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women in business

2015 plus


WOMEN in our community extraordinary I empowering I inspiring BrouGht to you By

luncheon SPonSor

SPeaker co-SPonSoreD By


the editor EXCEPTIONAL


S tep boldly into your next chapter As a young woman just starting my professional career, I entered the workforce with the mindset that I could achieve anything. Every day, I put on my suit and heels and headed to the office of the oil and gas company where I worked as an analyst. I was a good analyst — and a good employee. And the company treated me well. So imagine my dismay when one day the president announced that the financial backers of the company had decided to divest their interest and sell off the assets. The upshot was that we would all be out of a job. This was my first experience of being on the receiving end of a decision in which I had no input, yet it would significantly impact my life. The thing was, it wasn’t about money — the oil and gas firm was making a lot of money. The investors simply wanted to cash in on their investment and buy in to something else. The experience taught me two important things. First, never get comfortable. Second, I could wallow in self-pity and curse at “the man,” or I could stand tall and walk boldly into the next chapter of my life. I stood and walked.

Woman up

Looking back, getting laid off was one of the best things that ever happened to me. Had I not been let go, I would likely never have gone to graduate school,

never have had the fabulous variety of jobs that dot my resume and never grown the breadth of professional relationships that I enjoy today. Instead, I probably would have remained quite content to stay at my desk enjoying a comfortable, albeit staid, career. I don’t want to suggest that the path I followed was necessarily easy — it wasn’t. But through the twists and turns and sometimes teeth-grinding inertia, I learned to trust my instincts and to be willing to take bold leaps. Those lessons have paid off.

Own your life

None of us are immune from dealing with situations that are out of our control. Especially women, who already struggle to find work/life balance even when things are running smoothly. Throw a wrench into the works, and it can feel like a train wreck. One of the things I have learned to do is to visualize my life like chapters in a book. Some of the chapters are complete — like going to college and having a young family. But others haven’t yet been written. Now when a situation occurs in which I have no control but I know it will impact my life, I don’t panic and I don’t knee-jerk. Instead, I ask myself “How do I want this next chapter to play out?” Because I have choices, and so do you. Take a moment to reflect on your own life — what chapter are you in? Do you like where the plot is taking you? If the answer is “no,” take the time to draft a new path, then stand tall and walk boldly in that direction. Take it from someone who’s been there: You don’t have to know exactly how the chapter will end, only that it was written by you to serve your highest good. Allyn Hulteng Billings Business general manager

in our community

Women in Business 2015 is produced by the staff of Billings Business, a specialty publication of Billings Gazette Communications mike gulledge tom howard COPY EDITOR chris jorgensen GENERAL MANAGER allyn hulteng PUBLISHER




dave worstell ryan brosseau RETAIL Sales manager shelli scott ADVERTISING Sales karen anderson ADVERTISING Sales milt lang ADVERTISING Sales arcadea scott advertising Coordinator linsay foley

Sales & Marketing Director Major accounts, classified, digital sales director


designer creative director

alyssa small bob tambo

SUBSCRIPTIOnS Billings Business is mailed each month to area business owners, managers and decision makers. To subscribe for $19.95 per year, please send payment, name, business name, mailing address and phone number to: Billings Business 401 North Broadway Billings, MT 59101 Advertising For retail advertising call Karen Anderson, 657-1492; Cherlyn Milner, 657-1344; or Arcadea Scott, 657-1244. For classified advertising, call 657-1212. Advertising deadline for the June 2015 issue is 5 p.m. Tuesday, May 5. You may send material to or FAX to 657-1538. News If you would like to submit a news tip, story idea, announcement about your business or press release, please e-mail it to: website: Information published herein does not reflect the opinion of Billings Business. Contents are the property of Billings Business.


I September 2015


Introducing 20 exceptional women Vicki Andre..................................10 Kasey Austin................................11 Carol Beam..................................12 Virginia Bryan..............................12 Lucinda Butler..............................13 Mary Carpenter.............................13 Brenda Doherty.............................14 Heidi Duncan................................14 Katie Ellis....................................15 Marilyn Floberg............................16

Julie Gates..................................16 Jana Graham................................17 Deb Mattern.................................18 Glenda McCarthy..........................18 Marilynn Miller.............................19 Sara Neff.....................................20 Jamie Pearson..............................21 Cara Schaer.................................21 Laura Sorenson.............................22 Sandy Wong.................................23

Also inside Get to know Suzanne Braun Levine.................................................................4 Levine will be the keynote speaker at the Inaugural Exceptional Women Luncheon

Why women sabotage one another — and how to foster vibrant collaboration.........6 Column by life coach Jennifer A. Williams

Working women are finding new paths............................................................8 Shattering the glass ceiling.........................................................................9

Save the Date!

Plan now to attend the luncheon event featuring Suzanne Braun Levine, nationally recognized authority on women, families and changing gender roles.

Inaugural Exceptional Women Luncheon Thursday, Sept. 17, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Location: Mary Alice Fortin Center, 2800 10th Ave. N.


Individual tickets: $15 Tables of eight: $120


in our community

For information and to order tickets, call Teresa Cox at 657-1443 or email Space is limited EMPOWERING


Reserve your seat today


Sponsored by Billings Clinic



September 2015




Suzanne Braun Levine

1st Annual

Exceptional Women Luncheon Honoring 20 Women in our Community Featuring

SUZAnnEBrAUnLEVInE Keynote Speaker

“YOU GOTTA hAVE GIrLFrIEnDS!” WhEn: 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. Thursday, September 17, 2015 WhErE: Mary Alice Fortin Health Conference Center at Billings Clinic InDIvIDUAl TICKET: $15 TABlES Of 8: $120

For information and to order tickets, call Teresa Cox 657-1443 or email

By Interview by Allyn Hulteng EXCEPTIONAL

WOMEN in our community

Suzanne Braun Levine is a writer, editor and lecturer on women, families and changing gender roles.the first editor of Ms. magazine, she is the author of two e-books Can Men Have it All? and You Gotta Have Girlfriends, which continues the conversations she began with her popular books Inventing the Rest of Our Lives, 50 Is the New Fifty and How We Love Now. She is a contributor to MORE magazine and blogs for AARP, Huff/Post50,, and others. She is on the Board of, the ms. Foundation for Education and communication, inc., on the Advisory Board for theWomen’s media center andthetransition network. She was editor-in-chief of the 30th anniversary issue of Ms. and in 2004, was honored as a Ms. Woman of theyear. She is featured in“mAKErS:WomenWho make America,” an ongoing AoL and PBS video project. She was a featured presenter attEDxWomen in 2011. She graduated with honors from Harvard university and has taught journalism at several universities. Suzanne lives in newyork with her husband, attorney robert F. Levine. they have two adult children.

Space is limited – reserve your seat today! LunCHeon SponSored By


I September 2015

SpeAKer CoSponSored By

Get to know

BrouGHT To you By

We are thrilled to introduce Suzanne Braun Levine, writer, editor and authority on women, families and changing gender roles, as the keynote speaker at the Inaugural Exceptional Women Luncheon. Levine’s presentation “You Gotta Have Girlfriends!” explores the realm of female relationships, and how friendships are not only powerful — they are essential in defining who we are now and who we wish to become. In a recent interview, Levine shared some of her thoughts regarding the state of women — and families — today. From 1972 — 1988, you were the first editor of Ms. Magazine. Since then, you’ve witnessed a great deal of social change. What do you see as some of the more difficult issues emerging for women today vs. then? I think a lot of today’s issues are outgrowth of the issues we had then. Some are more subtle, while others have gotten more intense. Take for example the notion of finding a way to balance family life with work life. In the 70s that was a woman’s issue. Now it applies to mothers and fathers, both of whom struggle to balance time spent with their children with workplace demands. Another area is our contempt for aging. There continues to be real pressure to look young and even lie about your age. A 50-yearold woman who loses her job really is out of the market in many respects. Ageism combined with the fact we’re living longer means there are more years in which to be subjected to disrespect for getting older. On the other hand, there have also been triumphs. In 1973, Title IX mandated equal opportunities for men and women in federally funded education. The big revolution came in women’s sports. The fact that the US women’s soccer team triumphed in the world cup this year was just one more glorious accomplishment arising out of that law. Girls started to play soccer in 1973 — and here we are today. It’s a clear, brave line from exclusion to triumph. In a 2009 interview with The Guardian, you talk about the “endlessly circular debate about work/life balance.” At the time, the world was in a recession, and you observed more out-of-work men becoming increasingly involved with the family. Six years later in the post-reces-

Courtesy photo

Suzanne Braun Levine

sion world, is this trend continuing? Yes and no. The more involved men are with their children and experience the intimacy of family life, the more they want to experience it. And as more children grow up in families like that, the more we produce men with nurturing qualities. The problem is the workplace and economy has hardly budged an inch. In the U.S. we have family leave while the rest of the world has paid family leave. The expectation is still for the woman to take leave when she has a baby — not so much the man. And if a man does take the time he is entitled to he is often treated like some kind of wimp. In male culture, there remains a clear expectation that work is the most important thing in a man’s life. Also, work hours have not changed, and technology has made it worse. People are Billingsbusiness

available 24/7, so even if you’re at home playing softball with the kids, you’re really on call. The whole notion of opening the workplace to be responsive to needs of the family is the next frontier for sure. You’ve written several books, including the e-book, “You’ve Got to have Girlfriends: A Post-Fifty Posse is Good for your Health.” And you didn’t just write the book — you live it — having dinner with five girlfriends once a month for more than 20 years. Talk about what it is that makes female friendships so intimate and nurturing and powerful. First of all, never underestimate the power of laughter. One of the things we do — no matter what the circumstances — is sooner or later someone laughs. And trust — trust is a new experience. My mother was raised to mistrust other women. She was taught that at a moment’s notice another woman could swoop in and steal your man. When I was growing up, if I had plans with women friends and a man asked me out on a date for the same night, the male date trumped my girlfriends. My daughter would never dream of ditching girlfriends for a date. Our friendships with other women are very important relationships, and they get more important as we age. You have someone who’s got your back, who knows your annoying qualities and who will tell you the truth. Moreover, there are physiological changes that take place in the company of girlfriends. One is the release of the hormone oxytocin which makes you feel good and calm. Some studies suggest that one reason women live longer than men is because we get regular doses of this stress-reducing hormone. On just about any level you can imagine having girlfriends not only a plus — but a pre-

