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JANCO's President Chosen for 2023 Smart Women Awards

From manufacturing facilities and investment firms to hospitals and nonprofits that are over a century old, the women in this year’s Smart Women Breakfast & Awards panel are proving that women can lead companies in any industry, even in fields traditionally dominated by men. On July 20, 2023, this panel of female leaders will take the stage to share their career experiences with the goal of encouraging other businesswomen through their professional journeys.

This year’s panel will feature Helen Forbes Fields (YWCA of Greater Cleveland President and CEO), Jacqui Robertson (Cleveland Clinic Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer), Anne Markle (Giesecke+Devrient VP of Operations, Americas), and Brooke Sirak (Kaulig Capital Vice President). While they’ve all forged unique paths through very different fields, these women all share a common mission of building up others around themselves to develop strong teams.

Moderating the panel discussion this year is Carmen Blackwell, an Emmy-nominated anchor and reporter who joined WKYC in Cleveland last year. A member of both the National Association of Black Journalists and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, Blackwell will bring her award-winning skills to the Smart Women stage to lead an inspiring conversation packed with valuable insights.

“While I’m thrilled to moderate this year’s Smart Women panel, what I look forward to most is being surrounded by so many women who inspire me, encourage others and embrace the power they have within,” Blackwell says. “Strong, smart women uplift and empower one another. We need more opportunities like these — positive conversation combined with support — from women, for women.”

Proudly presented by Huntingon National Bank, the Smart Women Awards recognizes the impressive achievements of women entrepreneurs and leaders making a difference in our community.

"At Huntington, we’re dedicated to making people’s lives better, strengthening our communities, and helping businesses thrive," says Carrie Carpenter, Senior Vice President, Regional Manager, Corporate Affairs at Huntington. "As the nation’s No. 1 SBA lender in volume for the past five years, we are commitment to helping businesses thrive — from startup to expansion and beyond."

In addition to SBA loans, Huntington offers other community-focused programs, such as Lift Local Business and Entrepreneur in Residence Powered.

"Huntington is proud to join with the Smart Women Award winners to work together so that all women have equal opportunities to advance in the workplace, have equal access to capital, and achieve pay equity."

Congratulations to all of the winners for your well-deserved achievements!

2023 Progressive Enterpreneurship Honorees

  • Destiny Burns, Owner and CEO, CLE Urban Winery
  • Anne Hartnett and Andria Loczi, Co-Founders, Harness Collective
  • Yeidy Laracuente, Owner, Jireh Learning Center

2023 Progressive Organization Honoress

  • Apex Dermatology
  • Elite Women Around the World
  • Engage! Cleveland
  • Grants Plus

2023 Progressive Women Honoress

  • Jazmin Long, President and CEO, Birthing Beautiful Communities
  • Angela Sebesy, Global HR Director, Brennan Industries
  • Kiersten Kanaley, LSSGB, RACR, TAS; Executive Director, talent acquisition operations; Cleveland Clinic
  • Jacqui Robertson, Chief of Diversity and Inclusion, Cleveland Clinic
  • Marianne Crosley, President and CEO, Cleveland Leadership Center
  • Natalie Ronayne, Chief Development Officer, Cleveland Metroparks
  • Meenakshi Sharma, Senior Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer, Cleveland Museum of Natural History
  • Kelly Keefe, President, ERC
  • Lauren DeVere, President, Fire-Dex
  • Anne Markle, Vice President of Operations, Americas, Giesecke+Devrient
  • Tiffany Eatmon, Operations Support Specialist, Great Lakes Fasteners Inc.
  • Lori McCleese, President, Junior Achievement of North Central Ohio
  • Brooke Sirak, Vice President, Kaulig Capital
  • Jennifer Ake-Marriott, CEO, Redmond Waltz
  • Brandi Weekley, Partner, Taft
  • Jenn Lasky, Executive Director, The Edna House for Women
  • Geri Presti, President and CEO, The Music Settlement
  • Amanda Rehker, Director of Brand Strategy and Marketing Communications, Transtar Industries
  • Emily Adams, Vice President Employee Benefits Consultant, USI Insurance

More about Lori McCleese: When placed in a highly impoverished area in downtown Cincinnati while working as a Provident Bank Branch Manager, Lori McCleese renewed her passion for service to her community, helping young people learn how to manage their money and pave an independent future for themselves. She also became involved in Big Brothers Big Sisters and served as a mentor for over 15 years. After her life took many unexpected turns, she decided to follow her passion and reinvent herself in the nonprofit space.

McCleese was hired as a bookkeeper for the Alzheimer’s Association, quickly moved up the ranks and, after six years, became the Director of Development overseeing 17 counties, breaking historical revenue records in three of those years.

As the first full-time president of the Hudson Community Foundation, she earned her CFRE credential and her Certificate in Fundraising Management. Missing the mission work, she became president of a newly merged 15-county area of Junior Achievement of North Central Ohio. She helped lead the struggling organization to increase its revenue by 60 percent, and YOY 2022 to 2023 will see a 30 percent increase in students served. She has built a high-performing team that collectively participates in over 70 organizations in its footprint.


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