How fitting to be celebrating the Women in Business Leadership Awards during Women’s History month and during Women’s International Day on March 8. Much like women around the globe, women in our region are creating—and leading—companies and organizations that are helping build a community we can all be proud to raise families, build businesses and live out our lives any way we wish.
There were more than 150 emails resulting in 90 qualifying nominations this year—with more than 50 completed forms returned—each representing the créme de la créme and worthy of recognition. Our team is honored to be celebrating this year’s Top 20 with our readers and with community.
Let’s hear it for the massive power of women in our region … and please join us for the awards breakfast at Chateau Rive at the Flour Mill on Thursday, March 21 (doors open at 7 a.m. and tickets can be purchased at eventbrite.com).
Cyndi Slizza Donahue
Spokane Club, Director of Membership
Spokane Cluba is a historic location with modern programs that gives members the highest quality of life through athletics and sports, business connections, social events with friends, and family celebrations.
Your Role:My role is to create and implement strategies for membership development. I initiate projects and collaborate on programs to foster the growth of our member community. The best aspect of my position is representing the Club in Spokane so we form and maintain strong partnerships with other organizations.
Proudest Moment: Being in the cast of Listen to Your Mother. Until that moment, I did not believe I had the courage to stand on a stage and share something very personal I had created. That experience continues to give me strength every time I speak in public. My biggest success is the recent growth of Spokane Club membership. In the past six months, we’ve experienced continuous net positive new member growth for first time in more than 10 years.
What do you feel Spokane’s business environment has to offer women? The strong women in leadership roles across industries in Spokane is inspiring. And the opportunities for personal growth and education in our town is expansive, including Whitworth University’s Leadership 360 program, Leadership Spokane and Gonzaga University’s Women in Leadership certificate.
Your Advice: Be confident in your unique abilities and work hard to achieve your goals. Be kind to other women—we are better when we support one another.
Your Word: Energetic
Roloff Digital Forensics, Chief Operating Officer
When digital evidence intersects with the legal arena, Roloff Digital Forensics assists legal specialists in understanding what relevant technologies exist, their location, and how to obtain, analyze and present these complex matters.
Proudest Moment: We took a leap of faith and put all of our eggs in one basket by purchasing this company and leaving the stability of a corporate position, but in a year’s time, I’ve worked tirelessly to turn RDF in to a financially-sound, vision, culture and mission-focused company with extreme growth potential both financially and geographically. I’ve laid a foundation that has great potential for smart growth and economic opportunity in an emerging field with headquarters right here in Spokane.
What advice would you give young women as they consider their professional future? With three young daughters, this is something I regularly consider and try to instill in my girls from a young age. Always believe in your worth, don’t make sacrifices when it comes to family and morals because you perceive another individual did and it assisted in advancing their career or goals—things are not always as they seem on the surface. There is a work-life balance and that is always important to keep in mind, but if you’re focused, driven, persistent and forward-thinking you can embody both. Never forget that you can have it all and help others work toward theirs, as well.
Your Word: Persistent
Whitworth University, MBA Director
Whitworth University is a private, liberal arts university affiliated with the Presbyterian church. The university offers more than 100 undergraduate and graduate degree programs to more than 3000 students.
Your Role: I manage all of the School of Business graduate programs and oversee the student recruitment, faculty, curriculum and community relationships. The Whitworth MBA has doubled in size over the last two years and we have added significant co-curricular activities, which include destination classrooms, executive coaching, leadership trainings and outdoor excursions.
Proudest Moment: We are bucking national trends of declining graduate enrollment. We are the fastest growing program in the area and we did all this through investing in people. We believe in their potential, their dreams and their work ethic. This has been accomplished by a woman who is the youngest director by 20 years, has three small children and doesn’t hold a business degree. I am very proud of that.
What do you feel Spokane’s business environment has to offer women? Women are powerful creatures. I see it every day in women who decide to pursue their MBA because they have more to offer, greater mountains to climb and new lands to explore. My role in this growing and contagious environment of female leaders is to equip as many as I can with the confidence, education and training they need to take on any adventure. We cannot, should not and will not be left behind.
