Innovate Marquette SmartZone invites you to join us on Thursday, February 24th for an evening to inspire, empower, and celebrate women in entrepreneurship. Proudly presented by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), this event features local women entrepreneurs and business professionals who play a key role in Marquette’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Throughout the event, our panelists will share advice, discuss the challenges they face by being a woman in entrepreneurship, ways they have overcome these challenges, and how they have paved the way for other women in the community.
Continue reading to learn more, RSVP for the event, and meet our amazing lineup of trailblazing women in entrepreneurship.
IN THIS ARTICLE…
- Allison Harlow Clark – Interior Designer and Owner of Curio Design Studio
- Nicole Johnson – Director of Marketing & Communications, Innovate Marquette
- Brooke Quinn – Business Development Representative, Lake Superior Community Partnership
- Roxanne Daust – Range Bank Chairman, President & CEO
- Gina Jacquart Thorsen – President of Stormy Kromer
- Michele Butler – Vango’s Pizza President and Co-owner
- Nheena Weyer Ittner – Director and Founder of the Upper Peninsula Children’s Museum
WHEN: Thursday, February 24, 2022
5:30 – 6:00 PM Check-in
6:00 – 8:30 PM Women in Entrepreneurship program
- Marketing 101 panel
- Financing Your Business panel
- Mentors in Entrepreneurship panel
WHERE: Ore Dock Brewing Co., 114 West Spring Street, Marquette, MI 49855
WHAT: The event is free and open to the public but registration is required and space is limited. Act now; don’t delay! Visit Eventbrite to RSVP for the event.
MEET OUR ‘MARKETING 101’ PANEL
ALLISON HARLOW CLARK, INTERIOR DESIGNER AND OWNER OF CURIO DESIGN STUDIO
Originally from Marquette, Allison returned north after living throughout the county and abroad. She has a BA in Interior Design from Michigan State University as well as a BS in Merchandise Management. Allison founded Curio Design Studio in 2012 and is currently focused on creating distinctive interior environments for modern families and leading professionals in the Marquette, Michigan area and virtually to clients nationwide.
When asked about her experiences — and challenges — as a woman in the interior design industry, Allison highlighted two key points: confidence and portfolio. The feeling of imposter syndrome is very real and can be intimidating when you start out. Reflecting on her own experience, Allison comments that you have to be “able [to] put yourself out there and have confidence in your vision.”
Another barrier that interior designers and other creatives often face early in their careers is having a limited amount of work to showcase in your portfolio. Allison explains, “in creative industries, a lot of our work is based on portfolio and it’s hard when you are just starting out and have nothing to pull from for websites or social media. It can feel like a huge roadblock to taking [the] first steps and launching a business. I think this also ties directly into lack of confidence, having nothing to show for but still asking people to trust you or trust your creative vision.”
So how do you show your worth in male-dominated industries such as construction and renovations? Be prepared, knowledgeable, and professional. Allison recalls, “you would walk on to a job site and could just feel the “ok little girl” attitude. That pushed me to be 110% on my game.” Being in a position where you need your work to speak for itself forced Allison to go above and beyond as far as organization and prep for projects and meetings. This prepared Allison to walk on the site and ensure that everyone knew she was knowledgeable and professional. No easy feat, Allison shares, “I definitely had to work my butt off and overdeliver to solidify my worth on the job site.”
“You would walk on to a job site and could just feel the “ok little girl” attitude. That pushed me to be 110% on my game.”
— Allison Harlow Clark, Curio Design Studio
NICOLE JOHNSON, DIRECTOR OF MARKETING & COMMUNICATIONS, INNOVATE MARQUETTE SMARTZONE
Nicole is the Director of Marketing and Communications for Innovate Marquette Smartzone and Invent@NMU. Her focus within this role is intentional and authentic brand strategy that aligns with Marquette community values, to promote and communicate our internal organization in addition to supporting, consulting and educating our clients. Through this work, she also manages the strategic vision and acts as a mentor for the Invent@NMU brand and marketing team, which includes marketing assistants, graphic designers, and photographers, as well as brand strategy and direction for the Make it Marquette initiative.
