Women in Business 2015

Who is reaching higher, stretching further and leaning farther in than ever to make great things happen? Meet the 2015 class of Delaware women who are leading us in new directions.

Erin Cooper Barrett

Owner-Events Coordinator
Outlook Events, LLC

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Barrett’s popular Outlook Events is a full-service banquet hall and conference center that hosts business functions, as well as wedding receptions, all with panoramic views of downtown Dover. Busy day to day, Barrett would like to eventually link the business with a college hotel-restaurant management program. “I’d love to share my passion for food costing, menu planning, bookkeeping, payroll, project management, multitasking, marketing and every other facet of event planning,” she says. “I would love to explore these possibilities and add something to the local higher educational programs.” She has already added something to the community, having co-founded Gals That Give two years ago to help link nonprofits. 

Her perfect Saturday night: “Working a beautifully decorated, well-planned wedding.”

From Left: Erin Cooper Barrett, Christina Lessard

Renee Bowers

Executive Director
Fair Trade Federation

While spending a year working in India early in her career, Bowers met families of woodcarvers who had for generations made their livings by creating intricate wooden puppets. Those carvers found their skills diminishing in value as modern media crept into even the remotest villages. “It caused me to explore whether there are ways to preserve traditional crafts by connecting artisans to international consumers,” Bowers says. Now she makes sure the member businesses of the Fair Trade Federation meet standards for fair trade with entrepreneurs and vendors in the developing world, and she helps those entrepreneurs develop their businesses, thus strengthening economies large and small around the globe.

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Advice: Choose a career that aligns with your values, even if it means measuring success by a different yardstick than your peers.  

Kelley Boyce

TaCaCo Alpacas of Delaware, LLC

Kelley Boyce likes to do things, so a few years ago, she visited Mount Joy, Pa., with her husband, Blair, to check out an alpaca operation. It didn’t take much effort to persuade Blair that they had found something to do in retirement. They added six acres to their existing two and started TaCaCo about 2 ½ years ago. Now she is raising the animals (17 at press time) to sell to breeders and for their wool, which she harvests in spring, then has processed into yarn, felt and batting for sale in the farm gift store. Next on the horizon: increase sales of alpacas, attract more visitors to the farm, expand the shop, and host more events.

Secret to balance: Stay organized. Don’t take on more than you can handle. Keep family first.

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Vincenza and Margherita Carrieri-Russo

Owners, Vincenza & Margherita Italian-American Bistro 

Operating among a surfeit of good Italian restaurants in northern New Castle County, one has to work hard to stand out. The Carrieri-Russo sisters do that every day at their V&M Bistro. In the build out of the restaurant, they agonized over decorative details like the stunning wine wall. Then they went to work on daily operations, from menu development to ordering to hiring to marketing. The result: an instant smash hit when it opened just over a year ago. If that weren’t enough, through their award-winning Success Won’t Wait literacy program, they have manned dozens of book drives and repaired thousands of books for distribution to schools, after-school programs and senior centers—800,000 since 2002.

Big personal goals: a cookbook and cooking show.

Bebe Ross Coker

Black Heritage Educational Theater Group

Coker is one of the few who deserves to be called a living legend, a lifelong activist who has been honored by Gov. Jack Markell with the Order of the First State and has earned the Muriel E. Gilman Award for support of children and families, a place in the Delaware Women’s Hall of Fame and other distinctions. Her current role is “more of a service commitment” than a job, she says. Coker recruits volunteers—like herself—to fulfill the group’s mission of enriching the lives of youth, promoting literacy and increasing understanding of black history. Among her goals is to support initiatives such as Rock and Read for children in daycare, 100 Men Reading and the Wilmington Police’s breakfast and books program for kids.

Key to success: “Don’t let your talents take you where your character can’t keep you.”


Michelle R. Condon

Owner, Senior Systems Analyst, IT Consultant
Bits & Bytes Inc.

The IT industry has changed since Condon and a partner started their business in 1990. Then the focus was helping clients automate accounting systems. Now the chief concern is keeping data secure. “I hope to push the focus of my organization into ensuring our clients have secure and efficient networked systems that will conform to the new rigorous security compliances,” says Condon. Dover-based Bits & Bytes does it all, from creating networks and installing operating systems to repairing hardware for clients such as banks, medical and legal practices, real estate offices and small businesses across the state. Condon also manages all financial matters.

