Nominees for the Ahwatukee Foothills Chamber in Commerce Women in Business Palo Verde Award come from varied backgrounds and all levels of business experience. The annual award recognizes a female chamber member's personal achievements in business.

"The recipient will be a woman who believes in and demonstrates her purpose," according to the Ahwatukee Chamber of Commerce. "Her commitment to business excellence, management and community involvement are among the characteristics sought."

This year's 10 nominees all fit the description and each will be honored on Nov. 5 during the 2nd Annual Women in Business Gala, "Dance the Night Away."

Here are the nominees:

Melanie Beauchamp

Beauchamp Law Office P.C.

Melanie Beauchamp is the owner and principal of Beauchamp Law Office P.C., a successful law practice which has been serving clients in the Phoenix metro area for over ten years. Beauchamp's areas of concentration include DUI, personal injury, misdemeanor criminal defense, felony criminal defense, juvenile defense, civil litigation, traffic violations and civil and criminal appeals. She has tried over 200 cases, 75 of which were tried to a jury. Beauchamp served as law clerk for Justice James Moeller and Justice Ruth McGregor of the Arizona Supreme Court. Beauchamp obtained her Law Degree from the University of Virginia. She earned a Master's in economics from George Mason University and a Bachelor of Arts with honors, from York University in Toronto, Canada.

Professional affiliations include membership in Arizona Attorney's for Criminal Justice, the Arizona Trial Lawyer's Association and Arizona Women Lawyer's Association. Beauchamp is also an active member of the Ahwatukee Chamber of Commerce. She lives in Ahwatukee, has two sons, Zach, 22, a Vassar graduate now working at Food Network, Adam, 17, a senior at Desert Vista High School in Ahwatukee and two rescue dogs, Kacey and The Sunshine Band. She also enjoys volunteering her time mentoring young ladies from the Florence Crittenton Center, which serves at-risk girls. She likes scuba diving, snow skiing, fine wines, cooking and eating, weight lifting, hiking, gardening and laughing.

"I feel honored to be included in such an incredibly prestigious and fabulous group of women," Beauchamp said. "These are incredible women I have known for a long time. They are incredible, smart and funny and it should be an absolutely wonderful celebration for all of us to be together."

Dr. Rashmi Bhatnagar

D.M.D., Bella Vista Dental

Dr. Rashmi Bhatnagar graduated from University of Pittsburgh, School of Dental Medicine in 2000. She continued a year-long training in an intensive residency program at Albert Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia. Dr. Bhatnagar remained in hospital dentistry, treating medically and mentally compromised patients at Special Smiles, Episcopal Hospital, and Temple University.

Her love for treating compromised patients was her inspiration to complete a Masters in Public Health from the University of Pittsburgh. Dr. Bhatnagar's passion is to provide exceptional dental care to her patients. This is evident in the smiles of over 1,500 families who call Dr. Bhatnagar their dentist, and from our community who voted Dr. Rashmi Bhatnagar "The 2010 Ahwatukee Best Dentist".

While delivering quality dentistry and sharing dental knowledge is Dr. Bhatnagar's passion, she has a new passion on a personal level. Dr. Bhatnagar and her husband, Dr. Ajay Bhatnagar recently welcomed their newborn twins, Jay and Jaina on June 28th, 2011.

Dr. Bhatnagar has an active interest in giving back to the community. She is a sponsor of the Festival of Lights, the Desert Vista Marching Band, the Kiwanis Spring Fling, and the 4th of July Red, White, and Boom. In addition, she is a member of the Ahwatukee Chamber of Commerce, local dental study clubs, and American & Arizona Dental Associations.

"I feel honored to be nominated in the same category as so many wonderful women," Bhatnagar said. "It's just an honor."

Katherine Christensen

Kate & Company

Katherine Christensen is the owner and founder of Phoenix based Katherine Christensen & Associates, Inc., (KCA); PRA Destination Management - Arizona and Kate & Company Events. She launched the public relations division of America West Airlines during a period of high growth and remained in that position for seven years.