requisite to a good, successful and happy life. In your book “50 is the new Fifty” you share lessons for women who are in what you label their “Second Adulthood.” Talk about some of those lessons. Before age 50, women are so busy working and raising children they really can’t devote time to get to know themselves. As children grow more independent and women are less burdened by family issues and logistics, they begin to pay more attention to their own life. This is the beginning of the “Second Adulthood.” Make no mistake, the transition from the “First Adulthood” to the “Second Adulthood” is a very big deal — and it is not an overnight experience. In fact, it’s very much like the upheaval that takes place during adolescence. Physically, your hormones go crazy. Many women start asking themselves, “What will I do for the rest of my life?” and “Do I want to live this way for the next 30 years?” They also start questioning their relationships — it’s not of surprise that a lot of divorces are initiated by women at this age. This is a period of getting to make decisions based on your own consideration for perhaps the first time in your life. The whole notion of being able to say “no” to family, to the demands of society and of your employer — it’s so liberating. Margaret Meade calls this “post-menopausal zest,” referring to the feistiness that makes this period so much fun. It’s a great time in a woman’s life — you have another 25 years of good health, confidence and expertise during which you can reinvent yourself. How does the process of “reinvention” happen? At the beginning of this new phase of life, it’s not uncommon to feel very confused. I call

it the “fertile void.” But not knowing where you are going is actually a good thing. It’s a time to explore other aspects of your personality. Most women don’t change their lives very dramatically — they may make a big change, then a small change. This is where girlfriends come in. Women have so many questions and “what if’s?” It’s important to bounce these off your friends. You can’t close the door and re-think your reinvention alone. You may also find some of your lifelong friends don’t fit anymore into the experience you’re going through. Stepping back from these relationships is one of the sadder aspects of making these adjustments. It is also time to weed out toxic friends. But giving up old friendships opens the way to new ones that you need. It’s all part of the process of really figuring out what matters in terms of your values, expectations, friendships, personality, lifestyle — assessing and appreciating what’s important to you going forward. I’ve not met a single woman going through this transition who didn’t wake up one day and say, “I really don’t care what people think anymore — I’m finding wonderful new things about me.” That’s very powerful. What advice do you have for younger women? I want them to know that they don’t have to do everything all at once. Women in their “Second Adulthood” can be role models for younger women, showing that the things they don’t get to earlier in life are still available later on. You really aren’t going to outgrow the opportunities of your “First Adulthood” when you get to your “Second Adulthood.”

Anything else women should know? Yes. Activism is an important part of life. We talk about being a wife, a mother, an employee — but being an engaged citizen is right up there. While women have traditionally been the most active voters, young people are voting in smaller and smaller numbers. I hope in the next few years all women pay close attention to political issues. That means getting actively involved in politics. Speak out about issues, support candidates. These things can make a big difference. One of the things about being an older woman is that you speak up and don’t care what other people think. Suzanne Braun Levine is a writer, editor and lecturer on women, families and changing gender roles. The first editor of Ms. magazine, she is the author of two e-books “Can Men Have it All?” and “You Gotta Have Girlfriends,” which continues the conversations she began with her popular books “Inventing the Rest of Our Lives,” “50 Is the New Fifty” and “How We Love Now.” She is a contributor to MORE magazine and blogs for AARP, Huff/ Post50,, and others. She is on the Board of, the Ms. Foundation for Education and Communication Inc., on the Advisory Board for the Women’s Media Center and The Transition Network. She was editor-in-chief of the 30th anniversary issue of Ms. and in 2004, was honored as a Ms. Woman of the Year. She is featured in “MAKERS: Women Who Make America,” an ongoing AOL and PBS video project. She was a featured presenter at TEDxWomen in 2011. She graduated with honors from Harvard University and has taught journalism at several universities. Suzanne lives in New York with her husband, attorney Robert F. Levine. They have two adult children.

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September 2015



Why women sabotage one another By Jennifer A. Williams Nothing is more exciting and empowering than working with a group of women or playing on a dynamic team — until it’s not. Maybe one morning you walk into the break room and see a few women chatting. Just as you enter, one of them leans over and whispers something to the woman next to her. It seems like they’re talking about you. Your mind fills with a storm of chatter: “Is something wrong with my hair? Was I too outspoken in this morning’s meeting? Did they overhear my conversation with the CEO about downsizing?” Sirens go off and a neon sign flashes in your head: “SABOTAGE.” It’s a rare woman who hasn’t experienced something like this—a co-worker or friends talking about you, perhaps criticizing you, maybe avoiding you or closing ranks against you. It’s also a rare woman who hasn’t occasionally slipped into this kind of behavior herself, especially when stressed. Let’s examine in detail another scenario: A woman has her own business and so does one of her best friends from college, who lives in the same city. One day the friend’s business gets written up in the paper. The article quotes the friend as saying how thrilled she is to be doing what she loves and that her success is just icing on the cake. What she’s most grateful for is her supportive family — she couldn’t do it without them. A few days later a mutual acquaintance mentions the article to the first woman, who mutters, “Well, she always was a moneygrubber.” That night, her critical response comes back into her mind and she thinks, “Where in the heck did that come from?” And that’s the perfect question. Yes, women do sometimes act hurtfully toward other women. And yes, occasionally they may even move to sabotage their co-workers or friends — but the reason why is as varied as the number of women in the workplace. In the above situation, perhaps in reviewing her feelings about the newspaper article, this woman finds tears stinging her eyes because she’s exhausted, her family complains every time she has to work late and can’t cook dinner, and she’s not sure how to pay this month’s bills — none of which has anything to do with her friend’s success. (And she 6

I September 2015

— and how to foster vibrant collaboration own best advocates can we support and connect with others in healthy and loving ways. Successful collaboration depends on first being a good team player with yourself. Using our situation above as an example, let’s look at how women can transform these emotional hot potatoes and develop collaborative relationships.


Attend to self first Ask, “What am I feeling? In this scenario, the woman is feeling overwhelmed with financial pressure. She is sad that her family isn’t more supportive. She feels jealous and even a bit resentful toward her friend because her friend has exactly what she longs for: success, financial reward and support. “What are these feelings telling me that I need?” Obviously, this woman needs greater supCourtesy photo port. However, when women get stressed, they often take on more instead of less. And Jennifer A. Williams they don’t reach out for help when they need it most. Her successful friend might be the ideal person to ask for help. After all, her friend has already achieved the very things that she needs. “How would I like to feel?” with all those hot, colliding feelings. The knows perfectly well that her friend is no It’s great to pay attention to our emotions, key is holding the energy long enough to let moneygrubber.) but we also need to take responsibility for the emotions settle and insights surface. In Psychology Today, clinical psycholohow we want to feel. The woman in the sceUnfortunately, we often toss that potato full gist Lisa Firestone refers to “cattiness” as nario above wants to feel ease and abundance force without taking the time to attune to our an unhealthy way women act on healthy with finances. She wants to feel confident inner world. We not only deny ourselves trefeelings of competition. Whether we call and successful in her career, and she also unproductive behavior cattiness or sabotage, mendous understanding and growth, but we wants to feel love and appreciation from her whether it’s because we’re feeling competi- also limit collaboration in our lives and work. family, especially at a time when she’s off her If we practice and learn to pay attentive or inadequate, we’ve all experienced game. And now she has the clarity to go after tion to the wisdom of our emotions, we’ll these powerful emotions. We’ve all blurted exactly what she needs and wants. something out that we regret, or minimized discover some valuable things. What will Take appropriate action to change the someone’s idea because it wasn’t our own — you unearth? First, you’ll find areas in which way you feel. or perhaps withheld a helping hand because you need to grow and develop – a perfect In this situation, the woman could conopportunity to ask a colleague or friend to we were too overwhelmed ourselves. No sider how she might better support herself help. Second, you’ll get in touch with what is with enhanced self-care. She could also have matter what our experience, rest assured that it’s all a part of being human. Emotions truly important to you. Strong emotions of- a conversation with her husband about what ten highlight our deepest values. And third, he could say and do differently to support are just our way of processing our experiyou’ll have greater clarity to be able to take ence — pure and simple. What we do with her. She might go back to the woman she those emotions determines if we sabotage or effective action. made the snide remark to and come clean. What can we do with these hot potatoes support, compete or collaborate. She may need to celebrate her milestones of strong emotions when they come up? Feeling strong emotions can be very of success, so she doesn’t get discouraged. Here is a three-part formula to help you be uncomfortable. Remember the “Hot PoShe might reach out to her college friend, present and compassionate with your inner tato” game we played as kids? We toss the level with her about her struggles, and ask experiences, so you can in turn be kind and potato out to someone else as quickly as we how she achieved such great success. These authentic with others. Only when we are our forward-moving actions will support her can—because we don’t know what to do

“When one woman rises, we all rise. When women succeed, our businesses and communities thrive.”


growth and success, create stronger alliances, deepen her relationships and increase collaboration.

welcoming honest feedback from them. It may be uncomfortable, but this flow of valuable feedback helps us reach our full potential. Women are wired for nurturing and collabGive to others from a place of whole- orating. And yes, when the hot potato of strong ness. emotions lands in their lap, women can act When our cup is overflowing, giving out in nonproductive ways that create division comes naturally. instead of synergy. Let’s lift each other through Lasting collaboration and empowerment sharing our talents. Be attentive to opportuniis founded on every woman taking care of ties for supporting others. When one woman herself, being true to the values important to rises, we all rise. When women succeed, our her, and listening to the wisdom of her emo- businesses and communities thrive. tions. When we care for what is important to P.S. Competition is a good thing. Healthy us, the natural outcome is generous giving. competition keeps us awake, vibrant and From this place of wholeness, we are natustretching to be our best self and to give our rally caring and supportive, and the giving is best service or product. And don’t forget to agenda-free. turn sabotage to collaboration by taking care Now it’s time to ask: “How can I contrib- of you. ute to the greater good of all?” Jennifer Williams is passionate about her The woman in this scenario could send flowers to congratulate her friend. She might mission to create thriving families, organizations and communities. Her goal is to help make a commitment to herself to spotlight others’ successes, great and small. She could people connect and communicate authentically and honestly — and have fun doing it. After inspire others by sharing her insights and the keys to “hot potatoes.” She could mentor training executives from around the world on Caribbean cruises for a stint, Jennifer decided other women who are new to a business or to return to Montana and give back to her local who are less successful and share her gifts community. Her dream blossomed when she liberally, which in turn builds more confifounded Heartmanity in 2009 and opened the dence and hones her skills. 1,800-square-foot Heartmanity Center in Bozeman. She teaches emotional intelligence Hold each other (and yourself) accountable. and relationship fitness to couples and families, We all have unique strengths. The entrepreneurs and organizations. Williams still most powerful collaborations leverage inditravels, but she gives her best to Montana, along vidual strengths to energize teams. Let’s face it, with her husband of 38 years and three grown ladies, we each have strengths and areas need- children. Williams’ magic weapon of success in ing growth. A vital part of collaborative success her long-standing and thriving business is exdepends on sharing our gifts to help others actly what she teaches. Visit grow. This sometimes requires us to hold them for more information about coaching programs and training. accountable by giving honest feedback—and




