Superwomen of Boise
by Kelly Wood
We Are Writing a Book on Local
Women Business Leaders
Here Are Some of Their Inspirational Stories
Alicia Ralston, founder and owner of Ralston Group Properties, gets the biggest joy in life from helping other people. When she opened Ralston Group Properties in 2009, Alicia worked by herself at first. It wasn’t until 2013 that she started to bring in other agents. Today, there are eight people on her team, with offices in downtown Boise and in Ketchum.
Childhood mentors changed Connie Miller’s life, and she is committed to returning the favor.
As CEO of Icon Credit Union, she has plenty on her plate. But she is so passionate about girls’ mentorship that she spends an inordinate amount of time volunteering for youth leadership organizations like Girl Scouts and Junior Achievement. When she’s not volunteering, Connie spends her time developing the more than one hundred employees who have helped Icon serve more than 27,000 members from Boise to La Grande, with total assets nearing $340 million.
Jackie Atkinson is renowned among national pharmaceutical companies as one of the best researchers in the business. She has carved her professional niche so successfully that she has never had to market her clinical trial research firm, Nautical Clinical Research. When asked the key to her success, she says “hard work” but then adds with a laugh, “and I never take myself too seriously.”
Jessica Shaw’s road to becoming a partner at Little Morris LLP, a certified public accounting firm based in Boise, has been anything but easy. But if anyone has fully demonstrated the ability to overcome obstacles to obtain one’s goals, it’s her.
Jodi Peterson-Stigers is the executive director at Interfaith Sanctuary homeless shelter. Jodi believesthat when we go through hardships, the story isn’t about the hardship itself but rather what happens as a result of it.
Kim Siegenthaler never expected to own a business. Instead, she always thought she would be a really good employee. Yet today, Kim is a Principal Landscape Architect and co-owner of Jensen Belts Associates, a landscape architecture, site-planning, and urban-design firm in Boise.
A self-described reluctant entrepreneur and cautious risk taker, she has built a business on her love of design and her relationships with customers. In the process, she has beautified Boise’s landscape for all to enjoy.
Kristi Echols-Preston’s superpower is turning risks into sweet rewards by taking the right chances at the right time. A biologist turned chocolatier, she is the owner of Boise’s gourmet chocolate shop, The Chocolat Bar.
Kristi focuses less on traditional notions of success and more on embracing change. That attitude has landed Kristi (and her caramels!) a spot on the “Top 50 Chocolatiers in America” list and helped her build one of the most recognized brands in the Treasure Valley.
When Lysi Bishop was growing up in Ketchum, Idaho, the last thing she wanted to do was become a Realtor. “I was raised by a single mother of three children,” she says. “My mom was a Realtor, and I always saw her on the phone. I wanted to do anything but that.”
How things change!
Today, Lysi owns Lysi Bishop Real Estate, part of Keller Williams Realty in Boise. The Wall Street Journal recognized her and her team as the number-one-producing agent and team in the state.
“Dad told some pretty sad stories about sharing the dog scraps for meals and stealing pies off pie trucks. He was a scrapper. He had a really tough upbringing," Maureen says. She explains her dad's role in establishing S&S Nutrition Network, Inc., a business dedicated to providing quality nutrition care to individuals and groups.
Melinda McCaslin was blazing her business trail by age sixteen when, with the help of her parents, she bought a kitchen store. Today, she is one of the leading mortgage lenders in the State of Idaho. A strategic thinker, she says three principles have guided her on the path to professional success: broaden your horizons, do your research, and always look at the big picture.
When Michelle Soderlund first decided to move to Boise from northern California in 1986, her dream was to create a business with a collaborative atmosphere, where employees would share in the growth of her company.
Today, as president of Pinnacle Pension Services, Inc., that dream is a reality. “I believe that if people are helping create value in a company, they should be able to share in its profits,” she says.
In August 2018, Odette Bolano was named the president and chief executive officer of Saint Alphonsus Health System (SAHS). Previously, she was the president of Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center (SARMC).
Odette became president of SARMC in 2015 and left the system in July 2018 to accept a job in Florida. After the CEO opening was announced, she received multiple messages from physicians, colleagues, and community leaders asking her to consider returning to Saint Alphonsus. This outreach led to discussions with Trinity Health leadership about the role. Following extensive discussions, the SAHS Board unanimously supported her to be CEO of the health system.
For sixteen years, Pam Howland worked at Holland & Hart LLP, a large regional law firm in Boise. The experience she gained there was valuable, but she craved more flexibility in her schedule to participate in her children’s activities. So in February 2016, Pam launched Idaho Employment Lawyers, PLLC, a boutique firm dedicated to handling Idaho employment-law issues
Born and raised in Council, Idaho, Sue Linja always knew she wanted to do something big—and she found her future in nutrition.
Today, Sue and her business partner, Maureen Sykes, own S&S Nutrition Network, Inc. nutrition consulting firm has a footprint that encompasses nearly 250 contracts with assisted-living and nursing-home facilities, small hospitals, and other health-care facilities spanning ten states.
They have provided care to hundreds of thousands of people over their twenty-five years in business S&S Nutrition employs an all-female staff of dietitians, affording them a flexible and rewarding career path.
Susan Graham is an elder-law attorney and the founder of Senior Edge Legal in Boise. She specializes in helping people who are retired or planning for retirement—a superpower she has exhibited for more than thirty years.
Sylvia Hampel’s entrepreneurial spirit kicked in at the tender age of nine, when her parents told her she had to make her own money to buy clothes, shoes—even toiletries.
Today, Sylvia is president and CEO of Boise, Idaho-based Clearview Cleaning, the largest woman-owned business in the state. Established in 1995 as a one-woman operation, Sylvia’s company now employs 385 people and has expanded into Washington, Oregon, and Utah.
When you ask Cindi Beauclair how she built one of the most recognized retail brands in downtown Boise, she laughs and says, “You know, it always comes back to the fact that I just don’t like people telling me what to do.”
Joking aside, she’s on to something. Cindi built Dragonfly, a women’s apparel and gift shop, around her keen eye for alternative style and her unwavering appreciation for the unique. Dragonfly’s inventory is a collection of items equally beautiful and exotic that have kept customers coming back for decades.
Soñia Galaviz is an award-winning educator at Garfield Elementary School in Boise and is about to complete her PhD in education.
She heard about her grandfather’s struggles as an immigrant from Mexico and saw the impact that both parents’ lack of formal education had on their lives. Soñia fell in love with teaching and is passionate about finding a better way to educate children—by involving their parents in the educational journey.
Growing a business in today’s competitive environment requires a business leader with nearly superhuman abilities and powers. Kristi Saucerman had a vision, followed her passion, and built a busi-ness. She is, in her own right, a superhero. And like every great superhero, her story starts from lessons learned early in life. The source of her powers at her core? Tenacity and resilience.
Since 2009, Karen Vauk has helped combat hunger and improve Idahoans’ nutrition in Boise as president of the Idaho Foodbank.
The Idaho Foodbank is an independent, donor-supported, nonprofit organization founded in 1984. It is the largest food bank and distributor of free food assistance in Idaho. From warehouses in Boise, Lewiston, and Pocatello, the Foodbank distributes food for millions of meals each year through a network of more than four hundred community-based partners across the state.
Previously, Karen worked at Boise State in the University Advancement Office, raising money for BSU’s capital campaign. Before that, she was at Micron Technology, Inc., for eighteen years.