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Celebrating Women’s History Month A supplement to the March 12, 2013

PUBLISHER Mark Kelsey 907-352-2255

MANAGING EDITOR Heather A. Resz 907-352-2268

We have observed Women’s History Month here in the United States since the mid-1980s. It is an annual observance that has its roots in the first International Women’s Day, in 1911. Although women were entrenched in the work force at some levels by that time, the struggle for full equality was still in its infancy. Indeed, it would be another nine years before women first voted at the national level. While there is still work to be done to ensure full workplace equality, it is safe to say that we’ve come a long way in the 100-plus years since the first International Women’s Day. Today, women are a staple of the workforce. Their productivity and creativity make essential contributions to our economy locally and nationally. Up to the highest levels of industry, government and nonprofit organizations, women continue to contribute to the high standard of living we enjoy as Americans. Here in the Mat-Su, we see this every day. The Frontiersman’s annual Women in Business publication highlights some of the many local women who are making positive contributions to our economy and our community. Mark Kelsey Frontiersman publisher

Frontiersman’s 2012 Women in Business Samantha Berg, co-owner, Alaska Center for Acupuncture Cindy Bettine, owner, ABC Travel Time Inc. Susan Crowder Brown, senior network account executive, MTA Susan Dean, surgeon, Mat-Su Plastic Surgery Paula Nance, regional vice president, Alaska USA Federal Credit Union Deena Paramo, superintendent, Mat-Su Borough School District Dusty Silva, owner, Silva Insurance Services LLC Janet St. George, owner, Town Square Art Gallery Patty Sullivan, public affairs director, Matanuska-Susitna Borough Page 2


MARKETING DIRECTOR Cheryl Metiva 907-352-2291

PHOTO EDITOR Robert DeBerry 907-352-2266

CIRCULATION Christy Pinkerton 907-352-2251

The Frontiersman is a division of Wick Communications Co. Visit us on the Web at

PHYSICAL ADDRESS 5751 E. Mayflower Ct. Wasilla, AK 99654 MAILING ADDRESS P.O. Box 873509 Wasilla, AK 99687 PHONE: 352-2250 Fax: 907-352-2277 © Copyright 2013 BUSINESS HOURS 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday

MARCH 12, 2013

Carolyn Hanson Director of Marketing & Sales, Matanuska Telephone Association, Inc. 1740 S. Chugach Street, Palmer, Alaska 99645 Years in current business/ position? 15 Tell us a little about yourself. How did you come to live in Alaska? I was born and raised on a cotton farm in southern Arizona. I grew up working for my dad on the farm starting when I was in 6thsixth grade, so I understood what working hard meant at a very young age. I went away to college to play basketball, and that’s where I met my husband, Brad. After graduation, I decided to move to Palmer. It was a difficult decision, because I was very close to my family, and I was moving so far away. I love the Mat-Su, and Palmer is where we have raised our family. We have two sons, Michael and Jared, and a daughter, Haley. Our lives revolve around our children, and they mean the world to us. We are a strong family and very active in supporting our community. As a family, we enjoy fishing, hiking and sports of all kind.

What do you like best about what you do? I enjoy working with our customers. Aand at MTA, our employees do an amazing job delivering an exceptional customer experience. We have over more than 300 dedicated employees who not only take care of our customers, but take care of each other as well. We are a caring company and that after 60 years of service,we have has managed to remain true to our core values. We are a company founded on trust, integrity, respect, and we are an economic engine within the community. It’s fun and MARCH 12, 2013

exciting to work for a company like MTA. We are innovative; , often delivering services others would have never attempted to provide. I work with some incredibly talented, hard-working and caring employees who make a difference each and every day. I am a very competitive individual, and it’s important for me to ensure every day we are putting our customers first. It’s why we exist, and it’s what we do best. We are here to help our customers with their communication services. Like As with many other employees here, MTA is a big part of my life. Whether I am at work, in the grocery store, or walking in a parade, I feel good about being part of such a wonderful company and the communities we serve. This year, we are celebrating our 60th anniversary, which represents a solid and lengthy commitment to many communities. Our industry is rapidly changing, and we are constantly evolving and changing so that we are well positioned for the next 60 years. It’s because of MTA’s sound investments that our Sales sales teams are able to provide our customers with state-of-theart products and services.



Carolyn Hanson When there is talk about Carolyn Hanson, MTA’s Director of Marketing & Sales, you hear words like awesome, hard worker, smart, nice, inspiring, and respected. You also hear that she is passionate about MTA and champions our company’s involvement in community and economic development. Thanks to business women like Carolyn, our company has been an Alaska leader in telecommunications for 60 years. Take a big bow, Carolyn.

You deserve this recognition.

How did previous experiences help prepare you for what you do today? Prior to MTA, I worked in Anchorage at AT&T Alascom. Looking back, there are many similarities between the two companies. For nearly 10ten years, I worked in Salessales and managed offices throughout Continued on Page 19


Eagle River, Palmer-Wasilla Hwy, Palmer and Wasilla 694.3211 or 745.3211



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Lorali Simon Vice President of External Affairs, Usibelli Coal Mine,, 745-6028 Years in current business/position: three

Tell us a little about yourself. How did you come to live in Alaska?

What are the benefits of working in the Mat-Su?

My family was part of the original colonist project in the early 1930s. I was born in Anchorage and raised in Palmer. My great-grandparents moved from the Midwest during the Great Depression in search of adventure and a better way of life.

I feel very fortunate to be able to live and work in Palmer. While there are many good jobs in Anchorage, I prefer not to commute. I feel more connected to my community by being able to live and work here. Serving on the Greater Palmer Chamber of Commerce is a perfect mix of business and pleasure: I get to represent Usibelli Coal Mine, while working on projects that benefit my hometown – and working alongside neighbors on a common goal is a treat!

