“Follow your passion — and if you don’t know what it is, realize that one reason for your existence on earth is to find it.”
– Oprah Winfrey
It’s time we highlight women entrepreneurs who have been driving forces in the entrepreneurial sphere within the Marquette area and the state of Michigan in recent years. At Innovate Marquette, we believe in enabling and empowering our entrepreneurial community by giving everyone a place where they belong, offering them equal opportunities and resources they may otherwise not have access to. By giving everyone a seat at the table we learn from one another’s experiences and in turn, these innovators, inventors, and thought leaders have banded together to create this incredible and dynamic community of creators right here in the Marquette area. While each of these individuals have their own unique set of skills and experiences, they are all united by their passion and dedication to going beyond the status quo.
Let’s meet nine incredible, entrepreneurial women, who all have strong ties to our Marquette community.
In This Article...
Britta Carlson: CEO & Founder of Med Pros Share
Britta Carlson always knew that she wanted to permanently call Marquette, MI home after graduating from Northern Michigan University and beginning her work as an occupational therapist. But what she didn’t know right away was that one day her entrepreneurial spirit would allow her business to call the Upper Peninsula home as well.
It was while managing a doctor’s office that Carlson began to utilize her professional experience in pediatric development, early intervention, and social-emotional learning. By asking unconventional questions, she was able to create unconventional solutions — and one of those solutions became a virtual, centralized information center for medical professionals and families to access, utilize, and capture information that would otherwise only be accessible to the experts, particularly occupational, physical, and speech therapy practitioners. And so, with a little bit of ingenuity and a lot of hard work, Med Pros Share was born!
Med Pros Share allows for the transference of knowledge across a variety of settings and specialties, allowing medical professionals to share and sell learning resources and educational tools in an online marketplace. The system also allows for research to advance by enabling practitioners access to a job board for paid and peer-reviewed opportunities. In addition to making it easier for medical professionals to create and share peer-reviewed educational tools Carlson’s main focus is on creating an easier path for female entrepreneurs, specifically, single moms, to get their ideas off the ground.
Carlson has always needed to rely on her sense of resiliency as she navigates the entrepreneurial world while single-handedly raising a daughter. “Being a mother has trained me for entrepreneurship and provided me with perseverance and determination with the hopes of a faster path to entrepreneurship for my daughter as a future female entrepreneur.”
When asked what being an entrepreneur means to her, Carlson explained, “Being an entrepreneur is about going from dreaming to doing and believing with every ounce of your being that you can, and with that learning to pivot and being receptive and assertive to what the market tells you.”
Marina Dupler: Co-founder of Barrel + Beam
As a life-long lover of communication, Marina Dupler leveraged her hard-earned degree from Northern Michigan University into a career in public relations and marketing. She has since worked in a variety of settings including healthcare, government relations, event planning, higher education, home services, and hospitality industries. But through each of these experiences, one common thread continues to center around people and communication.
Now, Dupler brings her skill set and experience into her work at Barrel + Beam, a Marquette-based brewery that is solely focused on crafting world-class farmhouse and barrel-aged beer and cider.
She skillfully handles all of the email, marketing, social media, events, branding, and communication strategies for the brewery while managing a full-time remote marketing role and her role as a mother. “For me, being a mom has been the best training for being an entrepreneur. You become familiar with the ‘round the clockwork that never ends and the rapid-fire requests. And babies and businesses are both more expensive than you think! But also, as a mom and as an entrepreneur, you realize you have to stop and recognize the little wins and be present.”
When it comes to being an entrepreneur, Dupler knows just how important it is to remember your roots. “It means being crystal clear about why you started a business. It means finding people who help your business succeed and doing all you can to keep them by supporting them, their interests, and their needs. It means recognizing there’s so much to do and you can’t do it all. Being an entrepreneur is a constant battle to keep things moving, with your mission as your north star.”
Elizabeth Gomez-Jazowski: CEO of JZ Global Solutions & President of Women in Defense Michigan Chapter
Entrepreneurship runs in the family for Elizabeth Gomez-Jazowski, whose father owned a translation agency and printing company that she joined early on in her career. After making her way up the ranks in the business world and settling on a Vice President Sales & Marketing role with a Canadian-based company, Gomez-Jazowski decided to put her hard work and established relationships to good use by establishing her own business.
JZ Global provides technical documentation, translation, and industrial support software to empower workers to achieve more operational productivity. Thanks to their partnerships with leading hardware and software providers, as well as their communication platform, RemoteSpark, frontline workers have unbridled access to expert support.
For Gomez-Jazowski, being an entrepreneur centers around passion. “It’s about passion, about recognizing opportunities and generating innovative, creative ideas. Firmly believing your ideas and putting your heart and soul into it.”
When asked what one positive outcome is of being a woman in the entrepreneurial field, Gomez-Jazowski shared, “The experience of juggling many tasks at the same time and still being able to produce excellent results. Another positive about being a woman entrepreneur are all the wonderful women mentors out there that give so graciously of their time and effort to grow other women leaders.”
