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‌Sixth Annual Women's Leadership Conference Speakers

Charlotte Beers

Advertising executive, former Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy, author

2016 Speaker Charlotte Beers

Charlotte Beers is the former chairman/CEO of Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, a $5.4 billion, 8,000-employee, global advertising agency. In her five years with the firm, billings increased by $2 billion. Harvard Business School and many other universities still teach their best-selling case study on leadership titled “Charlotte Beers at Ogilvy.” Beers has been featured on the covers of Fortune and Business Week as one of the noted leaders in American business. Following 9/11, Beers left the world of advertising to become the Undersecretary of State under Colin Powell; she was later awarded the Distinguished Service Medal, the State Department's highest honor. Her recent book, I’d Rather Be in Charge, focuses on how relationships at work create leaders.

2016 Speaker Maggie ChotasMaggie Ellis Chotas

Cofounder of The Mulberry Partners, coauthor
Cofounder of The Mulberry Partners and coauthor of the book Power through Partnership. How Women Lead Better Together, Maggie Ellis Chotas helps people figure out how to strengthen collaboration, improve communication, resolve conflict, and achieve goals that stick. A former middle school teacher, she has served as director and consultant for public and independent schools in Philadelphia, New York City, Charlotte and Durham, North Carolina. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Swarthmore College, a master’s degree from St. John’s College and a master’s in school administration from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She lives with her husband and two children in Durham, where she is an engaged community leader.

2016 Speaker Alice DomarAlice D. Domar

Pioneer in the application of mind/body medicine to women's health issues, author
Alice Domar, Ph.D., has conducted research on topics such as infertility, breast cancer, menopausal symptoms, ovarian cancer and premenstrual syndrome. She has earned an international reputation as one of the country's top women's health experts, and is a best-selling author, media authority and sought-after public speaker. Her seventh book, The Stress Bump, will be coming out in 2016. She is the narrator of the DVD’s “Stress and Relaxation Explained” and “Infertility Explained”, both of which won silver Telly Awards. Domar has appeared on the Today Show, Good Morning America, CBS This Morning, Dateline NBC, CNN, PBS, and the CBS and NBC Evening News, to name a few. She was named one of 15 “Women to Watch in 2004” by Lifetime TV.

2016 Speaker Sandra DuBoseSandra Dubose

Known as The Bald Beauty Queen of Self-Esteem, author
At age 25, Sandra Dubose was diagnosed with the autoimmune disease, Alopecia Areata. After her diagnosis, Dubose became a patient advocate for women’s health issues, a role model and a teacher by demonstrating self-love and self-acceptance techniques aimed at building confidence. In 2011 she made history when she competed bald in a beauty pageant and was crowned Mrs. Black North Carolina, the first "Bald Beauty Queen" of the state. She shares her life lessons and how she shifted from victim to victorious in her book, My Crown and Glory, It’s Not About the Hair. DuBose received the 2013 Stiletto Woman in Business Inspirational Entrepreneur of the Year Award and the 2015 Lamplighter Award for Health Outreach.

2016 Speaker Alyssa DuganAlyssa Dugan

Co-founder of Honor Education
Alyssa Dugan is a game designer and co-founder of Honor Education, a budding video game company with its eye on STEM and the future. She leads a team of devoted game developers in crafting intellectual adventures to spark a passion in the next generation of STEM leaders. Dugan has a background in elementary and intermediate education and has spent more than a decade exploring technology through projects in website and web game production, software development and middle/high school technology courses. She is on the steering committees for the Grand Strand Technology Council’s Tech After School and Women in Technology initiatives. She earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from the Indiana Institute of Technology.

2016 Speaker Zaneilia Harris Zaneilia Harris

President of Harris & Harris Wealth Management Group, LLC and author
Zaneilia Harris has a passion for working with executive and professional women who are going through major life transitions and need financial guidance to achieve their personal goals. She is a shoe lover, appreciates quality and recognizes the power of words and compound interest. She’s the author of the book, Finance ‘n Stilettos, a member of the CNBC Financial Advisor Council, a financial educator, and a blogger with more than 20 years of experience in the financial and accounting industry. She has been featured in publications and media such as CNBC, US News & World Report, Forbes, Today Money, Women’s Day, Essence, Black Enterprise, Women’s Wear Daily and PBS. She lives in Maryland with her husband and daughter.