Greatest professional success: Maintaining a good reputation for 25 years in an industry where small shops open and close frequently.

Gayle A. Dillman

Chief Executive Officer-Founder
Gable Music Ventures LLC

Dillman was staring at a soon-to-be empty nest when she decided it was time to redefine herself. Inspired by her daughter’s occasional concerts in the family home, she started a music-event business. Her 5-year-old Gable now creates events at traditional venues such as World Cafe Live at The Queen and places you wouldn’t expect, like art galleries. Her Ladybug Music Festival, now a signature event, has doubled in size every year since it launched in July 2012. Last year it lured 3,000 people to Wilmington’s LOMA district for a Thursday evening full of original artists. “Reinventing yourself at any point in time is not easily done,” Dillman says. “A lot of people have questioned why I chose the music business, maybe even questioned my sanity. Overcoming the perception of playing it safe is something I am proud of.”

Best advice she’s gotten: “Keep your standards high.”

Kathy Ryan Douglass 

Coldwell Banker Resort Realty

Douglass and her husband, Randy, ran parking garages and valet services in Delaware and Chester counties (Pa.) when they lost the contract. That was what they needed to make the move to Lewes. Douglass took a job as assistant to a real estate agent, then, in 2002, struck out on her own. “The rest is history,” she says. In 2011 she was asked to serve as treasurer for the Women’s Council of Realtors, where, earlier this year, she advanced to president. She supports WCR’s mission of advancing women in real estate, and she helps with its Bras for a Cause fundraiser, which has generated more than $100,000 for the Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition since 2010. “Our goal is to give back to our community and our members,” Douglass says. “Our success is largely due to the support of the community.”

Greatest personal success: “Raising three wonderful children.”

Karen Fletcher

Vice President of Engineering, Facilities Services and Real Estate & Chief Engineer

“I really enjoy spending time with young people interested in pursuing a career in science or engineering. Rather than having a ‘next big thing,’ I would like to put more time and energy into this area,” says Fletcher, who leads a force of 1,200 employees who, among other things, provides engineering support to DuPont’s research and manufacturing sites. Fletcher has held many positions since joining DuPont with a new masters in chemical engineering from the University of Delaware in 1982. She was vice president for investor relations for four years before taking the helm of global engineering in February 2013. She serves on the University of Delaware Research Foundation board of trustees, the board of directors for the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering and the Chemical Engineering Advisory Council at the University of Delaware.

Key to work-life balance: “There’s an awareness skill that is critical to finding balance. Stay in touch with yourself and be realistic about your bandwidth.”

​Romona S. Fullman

Director, Office of the Delaware Commission for Women
Director, Division of Human Relations

To say Fullman is passionate about justice is an understatement. As leader of state government’s two main civil rights agencies, she is an educator, adviser and advocate to citizens, lawmakers, policymakers and community leaders on issues of social justice and the elimination of discriminatory laws, policies and practices. As director of the Commission for Women since 1990, she works to eliminate barriers that prohibit women and girls from achieving their potential. As director of the Division of Human Relations, she works to enforce fair housing and equal accommodations laws and promotes amicable relations between racial and cultural groups. She works locally and nationally on such issues as voting, pay equity, discrimination, fair housing, health disparities, access to affordable quality health care, and eliminating the education achievement gap. Fullman also serves on the boards of the National Association of Commissions for Women, Metropolitan Wilmington Urban League, and Delta Outreach and Education Center.

Jessica T. Gibson 

Program Director
Women’s Business Center at 

First State Community Loan Fund

Gibson had been a longtime employee of First State Community Loan Fund when, as a community lending officer, she heard about an opportunity to start the WBC for the Small Business Association in Delaware. “I wasn’t a huge fan of underwriting,” Gibson says. “My passion is helping people, not numbers. I knew it would be a great fit.” Now she oversees provision of training, counseling, mentoring, access to capital—often through nontraditional financing—and networking opportunities to women in or starting a business.