What do you like best about what you do? I enjoy the community relations aspect of my job the best. Palmer is my hometown, and I love being part of a project that could bring high-paying jobs to my community. I have a lot of fun talking to people about Usibelli Coal Mine, the company’s history in Alaska, as well as about the Wishbone Hill project.

WE ARE PROUD OF YOU. From the UCM family and workforce XNLV78276

How did previous experiences help prepare you for what you do today?

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I am a very proud graduate of the University of Alaska Anchorage. Go Seawolves! I served as a legislative intern during my last semester of college, where I gained valuable experience and met many wonderful people. I was fortunate that Sen. Lyda Green offered me a job after I graduated.


What advice would you give to young women preparing to enter the workforce? Believe in yourself. Set high goals. Find a strong, successful woman that you respect and admire and spend time with her. Go on to higher education, whether that’s a trade school, technical school, college or university. Challenge yourself regularly: don’t stop learning. Most importantly: give. Give your time, your dedication, your money, and your love. I believe it is the volunteers in the Mat-Su that truly make it such a special place.

MARCH 12, 2013

Ina L. Mueller Lakeshore Entertaining & Event Management PO Box 521847, Big Lake, AK 99652 230-0935 Years in current business/position? I started Lakeshore Entertaining & Event Management in 2007.

Tell us a little about yourself. How did you come to live in Alaska? I’m one of those people who have the privilege of saying “I’m ALMOST a lifelong Alaskan”! My dad was transferred to Elmendorf Air Force Base in 1967 when I was 10. When I married my husband, I knew we would never leave the state of Alaska! I’m also very fortunate to have three grown children, their spouses and two wonderful grandchildren who all live close by.

What do you like best about what you do?

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How did previous experiences help prepare you for what you do today? I have spent 30 years working in Alaska’s visitor industry. So whether it was preparing to host a new group of visitors to our great state, or an open house for a new restaurant or visitor venue, working in Alaska’s visitor industry is all about event management.

What are the benefits of working in the Mat-Su? I love the opportunities afforded us by living and working in the Mat-Su Valley. We have a diverse population and a huge, beautiful area in which to work. But whether you are in Palmer, Wasilla, Wil-

low or Big Lake – it is all one small community. Business opportunities are abundant here in the Valley, and it is an exciting time to be a part of the Mat-Su!

What advice would you give to young women preparing to enter the workforce?

Grab your dream and hang on! Sometimes it takes awhile to get to where we want to be. But just remember that every rung on the ladder of life prepares us. We learn and we grow. Accept where you are, but keep your eye on the ball, take baby steps and you will reach your goal!

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The wonderful thing about event management is that life is one fun event after the other. Granted, some events are more challenging than others, and some are more fun than others. But it is always exciting and challenging to make the event the best it can be for your clients and the attendees. As I write this, I’m currently working with a group of absolutely won-

derful, dedicated Big Lake residents to put on the second annual Big Lake Winter Fest. Working with this group of people who care and give so much for their community has been one of the most rewarding experiences I have had in my life.

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Angela Stephl Owner Alaska Paralegal Services & Self-Help Legal Center 4900 Palmer-Wasilla Highway, Suite 6, Wasilla 373-5345 and on Facebook Years in current business/position: Alaska Paralegal Services and Self-Help Legal Center has been serving Alaskans since 1999.

Tell us a little about yourself. How did you come to live in Alaska? I was born and raised in Geneva, IL, graduated from Robert Morris College and University of San Diego, and am a certified paralegal with 28 years of legal experience. In 1986, I met my husband in Arizona, a fourth-generation Alaskan. After he moved back home I followed in 1996. Wasilla has been our home ever since. I love the outdoors and spend as much time as I can with family and friends fishing, hunting, snowmachining, snow skiing, water skiing, shooting skeet and trap and volunteering at Wasilla-Knik Historical Society, Grouse Ridge Rangers and The Brianna Gregory Foundation events.

What do you like best about what you do? I can honestly say I love my job and enjoy being able to provide cost-efficient legal help to individuals who cannot afford an attorney or whose legal issue doesn’t warrant legal advice or the hiring of an attorney. If I am able to assist them, I will. The relief expressed when their projects are completed and filed with the court is very satisfying. For attorneys, I like being able to provide traditional

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paralegal services for large and small special projects or in emergency situations. They are able to hire me as an independent contractor, on short notice, and immediately benefit from my legal experience, which is an immense bonus for them. In turn, it has given me the opportunity to work with many of our excellent, local attorneys.

How did previous experiences help prepare you for what you do today? My entire career was spent as a trial paralegal working for some of the biggest and top law firms in Chicago, Phoenix and San Diego in various areas of law, including, but not limited to, family law, business/contract law, RICO/racketeering, personal injury, medical malpractice, insurance defense and construction defect. I continued this experience when I moved to Alaska, working for an Anchorage firm that was diverse in its practice. This allowed me to gain experience in all aspects of the Alaska rules, laws and legal system. I firmly believe this wideranging, long-term experience is the basis and foundation that allows my business to thrive.


What are the benefits of working in the Mat-Su? The greatest benefit of working in the Mat-Su is meeting and helping those in the community I call home. These contacts have earned me an infinite amount of personal and professional referrals, longtime clients and, many times, long-term friendships. Not having to commute to Anchorage is a benefit I consider a bonus.

What advice would you give to young women preparing to enter the workforce? Remember, you spend too much time at work to not love what you do. So find your passion. This will make you happy to go to work every day. Have confidence in yourself. This will allow you to take on any task and, even if you fail, it is experience and you will do it right the next time. Take responsibility and be accountable for all you do. This will build trust and a good reputation. Finally, be honest and do the right thing. Mix it all together and you are well on your way to being in control of your future and happy and respected in any career you may choose.

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Phenie Miller Regional Vice President II, Mat-Su Region Alaska USA Federal Credit Union 851 USA Circle, Suite 100, Wasilla

Years in current business/position?

Grow your business!