2016 Speaker Dawn HigginsDawn Higgins

Researcher, therapist and educator of the social behavioral health sciences
Dawn Higgins, Ph.D., has a specialization in traumatic loss and has been a private practitioner for more than 14 years in Alexandria, Virginia. Following 9/11, Higgins was called upon by NBC 4 Washington and other media outlets as an expert on grief and loss. For her Ph.D. dissertation at Catholic University, she interviewed the young adults who were adolescents when their parent died on 9/11. As a licensed clinical therapist, she counseled and coached individuals experiencing a life transition using strength-based tools. Higgins has been a consultant for the U.S. Department of Defense in the area of psychological health and traumatic brain injury and has presented her research at national conferences

2016 Speaker Brandy IncorviaBrandy Incorvia

Administrator of educational programs, Santee Cooper
Brandy Incorvia is the administrator for educational programs with Santee Cooper, South Carolina’s largest power producer. She is responsible for the coordination, planning, implementation and evaluation of community relations education outreach initiatives. Prior to her time with Santee Cooper, Incorvia worked as director of operations for Ears of Experience, a personal Disney vacation planning company, and as an elementary and middle school teacher in both Pennsylvania and South Carolina. She earned a bachelor’s degree from the College of Charleston. She has been central to the Grand Strand Technology Council’s Women in Technology initiatives.

2016 Speaker Polly LetofskyPolly Letofsky

First woman to walk around the world, author
On August 1, 1999, Polly Letofsky left her Colorado home and headed west. She traveled across four continents, 22 countries and more than 14,000 miles – by foot – to become the first woman to walk around the world. As an awareness campaign for breast cancer, survivors and well-wishers came out to walk with her and the world embraced her. Letofsky’s GlobalWalk has been featured in over 2,000 national and international newspapers, magazines, radio and television stations, and her book, 3mph: The Adventures of One Woman’s Walk Around the World has been awarded six national awards including Best Memoir at the 2011 Writer’s Digest Best Book Awards.

2016 Speaker Stella MercadoStella Mercado

CEO and president of the board of directors, Mercom Corporation
Stella Mercado is chief executive officer and president of the board of directors of Mercom Corporation, an information technology business in Pawleys Island, South Carolina, one of country's fastest growing companies. In 2015 she was recognized as one of only three South Carolina-based women entrepreneurs in Inc. magazine’s Inaugural Impact 50, which identifies the top 50 companies led by women in the annual Inc. 5000, a ranking based on total revenue growth. She is a member of the Board of Visitors for the Wall College of Business at CCU; Teach My People, a nonprofit organization promoting children’s education; and Coastal Montessori Charter School. She is a founding member of the Grand Strand Technology Business Council.

2016 Speaker Leann MischelLeann J. Mischel

Coastal Carolina University professor, former executive of JPMorgan Chase and
Leann Mischel, Ph.D., is an assistant professor in the Department of Management and Decision Sciences in the E. Craig Wall Sr. College of Business Administration. She was a faculty member and served as the director of the Leadership Institute for Entrepreneurship at Susquehanna University, and has held teaching or research positions at Bernelli, Delaware and Purdue universities, as well as at the University of Illinois where she earned her doctorate in organizational behavior. She has presented her research in many countries, has published in leading journals in her field, and has been recognized in Entrepreneur Magazine, the New York Times, USA Today and the Huffington Post. She is also a former vice president of JPMorgan Chase and

2016 Speaker Jessica OdedeJessica Posner Odede

Nationally recognized social entrepreneur and activist
Jessica Odede is co-founder and chief operating officer of Shining Hope for Communities, an innovative non-profit that combats extreme poverty and gender inequality. The organization serves over 76,000 beneficiaries and is spreading across Kenya’s urban slums with a model that links free schools for girls to holistic community services for all, making the school a portal for large-scale social change. Her work has been featured by President Bill Clinton, Chelsea Clinton on NBC, and on five occasions by Nicholas Kristof in The New York Times and in his book and documentary series "A Path Appears." She has recently written a book with her partner and husband, Kennedy Odede, Find Me Unafraid (HarperCollins), which was released in fall 2015.

OMalleySusan O'Malley

Former president, NBA's Washington Bullets and Washington Sports and Entertainment
At age 29, Susan O'Malley became the first female president of an NBA franchise as well as one of the first women in a major front-office position in major league sports. She is the former president of the NBA's Washington Bullets (now the Wizards) and Washington Sports and Entertainment. In her 20-year tenure with Washington Sports, she also ran the Verizon Center (formerly the MCI Center), the WNBA's Washington Mystics, and Ticketmaster Washington-Baltimore. By the time she retired in 2007, the Verizon Center had recorded more than 21.2 million patrons. She earned a juris doctorate from the Georgetown University Law Center and a bachelor’s degree in marketing from Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, Maryland.

2016 Speaker Betsy PolkBetsy Polk

Cofounder of The Mulberry Partners, coauthor
Cofounder of The Mulberry Partners and coauthor of the book Power through Partnership. How Women Lead Better Together, Betsy Polk helps people figure out how to strengthen collaboration, improve communication, resolve conflict and achieve goals that stick. In addition to her work with Mulberry, she serves as leadership and organization development consultant for the North Carolina Partnership for Children. Polk earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and a master’s degree in organization development from the American University/NTL graduate program in Washington, D.C. She is a leader and advocate for educationally focused organizations in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where she lives with her husband and two children.

