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Fort Pitt Capital Group and Pittsburgh Professional Women look forward to celebrating with the 2021 Influential Leadership Award Winners at a private celebration on November 4, 2021. This gathering is complimentary for award winners and their guests. RSVP here.

Questions? Call Beth Caldwell (412) 202-6983.

If you missed the 2021 Awards Ceremony,

View the event program here:

If you missed the 2021 Awards Ceremony,

Watch the replay here:

Pittsburgh Professional Women is pleased to announce the 2021 Influential Leadership Awards.

Women from the region have been selected to receive this prestigious recognition because of the courage, leadership, innovation, creativity, and resilience that was modeled in 2020 while living, working, and leading others through a pandemic. 

Below is a listing of all the honorees. Plan to celebrate each of these distinguished women at our virtual event happening on Monday, March 8th at 6pm EST. Funds raised from this event will benefit The Artemis Project, a special fund offered by Pittsburgh Professional Women that supports families in financial stress due to job loss or cutbacks as a result of COVID 19.

Congratulations to our distinguished winners of the 2021 Influential Leadership Award:

Amy L. Walsh, Peak Alignment, LLC

Amy Lynn Walsh is a Hypnotherapist, Rapid Transformational Therapist (RTT) and Mindset coach that helps high-achieving professionals overcome their anxiety and self-sabotaging behaviors to achieve the healthy body, genuine relationships and success they desire!  Amy is passionate about empowering women to embrace their brilliance, own their authentic beauty and to show up boldly and authentically themselves. Driven by the desire to better serve her community, Amy continues to expand her knowledge, adding a new certification (The Emotion Code™) to her services in 2021.  This bio-energetic healing technique frees the body of the trapped emotional baggage keeping them stuck. This transformational shift allows them to live a life free of physical and emotional discomfort and finally feel joy and happiness! Amy’s unique approach to healing both the limiting beliefs of the mind, along with the energetic blocks around the heart is her recipe for true and lasting change.  

During the pandemic, Amy transitioned her business to a home office space offering virtual solutions to her clientele.  She has served her community through live speaking engagements, virtual workshops, radio, podcasts and as a panel speaker for virtual summits.  She is in the process of creating a variety of digital courses focused on healing anxiety, self-sabotage, and overcoming the pressures of perfectionism in todays world.  Her and her husbands proudest achievement of 2020 was welcoming their first child, Dax Orion, born on the 4th of July - a shining light in an ‘anything but normal' year!

Anita Buzzy Prentiss, Buzzy Photography

Anita was so inspiring last spring. When all weddings and special events were canceled abruptly, this professional photographer didn't wallow in pity. She got creative! And kept many of us entertained with the photos she took all summer long.

Anita Buzzy Prentiss is a portrait photographer and owner of Buzzy Photography.Normally she is an in-demand photographer for celebrity-status weddings, professional athletes, and dancers. Anita focuses on capturing the essence of her subjects to bring out confident, sincere expressions and the magic of loving relationships. She truly feels that her gift is to see the best in each person.

During the the COVID-19 pandemic quarantine, Anita Buzzy-Prentiss photographed almost 200 “porchraits” – pictures of people on or near their porches all around Pittsburgh. She felt like she was on a mission to spread, love, gratitude, joy and hope. 

Later, Anita's work was published in a book  titled: PORCHRAITS: Pittsburghers on their Porches During Quarantine – THE BOOK

Arlan Elizabeth Hess, City Books

Arlan Hess is the owner of City Books, Pittsburgh’s oldest existing bookstore founded in 1984. In addition to bookselling and managing an active events series for the bookstore, she hosts Shelf Life, a book show broadcast on PCTV21 about Pittsburgh authors and topics relevant to western Pennsylvania, leads Arts & Literature tours around the old Allegheny West neighborhood, and directs the City Books Writer-in-Residence program for emerging & marginalized writers. Arlan was a true influence in pandemic preparedness and created a pandemic policy from the start. The bookstore had just received certification as a Silver Designated shop in January  by Sustainable Pittsburgh in January 2020. Soon after, Arlan pivoted to online sales and partnered with three other women-owned businesses to create a revenue-enhancing Care Package available on Etsy. In June, she launched a virtual storefront through 

Cindy Rack, Keller Williams Realty

Cindy Rack is a Realtor with Keller Williams. She is a landlord & rehabs homes with her husband Barry. Cindy has a PSA Certification (Pricing Strategist Advisor) which helps her price homes so they have the best chance of appraising. Her SRES Designation (Senior Real Estate Specialist) helps Boomers & Seniors transition smoothly to this new chapter. Buying/Selling a home is very emotional. Her Stephen Ministry Training is an invaluable tool to keep everyone calm on all sides of the transaction. Cindy's clients love her communication & creative negotiation skills, & the fact that she turns into a project manager to make sure everyone is doing their part to ensure a smooth closing. 

