Mary Jo Copeland

Copeland is founder and director of Sharing & Caring Hands, a nonprofit organization for the homeless and those in need. The people on the streets of Minneapolis call her their “street mother.” City officials call her an extraordinary leader and an urban saint. Her goal is doing the will of God by bringing hope to people’s lives. The mother of 12, Copeland started Sharing & Caring Hands in 1985 as a vehicle for concerned people to get directly involved in meeting the needs of the less fortunate and to meet the needs of those falling through the cracks of our government system. Sharing & Caring Hands has grown from a small volunteer organization with a $5,000/month budget to a large volunteer organization that spends more than $500,000/month on the needs of over 20,000 people monthly. This work is done out of two buildings, Sharing & Caring Hands and Mary’s Place, located at the edge of downtown Minneapolis. In 1995, Copeland built Mary’s Place, a transitional shelter for families of two or more minor children. Mary’s Place has since been expanded twice and now houses more than 600 people, most of them children.

Cathy Cruz Gooch

Cathy Cruz Gooch is president and CEO of Catallia Mexican Foods, a Minnesota minority-owned manufacturer of premium tortillas (Frescados and Catallia Autentica brands) enjoyed throughout the U.S. and Canada. A tortilla industry pioneer, Gooch began her entrepreneurial career more than 30 years ago. Through her Mexican heritage, she capitalized on a market need by bringing authentic tortillas to Minnesota grocery retailers and developing a market for tortillas manufactured through contract packers.

In 2005, Gooch joined forces with Cargill Kitchen Solutions to form Catallia Mexican Foods and fulfill a long-held dream of becoming a full-service manufacturer. Catallia supports the community by using products and services from other minority-owned, women-owned small and local businesses.

Gooch has been recognized as an Outstanding Minority Business Owner by the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal; Metropolitan Economic Development Association (MEDA) Entrepreneur of the Year, as well as a MEDA Hall of Fame inductee; and is a NAWBO Lifetime Achievement Award recipient.

Valerie Doherty

Valerie Doherty oversees the human resources, benefits, legal and risk management departments of Doherty Staffing Solutions and Dahl Consulting. In her role, she demonstrates a true passion for her profession and is always eager to embrace a new technology or resource.


Under her management and leadership, Doherty Staffing has also been listed as Working Woman Magazine’s 500 largest Women-Owned Businesses in the U.S., as well as theMinneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal’s list of Largest Woman-Owned and Top 25 Woman-Owned Businesses in Minnesota. Doherty Staffing has also received the Minnesota Business Ethics Awards and was named a Star Tribune Top Workplace for four consecutive years.


Doherty was named the NAWBO Businesswoman of the Year; the St. Cloud State University Alumni of the Year; and the University of Minnesota, Carlson School of Management’s Entrepreneur of the Year. She was also honored by the Minnesota Family Business Awards Committee as the Female Executive of the Year. Additional, she earned a NAWBO Lifetime Achievement Award.

Linda J. Hartinger Lee

Linda J. Hartinger Lee was Anchor Paper’s CEO and president from 2001 through 2014, representing the company’s third generation of family leadership. She was one of the first female executives in the paper and packaging distribution industry. Hartinger Lee wore many hats in the family business before becoming an executive and managing the company’s fine paper sales force. In addition to aligning the company with the premier and diverse paper lines for which it is known today, she is credited with leading the business through the Great Recession as well as diversifying the company’s packaging and manufacturing capabilities as the national paper market contracted.


In addition to being dedicated to the succession of Anchor Paper, she was committed to the paper industry. She served as the first female president of the Association of Independent Printing Paper Merchants. She was also proud to be the first recipient of NAWBO’s Pioneer Achieve Award. Hartinger Lee lost a brief and courageous battle with cancer in 2014.

Robin Kocina

Robin Kocina is President and Co-Owner of Media Relations Agency, a top performance-based marketing agency with international clientele. Her passion for lifting women up is evident in the impact of her community involvement as well as how she supports her own staff’s personal and career development.
She is known for committing tireless hours to local organizations. She is a past board member and chairman of the board for WomenVenture. She was also an active member of the Women’s Presidents Organization for 14 years. She currently serves on the Leadership Board for the National Federation of Independent Business. Kocina also serves as chairman of the board for Depart Smart.


