Tag Archives: Women in Business

Lesley Brandt and Renee Black

May 4, 2017 by

This sponsored content appears in the Winter 2017 edition of B2B. To view, click here: https://issuu.com/omahapublications/docs/b2b_0217_125/56

“Whatever it takes” is a personal motto for both Renee Black and Lesley Brandt. As the founders and principal producers of Omaha’s premier event planning agency, planitomaha, this power female duo knows that “having it all” comes from a lot of hustle. No client request is too lofty and no event too grandiose.

“On any given day, our team is coming and going, event supplies are shipping in and out, and face-to-face meetings with clients and vendors are constant,” Brandt says.

Just because these ladies have headquartered their firm in the Midwest doesn’t make their agency small potatoes. For more than 18 years, planitomaha has worked from New York to Los Angeles and everywhere in between to provide their clients with highly specialized and highly strategic corporate meeting and event management services.

“Like most entrepreneurs, we started with a vision, a box of business cards, and the drive to make it succeed,” Black says.

Years before that first box of business cards, the two actually met each other in high school and stayed in touch through college. After both developed careers in nonprofits, marketing, business, and—of course—event planning, they came back together 18 years ago to form planitomaha when they realized their strengths and backgrounds were complementary.

This special combination of skills has led to a legacy of delivering wow moments. Whether they are planning an event for six people or 6,000, planitomaha works as an extension of their clients’ teams to produce work that is on time, on-budget, and on-point.

From Hollywood backlot parties to political national conventions, there’s practically nothing Black and Brandt haven’t touched as they’ve developed their small firm into a multimillion-dollar company.

“We always relate to our clients as people and will always get the job done accurately,” Brandt says. “In a fast-paced and successful company, it’s important for our women-owned business to invest in relationships and empower those around us to do great things.”

True to their word, Black and Brandt have devoted much of their careers to empowering women—especially young women. The entirety of planitomaha’s full-time staff is comprised of women, with the firm’s internship program regularly following suit.

“Our employees fit the brand by being smart, professional, and Type A personalities,” Black says. For interns who fill this niche, many have been hired on full-time.

Beyond the unique makeup of the company, Black and Brandt say their firm’s event technology puts them ahead of competitors. One of the only event agencies in the country that has its own innovative technology program, planitomaha’s AttendeeXP is a custom attendee management system that also provides meeting and event elements in a virtual environment.

It’s this progressive mindset and atmosphere that has led to planitomaha’s success in creating award-winning events on a local and national scale.

“It’s important people remember how smart and efficient we are,” Brandt says. “Our work ethic and problem solving skills are what our clients thrive on while our wide reach and experience keeps them coming back.”

10832 Old Mill Rd., Suite 5
Omaha, NE 68154
402.333.3062
planitomaha.com

Tracy L. Hightower-Henne and Susan Reff

April 28, 2017 by

This sponsored content appears in the Winter 2017 edition of B2B. To view, click here: https://issuu.com/omahapublications/docs/b2b_0217_125/56

Under the Hightower Reff Law logo, you’ll often see the words “Confident. Clear. Committed.”  This female owned and dominated firm strives to make the phrase more than just a tagline: “Confident. Clear. Committed.” It’s the firm’s guiding principal and how partner attorney owners Tracy Hightower-Henne, Susan Reff, and their associate attorneys practice law—and how Hightower-Henne and Reff say they run the firm.

The downtown Omaha family law and criminal defense/DUI firm helps clients navigate the legal system during what can be the most stressful time in the client’s life. The types of cases the firm handles can be hard for clients because they impact the client’s family or their freedom. “We help people when they’re facing a challenge or a life-changing event by being their legal representative and legal advocate,” says Reff.

Making the case and the legal process as clear as possible makes a stressful time during a case easier, Hightower-Henne explains. “We think it’s really important for our clients to understand why things are happening,” she says. “I don’t know if all lawyers educate their clients on what the next steps are and what the big picture is showing,” Reff adds. “We give them options and let them decide what they want to do, but we can give them advice as to one option being a better option over another and use our experience to guide them.”

The firm’s four attorneys and their three-person support staff work as a team. “We regularly meet to go over what’s happening on each case in our office, and that includes all our staff and the attorneys,” Reff says. “What we like to tell people when they hire us is that they’re hiring the whole firm to handle their case.”

Five of the seven people at Hightower Reff Law are female, including both partner attorney owners. “We’re a woman-owned business and that’s something we take a lot of pride in,” Reff says.  “We want to be known for being really good lawyers, too,” Hightower-Henne adds. Reff agrees, being respected as good lawyers is the most important thing for both partners and the firm. “We want people to know we’re compassionate and effective, and that we’re committed to our clients. We have high ethical standards, and we want to be known for having a great reputation,” says Reff.