During the pandemic in 2020, Cindy broke her career sales record surpassing $8.3 million dollars. She handled more than thirty real estate transactions while homeschooling her granddaughter and sharing caregiving duties for her mother, then grieving the loss of her mother, Grace Fascetti, who died in May, 2020.

Coach Monique DeMonaco, Coach Monique

Coach Monique DeMonaco is a multi-certified, internationally trained Change Management Expert who specializes in innovative tools, techniques and strategies to help her clients make long-term sustainable changes. All of her work is based in Emotional Intelligence, Innovation, Brain Science and The Psychology of Happiness. She works with individuals, executives, teams, and family-owned businesses to overcome their obstacles, sharpen their focus, and Unlock Bold Change™ in themselves and their organizations. She is also the author of the book Most People Don’t Need A Therapist, They Just Need A Change: An Easy to Use Guide for Positive Sustainable Change.

During the pandemic, Monique struck the perfect balance of work and life, while pivoting to a home office and a virtual practice. She immediately began to create digital programs to help others deal with depression, anxiety, stress, confidence and relationship issue, offered Mindful Monday online  and created an Anxiety Solutions Program to provide tools and techniques for overcoming emotional struggles. The desperately needed program was received by more than 1000 virtual audience members across the country. 

Gloria Manchester, IFC-PCC, Leadership Education Action Programs (LEAP)

Gloria Manchester is accredited by the International Coaching Federation, President of Leadership Education Action Programs (LEAP), a lifelong entrepreneur, and an Amazon bestselling author. She’s certified in Conversational Intelligence®, New Money Story® Mentor Coach & a trainer for Color Code® Personality Science.

She is the producer of Create A Thriving Life Story™ platform, recently launching LEAP to Prosperity Coaching Community to inspire, encourage, and support women in elevating their lives by participating in affordable group coaching masterclasses and masterminds. She believes, as we influence more women to create a thriving life story for themselves, we’ll have a greater impact in the world. Gloria is co-founder and President of C A R T E, a 501C3 non-profit organization that produces STARR Life & Leadership Course for high-risk teenage girls who have been sexually exploited. 

In 2020 Gloria launched the LEAP to Prosperity Coaching Community for Women including a free five day virtual summit for women. The summit was attended by hundreds of women across several continents. Gloria personally recruited more than 20 professional coaches from four countries to offer workshops to encourage and support women who were struggling to cope with the pandemic.

Heidi Sadecky is a highly trained executive coach who brings over 30 years of combined corporate and coaching experience to leaders and their teams. Heidi wants to help leaders understand why they do what they do and don’t do and help them avoid making the kinds of mistakes she did. She has a passion to help leaders change the trajectory to their leadership and make a greater impact on the world. Her passion for leaders to lead with authenticity, high levels of trust and emotional intelligence to inspire their teams to be all “in” with greater ownership and engagement.

With a master’s degree in Organizational Leadership, International Coach Federation certification, credentialed Townsend Leadership Program Director and a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt, Heidi understands both the challenges and opportunities of leadership and understands yours as well. She has the tools to help you strengthen key behaviors and mindset to apply to effective leadership skills.

During the pandemic crisis, Heidi continued to grow her business and helped more people than ever before. She exceeds over 1,000 hours of coaching, launched three new local  leadership groups, launched her first ever international virtual group and earned the prestigious Professional Coach Certification with the International Coach Federation.

Hilary L. Link, Ph.D., Allegheny College

Hilary L. Link, Ph.D., is the first female President of Allegheny College — one of the nation’s oldest and most innovative four-year colleges where multidisciplinary learning breaks the conventional mold. In more than 20 years’ experience across a broad range of institutions of higher education, she’s built programs with the faculty and increased resources, while providing students with a cross-disciplinary path to think critically, communicate creatively and question everything. A visionary, dynamic and entrepreneurial leader, she has served as Dean of Temple University Rome as well as Vice Provost at New York City’s Barnard College. Recognized as a multidisciplinary scholar and globalist, President Link earned a B.A. in Art History and Italian from Stanford University and her M.A. and Ph.D. in Italian Language and Literature from Yale University.

During her first year as the college’s president, Dr. Link established the on-campus Allegheny College Health Agency to fill the gap in clinical and public health services in Crawford County. She was able to see Allegheny College over the goal to become the first college or university in Pennsylvania to receive the Carbon Neutral Campus Award from Second Nature and one of the first ten higher education institutions in the U.S. to achieve carbon neutrality. She was also appointed to the Climate Leadership Steering Committee of the Presidents’ Climate Leadership Commitments. 