people respect and trust what we say. However, avoiding difficult conversations or substituting shallow compliments for needed feedback prevents others from growing and limits innovation and collaboration. Your participation has influence. Choose to make a difference with your unique n Take care of yourself. Collaboration is only perspective. sustainable when all parties are responsible for n Focus on building quality, reciprocal their own needs. You can’t help anyone if you’re relationships. Women can often give too much to spent and exhausted. Strong business relationcompensate for another’s lack of engagement or ships and high performance begin and end with skill — and then resent it later. When others don’t taking care of yourself. Forget the old adage that reciprocate equally, the experience can become you should be selfless. No one can give from an problematic. Make sure that the collaboration is empty cup. equitable. You and they should be excited by each n Ask for help when you’re struggling. others’ value and contribution. Women love to help others but may resist asn Set goals and measure progress, perforsistance themselves. When we show that we’re not mance and success. Providing a form of measureinvincible, we can begin to be more realistic with ment is important when collaborating. A lack of our goals and how much we take on. Asking for measurement can result in misunderstandings help, finding a mentor or finding an accountability later when one or more persons feel that results partner is an important part of collaboration. We are inadequate. In the best-case scenario, partners don’t know what we don’t know, and we can’t do complement each other’s strengths and talents. things differently if we don’t know how. Ask for help before you get overwhelmed and discouraged. Define clearly what the parameters are in collaboration. Who will handle what? What are important n Ensure that there’s 100 percent commitment. Collaboration can go awry when two or more timelines for stages of a project or venture? Establish biweekly progress check-ins and milestones people agree to share and work together but are not fully engaged or committed. Make sure before you can celebrate together. n Build transparency into collaboration. you commit that you have the resources and the heart to put into the collaboration. If there are limi- Without effective communication and openness, collaboration can go sour. Establish regular tations, state these clearly upfront, and ask other team members to do the same. Consistent actions communication to allow for differing viewpoints, challenges and the best use of everyone’s talents. toward results and mutual benefits build trust. Make a no-putdown agreement to promote a n Don’t be nice; be authentic. Many times culture of safety, respect and honest sharing. women seek to please others or keep the peace rather than give honest and constructive feedback. Relationships are our greatest resource. Don’t be a lone ranger. Remember that it is vibrant, collaboraThey’re afraid of hurting others’ feelings or they tive relationships that create the greatest ingenuity, fear a negative reaction. When we are genuine in our work relationships and give valuable feedback, creativity and fun.

keys for successful collaboration

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September 2015



Working women are finding new paths Choosing a profession is, first and foremost, an expression of one’s personality. This choice should be made according to personal tastes and aptitudes; why blindly follow the beaten path if something else appeals to you? After all, you’ll spend a large part of your life in the workforce, so you’re much better off if you can live out your passions in your work. One way to put an end to job discrimination is to provide women with a range of career choices that allow for flexible working conditions and a way to reintegrate after having children. Making such changes may seem threatening, but that’s a normal reaction when entrenched attitudes are overturned. It is not so long ago that medicine and engineering were all-male preserves, where the “invasion” of women was derided. In their own ways and in their own eras, women such as Elizabeth Blackwell, Irma Levasseur, and Lucille Teasdale defied prejudice to practice medicine in more than just subordinate roles. These days, the healthcare system couldn’t do without women. Any progress is a step forward for women and enriches those sectors which welcome these intrepid heroines. And the traditionally femaledominated sectors are still well populated by women who want to make use of their desire to care for, educate, and help others. Changing the rules of the game was certainly overdue. There is no good reason why more women shouldn’t migrate towards mechanics, carpentry, forestry, military service, or road transportation. Every trade has its value, and everyone has their own likes and dislikes. It’s perfectly legitimate to want your livelihood to be a source of accomplishment, pride, and personal satisfaction.

Courtesy photo It’s a good guess that women working in non-traditional jobs were willing to follow their “inner voice.”


I September 2015


The goal is to see more women in management and decision-making jobs. Courtesy photo

Shattering the glass ceiling The “glass ceiling” expression appeared toward the end of the 1970s and refers to the obstacles that women must surmount in order to reach the higher levels of professional hierarchies. Even though women in the West are more highly educated and qualified than ever before, we are still quite far from the principle of equal work for equal pay. That is especially the case in other parts of the world. But we must not despair. We just have to look back at the progress made in Billingsbusiness

the last decades and redouble efforts to overcome the discrimination and stereotyping in the workplace that still cast a shadow over many women. We have to stop believing that only men can embody competitiveness, ambition, charisma, combativeness, power, and authority. We must see that women bring these qualities—and more—to the workplace in a different, equally effective way. We should look at how the glass ceiling hinders their progress and reinforces a

negative image of women. We should also ask ourselves if the glass ceiling is maintained by choice or unconsciously, and what we can do to change those attitudes. We should ask ourselves why it is that many women end up in careers with only modest prospects and salaries, out of range of management roles and decision-making posts. Too many companies remain insensitive to the inner conflict many working women live, especially those who are mothers and heads of single-parent fami-

lies. The solution is to move toward creating conditions that would help women reconcile their work-family responsibilities. Women should take heart that starting a family doesn’t necessarily mean that they have to sacrifice their other dreams. Rallying their partners and children to the quest for equality and power-sharing is certainly the best way to change attitudes and ensure that one day the glass ceiling is shattered. September 2015



Vicki Andre

Speech pathologist helps children communicate

Congratulations! Thank you for helping make Billings a better place to live and work. Vicki Andre Kasey Austin Carol Beam Virginia Bryan Cindy Butler Rhonda Byorth Brenda Doherty Heidi Duncan Katie Ellis Marilyn Floberg

Julie Gates Jana Graham Deb Mattern Glenda McCarthy Marilynn Miller Sara Neff Jamie Pearson Cara Schaer Laura Sorenson Sandy Wong

Speech pathologist Vicki Andre says one of the best parts of her job is seeing parents step up to the plate to help their kids. “I’m pretty passionate about working with parents and teaching them how to work with their children,” she said. “Something that’s so rewarding about my job is being able to leave a parent with information they can use to help their child between sessions.” Andre frequently makes home visits to check up on her young patients. She feels happy when parents notice improvement in their children’s language skills. “If I can empower parents and other professionals with information, that is ultimately going to help the child much more than just my time with the child,” said Andre, who works at the Speech and Language Ability Center. “It’s not just the magic I can do with the child, but what I leave parents with that helps them.” If there’s one misconception that people have about speech pathologists, it’s thinking that they just teach speech sounds, she said. Her patients include children who have cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, autism, developmental delays or apraxia, a disorder in which a person consistently has difficulty saying what he intends to say. Parents frequently observe their child’s speech therapy sessions, either by sitting in the room or watching via a video link. Andre has been in private practice for more than 20 years and has noticed some positive developments during that time.


Vicki Andre

“I think that our knowledge about how to intervene, especially with children on the autism spectrum, has exploded within the last 10 to 15 years,” she said. “Spectrum” refers to a wide range of symptoms whose severity varies. The Mayo Clinic notes that the number of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder is rising. It’s not clear whether this is due to better detection and reporting or a real increase in the number of cases, or both. Some children who fall within the autism spectrum are considered to be profoundly impaired. Others are high functioning. But one common thread is that these children have difficulty

with social communications, Andre said. “We really try to focus on early interventions, from birth to ages 5 or 6, although we do see older kids as well. What I’m most interested in these days is working with kids from birth to age 3. We work a lot with the Early Childhood Intervention Program,” an agency that provides a variety of services to help young children develop. Andre said more children can be served thanks to the Scottish Rite, a nonprofit associated with the Masonic Lodge, for raising money to pay for speech therapy and other services for children. Andre became interested in speech therapy after meeting a speech and language pathologist at a career fair during high school. “I thought I would give it a try, and I decided that was the right thing for me to do. I ended up going to graduate school as well.” Andre said her career is never routine. “I’m one of those lucky people who, even after all of these years, I still love what I do,” she said. “Working with kids and families is really something that’s so rewarding.” Several people have been a big influence in her life. “My husband, John Andre, a clinical psychologist, has always been incredibly supportive. He’s a rock, and, thankfully, he’s technologically savvy. “My business partner, Nancy Rice, is such a passionate therapist. She has pushed me to think outside the box.” 10

I September 2015


Kasey Austin

Injecting a little bit of fun into adventure travel

When your business involves helping customers unwind from the stresses of everyday life, of course employees are going to search for ways to guarantee a memorable vacation. Kasey Austin, vice president of operations for Austin Adventures, a Billings-based adventure tourism company, said the company’s guides often compete to find ways to improve customer service and create a memorable experience for their clients. Austin has been known for pulling some clever pranks that her clients, particularly the children, won’t soon forget. Once during a hike, she spent some time explaining the difference between elk scat and bison scat by providing detailed descriptions of their different shapes and textures. Then, when she had everybody’s attention, she popped a piece in her mouth. As her horrified clients cringed and let out groans, Austin revealed that the “scat” she had just eaten consisted of chunks of an energy bar that she had shaped to resemble the animals’ leftovers. Each June, Austin puts on a fiveday training program for the guides who are counted on to enhance their customers’ experience. “We’re always looking for ways to show our customers the wow moments,” Austin said. That could mean pulling out a silver platter loaded with cookies and cherries at key overlooks during a hike. “It means pulling out the red carpet when our customers arrive, or putting flowers in the van. People appreciate all of the little

owned travel company since she was 6 years old. One of her first jobs was stuffing catalogs. She also enjoyed accompanying her father, company owner Dan Austin, whenever he went along on a trip that the company offered. Growing up, she liked to tag along on adventure trips. She would frequently lend a hand chopping vegetables or washing dishes. Austin has traveled to Africa, Europe, Australia and South America. One of her duties is to research whether accommodations offered on a potential trip pass muster. “Every now and then we’ll find out that a particular trip isn’t quite up to our standards. But for the most part, Courtesy photo people do a good job,” Austin said. Kasey Austin In her job, she’s frequently called on to be a problem solver. If two things over the course of a week.” guides end up not liking each other, Sometimes creating memorable experiences isn’t expensive or exotic. it falls on Austin to rearrange the For instance: a guide might rise early schedule so that they don’t have to work together. in the morning to help a vacationer Last year, Outside Magazine hontrack down the moose they have been ored Austin as the world’s top travel hoping to see, or arranging a lateguide, citing her expertise in shownight stargazing party. ing clients around Yellowstone and In late July, Austin had just reGrand Teton National Park. Seven turned from helping a family of 12 take a memorable vacation in Yellow- other travel professionals were also stone National Park and Grand Teton profiled. Two years ago, Xanterra Parks National Park. At one point, she booked the fam- and Resorts Inc., the global travel ily on a pleasure boat excursion across company that’s also the concessionaire at Yellowstone and Grand Teton, Jenny Lake instead of doing a more purchased Austin Adventures. challenging activity. One thing the parent company has “Our goal was to go kayaking that been doing is developing trips near day, but the weather turned really its properties in the Colorado Springs bad,” she said. Austin has worked for the family- area.