Since then, (1991), Christensen has managed various types of worldwide events for clients. She has received praise from many business owners for her affordable, well-focused strategies and successful events.

She has been listed in the Business Journal's Top 25 Meeting and Event professionals for over 15 years. With a seasoned staff, Christensen has worked with large and small corporations, associations, and community and philanthropic clients.

Christensen had designed and executed events ranging from fund raisers and golf tournaments with silent auctions to conferences, conventions, meetings and high-end incentive programs.

Obtaining the designations of Certified Meeting Professional (CMP) and Destination Management Certified Professional (DMCP), she has given back to the industry and community by serving in several organizations including being a past president of Meeting Professionals International - Arizona Sunbelt Chapter, and serving on the Board of Directors for ITS Arizona, WTS - Arizona and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Tempe and currently is on the Board of the Society of Incentive Travel Executives (SITE).

She is the immediate past chair of the Ahwatukee Chamber of Commerce. She speaks about her profession several times a year to Arizona State University students and writes frequently for industry publications. Christensen and her husband have two adult children and reside in Ahwatukee.

"It's awesome to be nominated," Christensen said. "I sincerely appreciate not only the recognition but the confidence that the community has placed in not only me but my business."

Kelly de Simone

Eye Priority

De Simone was employed in an optometry office in Chandler and pregnant with her third child when she stumbled upon an amazing opportunity. One of her former coworkers casually mentioned that the office where he worked, Eye Priority, was looking for a doctor. The office was in Ahwatukee and closer to home so she gave them a call and started working there in October of 1999.

At that time Eye Priority was being remotely managed by a doctor in Prescott. An employment opportunity became an ownership opportunity, and in January 2001, de Simone officially owned the practice.

De Simone's involvement with the practice brought Vision Therapy to Ahwatukee. It is a program that conditions your brain to better process the images your eyes send it and is particularly useful for children with learning disabilities and patients who have experienced head trauma. It can even replace the need for surgery to repair crossed eyes.

De Simone's Vision Therapy patients range from age 2 to age 81, and so do her optometry patients. Often the two fields overlap, and she is constantly touched and amazed at the life changes that result when a person achieves really optimal vision for the first time.

De Simone is the mother of three children, active in her church, and she rarely misses one of her children's sporting events.

She is one of only 12 Arizona Fellows in the College of Optometrists in Vision Development. She is called upon to mentor and train other vision therapists and other professionals.

De Simone has been active in a number of local charities with an emphasis on children's charities. She has supported Kyrene and Tempe Union school districts as well as St. John Bosco and Horizon Community Learning Center with collection drives and learning-related vision screenings for preschoolers. Eye priority is an active supporter of the Foothills YMCA, Ahwatukee Children's Theater and Junior Achievement of Arizona. De Simone is also a member of Local First Arizona, supports the Ahwatukee Easter Parade, Red, White & Beautiful and Festival of Lights. Eye Priority is celebrating its 20th year in business.

"I'm sincerely honored to be nominated fo the Women in Business award, especially since I truly love what I do," de Simone said. "Being honored for something I love is extremely rewarding."

Kendra Fleetwood

CK's Tavern and Grill

Kendra Fleetwood is the operating owner of CK's Tavern and Grill. She opened the business with her family in July of 2004.

CK's is your neighborhood sports grill and is the perfect spot to catch a game, enjoy happy hour, listen to live music, or just enjoy a meal with the family. CK's has been recognized in the Best of Ahwatukee for Wings, Happy Hour, Live Music, Burger and Place to Watch the Game.

Fleetwood is a big reason as to the success of CK's and the warm feeling it delivers. Fleetwood can be found running food, greeting patrons, or cleaning tables. In the evenings she completes the accounting and financial aspects of the business.

In a time in this country when many small business are closing, especially restaurants, CK's has remained a cornerstone in Ahwatukee and it has taken hard work, smart promotion, a good product and the never-ending task of winning over the community.