Next up: “I would like to position the WBC to be the No. 1 go-to for all women in business. Ultimately, I would like to open another business and use returning citizens as my main personnel pool.” 

Lorri H. Grayson

President and Co-owner
GG+A Construction

For the first time in its four decades, the Associated Builders and Contractors of Delaware elected a female chair this year, and Grayson is it. “Years ago, I became involved with ABC as a way for me to give back to the industry that I love,” she says. “Serving as chair has provided many platforms for me to share my passion for construction with others. My desire to see a new generation of young professionals, including women, join our industry is a top priority.” An engineer by training, Grayson worked in the industry for 20 years before starting GG+A 10 years ago. The company specializes in institutional and hospitality construction. As an owner, Grayson oversees all functions, mechanical to managerial. “I plan to continue to support the legislative issues that improve our construction industry here in Delaware,” she says. “It would be great to see more jobs created by working together with others in our marketplace.”

Key to success: “Be willing to take risks. Failures, even expensive and painful ones, can provide valuable education.”

Kate Hackett

Executive Director
Delaware Wild Lands

What benefits do natural resources provide to the economic, physical, educational, cultural and financial prosperity of Delaware? Hackett works hard to make them known. Wild Lands’ main work is to acquire land to protect for its benefits to clean air, clean water and wildlife habitat, and to ensure healthy farms, forests and wetlands. “Wild Lands is working to expand the functionality of our natural resources on the Delmarva Peninsula and reconnect conservation with the needs of our community, locally, in the state, and region. We are focused on achieving long-lasting impacts and focused results. We have very low administrative costs and bring integrity and accountability to our initiatives and efforts, and we’re working to foster the same through our partnerships with other organizations.” The hats she wears include “strategic planner, cheerleader, fundraiser, bean counter, visionary, friend raiser, tree planter and Chinese acrobat—or at least it feels that way sometimes.”

Follows on Twitter: At home, the black-capped chickadee. On the road, the indigo bunting.

Nola Doubét Hendry

Chief Operating Officer
Carl Doubét Jr. Jewelers

After three generations in business, Carl Doubét has built up a long list of satisfied customers, and it is a group of people Hendry cares deeply about. Serving them well, in part by offering them the best values, is the key to longevity and success in business, she says. In life, the key is keeping work at work and home at home, which is especially important—she works every day with husband, Frank, and her son, successor Carl. Hendry has earned many certifications in the course of her career, including graduate gemologist from the American Gem Society and Gemological Institute of America, and Carl Doubét Jr. was named one of the top 30 independent jewelers in the country by National Jeweler Magazine.

Best advice for another: “If you don’t ask, the answer is already no.”

Ellyn Herbert

Economic Development Specialist And Woman-Owned Business Representative
U.S. Small Business Administration

In 2012 Herbert identified some gaps in women’s entrepreneurial development, so she designed a program to address them. She reached out to Antara Dutta, then president of SBA’s SCORE program, who had identified similar gaps. Together they began WeTHINK as a federal program. Piloted a year ago, it was met with great enthusiasm. A business development and leadership program for established women, WeTHINK is a support system for women-owned business. A cohort meets biweekly for a year to analyze and discuss problems and plan developments in areas such as branding, marketing, sales, funding and job creation. Together the members of the cohort help each other to learn and grow with the help of trusted professionals. Herbert and Dutta are now working with other district SBA and SCORE offices to develop similar programs for rollout next year. 

Definition of success: “I love when I can take some of the pressure and fear away from another so they can thrive and succeed themselves.”

Carol J. Hunt (left)

Manager, Oncology Business and Support Services

Diane Mulkhey 

Oncology Operations and Physicians Practice Manager
Tunnell Cancer Center, Beebe Healthcare

As the brand-new administrative assistant for Tunnell Cancer Center, Hunt was given greater responsibilities until, after five years, executive director Cherrie Rich was able to add a new position. Now Hunt manages service contracts, the center’s accreditation process through the American College of Surgeons, patient transport and more. “Being new to management, my goal this coming year is to learn everything I can from the well-seasoned managers here at the center,” Hunt says. “I feel very honored to be part of such a great team.” Mulkhey managed an outpatient oncology practice for 28 years in Maine, then she and her husband moved to Rehoboth Beach just as Beebe started looking for a new practice manager. “I have an affinity for the oncology population and those who provide care to these survivors. The Tunnell Cancer Center has an amazing reputation both in this local area, but also with larger clinical facilities such as Christiana and Johns Hopkins.” As the new manager, Mulkhey wants to be a catalyst for change that supports the current culture of excellence.