By swiftly implementing protocols for testing, face coverings and physical isolation in the first month of welcoming students back to campus, in the fall semester Allegheny College held the COVID-19 infection rate to less than 1 percent at any given time, with an average of less than 0.5 percent of the campus population testing positive most days.

Dr. Link then developed a new academic schedule introducing fresh multidisciplinary learning and teaching opportunities while at the same time reducing risk, to the extent possible, during the peak cold and flu season [mid-November through early February].

Hilerie Klein Rensi, Higher Voice Studio  

Classically trained opera singer, musical theater performer and former rock band vocalist, Hilerie Klein Rensi is the creator of the Higher Voice Studio Singing Method. Used by performers and instructors nationwide, her students have been featured on America’s Got Talent, The Tonight Show, Opera News and Oprah. They have routinely earned top spots in National and International competitions and are accepted to the most prestigious music schools in the nation.

Founded by Hilerie in 2011, Higher Voice Studio has quickly become the most sought after music school in the regional Pittsburgh Area. Their award winning building in beautiful downtown Carnegie offers voice, piano and guitar lessons, open-mic nights, a performance venue, classes and workshops for all.

When the shelter-in-place orders were made in Pennsylvania in March, 2020, Hilerie and her team began offering virtual lessons within 24 hours. Later in the summer, the doors were open and in-person lessons were available before any other music school in the area, allowing teachers and students to stay safe while making music. 
While music schools across the world canceled competitions, music lessons, and shut down completely, Hilerie did not.  She knew it was possible to make music and do it safely.  Seeing how traumatized students were as their school musicals and concerts were canceled, Hilerie responded by offering free virtual music classes each week.  These gatherings helped keep students stay focused, connected, engaged and gave them a safe, inspired and positive environment, while they continued their musical education. 

Many schools and students chose to skip competitions in 2020, but not Hilerie's students. They got creative and competed by video submission. This was even harder than usual but they learned new skills.  Eleven Higher Voice Studio students placed regionally in the top 3 positions.  The hard work and effort paid off. The school has more students now than in January 2020. 

Janette Schafer, Chase Bank

Janette Schafer is a Vice President, branch manager and Certified Women's Business Advocate for Chase Bank. Originally planned for a 2021 opening, the Squirrel Hill Branch located on Forbes Avenue opened earlier than expected on December 1, 2020.

Chase Bank is well known as a tech-trendsetter in banking and Janette is pleased to bring ultra-modern banking and community bank-like customer service to her neighbors in the East End.

The team of managers at Chase have opened 11 branches in Western Pennsylvania in the midst of a pandemic, so far bringing more than 120 new jobs to the region. Five more branch locations are expected by the end of 2022. A Certified Women's Business Advocate, Janette oversaw the opening of the Squirrel Hill branch where she and her team assist clients with credit cards, mortgages, commercial banking, auto loans, investing & retirement planning, checking and business banking. The branch employs a team of ten. 

Janette holds a Masters of Fine Arts in Poetry from Chatham University. She is the author of two critically acclaimed poetry collections with a third to be released in 2021. She is also the founder and artistic director of Social Justice Anthologies which publishes books on topics which promote a more just and equitable world. As a poet and playwright, Janette has won the Laurie Mansell Reich Academy of American Poets prize, the Pittsburgh Original Short Play Series, and the Into the Light Award for writing on mental health. Dedicated to the community, Janette received a grant from the Three Rivers Community Foundation in 2020 to continue her publishing and education work on social justice and community engagement. Last year also saw the release of her poetry collection “Something Here Will Grow” published by Main Street Rag, which explores the subjects of familial trauma and Latinx heritage. 

Jill N. Yesko, Discover Organizing, Inc. 

After leaving behind a career of social work followed by Human Resources management, Jill Yesko created a residential organizing and photo management company in 2003.

She joined NAPO(National Association of Professional Organizers) in 2004, and quickly became involved in volunteer leadership.She became certified as a Professional Organizer in 2007.

Through her many years in business, Jill has added a specialized niche greeting card line (Clearly Noted Cards), move management services for families and seniors, and on-demand bin storage company, which is now franchised.

You may have seen her and her team in 2020 on Episode 2 of A&E’s “Hoarders'' where she was a guest Professional Organizer. Jill will shortly be including “author” to her accomplishments, with 2 industry books that are due to be published in spring of 2021.

During the pandemic crisis of 2020, Jill led her tech team in transforming their Photo Operations Manual into a monetized business kit for entrepreneurs. She began offering online virtual workshops and virtual organizing. Two team members became certified in Photo Management, one in Virtual Organizing. Always innovative and leading the way, Jill's team moved several seniors from unsafe communities to comfortable living communities, many times working virtually with long-distance loved ones and family members to ensure a safe and seamless transition.

