the Institute for Economic Empowerment of Women
Empowering Women All Around the World – Economically | Socially | Politically


By Susan Solovic.

Published September 06, 2012  on FOXBusiness



Being your own boss, controlling your own destiny, for many in our country is the American Dream. But starting and building a small business is difficult. That’s why the failure rates are high.

Entrepreneurs face myriad challenges from finding the start-up capital they need to obtaining access to markets and technical resources. And yes, we complain about how difficult it is. But imagine if in addition to these common business challenges, you were faced with death threats from competitors, scorned by society or struggling to rebuild after having survived your family being torn apart by waves of genocide and political repression?

Recently I emceed an economic summit in Washington DC and was humbled and in awe of some of the women I met there. They were visiting the U.S. from Afghanistan and Rwanda — part of the Peace Through Business program sponsored by the Institute for the Economic Empowerment of Women (IEEW).

Sixty women from Afghanistan and Rwanda participate in IEEW’s business leadership training, which begins with in-country training. Then 30 women are selected to travel to the U.S. for more extensive training and mentoring.  Their visit culminates with a special graduation which includes a bold presentation to the Ambassadors of their respective countries outlining what support and changes they need in order to succeed. That part truly gave me goose bumps. I was so proud of them for their bravery.

Warm, gracious, fierce and courageous, each of the women entrepreneurs from Afghanistan and Rwandan is determined to build her business dream despite the odds, and each has a compelling story. When you listen to what they face daily, it makes your own difficulties seem like child’s play.

Put yourself in the shoes of Kabul businesswoman Freshta Hazeq. The mother of three owns the only-female run printing company in Afghanistan, and she was sabotaged by her male employees who were bribed to do their work incorrectly. Hazeq also lives with death threats after winning a contract which had previously been awarded to a male competitor. Then there is the bravery of Kobra Dastgirzada, whose multi-faceted company in Afghanistan includes a driving school for women. Although women today are allowed to drive in Afghanistan, it’s still condemned by many men and some women face punishment.

“I feel that being in business is not just about making money; it is about making a statement and making a difference in the lives of others,” Dastgirzada says.

The Oklahoma City based IEEW is founded on the principle that societies which are economically stable have a much greater capacity for peace. Therefore, the Institute hopes the training and on-going mentorship given to these determined women entrepreneurs will help rebuild their war-torn economies. An infra-structure exists in each country so the program’s graduates can pay-it-forward and help other women start and grow successful business ventures.

So the next time you find yourself frustrated over your current business situation — stop!  Think about Hazeq or Dastgrizada and then reassess your situation.  We’re lucky to live in a country which gives us so much freedom and opportunity to build our business dreams. Perhaps, one entrepreneur at a time, we can build peace through business around the globe.

This opinion column was written by New York Times bestselling author and small business consultant Susan Solovic.