Today, Gomez-Jazowski plays two roles in her professional life: one as an entrepreneur and the other as President of Women in Defense for Michigan’s chapter.
Alice Jasper: Creator of ‘Color Out Here’ & Program Director at People First Economy
For Alice Jasper, sustainability has always been an important direction in the way that she works. When she first entered the professional realm, she had hopes of creating a more holistic approach to her work by focusing on the intersections of people, the planet, and profits. But in a short period of time, it quickly became apparent to her that there was a significant lack of representation among Black, Indigenous, and People of Color in the environmental justice and environmental stewardship sectors.
In 2017, Jasper partnered with WGVU, a public media station for NPR and PBS programming in west Michigan, to create ‘Color Out Here’. This series of media projects explored both the opportunities and barriers to inclusion that are often discovered in outdoor recreation and environmental stewardship industries. In recent years, Jasper has started organizing BIPOC trips that help individuals to get outside, feel safe, and build their own, positive experiences and relationships with nature.
For Jasper, the entrepreneurial world allows her to work more meaningfully. “It means being able to drive change in a way that feels most authentic to my values and my work style.”
Being a woman in entrepreneurship comes with its own set of risks and rewards. Jasper explained, “There are so many spaces where representation is lacking, not just in racial diversity, but in gender diversity as well. So to drive change, we must be willing to get creative and build new systems that foster authentic inclusion. Oftentimes, women and femmes are faced with having to navigate systems that weren’t designed for us, or we have to figure out how to design new systems altogether. I feel like this necessity tends to drive more collaborative and innovative solutions.”
Beyond her work with ‘Color Out Here’, Jasper acts as Program Director at People First Economy. This organization helps to create access to more resources that assist Michigan’s businesses to implement sustainability practices with positive, measurable impact on both the environment and our communities.
Brigette LaPointe-Dunham: Chief Executive Officer for the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community
Brigette LaPointe-Dunham grew up on the L’Anse Indian reservation, and as an enrolled Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC) member, she went on to serve in a director role with the KBIC after working at Northern Michigan University and UP Rehab. But that wouldn’t be the end of her journey — in fact, it was only the beginning.
After completing her master’s degree, she was hired by the Upper Peninsula Health Plan and later promoted to join the senior leadership team and act as Director of Strategic Initiatives. After earning her second master’s degree, LaPointe-Dunham began her tenure as Chief Executive Officer for the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, using her past work and educational experiences to shape her as a CEO. “I felt I gained the right mix of experiences in order to excel in this position.”
For LaPointe-Dunham, the hardest part of the entrepreneurial journey has been developing the necessary self-confidence and an understanding that she deserves to be where she is today in building a successful business. “Being an entrepreneur means having the mindset to put forth risk and learn from past experiences, both positive and negative, and utilizing them towards success.”
For her, success looks like a thriving community. “Success can be focused on yourself, community, or actual business. In my case, I am totally invested in my community, so each and every move I make in relation to the operation of the business I control affects my community. I absolutely thrive on this as an entrepreneur because it directly affects my culture and way of living.”
When asked what the future looks like, LaPointe-Dunham says, “I want to continue being a visionary leader and expanding opportunities for my community to be at the forefront of innovation and taking advantage of initiatives that allow our sovereign nation to flourish.”
Nancy Lyons: Author, President & CEO at Clockwork
For some, discovering entrepreneurship to be their potential career path is an obvious choice. Meet Nancy Lyons, who quickly discovered that most workplaces weren’t the best match for her right away. “I have always said that I started my own company because I was entirely unemployable. I was too outspoken; I had too many ideas; I always wanted to shake up the status quo.”
And for anyone who has delved into the world of entrepreneurship, it’s easy to see how each of these characteristics are vital for success as a business owner. After working her way up the career ladder, Lyons discovered a kinship with the founders of a company who shared a similar vision and value. When that company was built, bought, and acquired, they began sketching out a business plan on a napkin that would eventually turn into their current business venture, Clockwork.
Clockwork, an interactive design and technology agency has been transforming the way businesses around the world communicate, sell, and grow since 2002. For Lyons, creating a company was more than just a financial or business venture. “Entrepreneurship means creating a company and a work culture that I didn’t have available to me. When we started our company, we only really knew two things: we wanted to do great work and have great lives. We wanted to build a company where people actually wanted to come to work and solve problems together. As an entrepreneur, I was able to have that idea – that goal – and just do it, without a boss or CEO telling me no.”
But with great power comes great responsibility. “I always say to my colleagues that my primary responsibility is to guard the mother ship. And as any owner or entrepreneur knows, that sometimes means choosing the more difficult path or focusing on long-term outcomes over short-term gains. I deeply care about the people I work with and I deeply care about the sustainability of the company, and sometimes those two things come into conflict.”
