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Orange County Business Journal’s Laura Garrett joined me at the publication’s Women in Business Awards Luncheon

Talk about a powerful crowd! More than 900 women (and a sprinkling of men) attended the Orange County Business Journal’s 19th Annual Women in Business Awards Luncheon at the Hyatt Regency Irvine. I recognized many of the 234 nominees listed in the program – all accomplished women! – and thought, how could you possibly determine honorees from such a powerful list?

My friend Laura Garrett, who is the Business Journal’s Associate Publisher & Vice President, was event chair, and, per usual, things moved right along. The nominees and sponsors VIP champagne reception in the Garden Pavilion preceded the luncheon in the Grand Ballroom, where OCBJ account manager and longtime friend Bobby Dorman (we worked together at the now-defunct Newport Beach [714] magazine in the ’90s), quieted the crowd with his splendid rendition of “God Bless America.”

OCBJ’s Publisher/CEO Richard Reisman welcomed everyone and thanked the event’s many sponsors. Diamond Sponsor Union Bank’s Robbin Narike Preciado introduced keynote speaker Kay Napier, CEO of Irvine-based cosmetics/skincare brand Arbonne International, who inspired all detailing her journey with Arbonne since she took over in 2009. Not realizing she was becoming the leader of a bankrupt company, Napier was able to get through the bankruptcy process in just 37 days, and has not looked back. Today, Arbonne is a stable business with a strong balance sheet and has been growing by double digits for over a year. Napier said she believes that getting the company on a firm footing was due to two things – leadership and relationships. “It starts with positive leadership, beginning with me,” she said, “and if you want to constructively criticize something, have a solution that you are also recommending.” As to relationships, she said of Arbonne, “It is a community of incredible leaders (mostly women) that support each other to become better individuals.”

The five Women in Business winners included Wendy Cupps, PIMCO’s global head of product management, who was introduced by Wells Fargo’s Patty Juarez. Joking, Cupps said, “I don’t think my mom understands what I do, but it’s nice to know what I do is valued here.” Betty Uribe from California Bank & Trust presented Karen Such, senior VP of operations for PPS Parking & Transportation, with the second award, saying, “She exemplifies what this award is all about.” An accomplished business woman, Such also founded the Orange County chapter of Stand Up For Kids and volunteered as its executive director for three years.

Troutman Sanders’ partner Susan Stabe introduced the next honoree, Lynn Salo, VP of sales & marketing for Irvine-based Allergan, who gave some sage business advice: “Own your mistakes, pay it forward and don’t undervalue yourself.” Opus Bank’s Founding Chairman/CEO Stephen Gordon and Executive VP Lindsay Lawrence introduced the next honoree, Karen Rager-Takeda, who is founder and president of Rager Resources Group, an Irvine-based executive recruiting firm. Starting her business in 2008, when people were leaving the business in droves, Rager Resources now has nine recruitment specialists across the U.S. and more than 30 corporate clients. Receiving the final honor was Laura Archuleta, president of Jamboree Housing Corp. in Irvine. Introduced by Orange County United Way’s Carla Vargas, she said that Archuleta was born and raised in public housing and has been giving back ever since. Under her leadership, the business has grown from three employees with 750 units of housing into one of the 30 largest developers of affordable housing in the U.S. “I am privileged to be working in an area I’m passionate about,” Archuleta said.

Inspiring, you betcha! Can’t wait until next year!! Guests departed with an adorable earth-toned clutch filled with Arbonne cosmetics, courtesy of, you guessed it, Arbonne!

Photos courtesy of Teresa Taylor Photography and Laurel Hungerford Photography