Click on the name of a 2011 PEACE THROUGH BUSINESS Mentor to  view her full bio and learn more about her business and accompishments in empowering other women.
Susan Chambers co-founded Oklahoma City Gynecology and Obstetrics as the first female-only OB/ GYN physician group in the area. Today, nine female physicians make up the group and together they established Lakeside Women’s Hospital in 1997.  Susan served as the March of Dimes Walk America chairperson in 2001 and 2002 and has served as president of the World Neighbors Board of Trustees since 2000. In addition to her many awards from the medical industry, the two- time finalist for The Journal Record’s Woman of the Year was honored as Woman of Distinction in the medicine field by the Red Lands Council of the Girl Scouts.
Asha Chaudharyis President of U.S. operations for Jaipur Rugs, India’s largest hand-knotted rug manufacturer. Asha brings a unique perspective to the industry; she was mentored by her father and Jaipur Rugs founder NK Chaudhary. Since 2005, Asha has helmed the company’s Atlanta-based U.S. headquarters, expanding on her father’s original vision to broaden both the range of products Looking towards the future, Chaudhary hopes to continue expanding Jaipur into a global design leader and complete lifestyle brand, inspiring people to bring more beauty into their everyday lives.
Michael Cook is an award-winning textile artist specializing in silk work. He has been involved in sericulture since 2001, rearing a number of varieties of domesticated and wild silkmoths and using their cocoons to make silk thread for weaving, embroidery, and other crafts. Michael travels for speaking engagements on his craft.  He also holds workshops for museums, hand weavers guilds, textile conferences, and fairs. His work has been featured in the American Museum of Natural History and HGTV’s “That’s Clever.”
Stephanie Curtis, attorney, was chosen as the top bankruptcy lawyer and the 16th best lawyer in Dallas under 40 by her peers, as listed in “Best Lawyers Under 40 in Dallas,” D Magazine. In 2003 and 2004, Ms. Curtis was chosen as one the best lawyers in Dallas by her peers, as listed in “Best Lawyers in Dallas,” D Magazine. She was named as a Texas Rising Star for 2004 in the Texas Monthly and Texas Rising Stars Magazines and a Texas Super Lawyer for 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2007 in the Texas Monthly and Texas Super Lawyer Magazines. Ms. Curtis was chosen as one of the “Dynamic Women of Dallas” in 2005, 2006, and 2007, and as one of the Ms. Curtis was chosen as one of the “Dynamic Women of Dallas” in 2005, 2006, and 2007, and as one of the “Top Attorneys and Law Firms of Dallas” in 2006 by Modern Luxury Magazine. voted her in 2007 as one of the “Nation’s Top 5% of Attorneys”.
Freda Deskin is a nationally recognized educational consultant, known for her expertise in innovative, multidisciplinary curriculum and instruction.  She is the founder and CEO of Astec Charter School. Dr. Deskin is listed as one or “The Five Best Known Graduates” from the University of Oklahoma and has been a leader and pioneer in education for more than 35 years. Some of her numerous awards include: finalist in NASA’s “Teacher in Space” Project, becoming one of only 100 individuals in the world with the official title of “U.S. Space Ambassador.”; 1996 Redlands Council of the Girl Scouts “Woman of the Year”; 2007 “Women in Aerospace” inductee; 2006 & 2008 Journal Record “50 Making a Difference” and Women in Communication “By-liner Award”.
Cathy Dougherty began Dougherty Sprague Environmental, Inc. (DSE) in 1998, serving as the company’s CEO and principal engineer. With a dream of one day being a professional philanthropist, Cathy started Frog Heaven, a non-profit which works with people with unsolvable environmental issues.  She was a founding member and sits on the board of directors for Operation Community Outreach, a local non-profit that provides basic human services.  She is the director of Children‘s Closet Rowlett, which serves families in need with clothing, with an emphasis on school clothes.
Debbie Grace began her career with the Cranford Johnson Robinson Woods (CJRW) in 1984 as creative coordinator and proofreader.  By 1985, she had moved into the role of broadcast producer working on radio and television spots for many agency clients.   Since 1989, she has served as broadcast director, managing audiovisual and film production work for CJRW. In addition to the small screen, Debbie produced the Arkansas IMAX signature film ‘Center of Attraction,’ which was shown at the Aerospace Education Center IMAX theatre in Little Rock for a decade.  She also worked as a freelance producer on an IMAX film for the 1998 World Cup soccer match in Paris, France.
Andrea Graves is a Business Planning and Marketing Specialist at the Robert M. Kerr Food & Agricultural Products Center (FAPC) at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, Oklahoma.   Andrea works closely with entrepreneurs in the development of products for the food service industry using the Client Success Path model.  Andrea also reviews business plans, assists with marketing strategies and coordination of specialty services of the FAPC. She is also currently serving as chair of the Oklahoma Culinary Research Alliance, (OKCRA), a collaborative partnership between the FAPC and the Culinary Arts Program at Oklahoma State University-Okmulgee.
Eika Felipe was born in Japan and is an independent sericulture consultant. She studied sericulture science and insect pathology in Japan at the Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology. After graduation, Eika applied to be a volunteer for the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and was dispatched to the Philippines where she worked for a silkworm breeding and egg production center. Eika is looking forward to observing which countries will be the center of silk industry in Africa and helping them develop their silkworm businesses.
Janee’ Harrell is a spunky television producer/ host, author and motivational speaker who thrives on producing authentic, positive programming designed to help people walk through life’s journey. Her first television show, Tour of Giving, is currently in its sixth run on American Life Network. Her latest national television project, RAW Women TV, challenges people to take off the mask and share their secret struggles to open the door to freedom and healing. Her vision, to be a conduit for personal, transformational change and global social change, is accomplished one person and project at a time!