Kellie Goodman Shaffer, Bedford County Chamber of Commerce 

Kellie Goodman Shaffer is a champion of the business community of the Bedford County region. She is the President/CEO of the Bedford County Chamber of Commerce and Executive Director of the Chamber’s 501-c3 education foundation; and she currently serves as Chair of the Pennsylvania Association of Chamber Professionals.

A journalist at heart, Kellie spent a decade leading an award-winning television sports department in central Pennsylvania. She puts her communications and storytelling skills to use through the Chamber’s many information outlets, including print, video and social media platforms. Kellie is a graduate of Penn State University and the US Chamber’s Institute for Organizational Management. Her Chamber has been recognized as PACP Chamber of the Year, and she was honored with the Bedford County Athena Leadership Award. 

If you subscribe to the chamber's newsletter, you already know that Kellie led the efforts at the chamber to provide frequent, timely, helpful and practical support to the business community throughout the pandemic, including vital resources and (virtual) programs & events. Kellie also coordinated a cooperative effort to construct a drive-in movie screen, creating a socially-distant summer movie experience for the entire community. During the holiday season of 2020, Kellie further showcased the Bedford business community by spearheading a drive-through Christmas light display.

Kelly Fraasch has been serving the Pittsburgh area in the non-profit sector as well as real estate and local government since her arrival from the West Coast nearly 17 years ago. She’s well known as a devoted mom and dedicated community member in Mt. Lebanon where she served as commissioner from 2012-2020.

A realtor for six years, Kelly specializes in helping people conduct real estate transactions during divorce. She also enjoys working with seniors who are downsizing and veterans that are relocating or retiring. 

Kelly had a pretty big year in 2020. A single mom, she saw a child through serious medical procedures, graduated two high school seniors, delivered them both to prestigious colleges in Colorado and Washington D.C., finished up 8 years of public service, and purchased a home of her own. Since the year was full of big changes already, when Kelly learned of a new brokerage firm opening in Pittsburgh, she said, “Why not?!”, and just like that, she switched companies. She decided to join forces with a broker that is completely virtual and brand new to the region. EXP Realty is the world’s first ever 3-D, fully immersive cloud-brokerage and one of the fastest growing real estate firms in North America. Always a multi million producer, 2020 was her best sales year yet, exceeding 15 million dollars. All of this accomplished during a pandemic.

For a person that has a plan for her plans, enjoys predictability, and is hesitant to embrace the slightest of changes, Kelly has found a great sense of pride for herself and her family for their successes during a time that could have been paralyzing.

Kimberley Hammer, Carlow University and Virginia Wesleyan University 

Kim Hammer is a fundraising professional with over 28 years of experience in annual and major gift fundraising, planned giving, special event fundraising and stewardship.

Prior to serving in her current role as Vice President for Advancement and Special Assistant to the President at Virginia Wesleyan University, she served as vice president for advancement at Carlow University in Pittsburgh. She has also served as vice president for development at Robert Morris University, director of development at The Pittsburgh Promise, executive vice president for development at the Children’s Hospital Foundation of Pittsburgh of UPMC and vice president for development and donor services at the Pittsburgh Foundation. Prior to her fundraising career, she was an attorney at Buchanan Ingersoll and Rooney. She earned her law degree from the University of Cincinnati College of Law and her bachelor’s degree from Ohio Wesleyan University. As the pandemic crisis of 2020 became a reaIity last spring, Kim immediately  recognized that her team needed a way to stay in touch with alumni beyond email and phone calls. To extend these connections, she created Carlow Connections, a bi-monthly zoom session for alumni, faculty, staff and friends of Carlow University. These webinars ranged from fun topics such as cooking classes and wine tastings to expert faculty presentations. Carlow Connections attracted thousands of attendees and showcased alumni who served as front line emergency workers during the pandemic.


Kiya Tomlin, Kiya Tomlin Pittsburgh, LLC

Kiya Tomlin is a fashion designer and apparel manufacturer. Passionate about fashion design since childhood, Kiya taught herself to sew and design at age 10. After graduating from The College of William and Mary, Kiya enrolled at The University of Cincinnati's College of Design, Art and Architectural Planning to study design formally, and then continued to elevate her craft through fit and couture workshops around the country.

After almost two decades of designing custom apparel, Kiya brought the knowledge and expertise she gained from designing for a variety of body types to the ready-to-wear market. Inspired by her own busy lifestyle as wife to Pittsburgh Steelers head coach, Mike Tomlin, and mother of three, Kiya set out to design the impossible--a versatile dress that combines runway glamour with the comfort and ease of a favorite sweatshirt. This Signature dress became the anchor for her ready-to-wear collection, Kiya Tomlin, and addresses the modern day woman’s need for comfort, style and versatility. Her collection is manufactured in the USA, primarily in her own factory in Pittsburgh, PA and sold on-line, at her retail store in Etna and in select boutiques across the country.

