The Sacramento chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners' second annual Outstanding Women Leaders awards luncheon on Wednesday might well have been subtitled "Beating the Odds."
Recipients of this year's OWL awards at the Sutter Club either started from humble beginnings or overcame major obstacles to succeed in business.
Janis Agopian started in sales in 1973, a time when businesswomen faced a tough climb up the corporate ladder. Today, Agopian is vice chairman of Rocklin-based TASQ Technology, a service provider to the payment-processing industry. In its five years of existence, TASQ revenues have grown to $80 million.
On Wednesday, Agopian won the Wise Woman Award as the area's businesswoman of the year.
Jeanette Towne of Walnut Grove-based Towne Communications won the Woman Innovator Award, recognizing success in a nontraditional business.
Today, Towne oversees 22 employees, many of them mothers who work in virtual offices. Agopian and Towne said business opportunities for women are increasing but added that they succeeded with approaches universal to all business people.
"I didn't plan the growth we have had," Agopian said, "but I think it's something that happens when you work to improve every single day. And then the next day, you start doing it better."
Towne joked that she and her husband figured they could get jobs in fast-food restaurants if her gamble had not worked.
"But it didn't come to that," Towne said. "We were determined and we played it out."
Dorothy Lombard, a partner with Porterfield & Co. certified public accountants in Sacramento, won the Lifetime Achievement Award. OWL recognized Lombard for her trailblazing efforts locally, including heading up some of the area's most powerful business organizations.
Other award recipients were:
Linda Rogers, head of Linda Rogers & Associates in Folsom, won the Woman On the Way Award, recognizing accomplishments by a woman in business for less than five years. Rogers' company specializes in searching for and placement of high-tech personnel and services. Revenues have doubled for four straight years.
Lisa Kohl, chief executive officer of Community Resource and Business Alliance Inc., was recognized with the Luminary Award for service and mentoring in the community. Besides heading her organizational management and consulting firm, Kohl volunteers 20 to 25 hours a week as the director of the Sacramento Young Women's Christian Association.
Susan Irwin, a vice president and general manager of Enterprise Rent-A-Car in Sacramento, won the Executive Woman Award. She oversees 61 Enterprise outlets throughout Northern California.
Big Hairy Dog Information Systems, a Sacramento firm that sells and supports computer software and networks for the retail industry, won the Vision Award for providing opportunities to businesswomen. Sandy Malaney is the company's co-founder and chief executive officer.