Inspiring Women in Business
For more than a decade the Bentonville/Bella Vista Chamber of Commerce has sponsored one of northwest Arkansas’ most popular events, the Northwest Arkansas Business Women’s Conference. Here’s a bit of history from the woman behind the women, Krista Khone.
Photographs Courtesy of Adair Creative Group, Amy Grant and NWA Business Women’s Conference
The first Northwest Arkansas Business Women’s Conference (NWABWC) was held in 1999, just one week before current conference coordinator Krista Khone came on board. Khone, vice president, special projects and leadership, Bentonville/Bella Vista Chamber of Commerce (BBVCC), is a third-generation northwest Arkansas resident. She earned degrees from the University of Central Arkansas and the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville and was working in higher education when a friend told her about the position at the BBVCC.
“I interviewed with the president of the chamber — the meeting lasted three hours,” Khone said. That was 13 years ago. Khone accepted the baton from Dee Bowers who served as director of membership for the Chamber. “Dee saw the need for a program geared toward women, a program that would allow them the opportunity to network and talk about their common goals.”
The NWABWC’s official mission is to provide personal and professional enrichment through motivational and networking experiences. The first conference, again in 1999, had an attendance of about 100. This year, the attendance is expected to be just a bit short of capacity — 1,100. The first couple of years, the conference didn’t make any money; however, by the third year, with a goal to at least break even, with the help of strong backers — namely Mercy Health — the conference began to yield results, and it has continued to grow each year. In 2000, the attendance grew to 250, and by 2004, they were at capacity.
“The true turning point of the Northwest Arkansas Business Women’s Conference was in 2006 when the Embassy Suites, [current site of the conference] opened. Prior to that, we were limited to an audience of 600,” Khone said. “The increase in size allowed us to not only have more attendees but more sponsors as well. The increase in capacity, increase in sponsors and the popularity of our speakers just all created the perfect storm. Pat Summit was our speaker that year. She, to this day, is our most popular speaker.”
Summitt is the hugely-successful — all-time winningest coach in NCAA history — head coach emeritus of the Lady Volunteers, Tennessee Women’s Basketball team.
“Many of the women didn’t know what to expect from Pat … but you didn’t have to know anything about college basketball to enjoy her. When she came out, a large number of the attendees ‘called the Hogs.’ She took it all in stride and sang ‘Rocky Top’ [the unofficial fight song for the University of Tennessee]. She was energetic, dynamic … we sat and listened and were in awe of her. Every woman left there feeling empowered,” Khone said.
Other famous women who’ve delivered the keynote include journalists Campbell Brown and Deborah Norville; Oscar-award winning actress Helen Hunt; 1996 Gold medalist Mia Hamm; eight-time Grammy-award winning songstress Gladys Knight; and consumer advocate Erin Brockovich, whose groundbreaking environmental work in California inspired a movie. This year, six-time Grammy-award winning singer Amy Grant will deliver the address.
Behind the scenes working to ensure the success of the conference is a team of 60 women. “The committee does all the work,” Khone said. “They are truly a dedicated team who put in hundreds and hundreds of hours of work.
The BBVCC also sponsors the ATHENA International Women’s Leadership Day Luncheon. The Chamber is one of a handful of organizations in the country to host the prestigious event. This year, 200 women will gather at the sold-out event, which is purposely kept small to maximize networking and mentoring opportunities, and honor two women: the ATHENA Woman of the Year Cathy Foraker, director of external affairs, AT&T, Northwest Arkansas, and the Northwest Arkansas Young Woman of the Year Sarah Phipps, assistant vice president and regional sales manager, Simmons First Bank. This luncheon will be held Sept. 18 at the Pinnacle Country Club.
The 14th annual Northwest Arkansas Business Women’s Conference will be held Sept. 11 at the Embassy Suites/John Q. Hammons Convention Center in Rogers. Tickets are $99 each; $125 after Sept. 1. Log onto nwabusinesswomensconference.com to purchase tickets and to get further information about the conference and the ATHENA Luncheon or call (479) 273-2841.
