BRAVO is the annual signature awards event of the Ventura Chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners. The luncheon and awards ceremony honored these outstanding business women of Ventura County for their vision and perseverance, which is creating a brighter future for women business owners and women-led business ventures.

Read on to get to know our 2017 BRAVO honorees just a little bit better!

Thank you to all those who attended and to our wonderful sponsors and ongoing supporters. We’ll see you at next year’s 19th Annual BRAVO.

Meet our 2017 Honorees

Woman Business Owner of the Year - Heidi Whitcomb

Heidi Whitcomb is a second-generation owner of Ventura Rental Party Center Inc. who has been at the helm of the business since the mid 1980’s. Heidi’s breadth of knowledge from an event rental perspective is immense having designed and coordinated thousands of events from intimate family gatherings to corporate events with 8,000 guests in attendance. A firm believer in community involvement, Heidi and her team orchestrate multiple event projects on a monthly basis including Ojai Music Festival, Community Memorial Health Systems events, Casa Pacifica Food & Wine Festival along with various other non-profit, corporate and private events.

A consistent force in the event rental industry for over thirty years, Heidi has been recognized by her peers with awards such as the National Association of Catering Executives Event Professional of the Year, and Inspirational Member of the Year. In 2013, she captured the coveted President’s Award. This national award is bestowed upon selfless leaders, and is awarded to only one outstanding member each year. Heidi has also obtained the Certified Event Rental Professional (CERP) designation through the American Rental Association, and was a featured panelist on multiple occasions for the national Rental Show, hosted by the American Rental Association.

Heidi currently sits on both the Community Memorial Healthcare Foundation Board & Casa Pacifica Board serving as chairwoman for their Programs and Oversight Committee.

She is known for recognizing the plight of children in need, and helping them have a voice. Heidi has advocated for children by volunteering as a Court Appointed Special Advocate, and is currently mentoring mothers trying to reunite with their children through her work with The City Center in Ventura.

Heidi and her husband Mike have been happily married for 33 years and reside in Somis, CA. They have raised three children who are now thriving young adults. When she has free time, Heidi likes to garden, hike, travel and spend time at home with her husband and dog Libbey. Heidi and her husband Mike are thrilled to be awaiting their first grandchild in the fall.

Lifetime Achievement Award - Kathy Long, Ventura County Supervisor 1997-2017

Kathy and Randy Long moved to Ventura County in 1988 to start their new pest control and carpet care businesses. Kathy worked with her husband to get it up and running the first three years, before she re-entered government service, working for former Supervisor Maggie Erickson Kildee. Kathy considers those start-up years gave her deep appreciation for the many challenges faced by small business owners. As Supervisor, Kathy was widely recognized for her two decades of collaborative and effective public policy accomplishments on the Ventura County Board of Supervisors. A leader in creating opportunities for economic vitality, Kathy served on the Executive Board of the Economic Development Collaborative – Ventura County. She worked to enhance the unique military value of Navy Base Ventura County as Co-Chair of the Regional Defense Partnership for the 21st Century, and helped establish the Women’s Economic Roundtable. She is still a supporter and active member of several community organizations including the Rotary Club of Camarillo, Camarillo Boys & Girls Club, and the Health Care Foundation for Ventura County.

Innovator of the Year - Marta Alvarez, PE/PLS/MASCE Founder, YCE, Inc.

Marta Alvarez is having a banner couple of years. She was selected by the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) as the “2016 Engineer of the Year” and later that year, Alvarez was named one of three national winners in the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) “Dream Big” contest for her submission on, “What Civil Engineering means to me.” She will be hosting a local private screening of the iMAX “Dream Big” movie premiere in February 2017 in Ventura County. After her appointment as the 2016-17 California Women for Agriculture (CWA) State Board Endangered Species Director, she also became the recipient of one of only two scholarships awarded by CWA to join national representatives to attend the American Agri-Women (AAW) Legislative Fly-in in Washington D.C. Additionally, her engineering firm, YCE, Inc. recently earned a Ventura Certified Green Business designation for their ongoing environmental practices.

Marta Alvarez, PE/PLS/MASCE is the founder of YCE, Inc., a boutique Ventura, California based office that provides land surveying and civil engineering services to agri-business farmers, large site developers, environmental developers, residential property owners, architects and more.

Marta knew since she was a teen that she wanted to follow in her father’s footsteps and become an engineer. In 1969, at the age of 9, Marta’s family emigrated from Chile to the United States. It was not an easy task for a family of five to get U.S. Visas and it was even harder for them to leave everyone and everything they knew and loved for the promise of a better future.

By 1984 Marta had received her Bachelor of Science in Engineering degree from California State University, Northridge (CSUN) and in 1999 she earned a Master in Business Administration (MBA), from the same university.