Your Word: Bold
River City Pizza, Owner
I manage all the high level day to day activity at River City Pizza. I do all the hiring and business management including bookkeeping, taxes, and payroll.
Proudest Moment: My husband and I bought River City Pizza in September 2016. I knew nothing about running a restaurant, making pizza or leasing commercial space. We grew the pizza place more than 10 percent from 2017 to 2018. We were able to open a second, seasonal location at Newman Lake during the summer of 2018 and are currently in search of a second full time location to be opened by the end of 2019. It’s been amazing and a ton of fun to take a business that was closing its doors and turn it around into a profitable business.
What do you feel Spokane’s business environment has to offer women? Spokane is a special place with a lot of women leading small businesses. These women help grow and support other small local businesses. It’s really important to build up other women and I truly feel that women in Spokane understand that concept.
Your Advice: 1. Find your tribe of women who will build you up and also be honest with you and tell you the truth even when its hard to hear. 2. Decide what you want to do, surround yourself with people who will help you get there, and work as hard as you can to squash all your goals.
Your Word: Loyal
Davenport Hotels and The Centennial Hotel Spokane, Revenue Manager
Davenport Hotels provide world-class service, sublime surroundings and luxury.
Your Role: I’m responsible for maximizing hotel rooms’ profitability through the proper allocation and pricing of daily rooms inventory, and implementing sell strategies and evaluating their effectiveness.
Proudest Moment: Year over year, I have been exceeding my financial goals by more than $1,000,000.
What do you feel Spokane’s business environment has to offer women? I have the incredible fortune of working under unbelievably talented and strong females: managing director, Lynnelle, and director of revenue management, Marie. These two women inspire me, support me and continue to show me what being a woman in business is all about. If there are more women like them in Spokane, then I feel the environment in our city has mentors who care and are invested, and that the strength and value we bring as women is being realized. I can only hope to be as inspirational and supportive to others as Lynnelle and Marie have been for me.
Your Advice: Don’t hesitate to voice your opinion, and don’t doubt yourself. Believe you are just as strong—if not stronger—than any male, and the only thing that separates you from someone “successful” is taking the first step toward your goal. I have met so many smart women who had aspirations and goals, but because they lacked self-confidence, they stopped themselves from achieving them. Go get it, girl!
Your Word: Honest
Spokane Public Facilities District,Chief Executive Officer
The Spokane Public Facilities District owns and operates the Spokane Arena, Spokane Convention Center, First Interstate Center for the Arts and the soon to be Spokane Sportsplex, the only venue of its type west of the Mississippi. They exist to generate economic impact through tourism for the Spokane Region.
Proudest Moment: Being named CEO of the PFD. When the previous CEO announced his retirement, I was told the board wanted to look outside Spokane. While I understood how they might not have seen me in the role—I had only been general manager for two years—I did not believe it made sense to bring someone in from the outside when I had dedicated my career to the PFD. No one else would possibly care as much as I did, about the PFD, the venues, the clients, the guests and the employees. My parents immigrated to the U.S. so their children would have opportunities they did not. I knew this was the moment where I showed my parents their sacrifice was worth it. Out of 100 applicants from across the country, I made it to the head hunter’s top 8, then top 5, then 3, then 2 then 1. I prepared as if my life depended on it because my life as I knew it did.
Your Advice: Don’t take no as the final answer. If I had accepted that, I never would have applied for this position.
The Gonzaga women’s basketball team continues to set new records as they reach new heights in polls such as USA Today and the WBCA Coaches Poll as they continue earning respect and making a statement as one of the top teams in the nation.
Your Role: I supervise my coaching staff and managers, identify and recruit the student athletes and help them develop into leaders during their time at Gonzaga.
Proudest Moments: My proudest moments at GU are knowing we have graduated 100 percent of our student athletes who have stayed with us for four years, and winning our first conference championship when I was the head coach. Having success in the NCAA Tournament is a huge goal of ours every year, and the accomplishment never gets old for a coach. I am proud that I overcame the lack of confidence I had in myself from the time I was cut from my high school basketball team my junior year to where I am today.