During the 2020 pandemic crisis, Kiya was able to keep her entire team employed as well as hire new employees. The team sewed and donated over 20,000 face masks. If you received a face mask from Highmark Health's 1 Million Masks initiative, it was designed by Kiya. 

Kristen Ricupero, Financial Fitness Coaching

Kristen Ricupero is a Financial Coach & Profit Advisor who specializes in helping small business owners, entrepreneurs and driven professionals in both their business & personal finances. She works closely with individuals to simplify money, strengthen their financial management skills, eliminate debt, and create cash flow management systems to maximize profit and ultimately build wealth. By developing specific action plans that are tailored to each client’s needs, values and goals, it allows them to live and retire in ways they only thought they could dream. 

Kristen is fueled by her passion to help others succeed and become financially free. As soon as the pandemic hit, Kristen immediately began offering financial workshops virtually, and then launched a digital course and online group coaching program. During that time, Kristen helped her students and clients pay off over $500,000 in personal debt and increase their savings by $154,000.

Lisa A. Krall, Park Avenue Wealth Management

As the founder of Park Avenue Wealth Management, Lisa Krall has 18 years of experience guiding clients towards the goal of financial independence. As a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ Lisa is held to a higher level of care and committed to providing personal service to you, especially those who are planning for retirement.

Lisa is also dedicated to giving back to the community. She is the founder of The Moxie Women’s Network—an unparalleled resource and empowerment organization for women who live, work and shop in Westmoreland County.  She is actively involved with various chambers and women’s groups, but most passionate about her role with Inspired Women -Westmoreland County and The Visionaries of Westmoreland County. During the pandemic crisis, Lisa remained dedicated to her clients and the community, keeping them updated, informed and confident.  In October, 2020 Lisa launched a new series, Permission to Prosper, a virtual financial information series which has become wildly popular on LinkedIn. Despite the challenges of the year, Lisa doubled new assets in 2020. This year she will celebrate her fifth anniversary as an independent business owner. 

Maria Gartrell, Vintage & Soul Home

Maria Gartrell is a busy real estate agent and mom of three active boys who lives and works in Erie, PA. Fabulous at home-design ideas, Maria became a multi-million dollar real estate producer by setting herself apart from other agents and using her interior design skills. The homes she staged sold fast and her clients were impressed. When real estate clients began to ask for her advice and ideas to furnish their new homes, Maria began doing design work and consulting in addition to real estate. Passionate about promoting the work of local artists and craftsmen made her even more popular.

Her clients longed to see the choices that Maria offered them in person, thus the dream of a retail furniture store began. After market research confirmed regional demand for a local furniture and accessory store, a business plan was created and investors came on board.

Enter Maria’s sister Ann Camp, marketing and business manager, trained graphic designer, and interior design enthusiast. Combining Maria’s clients and vendors with Ann’s business savvy, the business plans began to take off. The store opening was eagerly anticipated by the entire community. 

Vintage & Soul Home, a brand new, 3,000 square foot, women-owned store was scheduled to open in the West Erie Plaza Shopping Center in the Spring of 2020. Frustrating delays from the COVID19 Pandemic and mandatory retail lockdown stalled the opening. Sadly, Maria and Ann’s father lost his battle with cancer in the fall of 2020, a really difficult time to be in the midst of launching a new business. Still, after several unplanned delays, and while grieving, Maria and Ann’s family, along with the entire community celebrated the grand opening of Vintage & Soul Home in November 2020. The store offers interior design services as well as unique new furniture and accessories that help clients create the home of their dreams. The store is located at 916 W. Erie Plaza Drive, Erie, PA, and store designers often drive to Pittsburgh for consultations. 

Mary Lee Gannon, St. Margaret Foundation

Mary Lee Gannon is the President of St. Margaret Foundation where she created the mantra of ‘filling in the gaps with hope’ at UPMC St. Margaret Hospital. In addition to her achievements, she championed five capital campaigns over the last 11 years, raising $7.2 million.She is a scholarship recipient of the Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute at Georgetown University, an alumnus of the UCLA Mindful Awareness Practices Program and the Harvard Medical School Coaching in Medicine & Leadership Conference.  Mary Lee is the recipient of the Honorary Woman of Courage Award by Pennsylvania Women Work, The Lifetime Achievement Award by Pittsburgh Society of Association Executives, recognized as a Leading Lady by Oakland Catholic.

