Women Trailblazers and Entrepreneurs Conference
Wednesday, November 1, 2023
UW-Stevens Point Dreyfus University Center
Business and Leadership, Conferences and Training, See Stevens Point Offerings

Women Trailblazers and Entrepreneurs Conference Header Image 
(Mural: Trailblazer by artist Jessie Fritsch, conference guest speaker.)

November 1, 2023 
8 a.m.-4 p.m.
4-5 p.m. (reception)
UWSP Dreyfus University Center 
Stevens Point, Wisconsin​


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Program Details

From Big Ideas to Big Impact: Cultivating Your Confidence

Our one-day conference showcases and develops women trailblazers, founders, and entrepreneurs from every sector including professionals, artists, volunteers, students, and parents. The keynote and four breakout sessions will help women move their adventures forward by providing tools and examples of women leading their big ideas to become big impacts, strong commitment to diversity, inclusion, and equity.

You can participate in the in-person conference at the UW-Stevens Point campus or via Zoom. Sessions made available to the virtual attendees​ will be recorded and made available to all registrants for later viewing. A value-added bonus!

Who should attend:

  • You are energized about trailblazing, starting new stuff, or thriving as a founder.
  • You are inspired by or supportive of female trailblazers.
  • You tend towards curiosity, innovation, impact, and taking actions.
  • You are a professional, artist, volunteer, student, parent, fill in the blank ______. 


  • Keynote speaker
  • Interactive skill-building exercise
  • 6 breakout sessions
  • Exhibitors

Registration Info

In-Person Attendee Registration Fee
  • ​$99 regular
  • $79 non-profit
  • $79 UWSP faculty/staff
  • $39 UWSP student​

Virtual Attendee Registration Fee
  • $79 regular, non-profit, UWSP faculty/staff NOW ONLY $55!
  • $39 UWSP student


Keynote Presenter

Dr. Valerie Young.jfif

Introducing Dr. Valerie Young! 

Dr. Valerie Young is co-founder of Impostor Syndrome Institute. Widely considered the leading thought leader on impostor syndrome she has spoken at over 100 colleges and universities including Harvard, Stanford, MIT, and Oxford. A former manager at a Fortune 200 company herself, she's also shared her highly relatable and practical advice at such diverse organizations as Pfizer, Google, Boeing, P&G, Facebook, Intel, BP, YUM Brands (Europe), Microsoft (US and Europe), JP Morgan, PwC (UK), Moody's, Diageo, Trane, Molson Coors, NASA, the National Cancer Institute, to name a few.

Valerie's work has been cited around the world in publications such as Time, Newsweek, Psychology Today, Science, The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Irish Independent, Sydney Morning Herald, Globe & Mail, on BBC radio and the Ten Percent Happier podcast.

She's author of the award-winning book The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women: And Men, Why Capable People Suffer from the Impostor Syndrome and How to Thrive in Spite of It with Crown Business, available in six languages.

Valerie earned her doctoral degree from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst where she studied internal barriers to women's achievement. Although her research subjects consisted of a racially diverse group of professional women, much of her original findings have proved directly applicable to anyone with impostor feelings.​

"The Weight of Being Seen"​

Ann Ilagan, MBA Fellowship

​Check out the gallery of Ann's MBA followship project at the conference! This is an MBA Impact Fellowship project sponsored by the UW-Stevens Point Sentry School of Business and Economics. As part of Ann's MBA journey, she selected and interviewed six different women in leadership. What she found is that leadership comes in different forms.

The Weight of Being Seen, my first art show, explores the vulnerability and courage it takes to be seen by another … or even yourself. ~ Ann Il​agan, MBA '23
​The gallery will be available for viewing throughout the day!


 8 - 9 a.m. | Networking Coffee and Check-in

We heard you loud and clear last year! You want more time in the morning to network. 

Join us early for coffee, pastries, and connections. ​Also, take this time to check out "The Weight of Being Seen", Ann Illagan's MBA Fellowship Project. 