Talk to Phenie about finding a business loan that fits your needs

Phenie Miller

Regional Vice President II, Mat-Su Region

2013 Women in Business (907) 352-8333

I have been employed by Alaska USA for just over 26 years and have held a variety of increasingly responsible positions over the years. Prior to my early retirement, I held a position in executive management. I returned to Alaska USA after I realized I wasnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t really ready for retirement and have been in the Mat-Su Valley for more than five years now. I have been primarily working with business owners to help them find the right deposit and loan products to meet their individual business requirements. In addition, I am responsible for three branches in Palmer and Wasilla.

Tell us a little about yourself. How did you come to live in Alaska? I came to Alaska on vacation to Fairbanks from San Diego in the mid 1970s, and I fell in love with the Alaska lifestyle, outdoor activities, the culture and career opportunities. In fact, I loved it so much I just kept extending my stay and never went back to California. I have had the opportunity to live, work and travel all over the state, and I am as much in love with the state today as I was when I first came to visit.

What do you like best about what you do? I have had an amazing career! Alaska USA is a fabulous, growing company that has an incredible commitment to its membership and employees. I am fortunate to be able to work with both business and consumer members and to develop the staff by assisting them to strengthen their service and leadership skills. My favorite part of my job is the opportunity

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to have a positive effect on people, members and employees.

How did previous experiences help prepare you for what you do today? I am always striving to be better at what I do and who I am as a person. I believe every interaction and every experience provides an opportunity for personal growth and development, which we can then apply to both our business and personal lives. We need to share our newfound knowledge and experiences with others to help them to become better equipped to identify opportunities and handle daily challenges.

What are the benefits of working in the Mat-Su? The sense of community is strong in Alaska, particularly in the Mat-Su Valley. I enjoy living and working in the same community. I enjoy working with the people of the Mat-Su Valley and being involved in the growth we are experiencing. As we get involved with things we feel are important, we have the opportunity to influence the future direction of our community.

What advice would you give to young women preparing to enter the workforce? Find your passion. Determine what motivates you to keep learning and makes you want to get up and go to work every day. Become a positive role model for everyone you meet along the way and make every day better than the day before. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s OK to make mistakes. Just be sure to learn from them. MARCH 12, 2013

Celeste Bond Owner, Celestial Designs 373-7906, and also on Facebook

Years in current business/position:

I started Celestial Designs in 2003 in Anchorage, in conjunction with a local bridal shop. I worked full-time in a boat/snowmachine shop, and would do alterations and make custom gowns in the spare room of our two-bedroom apartment. In 2004, we moved to Wasilla, and made the commute daily. I continued to work with the bridal shop in Anchorage. In 2006, I gave birth to our first daughter. A month later, Diane with Arctic Rose called me wondering if I had adjusted and was ready to take on her brides. I quit my job in Anchorage and moved Celestial Designs to the room above my garage. It was wonderful being able to work from home.  This past March came our second daughter, and then in July another new adventure. I received a call from a man that owned a building here in Wasilla, he said he had heard amazing things about my business and wanted my business in his building. It was an offer I couldn’t refuse, so here I am – right in the heart of Wasilla – and still able to have my children with me at work.

Tell us a little about yourself. How did you come to live in Alaska? I met my husband in Wyoming in 2000. Just in case he was “the one,” I told my mom that I may be moving to Alaska. My husband wanted to be a pilot in Alaska for as long as he could remember, so in 2002 he applied to UAA and we made the leap and came to Alaska. We drove up his 1979 Ford pickup, towing my car, and brought up whatever belongings we could fit in the vehicles. We came not knowing what to expect. We had no place to live once we got here, no jobs, and only $3,000. The only

MARCH 12, 2013

thing we knew for sure was that my husband started school the day after we arrived in Anchorage.

What do you like best about what you do? It is so hard to pinpoint what I like best about what I do. I LOVE what I do! I have amazing customers that have become my friends. I get to be creative every day. I get to share my talent with others. I get to have my children at work with me. The list could go on forever! I love how in making custom wedding gowns I get to make the bride shine. I am bringing her vision of that perfect day to light. Whether it is an elegant wedding gown made from a pair of Carhartt bibs, a custom cocktail dress out of Mossy Oak camo for Miss Alaska at the Miss America pageant, or a beautiful one-of-a-kind gown for the woman who knows exactly what she wants. I love being able to bring their visions to a reality.

How did previous experiences help prepare you for what you do today? I feel every day how I was prepared for what I do. For as many generations back as I can remember, my family have all been entrepreneurs. I learned from my parents how to work, and work hard to achieve my goals. My husband also comes from entrepreneurs, and his support was the biggest factor in starting Celestial Designs. I graduated from Ricks College in 2000 with a degree in fashion design. I went home to Wyoming and worked for a few months at a fabric store. It was really fun to apply what I had learned about textiles, and to continue to learn more about the creativity of others as well.


After I got married, we moved to Utah and I went to work at a men’s suit shop. I learned a whole new set of skills there. But I found I was missing bridal, and called up a local bridal salon. She said she wasn’t hiring, but asked what made me qualified. I told her about my schooling, and she said she didn’t care how many people she had working for her, if I had a fashion design degree from Ricks, she wanted me in her store. I loved that job. It was a massive pay cut, but I got to work with very happy people and apply the things I learned in school and grow. I learned so much from that job. Things that I still fall back on now, 10 years later.

What are the benefits of working in the Mat-Su? Not fighting the commute! I love everything about working in the Mat-Su. Most of all, the people. Everyone here is so down to Earth. I have yet to meet a “Bridezilla.” I get to interact with a wide array of people every day, and learn so much from them about the area and their families. All of my customers have a great story within them, and it is such an honor for me to be able to interact with them. I value every one of my customers, and look forward to talking with each of them every day.

What advice would you give to young women preparing to enter the workforce? Don’t be afraid to take that leap, regardless of where it may take you. I was terrified when I bought my first business license. But here I am almost 10 years later, and loving every minute! Don’t sell yourself short. If you have a dream, there’s a reason. Figure out what it will take to make that dream a reality, and don’t give up until you accomplish it.

