in Minnesota. In early 2000, T.J. Potter purchased a 60-square-foot warehouse and started BWRI. The company currently operates 60 power units and has a fleet of over 280 specialized trailers.

“It’s a challenging industry with every state having different requirements, with the fluctuating fuel prices, and with margins being low, mistakes are huge. With that being said, do your homework, gain knowledge before you set out on your own.”

Dorothy Richburg
Company: Keystone Computer Solutions Inc.
City: St. Paul
Year: 1987
Industry: Information Technology
Revenue: $8 - $10 million
Description: KCS is a collaborative service company providing exemplary consultants, professional staffing and technical solutions to its customers.   

“Communication, respect, integrity and excellence are the core values that I am guided by in my business decisions.  I also recognize the importance of embracing socially conscious practices.  I encourage all our employees to volunteer and to serve as positive role models in the community.  I am personally involved in several nonprofit and community-based initiatives that I find valuable and a great asset to the community.”

Kari Rihm
Title: President
Company: RIHM Kenworth
City: St. Paul
Industry: Trucking (Truck Dealership)
Revenue: $110 - $192 million annual revenue (5-year range)
Description: RIHM is a full-service, multi-location commercial truck dealer representing the Kenworth brand. It offers new and used Class 8 and Class 7 trucks, and provides service, parts and body-shop sales to all makes of heavy- and medium-duty trucks.

“I love working with employees and customers to create positive outcomes for both parties when challenges seem insurmountable.”

Inell Rosario
Company: Andros ENT and Sleep Center & Andros MedSpa
City: Inver Grove Heights & Medota Heights
Year: 2013
Industry: Health care
Revenue: Undisclosed
Description: Andros ENT and Sleep Center provides medical and surgical care for pediatric and adult patients with ear, hearing loss, nose, throat and sleep issues. MedSpa provides comprehensive aesthetic care, massage, body sculpting, laser hair reduction, and permanent makeup.

“Just do it! Knowing the impact you have on people’s lives makes the work very gratifying.”

Alissa Schneider
Company: Danny’s Construction Company LLC
City: Shakopee
Year: 1970
Industry: Construction
Revenue: $45 - $75 million
Description: Structural Steel Erection Subcontractor for buildings, bridges, and sports facilities.

“The great thing about construction is that it’s never boring. There are always problems to solve and really smart people around to help solve them. It’s a great industry.”

Caren Schweitzer
Company: Creative Resources Agency
City: Minneapolis
Year: 1995
Industry: Advertising - Branded Merchandise, Promotional Products, Awards and Incentive
Revenue: $5 million
Description: Creative Resources is a women-owned, green-certified, branded merchandise company that is changing the promotional products supply chain, from brainstorming and conception through design and production to fulfillment and delivery of final goods.

“If we lead and provide the customer service and level of integrity that Creative Resources was built on we can do anything. All else will follow.”

Mary Tjosvold, Ph.D.
Company: Mary T. Inc. (in addition over 30  legal  entities)
City: Coon Rapids
Year: 1976
Industry: Health Care and Entertainment
Revenue: $40 - $45 million
Description: Enhance lives by uniquely blending rental communities, assisted living programs, supported-living programs, home health, and hospice services. In addition, Mary T. Inc. provides an environment of excellent food, service and music at Crooners Lounge Supper Club.

“My greatest challenge now is to grow and develop a business that was my husband’s skill and dream: a world-class jazz/music club with excellent food and service.”

Anna Tstantir
Owner/ Co-founder
Company: Two Bettys Green Cleaning Company
City: Minneapolis
Year: 2007
Industry: Cleaning Service
Revenue: Undisclosed
Description: Two Bettys is locally owned and serves residential and commercial clients by providing a unique brand of individualized service that is dependable and discreet. Two Bettys supports its cleaners with a living wage and flexible hours.

“We strive to be model green citizens from the TP in the office to our new refill station. We always aim to honor the trust people have placed in us; going into someone’s home — their castle, their happy, safe place is no small responsibility. Being accountable, authentic, supporting our cleaners and the community we serve are the rules we live by.”

Heidi Weaver
Company: EnviroBate
City: Minneapolis
Year: 1989
Industry: Construction
Revenue: ~$10 million
Description: EnviroBate is an environmental and specialty contractor that performs selective demolition, asbestos and lead abatement, mold remediation and HVAC/duct cleaning services.

When asked what advice she’d give young women entering her industry: “The construction industry wants you!  There continues to be a huge gender imbalance up, down and across this sector, on top of a projected shortage of skilled construction workers. I’m consistently reminded that our best work results from employees flexing their critical thinking skills, such as planning out their work from the very beginning of a project. Of course, strong bodies are also needed — the good news is you get your workout done on the job, and don’t have to hit the gym after work! Construction delivers tangible rewards on a daily basis, as you’re able to see just how much you’ve changed a building after a day’s work.”

Christa Williams
Company: Caravan Vet
City: St. Louis Park
Year: 2012
Industry: Veterinary Medicine
Revenue: $700,000
Description: Caravan Vet is the Twin Cities’ only full-service, mobile veterinary clinic, providing a complete range of veterinary services in a house-call setting.

“Veterinary medicine is hugely rewarding, I can’t imagine doing anything else.”