Women Business Leaders Conference Speakers & Session Leaders

The 2021 CWE Virtual Women Business Leaders Conference Team is proud to present this year’s speakers. Industry leaders and experts have volunteered their time to share content on subjects that matter to today’s entrepreneurs and business professionals.

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Des AllenEmerald Anderson-Ford

Assistant Vice President, Strategic Engagement, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston

Des Allen is an Assistant Vice President, Strategic Engagement in the Community Development department at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, which works to advance economic opportunities for low- and moderate-income (LMI) communities by addressing the root causes of inequity. She is responsible for managing a portfolio of strategic engagement efforts to transform the economic systems that impact LMI families and communities. This work includes supporting local municipalities in advancing racial equity in their policies and processes, working with employers to ensure job quality for LMI workers, and advancing efforts to improve early child care systems to ensure that they meet the needs of working parents. Des also sits on the Alumnae Board of The Winsor School. She holds a BA from Stanford University and an MPP from the Harvard Kennedy School.

Emerald Anderson-FordEmerald Anderson-Ford

Equity Strategist and Trainer, CRED

Emerald’s penchant for philanthropy and the nonprofit world began early in life. While growing up in Atlanta, she spent a number of weekends helping to feed the homeless population in the downtown area. When she attended Georgia Southern University, where she majored in Philosophy, Emerald really began to understand and connect with growing gaps in the education system and those stuck in the cycle of poverty.

Once completing her undergraduate career, Emerald went on to serve two volunteer years with City Year New Hampshire, and to, later, serve as the Recruitment Manager for three years. It was at City Year New Hampshire that Emerald met her future husband and started developing her understanding of community organizing and equity strategy for marginalized populations.

Emerald served as the Recruitment and Admissions Diversity Manager for three years before co-founding the City Year Office of Equity and (currently) serving as the Managing Director of Diversity & Equity Strategy. She is a small business owner, founding Communities Reaching for Equity and Diversity (CRED), an equity consulting group that has worked with multiple school districts, police departments, and various other government and nonprofit entities in realizing their areas for growth in abolition and anti-racism work. She currently resides in Manchester, NH with her husband, Damond, and their two young daughters, Cleo and Reed.

Ronda BernsRonda Berns

Sales Consultant, Trainer, and Coach, Ronda Berns Sales Consulting and Coaching, LLC

Ronda Berns is the principal and founder of Ronda Berns Sales Consulting and Coaching, LLC.  She has been in sales management for over thirty years and was the Vice President of Tourism for the Vermont Chamber of Commerce, the Executive Director for the Vermont Convention Bureau, National Sales Manager for Destination Hotels, and was a Director of Sales and Marketing for Starwood Hotels & Resorts and the Hilton Hotel Corporation.

Using her vast experience Ronda now works with business owners, sales and service teams, and entrepreneurs -- teaching them to use her customer-centric sales process to identify, connect and create business opportunities with their ideal clients. 

Beth BlaneyBeth Blaney

Founder, Beth Blaney & Associates

As an entrepreneur herself, Beth understands the myriad of financial and administrative matters that can hold business owners back. An administrative guru whose ideas and solutions are fueled by decades of experience in bookkeeping, human resources, and small business administration, Beth’s mission is to serve as the backbone of your business so you can flourish and shine, and connect with your clients.

When she’s not geeking out over QuickBooks, Beth is a human-mom, dog-mom, and music lover living her best life in quiet woods of Southern New Hampshire.

Bithiah Carter

President and CEO, New England Blacks in Philanthropy

Bithiah Carter has a passion for philanthropy and fueling the 21st Century mindset by shining a light on racial assets and how they can be leveraged to improve education, workforce, and economic resources in our communities. Her experience is rooted in both Wall Street finance and community non-profit and foundation leadership. Currently, Bithiah is the President of New England Blacks in Philanthropy. She previously served as Executive Director of Grand Circle Foundation, Senior Director in the Community Impact Division of United Way, and Program Director at the Girls' Coalition of Greater Boston. In addition, she serves as a member of the board of directors of several local and national non-profit organizations.

Hadassah DamienHadassah Damien

Founder, Ride Free Fearless Money

Hadassah Damien is a professional strategist, award-winning queer artist, entrepreneur, facilitator and educator. She founded Ride Free Fearless Money, an iconoclastic blog and finance consulting firm, in 2015 with the mission of stabilizing progressive communities by empowering people’s relationship to money. 