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Holly Gittlein Holly Gittlein, LLC, artist 357-4802, 841-4174, and on Facebook Years in current business/position: nine

Tell us a little about yourself. How did you come to live in Alaska?

Town Square Art Gallery is proud to represent the artist

Holly Gittlein



What do you like best about what you do?


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It was my Uncle Paul and Uncle Ken who started our family migration from Colorado to Alaska. They came up here in search of gold as young men right out of high school. They floated the Yukon River starting in Canada and ended up in Alaska, without much gold, so they started their own construction businesses and well, here we all are. I spent my childhood summers with my family here and always felt that Alaska was my true home. After finishing undergraduate in studies in biology and spanish I started working for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game on the Alaska Peninsula as a fisheries technician. So, I am a fish head at heart and a woman who is desperately in love with the sea. I anchored myself in Wasilla to be close to my family. But being a free spirit, I have been roaming the world fishing, traveling and working in biology, conservation and art. Most recently I was in Fiskars Village, Finland, on a two-month artist residency where I lived in a quaint little village built in the 1600s. Fiskars has become the center of art and culture in Finland, and 200 of the 500 in habitants are professional artists. The experience fueled my artist talents and career development, pushing me into new mediums and widening my perspective regarding my purpose and direction as an artist.

There are two things I like best about


being an artist: 1- The freedom to create without guidelines or restrictions; 2- The power of art as a universal means of communication crossing all races, languages, religion and culture. Art is the essence of the human spirit.

How did previous experiences help prepare you for what you do today? The biggest contribution to my success as an artist was growing up in a family that builds everything themselves. I learned from an early age how to use all types of tools and equipment. I was taught, mostly by my uncles Paul and Ken, to not only have the vision of what was to be constructed, but how to develop a concept and engineer it. Most important, they encouraged me to be resourceful and think outside of the box about materials and design.

What are the benefits of w orking in the Mat-Su? The Mat-Su has unending beauty and nature that serves as an inspiration for my work. I also enjoy that the winters get so cold and dark and provide a great excuse for me to take a trip to some wild place and get lost for a while. Every artist should get lost once a year. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s good for the creative soul.

What advice would you give to young women preparing to enter the workforce? Get a good education, work hard and have fun along the way. Be honest with yourself and with others. Dream big. MARCH 12, 2013

Jehnifer Ehmann Co-owner, Ehmann Outdoors LLC 354-0059, Years in current business/position? two

Tell us a little about yourself. How did you come to live in Alaska? I am a born and raised third-generation Alaskan from Palmer. I have enjoyed the outdoors and have had a great appreciation of it since a very young age. I believe to love something is to share it. My husband, Butch, and I, through Ehmann Outdoors, hope to share our passion of fishing and hunting with others. I am the Chair of the Mat-Su Valley Fish and Game Advisory Committee for the state Department of Fish and Game, a member of the Mat-Su Borough Fish and Wildlife Commission, President-elect of the Greater Palmer Chamber of Commerce, and hunter education instructor.

What do you like best about what you do? I enjoy being able to help others experience Alaska’s outdoors through education. There is nothing more satisfying for me than watching others discover why I put every ounce of energy into what I do. Whether it be hosting seminars, organizing events, teaching hands-on classes or volunteering, we put everything we have into getting others active and inspired about the outdoors. The thing I enjoy the most about Ehmann Outdoors is being able to grow this business from the ground up with my husband.

How did previous experiences help prepare you for what you do today? It helps that I grew up outdoors with a fishing rod in one hand and a gun in the other. I have also been mentored by some amazing women along the way, and as a result have gained the confidence to push myself to go after positions and opportunities regardless of how lofty they seem.

becomes, “kick down the door,” rather than waiting for it to open when obstacles are at their greatest. Believing in yourself and having confidence in what you’re capable of is the best way to guarantee you will be successful in things you set out to do.

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What are the benefits of working in the Mat-Su? I sincerely love the Mat-Su Valley. There is nowhere I would rather live, work and play. The business community is welcoming, encouraging and connected. The support I have received from other business owners is simply amazing. I believe businesses in the MatSu genuinely want other businesses to succeed, and that is precisely the atmosphere you want to experience as a new business owner.

What advice would you give to young women preparing to enter the workforce? I would want them to know that along their journey they will encounter closed doors of opportunity, and that the real challenge then becomes perseverance. In fact, some of the best opportunities are behind the most difficult doors to open. Often my mantra MARCH 12, 2013



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Kelci Hatcher The Grape Tap, owner 376-8466 Hatcher & Associates, owner/real estate appraiser 357-5182 Years in current business/position: four years in restaurant industry 10 years in residential real estate appraisal

Tell us a little about yourself. How did you come to live in Alaska? I was born and raised in Northern California and lived there until my early 20s. In 2001, my now husband had a career opportunity in Alaska and suggested a move/ adventure. We packed up our two dogs along with our most necessary belongings and drove up the Alcan.

What do you like best about what you do? The creative process! The restaurant industry requires attention to so many areas,


How did previous experiences help prepare you for what you do today? By observing family members operating their own businesses. I was also fortunate that my parents instilled a fierce work ethic in their children.

What are the benefits of working in the Mat-Su?

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such as designing menus, food and wine pairing, creating an atmosphere in which people feel comfortable, as well as the business itself operating efficiently and profitably. I also enjoy the freedom and flexibility of being an entrepreneur. Overall, I find the process of building a business, quite simply, an enjoyable experience.

First and foremost for me is the view! I feel a strong connection to the mountains and am inspired by them on a daily basis. I grew up in a small town, so I enjoy the slower pace of the Mat-Su Valley and the opportunity to see familiar faces around town. Thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s comfort and satisfaction in the ability to get to know people where you live and be involved in the community.