Early in the pandemic, Mary Lee and her team could see the toll COVID19 was taking on hospital staff and sought ways to bring them relief. Hospital staff has the same fears as everyone else, but they show up every day ready to serve, knowing that doing so could make them among the most vulnerable. She immediately launched several new programs and raised all the money needed to pay for important needs including discounted hotel rooms for staff who were afraid to go home, boxed lunches for those staff who had children home from school, numerous care packages. For patients, the foundation purchased seven iPads for patients to communicate with family while in quarantine. They stocked food pantry items for staff who couldn't get to the store. Emergency childcare assistance was made available for staff who needed to be at work while schools and daycare facilities were closed. When visitors were not permitted to see patients on Mother's Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas, Mary Lee's team delivered thoughtful gifts, flowers, and candles to those left alone in the hospital. Each employee received $50 in grocery store gift cards to help during the crisis. Every effort was fully funded by donations. 

Mary P. Kitchen CPA MST, Mary Kitchen CPA

Mary Kitchen is a CPA with a Masters of Science in Taxation. As an Advanced Certified QBO (QuickBooks Online)  Pro Advisor, Mary works with fast-growing entrepreneurs who need a strategic accounting partner. A Summa Cum Laude graduate of Adelphi University, Mary holds the degree of Bachelors in Business Administration. She received her Masters of Science in Taxation from Robert Morris University.

Active in the community, Mary’s favorite charities are Heroes Supporting Heroes, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, and the Canon-McMillan Big Mac Band. She served on the Board of Directors for the Samuel J Foundation, an organization dedicated to Pediatric Brain Tumor Research, and was recognized with the Hometown Hero Award for her non profit organization The Tumbleweed Foundation. 

During the early part of the pandemic crisis, Mary immediately came to the aid of her clients when many of them, being non-essential workers, had to shut down their businesses. She became a clearing house of information by offering online presentations and email updates, not only to her clients, but the entire community. When the Paycheck Protection Program was announced, hundreds of small business owners relied on Mary's expertise. She worked tirelessly to help the business and nonprofit community understand the PPP process, complete their applications and use the money appropriately. 

Melanie Marie Boyer, Pittsburgh Metropolitan Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

Melanie Marie Boyer, a CALU and Duquesne University alumna, is a Colombian & United States Citizen. Melanie Marie is the Director of the Pittsburgh Metropolitan Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Melanie is a devoted mom to two handsome young boys, ages 8 and 3.

An entrepreneur at heart, she contracts as a freelance marketing and production specialist. She further serves the community through being a participating member of the RAD advisory board as well as the WPXI Gets Real advisory board. Melanie Marie is passionate about helping businesses to reach their full potential and getting funding into the undeserved American entrepreneurial ecosystem. Her goal is to enable rapid success, defined as self-sustaining job and revenue generating businesses that can improve underestimated communities and the region at large.

When the pandemic first hit, Melanie immediately implemented a plan to ensure the sustainability and long-term effectiveness of the Pittsburgh Hispanic Chamber. She was one of the first to create a digital speakers series and host online events ranging in topics from using Google to reach customers, how to understand, qualify and apply for the Paycheck Protection Program, how to apply for jobs online, and inspirational success stories from successful leaders in the Hispanic Community. 

Melanie is an example of how strong and resilient women are in a time of crisis. Alongside of keeping the chamber active, she survived COVID herself, became a single mother, and revived her freelance business, saving it from near total loss. 

Michelle A. Bushée, Piatt Sothebys International Realty 

Recognized as a talented negotiator and trusted advocate for her clients, Michelle Bushée provides comprehensive real estate services for buyers and sellers in Pittsburgh and the surrounding areas. A former paralegal, Michelle is the agent clients turn to when a situation demands the utmost level of finesse, resourcefulness and discretion. She stayed on top of news and developments related to COVID-19, keeping others informed and prepared. President of a nonprofit board, Michelle led the directors in making concrete plans to keep the organization going and to develop systems for more efficient operations and an even stronger financial position than pre-COVID. 

Since the beginning of her real estate career, Michelle has always been a multi-million dollar producer. A consistent award winner for sales production, she has been honored with Pittsburgh Magazine's Face of Women in Real Estate Award and by Real Producer MagazineWith the state in lockdown for ten weeks allowing no real estate transactions in Western PA, this could have been a terrible blow to an otherwise successful business. Michelle instead turned her attention to what she could do and took advantage of her ability to work globally as a part of the Piatt Sothebys team. These efforts boosted Michelle's real estate numbers by more than 4 million dollars for the year. 

Nicole M. Lerda, MaxxCole Salon & Spa

Nicole Lerda is the Owner of MaxxCole – AVEDA Exclusive - Salon & Spa, a new business venture that she began in January, 2020 and took on in the midst of a pandemic, doing so alongside her full time career as the Director of Major Gifts for Carlow University. 

Nicole leads a team of ten cosmetologists, estheticians and marketing personal at her salon and spa located in Robinson Township, Pennsylvania.  