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September 2015



Carol Beam

Standing at the forefront of nation’s changing health care system

If you happen to stop by Good Earth Market over the lunch hour, there’s a pretty good chance that you’ll find Carol Beam carrying a tray laden with salads and other healthful dishes purchased from the store’s deli counter. Just about everybody can get behind the notion of Peace on Earth. But a cold salad known as Peas on Earth is one of Good Earth Market’s signature salads. GEM’s deli offers an assortment of entrees for both vegetarians and meat lovers, and so many salads that you might not be able to sample them all in a week of lunches. Beam is president of Good Earth Market’s board of directors, and she’s pleased by about how the store has been leading the way in the burgeoning local food movement. “We have more than 400 new products,” many of them from local producers, Beam said. “I love this place because it all starts with good healthy lifestyles.” The Worldwatch Institute estimates that most food travels an average of 1,500 miles from the farm to the consumer, but many people are embracing the idea of supporting their local farmer. Beam believes that the entire community prospers when consumers purchase food locally.

Carol Beam

Courtesy photo

For example, the owners of Danly Farms in Laurel add value by growing produce that is sold at Good Earth Market or through a Community Supported Agriculture share. Those dollars continue to turn over within the local

economy rather than being sent to an out-ofstate corporation. “It’s a local economic impact story,” Beam said. Beam has been involved in Good Earth Market recently, but she has served many charities and nonprofits over the years, including the Montana State University Billings Alumni Association, the MSUB Foundation, Rimrock Foundation and the Yellowstone Art Museum. Beam’s tenure at St. Vincent Healthcare has been punctuated by additional challenges and responsibilities. She has held at least seven positions. A year ago, Beam was named as chief executive officer of Rocky Mountain Health Network Inc. and Rocky Mountain Accountable Health Network Inc. Both play a role in industry’s efforts to provide quality care, while also keeping costs under control. Here’s how the system works. When a Medicare patient receives care from RMAHN providers, RMHN collaboraated and share their knowledge to ensure the right care is provided at the right place and the right time. A good example is a patient complaining of knee pain. “Our providers know their patients well enough

to know when the pain can be successfully treated with physical therapy rather than more expensive surgery. It’s all about establishing a trusted relationship between doctors and patients,” Beam said. “It’s part of rethinking how we approach health care,” Beam said. “Medicare has said they are going to change the way they pay for services, and we’re being proactive with our approach to patient care. We’re all about ecouraging wellness and prevention to keep people healthier,” Beam said. Rocky Mountain Health Network is also working with self-insured employers, including the city of Billings. Four years ago RMHN Network, together with St Vincent Healthcare, put together an agreement with the city of Billings. The city was willing to make changes to its benefit plan that would allow RMHN and St. Vincent to provide better rates for its services. As a result, city employees haven’t received a rate increase in more than four years, Beam said. She said her husband, Daryl, has been most influential in her life. “He’s my biggest fan, and he lets me go first whenever we go fishing,” she said.

Virginia Bryan

Researching cases and writing briefs was a favorite part of the job for Billings attorney Virginia Bryan. “I could spend the whole day in the library. I really enjoyed that part of it,” Bryan said, reflecting on her 20-year career as an attorney. Among the highlights of her career included her involvement in an effort that allowed county prosecutors to opt for deferred prosecution in certain criminal cases. Former county attorney Harold Hanser got her involved in the project, which allowed prosecutors to seek deferred prosecution for certain cases, such as for firsttime offenses such as minor drug possession or theft. During the 80s, Bryan chaired a committee that led to an increase in dispute resolution, a process that allows civil cases to be settled through mediation. Such a process saves money and frees up court calendars. A few years ago, health issues forced Bryan to step back from her busy law practice. She could no longer handle the long hours associated with practicing law. But her love for writing endured. Bryan honed her skills by taking online 12

I September 2015

Former attorney fills her time with art, writing

courses on freelance writing from the University of New Orleans. Before long she began landing freelance assignments. Bryan had always been intrigued by the visual arts, so interviewing artists became a favorite topic. “I like the way they think and see the world,” Bryan said. “I began to want to understand the artistic process. A lot of what the artist does is similar to what a writer does. He has a frame, and he tries to tell a story.” Bryan expanded on her appreciation for art by taking a painting class. During lunch one day, a friend made a suggestion. “I have the perfect job for you. Did you know that ArtWalk is looking for a new art director?” the friend asked. Bryan said the job suited her well because its hours are flexible and because she gets to interact with creative people. Photo by BOB ZELLAR “Artists are really interesting people because Virginia Bryan they see the world from a different perspective, with her two children, both Crow. “ she said. “I had felt that to be a good mother to them Bryan has maintained a close connection with the Crow tribe to cultivate connections I needed to reach out. So we looked for historic

connections, art and literature, and we looked for people to develop relationships with,” Bryan said. “ It’s been fun to do because I love history and there have been some stories that have come out of it.” Bryan grew up in Wolf Point before moving to Billings to attend Rocky Mountain College. Her father, a businessman, and her mother, a registered dietitian, have been a big influence on her life. “They both had their strengths and weaknesses, but together they were pretty strong,” she said. “They worked as a team. Dad was very civic minded and was involved on the local and state level.” She remembers that father used to tell his five daughters: “It’s not a question of if you go to college. It’s a question of where. You need a profession so you have something to fall back on if your husband dies or can’t work.” The dinner table at the Bryan house was known for lively conversations and interesting guests. Those guests included a young Max Baucus, who happened to be in town and decided to stay for dinner. Billingsbusiness

Lucinda Butler

When Rimrock Opera Co. and Venture Theatre combined forces two years ago, the merger was intended to encourage long-term viability for two established arts organizations that had each faced some serious challenges. Since then, things are looking up for the combined organization, NOVA Center for the Performing Arts. Lucinda Butler, president of NOVA’s board of directors, said the merger represented the best way to reinvigorate two important arts organizations. “The merger was an interesting concept, and it was a way for (Rimrock Opera) to have smaller productions for shows in a venue that we had rented in the past,” said Butler, who was on the Rimrock Opera board during the merger. “We had rented the Venture Theatre in the past and had camps there. We felt it was worth saving, so we had many meetings and sleepless nights on both sides.” What was the toughest part about the merger? “It was gaining the trust of the theater community, letting them know we weren’t here to destroy what had been built or destroy the mission of the organization,” Butler said. “We made sure the checks and balances were absolute, and we reassured parents that the programs would continue to be there.” Some worried about the future viability of

Looking to invigorate theater communities in Billings “I played flute growing up, and I wanted to major in music. My dad told me they had money set aside for me to go to college, but he said it would be smarter to go to school and have a profession that you could make a living from, so I understood the practical side of education.” Butler took her father’s advice and chose a career in nursing, with the understanding that she could always rekindle her interest in music. The music bug bit soon after she moved to Billings. Attending her first opera, at Intermountain Opera in Bozeman in 1998, was a life-changing experience. “I had heard soloists with a symphony before, but never a full-length opera,” she said. “It was a perfect trifecta, with the world’s most beautiful voices, with such a skilled orchestra, and they’re Photo by CASEY PAGE acting all at the same time.” Through the years, Butler has been a frequent Cindy Butler volunteer at her children’s schools, and she both organizations. But Butler said NOVA’s sup- remains an advocate for public education. “In this state and in the upper Midwest, porters saw the merger as an opportunity. “Some people have told me, ‘You can’t do this there’s this pocket of public education that’s inor you shouldn’t do that.’ But that inspires me to tact. The arts are funded, and we’re so fortunate work harder, and I’ve found ways to get it done.” to have the programs we have. It’s worth fighting Music has always been a part of Butler’s life. for,” she said. Butler lived in a number of communities “I was always impressed by how music can while growing up because the company her help you fit in immediately in a group setting. It’s important, especially for teens to be part of a father worked for often moved him around to reorganize different stores. group,” she said.

After moving to Billings as an adult, Butler made an effort to understand how Billings works. One of the first things she did was to take a Montana history class from Keith Edgerton at Montana State University Billings. “I wanted to understand the reasons for certain things, like why there’s no sales tax in a city that has so many tourists, and why property taxes are structured the way they are,” Butler said. After she was appointed to the editorial board of The Billings Gazette, Butler began delving into issues that are important to the community. Among other things, she advocated unifying college courses across the University System so that credits could be more easily transferred if a student moves to a different campus. “The editorial board was really life changing,” Butler said. “It was amazing to me.” Each year The Gazette Editorial Board publishes its list of community priorities. Butler said she’s proud that the community has risen to those challenges and made changes. “When you move anywhere, you don’t tell people what’s wrong with their community. You tell them what’s right. By doing rather than saying, that’s been more effective for me.” What’s the best part about living in Billings? “I enjoy the natural landscape here and in this state. And we’re improving our education system.”

Mary Carpenter

Teamwork is essential at home and at work


Mary Carpenter Billingsbusiness

Mary Carpenter says teamwork has been the guiding principle that has helped her raise eight children, care for 14 foster children and operate a family-owned business. “I couldn’t have done this alone. I have a great husband and great kids, too. It takes teamwork,” she said. The Carpenters had cared for foster children throughout their marriage and have four biological children. Several years ago they got the opportunity to raise four additional children, all siblings, after applying for guardianship. The family expanded overnight, but the Carpenters were well prepared. “We had done foster care in another state, and the opportunity was presented to us again. We took in one baby who had older siblings. We ended up with them all, and they’re great kids,” Carpenter said. She was especially pleased with the reaction from her children when the prospect of adding to the family was raised.