Barb RoyalBarb Royal

Barb Royal is an elementary teacher turned entrepreneur and founder/CEO of, a birthday party service that teaches children about giving while raising significant funds for kid-friendly charities. In 2014, her company was chosen to be in the first cohort of the Start.SC incubator program for companies scaling toward $10 million dollars in five years. She has more than two decades of experience teaching elementary school, coaching and directing children’s programs. Royal was a finalist for the 2013 Entrepreneur of the Year Award presented by the Grand Strand Technology Council. She was also featured as a 2015 WIPL preconference speaker. Royal earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Roanoke College.

2016 Speaker Justine SiegalJustine Siegal

Founder and executive director of Baseball for All
In September 2015, Justine Siegal, Ph.D., became the first female baseball coach in Major League history, after being chosen as the Oakland A’s guest instructor for the 2015 Instructional League season. She became the first woman to be hired as a coach at any professional level in 2009, when she served as first-base coach for the Brockton Rox, an independent team. Siegal holds a Ph.D. in sport and exercise psychology from Springfield College, where she served as an assistant baseball coach from 2008-10. She is the president of Baseball For All, a nonprofit that works to provide baseball coaching to young children, especially to girls. Siegal also holds a master’s degree in sport studies from Kent State University.

2016 Speaker Sarah ThomasSarah Thomas

First permanent female game official in the NFL
Born in Pascagoula, Mississippi, Sarah Thomas played softball in high school and earned a scholarship to play basketball at the University of Mobile. She began her refereeing career in 1999 at the high-school level and was hired by Conference USA in 2007. Since then she became the first woman to officiate a bowl game (2009) and the first female referee to work in a Big Ten stadium (2011). She was active in the NFL's officiating development program and worked a preseason game last season. In 2015, she was hired as the first full-time female game official in NFL history. In addition to her football officiating work, she is pharmaceutical representative and is married with three children.

Barbara Hickman WhyeBarbara Hickman Whye

Deputy chief diversity officer, Intel Corporation
Barbara Hickman Whye leads Intel's global diversity and inclusion strategic initiatives and program investments by creating opportunities for diverse talent that allow all to feel welcomed, challenged and valued. Her current investment portfolio emphasizes Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) awareness, ecosystem development and retention in science and technology careers. She is on the board of directors of Beyond12 and recently launched a Start with STEM parents initiative aimed at increasing the awareness of the significant value of STEM careers. Prior to Intel, she worked in various engineering roles for BellSouth and NCR corporations in South Carolina. Her undergraduate degree in electrical engineering and MBA are from USC.

2016 Speaker Katie AllenKatie Allen

Vice president of viaONEHOPE
With a strong passion to help others to have a lifestyle filled with happiness, gratitude and meaning, Katie Allen is helping entrepreneurs realize their dreams. She is the vice president of viaONEHOPE, the direct sales division of ONEHOPE. Allen has more than 15 years of experience in sales, marketing and public relations, having worked corporately with Turner Broadcasting, M&M/Mars and Novartis Inc. as well as independent direct sales companies Stella & Dot and Ruby Ribbon. Allen earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. She lives in the southern California wine country area of Temecula with her husband and two daughters.

2016 Speaker Monica FineMonica Fine

Coastal Carolina University professor, owner of B. Fine Consulting
An assistant professor of marketing in the E. Craig Wall Sr. College of Business Administration, Monica Fine, Ph.D., also owns a marketing consulting firm. Previously, she was a faculty member at Northwest Missouri State University (NWMSU) and Florida Atlantic University. She received her bachelor’s degree in business education and master of business administration, both from NWMSU. She completed her doctorate in business administration, specializing in marketing, from Florida Atlantic University. Fine has taught and conducted research in numerous European countries as a co-leader of the International Business in Europe program, and has had over 40 articles published in business journals and conference proceedings.

2016 Moderator Peter GascaPeter Gasca

Director of the CoBe Institute at Coastal Carolina University, founder and CEO of Wild Creations
In 2010, Wild Creations, a toy and game developer in Myrtle Beach, was recognized as the fastest growing company in South Carolina by the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce, and the 259th fastest growing small business in the country by the Inc 500/5000. Peter Gasca was nominated as Entrepreneur of the Year for the Carolinas by Ernst and Young in 2011. He was an economic and small business development consultant for the United States Agency for International Development and served in the former Soviet republics of Central Asia. He received a bachelor's degree from Arizona State University, and his MBA, with a focus in finance and business strategy, from Georgetown University. He is an associate professor of business at CCU.