Ride Free Fearless Money helps individuals, partners, business owners, organization leaders, and cooperatives to create actionable and equitable financial strategies. 

Ms. Damien is Brooklyn-based, with deep roots in working-class Western NY. She puts the values she inherited both into practice and under microscopes in her work. 

Anne Devin
Anne Devin

Owner-Operator, Chase Stream Farm

Anne (Weinberg) Devin retired as a Colonel from the Marine Corps in July 2016. She served for 27 years as an intelligence officer, serving in several locations around the world to include Kuwait, Somalia, Korea, Iraq, Japan and Afghanistan.

Sage Drennon

IDEAS Strategist, Inclusion NextWork 

Using authenticity as a driving force for experiencing life, Sage (they/he/she) has spent most of their life feeling curious about the world around them. Born and raised in Japan until he was 11 then moving to America - Sage has spent a majority of her life actively questioning the systems, structures, and institutions around them. In 2017, Sage began their Master’s course work at Seattle University where they also became the Executive Coordinator for the Office of Diversity and Inclusion. After graduating in 2019 with their Master’s in Nonprofit Leadership with a focus in Diversity and Inclusion, they went on to work for College Forward as the DEI Manager. They are now the IDEAS Strategist at Inclusion NextWork (INW). Sage's work focuses on organization-wide diversity initiatives along with creating, implementing, and evaluating DEI strategies for the organization. Along with working at INW, Sage is also the Founder & Principal Consultant of their own DEI consulting firm, Equity Explorers. They also hold a DEI Certification from Northwestern University and are a Qualified Administrator of the Intercultural Development Inventory.

Jules GoodJules Good

Founder and Consulting Lead, Neighborhood Access

Jules Good is a late-Deaf entrepreneur with a passion for leveraging design, community, and talent to create more accessible communities. As the Consulting Lead at Neighborhood Access, they work with clients to ensure their presence, processes, and practices are accessible to the disabled community, and engage other consultants in such projects. They are finishing their Master in Public Policy at the University of New Hampshire, and also serve as the Communication Technology Specialist at Northeast Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services. Jules received the 2020 College Student of the Year Award from NH Stay Work Play, and has had the opportunity to speak at the NH Governor's Conference on Volunteerism, Google Open Source Live, and several other networking events. 

Wangene Hall
Wangene Hall

Director of Marketing, Global Village Foods

Wangene Hall is the Director of Marketing at Global Village Foods. Their allergy-friendly food with bold African flavor can be found in Whole Foods and natural co-ops across New England. Her focus is driving go-to-market strategy and scaling business growth. In her previous roles, she has led marketing strategy at South by Southwest and Beats by Dre. She currently serves as the Entrepreneurship Organizer for Vermont Releaf Collective, sits on the boards of several nonprofits, and is a passionate advocate of diversity in entrepreneurship.

CV HarquailCV Harquail

PhD, Cofounder, ToolMaker, Feminists at Work

CV Harquail, PhD, is an author, management scholar, consultant, writer, speaker, teacher, and tool maker. She helps entrepreneurs build transformational, justice-oriented businesses using feminist business practices. Her recent book, Feminism: A Key Idea in Business and Society (Routledge, 2020), is the first to analyze business from a feminist perspective and to propose a feminist business praxis. CV is the co-founder of FeministsAtWork.com (a feminist business practice consultancy) and co-founder/producer of the Entrepreneurial FeministForums.com and the Feminist Enterprise Collective.  She designed the Feminist Business Model Canvas and Feminist Business Toolkit. She serves as a mentor and design team member in the Fifth Wave Feminist Business Accelerator, an initiative of the Canadian Film Centre’s Media Lab. She offers workshops on all facets of feminist entrepreneurship, feminist business, and feminist business praxis as well as topics in inclusive, collective feminisms.

CV advocates that we craft our work, design our products, set our ambitions, run our companies, and partner with our stakeholders in ways that lead us and our businesses to advance social justice and promote flourishing for everyone. CV and her family live in the traditional and current homelands of the Council of the Three Fires: the Ojibwe, Odawa, and Potawatomi Nations, also known as Chicago.  