“If my own kids weren’t willing to do that, it would have been hard. But I’m humbled that they welcomed these kids,” she said. “I’m just one member of this great team. All the credit goes to the kids for behaving themselves.” The suddenly larger family meant a few changes for the Carpenters. For one thing, they had to invest in a larger vehicle to ferry everybody around. “We grew up with Suburbans,” she said. The Carpenters have welcomed a total of 14 foster children over the years. “Sometimes they end up in other states, but we enjoy hearing from them,” she said. Carpenter’s grown children have shown an interest in helping others as well. One has started a nonprofit to help homeless women. Another is working in Africa with a humanitarian agency. “I have kids who care about changing somebody’s world for the good,” she said. “I think everybody can do that. Everybody has the ability to change somebody’s world for the better, even in a small way. “

The Carpenters purchased Sunset Memorial Gardens about 16 years ago. “I had taken a job as an administrator there, and about six months later, it came up for sale. My husband was working there as a manager. With help from a colleague, we were able to buy it,” she said. She credits the Sunset Memorial Gardens team for the business’s success. “One man has been there longer than I have. He is a hard worker and he provides a great deal of care for the facility. It’s all a great team,” Carpenter said. Dealing with grieving families is part of the job. “It’s a balance of caring for your customers but not being too pushy,” she said. “We try to keep on top of all the grounds because family members keep coming back. We have to keep the grass green and everything looking good.” Carpenter said she’s influenced by watching other people who can change the world with the abilities they have. September 2015 I 13

Brenda Doherty

Brenda Doherty figures it’s time somebody stepped forward to address the problem of homeless teens. That’s why she and other Billings nurses have pledged to raise money to help some of the community’s most vulnerable citizens. You may be surprised at how many teens don’t have a place to live. Last June, Sue Runkle, School District 2’s homeless student liaison, counted 629 homeless students by the end of the 2014-15 school year. That compares to 583 counted one year earlier. Doherty, who is a nurse at Billings Clinic, said hundreds of nurses have joined the effort to help homeless teens. “We’re going to set up a bank account and hold different kinds of fundraisers,” Doherty said. Money raised during an August bake sale will go to the Tumbleweed Runaway Program. The new charity will be known as Billings Nurses Helping our Teens Succeed, Doherty said. “Everybody on this planet should make a positive difference,” she said. “You just have to step up to the plate and do it.”

Stepping up to address teen homelessness

With rents in Billings on the rise, affordable housing is in short supply. That’s one reason that more students are living on the streets, Runkle told The Gazette. But Doherty hopes to organize a charity that can attack homelessness from several different angles. “We’re not going to just focus on one place,” she said. “We want to have food, clothing, whatever our teens need to survive in the city. There are these kids that are falling through the cracks and they just don’t fit in.” Doherty loves her job, in part because she gets to work in many different departments throughout Billings Clinic. “I don’t work on the same floor all the time,” she said. “It’s good variety, and I get to learn the different jobs and work with different surPhoto by HANNAH POTES geons, different doctors and patients. It’s a very Brenda Doherty rewarding job.” Nurses work long hours and often are kids. If you like working with adults, you can do involved in life-and-death situations. But that too,” she said. Doherty enjoys being part of a caring profesBy far, the best part of her job is helping her sion. patients get well, Doherty said. “That’s another good thing about nursing. Some medical experts say that prayer is an If you like to work with kids, you can work with

important part of the healing process and can help people recover more quickly from illness or injury. Doherty agrees. “A lot of patients see the tattoo on my arm (a cross,) and they ask me to say a prayer for them,” Doherty said. “There is so much emotional healing that has to go on,” she said. “You have to will to be healed. I have learned that I am blessed by my patients way more than I bless them,” she said. “Everybody comes from different walks of life, and everybody has a different story.” Numerous family-oriented activities help make Billings special, Doherty said. “There are bike trails and so many family oriented things to do. But it’s sad that we have the flip side that people don’t always want to look at.” Doherty said she has had a strong faith for as long as she can remember. “Jesus is the most influential person in my life,” she said. “He provided the example of loving people and serving people. So, I try to model after him.”

Heidi Duncan Doctor says the Yes for Kids campaign steered Billings in the right direction When Dr. Heidi Duncan agreed to co-chair the Yes for Kids campaign that raised hundreds of millions of dollars to improve Billings Public Schools, there’s no doubt she was thinking about her daughter’s future. But a few other kids came to mind as well. “Being a physician in the Billings community and practicing family medicine, I had delivered a lot of the babies who went to these schools,” Duncan said, reminiscing on the successful 2013 campaign that set the stage for a massive school renovation that’s still under way. “It was not just for my child. It was for all the kids in Billings.” Duncan, a family physician at Billings Clinic, and her husband, Billings Clinic Foundation President Jim Duncan, agreed to co-chair the successful Yes For Kids campaign in 2013. “It was fun to be involved; very energizing and educational as well,” Duncan said. In May of that year, voters approved a $1 million general-fund levy for the high school district, and a $1.2 million levy to improve technology within the elementary district. Six months later, voters approved a $122 million construction bond that’s paying for extensive renovations to elementary schools I September 2015 14

Heidi Duncan

Courtesy photo

and the construction of two middle schools. The margin of victory was 53 percent in favor, 47 percent opposed. Duncan said one key to the Yes for Kids campaign’s success was the support from a broad coalition of community groups, including the Billings Chamber of Commerce, parents, com-

munity volunteers and educators. Educating the public about the district’s needs also played a key role. Duncan said the Yes for Kids campaign had good advice by not trying to convert opponents who had already made up their minds. Instead, the group focused on getting out the vote from supporters. Over all, running a positive campaign worked, she said. “The strategy that made the difference was recognizing that we really needed to educate the Billings community about the issues,” Duncan said. Voters gave their blessing after school district supporters explained the district’s needs. Likewise, public opinion was swayed when people learned about the sorry state of some of the district’s schools. “It was a real feather in the cap for Billings,” Duncan said. “We’re still seeing the benefits of the community beginning to move in a positive direction.” In addition to having a busy professional and family life, Duncan has been a long-time volunteer for the youth program at First Presbyterian Church. She has held numerous leadership roles at Billings Clinic. She also mentors other women

who are interested in medical careers, all while maintaining a busy practice. Professionally, she has also served in many elected administrative roles. Those include Billings Clinic Leadership Council, President of the Montana Academy of Family Physicians and a national Delegate to the American Academy of Family Physicians, including a role with the AAFP’s Commission of Governmental Advocacy. Duncan said her mother, whose profession is nursing, and her father, an educator, have been a big influence on her life. Likewise, she received a valuable introduction to the medical field when she worked in an ear, nose and throat practice while in college. “He took me under his wing, and showed me around the operating room. Having grown up in Missoula, Duncan was familiar with Billings when Billings Clinic recruited her during her residency. It coincided with the time when Billings residents banded together to fight hate crimes during 1993, in a movement known as Not in Our Town. Duncan remembers reading about the incident at the time, and that helped her choose Billings. Billingsbusiness

Katie Ellis

For the owner of Bottega, customer service is everything Katie Ellis doesn’t buy into the notion that Montana women fall behind when it comes to fashion. “We don’t take the risks that women do in the bigger cities,” said Ellis, owner of Bottega Clothing, a women’s boutique at Shiloh Crossing. “In Montana, we like to keep things more classic and simple. People aren’t coming in to our store for a certain brand that they know we just got in yesterday. They’re coming in to have an experience that we’re creating.” Working women, stay-at-home mothers and mother-daughter pairs are all part of Bottega’s clientele. Ellis said Bottega approaches fashion as a way to make women feel good about their appearance. “I honestly believe that when you put on an outfit at the beginning of the day, an outfit that you feel confident in, that you feel beautiful in, you take on the day differently, even when you’re just out running errands,” she said. Before she opened her own business, Ellis often grew frustrated trying to find pants with long enough inseams and blouses with sufficient length to accommodate long torsos. “It’s always been difficult for tall women to just walk into a store and find something right away,” said Ellis, who is 6 foot 1. She added that Bottega isn’t exclusively a store for tall women, but it makes a point of stocking clothes in a wide variety of sizes.

During college she did an internship for the Buckle store at Rimrock Mall. Later, as a manager in training for the national retailer, she was offered the opportunity to open a new outlet in Cour d’Alene, Idaho. “I ran that store for a while and it was an amazing experience,” Ellis said. “But I didn’t get to do the buying, and I wasn’t as involved with the community, and I didn’t get to be involved in every end of the business like I wanted to.” Ellis, who grew up in Billings, decided she wanted to live closer to her family. In 2009 she opened Bottega in downtown Billings. “My dad is also a small-business owner, and he encouraged me to do things like that,” she said. Bottega is an Italian word meaning a studio or workshop. “I wanted it to be a name that wasn’t too girly,” Ellis said. She paid careful attention to Courtesy photo developing the store’s brand, and honing the Bottega experience. Katie Ellis Ellis enjoys traveling for buying trips. The “We are very focused on the personal markets she visits most frequently are in Los stylist experience,” she said. “We work one Angeles and Las Vegas. on one with our customers to fit their body “We buy six months ahead of time. It’s type and lifestyle. We feel that it’s important always stressful when you spend a whole to find something that works well for you.” bunch of money in a short amount of time. Ellis has always been interested in fashBut it’s a cool experience,” she said. ion. But instead of studying fashion design, It’s fun getting to know company reprethe route that many in the business follow, sentatives and designers, and visiting workshe entered the industry while earning a shops where merchandise is manufactured, business management degree at Montana she said. While most clothing manufacturState University Billings. ing has migrated to countries with lower

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labor costs, many items that Bottega carries are still made in the United States, she said. After five years in downtown Billings, Ellis moved the store to Shiloh Crossing. She valued her experience downtown, but the move has been good for business. For starters, more people are coming through the door, and parking is never a problem, she said. There’s also an advantage of being located near other retailers like Meridian and Neecee’s, because many shoppers like the convenience of having several stores close together, she said. Ellis has been active in the Billings Chamber of Commerce’s NextGen group, geared toward young professionals. She is also active with Relay for Life and other charities. Family members have been a big influence on her life. “My dad, Ben Cline, has always been so supportive of me, and my family has also been supportive, whether it’s cleaning or moving or going to market,” she said. “We live near my parents, and we probably have dinner together four times a week.” Billings has some favorable attributes of a big city, she said. “It’s a hub for the surrounding area, so it has more resources and people to make it successful. Still, it’s great that it’s small enough that everybody knows each other and it’s big enough to support these great local businesses. Local business is a big part of what Billings does.”