Having a great reputation means word gets around, and a number of clients come to the firm after asking friends and family for recommendations. “That’s the biggest compliment, when we have referrals from past clients,” Hightower-Henne says.

Hightower Reff’s partner attorneys share their legal expertise in other ways, too. Hightower-Henne is Executive Director of the Nebraska Innocence Project, a nonprofit that gives free legal representation to people in prison who have been wrongly convicted. Reff serves as a guardian ad litem, where she represents the interests of children in abuse and neglect cases as well as in custody, emancipation, and adoption cases.

1625 Farnam St., Suite 830
Omaha, NE 68102
402.932.9550
hrlawomaha.com

Jeri Schlickbernd

April 21, 2017 by

This sponsored content appears in the Winter 2017 edition of B2B. To view, click here: https://issuu.com/omahapublications/docs/b2b_0217_125/56

Jeri Schlickbernd enjoys working with all of her clients. But she especially enjoys time spent with female clientele.

“Our female investors are fun to work with because this is often new and exciting to them. Since I am a woman, they have a lot of trust in me, and they confide their fears, hopes, and so on with me more than they likely would with a man,” says the CEO of DVG Realty. “I do the same with them, which naturally creates a trust level.”

Her office is unique in the real estate investment world—50 percent of her employees are female.

“I think one of the greatest things about women working together is our ability to do business and get things done at a high level while also involving our emotions,” says Schlickbernd. “It creates a level of trust and camaraderie that men don’t typically share.”

DVG Realty specializes in income-producing residential real estate—house flipping and turn-key rentals. “Turn-key” means that DVG Realty handles everything for a client—from acquisition through rehab and then rental or sale.

Schlickbernd has been through the ups and downs of real estate investing.

“I started my real estate career in Phoenix, and I lived through the real estate crash of 2008. Because of this, I am super careful with my real estate investments,” she says.

Women are generally a bit more cautious than men when investing, she adds.

“So, our philosophy of investing only in what we would invest in ourselves and of looking at worst-case scenarios really speaks to our female clients,” says Schlickbernd. “Most investment-focused companies sell the upside because it’s exciting. I sell the worst-case scenario because I want my clients to know that when the real estate market turns again, they will be fine, and when the market is good, they will be great.”

Trust is a key word for customers. “We have a very successful track record, and our clients know they can trust us,” she says. “We look at every investment with the mindset of ‘would we invest in this ourselves?’”

“Women control a large, and growing, percentage of the wealth in the U.S.,” she adds. “Many women are intimidated with investing this money. We make investing in real estate easy to understand and to be successful at by being a trusted partner and service provider.”

Some customers are single women or women investing without a spouse or input of their spouse. “Historically men have made investment and real estate decisions when it’s not the primary home they live in,” says Schlickbernd.

Stocks or real estate? She says a big advantage that real estate investing has over investments like stocks is that you own a tangible asset: “So, if the market turns bad, you still have something instead of losing everything.”

“We want to be the go-to company for real estate investing,” she says. “We want to be known as honest, fair, and trustworthy, while at the same time creating great return on investment for our clients.”

4669 L St.
Omaha, NE 68117
402.680.1010
dvgrealty.com

Lynne Sangimino

April 14, 2017 by

This sponsored content appears in the Winter 2017 edition of B2B. To view, click here: https://issuu.com/omahapublications/docs/b2b_0217_125/56

Lynne Sangimino tells women that to move forward in their careers, sometimes they have to move sideways.

“I worked for a company that I helped build that was bought by another company,” she says. “In hindsight, it was one of the best things that ever happened. The willingness to try another role is very valuable. You have to be prepared to make a number of changes, including making a lateral move before moving up. It will help you grow.”

Sangimino has been with Cox for 10 years, making the move to Omaha three years ago to serve as vice president for Cox Business in Omaha. In her role she leads the Cox Business team for commercial customers, with clients ranging from small businesses to Fortune 500 companies.

“I love this community,” she says. “It has high expectations of local business leaders for collaboration. I don’t know if Omaha realizes how unusual that is. We work together and compete for the greater good. I’ve not found that in other communities where I’ve lived.”

Not only do local companies work together, so do the employees at Cox. Committees made up of Cox employees focus on ways that workers can be involved in the community. Employees often volunteer to work for charities.

“Many of our employees serve on philanthropic boards. So their influence is felt not only at the company’s business, but in the Omaha community,” says Sangimino.