As a born and raised Yooper from Manistique, Michigan Nicole grew up with an appreciation and love for the outdoors while constantly writing and drawing and dreaming in her notebooks. Though she was never provided options of arts or entrepreneurship as a career path until later in life, this gap has greatly fueled her adult passion for education and mentorship in rural communities on ways entrepreneurship can foster high paying wages and the importance of the arts in business development.
She has spent the last eight years working in marketing and communications on both a regional and international scale with a focus on user experience (UX), organic SEO, content development, and brand strategy. Nicole obtained a bachelor’s degree in marketing and international business from Western Michigan University (go Broncos) which launched her early career in private label brand management within the food industry at SpartanNash in Grand Rapids.
After a few years, Nicole experienced corporate burnout and decided to explore alternative career paths, leading her to obtain a Working Holiday Visa and a one-way ticket across the globe to New Zealand. With nothing but a backpack, laptop, and her camera Nicole converted a 1997 Honda CRV into her mobile home. What started out as a gap year working on sheep farms, serving at wineries and breweries, as well as cleaning hostel bathrooms led to the beginnings of a blossoming content development business and passion for the wellness and travel industry. After a year in New Zealand, she was called to Fort Collins, Colorado where she obtained a 200 hour Registered Yoga Teacher Training certification and began teaching yoga in addition to running her business. This led her to a contract position within BookRetreats as a Managing Editor bringing her around the world to places like Peru, Ecuador, Costa Rica, the UK, Portugal, Germany, and Denmark creating content and SEO strategy for clients.
In October 2019 Nicole returned to the U.P. to visit her family. In a serendipitous trip to Marquette to purchase a new laptop, she made the decision to move to Marquette instead of back to Costa Rica after almost 8 years of living away.
Today, in addition to her role at Innovate Marquette and Invent@NMU, Nicole continues to write for Ahimsa Digital, do marketing consulting for AccelerateUP and The Boreal Collective, serves on the board of directors for the Children’s Museum, and on the funding committee for the Kids Cove project. When not scheming strategy and creating content you’ll find Nicole doing yoga, reading a good book, learning about plants, or enjoying the outdoors.
MEET OUR ‘FINANCING YOUR BUSINESS’ PANEL
BROOKE QUINN, BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT REPRESENTATIVE, LAKE SUPERIOR COMMUNITY PARTNERSHIP
Brooke graduated from Northern Michigan University in 2018 with a Bachelors in Entrepreneurship. Since moving to the Upper Peninsula from the Metro Detroit area, Brooke has volunteered her time supporting various events and organizations ranging from Harbor Fest in Marquette to 5k and 10k runs in Sault Saint Marie. Brooke has also been the Assistant Wetmore Checkpoint Coordinator for the UP 200 sled dog rate for over three years. Her desire to give back to the community is something she continues to do even with her position at the Lake Superior Community Partnership (LSCP). When she’s not supporting local businesses or volunteering her time, you can find Brooke cooking and baking – another one of her passions.
Brooke shared that one of the challenges she has faced being a woman in the workforce is earning a seat at the table. Age and gender are common reasons why many of us have experienced instances in our careers where we weren’t taken seriously. Reflecting on a lecture she heard while in the Student Leadership Fellowship program at NMU, Brooke recalls how women and men in leadership are categorized or labeled.
The same quality can be perceived differently based on who (or rather, which gender) exhibits that quality. Men are assertive while women are labeled as aggressive. Men are confident while women are seen as bossy. As Brooke explains, “these stereotypes can twist the perception in either a positive or negative light.” So how do we move forward? How do we set up female entrepreneurs and women in leadership for success? Brooke comments, “being educated on these behaviors and having informative sessions can help everyone communicate in a healthier way.”