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Marilyn Floberg

Real estate agent has a history of giving back to the community

When Don and Marilyn Floberg were married in 1968, she tried the role of stay-at-home mom on for size. Marilyn was an experienced teacher, but decided to quit her teaching job after marrying Don, a Billings real estate agent. “Don said, ‘You don’t have to work,’ and he said there would be conventions coming up in Hawaii. Plus, the kids were in school,” she said. “It was great in the summer, but then it came to fall when everybody goes back to school. I got bored, and kind of depressed. Little by little, Don could see I wasn’t happy.” At the time, the state was in the process of developing a system for licensing real estate agents. “Montana needed a course in real estate, so Don suggested that I could be the person to teach that.” Floberg had taught math at the Billings Catholic Schools and Eastern Montana College, now known as Montana State University Billings. She soon realized that there was no such thing as a real estate textbook available in Montana, so she wrote her own. “I taught that course for a long time, and then I got interested in the real estate business,”

said Floberg, who went on to earn her real estate license. She never actively sold. Instead, she worked to build the business in other ways, by concentrating on training programs, marketing and long-term planning. The company, founded in 1959, changed its name to Prudential Floberg Realtors in 1990, after signing a franchise agreement with Prudential. The name changed again last year after Prudential Real Estate was acquired by Berskhire Hathaway, a holding company founded by investor Warren Buffett. The Billings firm is now known as Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Floberg Real Estate. So far, the transition has gone smoothly, Floberg said. Marilyn and Don continue to attend weekly meetings and various events on behalf of the firm. She also spends much of her time caring for Don, whose health declined after he took a fall four years ago. Although Don has slowed down, he remains upbeat and positive, she said. “We’re the guiding principles for the company, but we’re not the day-to-day managers,” she said.

Marilyn contributes to the firm in other ways by compiling monthly statistics that agents use. Throughout the years, the Flobergs have supported numerous charities to help the community. This fall, two elementary school classrooms at McKinley Elementary will receive iPads after Berkshire Hathaway raised more than $10,000 to upgrade technology. “It was a thrill to be able to raise that amount,” Floberg said. “Being a math teacher, I know that we have to use technology. It’s the wave of the future.” For the past 20 years, the Flobergs have run a project that distributes laminated United States and Montana maps to first- and fourth-graders. Initially, the maps were distributed only in Billings. “Then, once in the middle of the night, Don wakes up. At 2 o’clock in the morning, he said we’re going to do this for the whole state,” she said. Although it’s a daunting task to provide maps for every school district in the state, the project continues.

Marilyn Floberg

Courtesy photo

Printing and mailing the maps is a big job. But finding sponsors to help offset the costs is an easy sell, Floberg said. “I’m worried about our schools having the math and science instructors that they need,” she said.

Julie Gates

Owner of Sylvan Learning Center, helps students achieve their dreams

A serious illness derailed the first four years of Patrick Neiss’s education. But Neiss, who his grandmother described as a miracle child, eventually made up the lessons he missed, advanced as a top math student at Skyview High and is now in college. Julie Gates, Neiss’s grandmother and owner of Sylvan Learning Center in Billings, said Neiss opted to take algebra at Sylvan Learning Center so that he could take more math classes once he entered high school. Sylvan Learning Center serves about 200 students on average, and they range in age from kindergarten to adults. Summer is a busy time of year at Sylvan, a private education and testing center. Some students work to make up classes they missed or failed during the regular school year. Some work on building their basic skills in math, reading and writing. Others need a tutor to help them improve their study skills or need help to prepare for upcoming college entrance Courtesy photo exams. Julie Gates Some students go to Sylvan in order to Sylvan also develops specialized proimprove their performance on exams mandated under No Child Left Behind, the national grams. For example, one student had a goal of becoming a published author by the time he education program. I September 2015 16

graduated from high school. Sylvan helped him accomplish that. “It took a lot of really good English teachers to help him,” Gates said. “He had all the great ideas, but he needed help to get the skills he needed to become a published author, and now he has become really successful as an adult.” The Billings Sylvan Learning Center has a staff of 20. “The reason we have such a large staff is because a beginning reading teacher is different from a high school calculus teacher,” Gates said. She said Sylvan’s instructors come from different backgrounds. Some prefer to work part-time because they have families. Some have left teaching full time but aren’t quite ready to fully retire. A related business, Prometric, administers tests for professionals who need certification and for people applying to graduate school. Gates had a long career as a teacher and guidance counselor before she bought the Billings Sylvan Learning Center franchise in 1989. She said the best endorsement for Sylvan’s work came from her husband, Tom, who is now retired from a school counselor’s job in Billings Public Schools.

Tom said he could always tell which kids had been through Sylvan because their confidence level was so much higher, Gates said. They moved from Colorado to Baker during the 1960s while an oil boom in Eastern Montana was in full swing. “We have never regretted moving to Montana,” she said. She said Sylvan’s programs succeed because they emphasize individualized learning. “It’s really fun to watch students advance with that individual attention, and having real positive teachers,” Gates said. “You can’t teach kids self esteem. They have to build it inside. But once their skills get better, their self -esteem improves. “We had one little guy who failed algebra three times. But finally he got it, and he even went on to take geometry,” Gates said. She lists the late Pat Regan, a teacher and a former state senator, as one of the most influential people in her life. “She had so much belief in women and herself. She was always a good influence for me,” she said. “Another big influence was my mother,” she said. “She was a teacher and a college professor, and was ahead of her time.” Billingsbusiness

Jana Graham

Lots of practice makes photography a snap It seemed like Jana Graham always had a camera in her hand while she was growing up. But having her first child provided an incentive to elevate her photography to a new level. “It happened after my oldest daughter was born,” said Graham, owner of Jana Graham Photography. “My dad passed away early, and we didn’t have any great family portraits. Once my daughter was born, I started taking it really seriously.” Graham kept busy studying subjects like accounting, management and marketing while earning a degree in business. It wasn’t until a few years later that she found her calling behind the camera lens. “I’m mostly self-taught,” she said. “I started before digital came out, so it was film to start with. I took a few classes, read a ton of books, and just dove into it. It was practice, practice, practice.” Some photographers get up at the crack of dawn looking for beauty in nature. By contrast, Graham was drawn toward peopleCourtesy photo oriented photography: senior portraits, wedJana Graham dings and other special events, and commer“For one of my families, I had done their cial photography. wedding the year before. When they brought But families remain Graham’s favorite in their newborn, I just started crying,” she subjects.

2044 Broadwater Avenue, Billings, MT 59102 Billingsbusiness

said. “It’s so fun to watch families grow, and to be with them through the whole process is really special.” Photography styles have evolved in the 10 years that Graham has been in business. “When I was a senior, you just went to the studio and had your picture taken, and you brought along one outfit, or maybe two if you’re lucky,” she said. “Now, it’s a complete event. We have a makeup artist, and we blast music to make them feel really special. They bring in a ton of outfits, and we go to a lot of different locations.” People’s expressions are the gold standard in portrait photography. Graham always puts in extra effort to make sure her subjects let their personalities shine through while in front of the lens. “For the girls especially, they’re so nervous when they come in. But they have their makeup done, and they start to feel fabulous. They’re working it, and I show them their picture on the back of the camera, and they just get shocked. ‘You mean that’s me?’ they say.” Graham prefers to use natural light. Large light setups can be intimidating to subjects, so Graham searches for a patch of sunlight or will sometimes use reflectors to balance lighting.


“For families, I want them to remember their kids at that moment,” Graham said. “There’s an art to it — you have to get them in the right position. “You learn a lot about people when you take their picture,” she said. “When you get emotion out of them, they’re showing you their true selves, and you develop a relationship after that.” Who has been the biggest influence on your life? “My parents were a big influence. They owned their own business, and they taught me how to be a really hard worker. I think a lot of people don’t realize that this can be really hard work,” she said. “They taught me to respect the people you work with and take care of the clientele. I couldn’t do this without my clients.” What’s the best part about living in Billings? “We’ve lived in all different parts of the country. We think Billings has the salt of the earth, good people. It takes a little bit longer to get to know people, but when you get to know them, they’re the best of the best. We’ve chosen to put down our roots here.” September 2015



Deb Mattern

Deb Mattern, winner of the 1998 Mrs. Montana Pageant, said she agreed to enter the contest because she thought it would provide an opportunity to raise awareness of breast cancer. Twenty years ago, Mattern was the picture of health: a runner, a mountain biker, a kayaker and a skier who also happened to take up fly fishing. But her healthy lifestyle was jeopardized when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1996. Treatment included surgery to remove her right breast, radiation, powerful chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant. After being named Mrs. Montana, Mattern was able to share her message with a national audience in the Mrs. America contest. Her outfit for the pageant included a gold lame fishing vest and a tiny fishing reel. In the 19 years since her diagnosis, Mattern has been so thankful for her recovery that she has devoted countless hours to helping a number of charities. She volunteers with the American Cancer Society and Relay for Life in

Cancer survivor has a passion for volunteerism

addition to other charities. As a lobbyist for the American Cancer Action Network, she has encouraged state and federal lawmakers to support cancer research. She’s also proud to have been involved in efforts to ban smoking in restaurants and other indoor areas. Science has confirmed that secondhand smoke can be deadly. Not only did the Montana Clean Indoor Air Act protect customers from cancer-causing substances, it also protected wait staff, bartenders and other employees, she said. “You can throw rocks at us, but (the Montana Clean Indoor Air Act) was a feather in our cap,” Mattern said. “I’m a cancer survivor and I pay attention to these things.” One of Mattern’s favorite charities is People Everywhere are Kind and Sharing, an auxiliary of the St. Vincent Healthcare Foundation. PEAKS raises money for cancer patients who are facing financial hardship.

She also volunteers for Casting for Recover, a nonprofit that provides flyfishing trips for breast cancer patients. Casting for Recovery’s big fundraiser is the Pink Pookie Gala, which is named after a pink pookie, a fly pattern that’s tied to resemble a hopper. Mattern was a frequent volunteer when local animal advocates worked to adopt out dogs that were seized from a dog breeding operation in 2008. “I love doing all the things I do,” Mattern said. “I love community events and fundraisers. I try to support a lot of fundraisers.” Each day, Mattern begins the day with the following prayer: “Dear Lord, thank you for keeping our circle in your good graces just enough to bless us with another beautiful day.” Family and friends have been most influential in her life. “ I have a very big circle with which I’m blessed,” she said.


