By: Evelyn McNeal, Jasmyn Brunson and Katie Murawski

In honor of Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day on March 8, we decided to highlight all the “wonder women” living in the Triad, who either own their businesses or are in leadership positions.

Joy Nelson Thomas is the executive director and founder of LEAD Girls of NC, Inc. Learning Everyday Accomplishing Dreams was founded in 2015 as a nonprofit organization created to help at-risk preteen girls living in Winston-Salem.

LEAD is dedicated to providing the tools and resources that low-income, at-risk preteen girls must have to become productive citizens and active leaders in the community. Using an evidence-based curriculum, LEAD encourages and mentors girls to aspire and achieve greatness academically, emotionally and creatively.

Everything that the girls engage in at LEAD is research-based. Thomas said that “ numbers don’t lie,” and their research-based peer support groups work. Partnered with priority schools in Forsyth County, the program is a proven success with more than 300 girls already completing LEAD Girls training. She said another 120 will complete the program in the 2018-2019 school year.

She believes that “together we’re stronger, and it’s important to be a woman of your word.” As the founder of LEAD, she is passionate about helping young girls in their developing stages.

For more information about LEAD Girls of NC, visit the website.

Viki Glaze is the owner of Viki Glaze Accessories based in Winston-Salem. She is originally from Venezuela and is new to the Triad. Supported by a strong group of “Fearless Women,” she has created an amazing brand of accessories.

Glaze began working with her hands making hair accessories at the age of 5. She said that since moving to Winston-Salem with her family, business has been booming. Each piece is unique, and 100 percent made by hand. Her designs are inspired by beauty, kindness and strength. Glaze said that VGA is designed for confident and free women that are not afraid to be themselves and show it to the world.

Viki believes in “ women supporting women. And the power we have when we work together.” For more information and to purchase accessories visit her website and follow her Instagram page @vikiglaze.

Eva Ogden is the senior vice president of Pinnacle Financial Partners, located at 207 E. Main St. in Jamestown. Their mission is to be the best financial services firm and the best place to work in the Southwest. “Pinnacle Finance focuses on business owners, building support for them,” Ogden said.  

She was also the president of the Jamestown Association from 2017-2018.

Ogden is responsible for business development, and deposit and loan growth of consumer and small business portfolios at Pinnacle. She also manages the daily office operations including hiring, training, coaching and supervision of associates.

Ogden teaches Pinnacle Mastermind classes for small business owners and is also the co-chair with Women in Motion leadership committee of High Point.

 Women in Motion is a volunteer-led initiative that enables women to combine their charitable donations and provides significant grants focused on the critical needs of women, children and families living in the greater High Point community.

Ogden said racial equality and social rights inspire her. Being a member of the Latina community, she said social justice is her passion and that giving back and helping others keeps her going.

“Having mentors is the key to being a leader,” she said of advice she has for women in leadership positions.

For more information about Women in Motion visit the website.

Monica and Ann Lawson are the mother-daughter duo who own and operate Sweetbuns Bakery, located at 116-C E. Main St., in Jamestown.  Sweetbuns is new to the area and has been open for about three weeks.

Monica Lawson has always enjoyed baking desserts. She said she specializes in various occasion cakes, cupcakes, cheesecakes, cinnamon rolls, doughnuts, and more. She said serving tasty desserts for her family and friends out of home became too hectic. With the help of her mother Ann, the two have successfully opened a storefront.

For information visit their Facebook page Sweetbuns or contact them via email @sweetbunsbakedgoods, via telephone at (336) 781-3019 or stop by the store.

Jennifer Ruppe is the executive director of the Guilford Green Foundation, located at 1205 W. Bessemer Ave. Ste 226 in Greensboro. The Guilford Green Foundation strives to build a united, thriving community in the greater Greensboro area.

The Foundation focuses on members of the LGBTQ community by providing financial support for nonprofits and by hosting programs and initiatives.