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What advice would you give to young women preparing to enter the workforce? My advice to young woman would be to â&#x20AC;&#x201C; as early as possible â&#x20AC;&#x201C; know and understand who you are and what is important to you. Make decisions and set goals consistent with who you are, who you want to be, and what feels right for you. Align yourself in both business and life with partners and/or associates who are fun-loving, loyal, positive and inspiring. Did I mention to have fun?



MARCH 12, 2013

Kim Ford Career Service Officer, Charter College Chairwoman, Mat-Su Borough Economic Development Advisory Council Work Phone: 352-1000 Years in current business/position? four

Tell us a little about yourself. How did you come to live in Alaska? I was born and raised in Red Bank, N.J., and spent my summers body-surfing in the Atlantic Ocean or swimming in the pool. I was only dry when it was time to head to bed. Even then, I often went to sleep with wet hair. I lived on a small farm and had lots of family around while I was growing up. I received my bachelor’s degree in psychology and business administration from Houghton College, in Houghton, N.Y., and my master’s degree in counseling from Grace Theological Seminary, in Winona Lake, Ind. While working as an assistant to the Dean of Women for Grace College, I met and married my husband, Nathan Ford. After he graduated, we moved to Wasilla in 1991. He had been to Alaska before to attend part of high school in the Bush where his uncle taught, and then again when he attended Alaska Bible College. He now teaches and coaches at Wasilla High School. We have three children — two in college, and one about to graduate from high school. Sports and church are a big part of our lives, and you can either find us at the gym, on the track or cross country course, or at Wasilla Bible Church if we’re not at home, school or work.

What do you like best about what you do?

I have to say I love my job. I love Charter College and the opportunities it has afforded me to grow as a person and as an employee. My supervisor and the president of Charter College both encourage and enable me to get out in the community as much as possible to learn, to network and to volunteer in various capacities. I especially love that Charter College is a place for the Mat-Su community to attend classes at an accelerated rate to prepare to work for a specific career. Part of my job is to arrange externships for students who are at the end of their program and are simply needing some “real world” experience before working in their related field.

MARCH 12, 2013

I have the opportunity to meet so many people every day — in the legal field, the business world, the medical field, and the criminal justice field. Most everyone I meet is so community-minded and wants to offer a learning opportunity for others in their chosen field. A major part of my job is to “package” and “market” our graduates once they are ready to begin their new careers. The most rewarding thing about my job is to go out into the community and see one of our accounting graduates, Certified Medical Assistants or paralegals working and realizing their career dreams from the first day they started at Charter and “rang the bell” in admissions, signifying a determination to change the course of their future. In representing Charter College, I was invited to sit on the Mat-Su Borough Economic Development Advisory Council. After seven months of being a member, a new chairperson was needed for the council and I was approached about taking on the responsibility. I decided I would lead the Advisory Council meetings and am in a constant state of absorbing new information regarding economic development as it pertains to our massive Mat-Su Borough. A large part of the job is coordinating the efforts of hundreds of Valley citizens who have committed to sitting on a work group in their area of expertise. One of my strengths is networking, which comes in handy when I am trying to staff a particular work group. I am also an organizer and writer, so these attributes help in carrying out my job as chairwoman. I work closely with the Mat-Su Borough Development Director and his staff to manage the 25 work groups that are either currently functioning or are about to “launch”.

How did previous experiences help prepare you for what you do today? The previous experiences I choose to cite here are: 1) Being my father’s daughter. He was a businessman, a city official, a very involved community member as a fire chief, a zoning board chairman for over 20 years, and a Lion’s Club member/president for as many years. Listening to, and learning from him helped me learn about so many aspects of community and business. 2) My education. Learning about people in my Psychology and Counseling degree studies has taught me so much and prepared me to be a listener and to understand myself


and others, which is key to relating to people well. 3) My previous job as a Residential Supervisor of 10 group homes and 80+ employees helped me learn about managing a large project and overseeing a sizable amount of people. I learned that no matter how hard I tried, not everyone was going to like me or my decisions, and that’s ok.

What are the benefits of working in the Mat-Su? The benefit of working in the Mat-Su is how small the community is—even though the land mass is huge. When you attend the weekly Chamber of Commerce meetings or other Valley meetings, you know most everyone, from the “least” to the “greatest.” Networking is a cinch. I play “match-maker” all the time when I link a recent graduate to an employer. The size and friendly atmosphere of the business, legal, medical, and justice communities make it a pleasure. Another benefit for me and for all of us, really, is that we are at the beginning of something great. The Mat-Su Borough is poised for incredible economic growth, and if you have skills and are in the right place at the right time, you are going to succeed.

What advice would you give to young women preparing to enter the workforce? Always keep your priorities in check. If you’re a wife and/ or mom, make sure your family comes first. Don’t let your career get ahead of your responsibilities at home. That doesn’t mean you can’t work, but analyze your situation and see how you can ensure that your family is #1. If it’s in jeopardy of slipping into a #2 or #3 spot, rearrange! I had 3 kids in a 3-year period, and for about 9 years I did not work outside the home. Not everyone has that luxury, but I am thankful I did have those years at home when my kids were young. I feel like I have “had it all”(family and career), just not all at once. Even now I only work 20 hours a week, just so I can be involved in my family life as much as I would like. For all young women, I’d say: Have an exceptional work ethic Know how to use Word and Excel really well (and other pertinent software for your career) Learn how to make others comfortable around you When determining if you should talk about a problem at work to someone else, ask yourself “Is this person part of the problem or part of the solution?” If not, keep it to yourself. Join a professional club in your particular field and be active in attending meetings. Find how you can help others succeed. I try to promote new businesses starting out in the Valley and invite new business people to Chamber of Commerce meetings and other networking events to introduce them to my circle of influence. And to conclude, I’d like to take this opportunity to pass on to you a few businesses in our community established or recently started by women in the Valley whom I’d like to promote: Mocha Me Crazy, The House of Bread, In Fu Sion Boutique, Curves of Wasilla, and lulu e. bebe’s… check them out if you haven’t already.

