Each year the Ahwatukee Foothills Chamber of Commerce honors local business women through the Palo Verde Women in Business Award.
It’s an award given to a chamber member who has been nominated by her peers and selected for excellence in the business world and in the community.
The fourth annual Palo Verde Award Gala will be at 6 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 2 at Rawhide Western Town, 5700 W. North Loop Road in Chandler. ABC15’s Connie Colla will emcee the event, which will feature a cocktail reception, casino and cowboy games, dinner, a live auction, and live entertainment from the Western Sun Band. Tickets are on sale at ahwatukeechamber.com.
Here are the nominees:
Dena Armstrong, Rodan and Fields Dermatologists
Dena Armstrong is an entrepreneur and independent consultant with Rodan and Fields Dermatologists. She is a member of the Women’s Networking League, Foothills Women’s Club and is a facilitator for the Ahwatukee Chamber’s Power Partner’s Networking Group. She is also actively involved with Saint Gerard Circle, serving as president in 2012. Armstrong has volunteered for St. Vincent de Paul, Feed My Starving Children, Helen’s Hope Chest, Gabriel’s Angels, Maggie’s Place Singleton Moms and Right to Life.
“I am completely honored to be nominated for this award,” she said. “I love knowing that each of us who are nominated, although on different journeys, our paths cross here today so that we may share our love, compassion, inspiration, and hope with one another as businesswomen. Mark Twain said it best, ‘To get the full value of joy, you must have someone else to divide it with.’”
Armstrong has a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a master’s degree in elementary education. She is also the title holder of “Mrs. Oregon.” She said her three daughters are the reason she works so hard.
“The secret to my success is that there are no secrets,” Armstrong said. “My success is the result of perseverance, learning from failure, belief in myself, and vowing to never play small. Dream big, live big.”
Melanie Beauchamp, Beauchamp Law Office, P.C.
Melanie Beauchamp is the owner and principal of Beauchamp Law Office P.C., Arizona’s largest certified woman-owned law firm. She has tried more than 300 trials and lectures and teaches attorneys how to prepare and litigate cases. Beauchamp serves as the president of the Lorna Lockwood Inn of Court and as vice chair on the Ahwatukee Foothills Village Planning Committee. She also serves on the board of the Festival of Lights, mentors foster children from “Hope and Future,” and contributes to the Special Olympics Advocacy Resources Program, Ahwatukee Foothills Soccer and Valley Youth Football. She said it was growing up with brothers that gave her the tough skin she needed to be successful in her business.
“You can’t give up,” Beauchamp said. “And I ask for help. There are days when you just want to give up, particularly as a female attorney. The federal government did a study that showed how incredibly underrepresented and disadvantaged females are in this industry. You just have to not give up… In the business world you just can’t be a crybaby.”
Beauchamp has received several awards over the years including Arizona Companies to watch 2009, the 2009 ASBA Award, and had nominations for the Athena Award and the Palo Verde Award. She is also an award-winning author for her book, “DUI: The Next Day.”
“I just get warm fuzzies being included in this group of women,” she said. “We get to see each other so often in a business setting and it’s fun to get together and see each other’s families and just enjoy being together.”
Carolann Bergeson, C2 Tactical Indoor Shooting Range
Carolann Bergeson is co-owner of Caswells and C2 Tactical Shooting Range, which recently opened in Tempe. She has volunteered for the Leukemia Foundation, Habitat for Humanity, and has sponsored Red, White and Boom. Bergeson had the opportunity to implement grant funding in 2012 from the national Shooting Sports Foundation for a female specific program, Women of Steel, she created to cater to female shooting classes.
Bergeson first became interested in shooting as a hobby but her business experience was invaluable when she, her husband, and business partners purchased Caswells Shooting Range in Mesa. Bergeson said it was obvious when they took over Caswells that there was a need to expand so they opened C2 Tactical in March of 2013.“Her personal mission is to have the very best relationship with her staff,” said a statement from the chamber. “She is personally involved as an owner, caring about the people she works with and the effect she has on everyone around her and the decisions she makes.”