NWA Business Women’s Conference Speakers
Morning Motivational Speaker
Christine Cashen is author of the motivational book The Good Stuff: Quips & Tips On Life, Love, Work and Happiness. Cashen, a Dallas resident, has been an in-demand speaker for more than 14 years and has addressed audiences internationally. Previously, she served as a university admissions officer; a corporate trainer; and a broadcaster. She tackles with humor and insightful topics such as sparking innovative ideas; handling conflict; and energizing employees. Cashion has earned degrees in communication and adult education and is a member of the National Speakers Association and is a Certified Speaking Professional.
Break Out Sessions
“Women in Leadership” is presented by Celia Swanson. She serves as senior vice president of talent development for Wal-Mart. She joined Sam’s Club in 1994 as senior director of the People Group and later ran the organization’s membership, marketing and administration. She was executive vice president in 2000 and later became the leader of Change Management. Prior to joining Wal-Mart, she worked with PACE Membership Warehouse, Inc. Swanson earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Nebraska.
Dr. Mary Bourland
“A Woman’s World — 24 Hours a Day” session will address the many roles women play and “provide insights in how virtual workplaces … can be utilized to preserve the mind, body and spirit of today’s woman” and will be lead by Dr. Mary Bourland. Bourland, a cardiovascular and thoracic surgeon, is director of clinical integration for Mercy Health Ministry. Bourland earned her doctorate from Southern Illinois University; was trained at Buffalo and Duke Universities in New York. She is founder of the Christine Conference against Domestic Violence and has screened more than 10,000 women through events such as rallies, parties, lectures and more. She joined Mercy in 2005.
“Women and Social Media” is presented by Allison Werder. She is chief marketing officer and executive vice president of strategy and business development for PARADE Publications. She is responsible for marketing, research, digital operations and strategic planning and partnerships for PARADE Magazine, Parade Digital and DASH. Werder was instrumental in the successful ongoing expansion of Parade Digital Partners Network and the development of DASH, a multi-platform food brand with Conde Nast’s Bon Appétit, Epicurious and Gourmet. She earned degrees from the University of Notre Dame and Georgetown University.
“Take a Letter, Darling! Women, Work and the Celluloid Ceiling” will be presented by Marjorie Rosen, author of four books, including Boom Town: How Walmart Transformed an All-American Town into an International Community. She is a screenwriter and journalist and has written about pop culture and entertainment as well as explored the images of women in movies. Rosen is an associate professor in the Journalism, Communication and Theatre Department at Lehman College — City University of New York and serves as an editor for The Bronx Journal.
Addressing one’s appearance in the workplace is Suzanne Guymon. Guymon will present “Dress to Make a Difference: Style Strategies that Work.” She is fashion communications director and part of the central division advertising team at Arkansas-based Dillard’s. In this role, Guymon serves as liaison for the buying office and the company’s 80 stores. She’s also spokesperson for the division’s market media; coordinator of in-store special events; and is instrumental in planning and executing store openings, runway fashion shows and celebrity guest appearances. Guymon earned degrees from the University of Oklahoma and Harding University. She has served as coordinator for a number of charitable fashion shows including AY Magazine’s Runway for a Cause.
“Zero In On Nutrients: Fuel for You and Your Career” is a three-person panel discussion regarding the importance of nutrition for energy, mood, weight, health and appearance. The panelists are:
Panelist Molly Miller
Molly Miller is senior food technologist and human nutritionist in the nutrition and regulatory group of Tyson Foods’ Research and Development Department. She holds degrees from Texas Christian University and the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville.
Panelist Angie Muldoon
Angie Muldoon is director of business development for Sam’s Club Health and Wellness Division. She leads a team that generates Healthy Living Made Simple magazine for Sam’s Club and is responsible for Sam’s Club health screening program. She earned degrees from Arkansas State University and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock Bowman School of Law.
Panelist Dr. Natasha Nathan
Dr. Natasha Nathan is a gastroenterologist with Mercy Northwest Arkansas. She is passionate about women’s health and nutrition. She received her degrees from Ross University School of Medicine and completed her fellowship at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center. She joined Mercy this spring.
Moderator Susan Schneider
Moderating the panel is Susan Schneider, a professor at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville School of Law. She is author of Food, Farming & Sustainability: Readings in Agricultural Law and advocates for a “better understanding of the workings of our food system and sustainable production.” Schneider earned degrees from the College of St. Catherine; the University of Minnesota School of Law; and the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville School of Law.