Daneya L. Jacobs

Candy Connections 

Jacobs has found her sweet spot: starting a business—a candy store—that affords her opportunities to help others. “I take great pride in all creative phases,” she says—floor sets, birthday party set-ups and candy buffet displays—and plans to provide entrepreneurial workshops for young people. “I believe it is important to create the life you want, and since most of us have to work, pursuing work that brings you joy and utilizes your best skills is important,” Jacobs says. “I have always loved working with kids, I love hosting parties, and Candy Connections has the perfect Candy Lounge to do just that.” Jacobs also serves on the Delaware Commission for Women and Productions for Purpose.

Greatest professional accomplishment: After working in nonprofit youth development for five years, she started as a financial coach with $tand By ME. “I love to share with clients how I started my small business on a nonprofit salary with savings and a goal.”

Jacqueline D. Jenkins

Chief Strategy Adviser
City of Wilmington

Appointed by and reporting to the mayor, Jenkins directs the planning, organization, design and implementation of educational initiatives to meet the diverse needs of children in Wilmington—which brings her full circle in a career that began in city government in 1978. In the interim, Jenkins worked as director of human resources for Delaware Technical Community College, then joined the mayor’s staff in 2013, where she turned a low-performing personnel office into a high-functioning office of human resources. Now the goal is raising the level of achievement for all public school students in Wilmington, meeting their unique needs and fully involving parents in education. Committed to giving back, Jenkins is the founder of Delaware Technical Community College’s Women’s Empowerment & Mentoring Alliance and the Youth Empowerment & Mentoring Alliance for at-risk youth.

Key to success: “Preparing yourself to walk through the doors of opportunity as they open.”

Susan D. Leath

President and Publisher 
The News Journal Media Group 

The news media changes quickly these days. Figuring out how to get in front of the change is a constant challenge. It’s also a key part of Leath’s job, and for the most venerable media outlet in the state. For more than 140 years, some iteration of The News Journal has served as the premier news source for New Castle County and the state. Through delawareonline.com, The News Journal and as part of Gannett, The News Journal Media Group reaches 74 percent of Delaware. Leath is responsible for the group’s leadership, strategic, financial and operational success. She started in advertising and sales for the St. Petersburg Times, The Gainesville Sun, WCJB-TV in Gainesville and the Ocala Star Banner, all in Florida, before becoming ad director for The Tuscaloosa News. She went on to serve as president and publisher at the Centre Daily Times in State College, Pa., before joining The Journal.

Big personal goal: “Inspire women to challenge themselves, but never lose sight of their identities or compromise their values.”

Christina Lessard

Senior Relationship Manager
Lessard Builders

“Being able to be part of a family business that grows together professionally and personally has been a truly rewarding experience,” says Lessard. “It creates a special support system where you can relate to one another’s successes and failures from another perspective.” Lessard is a custom builder. Christina started young with light reception and administrative duties, then worked up to comptroller after college. The job gave her a broad perspective on the business and the building industry. Now her main duties are working with clients to personalize their homes, finding new opportunities for the business and cultivating relationships in the community. One such effort is Gals That Give, which she founded with four friends. The group has raised nearly $100,000 to help other nonprofits. “The power of women is amazing,” Lessard says, “and we’re lucky to witness it every month.”

What makes a good leader: “Listen to someone without interruption before reacting with your opinion.”

Arlene S. Littleton

Executive Director

Up next for Cheer: doubling of the day program for adults with dementia and Alzheimer’s clients to reduce the waiting list and provide respite services to caregivers. It is just one of the many things Littleton has undertaken over the 28 years she has served as executive director. Cheer provides personal care, housekeeping and companionship services to thousands of people over 50 across Sussex County, and it runs nine community centers that provide low-cost meals, activities and other services. “Many people have been able to live out their lives in the safety and comfort of their own homes because of our programs, services and care,” Littleton says. She also serves on the board of the Delaware Aging Network and, appointed by the governor, as vice chair of the Council for Aging and Adults with Physical Disabilities.

