Orange County Business Journal Honors Women in Business

Let me just say, this awards luncheon blew me away. It wasn’t because of the gorgeous Hotel Irvine ballroom, aglow with chandeliers and hundreds of people. Or the chic suits and secret service-like demeanor of some of the women and (surprisingly) men in attendance. The impression was made by a few common themes—themes that seem to keep popping up wherever I go, whatever events I attend, the past year.

1) Women Who Have Evolved In Their Lives And Businesses To The Point Where It’s Not About Them

The five women who took home awards—listed here—were absolutely incredible. You had Jane Buchan who has both a doctorate and Master’s degree from Harvard. CureDuchenne President and CEO, Debra Miller, who had the room in tears as she shared the story of her son’s incurable disease—a veritable death sentence. And how she went on to leverage $100 million in investments from biotech and pharmaceutical companies to fund research to find a cure for Duchenne muscular dystrophy.

2015 OC Business Journal Award recipients, from left,

2015 OC Business Journal Award recipients, from left, Jane Buchan, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of PAAMCO, Susan Beat, Managing Director at MUFG UnionBank, N.A., Lisa Vogel, Co-President of Raj Manufacturing Inc., Debra Miller, founder, President and CEO of CureDuchenne, Kristen Mauger Allison, President and CEO of Burnham Benefits, and Toni Ko, Women in Business keynote speaker.

As each woman got up to give a short acceptance speech they didn’t first go on about how much they knew they deserved the award—they first mentioned their shock, awe and amazement, as you’d imagine. Next, they went on to edify their fellow Women in Business Nominees. It was evident that they had taken the time to read through the bios of the 200+ nominees and underscore a common theme of the day: there are some pretty amazing women in business in Orange County.

2) Women Of Honesty & Courage

Even the women (and one gentleman) at our table were so genuine, kind and real. We got past surfacey introductions quickly to discuss when businesses actually get profitable, how to hire the right team members, how to identify strengths and align responsibilities within the business, etc.

For the couple next to us, they were delighted to have just celebrated three years in business—and it took this amount of time to get profitable, they shared.

The woman who sat next to me was a former CFO. She had left her job and fancy title for life—she was tired of “the grind,” and wanted space in her life to be available for her family, to pursue other interests, and was she retired you ask? Nope. She courageously made the conscience choice to change life directions. Yes, she was a mother but her daughter was college age and working on a master’s degree. I cannot express how much I admire this woman and her courage.

3) Women Who Are Supportive With A Killer Work Ethic

Another woman worthy of esteem was luncheon speaker, Toni Ko, founder of multi-million dollar cosmetics brand NYX. Her keynote was rich in honesty, life experience, and refreshingly down to earth and funny, as well.

Last summer, Ko sold her company to the world’s largest cosmetics maker, L’Oréal. Of course, everyone wants to know the “secret sauce” of how she pulled off the feat. And she did touch on it, briefly. But spent more time on topics truly affecting women in the business world today.

Orange County Women in Business

Toni Ko, Founder & Previous Chairwoman of NYX Cosmetics & CEO of Butter Ventures

Work-life balance is pretty darn hard to achieve,” said Ko. “I had zero balance. I was married to my company. My company was my child. I had to go on business trips at any given moment, which could last anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of weeks … and I lived out of my luggage for the last 15 years.”

“For those of you who are okay with this kind of lifestyle and choose to go as far as you can in the career world, don’t be afraid to hire as much help as you want to,” she continued. “This is actually good for our eco-system because hiring people creates employment—and by hiring people to do your laundry, clean, dishes, even hiring nannies—this is all okay.”

Chelsey and I especially enjoyed Toni’s story about the live-in nanny she has for her dog, Bruce. As fellow dog owners and animal lovers we love that she “went there.” It’s not about being absurd or spending money on a useless expense it’s about the peace of mind having this person gave her—the real estate in her brain that would’ve been occupied by worry was now free, open and available to fully focus on her business and its success. And success she achieved.

The acquisition of NYX Cosmetics by L’Oréal was one of the largest deals in the cosmetics industry (if not the largest), in the past year. Ko’s emphasis went deeper than the financials and business strategies behind this huge deal.

True equality is letting women make their own choices.”

Boy was this powerful. Going back to the former CFO, above, who left the corporate world in a deliberate effort to invest her time differently. Or the mother who refused to accept her son’s Duchenne diagnosis as a death sentence, and left a career in publishing to tackle the disease head-on. These women resonate with me because I took the big leap just last year, after the birth of my daughter. I left the corporate world, with its bigness and stability, to pursue God’s (even bigger) plans for my life.

Could the root of these brave decisions be the “secret sauce?”

I’ll leave that for you to ponder.

Toni’s take on the “secret sauce” will be shared in a follow-up post. In the meantime, learn more about Toni Ko and her incredible story by following her on Instagram, at @ToniBologni.

For more information about the Orange County Business Journal’s Women in Business Awards, pickup a copy of the journal on Monday, July 6, 2015 for profiles of each of the five award winners.

Rochelle Veturis Coles is Chief Executive Officer, Public Relations & New Media Strategist at Sister Act Media. Her consultancy works with mission-focused brands to amplify their impact in the “socialmediasphere.” Last year alone, she worked with more than 200 newsprint, television, and online media outlets. Named a “Twitter Powerhouse” by the Huffington Post, Rochelle has also been featured on MSNBC’s Your Business, KTLA5, OC Family, OC Metro Business, Orange County Business Journal, and Orange County Register, to name a few.

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