Few can say they went from laid off and broke from their dream job out of college to starting a company from their kitchen table and becoming a multimillionaire by the age of 30. Those are just some of the achievements made by this San Diego entrepreneur, executive, angel investor, national bestselling author of The Execution Factor, mother of four, and CEO of global advertising technology company Amobee, Kim Perell. When it comes to following your passion, she has a powerful reminder for aspiring entrepreneurs and anyone trying to achieve their dreams: "The word ‘passion’ comes from the Latin root ‘pati,’ meaning suffering or enduring. Passion is, at its core, a form of pain. Passion is not just about the things you love—it’s about those things you would happily suffer and sacrifice for."
10201 Wateridge Cir Suite 400, San Diego, CA 92121
For visionary leaders like Aida Cardenas, personal success is driven by her passion and commitment to the success of the hardworking janitorial professionals she serves through Building Skills Partnership, a nonprofit organization designed to improve the quality of life for workers and their families by increasing skills, access to education, and opportunities for career and community advancement. With flagship programs including a vocational ESL (English as a Second Language) program and a green janitor certification curriculum, Building Skills helps participants reach their full potential. The product of an immigrant laborer family, Cardenas is driven by a desire to help others fulfill their American dream. "My unique strengths are my commitment, perseverance, and grit," she says, "all combined with my ability to identify what we want to achieve based on the reasons why we want to achieve it."
Nancy Maldonado, CEO
As the new CEO of an organization celebrating its 50th anniversary of serving San Diego County, Maldonado is building the foundation for the next half century. "We’re getting back to our roots in terms of advocacy and engaging our community. We plan to be actively involved in voter registration and educating the community on why 2020 is such an important year, not just for the Latino community but for everyone," Maldonado says.
The single mother is proud to lead the advocacy and social services organization, which empowers women and mothers. The federation subsidizes childcare for mothers and even assists them in launching their own businesses.
"We’ve helped thousands of women start and sustain businesses. We’re doing everything we can to meet the needs of families who turn to us for assistance."
3180 University Avenue, Suite 317, San Diego, CA 92104 | 619.285.5600
Elise Fornaca Joseph, Monica Fenelli Salem, and Marianna Fenelli Khouri
Women are in the driver’s seat at Frank Motors, where over a third of management staff is female. "That’s definitely not the norm in the car business," says Monica Fenelli Salem. The family-owned company started by their grandfather Frank and great-uncle Felice Fornaca has been in business since 1965. Today, seven family members work in the daily operations, including Salem, her sister Marianna Fenelli Khouri, and their cousin Elise Fornaca Joseph. "My grandfather instilled in us a commitment to taking care of our employees and customers, and to giving back to our community," Salem says. The family members are involved in numerous charities and serve on boards for Big Brothers Big Sisters of San Diego, Rady Children’s Hospital, Jackie Robinson Family YMCA, and Humble Design San Diego. Over the past three years they have raised $177,000 for Rady Children’s Hospital.
2400 National City Blvd, National City, CA 91950 | 619.474.5573
In 2016, Crystal Sargent’s trip to Nice, France, took a harrowing turn when she was nearly killed in the Bastille Day terror attack. "It made me realize time is not guaranteed," she says. The experience propelled Sargent to establish Invested Advisors, a strategic marketing consulting firm, and its Invested Traveler division, which designs and implements incentive travel programs that help reward and retain top talent for middle market and larger companies. The firm creates the campaigns, collateral materials, and travel experience to top US and international destinations. Sargent’s team is on a roll, having inked a new partnership with Expedia to leverage their global resources, launched Second Story Advisors to help community banks differentiate with expanded services and technology that’s only been available to the big banks and growing the firm’s consulting practice. Sargent still finds time to Chair the March of Dimes Signature Chefs gala and Police Foundation’s K9 Champions Club.
3077-B Clairemont Drive #394, San Diego, CA 92117 | 858.472.3682
Salas founded SBHIS in her home in 2005, and since then as president and CEO has grown the company into a multimillion-dollar corporation with 35 locations and 2,000 agents nationally. The agency is solely focused on serving Medicare beneficiaries, providing all of their services at zero cost. SBHIS is considered among the best Medicare-focused agencies in the US, and it’s also in a league of its own in another regard: In the male-dominated insurance industry, SBHIS is female owned and minority led. "I truly believe in serving the elderly and helping them understand their Medicare health care options. Knowing they have the proper coverage gives them piece of mind," Salas says. "It’s not a job, it’s a calling."
In keeping with the company philosophy of serving the elderly and disadvantaged, SBHIS contributes to many charitable organizations supporting children and the elderly.
740 Bay Boulevard, Chula Vista, CA 91911 | 888.988.8072
Shawn Duffy, chief financial officer at the global communications company Viasat, is one of the most accomplished female executives in the San Diego region. She helped Viasat grow into a multinational organization, which increased revenue from $1.6 billion in fiscal year 2018 to $2.1 billion in fiscal year 2019. Since Shawn joined Viasat, the company’s valuation has skyrocketed to a $5 billion market cap.
Shawn oversees hundreds of finance and business professionals. Under her guidance, Viasat has the financial prowess to develop a global communications network to power high-quality, affordable, fast connections to impact people’s lives anywhere.