Elizabeth Hermawan and Jeanny TanElizabeth Hermawan and Jeanny Tan

Co- Owners, Swan Patisserie, LLC

Elizabeth is founder and co-owner of Swan Patisserie. Elizabeth grew up in Bandung, a small town on the island of Java, Indonesia. She was surrounded by a loving family who loved every aspect of cooking and baking. She learned baking and cooking from her late grandmother, and her loving mother. Swans are often thought of as delicate, beautiful creatures that embody power and grace beyond imagine. While their delicate feathers symbolize beauty, they are a powerful ancient symbol of feminine strength.

Jeanny is Elizabeth Hermawan's cousin and co-owner of Swan Patisserie. She grew up in a small city on the island of Borneo, Indonesia.

Nancy Huntington StagerNancy Huntington Stager

President & CEO, Eastern Bank Foundation

Nancy Huntington Stager leads Eastern's philanthropy, volunteerism, and advocacy.  Having joined the Bank in 1995 as Chief HR Officer, Nancy actively shaped the culture the Bank enjoys today as consistently one of the “Top Places to Work” in the region, as well as the Bank’s corporate social responsibility reputation in the communities of eastern Massachusetts, southern & coastal New Hampshire, and Rhode Island.   
She is dedicated to supporting robust programming to celebrate and assist our communities, encouraging volunteerism among fellow colleagues, as well as advocating for economic inclusion and mobility aimed at creating a better, fairer, more sustainable world.  Now at over $300 Million in assets, the Eastern Bank Foundation annually providing over $10MM in grants to more than 1,500 organizations.  In 2020, EBF doubled donations to over $22MM, of which $13MM was special COVID-19 Relief.  

Nancy has received numerous awards for her leadership in Diversity, Equity & Inclusion and Corporate Social Responsibility, most recently from the American Bankers Association with the Community Commitment Award for Economic Inclusion; the Founder’s Award from Conexión; Corporate Social Responsibility Award from the BBJ; inducted to Academy of Women Achievers by YWBoston; and the Medal of Honor from the National Center for Race Amity.


Carrie Johnson
Carrie Johnson

Author, Educator, Entrepreneur

Carrie H. Johnson is an author, educator and entrepreneur. As a single-parent with two sons and living on government assistance in 1985, Ms. Johnson was prompted to start a cleaning business to earn extra money. What started as a three-person cleaning service grew to a $3.5 million company with 165 employees, servicing government and corporate clients in four New England states. She is the author of the book "From the Pits to the Palace: One Woman's Journey to Self-Realization through Entrepreneurship” that depicts her entrepreneurial journey. She is also author of the Muriel Mabley Mystery novels, “Hot Flash” (2016) and “Cold Flash” (2017) released by Kensington Publishing Corp. of New York. Ms. Johnson began her career as a journalist and has been published in several newspapers including the Los Angeles Times, Worcester Telegram and Gazette and the Metrowest Daily News. She currently teaches business and communication courses at Worcester State University, Framingham State University and Quinsigamond Community College.

Saken Khokar

Supplier Diversity Manager, Boston Scientific

Saken Pillay Khokhar has led the Supplier Diversity program at Boston Scientific since 2017. She is tasked with developing and managing the strategic goals and plans for the supplier diversity program. As part of the procurement process, the aim is to proactively provide maximum practical opportunities for diverse and small businesses. Saken is a passionate advocate for supplier diversity and has been instrumental in instituted new sourcing policies at Boston Scientific that are more inclusive of small and diverse businesses. Previously, she also served as the Global Sourcing Manager for the Legal department at Boston Scientific for 2 years. Prior to her time at Boston Scientific, Saken served as the Director of Business Administration at City Year, Boston (City Year is an education nonprofit organization founded in 1988 dedicated to helping students and schools in inner cities to succeed). Saken also spend 8 years at Novartis Pharmaceuticals in numerous leadership roles in Strategic Alliances, Operations and Venture Capital. Saken is originally from Johannesburg, South Africa. She graduated with a Bachelor’s in Business Management from Northeastern University. She also holds a Master’s in Business Administration from Babson College.