Technology has historically been a male-driven industry, she notes. But that’s not so at Cox.

“What’s unique about Cox in Omaha is most of our executives here are female,” she says. “It’s a testament to our company placing high focus on diversity.  Our female employees are very capable and very confident and especially involved.”

The average tenure of employees on the Cox Business team is 10 years, “which I think is unique in business these days,” Sangimino says.

Cox Communications is one of the largest broadband and entertainment companies in the U.S., providing video, internet, telephone service, home and business security.

“We’ve been successful in the Omaha community 35 years with our residential services and have been offering business services for 18 years. Cox is a company that is in many markets nationwide,” she says.

“We are one of the first companies of our type to offer business security, (launched in July), both detection and surveillance for small-to-medium-size businesses.”

Customers choose us as their technology partner because of our ability to be nimble, she says. “We break through red tape to get things done quickly. We are a large company with strong capabilities and financial stability that does not lose sight of our customer and serving them 24/7.”

Reflecting on her legacy, Sangimino says, “It’s my hope that I’ve helped lift others up in their careers through mentoring and stretch assignments; it’s so satisfying hearing some employees I’ve led five or 10 years ago who started their own business or moved up the ladder, who called to say, ‘thank you.’ I serve my team and my company to leave it better than when I came.”

401 N. 117th St.
Omaha, NE 68154
402.934.3223
coxbusiness.com

Beth Raper

March 30, 2017 by

This sponsored content appears in the Winter 2017 edition of B2B. To view, click here: https://issuu.com/omahapublications/docs/b2b_0217_125/56

From 20 people to 50,000 people. Fun Services provides entertainment for groups of all sizes.

The 50,000 people? That would be the Offutt Open House and Air Show, where Fun Services supplies entertainment.

The company has been around 50 years, says Beth Raper, who runs Fun Services with her husband, Joey. They employ 40 people.

She says not only is Fun Services the oldest firm of its kind in Omaha, it’s the best equipped in all of Nebraska and western Iowa to help customers plan special events offering inflatable rides, concessions, and casino parties, as well as party rentals, tables, chairs, and canopies.

“We have been in the business so long that we have the inventory to accommodate the customer,” Raper says. “We help businesses, churches, and schools plan special events.”

“Some people call to rent a few things. Some call and say, ‘Would you guys help with everything? I’m planning a party for 500 people,’” she says. “People appreciate that we‘re a one-stop shop.”

She and her husband bought the family-owned business five years ago. He was familiar with Fun Services and what it could provide—with good reason, she says. They both were working at Fun Services while in high school, when they met. “That’s everyone’s favorite story about us,” she says.

After college graduation, she worked as a wedding planner for five years.  Of course, she planned her own wedding to Joey. It was a small, quiet wedding with friends and family. No inflatable rides. No concessions. Just fun.

Fun Services is a fun place for the college-age students currently employed. “We provide great part-time jobs for kids. They are part-time in college and work part-time for us. We take care of our employees and have parties throughout the year.”

Approximately 90 percent of her clientele are women. “A lot of women work in an environment where they are responsible for planning a party—perhaps a PTA mother or someone planning a church festival,” she says.

“I want to be known for the fact that I love what I do. Everybody has a great time at events we plan. I try to put my touch on everything I do,” says Raper.  “But when I am at home, I focus my time on family and kids.”

Raper goes from executive boss to mom in seconds when she walks out the Fun Services door.  She has one child and is expecting another baby in time for Christmas.

Separating the two worlds is important, she says. “I think women that are mothers but also have full-time jobs know it’s hard to balance. I try to leave work at work. And make sure when I am at home, I focus my time on family and kids.”

7535 D St.
Omaha, NE 68124
402.393.7397
funservicesneia.com

Julie Tartaglia

March 27, 2017 by

This sponsored content appears in the Winter 2017 edition of B2B. To view, click here: https://issuu.com/omahapublications/docs/b2b_0217_125/56

The Tag Team at CBSHOME is different from other real estate groups, according to team leader Julie Tartaglia.

“We have all women and just one man. We call him the ‘lone wolf,’”
she jokes.

How they work with each other also is different. “It’s more of an atmosphere of lifting each other up with a positive and encouraging environment and helping people be successful,” she says. “We’ve made it a point to focus on helping each other succeed on every transaction.”

Ask a team member to describe the Tag Team at CBSHOME, and you’ll be impressed by the passion they display.