2016 Speaker Lisa KinonLisa Kinon

Family court judge, owner of mediation business Lisa A. Kinon LLC
Lisa Kinon has been a family court judge for South Carolina's 15th Judicial Circuit since 1995. She earned her law degree at the University of South Carolina and practiced law in Horry County with Hearn, Brittain and Martin, PA. Kinon has been a member of the South Carolina, Horry County and the American bar associations. She has also served as a member of the South Carolina Bar House of Delegates, the South Carolina Board of Governors, and as a member of the Supreme Court Commission on Grievances and Discipline. In October 2013, she opened her own mediation business, Lisa A. Kinon LLC. She was honored at the 2011 Celebration of Inspiring Women and spoke at the Women's Leadership Conference in 2011 and 2012.

2016 Speaker Lee JonesLee Young Jones

Owner, Carolina Charm Florist & Events
Lee Young Jones grew up in McClellanville, South Carolina, and later moved to Georgetown County. She and her husband opened Carolina Charm Florist & Events (formerly Carolina Charm Florist & Gourmet Gifts) in Georgetown in 1999. Jones has a keen eye for creating floral displays that compliment specific occasions. Some of her designs have even been featured in issues of Southern Homes and Gardens and Garden and Gun magazines. Before owning her current company, Jones and partners opened a restaurant in Pawleys Island in 1994 and successfully sold the business in 1999. The same year, Carolina Charm Florist & Events opened its doors. She received her Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Coastal Carolina University.

2016 Speaker Ann MayfieldAnn Mayfield

Owner of Buttercream Cakes & Catering LLC
Ann Mayfield has been working in the food and hospitality industry since 2000. She began her baking career at a Charleston catering company where she supervised events and worked under a French pastry chef. In 2002, Mayfield became the executive pastry chef and custom wedding cake designer for Seabrook Island. After leaving Seabrook in 2005, she decided to use her business skills and worked for Sysco Foodservice as a marketing associate. In 2012, Mayfield combined all of this experience to start her own catering and cake business, Buttercream Cakes & Catering. She earned a bachelor's degree in business from Milligan College in Tennessee and a specialty degree in pastry arts from Johnson & Wales University in Charleston.

2016 Speaker Leann MischelLeann J. Mischel

Coastal Carolina University professor, former executive of JPMorgan Chase and
Leann Mischel, Ph.D., is an assistant professor in the Department of Management and Decision Sciences in the E. Craig Wall Sr. College of Business Administration. She was a faculty member and served as the director of the Leadership Institute for Entrepreneurship at Susquehanna University, and has held teaching or research positions at Bernelli, Delaware and Purdue universities, as well as at the University of Illinois where she earned her doctorate in organizational behavior. She has presented her research in many countries, has published in leading journals in her field, and has been recognized in Entrepreneur Magazine, the New York Times, USA Today and the Huffington Post. She is also a former vice president of JPMorgan Chase and

2016 Speaker Kristin ThompsonKristin Thompson

Co-founder and partner of T2H Advertising
Founded in 2004, T2H Advertising is the hybrid of some of the best advertising and marketing minds in Myrtle Beach and coastal South Carolina. Since its inception, T2H has grown from a well respected local shop to a regional, national and now worldwide presence with its work appearing throughout North America, Central and South America, Asia, Europe and Australia. Kriston Thompson works closely with clients in marketing communications planning and results tracking. She brings more than 20 years of marketing experience to T2H on both the client and agency side of marketing and brand management, including stints at Myrtle Beach Golf Holiday and Brandon Advertising. Thompson earned a bachelor’s degree from Coastal Carolina University.

2016 Speaker Christine TonerChristine Toner

Co-founder and creative director of TwoCreatives and a director and founding leader with viaONEHOPE
Christine Toner is the co-founder of the graphic design firm TwoCreatives. Previously, she spent a decade in the New York City design world, where she was vice president of marketing for a luxury advertising agency and held key marketing positions within the fields of graphic communications, furniture design and investment banking. She is director and founding leader of viaONEHOPE, a Napa Valley winery dedicated to creating award-winning varietals that include a built-in donation to meaningful cause partners such as the ASPCA, Team Rubicon, Why Hunger, and many others. She is one of 17 members who currently hold the viaONEHOPE founding leader title, a status reserved for only 50 entrepreneurs nationwide.

2016 Speaker Ella VickersElla Vickers

Designer and founder of Ella Vickers Inc., former first mate on America's Cup sailing yacht Columbia
Ella Vickers is the designer and founder of Ella Vickers Sailcloth Collection (EVRSC), a North Carolina-based retail company that has created recycled marine sailcloth products since 1989. After receiving her business degree, Vickers became a costume design assistant on George Lucas, HBO and Screen Gems film productions. The creation of her own company began while she was serving as first mate on the sailing yacht Columbia, the first 12-meter vessel that won the America’s Cup. She started her business with no money, relying on credit to fund the small enterprise. Today, the company owns a small factory in Wrightsville Beach and saves an enormous amount of sailcloth from landfills.