Monette Knapik
Monette Knapik

Senior Director, Supplier Diversity, CVS Health

Monette Knapik is a dynamic, thought leader responsible for Supplier Diversity at CVS Health who brings an unparalleled energy to the table. Her responsibilities are to drive the execution of strategies, foster strong external relationships and partnerships with both national and regional advocacy organizations, as well cultivate internal business department buy-in with Senior leaders and executives. One of Monette’s many goals is to build robust supplier partnerships by promoting an enterprise-wide culture of diverse supplier inclusion by affording opportunities to those that can bring innovation to our leading healthcare solutions company. 

Monette was also instrumental in the induction of CVS Health into the Billion Dollar Roundtable in 2017. Monette is continually in search of ways CVS Health can continue to promote an inclusive culture, whether it be by growing diverse suppliers organically, welcoming new diverse suppliers into the supply chain, through the emergence of business skill development programs, or offering diverse suppliers direct access to decision makers. By evolving the Supplier Diversity Program, we can build supply chain excellence, add distinctive goods and services to our business offerings, and enhance our brand among customers. 

As Monette would say, “It takes a village,” and with the support of our Senior Leaders, we are able to effect change in the communities which we serve!

Marianne Lancaster
Marianne Lancaster

President, Lancaster Packaging

Marianne Lancaster founded the company out of her home in 1989 as a minority woman owned organization, specializing in mil-spec anti-static bags. Today, the company has grown and now occupies 14,000 sq. ft. in Hudson, Massachusetts. Lancaster Packaging now provides national distribution of packaging, industrial supplies, and supply chain services. This includes Vendor Managed Inventory Services (VMI), custom and standard packaging, shipping, distribution and purchasing services.

Building on over 30 years of experience as a distribution management industry, Marianne Lancaster’s Strategic Business Plan took her company to the next level by offering an integrated supply and service solution. In the fall of 2009, Lancaster Packaging (LPI) launched its Purchasing Services Division. Expanding her business into both national wholesale distribution and procurement services. Lancaster Packaging, Inc.’s primary customer base comes from the Industrial manufacturing, Tel-Com, Aerospace, Space and Defense Industries.

Marianne is an Advisory Board Member of the Central Massachusetts Center for Women & Enterprise. Lancaster Packaging has been recognized as an Outstanding Diverse Small Business at Lockheed RMS, Sikorsky Aircraft and Comcast Corporation.

Over the past 12 years, Ms. Lancaster has been listed the Boston Globe’s Top 100 Women-Let Businesses in Massachusetts. In 2018, Ms. Lancaster was honored by the Worcester Business Journal as one of leading Outstanding Women in Business. Lancaster Packaging, Inc. has received the AIM Massachusetts Next Century Award. In 2020 Marianne Lancaster and Lancaster Packaging, Inc. were honored with the SBA 8A Graduate of the Year Award.

During these hard times, Lancaster has weathered the storm supporting the needs of organizations that require PPE products including sanitizer. Lancaster has launched its own sanitizer brand to support customers that cannot use the harsh properties of the emergency high level alcohol brands out there right now. Again, listening to her customers’ needs, Marianne devised her own formula to protect hands with a great smelling moisturizing product.

Teresa Maynard

Owner, Sweet Teez Bakery

Teresa Thompson Maynard studied Communication at the College of New Rochelle were she recieved a Bachelor of Arts in Commincation Arts in 2001 and a Master of Science in Communication Science in 2003. Teresa started her career in health care marketing working at New York Presbyterian Hospital and Mount Sinai Hospital. Teresa moved back to her home town of Boston to run the Brookline Next Steps Program. She later went on to work for Harvard University doing data analytics in their development department. Teresa is a self-taught home baker with a passion for delicious treats and also a gifted sculptor who has translated her passion for clay into cakes. In early 2016 Teresa left her position at Harvard University to pursue her passion for baking and decorating. She opened Sweet Teez Bakery. Currently working out of Commonwealth Kitchen in Dorchester, Teresa has produced thousands of cakes, cupcakes, brownies and pies for not only individual customers but for wholesale and corporate accounts such as Whole Foods, Santander and Babson College.