What do you feel Spokane’s business environment has to offer women? There are many successful women CEOs and leaders in a variety of industries. I have reached out to ask for advice and have organized opportunities to get some of the women together to network, share, and collaborate on current topics/issues that we have in common. My job and the work of our team provides a unique opportunity to provide entertainment, and inspiration, while also bringing the community together.
Your Advice: You can be a great wife, mom, daughter, sister, and also be kicking butt at your job. Don’t try to make your life look the way someone else’s does. You have to find a way to make it work your way.
Your Word: Driven
Leadership Spokane, Executive Director
The Leadership Spokane program is an intensive 10-month commitment to personal growth, professional development and community service. Participants gain an understanding of the roles and responsibilities of a citizen-leader and explore the tenets of servant leadership. At the same time, they develop a broad knowledge of the Spokane community and key issues facing the region. This knowledge is put into practice throughout the program through site visits and community service activities. Finally, participants build a strong local network while also learning to create a personal leadership vision and a plan to achieve it.
Proudest Moment: My greatest accomplishment in this life has been realizing at a young age that true friendships require energy, focus and generosity of spirit. The friendships I have with many brilliant, accomplished women are truly the most glorious gift I can imagine.
In Five Years: I’ll hopefully still be at Leadership Spokane participating in maintaining, adapting and developing the premier leadership program in our region.
Your Word: Grateful
What do you feel Spokane’s business environment has to offer women? Opportunity. Spokane has become a very dynamic, creative and diverse business culture. Women with time, talent, treasure and enthusiasm can discover a place to grow and achieve in the current culture.
Your Advice: Network, and be brave. You never know when an opportunity will come knocking, so be ready. A favorite quote from Roman philosopher Seneca comes to mind: “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”
Excelsior Wellness Center,Chief Development Officer
Excelsior Wellness Center is a nonprofit education and healthcare organization dedicated to helping youth and their families to achieve wellness by living healthier lives.
Your Role: I support the mission of Excelsior through strategic partnerships, fundraising, marketing and public relations. I also empower youth at our onsite high school and middle school by sharing my personal story of overcoming obstacles and providing an example of what is possible.
Proudest Moment: Building the Private Vocational School at Excelsior and partnering with business leaders within the trades industry to develop workforce education and development programs to create a pipeline of skilled workers to meet the industry needs. The first skills center dedicated for youth with a 504 plan, Individualized Education Programming, or in need of specialized education.
In Five Years: Continue working alongside the CEO of Excelsior, Andrew Hill, to build a best practice model of holistic services for youth with complex behavioral health needs and travel the country teaching other nonprofits, state and national organizations our model.
Your Advice: Finding your place in the workplace is not always easy and sometimes it can be hard to imagine yourself in a position you’ve never seen or heard of a woman doing, but if you build your skills, be the best you, then you can succeed and become a model for those who will come after you. What you do today will determine where you will be in the future so make good decisions everyday.
Your Word: Leader
MultiCare, Executive Director,MultiCare INW Foundation
MultiCare’s mission is partnering for healing and a healthy future. The largest community-based, locally governed health system in Washington, our INW region includes Deaconess and Valley Hospitals and Rockwood Clinics.
Proudest Moment: When my son turned 7, he asked his friends to donate to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) instead of birthday gifts. As a NICU baby himself, he understood how important the NICU is to families. He said, “I want to help save a baby’s life because the NICU nurses saved my life.” He raised more than $800. The pride I felt wasn’t about the money, it was seeing my son embrace our philosophy of caring for others who are vulnerable.
In five years: I want to be known as a woman of high integrity, who cares deeply, gives generously and knows how to get things done. I want to build a thriving foundation that makes significant impact on moving the needle on some of our most serious community issues. The strategic partnerships created across business, nonprofit and government sectors will be key in improving health and healing.