 9 - 9:15 a.m. | Welcome

Opening Welcome
Pratima Gandhi, Vice Chancellor of Business Affairs/CFO, CBO

As an experienced trailblazer who has worked in private, non-profit, and educational sectors of the economy, Pratima will open our day together. Her open-mindedness, eagerness to learn, and applied thinking are hallmarks of Pratima's leadership style which is featured in Ann Ilagan's “The Weight of Being Seen" exhibit. Pratima will help us prioritize ourselves, our power, and our energy as we start a great day together.​

 9:15 - 10:45 a.m. | Keynote and Interactive Session

Rethinking Impostor Syndrome ™
Understanding and Addressing Impostor Syndrome in the Workplace 

Millions of people -- CEOs and entry-level professionals, first-year students and PhDs, managers and artists -- secretly worry they're not as smart or talented as other people “think" they are.

It's called impostor syndrome. And left unchecked, it can lead to costly consequences not only for individuals but for their organizations as well. Fortunately, there is a solution.

In this surprisingly upbeat session, you will:

  • Understand what impostor syndrome is – and what it is not
  • Discover the perfectly good reasons why fully capable people feel like frauds
  • Understand how impostor syndrome intersects with diversity and inclusion – and why it matters
  • Identify your personal “Competence Type"
  • Examine how impostor syndrome operates in the form of a pattern​
  • Recognize the individual and organizational costs of impostor syndrome 

​​​​Whether you personally identify with impostor feelings -- or know someone who does -- you will leave with practical, immediately tools strategies to help yourself and/or the people you lead, manage, mentor, teach, or parent.

 11 a.m. - Noon | Exhibit Hall (In-Person Attendees) | Meet SCORE Organization (Virtual Attendees)

In-person Attendees

Visit our Exhibitor Hall and discover women-owned businesses or businesses that support women entrepreneurs and trailblazers!


Virtual Attendees

Meet the SCORE organization that offers a​ free mentorship program that matches new/existing businesses owners with a mentor in their industry. Also, learn more about free SCORE resources and trainings, available to anyone to access.​

 Noon - 1:15 p.m. | Networking and Lunch Program

​In addition to the lunch guest speakers, attendees will have a chance to network with the attendees at their table or virtual Zoom.

Guest Speaker

  • ​​Toni Van Doren, Innovation Center Manager​, Nicolet College

  • Speaker ​TBA, Wisconsin Economic Development​​​ Corporation (WEDC)

 1:30 - 2:30 p.m. | Breakout Session 1

Session A1: Developing and Launching New Ventures 

​Speakers: Apache Danforth, Good Words Consulting, She Rises Collective, Perodigm Media; Andi Gret​zinger​​, North Wood Blooms

Moderator: Angela Close, Langlade County Economic Development Corporation

Panel Description: In a world where innovation drives progress, women are stepping up, breaking barriers, and starting new ventures in diverse sectors. Whether you're a student with a startup idea, a professional seeking to pivot into a new adventure, or a retiree ready to plunge into a passion project, this session promises actionable insights and a dose of inspiration. This session is a must-attend for every woman, regardless of age or sector, who identifies with the spirit of hands-on trailblazing.  ​

Session B1: Empowering Movements 

Speakers: Julie Bonasso, Julie Bonasso Coaching; Sarwat Najib, Shamla; Sarah Ross, Women's Fund of Portage County​

Moderator: Maggie Marquardt, CREATE Portage County

Panel Description: Today's most pressing social issues demand voices that resonate with authenticity, passion, and purpose. Join our panel of inspiring movement leaders and entrepreneurs as they delve deep into the art of sparking and sustaining movements. Through shared experiences and actionable strategies, this session is tailored for women on the cusp of championing social change, whether through startups, organizations, or grassroots movements. Every woman who feels the tug of a cause close to her heart and is ready to make waves in the world of social change should not miss this session. 

Please note: This session will not be available via Zoom or as a recording. 