Fleetwood completed her undergraduate work at Arizona State University, and graduated Sum Cum Laude in Supply Chain Management. Her professional career began with the Intel Corporation as a buyer and ended as a program manager. She learned contract negotiations, communication skills, and business strategy that has aided her in her business career.

She is a supporter of the Ahwatukee Foothills Chamber of Commerce, Crisis Nursery and the YMCA. She has hosted numerous charity golf tournaments and fundraisers for the local schools and the Susan G. Komen Foundation.

Fleetwood is a single mom, with a three year old son, Gavin. Her parents Jim and Joanne Flaum are also active in the family business. Her brother Chad (the "C" of CK's) is the operating owner of The Old Town Tortilla Factory in Scottsdale.

"It feels amazing to be nominated and it was a complete surprise," Fleetwood said. "I had no idea that I would be nominated. All the ther women are amazing women so I'm very honored to be with such amazing women."

Christine Marek

Bushido Marketing

Christine Marek has served as the President for her business, Bushido Marketing, for the past 17 years. Her award-winning firm has developed proven, cutting-edge marketing systems that provide guaranteed results for her clients.

It is her life's passion to support the small business owner and her community. Marek first joined the Ahwatukee Foothills Chamber of Commerce in 1999 with her "Best of News" publication. Since then she has dedicated over 100 hours as the founder for LeadzSmart Networking Group. She has also served on the Marketing Committee and currently serves as an Ambassador.

Marek has taught marketing classes at Chandler-Gilbert Community College, speaks at local networking groups and conducts free workshops for local businesses. She currently hosts a FREE Social Media Lab for business owners. Marek is also an active supporter of the Future Business Leaders of America. Her company provides internships for high school and college students.

Marek is an award-winning Arizona Press Women Member. Today she contributes to the Ahwatukee Foothills News with a candid marketing column.

Marek has found time to volunteer on the United Way East Valley Regional Council and served as the council's President. In 2009, Christine and her husband, Dr. Ron Marek, co-authored a self-defense book and instructional DVD that teach women self-defense as part of their "Hands OFF!" Attack Avoidance seminars. Wellness education is another strong theme in Marek's life. She is involved in launching a new Arizona TV Health Channel and she also organizes wellness classes via her Meet-Up Group. For fun, Marek participates in the Ahwatukee Foothills Women's Club and during the past 10 years she has hosted six Foreign Exchange Students from Japan, Ukraine and Germany.

"I'm honored to be nominated with such wonderful women that continuously dedicate themselves to supporting the community," Marek said. "Those are the type of people that I like to hang out with. It's just going to be a very lovely evening to be in such fine company. I'm just honored to be included in that group of people."

Martha Neese

Von Hanson's Wine & Spirits

Martha Neese is the owner of Von Hanson's Meats and Spirits, "The New, Old Fashioned Meat Market."

While her business is in Chandler, she lives in Ahwatukee with her family and refers to this time in her life as her "retirement years."

Neese is anything but "retired." Besides running Von Hanson's, she is an Ahwatukee Foothills Chamber of Commerce member and serves as the Co-Chairman for the Ahwatukee Foothills Chamber of Commerce Ambassadors Committee. She belongs to many area chambers and business organizations making her an advocate of business networking.

In 1974 she earned a nursing degree where she was published in the Hawkeye Osteopathic Journal. Her nursing background was instrumental in her pursuit of a law degree and the formation of the Neese Law Firm, focusing on personal injury and medical malpractice. She had a subspecialty in military and federal litigation and twice chaired the Military Advocacy and Federal Tort Section of the American Association for Justice.

Prior to her retirement, she was both a Nationally Certified Trial Attorney and a Certified Civil Trial Specialist. Neese is a member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum which is one of the most prestigious groups of trial lawyers in the United States. Membership is limited to attorneys who have won million and multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements. Less than 1% of U.S. lawyers are members.