What do you feel Spokane’s business environment has to offer women? We have intelligent, fierce women business leaders who accomplish incredible things together. Amazing opportunities such as Whitworth’s Women’s Leadership Network and many other formal and informal gatherings provide women with a positive environment to learn together, ask tough questions and lean into each other for encouragement and support.
The Kalispel Tribal Economic Authority manages all economic development for the Kalispel Tribe of Indians.KTEA oversees the Tribe’s largest enterprise, Northern Quest Resort & Casino, as well as all other Kalispel Enterprises, including the Kalispel Golf and Country Club.
Proudest Moments: Some of my proudest moments have come in the form of building marketing teams that are talented, collaborative and innovative. One my brightest moments was having the largest positive swing in team member satisfaction in the company, after one year of dedicated commitment to aligning the core values of the organization with the day-to-day business of the team. Another of my greatest successes was being a part of the team at Next IT that launched the first-ever online virtual assistant for Alaska Airlines. Back in 2008, we were on the cutting edge of online courtesy chatting with our avatar named “Jenn.” While I was responsible for all marketing and communications at Next IT, we were able to launch “Jenn” and secure national media placement valued at $1.2 million, including coverage in USA Today and the New York Times.
Your Advice: You need to work harder, smarter and faster. And you also need to support each other. You should identify the women you meet in your career who have a phenomenal management approach, learn from them and pass it on to the next generation of young people.
Your Word: Survivor
Kammi Mencke Smith
Winston & Cashatt, Lawyers,Principal Attorney and Board Chairperson
Winston & Cashatt, Lawyers is a full service litigation law firm that has been active in the Spokane community for more than 40 years. They demand excellence in every facet of representing their clients who include large and small businesses, and individuals. They have been located on the top floor of the Bank of America building since it was constructed in 1983.
Proudest Moment: I always feel honored to be selected as the chairperson of a board or a committee and am proud of our firm’s female presence in the business community, but my proudest moments and my biggest successes come every time I provide exceptional legal services to my clients in a manner that limits the disruption to their business or their daily lives, and results in a positive outcome.
What do you feel Spokane’s business environment has to offer? The Spokane business scene has traditionally been conservative, primarily because it was built on historically “male” industries of timber, mining and farming, and those connections can be perceived as difficult to break into for women or people from diverse backgrounds. The evolution of Spokane business from those industries into an urban center for the Pacific Northwest, with a broad profession and technological base, has created a renaissance for women in business. I think Spokane is a frontrunner in providing opportunities and accepting women in leadership positions based upon individual skill and not hindered by gender.
Your Word: Gracious
Numerica Credit Union,Chief Operations Officer
Numerica Credit Union serves 135,000 members in Spokane, Northern Idaho, the Tri Cities, and Wenatchee Valley. They offer competitively priced financial products, excellent member service, and they support their communities.
Proudest Moment: I joined Numerica Credit Union in 1989 when it had $60 million dollars in assets and 30 employees. Today, Numerica has more than $2 billion dollars in assets and 575 employees. I believe that my teams have helped transform members’ lives through caring for their financial well-being. I have been married for 35 years, raised two wonderful sons, and have been thrilled to give back to my community.
What do you feel Spokane’s business environment has to offer women? I have always believed I had excellent opportunities in Spokane, and communicate that at every chance. I do a fair amount of speaking to groups of people, particularly young people, and I always stress a couple of things: know what you want, and don’t be afraid to pursue it, even if barriers present themselves. Develop a work/life balance that is appropriate for you.
Your Advice: I believe that everyone should discover their true passions, and should seek professions that reflect those. It takes some varied experiences to determine that. Expect challenges … they represent the best learning opportunities possible. How one responds to challenges can determine long-term success. And always take care of yourself … if that doesn’t happen, life usually does not turn out well.
Your Word: Brave
Moss Adams LLP, Partner
Moss Adams is fully integrated professional services firm dedicated to assisting clients with growing, managing and protecting prosperity.