Deb Mattern

Glenda McCarthy

Educator works to blend Native American culture into curriculum

If you went to public schools at any time during the 20th century, you probably learned about the Founding Fathers, read about the Civil War and studied the westward expansion of white settlers. These days, students in Billings public schools are just as likely to learn about native people who populated the Americas thousands of years before the arrival of Europeans. Glenda McCarthy, Indian Education instructional coach for Billings School District 2, works with high school teachers to implement Indian Education for All. The groundbreaking state law, which went into effect in 2006, requires school districts to provide “culturally appropriate and accurate information to all students in Montana, both Indian and non-Indian.” McCarthy said she interacts mostly with English and social studies teachers who are working to improve the diversity of information presented in the curriculum. “The purpose is so every kid in the room is going to see their story represented, and it’s not just a story of white people blazing trails,” McCarthy said. “There will also be stories of American Indian people and Montana tribes in particular. We have been working with some wonderful teachers to get help with that.” But the effort also spills over to other subject areas. For example, math teachers have devel18

I September 2015

oped trigonometry-related exercises exploring the geometry of medicine wheels. Even physical education teachers have inquired about traditional Native American games that can be incorporated into PE classes, she said. “The idea is that there is a seamless infusion of Native American culture into curriculum. It just flows in,” McCarthy said. McCarthy looked for an opportunity to work in Native American education ever since she moved to Billings from her native Australia in 2008. “I went looking for it because I had such a great experience working with aboriginal students in Australia,” McCarthy said. “I feel lucky to have the opportunity to work with Indian education.” Alice Springs has a climate that’s similar to Arizona’s, which means no snowfall. But it’s similar to Montana in ways that are important. The area is “rich in the cultures of indigenous people.” In Alice Springs, she had an opportunity to work with aboriginal students living in an urban setting, a situation that’s similar to what she’s doing in Billings. McCarthy said her job is based on building relationships. “The teachers want to do well for all their kids, and the families want an education for their children.” The nearby Crow and Northern Cheyenne


Glenda McCarthy

reservations have provided a wealth of knowledge about history and other subjects such as ethnobotany (the study of the relationships of people and plants,) art and literature. Contemporary Native American perspectives will also

be included in curriculum, she said. “I’m learning about those things and will be learning about them for the rest of my life,” McCarthy said. “It’s great for kids in classrooms, and the non-Native kids are also interested in these stories. And the Native kids are realizing that the curriculum is honoring their history and their families and their culture as well.” She is also working on her doctorate in education from Montana State University. McCarthy said she’s riding a wave created by leaders such as Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau, educators and tribal elders who have created resources for classrooms. “I’m linking willing teachers with cultural presenters and the curriculum is written,” McCarthy said. “Everyone’s perspective is important, which is not to say that Hispanic or African American perspectives and families aren’t important.” She enjoys the openness of Billings people. “Billings is a place where people look you in the eye and are interested in you and what you do,” she said. “There’s that Big Sky mentality of open mindedness in a lot of people. That’s not to say they don’t ruffle feathers or clash with people, but by and large my experience is that there are great people who want to do good things and are willing to work together.” Billingsbusiness

Marilynn Miller

Navigating nonprofits and private business with ease During her tenure as chief executive of the Montana State University Billings Foundation, Marilynn Miller spent many hours matching the desires of communityminded philanthropists and the students who benefited from their generosity. Making meaningful connections between those two groups can be complicated, but it’s also extremely rewarding, Miller said. “It really starts where you’re helping a philanthropic person find his or her passion about what kind of difference they would like to make,” she said. “It all starts out with asking the right questions to find out what resonates with people and helping them find a way to fulfill their philanthropic dreams,” she said. “Philanthropists do want to make a difference in the world, and we started out by asking them what kind of difference they would like to make.” The best nonprofits have a few things in common. They keep their donors informed about how their money is being spent, who it is benefiting and how it’s being invested. They find ways to express their appreciation to their donors. But the process starts by asking the right questions and helping donors find that passion for fulfilling their philanthropic dreams, Miller said. Just as important, those who choose to work in the nonprofit sector must have a passion for what they do. Miller said she had other job offers but chose not to switch.

coach for Elation, a Billings-based company that works to help companies boost the bottom line by improving employee engagement. “I was beguiled by the mission of Elation,” Miller said. “I was interested in how it would allow me to carry on my personal mission of helping people be the best version of themselves they can be.” Miller works one-on-one with business executives. “We focus on organizational advancement through personal growth. In working with people we present informational content that’s all based on the neuroscience of how the brain works, how people think. We help them become aware of how they can create new outcomes,” Miller said. “Elation coaches use an inquiry-based method in which we help individuals find their way from good to great.” Improved communications, improved culture, higher engagement and better productivity are some of the outcomes that Photo by LARRY MAYER Elation’s clients have reported, Miller said. Marilynn Miller Making the transition from the nonprofit sector to private industry included some “They were fine organizations, but it challenges, Miller said. was nothing I was really passionate about. “I was very proud of the work my team For me, that deep passion about the organi- and I did together at the foundation, but zation is critical.” it was time for a change. When I went to After retiring from the foundation, Mill- Elation, the challenging part was that I er wasn’t ready to call it a career. She went had a great deal to learn. It was fun and to work in the private sector as an executive interesting, but it was also hard work. It

was all very stimulating and so encouraging that I could learn something and put it into practice.” Miller has had several influences on her life. “Jean Rahn, former CEO of the MSU Billings Foundation, was my first mentor. By mentoring me, she taught me how to mentor others, and that was a great gift. I have been able to mentor many young women throughout my career. “Another mentor was former Chancellor Ron Sexton. I liked having the opportunity to debate things, kick things around and disagree. We challenged each other without being disagreeable. “My mom showed me how to be independent and hardworking, and she encouraged me to wonder about things and to learn new stuff. Her son, Nick Miller, a public defender who lives in Bozeman, is also an inspiration. Miller didn’t know much about Billings before moving here. “My late husband, Merlyn Miller, and I moved here in 1976 from Bozeman when he was a architectural intern for Harrison Fagg. When I got to know people I realized the beauty of Billings is that all these threads are drawn together in this really cool tapestry: business, the arts, health care, recreation and college towns.”

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September 2015



Sara Neff

Two years ago, Sara Neff retired from Billings School District 2 after a long career as a teacher and middle school counselor. Freed from the 9-to-5 routine, she had more time to spend with her two granddaughters. Neff said the death of her husband, Bill, in November of 2012, played a big part in her decision to leave the school district. But her grandchildren helped her through the tough times. “I was sad. I needed these little girls to watch me so I would get better,” she said. “Taking care of them and they taking care of me turned out to be perfect for all of us.” These days, Neff is not quite ready to call it a career and join the millions of baby boomers leaving the workforce for good. Neff has taken steps that will lead to a call to ministry with the United Methodist Church. “I retired from the school district, but I still feel like I have something to offer,” she said. “When I was a teenager, I had thought about going into the ministry. But women weren’t encouraged to go into the ministry at that time. My parents were adamant that we would go to college, and the seminary wasn’t on the horizon for me.” Neff got the ball rolling by first discussing her plans with her pastor. The congregation where she is a member, Shiloh

Answering a call to a new career

United Methodist Church, unanimously endorsed her decision to pursue the ministry. “I’ve jumped through the hoops that I need to, and I’ll go to licensing school, and when I’m done with that, I’ll be a licensed local pastor,” Neff said. Afterward, she’ll go before the organization’s district committee on ministry, which will decide where she might be called to serve. “It’s different from going through seminary,” she said. “You can be a licensed local pastor and be appointed to a church, or you can be a chaplain. There are many options available.” Neff acknowledges that the ministry has some similarities to her previous career. Middle school is often considered a crucial transitional period when students make the adjustments from elementary school to high school. Some need help adjusting to having different teachers, different subjects and walking from their locker to a new classroom. Others need help adjusting to a more demanding workload, and planning projects and assignments, she said. “Some kids are just overwhelmed by the freedom they have in middle school,” she said. “There’s an expectation that they learn to use a day planner, write down as-

Sara Neff


signments and turn them in. As easy as it is to talk about it, it can be a hard thing for some kids to do.” In a similar vein, ministers are often called on to help people deal with significant transitions: births, weddings,

sickness, death. As a pastor, “You meet people at different places in their lives,” she said. “Some are unbelievers. Others are committed to their faith. As a pastor you have to meet people where they are, and help them move in a direction that’s positive for them without being heavy handed.” Neff has already delivered sermons, filling in for her congregation’s regular minister. She has has even officiated at a couple of funerals. Her parents were most influential in her life. “They were very pro education and very civic minded. It was made clear to their kids that we have to have an education. Back then, my dad said if any of his daughters had to take care of themselves, he wanted to make sure they have an education to fall back on.” She’s inspired by parents who want the best for their children. “During my career as a counselor, some of the nicest people I met were the parents of the students,” she said. “They’re an awesome group of people who are trying to do the best for their families. Looking over that sea of faces at a school assembly, it was exciting to see that they would grow up to be great adults, people who will contribute in a positive fashion to society.”