For Lyons, being in this space means she also gets to set an example for others. “Growing up, I didn’t know any women entrepreneurs; I didn’t know any entrepreneurs who openly embraced their LGBTQ identities. And therefore, I didn’t really see this as a path for me. I show up in as many educational situations as I can to simply show young women and young LGBTQ people that, ‘Hey! I’m here. You can be, too!’”
Lindsey Naylor: Owner of L.Naylor Design
For Lindsey Naylor, drawing and art have always been important elements in her life, even as a child. After studying graphic design at Western Michigan University, she went on to work with advertising agencies in the Detroit area for five years. She was balancing her full-time career with a few side hustles when the desire to relocate to Marquette struck.
Naylor knew she wanted to call Marquette home from the moment she first visited the city. The only way to do it? Transition to full–time freelance work. After selling her most successful Michigan map design, the Lord of Michigan, to a t-shirt company and accruing some passive income to help with the transition period, she launched L.Naylor Design, a branding, packaging, hand letting, and mural design company.
For Naylor, entrepreneurship is an opportunity to bring her designs to life. “Being an entrepreneur means having the freedom and knowledge to share your unique vision with your greater community.”
Like most entrepreneurs can attest to, the hardest part of Naylor’s entrepreneurial journey happened right at the start with getting established. “It was a huge leap, and I was unsure how to attract enough work and put myself out there. Gaining the confidence to talk about myself as a businesswoman and artist was really hard, but came with time and practice. Having the resilience to keep going through your own doubt is what can set entrepreneurs apart.”
If there were a few pieces of advice she could impart on other entrepreneurs out there, it would be this: “Invest in your visual brand – it’s important for attracting customers! Hire someone with the right skills. And keep going and trust yourself.”
Pavlina Osta: Author, Evening News Anchor at TV6
For Pavlina Osta, authenticity and overcoming obstacles were two key elements in her finding entrepreneurial success from a young age. At just ten years old, Osta started out as a steel drum street performer. The job was a humbling one — after all, you set up in a public area and people pass by, either ignoring you or judging you, or maybe even listening for a few minutes before continuing on their way. A street performer has to have some level of talent, but they also need grit.
Thanks to her time in school, dance, gymnastics, and karate classes, Osta learned a lot about discipline and time management. It was during this busy time that she created her own radio show, going to different locations to do interviews with a variety of celebrities of all ages and backgrounds — think Shaquille O’Neal, Jeff Gordon, Ed Sheeran, Neil Diamond, Sean Hannity, and more! By the time she turned 18, Osta had already interviewed over 800 people. Each one of these experiences helped her to think quickly on her feet and juggle all of the roles that come with the job.
During her senior year of high school, Osta left her home state of Florida to accept a job offer in New York City. So while all of her friends were enjoying normal high school experiences like homecoming and prom, she instead was focusing on her corporate media career and future. Then COVID-19 hit, and the city that never sleeps was looking to be a vastly different place than ever before. During this time, Osta focused on completing her college degree, writing a book, and gaining her yoga teaching certification, all before heading to the wide-open spaces that the Upper Peninsula had to offer and joining the TV6 team.
Osta understands that it takes more than just hard work to be successful as an entrepreneur — it can be a mental challenge, too. “It means being authentic, believing in what you do, and being prepared to take the risks you will be faced with. There will be times you face obstacles and doubt yourself, but this is where your grit comes in, your mindset and the creativity necessary to ‘make it happen’.”
When asked about what the future may hold for women in entrepreneurship, Osta had a very positive outlook to share. “I see the future for women entrepreneurs looking better every year! More women are starting out on their own to make their dreams come true. Support groups and networking opportunities are also becoming stronger.”
For Osta, her professional goal remains constant: to continue to grow in the media industry and be a role model for other young women who are looking to join the field.
By the time Ashley Ross finished her time at Northern Michigan University, she realized too late that her major wasn’t exactly what she wanted to do in her life. After spending ten years in and out of a variety of customer service roles, she transitioned into the digital economy and uncovered her passion for entrepreneurship.
For Ross, entrepreneurship means freedom. “It took me a long time to figure out what it was that I wanted most from my career and freedom is the answer I kept coming back to. It’s why working for someone else never felt right. My success is completely dependent on me. It’s terrifying, but also liberating to be the one in control of your own destiny. It’s the answer I’ve found to creating harmony between the me that wants a meaningful career and the me that is a mom and wife.”
Like all entrepreneurs and business owners, Ross encounters her fair share of imposter syndrome. But one thing that continuously helps her to move forward is the community she’s found amongst other female entrepreneurs.
“I’ve found some great support from fellow female entrepreneurs that have pushed me to keep moving forward. Especially fellow moms. If I can see that they’ve made it, it gives me hope to keep going.”
When we asked what the future holds for Ross, she shared with us, “My goal is to bring economic growth and professional development opportunities to the greater Marquette community by creating awareness and education in the digital economy. I want to show people, especially moms, that there is a way to make a comfortable living without having to leave the U.P.”