Tough Competition for the Nellie
This year’s finalists for the prestigious Nellie Cashman Woman Business Owner of the Year Award are impressive to say the least: The owner and dealer of Eastside Harley-Davidson Inc.; a talented couture designer, celebrated for her elegant and timeless bridal gowns and evening wear; the founder of a green-focused public relations firm; the top performing woman agent within New York Life; and a self-educated single mom who owns a multi-million dollar media buying agency.
A diverse group, too; one you might find intimidating if these ladies weren’t so personable, as well as high-powered, and committed to helping the Seattle communities in which they live and work..
Since 1982, Women Business Owners has recognized and honored Puget Sound area women entrepreneurs for their leadership in business and the community. The award, to be presented to the winner at an Oct. 11 banquet at the Westin Seattle, is named for Nellie Cashman, a turn-of-the-century pioneer and entrepreneur. Born in Ireland, she became an American gold prospector, mining expedition leader and major philanthropist during the late 1800s and early 1900s. Her combination of determination, integrity, talent, humor and compassion made her one of the best-known and most respected women in the U.S. in her day. WBO is a business referral network that holds monthly gatherings and supports its members with educational seminars and various tools for building better businesses.
Beverly Thompson, owner and dealer of Eastside Harley-Davidson Inc., has found that bringing in a woman’s point of view has added to the success of the business, especially with female riders as Harley-Davidson’s newest target market.
When Thompson took over 13 years ago, Eastside Harley-Davidson employed eight people. The company now provides substantial benefits and a thriving work environment for 70 employees. It has relocated from 2,500 square feet in Kirkland to a new, 50,000-square-foot facility in Bellevue, and sales have increased to 10 times the original volume.
“It is a good old boys club,” Thompson admits of her business. “I think I’m successful because I am and act like a mature woman. Also, I’m a rider, a good rider. If I don’t know something, I ask.”
Thompson also puts her heart into the community. Throughout her life she has worked to prepare young women to accept leadership roles. She served as director of a young women’s youth camp for more than 10 years, both organizing and participating in week-long survival camping and hiking trips. Eastside Harley-Davidson continues to partner with KING-TV and Northwest Harvest. The dealership organized the first ever Children’s Ride to benefit Children’s Hospital and Medical Center. Thompson married her college sweetheart and raised five children. Together, she and her husband are supporters and major donors to Mamma’s Hands of Hope, a place where young mothers at risk can find safety, gain skills and improve self-esteem.
Luly Yang’s clientele includes Vanessa Minnillo, Josie Bissett, Mary Hart, Lara Spencer and Jann Carl, and her creations have been featured in many bridal and fashion magazines. Not bad for someone who decided to leave the field of architectural design and open her own downtown Seattle studio boutique just seven years ago.
“I gathered up all the courage I had, rented a small studio at 4th and Pike, made 20 samples and opened my door.”
Pursuing her passion for design was a natural outgrowth of Yang’s upbringing. Born and raised in Taiwan, her parents were a classical Chinese artist and an engineer. She earned a degree in graphic design from the University of Washington and after working for five years in architectural design was inspired to begin designing for the human form. She drew on her knowledge of the body’s movement, which she acquired by studying anatomy and physiology during several years as a fitness instructor.
Each year, Yang orchestrates Seattle’s largest privately produced fashion show benefiting Children’s Hospital and Medical Center. The show launches her new collection for the following year. “I’m thinking of launching nationally, perhaps next year,” she says. “I’m waiting to get all my systems and operations set in the local business.” Yang oversees three businesses in one: the retail boutique and bridal salon, production, and the design studio. She is also a wife and the mother of a 3-year-old, and she credits her family for her more balanced lifestyle. Now, she says, there’s a reason to go home, a reason not to work all the time.
Joanie Parsons, president of Parsons Public Relations, founded the company on the belief that a small company can deliver big results. Beginning in 1992, Parsons Public Relations has offered a personal, hands-on approach to client service. Leading a team of eight other women and three “Parson’s pooches,” she believes that balance is the key to a successful life. To provide that balance, she gardens, hikes, bicycles, travels and practices natural health.
Parsons lives a core value of Parson’s Public Relations — giving back to the local and global communities in which she works, lives and plays. Parson’s GoodWorks contributes to a variety of organizations each year including Children’s Home Society, Futurewise and Estación Las Tortugas (Sea Turtle Education Center in Costa Rica).
“My philosophy is to influence change and to do that with a team that’s committed to the same philosophy, primarily with a focus on the environment,” she says. Four years ago, Parsons began working solely with green and sustainable companies. “We’re very, very selective about who we work with. We were ahead of the curve, so a lot of people have wanted to work with us to help them green their companies. But we don’t want to do green washing. We want to work with companies who are fully committed to having a green company.”
Christie Mueller has spent 25 years helping her clients solve their financial problems and achieve their financial goals, building along the way a reputation for in-depth knowledge of retirement accumulation and distribution strategies. For the past five years she has earned membership in the New York Life’s prestigious Chairman’s Cabinet, placing her among the top 50 agents in the company.
She is a believer in setting goals with great passion and gives presentations on how highly successful people speak. She was featured on the cover of Washington CEO magazine’s February 2007 issue as part of an article on “Million Dollar Women” and in the CEO segment of “About the Money” on KCTS Public Television.
A native of Iowa, Mueller earned a degree in English literature from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and worked for 10 years as an anchor and reporter at a CBS station. Her breaking news story about flooding in Portland, Ore. won her a news and documentary Emmy.
Married to Mark Gardner and living on Lake Washington, Mueller maintains an office with two full-time staff members. Working solely through referrals and workshops, she has earned the loyalty of hundreds of clients. She credits Pacific Institute training and surrounding herself with “the most high quality, ethical, moral, forward-thinking people you can” for her success.
Linda Wilson founded Sunrise Media in 1980 to deliver strategic and independent media services that meet each client’s individual and specific goals. As a single mother, she juggled the needs of her young children with the challenges of growing an agency. Twenty-seven years later, Sunrise Media is a multi-million dollar business and the longest-standing media-buying agency in Seattle.
Wilson began her career working for a small advertising agency. After six years, she was ready for bigger challenges and joined Cole & Weber Advertising. As media manager on national, regional and local accounts, she developed relationships within the industry as well as valuable expertise that have served Sunrise Media clients for many years.
Wilson maintains strong ties to the community. She has served on the marketing board of Boys & Girls Club and served on and chaired the School Commission at St. John School. For many years, she worked in fundraising for the Arthritis Foundation, Pete Gross House, Childhood Cancer Initiatives, KLQ Education Fund, Young Life and Northwest Harvest. She also sat on the Seattle Advertising Club board.
Besides being a single mother, Wilson was, until recently, caretaker for elderly parents. “I got a little derailed, taking care of my mother’s husband and mom. I made the choice to keep my mother close…sold her house and moved her five blocks from us. To me it was the right thing to do.” Both her mother and stepfather have died, and Wilson is now “in the process of building again.”
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