In 1986 Marta started YEMMA Consulting Engineers, abbreviated to YCE, Inc. The company name of YEMMA actually represents the first letters of her immediate family’s names plus their last name. It has a very personal meaning.

Marta Alvarez’ professional engineering background includes all aspects of project management and design. Marta’s long-standing civil engineering career means she has the knowledge and expertise to lead her clients through the planning and design of their specific project; whether that’s engineered plans & reports for a large scale public works improvement project, designs for a storm drainage project or hillside erosion measures on a growing farm, or land surveying to identify easements and parcel property lines.

Marta strongly believes in giving back to her community and to the fields of engineering & agriculture. She has done so through her service on the Executive Boards of the California Women for Agriculture (CWA), the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), the California Land Surveyors Association (CLSA), and the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), to name just a few. She is honored to have been selected as a winner in the ASCE “Dream Big” movie contest and is taking the opportunity to give even more by awarding two scholarships to deserving local female students pursuing degrees in engineering or agriculture. “I just really want to show young women that engineering & agriculture are viable career paths with many opportunities. It’s certainly been a great choice for me,” Marta Alvarez, PE/PLS/MASCE, founder of YCE, Inc.

Rising Star of the Year - Angela Rosales, Very Ventura Gift Shop & Gallery

Inspired by the pride and passion of living in Ventura, Angela Rosales opened Very Ventura Gift Shop & Gallery in 2013 in a tiny (less than 300 sq. ft.) space off-the-beaten-path in downtown Ventura. Today the gift shop is located right in the heart of the thriving historic downtown district in a 2200 sq. ft. space. Angela now runs the store full time and employs two sales clerks. Very Ventura Gift Shop & Gallery is a major asset for the local community, embodying the spirit of Ventura and growing the local economy. Very Ventura celebrates the city by offering a blend of fine art, upscale souvenirs and carefully curated products designed by local artisans.

Last year Angela was the recipient of the Downtown Ventura “Juni” Award, honoring her as Volunteer Merchant of the Year. Her commitment to the art community also led her to reach out to fellow merchants to implement a fun, new event called “Arts & Eats.” Happening six times per year, this is a night where the community can come together for one night and enjoy fine-art, music and tasty-bites at galleries, shops and restaurants.

Angela holds a bachelor’s degree in English and gained her operational skills through her career in Human Resources. She credits her work ethic to her father, love of learning to her mother and zest of life to her sisters. Born from parents still in their teens, there wasn’t a lot of money growing up but her parents did what they could to ready their daughters for life. When Angela turned 13, her big sister Anita was diagnosed with Leukemia.    Angela often spent weekends in the hospital tending to her ill sister so her parents could go home and then she would trade off during the week to go to school, handle chores and help raise her little sister. Anita lost her life.   But the lessons she gave Angela about living motivates her every day.

Angela does not see problems as obstacles but only opportunities to think of other ways to get where you want to go. On the days when business or financial concerns overwhelm her, she recalls her sister’s struggle and she gets up and moves forward. Her dream is to grow her company so that she cannot only make a good living for the basic things but so that she can travel and meaningfully give back to the community she loves so much.

Community Advocate of the Year - Shante Morgan-Durisseau

For Shanté Morgan-Durisseau all roads lead to effective communication across all cultural and gender lines. That’s why she has spent nearly 30 years either as a writer, editor or educator—creating opportunities to share information.

She is currently faculty at California State University, Channel Islands teaching communication and critical thinking and has worked as managing editor of digital publications at California State University, Northridge. Before joining academe, she worked as a journalist, reporting on issues ranging from Hollywood typecasting to urban sprawl.

She is the founder/owner of Morgan Communications. She is the former editor of Turning Point magazine and worked as a reporter at several publications including Copley News Service, the Daily News and the Pasadena Star-News. She has also taught journalism at California State University, Northridge and California Lutheran University.

Ms. Morgan-Durisseau has a master’s degree from the USC Annenberg School of Journalism. She graduated in 1990 from California State University, Northridge (CSUN) with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and Afro-American Studies.

Last year, Gov. Jerry Brown appointed her as the first African-American member of the 31st District Agricultural Association, Ventura County Fair Board of Directors. She is the first African-American woman to chair the Ventura County Commission for Women. She served as co-chair of the commission’s study on the Status of Women and Girls, the first comprehensive examination of this constituency in the county’s history.