Greatest personal success: “Being the first in my family to attend college, mostly at night, and finally receiving an MBA.”

Sheryl F. Kline

Professor and Chair
University of Delaware Department of Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional Management 

UD HRIM in the Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics prepares students to be future hospitality business management leaders. Kline’s job is to educate and inspire them while performing research, guiding faculty and managing the department. “I have the opportunity to mentor many students,” Kline says. “My personal and professional satisfaction comes from seeing them become successful in their careers and life.” Her teaching has been acknowledged through several awards for innovation and excellence.

On work-life balance: “I don’t balance work and life. It is more about integrating the personal and professional responsibilities to create a beautiful pattern in life. Sometimes work responsibilities shape my life, and other times life dominates the shifting pattern.”

​Aretha Miller

Chief Executive Officer
Community Education Building

The CEB was created to transform urban K-12 education through partnerships by providing a home to several charter schools. The concept creates economies by sharing facilities, services and resources. Miller works with the CEB board to create and manage the strategic direction and a culture that reinforces core values. A lifelong educator, Miller was working in New York City when she got a recruiting call from the Longwood Foundation. Miller started last year with two schools, saw the arrival of another this year and is preparing for CEB’s fourth. Beyond that, “I would like to get our health and wellness program running efficiently and successfully within the next two years, as well as work collaboratively with our schools to implement programs designed to help them close the achievement gap by 2020.”

Best advice she has gotten: “To thine own self be true.”

Dr. Robyn Odegaard 

Champion Performance Development

“Success is a culturally moving target,” says “Doc Robyn.” “The key is knowing what it looks like so you notice when you get there. If you’re always reaching for the horizon, you can go around the world and never get there.” Odegaard is a human development-high performance trainer and speaker who helps clients understand and resolve conflict, accept their value and communicate with authority. When it comes to success, she knows what she’s talking about. At 32, she quit her job, sold her house and went to college for the first time. “I wanted to understand why I wasn’t reaching my potential and I wanted to help other people succeed.” Six-and-a-half years, a doctorate and two books later, she’s traveling the world, helping clients get where they want to go.

Best advice she’s gotten: “You are resilient. Stop making decisions that make you prove it.”

Natasha Otero

Executive Director 
Fashion in the Square Foundation 

“Signing my first modeling contract with Ford Models will forever be exciting to me,” says Otero, and it led to doing work for big brands such as Dr Pepper, Pantene and Dove. Now she has brought a bit of the big city to the Small Wonder through her Fashion in the Square and Fashion Night Out events. FITS is a nonprofit whose mission is to showcase local fashion-related talent, create awareness of couture fashion, and enhance self-esteem and promote success in disadvantaged young people. Otero oversees all, from organizing shows to planning fundraisers. “Under the guidance of professionals, we’ve been able to mentor in textile design, 3D design, modeling, self-esteem, nutrition and exercise,” Otero says. “We also work with interns who receive hands-on training and industry exposure, which is essential for obtaining employment in fashion.”

Next big professional goal: Organize a world-class fashion festival.

Dr. Michelle Parsons

ReNove Medical Spa

The team at ReNove Med Spa works to enhance beauty and health for clients of all ages and gender. Heading the medical side of things is Parsons, who personally evaluates and treats every one. Trained in trauma surgery, emergency medicine, aesthetic medicine and bio-identical hormone therapy, she treats nutritional deficiencies and hormonal conditions such as adrenal fatigue and subclinical hypothyroidism, and she manages weight-loss programs. The spa specializes in skin health, including acne treatments, noninvasive technologies for body contouring and permanent facial rejuvenation through collagen stimulation and microneedling. The key to success, she says, is “being grateful for the trust our clients place in us and giving sincere and caring treatments to all, treating everyone we see as special and unique, with their own gifts and talents to share with us.”