Session C1: Women Leading Innovation in the Manufacturing and Construction Industries 

Speakers: Karen Newhouse, Miron Construction; Kate Budd, Ki Mobility; Carrie Strobel, Greenheck

Moderator: ​​Renae Krings​, Greater Wausau Prosperity Partnership, Ltd.                         

Panel Description: Dive deep into the transformative impact of women leaders within the traditionally male-dominated realms of manufacturing and construction. During this session you will meet trailblazing women who are redefining norms, challenges, triumphs, and future horizons for women innovators in these sectors. This session supports all women who believe in driving change through resilience, innovation, and impactful leadership. 

Please note: This session will not be available via Zoom or as a recording. 

 2:45 - 3:45 p.m. | Breakout Session 2

​Session A2: Using the Business Model Canvas to Accelerate Entrepreneurship​ and Cultivate Intrapreneurship

Speakers: Michelle Somes-Booher, Small Business Development Center at UW-Madison

Moderator: Zia Yang, Small Business Development Center at UW- Stevens Point

The Business Model Canvas isn't just a tool; it's a roadmap to success, an articulation of vision, and a strategic blueprint that's transformed businesses worldwide. In this immersive session attendees will embark on a journey from understanding to application. Tailored for women across all spectrums of entrepreneurship and intrapreneurship, this session promises a holistic understanding of the canvas's power, guiding participants from ideation to realization. This session is for every visionary woman — whether you're toying with a startup idea, spearheading innovation within an established entity, or anywhere in between.​

Session B2: The Things that Inspire Us to Start New Stuff

Speakers: Lisa Cruz, Red Shoes; Jean Marie Thiel, Belonger Corporation and AICC; Chee Yang, Emspired LLC & Jarp Industries​

Moderator: Callie Wulk​, UW-Stevens Point ​​Women in Business

Behind every groundbreaking idea is a spark, a moment, a story. Dive into the essence of what moves women to leap, to innovate, and to shape. For all those moments when you've wondered, "Why not me? Why not now?", this space promises to be a source of inspiration, guiding attendees to translate that 'spark' into tangible change. Every woman with a dream, a thought, or even a fleeting 'what if'. Whether you're an artist yearning to start a movement, a student with a disruptive idea, a professional sensing a gap in the industry - this session is your nudge, your guide, your muse.

Please note: This session will not be available via Zoom or as a recording. 

Session C2: Launching a Women in Manufacturing Chapter

Speakers: Molly Jacobs, Greenheck Group; Christina Lammerding, Crystal Finishing Systems, Inc.; Mary Strand, CLA

Moderator: Mikkalyn Hafner​, Menzner Hardwoods

The manufacturing sector, historically dominated by male voices, is undergoing a transformative shift. The Women in Manufacturing (WiM) Northern Wisconsin Chapter is a testament to this evolution. With dynamic leadership, the chapter has flourished into a robust community where women in manufacturing converge to amplify their voices, share their journeys, and collaboratively pave the way forward. Dive into the behind-the-scenes story of its inception, the challenges faced, the milestones achieved, and how you can join the movement or start something similar in your field. 

Please note: This session will not be available via Zoom or as a recording. ​

 3:45 - 4 p.m. | Closing

Closing Event
Deborah Beyer, UWSP Assistant Professor of Finance

We will close the conference with a look toward the future. Debbie Beyer will help us think about how we can use the energy of our day together to move our own big ideas forward. Debbie will also share her vision of the future as the adviser of the UWSP Women in Business student organization. The Women in Business Club is dedicated to advocating for female leadership and encouraging a safe and inclusive environment. They aim to ​create a network of people focused on supporting women in business to empower, develop, and support others.​

 4 - 5 p.m. | Networking Reception

Join us for some light appetizers and mocktails while making new connections with women trailblazers, entrepreneurs, leaders, and other attendees. 

​Speakers, Moderators, Special Guests

Get to know our conference speakers and moderators who are trailblazers, entrepreneurs, and leaders in the community. 