ROXANNE DAUST, RANGE BANK CHAIRMAN, PRESIDENT & CEO
A graduate of Northern Michigan University, Roxanne received a Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Systems and Accounting before attending the University of Wisconsin’s Graduate School of Banking. Roxanne began her career at Range Bank in 1997 as the Chief Financial Officer where she was responsible for the finance and operations areas of the bank. She moved into her role as Executive Vice President in 2011 and took on additional operational and administrative duties. She was promoted to President & COO in 2017 and took over the additional Chairman and CEO duties on June 1, 2018 with the retirement of Ken Palmer. During her 24-plus year career at the bank, she worked with a team of executive officers to grow assets under management from $68 million to over $1 billion.
Outside of work, Roxanne is actively involved in the Marquette community. From serving on the United Way’s leadership committee to being a mentor for the NMU Student Leadership Fellowship program and serving as Officer and Vice President of Lake Superior Community Partnership, Roxanne devotes a lot of time to give back to our community and mentor a new generation of leaders. Roxanne is especially looking forward to the opportunity to connect and inspire women in our community to consider entrepreneurship through our upcoming event. One of the biggest myths she wants to bust about female entrepreneurs is that women are not natural leaders.
“Women have many natural leadership competencies – social, communication, and problem-solving skills as well as empathy. Skills needed to build a strong business culture.”
— Roxanne Daust, Range Bank
MEET OUR ‘MENTORS IN ENTREPRENEURSHIP’ PANEL
GINA JACQUART THORSEN, PRESIDENT OF STORMY KROMER
As President of Stormy Kromer, Ms. Thorsen leads the marketing, sales and new product development efforts for this iconic Made in the USA outdoor apparel brand. Stormy Kromer is a division of Jacquart Fabric Products, and as part of the company’s family ownership and future CEO, she plays a key role in developing the company’s strategic vision for the future.
In her current role, Ms. Thorsen is responsible for the development and oversight of Stormy Kromer’s annual marketing plan and the coordination of the internal and external team that implements these activities. Under her leadership, the brand has experienced continuous growth, with sales increases of more than 20% the past two years.
Ms. Thorsen also oversees new product development and design. During her tenure, she has successfully taken a line of caps and a few apparel pieces to a complete apparel and accessory collection for both men and women. Under her leadership, the Stormy Kromer product line has increased its appeal to women and younger customers, and launched its first pet products collection in 2018.
Prior to returning to her family’s business in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Ms. Thorsen spent 11 years with the southwest’s largest arts-in-education nonprofit, Big Thought, of Dallas, Texas. At the time of her departure from Big Thought, she held the position of Vice President of Research & Program Development, overseeing the management of partnership programs such as Dallas ArtsPartners and leading the development of new programs such as the Dallas Arts Learning Initiative, later known as Thriving Minds. She also oversaw the Program Accountability department and was responsible for the sharing of Big Thought’s programs and strategies with communities around the country through speaking engagements, consulting engagements and other vehicles.
While under her guidance, Dallas ArtsPartners and Thriving Minds received accolades and milestone grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Ford Foundation, the U.S. Department of Education and the Wallace Foundation.
Ms. Thorsen holds a Bachelor’s Degree with a major in Arts Management and a minor in music/voice from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, and a Master’s Degree in Arts Administration from Goucher College in Baltimore, MD. She proudly serves on the Board of Directors of the Small Business Association of Michigan. She also volunteers in her local community as a member of the Emberlight Festival Board of Directors, as the Vice President of the Mercer Lake Association, and as a member of the Ironwood Economic Development Corporation.