Ana McKenna
Jules Good

Founder, Ana McKenna

Ana T. McKenna is an Army officer, businesswoman, speaker and trainer. Commissioned in 1999, she has served on active duty, in the National Guard, and is currently still serving as an Army Reservist. Ana has worked for over 15 years in a wide variety of programs that connect service members and veterans of all branches and components (as well as their loved ones) to resources and assistance, and she loves to coach military women and families on how to best transition in all aspects into civilian life- business, health and wellness, and family. Her focus on individual mindset and the application of simple, practical tools for women to use in their quest for improvement lays the groundwork for success in all of her programs. Ana also owns two thriving brick and mortar businesses in New England. She has a Master of Science in Project Management and serves on several boards that focus on the well-being of children and youth in New Hampshire. She is committed to sharing tools that worked for her with other women so that they, too, may live their best life.

Malia LazuMalia Lazu

Founder and CEO, The Lazu Group

Malia Lazu, an award winning, tenured strategist in diversity & inclusion has sparked deep economic development and investment in urban entrepreneurship for over twenty years. In her most recent role as EVP and Regional President at Berkshire Bank, Malia worked to generate wealth for communities by expanding access to capital and spurring economic growth—especially in communities of color that have traditionally been left behind. 

A serial entrepreneur in her own right, Malia has created and led a number of socially responsible business accelerators across Boston. She worked with the city to create Accelerate Boston which helped launch over twenty minority businesses in its first five years and continues to help minority entrepreneurs raise capital. She was also the founder and President of the Future Boston Alliance, now known as Epicenter, which built an ecosystem of creators, consumers and investors to develop businesses in the creative industries. As a fellow at MIT’s Community Innovators Lab, she launched The Urban Labs, a multicultural agency helping brands see returns on diversity.  

Malia began her career as a political organizer and bridge-builder founding Mass VOTE, a state-wide voter engagement campaign. She has led culture-shifting campaigns for the actor and civil rights activist Harry Belafonte, as well as businessmen and philanthropists like Peter Lewis and George Soros.

Malia currently sits on a number of local and national boards.

Leslie LevesqueLeslie Levesque

CEO, LL International

Leslie Levesque is the Founder and CEO of LL International, a startup advisory and executive coaching firm. Leslie works with startups of all stages, helping them grow and manage change. Her expertise includes market strategy and planning, financial modeling, structuring teams and organizations, pricing and go-to-market strategy. She is a trained coach and works with executives on a wide range of skills including, leadership, building successful teams, and navigating business and career growth and change.

Leslie has 15+ years business experience across finance, marketing, PM, BD roles, of which she spent 10+ years consulting fortune 500 companies. She has been quoted in leading business journals such as the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, NPR, MarketWatch, New York Times, Reuters, Financial Times, Chicago Tribune, and Washington Post. 

She is currently an executive MBA candidate at NYU Stern School of Business where her concentration is in Strategy, Entrepreneurship & Innovation, Corporate Finance, and Leadership & Change Management. Leslie also holds a master's degree in International Economics from Suffolk University.

Angie LiouAngie Liou

Executive Director, Asian Community Development Corporation (ACDC)

Angie Liou is a seasoned community leader specializing in affordable housing and community development since 2004 and having served as the project lead on over $150 million worth of projects. Under her leadership, Asian Community Development Corporation (ACDC) has expanded its programs in housing support, resident and youth engagement and leadership, community planning, and placekeeping. Previously serving as ACDC's Director of Real Estate, Angie oversaw the asset management for ACDC's portfolio of 300+ units and was responsible for developing a pipeline of new ACDC projects. She has worked in Seattle and Philadelphia as a consultant and project manager at nonprofits that provide safe and affordable housing. 

Angie serves as Board Vice Chair at the Massachusetts Association of Community Development Corporations (MACDC) and is the Board Treasurer at National CAPACD. She also serves on the Board of Citizens' Housing and Planning Association (CHAPA), the Executive Committee of the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC), and on the Board of Ambassadors at Eastern Bank.

Angie earned her Master of City Planning from the University of Pennsylvania with a concentration in Community Development and her Bachelor of Arts in Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania. Angie lives with her spouse in Boston, MA.

Gwen Pokalo

Senior Director - Vermont, Center for Women & Enterprise

Gwen Pokalo is the Vermont Director of the Center for Women & Enterprise and is key personnel on the newly-launched Impact Measurement Initiative at CWE. Gwen continues to be astounded by the successes of the entrepreneurs she meets daily. They provide meaning to her life. Before joining the Center for Women & Enterprise, Gwen ran her own business as an art business consultant and artist representative. She has a deep passion for the arts and enjoys losing time in art museums. She’s even begun exploring making art on her own, though she relies on the experts for the ‘good stuff’. In her career, Gwen also worked in rural development research, ran a local Vermont products store, and directed a small local women’s economic empowerment organization. In her free time, she revels in the humor and love of her friends and family, enjoys Vermont’s outdoors on the back of a motorcycle and on foot, engages with the arts, and does Ikebana.