 Andi Gretzinger

Andi Gretzinger, Owner and CEO
North Wood Blooms

Andi Gretzinger

​Andi, founder of NWB, transformed her dining room hobby into a thriving luxury wood flower floral artistry business. Her entrepreneurial journey was ignited by organizations like the SBDC which lead her to not only expand her business but also mentor and coach other creatives and plan a national wood flower florists conference. It is her mission to spread beauty and joy through her art! 

 Angie Close

​Angie Close, Executive Director
Langlade County Economic Development Corporation

Angie serves as Executive Director of the Langlade County Economic Development Corporation located in the "Northwoods" of Wisconsin whose mission is to advance and maximize opportunities in Langlade County for businesses, communities, and people. Her passion is fostering Entrepreneurship and seeing her community prosper.  She currently serves on many boards and committees including President of GN.​​

 Apache Danforth

Apache Danforth, Consultant
Good Words Consulting, LLC​

​Apache Danforth​ is an enrolled member of the Oneida Nation in Wisconsin. She is an independent consultant, owning and operating Good Words Consulting, LLC, specializing in public relations, strategic planning, project management, and business development.

 Callie Wulk

Callie Wulk, Founding Vice President
UW-Stevens Point Women​ in Businenss

Callie is an MBA Candidate with core values rooted in growth-focused, transformative leadership. She aspires to empower those around her and drive positive change within her​ community through passion in advocating for female leadership and supporting diversity, equity, and inclusion. 

 Carrie Strobel

Carrie Strobel, Chief Human Resources Officer
Greenheck Group

Carrie Strobel is a 17-year veteran of Greenheck Group, having served in various leadership roles in operations, systems, product management, HR, and currently as Chief Human Resources Officer.  She also serves on the board of directors for the Greater Wausau Chamber of Commerce, and the steering committee for Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce's (WMC) Future Wisconsin initiative.

 Chee Yang

​Chee Yang, Staff Accountant, Entrepreneur
Jarp Industries and Emspired LLC​

Born and raised in the CW area, Chee have a Bachelors in Accounting, currently an MBA candidate through the UWSP graduate program, and CWHP Board Member. As a Staff Accountant by day and an Entrepreneur by night, she has gained invaluable insight from different business ventures. Her experience has provided a solid understanding of the dedication and knowledge required to succeed as a business owner.​

 Christina Lammerding

Christina Lammerding, Talent Aquisition and Retention Manager
Crystal Finishing Systems, Inc.​​​

Christina has over 15 years of experience working with and for Manufactures. She graduated from Eastern Washington University with a B.S. in Communications/ Public Relations. She is a founding member of the Northern Wisconsin Women in Manufacturing (WiM) chapter. 

 Deborah Beyer

Deborah Beyer, Assistant Professor of Finance
UW-Stevens Point


Deborah Beyer holds doctoral degrees in Finance and French. She co-founded the UWSP Women in Business (WIB) organization in 2022, and currently serves as its faculty advisor. Deborah loves connecting WIB students with local business leaders to create valuable networking, mentoring, and growth opportunities. She also serves on the Board of Directors for St. Joseph Food Program, a local non-profit.

 Jean Marie Thiel

​​Jean Marie-Thiel, President​
Belonger Corporation

Jean Marie ThielJean Marie is the President of Belonger Corporation - a mechanical specialty trades construction firm. In 2000 when Jean started the company - she was the only Woman Native American owned mechanical contractor in the nation. Jean has formed over a dozen LLC Joint Ventures & secured several national awards for the company. She is experienced in federal contracting, start up, & small business issues​. Jean Marie is also President of the Board of Directors for the American Indian Chamber of Commerce of Wisconsin (AICCW) and First American Capital Corp (FACC), which supports native smal business owners in Wisconsin. 

 Jessie Fritsch

Jessie Fritsch, Artist
Trailblazer Mural

My drive is to make art, teach workshops, protect the pollinators, and help support a vibrant art community in Central WI. 

 Julie Bonasso

Julie Bonasso, Life Coach
Jule Bonasso Coaching

I’m on a personal mission to revolutionize the way women work and still earn a great income. The cornerstone of my coaching is teaching clients to leverage personal well-being as the pathway to success (versus the grind). I’m a lawyer turned life coach and I work with executive women and entrepreneurs to maximize the integration of self and career to accelerate growth. 