She is an appointee to the Ventura County Women’s Economic Roundtable, a countywide group focused on empowerment. She is president of the CSUN Black Alumni Association, which she helped charter in 2011. She is an active member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., the largest African-American sorority in the nation, including serving as a member of the National Information and Communications Committee, Farwest Regional Journalist and the immediate past president of the Ventura County Alumnae Chapter. She is also a member of Simi Valley AAUW, Ventura County branch of NAACP and the Ventura County Women’s Political Council.

Ms. Morgan-Durisseau recently co-founded the Concerned Parents of Black Children of Moorpark to address concerns about bias and microaggressions.

She has received numerous awards both professionally and for her civic involvement including Cal State Channel Islands African American Achievement Awards, the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) District VII Award of Excellence for CSUN’s external publication, the California Newspaper Publishers Association Award, the James S. Copley Ring of Truth Award, Simi Valley Community Council Award, Xi Kappa Omega Chapter of AKA Legacy Award and the CSUN Volunteer Service Award.

She has two children and is a resident of Moorpark, Calif.

Arts Advocate of the Year - Barbara Hinton

Barbara graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara, in 1983 and received her California Teaching credential in 1987.   She taught high school English for ten years. After she ended her teaching career, she worked in sales. Four of those years were spent in the staffing industry.

After leaving staffing, she went to work for one of her former clients. When that company downsized, Barbara obtained a position at another former client’s family insurance company. In 2008, she began working for part time for RH Wealth Advisors, where she is an office assistant and handles special events for the firm.

It was also in 2008 that Hinton decided that she wanted to start an art festival in Ventura. Since she was volunteering for the Ventura Chamber of Commerce at the time and they were talking about starting a new event, she presented the idea to the leadership at the Chamber. The Ventura Art Festival was launched in 2009 as a fundraiser for the Chamber.

At the end of 2012, the new Chamber leadership decided they no longer wanted to support the festival, so she decided to manage it herself. Today, this popular annual festival, now known as the Ventura Art & Street Painting Festival, hosts artists and street painters at the Ventura Harbor venue and raises funds for local non-profit organizations.

Barbara was named the Ventura Chamber’s Volunteer of the Year in 2009. In 2011, she co-founder of a local book group, and for the last five years has volunteered for local animal rescue groups.

Hinton lives in Ventura with her husband and their five cats.   She is a part time artist, with an emphasis on fiber arts. She enjoys socializing with friends, traveling, practicing yoga and wine tasting.

Education Advocate of the Year - Tobi Jo Green, Founder & Director of The Girls Empowerment Workshop

Tobi’s work experience over the past 20 years has been related to the empowerment of individuals of all ages, including the development and implementation of environmental education programs, Facilitating Personal Empowerment and Team Building  Ropes Courses, Sexual Health Education, Sexual Assault Awareness Education, Self Defense  Instruction, Rape Crisis Counseling, Advocating for victims of sexual assault, as well as various  team coaching positions.

She has her Bachelor of Science Degree in Recreation Administration with a concentration in Environmental Education. The Girls Empowerment Workshop was developed from a combination of Tobi’s passion, experience and desire to empower young people with information, a deep self worth and a voice to go along with it.

Tobi has a son and a daughter who have both been participants in this program for several years. Tobi also owns Bobbi’s Mexican Food, with her husband Mike, in Camarillo.

Young Woman Entrepreneur of the Year - Tracie Karasik, President, TLKmultimedia

Tracie Karasik is the President of TLKmultimedia, a creative multimedia company, based in the Conejo Valley, specializing in Apple Product Training and Consulting, Video Production and Editing, Photography, and Motion Graphic services.

Founded in 2012, Tracie and her team at TLKmuiltimedia have helped hundreds of clients. Advancing her company’s mission, she works diligently to produce high quality, personalized, and consistent products and services, which aim to live up to her company’s tagline, “Where Life and Media Meet”, taking the latest in technology to enhance our everyday lives and to capture and preserve life’s most precious moments through video and photography.

As a child, Tracie was always interested in film, and as a teenager, she developed an interest in photography. While in her first year of college, Tracie’s parents purchased their first Apple computer and her world was forever changed. She discovered an immediate interest in being creative using technology. While she was in college, Tracie increased her knowledge by working at the Apple Store in Thousand Oaks. Now, over the course of her 11+ years experience using, fixing, and teaching people how to use their Apple products, she’s realized a passion for helping others understand how to use technology in their everyday lives and in their businesses.

Tracie earned her B.A. in Cinema and Television Arts and Multimedia Production from California State University, Northridge in 2011 and made the Dean’s List while earning her A.A. from Moorpark College in the area of Film and Cinema Studies.