Next up: ReNove will expand and provide services such as tattoo removal, neck fat contouring, and nonsurgical breast and buttock lifts with Ultherapy Ultrasound. 

​Rashmi Rangan

Executive Director
Delaware Community Reinvestment Action Council

Growing up in India, Rangan developed a keen awareness of class, discrimination and justice, and that sensitivity informs the core of her work. “At the Delaware Community Reinvestment Action Council, our belief is simple: Everyone has a place at the table,” she says. And it is a key reason why she helped charter a credit union during difficult economic times. The two institutions help Delawareans of all kinds build credit and access capital, and it educates them about basic finance. “Some of us struggle every day to beat down slick sound bites referencing income redistribution, welfare fraud and the notion of a marketplace that, when left alone, produces the greatest good for the greatest number,” Rangan says. “Some of us are just trying to get by on whatever we can earn, borrow or receive in assistance from public sources. It only takes vision and a willingness to afford fairness to all.” 

Recognitions: The Wilmington Metropolitan Urban League honored her with the James H. Gilliam Sr. Chairman’s Award. Her work also jibes perfectly with her position as state president of the AARP.

Lee Leonard Podolsky

President and Founder
Breakwater Accounting + Advisory Corp.

It’s been almost a year since Podolsky officially launched breakwater, but she had been doing similar work as a freelance accountant for the prior 11 years. “With cloud accounting technology finally becoming more reliable, I felt like it was the right time to make the next step for me, as my youngest heads into high school,” she says. Breakwater provides bookkeeping, payroll and accounting services to small and mid-size businesses, using cloud-based tools whenever possible to streamline processes and allow for real-time access around the clock. The business model uses bookkeepers with oversight and input from experienced accounting and industry advisers. For now, Podolsky’s main goal is to grow the business at a healthy pace, increase employment opportunities—especially for women with flexible schedules—and support favorite nonprofits; the company focuses on children and education.

Advice for a young woman: Embrace the opportunity to learn as much as you can in each role you play.

Patsy Dill Rankin, Robin Summer Rankin

Chefs and Owners
Patsy’s Restaurant

The Key West vibe of Patsy’s in Bethany Beach may seem easy peasy, but the secret to making it happen is “working your butt off,” says Robin Rankin. She and her mother, Patsy, do that every day, supervising staff, creating menus, ordering supplies, prepping for service, cooking, serving and doing anything else it takes to please their customers. Patsy, who graduated from L’Academie de Cuisine Culinary School with honors, started the restaurant 16 years ago. Robin began by managing the front of the house, then took time off to also attend culinary school. Together they have made Patsy’s into one of the most popular places at the beach. “My greatest success is being able to work with my daughter, Robin, and being able to have watched her become one of the best chefs in the area,” Patsy says.

Next big personal goal: Open more restaurants, says Robin. With two toddlers who visit the restaurant often, she might also be grooming some workforce.

Penny Short

Chief Operating Officer-Chief Nursing Officer
Nanticoke Memorial Hospital

Over her 32 years at Nanticoke, Short served on many committees to improve operations and quality of care, so “it was a natural progression into a leadership role 17 years ago,” she says. Today she oversees daily operations of all hospital departments and functions to ensure efficient and effective use of capital and human resources. She also works to create a culture that makes the patient experience, patient safety and clinical quality the foundation for all hospital operations, and to build strong, trusting relationships with medical staff—always with an eye on financial performance, strategic growth and community benefit.

Big professional goal: “Healthcare organizations have a lot of work ahead of them to be ready for the changes they face, so if I am able to successfully assist the organization by providing vision and strategic focus to navigate through these turbulent times in healthcare, I will feel I’ve accomplished a lot.”