Jan Hill opened the doors to her first salon in 1982. Eden Salon & Spa now has three locations in Oklahoma City. “Beauty is as beauty does” is the philosophy behind the business practices Eden engages to achieve balanced, sustainable opportunities for their employees. Jan explains, “Mentorship enriched my life in so many ways. I became fascinated with their cultures, needs, hopes, and dreams; but most importantly, that I can open doors for democracy by adding my voice to theirs. It is my turn to repay with gratitude the freedoms and opportunities I enjoy as a citizen of the United States.”
Nancy Hyde brings more than 30 years experience to Hyde & Company CPA’s, PC.  She specializes in individual and business tax and compensation planning, retirement plan design and administration.  Nancy’s prior experience as a court appointed trustee for individual and business debtors in bankruptcy included responsibility for management, protection and liquidation of assets. Nancy was inducted to the Society’s Accounting Hall of Fame, selected as 2007 Female Entrepreneur of the Year by EWF International and was recognized as a top 30 Women Owned Business in Oklahoma by the Journal Record in 2007 and 2008. In July, 2009 she was appointed by the Governor as Commissioner of the Oklahoma Securities Commission. In 2010, Nancy was selected by CPA Magazine in the Top 40 Tax Advisors to know in a recession.
Laurie Johnson is a native of Los Angeles, California, but moved to Phoenix, Arizona in 2005 began Performing Capital LLC, where she is currently the owner and operator.  Performing Capital LLC, is a distributorship that sells two major brands of women’s interchangeable handbags and sandals, and is developing its own brand of watches and accessories. Laurie got her start in business by obtaining her real estate broker’s license and investing in real estate.  She then spent 10 years in executive management with the YMCA where she began her career as the housing director in charge of launching a transitional housing program for unwed mothers and their children under a grant from HUD.
Beatriz (Betty) Manetta founded Argent Associates in 1998.  Argent is a $100 million supply-chain managed services company providing technology advanced supply chains.  Argent‘s technology platforms track assets and monitors the environment of assets and shipments across the world. Betty served on the President’s Export Council (PEC) under President Bush and was appointed to NJ Governor’s Tax and Fiscal Policy committee to advise the Governor’s office on key economic.  Betty serves on the board of directors as Chairwoman of the Commerce and Industry Association of New Jersey (CIANJ) and the Hispanic Business Council (HBC) of New Jersey.   She is also on the board and founding member of USHAA (United States Hispanic Advocacy Association) and a Diversity Advisory Board member of Public Service Electric and Gas (PSEG) of New Jersey.  Betty is also one of the founders and currently sits on the boards of MinorityBusiness Roundtable (MBRT) and United States Hispanic Advocacy Associations (USHAA).
Marion Marshall owns AbsolutelyBlooming! which began as a retail flower shop, but quickly grew into a wedding and social event planning business, with the floral aspect being just one of the many services the company provides. Prior to opening AbsolutelyBlooming!,  Marion dedicated 13 years as a college professor teaching fashion design, fashion marketing and fashion business at the University of North Texas, Brookhaven College and Prairie A & M.
Mary Melon was named publisher of The Journal Record Publishing Co. in September, 2001, and president and publisher in 2006. Mélon is a graduate of Leadership Oklahoma City Class XIX and Leadership Oklahoma Class XVI.   She is a past Chair of the Board of Leadership Oklahoma and received the 2010 Distinguished Leadership Award. She currently serves as co-chair of the Central Oklahoma Turning Point Council and is a member of  the Board of Directors for Central Oklahoma United Way, Tulsa Area United Way, the Oklahoma Health Center Foundation, the Oklahoma City National Memorial, the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce, and the Oklahoma Business Roundtable.  She serves on the Advisory Board for The Oklahoma Academy for State Goals. Mélon received the 2004 Association for Women in Communications “Byliner” award for communications and the 2006 Quality Oklahoman award from the Oklahoma Quality Foundation.  She was awarded the 2008 “Embrace Award” by the YWCA, for embracing YWCA’s mission of empowering women and eliminating racism.
Afifa Nayeb was born and raised in Kabul, Afghanistan but her family fled to the U.S. in 1987 when the Soviet Union invaded. Afifa put her heart and soul into her business, ½ Checks Cashed. In addition to the check cashing business, she has added other services such as worldwide money transfers, bill pay services, tax preparation, buying gold and jewelry.  She now owns five (5) locations.  In 2009 and 2010 she received the Top Agent award and attended the awards ceremony in Singapore.
Penny Olinghouse and her husband own The Toggery, a children’s fashion and school uniform business that has topped “The Best…” list of various publications for the past 15 years. While Penny gains great satisfaction from her work, her passion is her family.  When not at market searching for the newest fashion items or working in the store, you can find her spending time with her five precious grandchildren.
Charlyne Parker hails from El Paso, Texas where she completed high school and pursued educational programs in the insurance and travel fields. After several successful business endeavors in Dallas, Charlyne moved to Arkansas to continue her business interests in the travel industry. Charlyne has been employed by Cynthia and Charles H. Murphy III for the past 4 years. She oversees daily operations of the Murphy Estate including maintenance, service contracts, personal business, social events and a variety of special projects as needed.
Sabrina Porterbecame the youngest Texas nursing home administrator when she became a licensed nursing facility administrator (LNFA).  She moved from operating an 80-bed nursing home to a 300-bed skilled, acute nursing home.  Three years later, Sabrina was promoted to regional director and for the next 10 years she supervised the administrators of 11 to 26 nursing facilities.  Her success again garnered her promotion to chief operating officer with regional responsibilities for nursing homes in the South, West, East and North Texas.