Dr. Rashmi Bhatnagar, D.M.D., Bella Vista Dental
Dr. Rashmi Bhatnagar has been in business for more than 13 years. She’s a member of the Arizona Dental Association, American Dental Association, Academy of General Dentistry, Foothills Study Club, and the Spear Study Club. She is also a member of the Crown Council and Multiple Moms Mingle. Bhatnagar is a sponsor of the Festival of Lights, the Desert Vista Marching Band, the Kiwanis Spring Fling, and Red, White, and Boom.
She has said what makes her successful is her passion for what she does and her obsession to get each smile the best it can be. More than 1,500 families call Bhatnagar their dentist and she was voted “Best Dentist” in the Ahwatukee Foothills News Best of 2010.
Bhatnagar graduated from the University of Pittsburgh, School of Dental Medicine in 2000 and continued a year-long training in an intensive residency program at Albert Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia. She remained in hospital dentistry, treating medically and mentally compromised patients at Special Smiles, Episcopal Hospital and Temple University. Bhatnagar said her love for treating compromised patients was her inspiration to complete a master’s degree in public health from the University of Pittsburgh.
Andrea Chisolm, Amazing Dental Care
Andrea Chisolm is the owner if Amazing Dental Care, a dental office in Baja California, Mexico. She has been a member of the United States Air Force Academy’s (USAFA) parents association, a volunteer for the Community Alliance Against Family Abuse, participated in fundraisers for the Air Force Families Assistance Fund, and is a member of the Ahwatukee Kiwanis Club.
“The secret to my success in business is doing what I say I am going to do, no matter the obstacles,” she said. “Fulfilling your commitments increases your credibility and creates trust in yourself and others. Supervising a business team by offering them structure, meaningful and constructive feedback, and opportunity motivates them to aspire to do their personal best. Our core values include creating a work culture that positively shapes the lives of our employees, creates value for our clients, remaining technologically competitive, and recognizing the importance of customer service and strategic focus.”
Chisolm has owned and operated several small businesses in the U.S. since 1986, including a Baskin Robbins and a recreational vehicle sales and service dealership.
“I am amazed and humbled to have been nominated alongside these talented business women,” she said. “Women in business are trailblazers, breaking down barriers and paving the way for future women to succeed in business. Women entrepreneurs create incredible things and I am very fortunate to be recognized in this way. The nominees for this distinguished award are making important contributions to our local economy, creating jobs and building thriving businesses. I am excited about our future.”
Katherine Christensen, Kate & Co., SOHO63, KCA
Katherine Christensen is the owner and founder of Katherine Christensen & Associates, Inc., Allied PRA, Kate & Company and SoHo63. Christensen led the effort to create and chair the Ahwatukee Chamber Community Foundation Scholarship Fund. She has served on the board of directors for ITS Arizona, WTS-Arizona, the Boys and Girl Clubs of Tempe, and the Ahwatukee Foothills Chamber of Commerce. She has silently donated to numerous local charities, including the Red, White and Boom Fireworks Fund and Relay for Life. Christensen has also mentored Arizona State University interns.
“The secret to my success lied undeniably with my family and my team of employees,” she said. “My family, as they have always given me the support needed to keep the fire burning at both ends and my team as they are incredible at what they do. While I am responsible for the atmosphere, they bring the life to the programs and projects that we are grateful to have. A wise woman once told me, ‘Hire well, pay well, and get out of their way.’ I try to live by this creed.”
Christensen’s multi-million-dollar enterprises employ 25 people. She has more than 20 years experience in public relations, meeting and association management, media relations, and internal and external communications. Her public relations program has been honored with a Gold Award from the American Resort Development Association.
“I am humbled to know that people that surround you respect you and what you do, see what and how you contribute and how it impacts the employees, the office culture, the neighbors and the community at large. The Palo Verde Award is the most prestigious award in our community, to be among the awesome finalist is an award in and of itself.”