Amy Wikane Stengel

Group Vice President and Managing Director, Institutional Administrative Services
Wilmington Trust, an M&T Company

After Wilmington Trust merged with M&T Bank, executives created a new role to unite the legacy of M&T and Wilmington Trust’s custody businesses. They picked Stengel to fill it. Two years later she was asked to take on the entity management business, too. She is now responsible for all aspects of management and growth of the products, from sales to administration, and overseeing 62 staff members in five offices. The two businesses generate about $35 million in revenue a year. She is also a delegate to the M&T Bank Employee Engagement Council, where she champions employee engagement initiatives. For the past three years, she has served as chair of the Employer of Choice Subcommittee for the Delaware chapter of M&T Bank’s Women in Networking Diversity Resource Group, and she serves as senior champion for a newly Diversity Resource Group for M&T Bank/Wilmington Trust, which is focused on providing networking, learning and growth opportunities for early-career professionals. “Developing and mentoring others is a passion of mine,” Stengel says. “In the near future, I am looking to expand my role in this respect in several ways.” One is as a new alumni mentor for the University of Delaware Lerner School of Business mentoring programs.”

Key to leadership: “It is important to me that the people with whom I work feel like part of a team and that they have the opportunity to contribute and grow. I have worked hard to foster an environment where the people on my team know that their contributions will be valued and where they have room to fail in order to learn and improve.”

Dolores Waddell

Fusions Taster’s Choice

The state’s first olive oil and balsamic vinegar tasting center provides a select collection of premium oils from more than 50 estates, plus naturally flavored gourmet oils and vinegars. As the owner, Waddell handles all, from financials to marketing to customer service and sales, which means explaining to customers the culinary and health benefits of her products. “It is a difficult task,” Waddell says. “I became immersed in this business and certified in sensory tasting, I believed oils and vinegars were all the same. My taste buds now know the difference. When I taste the old, brand name olive oil I used to purchase, it is literally like tasting an oil slick.” Waddell started her business after 10 years of working with youth. Two years into it, she is looking toward spreading the word about olive oils and vinegars on a greater scale. Fusions Taster’s Choice won a Delaware Small Business 2015 Merit Award.

Key to success: “Being driven, flexible and honest with yourself about the skills needed to propel the business to the next level.”

Bernice Whaley

Delaware Economic Development Office

One of the newest cabinet secretaries for Gov. Jack Markell, Whaley has, in a sense, closed a loop. She took the reins of DEDO in May, succeeding Alan Levin, who was her boss when she worked at Happy Harry’s (now Walgreens). “When I was appointed vice president for Happy Harry’s, I thought I had reached my greatest professional goal,” she says. “But being appointed as a cabinet secretary in Gov. Markell’s administration has enabled me to give back to this great state.” Now Whaley heads the office responsible for attracting new business and investment to Delaware, for promoting the expansion of existing industry, for assisting small and minority-owned businesses, for promoting and developing tourism, and for creating new and improved employment opportunities. Among other affiliations, she serves on the University of Delaware Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research State Committee; the board of Delaware Technology Park; the Delaware State University advisory council for the College of Mathematics, Natural Sciences & Technology; and the DelTech advisory committee for the Center for Industry Research & Workforce Alignment.

Next big personal goal: Defend her doctoral dissertation.

Susan E. White

Sussex Environmental Health Consultants

Few think about indoor air quality, though, since we spend most of our time inside, it is more important to human health than outdoor pollution. As an industrial hygienist, White can anticipate, recognize and develop controls for health hazards and environmental issues in the home or workplace. Her team of five women at Lewes-based Sussex Environmental has provided industrial hygiene and environmental health consulting to industrial, commercial and residential clients from northern Pennsylvania down to North Carolina since 1998. She now plans to expand into new industrial hygiene areas.

Flexibility: White touts it as the key to success, good leadership and effective work-life balance.


Rozie Zappo

National Director 
Compassionate Care Hospice Foundation Inc.

Zappo had worked eight years in communications and development for another hospice organization when her mother passed away, so she took a break. Then Compassionate Care asked her to assume a marketing position. She accepted, then began with the separately incorporated nonprofit a year later. “It was a great fit,” Zappo says. “We have grown from being licensed in four states to 23 states.” Compassionate Care helps cover basic needs such as food, shelter and utilities for people who are terminally ill and in serious financial difficulty, or for their families. Zappo is responsible for fiscal management, meeting mandatory standards for nonprofits, budgeting and planning, development, media relations, brand identity, program development and more. She also acts as a national spokeswoman and legislative liaison.

Key to success: “Having a great staff that innately understands that accountability and compassion can work together.” 

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