Your Role: I serve as a business advisor to telecom companies to help achieve financial goals while complying with regulations and develop a team to provide similar services. I lead our firm’s initiative to develop, retain and advance talented women. I present regularly at national conferences and oversee our firm’s telecommunications seminars.
Proudest Moment: Being admitted to the Moss Adams partnership in 2018. When I started my career in public accounting, the industry average of partners in CPA firms was only 19 percent women. I spent 17 years developing technical skills, building a strong team, forging strong relationships with clients and prospects, and helping build a stronger national reputation for myself and Moss Adams. In Five Years: I envision developing a stronger team to manage more of the daily needs of clients to allow me to focus more on growing our business and providing the team with new leadership opportunities. I want to continue to be a key player in strengthening Moss Adams’ national reputation.
What do you feel Spokane’s business environment has to offer women? Spokane’s business environment continues to be more supportive of advancing women as evidenced by the increase in the number of companies with women in key leadership positions. With this growth, women have been able to build strong networks with other women which is helping the momentum continue to build.
Your Word: Dynamic
Susan M. Horton, CPA
Wheatland Bank, President, Chief Executive Officer & Chairman of the Board
Wheatland Bank is a locally owned community bank headquartered in Spokane with 14 branches throughout eastern Washington. Wheatland is a 5-Star Superior rated full service bank dedicated to providing exceptional personalized relationship banking.
Proudest Moments: The long awaited joy of becoming a mother to my only child at the age of 40. My biggest career success was taking over the helm of Wheatland Bank at only 37 years old, as one of the youngest Bank CEOs in the country and one of only a small population of women bank CEOs.
Your Advice: Choose a career path that you are passionate about that will make the most of your strengths, but don’t romanticize certain career paths or get them confused with your hobbies. I love riding horses and grew up barrel racing, but chose a career path that made the most of my academic strengths and interests in math and business, and one that would be lucrative enough over time to support the lifestyle and horse hobbies I wanted in my life. It’s important to research what the careers of tomorrow will be and to choose a career that will be flexible and allow you to change and advance with the times, as well as to possibly take time off for child raising without making it too difficult to catch back up and step back into a full time career once the kids are more independent.
Your Word: Driven
Brooke M. Cloninger, D.D.S.
Brooke M. Cloninger, D.D.S., Dentist/Owner
Brooke M. Cloninger, D.D.S. is a privately owned dental practice committed to providing quality healthcare to people in our community of all ages with a focus on comprehensive solutions for oral health needs. They believe in the importance of listening to their patients, and taking the time to understand each patient individually.
Community Role: I’ve served as a founding board member of the Spokane IDEA clinic, a nonprofit dental clinic with the goal of providing quality dental care to members of our community who would otherwise be unable to afford dental services. I take on pro bono cases several times a year for deserving individuals and am proudly involved in many charity functions and fundraising events that benefit our community.
Proudest Moment: Hands down, becoming a mom to my daughter, Ava Glen.
What do you feel Spokane’s business environment has to offer women? I feel more than ever our business environment is growing rapidly and offers many opportunities for women. What a great time to be a woman in business as an owner, leader or role model. People are encouraged by and open to women leading in our communities.
What advice would you give young women as they consider their professional future? Confidence is key; I see too often woman selling themselves short or having low self esteem. Set lofty goals, ask for help, learn from peers and those before you.
Your word: Determined
Berry Built, Owner/Interior Designer
Berry Built is an interior design-build firm that specializes in kitchens and baths. They are comprised of in-house, talented designers and craftsmen who provide their clients with top notch service and quality.
Your Role: In 2007, my husband and I created Berry Built in order streamline and improve an industry that we felt had many shortcomings. I oversee all of the designs and daily client interactions. I am constantly looking ahead so as a whole Berry Built can continue to grow stronger with our employees, clients and community.
Proudest Moment: My biggest success would not come from accomplishments within our office, but rather the fine line of balancing the hours in between. Knowing when to shut off the working mom and devote my attention to our two daughters in order to inspire and nurture the next generation of confident, kind and intelligent women.