MICHELE BUTLER, VANGO’S PIZZA PRESIDENT AND CO-OWNER
Michele is a graduate of Northern Michigan University with a Bachelor’s in Secondary Education and a Master’s in Communications. A partner in Vango’s Pizza since 1979, Michele has helped grow this family business year over year. As Vango’s Pizza grew, Michele became actively involved in community service. A Rotarian for over 30 years, Michele received the Distinguished Service Award. Michele was also the Founding Chair of the YMCA of Marquette County and continues to serve on the Board of Directors. She strongly believes that as we succeed, we need to give back to our community.
When their founding partner, Clark Lambros passed in 2012 Michele and team decided to donate land they owned to create a park for the citizens of Marquette. With the help of the DNR Trust fund, they sold the property to the City and with all of the proceeds built the Clark Lambros Beach Park. Michele has received many recognitions over the years, but that is not her motivation. She truly hopes to leave our community better than when she started.
Clearly generous with her time, Michele looks forward to the opportunity to encourage women to take the leap. A word of advice from Michele, “follow your passion and have faith you will accomplish whatever you set out to do with hard work.” When Michele started in business in the early ’80s, it was very much a man’s world. She had to prove to the Purveyors that she knew the industry.
“I had to become tough to get their respect.
— Michele Butler, Vango’s Pizza
NHEENA WEYER ITTNER, DIRECTOR AND FOUNDER OF THE UPPER PENINSULA CHILDREN’S MUSEUM
Nheena earned an art teaching degree from the University of Michigan and taught art in two downstate schools until she moved to the Upper Peninsula in 1980. Nheena taught until the birth of her second child in 1987 when she started a hand-painted clothing business and began planting the seeds toward the development of the Children’s Museum in Marquette. She was the Museum’s board chair until 1992 when she was hired as its director. After many years of development, with the assistance of hundreds of kids and their ideas, the Museum opened its doors in 1997. Expansion continued for several years later. Nheena continues as the Director of the Upper Peninsula Children’s Museum now in its 25th season
Nheena sits on multiple boards which include the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs, Accelerate UP, Marquette Economic Club, Masonic Arts, Theatre and Innovation, and the UP Hospice Foundation. She has also been honored with multiple awards including Michigan Museum’s Association President’s Award for Distinguished Service, The Marquette Arts and Culture Department’s Community Arts Activist Award, the Community Foundation of Marquette County’s Community Catalyst Award, and The Evergreen Award for mentorship. Instrumental in the development of the Marquette Skate Plaza, Nheena also currently chairs the committee overseeing the establishment of an all-inclusive playground in the heart of Marquette.
Nheena is married to Neil Cumberlidge, a professor at NMU and an expert in crab study, has two daughters, two grandsons, a dog and a cat.
MEET OUR EMCEE & MODERATOR
ELIZABETH PETERSON, TV6 MORNING NEWS ANCHOR AND PRODUCER
Originally from the downstate Grand Rapids area, Elizabeth has lived in the Upper Peninsula for more than 18 years. Elizabeth grew up in the television industry. Her grandmother, mother and aunt all held various positions at television stations across the country. Watching them, listening to their stories and spending so much time behind the scenes lead her to pursue a career in broadcast journalism.
A proud Spartan, Elizabeth graduated from Michigan State University. Go Green! Elizabeth was a reporter and anchor for the TV6 Early News and News Tonight from 2005 until 2009. She also worked for a time as a morning producer and as the first producer and anchor for FOX UP News. Since that first stint at TV6, Elizabeth has worked as the executive director of the Greater Ishpeming-Negaunee Chamber of Commerce, sales manager for the Northern Center at Northern Michigan University, and most recently as a producer and host for WNMU.
Elizabeth has been fortunate to work with amazing people over the years, people who have shown her a deeper understanding of what the Upper Peninsula and its residents are all about. She’s proud to come back to TV6 with those experiences and use them to guide her through her role as the morning anchor. News has always been important to Elizabeth, but it has never felt more important than it does today.
Elizabeth enjoys backpacking, hiking, traveling, and spending as much time as she can exploring the outdoors with her family and friends.