“We are a passionate group of professionals who have the philosophy that real estate doesn’t have to be complicated, and we’re driven for positive results,” says Tartaglia. “We pride ourselves on thinking outside the box with creative marketing and innovative ideas. We have a clock in the office that says, ‘Sometimes you just need one more patch than the inner tube has holes.’ We pride ourselves on being creative while being ethical and achieving desirable results.”

Understanding that women are a significant part of any transaction and treating all clients with no bias is part of the team’s beliefs.

“We don’t just do transactions,” she says. “We build relationships. And all
of us build our businesses by referral. Referral-based business is the
foundation of our whole team’s work.

“Our philosophy and concepts work.
We’re one of the top teams with CBSHOME.”

15950 W. Dodge Road
Omaha, NE 68118
402.215.2156
tagteam-realestate.com

 

Lallenia Birge

March 9, 2017 by

This sponsored content appears in the Winter 2017 edition of B2B. To view, click here: https://issuu.com/omahapublications/docs/b2b_0217_125/56

The website for Big Birge Plumbing has an old-fashioned look. “That’s intentional,” says Vice President Lallenia Birge. The theme is displayed on the company trucks, websites, and social media pages. “We started our company with the slogan ‘Old-fashioned values reborn.’”

Throughout their marketing, you will notice Lallenia wearing 1950s-style outfits; her husband, president of the company, Brad Birge, appears dressed like a lumberjack. Their logo is of Brad’s muscular arm in a red and black flannel shirt holding an oversized pipe wrench. “It’s very tongue-in-cheek marketing,” she says, adding, “We try to be honest and fair with everything we do, and believe our marketing reflects that.”

“It’s is unusual for a woman to own a plumbing company,” she says. It all began when she fell in love while working at the gym. “I saw this super attractive guy and found out he [Brad] was a plumber. Not realizing what went into the plumbing business, I would make jokes about it to my clients.”

The jokes must have paid off! They were married in 2009. “He quit his job at another plumbing company, and in 2012, we officially started [Big Birge] together,” she says. “I was still working as a trainer, started learning marketing, and dug into the business side.”

Hiring their first employee in 2013, they have expanded to nine employees. Lallenia enjoys the supportive workplace atmosphere, which they encourage with regular company outings and weekly meetings. “It’s kind of like a brotherhood; we have each others’ backs,” she exclaims.

Every Monday morning, they hold a meeting with their employees to discuss company core values. Protect the health of our community, tighten every bolt, and take ownership are three of the six values they review with the crew.

“If something doesn’t go right, we do everything in our power to fix it. Plumbers sometimes get a bad rep, and I want to prove that is not the case with our company.” She goes on to explain the company has three plumbing divisions: service, residential remodeling, and commercial.

“My role isn’t only marketing and business but to keep learning and growing myself and our team. I am even taking business classes at Metro. Someone has to keep those guys on their toes!” She says with a laugh. Her resilience on the job reflects the old-fashioned values that she holds dear from her diverse childhood.

Lallenia learned to be self-reliant at a young age. Born in Cheyenne, Wyoming, her parents separated around the time she was 2. She was in and out foster care and family friends’ homes until age 9, then adopted. By the time she was 16, she was working three jobs while going to high school and living on her own. Following a friend to Blair Nebraska at age 18, she eventually made Omaha her home.

“I give a lot of credit to the fact that I surround myself with positive people, people who are smarter than me, better than me,” Lallenia explains.

Having already accomplished her dream of becoming a personal trainer, she now wants to be remembered as a loving mother to her children (Wyatt 6, Brielle, 11 months), a great wife, and an inspiration to others in and out of business.

“I want to be known as a woman who is able to overcome and achieve something greater than herself,” she says.

402.575.0102
bigbirgeplumbing.com

Team Irish

This sponsored content appears in the Winter 2017 edition of B2B. To view, click here: https://issuu.com/omahapublications/docs/b2b_0217_125/56

The mother-daughter real estate duo of Sheila Irish and Brittney Kusmierski have a simple philosophy when it comes to their clients.

“We do what’s right, and we treat people the way we would want to be treated,” Irish says. “We do our business with heart; we care about our clients. This is the largest purchase most people will ever make. We go above and beyond to make sure things go smooth through the whole process from the loan to the closing. It doesn’t matter if you’re buying/selling a $70,000 or $1.5 million house—you’re going to get the best service from both of us.”

Team Irish’s cozy office nicely fits the family atmosphere of their real estate group, she adds. “Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Ambassador Real Estate is a family. We work to help each other. We’re transparent, and we have an amazing culture that Vince Leisey has created,” she says. “The employees at our company are not agents and work directly for Vince. We’re always running around 100 miles per hour, and each of us have our own lives going on, but at any given moment we’ll stop and chat and be there to support one another.”