Kim Reynolds is the founding principal of Strategic Meetings Solutions and Shooting Star Meetings & Events.  Kim brings solid business acumen to the position with a focus on identifying, tracking and measuring meaningful performance metrics. She has a proven track record in developing and implementing successful programs.  Dedicated to the meetings industry, Kim has served on many industry advisory boards in addition to Meeting Professionals International Dallas/ Fort Worth Chapter (MPI DFW) as director of education and director of leadership with her most recent term as vice president of Education & Events.  Kim holds the prestigious designations of Global Certification in Meetings Management (CMM) and Certified Meeting Professional (CMP) and has been nominated as Meeting Planner of Year, (MPI DFW) 2005 & 2009.
Pat Riley, Jr. is the owner/operator of the Little Rock Athletic Club, the Little Rock Racquet Club, the North Little Rock Athletic Club and the Downtown Athletic Club.  The clubs combined have more than 7,000 memberships with well over 17,000 individual members. Currently, Pat serves on the board of the Just Communities Arkansas (JCA).  In 1994, he was awarded Pulaski County Big Brother of the Year and in 1990 he was inducted into the Arkansas Swimming Hall of Fame.  For more than 20 years, he has served as a Big Brother, tutor or mentor.
Dennis Robertson is currently Associate Director of Philanthropy for Heifer International in Little Rock, Arkansas. Heifer International is a nonprofit humanitarian organization that works to end hunger and poverty and care for the Earth.  Since 1944, Heifer has provided livestock and training in their care to over 10.5 million families in more than 125 countries.
Mary Schnack, a specialist in communications, is an award winning writer, business owner and public relations practitioner. Owner of Mary Schnack & Associates, Schnack is a public relations consultant and crisis communications expert. She has helped small businesses, associations and corporations with a variety of public relations needs and speaks on communications and business topics throughout the world. Mary is past Chair of the National Association of Women Business Owners’ (NAWBO) International Forum. She has focused her businesses over the past years on international work. Mary also started “Up from the Dust: Supporting the global growth of women microenterprises.”
Sarah Sears established S Design Inc. in March of 1994. Her ability to articulate her clients’ objectives and create tailor-made graphic design and branding strategies lead S Design to become one of Oklahoma’s foremost graphic design firms. In 1996, Sarah founded the Oklahoma chapter of AIGA. She served as president from 1996-1999 and as a board member and advisor for more than a decade. In 2004, Sarah was chosen for the Journal Record’s “Achievers under 40” and for “Forty under 40” in OKCBusiness. Sarah has also been honored as a three-time finalist for the Journal Record Woman of the Year and 2006 marked her induction into the Circle of Excellence.
Carol Shapirois a registered dietitian and currently works as a renal dietitian at the Farmers Branch Dialysis Center counseling dialysis patients on their dietary needs. Carol is a member of the Dallas Handweavers and Spinners Guild which is dedicated to promoting the art of weaving and the craft of fiber work through education, member activities and mutual support.
Monica Smiley is the editor and publisher of Enterprising Women (EW) and has spent the last decade building the national and now global magazine she leads into a strong voice for women entrepreneurs.  As the only national magazine published exclusively for women business owners, the print and digital editions of the magazine now reach more than 200,000 women entrepreneurs in 48 countries around the globe. Considered a national thought leader on women’s entrepreneurship, Monica serves on the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) National Advisory Council and is a member of the Women Presidents’ Organization. In March, she founded the Enterprising Women Foundation with a goal of raising one million dollars in the first year to benefit the growth of women’s entrepreneurship here and around the world.  Actively involved in the PEACE THROUGH BUSINESS program, sponsored by the Institute for Economic Empowerment of Women, Monica has served as a mentor in the program for the past three years, hosting women business owners from Afghanistan and Rwanda in her North Carolina home.
Dr. Bill Tranum is a retired physician who spends his time as cattle farmer and medical legal expert.  His wife, Sandra is housewife and grandmother.  They spend their time enjoying their family and attending their grandchildren’s athletic events. They are looking forward to hosting Akaliza in their home and spending time with her.
Josie Umoh is a senior engineer for Apex Engineered Solutions. Since 2005 Apex Engineered Solutions has proudly engaged in career development for college students with emphasis on those pursuing careers in engineering and technical fields.  Their goal is to assist academic institutions in encouraging young adults in the pursuit of careers in areas of engineering and science and help address the shortage of local talent in these areas. A member of the Women’s Business Council, the Institute of Industrial Engineers, and the Texas Society of Professional Engineers, Josie embraces the challenges faced in bringing about needed solutions to existing issues.  The chance to leave lasting positive impact with the company’s customers and employment staff is the fuel that drives her to push for, and seek mutual success in all areas of delivery.
Dr. Sandra Williams has been a mushroom grower since the mid-1980s in Perkins, Oklahoma. She and her husband, Doug,  established Lost Creek Mushroom Farm, which sells grow-your-own shiitake log kits. In 2008, Sandra and Doug founded Mushrooms in Ghana, a project of the Magical Child Foundation.  The project was designed to introduce shiitake mushrooms into the Ghanaian small-farm agricultural community and diet, while at the same time to address contamination of oyster mushroom spawn affecting over 5,000 farmers in Ghana. The project would provide an inexpensive, easy-to-grow, high-quality protein food that would require less labor and less water than oyster mushrooms which, in turn, would increase financial support for these farmers and their families. She was the 2010 Featured Woman in Ag in Payne County, Oklahoma. Sandra.
Kathleen Wilson’s professional career experience, while vast, has had a focus on teaching and environmental issues ranging from houseparent of the Delaware County Children’s Home, to research technician at the University of Tennessee, to research associate and program coordinator for the Foundation for Research on Economics and the Environment, to science and substitute teacher, to environmental enforcement specialist, to biological science laboratory technician.