Between March-December of 2020, Nicole successfully and creatively secured a business purchase of a salon and spa when such services were shut down and considered non-essential. She hosted an outdoor, socially distant ribbon cutting and grand opening. Nicole was featured as Women’s Success Story by the Duquesne University Small Business Development Center, was named one of the Airport Corridor’s most influential women by the Airport Chamber of Commerce, featured in Allegheny West Magazine, and most importantly, revitalized the struggling salon and spa.

Despite the limitations of providing salon and spa services during a pandemic, Nicole led the business and significantly increased revenue in her first few months of business ownership. In doing so she saved the careers of all ten female employees. 

Patty Maxwell, M.Ed., M.S., BSL, Engage Kidz LLC

Patty Maxwell received her 1st master’s degree in Special Education from The University of Pittsburgh and 2nd master’s in Infant Mental Health from Chatham University. Patty is a Licensed Behavior Specialist and has been a developmental and behavioral consultant for Early Intervention Services for 14 years. She has many years of experience working in the field of mental health for children. In 2018, Patty started her own company Engage Kidz to offer private behavioral and developmental services for children, families and schools, and developmental training for teachers and service providers. Pattys' expertise allows her to support families and teachers through an array of learning abilities, behavioral challenges, intellectual disabilities and emotional disorders. Her passion is to support educators in order to help children learn well, and that all families and children can find peace and happiness.

2020 brought a special sort of challenges to schools and families, and families of all children found themselves navigating the dilemma of education at home. Parents of children with disabilities felt even more alone than usual as they tackled isolation and fear along with the usual educational dilemmas for their children. Unable to visit families at home or school, Patty immediately began offering virtual appointments for students and their parents. Zoom calls became critical in helping children continue to learn while facing a lapse in educational supports. Patty discovered that you can read a book via video chat almost as easily as you can in person. Soon students and parents became accustomed to new routines and education was able to continue. 

Working virtually, Patty was able the use the time she usually spent commuting between schools to see more children and families. In May, she created a teacher appreciation initiative, noting how well teachers had made the transition from in-school to virtual learning. Patty was invited to train teachers and service providers across Western PA and participated in a global summit for families where she taught parents how to manage behavioral issues in young children. Besides impacting thousands of classrooms, training hundreds of educators and service providers, empowering parents around the globe, Patty also more than doubled sales for her company. 

Sandy Campbell, M. S., Sandy Campbell Health & Happiness Coach

After working for ten years for a major pharmaceutical company, Sandy Campbell decided to stop working in the corporate world and start improving it instead. As a Positive Psychology Coach, Sandy’s passion is to help clients achieve their full potential by helping them make small but highly impactful shifts in the way they eat, think, and move. She holds an M.S. in Counseling from Villanova University as well as degrees and certifications in Integrative Nutrition, Yoga, and Applied Positive Psychology.

During the pandemic of 2020, Sandy and her family found themselves stranded in Florida where they had been visiting family. Sandy figured out a way to homeschool her children and continue working despite not being at home. She learned how to accept online registrations and continued to offer her popular program Rise & Thrive, filling two new classes of participants. Her blog, which was started before COVID became very popular as Sandy delved into much-needed topics like "Setting Up an Office at Home", "Crazy in Costco", "Food and Lifestyle Shifts", "Resilience" and "Leading from Your Center".  She also created a Resilience Advantage workshop series for corporate clients and was selected as a teaching assistant for the Whole Being Institute's Certificate in Positive Psychology.

Shannon Slack, Luna Selene

Shannon Slack is a wife, mother, entrepreneur, and fashion enthusiast. Having worked in the corporate healthcare industry for the last decade, she forever held a special love for shoes that were functional and timeless, allowing her to move with confidence in and out of the office. In the summer of 2020 she honed her passion when she founded Luna Selene, a footwear company that is an atelier of handcrafted designs, invoking the everyday elegance and timelessness of femininity.

In the spring of 2020, Luna Selene was a mere dream for Shannon. During the time when most of the world was in lockdown, she met with a designer to create  the perfect shoe for busy fashionable women. Shannon worked throughout the summer, learning all she needed to know about design and manufacturing. Soon work began on the website and the online store was launched on October 26th, 2020. Since then, Shannon has collaborated with local artists and entrepreneurs to bring fashion awareness to the city of Pittsburgh. Now, there are seven styles of Luna Selene being sold online as well as two shoe stores in Pittsburgh, Littles Shoes in Squirrel Hill and Eva Bryn Shoetique in Zelienople.

Shannon believes women can do unstoppable things when they look and feel their best, which is the mission of Luna Selene. Through her business she collaborates with other local artists and entrepreneurs to bring fashion to the city of Pittsburgh. Her mission for the next ten years is to build a community that brings together women all over the world to lift each other through fashion.