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Kira Thompson Owner, BurgundyHorse Bistro 300 W. Swanson Ave., Suite 110, Wasilla, 357-4050. On Facebook at I also own and operate Kira’s Kids N’ Kritters day care, 376-0636

Years in current business/position? four

Tell us a little about yourself. How did you come to live in Alaska?

What do you like best about what you do?

What are the benefits of working in the Mat-Su?

I have had my day care for more than four years now, and as of May 17 will have owned the restaurant for a year. Before it became BurgundyHorse Bistro, it was known as Lil Peas BBQ that I opened with a friend. Unfortunately, our partnership did not work out, and I am now the sole owner of the restaurant.

I moved to Alaska in September 2005. I drove up here from Sweet Home, Ore., in a little Ford Ranger, with two dogs, a bird and a ferret, to start a new life. I am currently a single mother of a beautiful little girl and own two businesses that take up more hours than there are in a day. But it is a life I love and am proud to claim.

The best part about what I do is helping other people. I love the fact that my businesses provide job opportunities to other people in need and that I am able to give to those who need it the most. I am working hard to expand my restaurant to be able to help more. Especially during the holidays, I would love to be able to provide meals to those who otherwise have nowhere to go or anyone to spend time with. I honestly believe that a community that helps each other, grows together. We have the ability to be an amazing community, and I want and love being a part of that!

I love the tight-knit community that we have here. Word of mouth is phenomenal, and we have the ability to reach a lot of people. I love the home feeling I get here in Wasilla. The people in the Mat-Su are amazing people. I couldn’t ask for a more supportive community. 

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How did previous experiences help prepare you for what you do today? Honestly, I went into the restaurant business as the bookkeeper/paper pusher and ended up with a whole lot of learning on the go. Since I took over the restaurant completely in August 2012, it has been a whole lot of trial and error, with experiences I am glad I have the ability to experience and hope that everyone enjoys the outcome. 2013 WOMEN IN BUSINESS

What advice would you give to young women preparing to enter the workforce? If you plan to become a business owner, do your homework first. There is nothing like being a business owner, but the road is a lot smoother when you have your ducks in a row. The business center is very helpful and can help set you on the correct path to achieve your goals. Be a big part of your community. The more people know you, the easier it is to network and to know where you need to be to get the best clientele. I know a great little bistro, just out of the way, that would be the perfect place to get together and hold meetings.

MARCH 12, 2013

Michelle Overstreet Owner, Michelle Overstreet Consulting 414-0930

I have owned my own consulting business for 18 years, offering contractual as well as private solution-based life coaching for teens and families. I specialize in graduation planning and have contracts with American Charter Academy and Burchell High School helping high school students set goals and secure scholarships and funding for continued education. I have worked in the field of drug treatment and prevention for more than 22 years, training police officers and personnel from the DOT, DEA and FBI, as well as working drug prevention contracts with other various groups and agencies. One of my most interesting opportunities was working as the addiction specialist for Joe Garagiola’s Spit Tobacco Prevention Project with Diamondbacks baseball in Phoenix when I lived there.  Recently, I led a committed group of community volunteers to start a nonprofit to help homeless and abandoned youth in the Mat-Su Valley, called MY House. I am currently the chair of the board and acting director – volunteer posts – of this very innovative and fast moving organization seeking to provide sustainable housing for the Mat-Su Valley.  

Tell us a little about yourself. How did you come to live in Alaska? I was born in Fairbanks and lived in married students housing with my parMARCH 12, 2013

ents attending UAF until I was 2. Stevie McSwain, the hockey player from Anchorage, and I were the only kids in the place. We moved to Palmer, and I attended first and second grade there, before moving to Wasilla, where I graduated from high school. I earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Idaho and completed my coursework and practicum for a master’s in health psychology at Northern Arizona University. But I’m a Valley girl at heart, and very glad to be home.

What do you like best about what you do? Every day is different, every person is different, so it’s never boring. I like people and learning about people, so it works for me. The MY House project is a true passion because there is such a tremendous need, and the youth we are helping are resilient young people with great potential for their lives. So many wonderful people have joined the effort. I have made new friends and renewed some old friendships while doing good things for kids. What’s not to like?

from Arizona in the fall of 2009, and was shocked to realize how many homeless youth are in our community, and how many of those are great students and great kids with terrible life circumstances. I decided to make a difference, and the time I had to work with Joe Garagiola was so inspirational! He didn’t just talk about what he wanted for kids, he dug in and made things happen, and fast.  So I just did what we did when we worked together, and kept asking the community to join in and be part of the solution. It’s not my project anymore. It belongs to everyone who has contributed, so it feels like being on a winning team. I love being on a winning team!

How did previous experiences help prepare you for what you do today? This is my home, this state and this valley, and I want it to be a good place for kids to grow up. Not just my child, but the other kids in the community. I returned 2013 WOMEN IN BUSINESS

Whether you need marketing materials, someone to sign for packages, or expert packing and shipping, we’re here to help. We love small businesses. We love logistics.

What are the benefits of working in the Mat-Su? The Valley offers a thriving business community with many opportunities to network and participate in community activities while still offering privacy when you want it.  There are bright people with clever minds here. There are resources and creative solutions that need not be bound by some of the politics and rules of more metropolitan areas. In fact, some of those solutions don’t work for the independent and outspoken culture in the more rural areas.  The Mat Su Valley offers many of the Continued on Page 19

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Years in current business/position?

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Teresa Roy

Cover Ups, 746-4739, Years in current business/position? Owner of Cover Ups since 1996

Tell us a little about yourself. How did you come to live in Alaska?

What are the benefits of working in the Mat-Su?

I was born in raised in Alaska to a family of entrepreneurs. My grandparents homesteaded in the Mat Su valley . Cover Ups was recently awarded State Chamber of Commerce Small business of the year for Alaska 2012-13

I really enjoy the benefits derived from living and working in a community. I especially enjoy the connection and support from the business community and residents of Palmer!