Paula Yoder is the Director of Executive Education and Leadership Development at the Tandy Center for Executive Leadership in  TCU’s Neeley School of Business.  Paula earned her Bachelor of Science in Agriculture and Human Sciences from Tarleton State University, and a Master of Science in Education and Human Resource Development from Texas A&M University.  Paula is a PhD candidate in Education and Human Resource Development while maintaining cognates in Organization and Leadership Development, Management, Critical Theory, Action Learning and Ethics at Texas A&M University.  Paula’s professional experience over the last 20 years is vast and diverse including:  organization and leadership development for fortune five hundred companies, coaching top executive decision makers and serving as CEO of RandP Enterprises which she co-owns and runs with her husband Rick Yoder.  The focus of RandP is to create living and learning environments that provide excellent quality of life for individuals. Paula comes to TCU from Lockheed Martin Aeronautics having designed and project managed the Cultural Awareness and Culture Change initiatives for 28,000 Aeronautics employees and over 3000 expatriates.  Before Lockheed, Paula worked with President Birmingham and TASB to develop a comprehensive compensation and classification system, including an institutional culture change initiative at Weatherford College. One of the most exciting and fulfilling initiatives thus far, was the opening of Management and Training Corporations juvenile residential facility integrating learning and development within a managed secured environment. Curriculum development includes, but is not limited to: Action Learning for Adults,  Culture Change and Managing Assumptions in Organization; Change Management, Organization Development from a Critical Theorist Perspective, Human Resources Development and Critical Theory, Emotion Management.    Current research and theories in application include Donald Schon, Peter Senge, Chris Argyris, Michael Marquardt, Gary McClain, Kouzes and Posner, Poole and Van de Ven. Paula’s personal philosophy and mission is to help others be the best they can be through learning and engagement; exploring individual learning styles and capabilities and build upon those capabilities through critical reflection and theoretical application.