Ruppe said that she identifies with the LGBTQ community and is passionate about helping others. Anyone is welcome to stop by the center for support or any questions or concerns. As the executive director, she said she faces the same discriminations as other nonprofit organizations, but that doesn’t stop her.

Her advice for other women who would like to have their own business or nonprofit organization is to “ claim your space, do not try to fit into the norms and let your voice be heard.”

For more information on the Guilford Green Foundation visit their website or stop by.

Samantha Foxx is a mother, certified urban farmer, and owner of a cosmetics company called iviviiv, which highlights African American women.

Foxx said she was named 2018 Minority Farmer of the Year by Minority Landowners Magazine. As an urban farmer, she sells her produce at farmers markets and has products in seven different local stores. Some of her more well-known products include the Jamaican Scotch Bonnet peppers, which is used as an infuser for Fool’s Gold Honey sold at Colony Urban Store in Winston-Salem and Mother’s Finest Elderberry syrup. Foxx said she hopes to bridge the gap with people and their food.

“A lot of people really don’t pay attention to where their food comes from anymore,” she said. “I really wanted to just be able to educate people about the importance of being involved farmers and supporting local farmers.”

Foxx said owning her own business and being an urban farmer is rewarding because she is getting to do what she loves, but it is not always easy. A downside of owning her own business is having to multitask and bearing all the responsibilities.

Her advice to women who want to start their own business is not to be ashamed of where they started, to believe in themselves and to have a clear mission.

“Know what you want to do and be confident,” Foxx said. “I really encourage people to be confident in themselves.”

For more information about Samantha Foxx, visit her website.

Shereen Gomaa moved from Egypt to the Triad in the early 2000s and started her nonprofit Delicious by Shereen, “to help the refugee women of our community to use their skills of cooking to earn money and provide for their family.”

Delicious by Shereen is a catering service that emphasizes authentic Egyptian and Middle Eastern cuisine.

Gomaa said that she has gotten a lot of support from the Winston-Salem community and being able to share her cuisine with others is a rewarding part of her job. But she said it isn’t easy having financial restrictions.

“We don’t have that much catering business,” she said. “For me, I love when we will be able to open a small place just for take away.” She said by having a storefront and more consistent business, the women she employs will have better economic stability.

“If you love what you are doing, you will be successful,” she said. “If there is a mission behind your food it will give you strength and make you unique, and differentiate you from others.”

Delicious by Shereen will be catering the Every Campus a Refuge event at Pugh Auditorium, 1834 Wake Forest Rd., at Wake Forest University on March 6 at 7:30 p.m. For more information about Delicious by Shereen, visit the website.

Mary Haglund is the founder of Mary’s Gourmet Diner and the creator of Mary’s Mavens Facebook group. She said she was not a professionally-trained chef and did not have a set business plan when she opened Mary’s Gourmet Diner, located at 723 N. Trade St. about 20 years ago.

“It all worked out, I mean there have been many tough times, but the hardest part–and why I started Mary’s Mavens–is because the South has a strong ‘good ol’ boy’ system and that was prevalent in the restaurant business.”

She said she was treated condescendingly when she first started and had to work twice as hard to get half as far as a man in the industry. She did not want another woman to go through feeling isolated with no support. Haglund said Mary’s Mavens is a free support group that meets once a month and is made up of over 1,700 members of female artists and entrepreneurs networking with each other in a safe environment.

“It is an exciting time to be a woman in Winston-Salem,” she said. “We have an unusually high percentage of female business owners, as far as per capita.”

Some advice Haglund has for women who want to start their own business is to write a mission statement, stick to their vision and “never see obstacles as stop signs.”

“I do not believe in the word failure,” she said. “Anything that might have been viewed as a failure, I viewed as a learning experience.”

Mary’s Gourmet Diner is open Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. and on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. and on Sundays from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.