What do you like best about what you do?

What advice would you give to young women preparing to enter the workforce?

Helping people create the living environment they desire.

How did previous experiences help prepare you for what you do today? I think knowing what you Donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t want to do is just as important as knowing what you do want to do for a career path. I knew from my first day of work serving hamburgers at age 16 that one day I wanted to work for myself!

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Be 100% commited to whatever you choose to do, even if itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a stepping stone to a bigger dream. Show up, be accountable, be reliable and do your very best. Your reputation will follow you good or bad. And to a new business owner my advice is step off the emotional roller coaster put your head down and move forward.


MARCH 12, 2013

Roxie Mayberry Alaska State Fair,Inc. Corporate Partnerships Director 907-746-7165 2075 Glenn Hwy Palmer Years in current business/position? 4

Tell us a little about yourself. How did you come to live in Alaska? I was born and raised in Utah. I have been married to my husband, Chance, for 20 years and we have five children. Along with working for the Alaska State Fair, I currently own three businesses with my husband: Mayberry Studios (I am a professional photographer), Alaska Photography Academy, and MobiNet Designs, a mobile marketing company. I went to Utah State University and studied journalism and broadcasting. In the fall of 2007, my husband and I were ready for a change in our lives and we decided to move to Alaska, as we felt it was a great place to raise a family. I have enjoyed every minute since. I love the Mat-Su Valley.

What do you like best about what you do? Building relationships in the community. My position allows me to meet new people every day. I have been able to build some close friendships with many business professionals. Because of my job, I have also had the opportunity to be involved in the community as vice president of the Greater Wasilla Chamber, Economic Development, Tourism, and Marketing committees of several organizations as well as helping with causes such as the March of Dimes. Working for the Fair has given me many opportunities to grow and fulfill some of my dreams and, of course, who wouldn’t love working at the Alaska State Fair!

How did previous experiences help prepare you for what you do today?

What advice would you give to young women preparing to enter the workforce? Set your goals high. You have so many opportunities to become whatever you desire. Find mentors, people you respect and look up to, who can guide you in your career, then glean and learn from those who have already been through the trenches. Get involved in the community by attending meetings and volunteering. Build as many relationships as you can with those in the business community, as they can help you in so many aspects. Networking is crucial. I have been blessed to be able to rub elbows with those I admire, to talk with them one-on-one, to glean from the knowledge they have built over so many years. Do not let fear stop you. Failure is just a stepping-stone for success. No one becomes successful without having trials that make them stronger. Learn from them and you will succeed; ignore them, and you will not progress. Never stop learning. Always take the opportunity to attend workshops, conventions, conferences, read articles and books. No one ever knows all there is to know. Those who take these opportunities when they are offered will progress much more quickly and will be given more opportunities. Do something you love and are compassionate about – whether it be a part of your job, or something in the community that you can make a difference in doing. But always remember to have a balance in your life. Do not let your career overtake your life. Last of all, have fun and learn to laugh as you climb the ladder of success. Joy comes from within.

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What are the benefits of working in the Mat-Su?

Tammy I Bruce Financial Advisor

I have had several opportunities to work in Anchorage but have turned them down because I feel working in the Mat-Su has so many more benefits. My commute to work is less than 10 minutes. I do not have to fight with the traffic into Anchorage. I have opportunities to work with professionals in the community who have the same goals to see the Mat-Su become a great place to do business. I have many opportunities to become involved and to I know the MARCH 12, 2013


Most of my life I have been in positions where I was in management, as well as owning my own small businesses. These experiences have prepared me to be able to build relationships with those I work with, from individuals and small businesses, to the big corporations. Without my prior experiences, I would not have the confidence to go out and meet new people through networking. All of my experiences up to this point have molded the person I am today. I look at the experiences I am having now to create what I will become in the future. Being in business for myself has given me the perspective to understand what businesses are looking for when it comes to marketing opportunities and sponsorship. Before I came to Alaska, I was very involved in building the community in which I lived, and I was on many committees and chaired many events whose purpose was to build unity in the community, drive traffic to businesses, and to promote the area in which I lived, all of which have helped me in my present position at the Fair.

people I work with on committees and organizations, as the Mat-Su is a close-knit community. Best of all, working in the Mat-Su gives me the opportunity to be a part of my children’s activities and events.



642 S Alaska St Suite 108 Palmer, AK 99645 Member SIPC 907-746-1175

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Nicole Bendle Personal Banker, First National Bank Alaska PH. 907-352-5939 Fax 907-352-5949 Years in current business/position: 8.5

Tell us a little about yourself. How did you come to live in Alaska? My Dad was in the Air Force and we moved to Alaska in 1984. We lived on Elmendorf Air Force Base for almost two years when we moved to Wasilla in 1985. I first attended Snowshoe Elementary and switched schools in second grade to attend Iditarod Elementary. I then

went on to Wasilla Middle School, and after coming back from 18 months in California at March Air Force Base, I attended and graduated from Wasilla high School. Shortly after graduation, I moved to Washington and lived in Lynwood for four years. I came back to Alaska in 2001 and have been here ever since living and or working in either Anchorage or Wasilla.

I have a great career! I work with business clients where I have the opportunity to learn about their businesses and help them to implement products or services that are going to enhance their business, improve profitability and simplify processes. Continued on Page 19

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What do you like best about what you do?

Nicole Bendle

for being recognized as a Woman in Business



MARCH 12, 2013

Carolyn Hanson Continued from Page 3 Alaska. I benefited immensely by traveling to other areas and experiencing their remoteness and witnessing the pride that was found in small communities. It also gave me a chance to see the diversity and challenges that Alaskans face and overcome. You hear people say that “Alaska is different.” However, it’s not until you live and experience all the beauty and people that you understand and are able to relate to that statement. I feel so fortunate to live and work in such a magnificent place. I have enjoyed working in the communications industry. It’s an industry that’s dynamic and ever-changing. We face many challenges today, and just like the last 25 years, there have been a lot of changes. These changes have made my career interesting and perplexing at times.