 Karen Newhouse

Karen Newhouse, Director of Lean Services
Miron Construction Co, Inc,

Karen Newhouse has spent 30+ years as a Project Manager working in the construction industry. In 2022 Karen joined Miron Construction, a $1.7B company with over 800 employees, to lead the company forward on their Lean journey to eliminate process waste, create better project outcomes, and increase worker capacity while reducing workloads.

 Kate Budd

Kate Budd, Chief Operations Officer
Ki Mobility

Kate Budd is COO at Ki Mobility with experience leading dynamic teams to create and implement customer-focused initiatives in the manual mobility space. Kate transforms the customer experience by aligning people and teams toward common goals. Kate specializes in creative problem solving to streamline processes and provide next-level service and support for her teams and customers.

 Kathy Schweda

Kathy Schweda, Vice Chair
SCORE SE Wisconsin

Kathy Schweda
​Kathy has been an active volunteer to promote the advancement of women in business and commercialize digital health solutions to reduce costs and improve outcomes. Her activities have included including speaking engagements, panels and leading industry consortia. She is a Certified SCORE Mentor and currently serves as the Vice-Chair of the SE Wisconsin SCORE Chapter. 

 Lisa Cruz

Lisa Cruz, Owner and CEO
Red Shoes and Multicultural Coalition

Lisa Cruz started Red Shoes Inc. in 2008 and has continued to lead the company for 15 years. Most recently she also co-founded the Multicultural Coalition and serves as the executive director of the newly formed non-profit. Her experience and drive include raising a family of four boys, starting a business during the Great Recession, weathering a pandemic, and advocating for systems change. 

 Maggie Marquardt

Maggie Marquardt, Executive Dirctor
CREATE Portage County

With an MBA in arts administration and a background in fundraising and nonprofit management, Maggie sees the through line in her work as joining with others who want to imagine together what's possible. Maggie currently serves as Executive Director for CREATE Portage County, a nonprofit that accelerates creativity, connection, and collaboration to advance vibrant and welcoming communities.

 Mary Strand

Mary Strand, Manager

Mary has over 20 years of accounting experience that has taken her around the world.  Her experience is mostly in private industry from manufacturing, owning and operating her own business, software support & management, and as an accounting instructor at a Wisconsin technical college.  Mary supports Wim for their mission to support, promote, & inspire women in manufacturing.

 Michelle Somes-Booher

Michelle Somes-Booher, Center Director​
Wisconsin Small Business Development Center at UW-Madison


Michelle specializes in business planning, lean start-up, management, strategic planning and human resources/personnel. She is an idea person, who can appreciate big ideas and follow through with the details. She likes to work with existing businesses because it’s rewarding to hear the problems, dig in to better understand the root causes and then create a plan of action.

One project that was very meaningful, and challenging, to Michelle was creating the First Steps class. She enjoys being outside, participating in activities such as running, kayaking and snowshoeing. She also like to read. Michelle is proud to have worked with lots of successful businesses as it is fun to watch them grow and be successful.

 Mikkalyn Hafner

Mikkalyn Hafner, Marketing Specialist
Menzner Hardwoods

Mikkalyn HafnerMikkalyn is a manufacturing professional poised for advancement. Her passions include collaboration, strategy, and innovation. Mikkalyn is a two-time graduate from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point with an MBA in Applied Leadership and Decision making with an emphasis in Manufacturing Management, and a B.S. in Business Administration specializing in Marketing and Management.

 Molly Jacobs

​Molly Jacobs, Business ​Process Improvement Specialist II
Greenheck Group

Molly works at Greenheck Group and founded the Northern Wisconsin Women in Manufacturing (WiM) Chapter started and sits on the Board of Directors. 

 ‭(Hidden)‬ Natalie Olson

Natalie Olson, Human Resources and EHS Manager
Imperial Industries, Inc. 