That positive environment translates to great service for clients.

“From contract to closing and beyond, we’re diligent in the work that we do and the service we provide,” Irish says. “We complete not only the necessary tasks to get a deal done, but we lead our clients on a journey that they remember. And we have fun!”

331 Village Pointe Plaza
Omaha, NE 68118
402.618.5037
teamirish4homes.com

Patricia “Big Mama” Barron

February 17, 2017 by
Photography by Ani Luxe Photography

This sponsored content appears in the Winter 2017 edition of B2B. To view, click here: https://issuu.com/omahapublications/docs/b2b_0217_125/56

After graduating from the School of Culinary Arts at Metro Community College in 1973, Patricia Barron worked in the corporate world. She retired from Qwest 30 years later.

Did she head for the beach? No. At age 65, she continued working, fulfilling her lifelong dream of opening her own restaurant.

“You’re never too old to pursue your dreams,” she says, “I’m going to work until I’m 100 years old.

In December 2007, she opened the restaurant she had dreamt about.  The menu is as deliciously rich and full of history as its owner who says:  “We prepare food the way my mother and grandmother did, made from scratch with a little soul and lots of love.”

And the owner keeps going, not letting age slow her down.

The restaurant’s nationally known cuisine, service and down home atmosphere keep customers coming back.

Big Mama’s is headed for a new location next year.  Combining her restaurant and sandwich shop in the 75 North Revitalization Project, a development of homes, apartments, and condos.  The menu at the new location will feature many of the foods she has become famous for along with a few new items which Big Mama is excited to introduce to her customers.

bigmamaskitchen.com

Thrivent Financial

February 10, 2017 by

This sponsored content appears in the Winter 2017 edition of B2B. To view, click here: https://issuu.com/omahapublications/docs/b2b_0217_125/56

The need for women financial advisors is rising.  Recent statistics show that nine in 10 women will, at some point in their lifetime, will be the sole financial decision-makers for their households .  The metro-area women of Thrivent Financial are ready to provide sound financial guidance for women in any stage of life–offering a unique approach that blends faith, finances and generosity.

“It’s about feeling comfortable and confident with your finances,” says Beth Boyle, MBA, CFP®, “I’ve worked with recently singled women who are not only suffering emotional loss, but have been thrown into the role of financial decision maker with virtually no training.  I guide women on decisions that need to be taken now, and assure them that some decisions can and should wait until they are emotionally ready for them.”

At Thrivent, clients receive an over-all strategy that is aligned with their values.  Thrivent Financial is a fraternal, membership organization of Christians.  It’s a not-for-profit organization that’s owned by their membership.  Because of their not-for-profit status, Thrivent can give back to communities what they would otherwise pay in certain taxes, and their members have a voice in where that money goes. Thrivent Financial has given back just over $1.3 million to churches and charities in the Omaha Metro through their generosity programs this year.

“I’ve seen firsthand how living generously and putting clients’ needs first is the only way to do business,” said Financial Associate Suzanne Gornell, who recently decided to make the plunge, following her father’s lead who has worked for the organization for 33 years.  “The fact that I work for an organization that gives back in a significant way, is one of the main reasons I do what I do.  This is also very important to the members we serve.”

According to a recent study, women hold 50% of the country’s wealth, approximately $13.2 trillion.  Women also give on average 3.5% of their wealth to charity every year.

“At Thrivent we are well-positioned to help women become more intentional about their giving,’ said Amy Weidner CLTC®, MBA.“We are fortunate to have the expertise of InFaith*, a public foundation, at our disposal for clients and churches to learn estate planning and charitable giving strategies.” She added, ‘It feels good to be a part of making the generosity piece even bigger.”

While Thrivent feels blessed with talented women financial representatives, the team is on a mission to grow.  “With the increasing amount of women running businesses, leading households, and making a significant impact for nonprofits and charities, we will need more women financial associates,” said Thrivent Financial Partner, Sarah Willson, FIC. “If you’re a leader, are passionate about making a difference in peoples’ lives, and your values align with our own, perhaps you’ve found your next career move.”

11602 W. Center Rd., Suite 200 Omaha, NE 68144
1408 Veterans Drive, No. 204 Elkhorn, NE 68022
340 E. Military Ave., Suite 2 Fremont, NE 68025
402.932.0109
thrivent.com

Pictured: Heather Walraven, Chelsie Olson (Community Engagement Leader), Sarah Jank, Suzanne Gornell, Sarah Willson (Partner), Amy Weidner, Beth Boyle