Michelle Belanger is the singer and guitarist from the band Mystery Hillbillies, which plays vintage country, Western swing, rockabilly, boogie, and blues. She is also the owner of Jill of Many Trades carpentry business. Belanger wrote in an email that she has been a carpenter for 30 years and started Jill of Many Trades five years ago. “I love helping people make their homes more practical and beautiful,” she wrote.

Belanger loves owning her own business because of her varied schedule and because she loves busting stereotypes.

“When people ask what I do, they don’t expect to hear, ‘I’m a carpenter who also plays rockabilly guitar,’” she wrote.

Her advice to women interested in starting their own business in a predominately male-dominated field is to develop skills, build relationships, keep learning, network, stand their ground, trust themselves, don’t try to please everyone and “be good to people, including yourself.”

“If you work hard and create a business that is built around being your best self, you will have no competition,” she wrote. “No one can be a better you than you. This idea has served me well over many years.”

Belanger said Mystery Hillbillies would be playing at Prissy Polly’s in Kernersville on March 21 and Earl’s in Winston-Salem on April 19. For more information about Jill of Many Trades, visit the website and Facebook page.

Kandi Villano is the co-owner and CEO of Computer and Technology Solutions. CATS has been in Winston-Salem for 14 years, and Villano wrote in an email that she has been in the IT field in Winston-Salem for over 20 years.

Villano is also the vice president of the year-round Pride Winston-Salem and has actively volunteered with the nonprofit for six years. She said she enjoys being self-employed because she has more control in the direction her company is going. However, she said being a female business owner in a male-dominated field has been frustrating at times.

“We have had ‘WOW’ moments when people realize that we are women in this field,” she wrote. “We have had many that were thrilled and thought it was cool and then we have had people who doubted what we know because we were female, and subsequently either lose a bid or had to prove what we knew.”

Her advice for women looking to be their own boss is to be willing to put in the time and effort, adapt to customers, have determination, and not let working in a male-dominated field “back you off.”

Villano said she runs a weekly referral group called, “The Best Damn Referral Group,” that meets at Footnote Coffee & Cocktails in Winston-Salem every Friday. For more information about CATS, visit the website.

Abby Catoe is native to Winston-Salem but lives on her farm in East Bend. Catoe owns her own landscaping company and the new thrift shop Annie’s Hope, located at 5365-B Reynolda Rd., Winson-Salem. She wrote in an email that she grew up in a home of domestic violence “and married into it as well.” She went to Divinity School in 2015 and started Annie’s Hope Center for Growing and Healing, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that, “seeks to provide safe housing and resources for women survivors of domestic violence.”

Catoe wrote that other than the benefits from the Women’s Business Enterprise designation of contracts, she gets the satisfaction of knowing that she “stands out from the crowd.” On the other side of it, she has not been taken seriously.

As for advice she has for women who want to own a business one day, she wrote, “One must be very disciplined and focused to manage a business enterprise. It takes great dedication and a constant drive for success. I don’t mean financial success; just succeeding in keeping the business alive.”

Catoe wants women (stay-at-home moms, CEOS, civil servants, etc.) to remember that they offer strength and talent to the world, and are capable of doing anything their male-counterparts can do.

“Also, in this time of #timesup and #metoo, we women need to be vigilant about not allowing any misogynistic behaviors from men and even other women to influence our actions.”

Annie’s Hope is open Monday-Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

DeUnna Hendrix is the head coach for women’s basketball at High Point University. Hendrix started as an assistant coach and moved up to head coach position seven years ago. Hendrix said being a head coach is not just leading practices and games; she said she also has to help with marketing, budgeting, and career development for her players.

“If you are looking for hardships if you are looking for challenges and adversity you are going to find it,” she said of her job. “But I also think on the flip side, if you are looking for opportunities and the good, you are going to find it as well.”

Hendrix said her position of power is significant because representation matters in a sport like basketball, where the majority of players are black women. She said she takes pride and ownership of being the head coach because she can empathize with her players and know what they are going through. That, for her, is a rewarding part of being the head coach. Hendrix said that women aspiring to be in a leadership position should be themselves and be true to who they are.

