Women of Influence Past Speakers


Tuesday, October 9, 2012: Lorna Landvik, Author & Performer

Lorna Landvik is the author of eight novels, including the bestselling Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons, Oh My Stars, and The View From Mt. Joy. Raised in Minneapolis, Minn., Landvik had wanted to be a writer from the time she learned how to read in the 1st grade. She was encouraged in these efforts by her parents and teachers, particularly her sixth grade teacher, who would send her poems to a radio program that broadcast student work. The summer after high school graduation, she worked in a plastic spoon and fork factory to pay for a trip to Europe with her best friend. For nearly a year, they hitchhiked through the continent, supplementing their income by working as chambermaids in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. Upon her return to the U.S., she briefly attended the University of Minnesota, before departing for San Francisco, where she performed stand-up comedy.

In Los Angeles, she continued to perform improvisational and stand-up comedy at The Comedy Store, The Improv, and many other clubs. To earn the living that performance wasn’t yet providing, she waitressed and temped, working at movie studios and record companies. In Los Angeles, she and her husband had their first daughter and her birth inspired them to become members of ‘The Great Peace March for Global Nuclear Disarmament.’ One thousand people began the march, but after funding fell through, over half of the marchers left, leaving 450 people to walk across the country in a grass roots movement. She considers the nine months she spent living in a tent a boot camp of sorts, although she was dazzled by the physical beauty of this country and the warmth of its people.

Moving back to Minneapolis, where her second daughter was born, she began work on her first novel, the critically-acclaimed Patty Jane’s House of Curl. She became a cast member of Dudley Riggs Brave New Workshop, a comedy and improvisational theater, and has written and starred in several plays, including On the Lam with Do and Re, The Smelt Princess and Glamour Queen. She continues to work as an actor and playwright, most currently in a one-woman, all-improvised show called Party in the RecRoom. She is also a co-host of Reading Goddess Radio, an on-air book club which should soon have a radio home.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012: Dana Nelson, Executive Director of GiveMN

Dana NelsonDana Nelson is the executive director of GiveMN. In her role, Dana helps Minnesota nonprofits of all sizes reach new and different audiences, helping people find, connect, and engage with the causes that they care about. Before joining GiveMN, Dana was at Target Corporation for six years. She led Target’s team member engagement strategy and national service initiatives, collaborating with organizations such as the Corporation for National and Community Service, Hands on Network, and the Heart of America Foundation, among others. Mrs. Nelson brings many years of nonprofit experience to GiveMN, having worked in the Minneapolis Public Schools, served as a program officer and led development efforts for a start-up nonprofit organization.

Dana has a bachelor’s degree in Spanish from Washington University. She is an active community volunteer with organizations such as Emerson Spanish Immersion Learning Center, Pillsbury House, Powderhorn Neighborhood Association, and Centro Cultural Chicano. Dana was recognized as a top young business and civic leader in the Twin Cities as a 2010 40 under Forty honoree, presented by Minneapolis-St. Paul Business Journal. In 2009, she helped launch GiveMN’s Give to the Max Day, which rallied Minnesotans around causes they care about and raised $14 million for Minnesota nonprofits. This success led GiveMN to earn the 2010 Nonprofit Mission Award for Innovation. Minnesota’s Give to the Max Days continue to be the largest online giving events in the world! She lives in Minneapolis with her husband, two sons, and two Chihuahuas. When she’s not playing ninjas or Uno with her two sons, she’s cheering on the Vikings or baking cupcakes for her friends and neighbors.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012: Mary Brainerd, President and CEO of HealthPartners

Mary Brainerd

Mary Brainerd is president and chief executive officer for Minnesota-based HealthPartners, the largest, consumer-governed, nonprofit health care organization in the nation. Under her leadership and direction, HealthPartners has experienced record growth and is often recognized as a national leader in the health care industry. In her role, Brainerd oversees more than 12,000 employees in the HealthPartners integrated system, which includes a care delivery system with more than 800 physicians at nearly 70 primary, specialty and urgent care clinics, four hospitals, a large dental practice, a 1.36 million members intop-rated medical and dental health plans, a large research foundation and an Institute for Medical Education. Brainerd has been with HealthPartners since 1992. Since that time, the organization has received numerous accolades for outstanding patient care, health plan service and its charitable community work. In addition, Brainerd is often cited for her strong business acumen and unwavering commitment to the community, with honors like the Shotwell Award for leadership in health care (2012) and the Caux Roundtable Award for outstanding citizenship (2012).

