NAWBO – Minnesota recognizes 8 local women entrepreneurs

By Brian Martucci
Mon, 2017-05-08 11:46

The National Association of Women Business Owners – Minnesota (NAWBO-MN) is celebrating the lives and careers of eight incredible women entrepreneurs this Thursday at the Golden Valley Country Club. All eight, including two posthumous inductees, are claiming a place in the Minnesota Women Business Owners Hall of Fame.

The induction ceremony is an annual tradition.

“This is the fifth year that we’ve honored women who deserve to be recognized for their significant roles in Minnesota history,” says Mary Quist-Newins, president of NAWBO-MN. “We’re working hard to create an enduring institution in the Minnesota Women Business Owners Hall of Fame that extends far beyond simply holding an event.”

According to Quist-Newins, the Twin Cities metro has more than its fair share of women executives, thanks in part to its robust enterprise base.

“We have many women who’ve attained the highest levels of executive leadership in the Fortune 500,” she says. “That’s actually something that sets our business community apart.”

Women entrepreneurs are another matter. Rising to the top of the heap over time is hard enough for women. Starting from scratch and clawing your way to the top, or suddenly finding yourself holding the reins at a family-owned business after far too little time in the trenches, are immense, life-changing challenges. In fact, it’s sometimes hard to find industry peers who’ve navigated such challenges successfully.

“Women entrepreneurs have fewer role models and often face formidable barriers to entry,” says Quist-Newins.

That’s why these eight inductees are so amazing.

The two posthumous leaders, Clara Lillyblad and Fritzi Haskell, came of age before women could vote and held their own, respectively, in the overwhelmingly male-dominated hospitality and liquor industries. (Haskell’s continues to operate several liquor stores in the metro area.)

Two others, Barbara Jo Davis and Kay Kuba, were among the state’s most successful minority entrepreneurs. As women in the food products and tech (respectively) industries, they represented “a minority within a minority,” says Quist-Newins.

And Kari Rihm, of St. Paul-based Rihm Kenworth, found herself thrust into the uber-masculine trucking industry – a field she knew next to nothing about – after her husband’s untimely passing. She made the most of her home office’s frightfully short leash with long-delayed technology investments and an acquisitive growth strategy that’s put her dealership in its strongest position in years.

“All eight of these women are remarkable,” says Quist-Newins. “The common thread is that they challenged the status quo despite very long odds.”

There’s still time to register for this year’s Minnesota Women Business Owners Hall of Fame induction ceremony. The festivities kick off at 5:30 p.m. and run through 9 p.m.