“Don’t put limits on yourself; everyone is so quick to put limits on you for you,” she said. “Walk around and truly feel like you are limitless and have no boundaries.”

The last home game for the women’s basketball team is against UNC Asheville on March 6 at 7 p.m.

Tu Sen is the owner of 98 Asian Bistro, located at 1800 N Main St #106 in High Point and was named 2016’s Business Woman of the Year from the High Point Chamber of Commerce. Sen has worked in the restaurant industry since she was 16. She said she always dreamed of owning her restaurant, but she knew it wasn’t going to be easy. She said that women go through a lot daily and she wanted to create a restaurant with women in mind.

“I wanted to create a restaurant for women to come in and relax, and feel beautiful,” she said.

Sen said convincing people to believe in her is not easy, but she has been very lucky in High Point.

“I think the number one thing you don’t want to tell a woman with a drive is ‘no,’” she said. “We will always push ourselves harder to do it, and that is why it has gotten me this far.”

Sen said education is key for those wanting to own their own business and some advice she would give other women looking to start their own venture is to work for what they want, not give up and to believe in themselves.

“Be a good listener; there are many people out there that give good advice,” she said. “For a young lady, you have so much opportunity out there whether it is school or your community. You have a lot of great people to reach out. What we have now is a lot better than what we had 10 years ago.”

Sen said 98 Asian Bistro has expanded and she hopes to have her new events center open for the Furniture Market in April. 98 Asian Bistro is open Tuesday-Thursday from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. and from 5 to 9:30 p.m., Friday from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. and from 5 to 10 p.m., and on Saturday from 5 to 10 p.m.

Katie Marshall is a trainer, speaker and coach based in Greensboro who specializes in presentation skill and communication strategy. Her business is called Creative Machine Consulting, and she works with people on how to communicate to make an impact. When Marshall is not consulting, she also trains and teaches martial arts.  Marshall said the community of other female entrepreneurs and spaces such as Co-Lab, Synergy and HQ making owning her business rewarding. Marshall said she has struggled to be taken seriously or underestimated because she is 29 years old.

“Usually the initial reaction is that, ‘oh she doesn’t know what she is doing because she is younger,’” she said. “And then I get to jump above that expectation bar and show that I do, in fact, know what I am doing.”

As for her advice to other women wanting to start their own business, she said to reflect on what is already bringing them joy in life and figure out how to do what is making them happy more often.

“You have probably been starting the thing you want to be doing; you have touched it a few times,” she said. “Think about what you are doing, what you love and do more of that.”

For more information, visit the website.

Kimberly Loney works full-time as a director of human resources at ACS Benefit Services in Winston-Salem and owns her own business, G54 Painting and Interiors. Loney said that as a business owner, she has noticed that when she negotiates pay rates, the workers say things like “can I discuss this with your husband or the lead painter?”

“I really did not expect that still, it surprises me each time,” Loney said.

She said working full time and owning a business is challenging, but the key to her success is being realistic with her customers and herself. She said something that has been positive about owning her own business is “the unexpected makes me stand out.” She also said having the support and camaraderie of other women-owned businesses is amazing and helps build a community that supports each other.

“Be wise and keep things simple,” she said of advice she would give other women. “Don’t be overwhelmed, don’t be moved by the bells and whistles, keep your business model simple, keep your business cards simple, keep your revenue stream simple until you start to build the grit that is necessary.”

For more information, visit the website.

Shalisha Morgan is the owner/ founder of The Geek In Heels, LLC, located inside of Hanes Mall at 3320 Silas Creek Pkwy in Winston-Salem. Her passion for technology and IT began when she was 7 years old. She started her business as a side hustle in Kansas City in 2013 and in 2015, she relaunched Geek In Heels in Winston-Salem.   