Nancy Dudenhoefer, Kyrene School District
Nancy Dudenhoefer is the community relations manager for the Kyrene School District. She is the president of the Arizona School PR Association, has served on the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl Committee, Big Brothers/Big Sisters Marketing Committee, and was a founding member of Hispanic 50/50. In Ahwatukee, Dudenhoefer has been active with the Festival of Lights, AZ All Stars Cheer Boosters, and YMCA Marketing Committee. She is currently a Kyrene Foundation board member and sits on the Ahwatukee Chamber Public Policy Committee.
Dudenhoefer has had a successful career for more than 20 years in television promotion and in the media field.
“I’ve been involved with the Ahwatukee chamber for over 10 years and during that time have seen members blossom and grow their businesses because of the support of chamber staff and fellow members,” she said. “The Palo Verde Awards are another program that provides a platform for reinforcing all that is positive about our community. While I’m thankful to be included in the 12 women honored this year, I know there are dozens more men and women who volunteer their time striving to make Ahwatukee a welcoming and diverse place to raise a family, attend school, and do business.”
Abby Green, Arbonne International
Abby Green is an independent consultant for Arbonne International. She has also served on countless chamber committees and has been an ambassador for years. She is active in the MOMS Club, which adopts many local charities for service projects throughout the year. This year, Green hosted a successful book drive for Phoenix Children’s Hospital and has made a commitment to begin their volunteer training program in January. She was also able to successfully apply for a grant through the Arbonne Charitable Foundation, which resulted in a $5,000 donation to the Ahwatukee Foothills Family YMCA.
Green spent 11 years as a flight attendant before joining Arbonne. She has been in the top 15 percent of Arbonne producers three times in the past five years.
“Looking back, it is obvious that I have always been attracted to jobs (careers) that gave me the opportunity to work with the public,” she said. “Meeting and serving new people gives me great satisfaction and pleasure. When I found Arbonne, it was the perfect combination of an excellent business with great products and a chance to help others succeed. I have learned to be a problem-solver with everyone I meet and introduce to Arbonne. Honestly, my true secret to success is keeping the focus off of me, and with a servant’s attitude developing and fostering meaningful relationships that are long lasting.”
Najia Haddock, Haddock Law Office, LLC, DreamStonz
Najia Haddock is the principal attorney and owner of Haddock Law Group and the artist behind DreamStonz, a web-based enterprise featuring unique, hand-crafted jewelry. She has been active with the Arizona State Bar, Arizona Employment Lawyers Association, Ahwatukee Foothills Family YMCA Board of Directors, Ahwatukee Foothills Chamber of Commerce, and Salvation Army’s Meals on Wheels. Haddock also selects a “Charity of the Month,” which receives a portion of DreamStonz proceeds each month.
“Whether it is practicing law or designing art jewelry for DreamStonz, I’d say there are two recommendations,” she said. “First, stay agile. Be open to change and innovation at every level of your business from marketing to workflow. In fact, seeking change keeps you thinking about ways to do things better. Second, stay true to your core principles. For me, those are integrity, compassion, best effort and balance. If I have to cut corners on any of these four values, the work isn’t worth doing”
Haddock earned a master’s degree in industrial organizational psychology at the age of 22 and started her career in insurance and banking for the world’s leading corporations. She received a full scholarship to law school and started a career in employment law, aiding both large and small companies in a broad range of industries.
Nicole McNeil, ELLA Studios
Nicole McNeil is the owner and operator of ELLA (Early Language Learning and Arts) Studios, a Spanish immersion preschool, which opened in August of 2013. McNeil serves as a consultant for Pearson, the international education corporation, and also volunteers as a mentor and coach to teachers and students. She has been on the board of directors of Los Diablos Alumni Association and serves on the Central Phoenix Council for First Things First. She is also a grant advisor to SCORE.
“There are no secrets to success,” McNeil said. “Success takes time and hard work. After 18 years in education, earning a PhD, consulting nationally, and serving on multiple community boards, I feel I have worked hard for others. Now I am excited to focus on my community. At ELLA Studio, I provide the best educational opportunities to the Ahwatukee community that I want for my own children, Ella and Michael. Bilingualism is more than a gift, at an early age it boosts brain power..”