Ashley ReichheldAshley Reichheld

Principal, Deloitte Consulting, LLP

Ashley is a principal in Deloitte Digital and the Customer, Brand & Experience practice leader for the Automotive, Transportation, Hospitality & Services sectors. Ashley has spent 20 years helping her clients reimagine brands and experiences, shaping the moments that matter with customers, workforce, and partners. Ashley is deeply passionate about building trust, enabling businesses to create value, and stronger connections with people and markets. Ashley has lived and worked in more than 40 countries and has a strong sense of global community. Ashley’s work and ideas have been featured in publications such as the Wall Street Journal, AdWeek, and Skift as well as in conferences such as CES, Fortune’s Most Powerful Women, and the Five9 CX Summit.

Shea RoseShea Rose

Recording Artist & Vocal Coach, Embodied Voice & Yoga

Shea Rose has possessed numerous titles throughout her career: recording artist, style icon, and music curator are just a few. Her music, influenced by soul, jazz, and rock, speaks to identity, self-acceptance, and transformation. 

Rose has received numerous honors for her musical talents, including multiple Boston Music Awards, and she is the recipient of the prestigious Abe Olman Scholarship from the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Rose is a featured songwriter and performer on two Grammy Award-winning jazz albums, The Mosaic Project and Money Jungle: Provocative in Blue, produced by legendary drummer Terri Lyne Carrington. 

In 2019, Rose expanded her offerings as a recording artist and music curator to vocal coaching. Drawing from her years of experience as a recording artist and extensive yoga training, Embodied Voice & Yoga utilizes movement, speech, spoken word, and singing to help women connect with their authentic voice. 

When she is not on stage, Rose curates music events like the RISE Music Series at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, and she is an Assistant Professor at Berklee College of Music. 

Kimberly Slininger

Deaconess, Spirit Warrior L3c 

Principal and Executive Director Deaconess Kim Sllininger served in the U.S. Air Force as an aircraft mechanic on fighter aircraft, attaining the rank of Staff Sargent E-5. She is a disabled Veteran. Through the Veteran's Administration, Kim pursued her master's degree in Diaconal Studies from the Concordia Theological Seminary, Ft. Wayne, IN. She continued her education in Clinical Pastoral Education while volunteering as a Chaplain Intern at a local hospital Currently, Kim serves as the Chaplain and Sr. Vice Commander for the DAV Chapter 6, and the 2nd Jr. Vice Commander for the State of Maine DAV, and as the Deaconess for Hope Lutheran Church, where she is responsible for the outreach to the local military community. Because of her own undiagnosed PTS, Kim became passionate about reaching out to other Veterans and Service Members by offering Therapeutic Horsemanship, thus the creation of Spirit Warrior, a place of healing for those affected by trauma.

Lisa Spector

AVP, Director of Category Management, TJX

Lisa Spector is a strategic sourcing and procurement professional who loves helping people find the right solutions with the right suppliers at the best value. She currently is AVP, Director of Category Management at TJX, the leading off-price retailer of apparel and home fashions in world, operating TJ Maxx, Marshalls, HomeGoods, Sierra and Homesense in the US. Lisa has spent most of her career in strategic sourcing and procurement, gaining experience across many industries including government, financial services, and retail. When not at work, Lisa enjoys spending time with her family, getting outside and shopping.

Liora StoneCV Harquail

President, Precision Engineering Inc.

Liora Stone is President and co-founder of Precision Engineering Inc – an advanced metalworking contract manufacturer of custom sheet metal components and assemblies, serving global companies in the aerospace/defense and critical industrial sectors. 

A graduate of Syracuse University with a Bachelor degree in Nursing, Liora worked as an Emergency Dept and Cardiac Care nurse, during Precision Engineering’s early days, while simultaneously running the administrative side of the company’s operations. After more than a decade of doing both, Liora left hospital nursing to concentrate on growing the business. 