The one constant in life is change, and that’s very true with this industry as well. At times, the challenges havechallenges have made for some bumpy roads, but in the end, it’s been worth the experience.

What are the benefits of working in the Mat-Su? Being able to work and live in the Mat-Su is special because it’s easy to get involved, and you feel there is a real sense of community. My job has provided me a great opportunity to volunteer at our schools, watch our kids at sporting events, serve on local nonprofit boards, and so much more. Our family was instrumental in helping build the A-Moose-Ment playground; . Wwe’ve built baseball dugouts, and have helped raise funds for many worthy area projects. That’s what is special about being

a part of a community like the Mat-Su. People are always coming together for a common goal. MTA is an integral part of the Mat-Su community. We provide great local jobs and we help fuel our local economy. Our employees donate countless hours of their valuable time, and our company encourages and supports getting involved. It makes a huge difference to our friends and neighbors.

What advice would you give to young women preparing to enter the workforce? I have always been a strong advocate for education. I would encourage young women to attend college or a vocational school, work hard and, more importantly, believe in themselves. The discipline and

experience I gained graduating from college is one of my greatest memories and achievements. I recognize it’s hard to know what you want to be or do right after high school, but the experience is so important and it is worth the journey. My parents always told me I could do anything I wanted. and even today, I instill this belief and attitude in my own children. Young adults have a lot of distractions in today’s world, and in some ways it may be harder growing up. I would encourage young women to get involved and volunteer in the community to make a difference. By helping others, you will develop relationships that allow you to grow as an individual. It’s really the simple things: have a plan, stay focused, recognize you will make mistakes, learn from them, and make your dreams become reality.

Nicole Bendle Continued from Page 18 I spend a lot of time building relationships with business owners while learning about their business. It is my job to recommend or implement new products or services that will aid them in achieving those goals. Because First National Bank Alaska is Alaskan-owned and -operated with strong ties to the communities we serve, and because of my position with First National Bank Alaska, I am in the community and have worked hard to become a part of my community. I am on the Board for the Mat-Su Convention and Visitors Bureau. I am an Ambassador for BNI (Business Network International),

member of the Wasilla Chamber of Commerce, and I am an advocate for Big Brothers Big Sisters and the United Way Mat-Su. My job at First National Bank allows me the opportunity to be involved in and support my community and to aid in the betterment of my community. All of which makes me proud to work for First National Bank Alaska and to live in Wasilla!

How did previous experiences help prepare you for what you do today? I have always been strong-willed and was taught early on to not give up. When I turned 18, I moved to Lynnwood, Wash. I

Michelle Overstreet Continued from Page 15

benefits of the urban areas, and still lots of rural feel – protected wetlands and places to get out and fish and hunt, snowshoe and ski. I think it offers the best of both worlds.

What advice would you give to young women preparing to enter the workforce? Be flexible about what you do, because everything changes all the time. Be MARCH 12, 2013

open-minded about people and problemsolving, and look for solutions rather than complaining about problems. Be slow to judge and quick to forgive. Love people. Most people don’t have enough love in their lives, and if you take care of yourself you always have enough to share. Find tools for being really good at getting along with others and keeping your life and attitude squared away. It isn’t just what you do that matters, it’s who you are and how you treat other people.

had no home, no job and a couple of suitcases full of my belongings. Needless to say, I was forced to grow up and become an adult rather quickly. I wanted to make a life for myself, and make my family proud of me. My first few months living in Washington I worked three jobs, six days a week, open to close of the mall, during the Christmas season. What can I say? I wanted and needed to be successful. After the season ended and my three jobs were going away until the following Christmas season, I had a decision to make. I liked working in a sales environment, and I liked working with people. Truth be told, I was good at it! I decided to apply with Zales Corporation and started work a few days later. I started in the lowest position as a sales associate and within the year I was running my own store. I found that I have a natural ability to build rapport with clients quickly and to guide them in making what sometimes was one of the largest decisions they had ever made. I worked for Zales Corporation for almost six years. When I decided I wanted to make a change, I started working for the First National Bank Alaska. Although the scenery has changed, the root of the position is very similar. I think that I have been on a sales path for most of my life. I am not afraid to talk with a large group, a single person or a complete stranger. For me, it is second nature.


What are the benefits of working in the Mat-Su? This is my community and has been for a long time. Wasilla has come a long way since I was a child. I remember when there was a Shakey’s Pizza where Blockbuster is. I remember Lamont’s in the Cottonwood Creek Mall. I remember when they built Pizza Hut off Wasilla Lake. Wasilla has grown. We are not the sleepy town we used to be. Development has happened and will continue to happen. As it does, we are able to offer more commuting families goodpaying jobs close to home. Wasilla is a great town to raise a family and to grow old in as well. We still have a sense of community pride. It’s important that we teach our children to get involved and stand behind the things they believe in and to volunteer in our community.

What advice would you give to young women preparing to enter the workforce? Find a position that is natural to you, one that makes you happy and leaves a smile on your face at the end of the day. Employment is more than a paycheck. Look for a career in which you can foster a positive and successful long-term relationship between yourself and the employer. Find a company that makes you proud to be a part of it, one that you believe in and can stand behind. Page 19

You are invited! 2013 Women in Business Luncheon Reserve today at Join the Frontiersman as we honor Women in Business and Women’s History Month!

Monday, 1212pm noon at Evangelo’s Restaurant Monday, March 25, 25th, Evangelo’s Restaurant (Doors open at 11:30am)

Individual tickets $35 • Table $250 For sponsorship opportunities please call 352-2291

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MARCH 12, 2013

2013 Women in Business  

Publication highlighting 15 women in the Mat-Su Valley business community.