One of the most challenging aspects of owning her own business is that men don’t usually want her to be there. If they don’t want her there, she said, they need to do something about it, which is something they will never be able to do. Her advice to women that are thinking about starting their own business is to “ turn off the internal nay-sayer that you have in your mind. That is a built-in mechanism to protect you, but also it will keep you from doing what will allow you to be great.”

“You have to do what’s best for you,” Morgan said. “If you listen to other people you will be living their dreams instead of your own.”

The Geek in Heels, LLC, is open Monday-Saturday  9 a.m. until 9 p.m. and Sunday, noon until 6 p.m. For more information, go to or call (336) 794-6762.

Kristen Williams is the owner and director of K10Yoga, RYS500 which is a nonprofit located at 469 West End Blvd. in Winston-Salem. Her mission is to create conditions so that everyone will have access to yoga regardless of their socioeconomic status. All of her in-class and online yoga classes are under $10. She also offers yoga teacher training classes for those who are ready to start their own yoga studio.

Some challenges she has is that some days it’s “hard and messy.” But once she sees the reactions from her clients, that’s what continues to push her drive to keep going.

Advice that she gives to women that are thinking about starting their own business is to “ listen to your instincts to pause and listen.”

  “As long as you feel brave, safe and courageous in anything to move through the things of life,” Williams said. “Also, know that you are supported, loved and enough to do whatever your dreams are or whatever you want to do on the mat or out in life.”

K10 yoga is open Monday-Wednesday from 10 a.m to 6:30 p.m. For class bookings and more information, go to or call (336) 893-4220.

By day  Lana Skrypnyk is a Communications Specialist for the City of Greensboro, but by the evening and on weekends she runs her own “start-up passion project” Healing Vibes by Lana,  which is an inclusive, body-positive, trauma-informed, mental health-focused,  LGBTQ+ affirming sliding-scale, community-based yoga practice.

Skrypnyk wrote in an email that she doesn’t think of herself as a business owner, as she is not out to make a profit. She said she is just sharing something she is passionate about and that brought her a lot of physical and mental health benefits with others who may need to find healing in accessible ways. 

Her advice to women is “don’t give up. You matter. You are worthy of all the best things in life, and your journey is just starting,” Skrypnyk wrote. “Make your relationship with yourself a priority. Nourish your relationship with yourself, then extend that love, compassion, etc. to others, and watch your love flourish.” 

To learn more about  Healing Vibes by Lana or to find a class near you, visit the website also follow on social media @healingvibesbyLana.

Shayla Herndon-Edmunds is the owner of Oh My Goodness Wellness Bar located at 2724 Henning Dr. in Winston-Salem, which she describes as a “boutique wellness shop” that focuses on reducing stress and taking care of others’ skin. She started this natural product line four years ago after her oldest child was diagnosed with eczema. She said she started making products that cater to his skin and to those that have sensitive skin.

A challenge that she faces in her field is not being taken seriously. She said that it has also has been very affirming helping others with their lives, whether if that is distressing or figuring out their next steps for the future. Her advice to women who want to own their own business is to “ go for it!” She also recommends taking classes or workshops in the field they are pursuing.

“Do not be afraid to say you need help,” she said. Her motto is “superwoman will save everyone but you.” For more information and to book appointments and shop for products, visit the website.

Iris Sunshine is a lawyer and executive director of the Children’s Law Center of Central North Carolina. This nonprofit organization’s mission is to provide children with quality legal advocacy, which is focused on domestic violence issues. The center’s concern is “what is always in the best interest for the children.” Sunshine said the most challenging part about this field is the “work and life balance.”

The advice she gives to women seeking law degrees is to take time to evaluate why they want to be a lawyer and also what their goals are.

“Follow your passion,” she said. “Pursue those passions and work really hard to learn as much as you can about that area. Wherever your career path takes you, it will prepare you for the next step.”

Children’s Law Center of Central NC is open Monday-Friday 9 a.m to 5 p.m.  For more information visit the website or call  (336) 831-1909

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