Prior to joining HealthPartners, Brainerd held senior level positions with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, including senior vice president and chief marketing officer. She was also senior vice president and chief executive officer of Blue Plus. She holds a master’s degree in business administration from the University of St. Thomas, and a bachelor-of-arts degree from the University of Minnesota. Brainerd grew up in St. Paul and is one of the founding CEOs of the Itasca Project, a group of 40 government, civic and business leaders addressing the issues that impact long-term economic growth, including jobs, education, transportation, and economic disparities. She also serves on the boards of Minnesota Life/Securian, Minnesota Council of Health Plans, The St. Paul Foundation, Minneapolis Federal Reserve, and SurModics.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012: Kathy McCuskey, CEO of Yamamoto

Kathy McCuskey

Kathy McCuskey has more than 23 years of business and consumer marketing experience specializing in business management, business and marketing strategy development, team management and growth. Her experience spans retail, healthcare, consumer goods, financial services, technology, restaurant, and outdoor and recreation with top brands like Disney/Buena Vista, Kmart, Nickelodeon, Department 56, American Express Financial Services, Dairy Queen and Suave Hair Care.

Kathy has used this wealth of experience to most recently build on the strengths and deliver future direction for Yamamoto, a full-service ad agency and one of the Twin Cities’ top 20 largest agencies. Just one year after joining as CEO, Kathy is already moving mountains. She recently led a company-wide rebranding effort that not only changed the name to literally mean “base of the mountain,” but led the agency in adopting the mantra that they “move mountains for clients” by harnessing the power of bold ideas and brilliant execution. The change has been good. 2011 was a record revenue year since the agency achieved 11 percent growth, added nine key clients to its roster and hired 12 new staff members.

Kathy’s prior experience has prepared her to lead Yamamoto’s next life. At Starkey Labs she built the multi-brand consumer marketing department from a team of four into a multi-disciplined team of more than 60 supporting millions of dollars in sales annually for the billion-dollar, international hearing health company. She has also focused on helping manufacturer/dealer organizations support their local points of distribution with marketing and advertising designed to drive traffic and increase sales. As vice president and management supervisor at Periscope she was the lead between the agency and key clients. She helped win the significant Papa Murphy corporate advertising account and went on to help secure the ad business for 14 Papa Murphy’s franchise groups. She helped the agency win a Silver Effie for the Twins Territory campaign.

Kathy has also held strategic leadership positions at other Twin Cities agencies, including Hunt Adkins and Campbell Mithun. Throughout her career, she has been known as a smart, creative and well-respected leader. She has a straightforward management style and approaches everything she does with a ferocious, can-do attitude that inspires those around her. She encourages everyone to succeed to his or her fullest potential and strives to make every work place a very positive and exciting place to do your best.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012: Jean Ketcham and C. Suzanne Bates, Aging But Dangerous

Jean Ketcham and C. Suzanne Bates—completely opposite but dear friends—started Aging But DANGEROUS.com™ in 2009 when their discussions turned from wine, weddings, and weekend get-a-ways to what was happening to their wit, wallets, and waistlines. It wasn’t just one single issue but a multitude of converging shifts in how they perceived and experienced life. Both over 50, there seemed to be a new paradigm that permeated everything they did and they wanted to help other women navigate this transitional maize. 

Aging But DANGEROUS.com inspires and empowers women over 50 to self-actualize, self-fulfill. “We unite women through truthful communication to support feeling good about who they are and what they can become.” says Jean. “It’s about reducing your “but” to overcome self-imposed boundaries,” adds Suzanne. Jean and Suzanne each had extremely successful careers prior to taking on this new venture. They now have followers in most states and in 7 countries world-wide.

Aging But DANGEROUS.com hosts three major events each year: Dispelling The Myths of Age and Fashion Show, featuring the ABD Modeling Squad (women ages 53 to 82), The Martini Jump Skydive (which set a world record two years ago), and The World’s Largest Colonoscopy Party.  Their website, AgingButDANGEROUS.com, combined with their weekly blog, monthly ABD get-togethers (SWARMS), newsletters, a new book to be published in 2013, an upcoming nude calendar, public speaking engagements, a TV show in development, and a radio show starting May 7 on KLBB 1220 AM at 9:30 Saturday mornings, keeps these “retired” women hopping!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012: Joy Teiken, Owner/Designer of Joynoëlle

Joy Teiken is the owner/designer of the independent fashion label Joynoëlle. Her ready-to-wear and bridal collections are handmade and hand-finished in her South Minneapolis atelier. Every garment is individually cut, sewn, and accented to ensure the highest of quality and attention to detail that Joy expects. This award-winning designer has been featured in many national and internationalpublications including WWD, Real Simple Magazine, and Daily Candy NYC, and has been shown on the runway in New York City, Chicago, and LA .
A self-declared “lake-kid,” Joy attributes much of her creativity to spending childhood summers at her family’s cabin on Eagle Lake, Minn. No television and a small boom box didn’t seem to matter to her and her older brother when there was so much else to do. She spends as much time as possible there with her small son and finds creative inspiration in many lake-things.