Congratulations Sandy Wong for making the Billings Business list of 20 Exceptional Women! We are proud of you! Contact Sandy for all of you mortgage needs. Sandy Wong, Home Mortgage Consultant Office: 406-247-8315, Cell: 406-855-4829 175 North 27th Street, Billings, MT 59101 NMLSR ID 400353 Wells Fargo Home Mortgage is a division of Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. © 2015 Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. All rights reserved. NMLSR ID 399801. AS1073813 Expires 8/2016


I September 2015


Jamie Pearson

Real estate investor puts her property to work A couple of years ago, Jamie Pearson and her husband, Dieter Zimmermann, decided the time was right to take their two kids on an eight-month trip around the world. Seeing Tanzania’s diverse wildlife on safari was one highlight of the family’s journey across the globe. The kids were in middle school at the time, and Pearson, a former English teacher, homeschooled them as the family traveled. “The kids had done a lot of traveling — they had attended school in Germany — so the idea wasn’t foreign to them. They had a bigger world view than most kids.” Pearson said. She and Zimmermann didn’t have to give up 9-to-5 jobs to travel around the world. The family was able to find the time because their profession, real estate investing, provides the kind of flexibility that they needed. Not that they didn’t encounter challenges during their round-the-world journey. Pearson remembers trying to conduct business over her cellphone while standing on a beach in Zanzibar. “Zanzibar doesn’t have a very reliable electrical system, let alone cell phone service. I remember walking around on the beach until I could get a signal,” she said. Pearson began investing in real estate in 2000, and has accumulated a diverse portfolio

of residential properties. In some ways, Pearson’s career parallels the path of TV pitchmen who promote the idea that you can get rich by investing in real estate without putting down a lot of money. Pearson said she never gets tired of learning more about real estate investment. “I’ve probably done every course out there. We’ve tried to educate ourselves beause the industry changes pretty quickly,” said Pearson,who also started a local real estate investors association about eight years ago. Perhaps because she’s still a teacher at heart, Pearson said she enjoys mentoring others who have an interest in real estate investing. She has been asked to speak at real estate investment seminars and has been working on a book about how to be an effective landlord. Pearson agrees with experts who say that no two real estate markets are the same. “A lot of what the real estate courses teach you doesn’t apply here,” she said. When the economy tanked in 2008-09, tossing the economy into the worst recession since the 1930s, economists blamed an overheated real estate market in which millions of people bought houses they couldn’t afford. The Billings market suffered a slowdown in the wake of the recession, but the foreclosure crisis that devastated once hot markets such


Jamie Pearson

as Las Vegas and Phoenix was much less of a problem. The North Dakota oil boom, which started rolling in 2006 and didn’t show signs of a slowdown until oil prices tumbled last year, gave the Billings real estate market a welcome shot in the arm, Pearson said. Yellowstone County doesn’t’ have a single

producing oil well, but it has proven to be an attractive location for engineering firms, regional headquarters, service companies and workers, who prefer to live in Billings and commute to the Bakken. One key to real estate investing is to approach a transaction from a business perspective and not get wrapped up in emotions, Pearson said. Some people get turned off by the thought of being a landlord because they fear that they’ll end up getting called out in the middle of the night to fix a clogged toilet or patch a leaky roof. Pearson has learned to do a lot of her own maintenance on rental properties. In reality, midnight home repairs are pretty rare because that’s when people are sleeping, she said. She said being a landlord isn’t a lot different from being a teacher. “If you’re going to be a good parent, teacher or landlord, you have to clearly communicate your expectations up front, and there has to be a consequence if they don’t follow your expectations,” she said. “My expectations are that I provide them with clean, safe, affordable housing. If you’re doing that, it’s half the battle. But you need to do your homework and check your renters’ references.”

Cara Schaer

Community volunteer helps get things done


Cara Schaer Billingsbusiness

Cara Schaer credits her former boss, investment adviser Bob Dayton, for getting her interested in serving on boards and committees that have collectively made Billings a better place to live. Dayton, who has since retired from Merrill Lynch, often dropped hints about boards that he thought Schaer would enjoy. His gentle persuasion helped stoke her interest in community involvement. “Working on boards and committees, you get to meet great people,” Schaer said. “Billings is a great community to get involved in. If you have a passion or a real interest, you can get a lot accomplished.” Schaer retired from the investment business in 2002, but she continues her community work. “I sometimes say I need to go back to work because I used to have a lot more free time than I do now,” she said. Serving on the board of the Billings Public

Library Foundation, the fundraising arm of the Billings Public Library, has been a highlight of her community involvement. Billings voters approved a $16 million bond issue to build a new public library in 2011. Schaer said an army of volunteers and a sound campaign strategy helped make the difference for the successful bond issue. “I think we were fortunate that we had the right people involved at the right time,” she said. “Being involved in that project from start to finish has been rewarding,” she said. “That landmark will be around for generations. It gives you chills when you think that you were a part of making that happen.” Schaer is completing her ninth year on the library foundation board. She hasn’t decided what she’ll do once she leaves the board, but helping the community will continue to be a priority. “At this point I want to be involved with

things that have a positive impact and will make it a little better for the community,” she said. She attended St. Mary’s Academy in Portland, Ore., where teachers challenged students academically and instilled discipline. “I got my work ethic from them,” she said. “They just drilled it into you.” She met her husband, Mike Schaer, while both were attending Oregan State University. They moved to Bozeman, where he taught at Montana State University. When Mike started Computers Unlimited in Billings, he traveled back and forth on weekends. Once their children left the home, she moved to Billings. She majored in business administration during college, and her minor in geology also proved to be valuable once she began working in investments. There was a lot of oil activity in Montana at the time, and understanding geology proved to be helpful when people formed limited partnerships to invest in oil and gas properties. September 2015



Laura Sorenson

Overcoming many hurdles on the way to nursing career


Laura Sorenson

Cindy Eggert 252-1644

Completing a nursing degree requires an interest in life sciences, a will to help people become healthy and plenty of hard work and discipline. But few have overcome more obstacles on their way to entering this essential peopleoriented profession than Laura Sorenson, a nurse at Billings Clinic. Growing up on the Flatwillow Hutterite Colony north of Roundup, Sorenson had never gone to school beyond the eighth grade. But when she left the colony to get married, she knew she would need a profession in order to succeed away from the tightknit community of her youth. “Growing up, I was always there to help out when the needs were there,” she said. “After I left the Hutterite culture I had no idea where to start.” One of the essential steps on her journey was meeting with Mike Joyce, a counselor at the Adult Education Center in Billings, who helped guide her toward a career. “It was awesome,” Sorenson said, describing her experience at Adult Education. “They really prepped me for going to college.”

Connie Wolf 252-8318

She moved to Powell, Wyo., to complete her prerequisite courses at Northwest College, but a language barrier became one of her biggest challenges. “German is the mother tongue at the colony, and I was having to continually translate in my mind,” she said. “On my first day in chemistry, I went to my teacher and said, ‘If I learn this, it’s Greek, and it’ll be my third language.’ She was very helpful and explained the concepts to me in her layman’s language.” Sorenson studied hard, and her instructors were generous with their time whenever she needed additional help. Things started clicking during her second or third semester. She realized she no longer had to translate from English to German in her mind, even though she still seamlessly slips back into German whenever she talks to her sister on the phone. She remained determined even when things didn’t go right. “I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that being a nurse was what I wanted to be,” she said. “It’s hard work, and it was long hours,

Lynette Nealy 294-1212

but it was so rewarding.” Sorenson first received her certified nursing assistant certification, followed up by a degree as a licensed practical nurse. She completed her degree as a registered nurse at City College in 2009 and became nationally certified three years ago. She then completed a bachelor’s degree by taking online classes from Boise State University. “I know nursing is a calling. This is where God wants me,” she said. Sorenson uses her 20-minute commute from Blue Creek as a time of reflection. “I’ll pray for my patients and pray for my day, knowing that God already knows what will happen and trusting in him,” she said. Sorenson and her husband, Perry, received another blessing when their daughters, 7-year-old Hannah and 2-year-old Paige, were born. “They said I could never have children and then this happened,” Sorenson said. She jokes that her daughter Hannah has already been exposed to college because she was pregnant while she was attending nursing school.

Sue Parks 322-4876

Angela Stiller 294-8226

You can't just sit there and wait for people to give you that golden dream; you've got to get out there and make it happen for yourself. - Diana Ross Connie Johnson 248-3111 22

I September 2015

Heather Daffin 294-9111 Billingsbusiness

Sandy Wong Mortgage lender says Billings market staying active

Before she became president of Downtown Rotary on July 1, a couple of past presidents warned Sandy Wong that her first six months on the job would be like pushing a freight train uphill. Yes, the president’s duties involve a fair amount of work, but so far Wong has been enjoying the challenge. Besides that, she’s excited that her presidency coincides with the service club’s 100th birthday. As part of activities surrounding Downtown Rotary’s centennial, K.R. “Ravi” Ravindran, a business leader from Colombo, Sri Lanka, and president of Rotary International, will visit Billings next spring, Wong said. Politicians, business leaders and other dignitaries have been frequent visitors at Downtown Rotary meeting over the years. The club also hosts outstanding high school students, and Rotarians from throughout the world are frequent visitors. As president, Wong is involved in coordinating many of the club’s activities in addition to presiding over weekly meetings. According to tradition, a Rotary officer will go through a couple years of leadership training before ascending to the presidency. Wong has been a member of Downtown Rotary since 1998. “If you want to earn a presidential citation for the year, there is a road map for projects and how we are doing things,” Wong said. “It even comes down to the Rotary branding, including the brochures that we have at our meetings.” Wong is also celebrating a career milestone: 30 years as a mortgage lender in the Billings market. She started at First Interstate Bank, moved to the institution now known as Western Security Bank and has been at Wells Fargo for the past nine years. Wong deals strictly with residential mortgages. So far this year, most market indicators remain strong in Billings, she said. “Thankfully, we’re busier, with more transactions than last year at this time,” Wong said. Today, most mortgages represent purchases, a marked turnaround from several years ago when lenders were inundated with refinancing activity as homeowners scrambled to take advantage of historically low interest rates. “For the economy and banking, it’s good to have more of a purchase market, which means more activity in the local market,” Wong said. In Billings, homes priced at $200,000 and lower are selling quickly. Homes priced at $350,000 and higher are generating a lot of interest. But houses in the middle range — from $200,000 to $350,000 — have remained on the market longer. Billingsbusiness

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Sandy Wong

Courtesy photo

“There are buyers and there will be buyers in the price range,” Wong said. “There just doesn’t seem to be as much activity.” Wong has seen lots of changes during her career. Not long ago, some predicted that mortgage lenders would soon go the way of the dinosaurs with the advent of new technology. “Even 10 or 12 years ago, many people were applying for mortgages online, and some said we should be looking for a new line of work,” Wong said. But the mortgage industry has changed dramatically in the wake of the financial crisis of 2008-09. New financial guidelines make the lender’s job more important than ever. Many worry that lending requirements enacted in the wake of the financial crisis have made it more difficult to purchase homes. “The basic requirements aren’t more difficult,” Wong said. However, the process can be more inconvenient and time consuming because buyers must provide more documentation than they used to. “We don’t just need information like pay stubs, bank statements and tax statements,” Wong said. For example, lenders have to ask for letters that explain blips in income, either higher than normal or lower than normal. “We’re looking at address history in the credit report in order to identify fraud. So, we’re asking people for a lot more than just the basic information,” she said. “Unfortunately, it makes even the repeat customers to feel like, perhaps they’re not credit worthy, when in fact they are.”

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Wednesday, October 28, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Royal Johnson Community Room, Billings Public Library

Featured Speaker: Dr. Ann Clancy

“Living from the Inside Out” Members $5 Non-members $10 For more information, contact Evelyn Noennig at 657-1226 or via email at September 2015



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I September 2015 Billingsbusiness

Women in Business and 20 Exceptional Women 2015  
Women in Business and 20 Exceptional Women 2015