Stefani Pashman, Allegheny Conference on Community Development

Stefani Pashman became the CEO of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development and its affiliated organizations – the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce, the Pennsylvania Economy League of Greater Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance – on October 2, 2017. Before joining the Conference, Stefani served as CEO of Partner4Work and its predecessor, the Three Rivers Workforce Investment Board, for seven years. She transformed the organization from a $1.5 million research-based group to a $20 million public-private system that educates the region on labor market dynamics, funds public and private workforce programs and connects local employers with qualified talent. Prior to Partner4Work, Stefani served in Governor Rendell’s Administration for nearly seven years at the PA Department of Human Services as Director of Policy and as Special Assistant to the Secretary. She also worked in private consulting at Avalere Health and Navigant and as an analyst in the White House Office of Management and Budget. 

Stefani holds an M.B.A. and a Masters in Health Administration from the University of Michigan and a B.A. from Washington University in St. Louis. She is active in national and local organizations and is a graduate of Leadership Pittsburgh. 

During the COVID 19 Pandemic Crisis, Stefani distinguished herself in the region. She diligently led Southwestern Pennsylvania's 10 county regional response to pandemic thru education, advocacy, communication, and active engagement with diverse mix of public and private sector partners. She and her team constantly asked,"How can we reopen, stay open and help companies and individuals in  the region every step of the way?" They provided detailed information to help guide the region through YELLOW week as businesses struggled with the uncertainty of reopening. Her newsletter, which came out sometimes daily, was filled with practical and relevant information for businesses in the region, not only expertly and confidently guiding them through the pandemic but also though racial tensions and a very difficult election. She also hosted the region's Move Forward Summit and launched the regional brand Next is Now, a comprehensive listing of information on the assets of doing business in the region. The effort provides a new and unified way to convey what Pittsburgh and the region have to offer today, tomorrow and beyond. In December, 2020 the conference released Proud to Protect Pittsburgh, an initiative providing important resources for surviving COVID 19 and featuring local celebrities and leaders with messages to keep the spirits in the region high and remind everyone of the pride of Pittsburgh. 

Tracie McKinney, WPXI TV

Tracie McKinney is the assistant news director at WPXI TV in Pittsburgh. While she has only worked in this market for a little more than one year, she has made some key achievements. Tracie was nominated to lead a diversity, equity and inclusion initiative for the parent company of WPXI-TV, Cox Media Group. Once the project received the green light, Tracie was tapped to implement it at WPXI. As part of that plan, Tracie established an advisory board of community leaders to help guide the news station through this important endeavor.

Tracie also launched a political franchise called Coffee and Conversations. The franchise provides a platform to women and minorities, along with other groups, to voice their concerns about politics. It was especially important during the hotly contested presidential race. The franchise travels from county to county giving the average “Joe” or “Joan” an opportunity to be heard on the issues that matter most to them.

Tracie has won numerous Emmy Awards for news stories and newscasts.  She also won an award from the Department of Housing and Urban Development for exposing racist housing practices in her hometown of St. Louis, Missouri. Tracie is perhaps most proud of this award because her undercover investigation was used as a training tool for HUD investigators dedicated to ending discrimination in housing.

2020 brought challenges to all of us. As a news director, Tracie skillfully and competently ensured that the WPXI news team reported not only critical information about the coronavirus, but also during dangerous racial incidents and a very tense election season. Tracie strives to always proved balanced coverage, giving women and minorities a platform. In 2020 Tracie spearheaded a new diversity, equity, and inclusion initiative for the station called Pittsburgh Get's REAL. New to the city, she reached out to new connections and developed a diverse advisory board of community leaders. Tracie accomplished all of this while managing remote reporters and keeping the news team safe. 

Tracy Certo, NEXTpittsburgh

Tracy Certo is the founder and former publisher of NEXTpittsburgh. She founded the media site in 2014 with its mission to highlight the people advancing the city. NEXTpittsburgh is the online source for Pittsburgh news about movers and shakers moving the region forward and the innovative things happening here. Before the pandemic, we all relied on NEXTpittsburgh email updates for advice on where to eat and what to do. When the region was faced with shelter in place orders, what sense did it make to recommend restaurants, concerts and theaters?

Tracy and her team of reporters began to publish stories that kept readers informed, motivated and inspired. They produced ongoing guides on how to help and where to get help. They let readers know which restaurants were offering takeout and updated everyone on virtual events, job openings, happenings and fundraisers. 

Tracy led the online publication to record growth in 2020 with 2.1 million unique visitors and over 11 million page views. At the end of the year she sold the publication to local entrepreneur and activist John Rhoades. At heart, Tracy is a writer, photographer, and dedicated volunteer. She has led seven Habitat for Humanity builds from Mozambique to Thailand. A travel enthusiast, she plans to visit state #50 (Alaska) this summer. 

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