Moira Forbes, Dr. Terry Neese, and Laurie Barkhorn-Photo by: Glen Davis, Forbes Photographer

The room was filled with women wanting to know how to improve their own businesses and give back to the community.     

That is exactly what they learned during a discussion led by Dr. Terry Neese, founder and CEO of the Institute for Economic Empowerment of Women.     

Women in attendance included Hartford Insurance sales representatives and their female small business clients or prospective clients.     

Dr. Neese’s presentation included a discussion around the intersection of small business owner’s voice in policy and business, small business trends for 2011, and establishing the right networks.     

Dr. Neese speaks to The Hartford's guests about small business and IEEW-Photo by: Glen Davis, Forbes Photographer

“[Dr. Neese] inspired the agents and customers to engage with their local legislators and policy makers and associations.,” said Laurie Barkhorn, Regional Vice President of The Hartford Financial Services, Inc.  

“She made it very clear that’s really the only way you could affect change.”  

Dr. Neese also discussed her small business background and how her experience evolved in to leading a global initiative toward sustaining economies through the Institute for Economic Empowerment of Women’s PEACE THROUGH BUSINESS program.      

The event, held at the Forbes Media building in New York, was hosted by ForbesWoman magazine and sponsored by The Hartford Financial Services Group. 

Moira Forbes, publisher of ForbesWoman, called the night a success and said, “Dr. Neese both educated and inspired the audience with her insights on women and small business in addition to her notable work to empower women’s success globally.”


Date: August 20, 2010
Contact:  Becca Colbaugh
Office:  405-943-4474

“Dialogue with Women Entrepreneurs” in Anaheim, CA

Women business owners come together to discuss economic issues related to small business.

Women business owners from Arkansas will meet to discuss economic factors that are affecting small business. The meeting is led by the nonprofit, the Institute for Economic Empowerment of Women (IEEW) in collaboration with DonorsTrust, another 501(c)3 organization. The mission is to gain critical knowledge and input on economic subjects important to women-owned businesses and what educational tools they need to help them grow their businesses.

WHAT: “Dialogue with Women Entrepreneurs” will bring together a cross section of Arkansas women business owners to discuss economic issues and what business tools they need to sustain their businesses.

WHO: Terry Neese, founder & CEO of IEEW
Susan Stewart, CEO of Charter Financial Group, Inc
Sandy Abalos, CEO of Abalos & Associates CPA

WHERE: Sheraton Park Hotel
1855 S. Harbor Boulevard
Anaheim, CA  92802


Aug. 21, 2010

9:30:                                Opening of Dialogue and Introduction of Speakers
9:40 – 10:15 a.m.:      Speakers- Terry Neese, Sandy Abalos, Susan Stewart
10:15 – 11:00 a.m.:     Input and Discussion with Women Business Owners

About the Institute for Economic Empowerment of Women:
The Institute for Economic Empowerment of Women is a 501(c)3 non-profit empowering women to grow their businesses, pursue greater entrepreneurial ventures and become more active public policy advocates. The Institute accomplishes this mission by focusing on education, mentorship and coaching women in the United States and abroad who are seeking to acquire entrepreneurial skills to help start and grow a business. Learn more at