Darla Salem

A-Peeling Faces

Darla M. Salem graduated from Cleveland State University with a Bachelors Degree in Business Administration majoring in Human Resources. She worked in compensation management, recruiting and account development for over eight years in Cleveland, Ohio before moving to Phoenix in 2000.

In 2001 she decided to follow her passion for health and wellness and became licensed in massage therapy and aesthetics. Her experience in skincare & massage includes working for plastic surgeons, fitness centers and chiropractors.

Salem is currently the owner of A-Peeling Faces Skincare & Massage Therapy and has been in business since 2006. She won first place ‘Best of Ahwatukee' for Aesthetician and Massage Therapy in 2009, and first place Aesthetician and 3rd place Massage Therapy in 2008. She was also awarded ‘Best of Greater Phoenix' for Beauty & Day Spas in 2008.

Salem is extremely involved in the Ahwatukee Chamber as Co-Chair of the Ambassador Committee, as well as a member of the Women in Business Committee.

Salem was also involved in the orchestration of a local makeover contest which provided a woman the opportunity to better herself and pull local businesses together.

Salem has served the greater Phoenix area volunteering as a certified facilitator for the "look good feel better" program for the American Cancer Society providing skincare education to women undergoing chemotherapy. She volunteered for the Arizona State University Art Museum as a Certified Docent. For the past four years she has volunteered for the Big Brothers/Big Sisters Association acting as a mentor to a youth, sharing in activities to help her with confidence, grades and social skills.

Traci Tartaglio

Ahwatukee Carpets

An entrepreneur, a philanthropist, a mother and coffee aficionado, Traci Tartaglio, President & Owner of Ahwatukee Carpets, has stuck to the same business philosophy for more than two decades.

Combining a relentless work ethic with her signature generosity, Ahwatukee Carpets just celebrated their 20th anniversary in business.

Over the years, Tartaglio's business earned public accolades, including AFN's "Best Décor Store" in 2006, and The Ahwatukee Foothills Chamber's "Business of the Year" in 2008.

Tartaglio has served on countless committees on behalf of the Ahwatukee Foothills Chamber of Commerce, the Foothills YMCA, Ahwatukee Rainmakers, Seton Catholic Prep, Horizon Honors School and the Fiesta Bowl, to name a few.

The secret to Traci's longevity? A business plan that integrates giving back to her community. She's often found packing food boxes at St. Vincent de Paul or offering her showroom as a collection spot for charities including the Kyrene Family Resource Center.

Tartaglio shares her passion for her life's work with her daughter, Bailee. Together, the two participate in the National Charity League, Ahwatukee Chapter. In her spare time, Tartaglio enjoys seeing life through her daughter's eyes, and spending time with friends. Serving as a positive role model for her teenage daughter is Traci's most cherished role in life.

"I'm just humbled," Tartaglio said. "I feel honored to even be named in the same category amongst all these other amazing women."

Judy Young

Eagle First Realty Ahwatukee/Chandler

Judy Young is an experienced Realtor and the Branch Partner of Eagle First Realty, Ahwatukee/Chandler.

She has worked as a Realtor for over seven years and has committed to continuing her Real Estate education in order to share knowledge with her clients. She attained her Associate Broker license in 2009 and is also a Certified Distressed Property Expert (CDPE).

Young's other designations include Accredited Buyer's Representative (ABR), Short Sale-Foreclosure Resource (SFR) and Certified Short Sale Negotiator (CSSN). Prior to becoming a Realtor, Young worked for 25 years as a travel agent and District Sales Manager for a major wholesale travel company.

She has lived in the Phoenix area for over 40 years and attended Northern Arizona University and Ottawa University where she attained a degree in Elementary Education.

Young is an active member of the Ahwatukee Chamber of Commerce where she was nominated for Volunteer of the Year, served as a sub-committee chair for Red, White and Boom Fireworks and sits on the Board of the Kiwanis Club of Ahwatukee. "I'm honored to be nominated for business woman of the year," Young said. "I focused my business in the last few years on Ahwatukee since I've lived here for the last 13 years and I love the sense and feel of the community."

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7914 or


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