Kocina received NAWBO’s prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award. She was also recognized as a Top Women in Finance Circle of Excellence as well as Top Women in Finance by Finance & Commerce. Additional honors include Exceptional Businesswoman Award; Volunteer of the Year, Bloomington Chamber of Commerce; 25 Women to Watch, Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal; Upside Lifeline Award, Upsize Magazine; Standing Ovation Award, Minneapolis/St. Paul Magazine; and NAWBO’s Luminary Award.

Beth Kieffer Leonard

Beth Leonard is managing partner of Lurie, LLP, one of the leading accounting and consulting firms in the U.S. In this role, she has led the firm’s sponsorship of initiatives to support entrepreneurs from start-up to succession. Her current leadership positions include serving on the Board of Overseers and Executive Committee for the University of Minnesota-Carlson School of Management. In addition, she serves on the US Bank Board of Advisors and is on the Board of Directors for the Women’s Business Development Center.


Leonard is a recipient of the “2017 Most Powerful Women in Accounting” award by CPA Practice Advisor. She has been recognized for her support of women in business by the Small Business Administration, Women’s Business Development Center, Women Presidents’ Organization and NAWBO. She has been honored as a “(Real) Power 50” by Minnesota Business and was also honored among the “2012 Top Women in Finance” by Finance & Commerce.

Nancy J. Libersky

Nancy J. Libersky holds the top position as district director of the Minnesota District Office of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). In this role since 2010, she is responsible for overseeing the implementation of the SBA’s programs which include facilitating loans to small businesses through commercial banks, advocating federal government contracting opportunities for small businesses, and working with local communities in all 87 Minnesota counties on entrepreneurial development and growth opportunities.
Libersky has more than 28 years of federal experience. Prior to her current position, she served as the regional manager for International Trade Programs with SBA’s Office of International Trade. Her focus was on supporting small businesses exporters in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota by providing them with technical assistance and finance options through government-guaranteed finance programs.


Before coming to the SBA, Libersky served as the director of the SBA 504 Certified Development corporation covering southern Colorado. While in Colorado, she served as the Regional Women Business Ownership Coordinator.

Kathleen Meyer

In 1984, Kathleen Meyer founded Meyer Contracting, Inc. and continued to lead this successful business as president/CEO until retiring in 2012. She worked with owners, general contractors and employees to solve on-the-job problems and oversee job efficiency. Meyer was deeply involved with every aspect of this contracting business. She negotiated and signed contracts, managed marketing and sales, made the financial decisions, was responsible for the surety/bonding/insurance/banking, purchased the major tools and equipment, signed off on payroll, managed day-to-day operations and administration; created job estimates and even managed collections.


Some of Meyer Contracting’s more notable projects included Super Target Stores (Midway and Fridley); the VA Hospital in St. Cloud; Anoka County Airport; the Empire Phase 3 Interceptor Line, Empire Waste Water Treatment Facility; aircraft ramp extension at the 934th Air Force Base in Minneapolis; and the Midtown Exchange Commercial and Residential Development in Minneapolis.

Nelle Palmer

Nelle Palmer came to fame as an innkeeper, sophisticated hostess and local society matriarch at the famed Lowell Inn in Stillwater. She was born in 1893, the ninth of 10 children. She got her start as a performer in her family’s traveling concert company, and became the leading actress in a traveling theater group where she met and married Arthur Palmer in 1927. As motion pictures took over the industry, she and Art began managing the inn in 1930, and after years of hard work purchased the inn in 1945.


Known as the matriarch of Stillwater, for 40 years Palmer made her entrance down the banistered stairway at the inn to greet and take care of guests. She had a flair for creating a luxurious yet homey and friendly ambiance, a winning combination that set new industry standards. Recipes and innovations used by the Lowell Inn were featured in Duncan Hines recipe books, the Betty Crocker cookbook, and Better Homes and Gardens magazine. Palmer succumbed to cancer in 1970.