Upon graduation, Tracie worked in multimedia departments of the film industry. However, deep down she knew she had a drive for entrepreneurship, and with the strong support and encouragement from her family she took the leap of faith that all entrepreneurs make and started her company at the age of 24. She has been successfully growing her company ever since and enjoys how each day is filled with new opportunities to challenge her abilities, skills, and determination. Tracie’s parents have always taught her to pursue and cultivate her passions, to embrace her talents, to work hard and to work smart, to strive for greatness, to be a leader, and to go out into the world to make a difference in the lives of others. She can proudly say that she’s living through that advice every day.

Tracie is very involved in her local community as an active member of the Conejo Valley Chamber of Commerce and Synergy and Emerging Leaders to consistently meet and connect with other talented business professionals in the community. Tracie also serves as board member on the Westlake High School Innovative Technology (WIT) Academy Advisory Committee, where she advises and collaborates with Academy teachers on curriculum, certification, industry trends, and employment opportunities.

Tracie is very honored and grateful to receive the 2017 Young Woman Entrepreneur of the Year Award from NAWBO VC, and is excited to connect with a group of women who share her drive to help and inspire other women reach for their dreams and pursue their passions.

NAWBO VC Member of the Year - Fern Perusse-Filzen, CPC, PCC, FLMI, Owner, FPF Coaching

Fern Perusse-Filzen is a Certified Professional Coach specializing in organizational change, transition and leadership. Working with companies large to small, Fern helps owners, management teams and front line employees effectively and successfully navigate through company change and transition.

For 35 years Fern has built a career in management, mostly in the insurance and health care industries, where she has earned several designations including being a Fellow at Life Management Institute (FLMI). Fern also holds a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Environmental/Occupational Health, is an Energy Leadership Index Master Practitioner and a COR.E Leadership Dynamics Specialist.

As the founder of FPF Coaching, Fern provides her clients with a broad spectrum of experience, from companywide strategic planning to staff leadership and goal development to quality assurance and compliance. “I always say, ‘Process plus People equals Prosper.’ I truly believe that if you invest in your employees your business will thrive,” states Fern.

The NAWBO Ventura County chapter has most certainly thrived from Fern’s leadership and coaching experience. As a dedicated NAWBO member, mentor and leader, Fern has contributed her talents to the Programs committee, has served as the Stage Manager at last year’s BRAVO awards luncheon, and is this year’s Membership Director. In her latest role, Fern ensures that all new and renewing members feel welcomed and heard. In her typical, can-do style, Fern even implemented “Your Stories,” a new feature of the chapter’s monthly newsletter where members are invited to share their stories of how they are successfully working with and supporting other member businesses. It’s been wildly successful!

Based in Santa Paula, California, with her husband, Jerry, Fern gets her energy from worldwide travel and continuous learning, and is often found volunteering her time mentoring the next batch of emerging leaders.

Keynote Speaker Susan Solovic — THE Small Business Expert

THE One Percent Edge: The Key to Remaining Relevant in Today’s Changing Market”

A woman of many talents, Susan Wilson Solovic is an award-winning serial entrepreneur, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, top 100 and USA Today bestselling author, media personality, sought-after keynote speaker, and attorney.

An Internet pioneer, Solovic was the CEO and co-founder of one of the first video-based Internet sites, a company she grew from its infancy to a million dollar plus entity. In 2006, she accepted the Stevie Award (the Oscar’s of business) on behalf of the company for the Most Innovative Company under 100 employees; that same year the company was voted the Best Investment Opportunity at a Venture Forum in the Silicon Valley.

As a media personality, Solovic is a former small business contributor for ABC News and hosted a syndicated radio program, It’s Your Biz. She appears regularly as a small business expert on Fox Business, Fox News, The Wall Street Journal’sLunch Break”, MSNBC, CNN, CNBC and many other stations across the country.  She hosted her own PBS special called Reinvent Yourself Now: Become Self-Reliant in an Unpredictable World.  Solovic is a featured blogger on numerous sites, including Entrepreneur, AT&T Business Circle,, MasterCard, Intuit, The Pulse of IT (HP) and Samsung. She has written four bestselling books, which have been translated into multiple languages.

Among her long list of honors, Solovic was recently named in the Top 10 of both SAP’s “Top 51 Potential Human Influencers” and consistently ranks in the top 5 of the “Top 100 Small Business Experts to Follow on Twitter”. She serves on the Small Business & Entrepreneurship (SBE) Council, and was honored with the Institute for Women’s Entrepreneurship Leader of Distinction Award.  Solovic has served on the National Women’s Business Council, which counsels the President, Congress, and the SBA on issues affecting women business owners, and is a past board member of the Women’s Leadership Board at Harvard University, the Women Presidents’ Organization, Women Impacting Public Policy and the Institute for the Economic Development of Women.

Mistress of Ceremonies, Mimi Donaldson Celebrated Speaker, Speech Coach & Author

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