In Five Years: I hope to continue giving back in ways that inspire others to think outside of themselves.
What do you feel Spokane’s business environment has to offer women? The business environment for women in a growing city like Spokane is full of opportunities. I hope that I have—and continue to—inspire women to chase their dreams and turn them into reality.
Your Advice: To address any situation presented with wisdom and kindness. Speak with confidence, trust the knowledge you have and look the business world in the eyes and “own it.”
Your Word: Fearless
Chaps LLC, Paper & Cup, Lucky Vintage,Owner and Creator
Chaps LLC, Paper & Cup, Lucky Vintage, Owner and Creator
Healing Hearts Northwest; Critical Care Nurse, Team leader/recruiter/educator
Where Women Cook, Editor in Chief
Proudest Moment: Emotional self-awareness, empathy, conflict management, adaptability and teamwork are all essential skills for effective women in business. These are a few of the same skills used by mothers around the globe. I was a single mother. For a short time I lived in my car to support myself through nursing school with a baby. I was committed and determined. I graduated with honors as the president of my class and worked in the Intensive Care Unit at Deaconess Hospital. In 1997, I went on to enroll in the masters program at Gonzaga. Motherhood was my first real experience as an entrepreneur. The ability to balance work and family as well as, more importantly, to instill the foundation of courage, conviction and hope in my children will always be what pierces my soul and fills me with pride.
What do you feel Spokane’s business environment has to offer women? I would first ask, “What do we as women have to offer Spokane?” Part of leadership and self-actualization is not in feeling entitled, but taking initiative to achieve a purpose. We create the platform for our business environment and maintain it. Initially with a dream, then credible mentorship, vision, strategy and the desire and ability to meet, and to exceed and succeed. Spokane is a community of relationships; we comprehend value in each other.
Your Word: Committed
JPW Communications,Founder and Principal
JPW Communications is a communications advisory firm that provides strategic counsel and guidance to companies and organizations to help manage reputational risk through corporate communications, crisis communications, marketing and public relations initiatives.
Proudest Moment: I am most proud and thankful to have worked on economic development initiatives that support Spokane’s growth and make a positive impact on our region. Highlights have included the redevelopment of River Park Square and revitalization of downtown, the Fox Theatre restoration, and significant expansion of Mt. Spokane and UW School of Medicine’s medical school in partnership with Gonzaga University.
What do you feel Spokane’s business environment has to offer women? There’s growing awareness of the need to get more women in leadership roles yet there’s opportunity to create more. Women offer insights and perspective that are important in the boardroom, in management roles and as employees. I have been lucky enough to be among the first women to get a seat at the table and contribute by tapping my experience and expertise. My role has been to advocate for female executives and also mentor young female professionals.
Your Advice: Go above and beyond what’s expected of you; take initiative. Be flexible. Doors may open when you least expect it; be open to new experiences and opportunities. Join a service club or volunteer for a nonprofit. Most nonprofits welcome young talent and fresh thinking, and the experience will introduce you to new people and new facets of the community.
Elite Auction Inc. are ambassadors, advocates and professional benefit auctioneers who create impassioned generous support for worthy causes.
Proudest Moment: My six-year-old daughter read a book to my two-year-old son. As she left the room, she said to me “Our house is like a seed and our family is the flower. Each of the five of us is a petal and love is what holds us all together.” Missing bedtime is one of the hard things about being a working mom. Sometimes, I’m filled with doubt about making the right choice. Moments like these confirm that my children are doing just fine. Having a mom who works a lot, loves her career and mothers well can, in fact, be a reality.
What do you feel Spokane’s business environment has to offer women? I believe the Spokane area offers a unique family friendly environment. My experience has been that women are proud of their balance of mothering and being successful in business and industry. As a woman in an exceptionally male dominated industry, I have a unique perspective into this reality. My dream is to create a more open dialogue about the honest struggle, realistic options and balance. I am a firm believer in the idea that “empowered women, empower women” and it is our responsibility to continually provide platforms of growth and encouragement for women who would otherwise not have it.