Shawn has served on the California State University—San Marcos Business School Advisory Board for five years, helping to educate the next-generation workforce on global economic growth principles. She also devotes her volunteer time to empowering women and advocating for STEAM/STEM education.
6155 El Camino Real, Carlsbad, CA 92009 | 760.476.2200
Mary Jean Anderson, President
Mary Jean Anderson, president of Anderson Plumbing, Heating & Air, has earned a reputation as a leader in the home services industry locally and nationally. Her success and perspective in a male-dominated industry have made her a popular resource for companies around the country. Her advocacy for professionalism in the trades led to the launch of the Anderson Career Builder Institute to provide technical training and interpersonal skills in the classroom, in labs, and in the field. "The trades offer extraordinary opportunities for high-paying careers to a diverse workforce, including women and retired military," Anderson says.
1830 John Towers Avenue, El Cajon, CA 92020 | 800.530.1102
Tamela Barnhart Reese
Tami grew up watching her parents build a San Diego construction empire, so it’s no surprise that she would become president of her family’s construction firm. In 2018, Barnhart-Reese completed $36.5 million in projects, with another $120 million under contract in 2019. Among her growing list of completed projects are architectural wonders like Bayside Fire Station #2 in San Diego’s Little Italy neighborhood, UC San Diego’s Spanos Athletic Performance Center, and the Douglas & Nancy Barnhart Cancer Center at Sharp Chula Vista. When asked what brings her the most pride, she said: "Building for the community."
10805 Thornmint Road, San Diego, CA 92127 | 858.592.6500
Sixteen years ago, Williams defied the wishes of male superiors to begin her career as a construction estimator. "To go from that to leading $100 million projects as a woman is amazing," she says. "Too few women see construction as a viable opportunity, but from accounting to estimating to marketing, it encompasses so many skill sets where women can be successful." Williams drives the company’s extensive involvement in many nonprofit programs for youth, women, and veterans.
"I’m passionate about creating equal opportunities for women and career guidance for youth."
5010 Shoreham Place, San Diego, CA 92122 | 858.597.7070
In her 17-year career with Jewish Community Centers across the country, Betzy Lynch has strived to use the organization to build relationships and a lifelong love of learning about the Jewish faith. Since taking the reins at LFJCC in 2017, Lynch has used her leadership role to foster a human connection among the center’s members and encourage a trajectory of success for her employees. "It’s important for me to be a mentor to other women," she says. "We can only create equality for women through the empowerment of other women."
4126 Executive Drive, La Jolla CA 92037 | 858.257.3030
Sara France, a renowned international-award-winning photographer, entrepreneur, and speaker based in San Diego, is passionate about building businesses that help women succeed. She’s honored to be a Sony Artisan of Imagery, and a founding mentor for Sony’s Alpha Female Creator-in-Residence Program. She’s also the founder of The Copper Collective, a talented team of female wedding photographers with locations in San Diego, Austin, and Hawai‘i; and Shay Studios, which creates visual content for brands. Her frequent speaking engagements allow her to share her passion for building companies that are focused on flexibility and teamwork.
4210 Ohio Street, San Diego, CA 92104 | 619.363.7773
On the strength of her retail background, Leah Kirpalani created Shop Good as the wellness hub she wished she had access to while navigating her own eight-year path to healing. Now, with boutiques in North Park and Del Mar, Shop Good offers a curated mix of nontoxic skin care, makeup and wellness products and organic spa services. Her mission is to create a welcoming space where women can find support and access tools needed to feel and look their very best. Leah is passionate about making healthy living more accessible and is committed to creating a sense of community through monthly educational workshops and events. She believes that "we learn so much by sharing our journeys with each other, and it’s together that we inspire and empower our best and healthiest selves." @shopgoodco
3030 North Park Way, San Diego, CA 92104 | 3665 Paseo Place, Suite 0960, San Diego, CA 92130 | 619.501.5362
Cheryl K. Goodman
For 20 years, Goodman has led in tech at Sony, Qualcomm, and MP3.com. She also led Athena, a nonprofit for women in STEM. She’s been recognized as a leading CEO for her impact. She continues in her leadership at Sony as head of Comms & CSR. Goodman’s drive for life-changing technologies is close at heart, having recovered from significant hearing loss in both ears. Thanks to surgeries and assistive technology she’s been able to thrive. Goodman, a mother to four, is married to former pro surfer Mark Ruyle; they both surf competitively for Windansea Surf Club. @ckgoodman
16535 Via Esprillo, San Diego, CA 92127 | 858.432.8083
Michiko Araki Kelley
Araki came to the US from Tokyo to earn an MBA and achieve her goal of building a marketing career stateside. Now vice president of Sony’s New Business & Corporate Marketing Group, she investigates the market potential for innovative new products like the aibo puppy robot. "I love the challenges of taking each product’s personality and creating the best marketing plan for the North America market," she says. After facing challenges of her own, Araki set out to help other professionals navigate the corporate environment through mentoring, coaching, and speaking engagements. @michiko_kelley
16535 Via Esprillo, San Diego, CA 92127 | 858.432.8083