My name is Natalie Olson and I am currently the HR and EHS Manager with Imperial Industries, Inc. I received my Bachelor's Degree from UW - LaCrosse in Psychology with a minor in Criminal Justice. After completing my undergrad, I attended Eastern Kentucky University and received my Master’s Degree in Industrial and Organizational Psychology. 

 Pratima Gandhi

Pratima Gandhi, Vice Chancellor of Business Affairs/CFO/CBO
UW-Stevens Point

Pratima Gandhi
Pratima is currently the Vi​ce Chancellor Business Affairs /CFO/CBO for the UWSP. She has over 25 years of experience in higher ed, industry, corporate and non-profit organizations. She has served on many community boards in the past. Pratima is a graduate of Indiana University.​

 Renae Krings

Renae Krings, Senior Director
Greater Wausau Prosperity Partnership, Ltd. 

Renae Krings is the Senior Director of the Greater Wausau Prosperity Partnership, Ltd. In this role, Krings supports the implementation of the Greater Wausau Region Economic Development Strategic Plan and collaborates with business and community leaders to enhance the region’s ability to develop a stronger, more competitive economic development platform for our community.

 Sarah Ross

Sarah Ross, Director
Women's Fund of Portage County

Sarah has 25 years of experience working as a designer and educator in live theater. She utilizes her artistic background to engage in advocacy for women in leadership through story-telling, intentional collaboration, and curiosity.

 Sarwat Najib

Sarwat Najib, Fashion Designer and Entrepreneur

​​​​As a Fashion and Graphic Designer with 10 years of experience in leadership and four years as a business owner, I have had the privilege of working on various projects that have allowed me to make a positive impact. However, one particular achievement stands out as a testament to my commitment to empowering women and creating opportunities for them. ​

 Toni Van Doren

Toni Van Doren, Innovation Center Manager 
Nicolet Area Technical College, The Grid

​Toni Van Doren is the Innovation Center Manager for Nicolet Area Technical College in Rhinelander Wisconsin where she has worked the past 13 years. She is the current lead for The GRID (Guiding Rural Innovation and Development) until it transfers to Grow North Economic Development at the end of this year. She spearheads several federal and state grants in the entrepreneurship and innovation area.​​

 Zia Yang

Zia Yang, Outreach Specialist
Wisconsin Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at UW-Stevens Point

Zia coordinates the Entrepreneurial Training Program and annual Wisconsin Lenders Conference, in addition to supporting logistical planning efforts for the Women Trailblazers & Entrepreneurs Conference. ​The SBDC at UWSP covers a 9 county area and she loves networking with many of their partners in those areas and stregthening relationships with organizations that support small business owners. The best thing about her job is seeing people reach out with an idea and seeing them turn that into a reality, and having SBDC be part of that journey. 

​​ ​

Thank you sponsors!

Platinum Presenting Sponsor​

Platinum Event Sponsor

Nicolet College

​Silver Sponsor

WEDC Logo​​

Lunch Sponsor​​


Networking Sponsors

​​Bronze Sponsor


Dessert Sponsor
  ​ Northwestern Mutual.jpg

Book Sponsor​

​​ ​​​ US Bank Logo​​

Sponsorship opportunities available!

We want to make our conference cost as assessible as we can and we can only do that with the generous support from our sponsors. Please support women in leadership and business by supporting our event! 

More information on sponsorships, please contact uwspce-bus@uwsp.edu.

Additional Funding Support

This event is funded, in part, through a grant with the U.S. Small Business Administration​ and Nicolet College. Thank you Nicolet College for your​ support!

Conference Coordinated By

The event is brought to you in partnership between the UWSP School of Business and Economics, UWSP MBA Program, Tommy G. Thompson Center on Public Leadership, UWSP Continuing Education, and the Small Business Development Center at UWSP.

Contact Information

Additional questions? Please contact our Continuing Educating office at 715-346-3838.

Reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities will be made if requested at least two weeks in advance.
Please contact Continuing Education at 715-346-3838 or uwspceweb@uwsp.edu.