McNeil is the first in her family to receive a college degree, according to a press release from the chamber. She has received numerous awards and scholarships, the most recent being selection by Valle del Sol and Univision as one of the 40 Hispanic Leaders under 40 in September 2013 and the ‘Los Diablos Horquilla Community Leadership Award, 2013.
“I am honored to be nominated for this award alongside other women who strive to provide Ahwatukee with the best services and opportunities,” McNeil said.
Andi Pettyjohn, Water Treatment Technologies, Inc
Andi Pettyjohn is co-founder of Water Treatment Technologies, Inc. She has been active in the Ahwatukee Kiwanis Club, where she currently serves as treasurer. She is also a site leader for Camp Wamatochick, a member of Connecting to Serve and Ahwatukee Community Network. She is the co-founder of the Ahwatukee Foster Care Advocacy Group, a mentor to foster youth, a “mom” to nine foreign exchange students and was a hospice volunteer for 10 years, serving in the State Hospice & Palliative Care Organization board for two years.
“It’s an honor to be nominated for the Palo Verde Award,” Pettyjohn said. “I don’t do what I do because of the recognition I might receive, but it’s great to be recognized along with all these awesome women.”
She said the secret to success in business is simply treating others the way you would like to be treated. Pettyjohn has worked in a hospital admitting office, as a tax preparer, bookkeeper, in grain exchange, and at Coca-Cola. She and her husband started Water Treatment Technologies in 1992, and Pettyjohn said she has no plans to retire because of the joy she gets from her customers and employees.
Janet Schwab, Elements Therapeutic Massage
Janet Schwab is co-owner of Elements Therapeutic Massage in Chandler. She also serves as the current chair of the Women in Business Committee. Schwab mentors new Elements owners and business owners and as a former teacher, works to educate the community on the benefits of massage.
“I credit Elements’ success to our commitment to provide a consistent client experience,” Schwab said. “At Elements, we work together from the first phone call through to the rebook and goodbye to ensure our clients’ well-being as our focus. I’m very proud of our staff retention — some team members have been with us since we opened two and a half years ago, and we work to be the employer of choice. Personally, I am passionate about educating the community on the benefits of massage for their health and wellness”
Schwab said she is proud of the growth she has seen in the chamber’s Women in Business programs and events, and the friendships she has gained from being a part of it. Schwab was named Volunteer of the Year by the chamber in 2013. Elements Therapeutic Massage was also nominated for the New Business of the Year award by the chamber in 2013.
“This is the first time I have been nominated for the Palo Verde Award and it is quite an honor,” Schwab said. “I believe in the work the Ahwatukee Foothills Chamber of Commerce does to support and promote local business, and am very proud and honored by the nomination.”
Georgiann Serpe, K-Bella Salon & Spa
Georgiann Serpe is owner of K-Bella Salon and Spa. She has volunteered her time at her kids’ school literacy programs, art programs. and any and all PTO functions and fundraisers that required assistance. Serpe said she fell into owning her own business and was leery of it at first but is proud of the fact that with no prior experience in the Hair Salon field, she was able to take a salon that had not been profitable in many years and turn it around in less than one quarter.
“I am brand new to being an entrepreneur,” Serpe said. “I just took over a year ago. I can honestly say that being brand new to business ownership, the secret has just been being very sincere and genuine to all of my customers that enter and making sure that their experience is one that is pampering and fun and relaxing. Just truly being cognoscente of the guests’ needs and wants and meeting them and making sure they know they’re No. 1.”
Serpe and her husband have owned many businesses throughout the years, including a retail jewelry store, used car dealership and finance company. She has written professionally for Hubpages.com, Examiner.com and A2Z Magazine. Serpe said this business was the most unexpected and owning it has been a life-changing experience.
“It’s an honor to be nominated,” she said. “I was actually surprised. I didn’t feel like I was worthy or accomplished enough to be in the running. I was assured by my peers and husband and children that I did in fact deserve to be nominated. That was sweet. It’s an honor.”
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