Competing on a global scale and growing Precision Engineering to a multi-million dollar enterprise, Liora was selected by the Worcester Business Journal as one of their 2016 Outstanding Women in Business and one of their 2019 Central Mass. Power 50. Recently, she was selected by Women’s Enterprise Magazine as one of their Top WBE CEOs of 2021. 

In addition to serving on several non-profit Boards and committees, including the CWE Central MA Advisory Board and the WBENC Forum, Liora continues to nurture her nursing background by leading Precision’s health & safety program and by serving as a medical volunteer at various community events, like the Boston Marathon.

Jo Truesdell

Owner, TidePool Bookshop 

In June of 2017 I had just retired from a 41-years teaching Kindergarten, and my husband, Huck, would soon be retiring from his career in land conservation. What next? At the time Worcester was without an independent bookstore and we wondered if we might be able to fill that void. The retail world from the other side of the counter would be a whole new ballgame for us, and we clearly had a lot to learn about the bookstore business. So, over the next two years we visited over sixty bookstores, attended a week-long “Bookstore Bootcamp” sponsored by the American Booksellers Association, went to programs presented by the New England Independent Booksellers Association, and attended workshops at the Small Business Development Center and the Center for Women and Enterprise. Can’t thank the CWE enough, in fact, because when we weren’t able to open in March of 2020 as planned due to COVID, they helped us pivot to an on-line presence. Now, Worcester’s TidePool Bookshop has been fully up and running for over a year, offering new, curated books, and sidelines such as stationary, cards, puzzles and games, for children and adults alike. And, we have just hired two new booksellers!

Valerie Zolezzi-Wyndham

Founder and CEO, Promoting Good, LLC

Valerie Zolezzi-Wyndham, the founder and owner of Promoting Good, LLC, creates transformational change and fosters equity and inclusion through her work and brings that same lens to her philanthropic activities. Her work focuses on empowering boards to lead, fostering inclusive environments, nurturing innovative solutions, revenue creation and diversification, and fostering strategic partnerships to advance shared passions.

Valerie is a strong advocate for equity, from the front lines to the boards of directors of organizations, big and small, in the for-profit, non-profit and government sectors. She is a passionate champion of communities of color and women, as well as the unrepresented individuals – supporting entrepreneurs and rising stars in leading with authenticity, a collaborative spirit, excellence, and passion.

Valerie is a lawyer, impactful manager, partnership builder, and executive coach/trainer with 20 years of expertise in the non-profit and business sectors in both Mexico and the United States. She is the Chairwoman of the Edward M. Kennedy Community Health Center, a trustee at the Worcester Art Museum, a corporator at WebsterFive, and Grants Committee member and corporator at the Greater Worcester Community Foundation. She is bicultural, trilingual, and a proud immigrant from Mexico.

WBLC Planning Team

2021 Women Business Leaders Conference Planning Team

Gaby King Morse
President & CEO
Center for Women & Enterprise
Martha Engle 
Development Coordinator
Center for Women & Enterprise
Hana Lasell
Marketing Manager
Center for Women & Enterprise
Michelle Miller
VP Program Operations
Center for Women & Enterprise
Jennie Murphy
Samantha Pevear
Digital Manager & Program Coordinator - Central MA
Center for Women & Enterprise
Mickey Riendeau
VP Marketing, Technology & Operations
Center for Women & Enterprise

Kimberly E. Zouzoua
VP Strategic Partnerships
Center for Women & Enterprise


2021 Women of Color Business Summit Planning Committee

Tracy Bennefield
Branch Manager
JocCole "JC" Burton
Founder & CEO
Maven Construction
Cecelia Chung
CEO & Founder
Little Celebrations Rentals
Erinn Corbett-Wright
Vice President, Charitable Foundation Program Manager
TD Bank
Musau Dibinga
OrigiNations Cultural Arts Center
Marième Doukouré-Amoa
Procurement Director – Global IT Infrastructure – CRVPM
State Street
Rashele Dudley
Vice President, Business Operations
State Street
Vicky Gray
CEO & Founder
New Chapter Home Improvement
Johanna Tejada
Portfolio Development Officer
Eastern Bank
Lizeth Velez
Founder & CEO
LJV Development
Kimberly E. Zouzoua
VP Strategic Partnerships
Center for Women & Enterprise