In 1989, her mother, Jane, was dying of breast cancer and Joy fashioned a beret out of a vintage dress for her mom to wear to her brother’s wedding. It was the very first thing Joy ever designed and sewed. Her mother died two weeks later and was buried in the hat…..twenty-some years later Joy still feels her mom’s presence guiding her.

Before starting Joynoëlle in 2003, Joy received her Masters in Art Education and taught at the high school level for many years. She was also a Peace Corps volunteer in Botswana, Africa from 1993 to 1996 where she learned living simply and having purpose is what makes her the most happy.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012: Ann Rooney, Head of School at The Whole
Learning School

Tami Cabrera

Prior to being named Head of School in 2006, Ann served The Whole Learning School as lead teacher, director of curriculum, and director of instruction. Ann joined The Whole Learning School because she saw the remarkable opportunity to build a program that reaches children at their instructional learning levels, and finds it tremendously satisfying to watch the growth of the students and the overwhelming effect it has on families as they see their child’s remarkable transformation. Ann’s 16-year career in education has been committed to working with the families of and with children who have special education needs. She received a Bachelor of Arts degree in K-12 special education from St. Cloud State University and a Master of Education degree from St. Mary’s University of Minnesota. She holds licensures in Specific Learning Disabilities, Developmental Cognitive Disabilities, and Emotional Behavior Disabilities. In addition to her teaching experience, Ann has been an assessment specialist and coordinator and a district development presenter for Wayzata Schools training special education teachers, regular education teachers, and paraprofessionals. Most recently, Ann has been speaking at professional conferences, including the Minnesota Autism Society and the Independent School Forum, and plans on pursuing her own educational consulting company in 2012.

February 14, 2012: Tami Cabrera, Owner of Muddy Paws Cheesecake Co.

Tami Cabrera

Tami Cabrera grew up in the restaurant industry and is the owner of Muddy Paws Cheesecake Co. After moving here from the Chicago area in 1991, Tami could not find the cheesecake she’d grown up with. After searching several years for it, she decided to make and sell her own. She rented a small hourly kitchen and within a year her business had grown enough to leave her job to take the business full-time. Today they produce some of the finest cheesecake in the nation and have won dozens of local awards. She has been featured on the Food Network, WCCO, Kare 11, Twin Cities Live, and recently was chosen to go to the White House for her work in social media. Cabrera won the Minnesota Social Media Marketer award for 2010. When she’s not at the bakery, she spends time with her four small children, her three dogs, a second small business, and she volunteers at Perspectives Inc. as a guest chef. Tami also is on the Program Advisory Committee at Le Cordon Bleu.

February 15, 2011: Sona Mehring, Founder and CEO of CaringBridge

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Sona created the first CaringBridge website during a friend’s high–risk pregnancy. With extensive experience in the information technology industry, Sona’s vision was to build upon that formative and deeply personal experience–combining the capabilities of technology with the personal needs of people facing a significant health challenge.

Sona has received the Health Care Heroes Award from Twin Cities Business magazine, been named one of 25 Women Industry Leaders in the Twin Cities by the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal, received a Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition in recognition of outstanding and invaluable service to the community, was recognized and highlighted by MSN.com as one of the nation’s leading Women Working for Change, and was an honoree at Medica’s 2004 Speaking of Women’s Health Conference.

Sona is a member of Women Business Leaders of the U.S. Health Care Industry Foundation, Minnesota Council of Nonprofits, National Health Council and the National Health Marketing Leadership Roundtable.

March 15, 2011: Tina Wilcox, CEO & Creative Director of Black

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Tina Wilcox leads retail brand agency BLACK with a rare blend of energetic creative talent, experience and insight. She’s been touted by ABC News as “The Jane Goodall of American Retailing” and is an expert in retail trend, consumer behavior, advertising, social media, store design and layout, product development and promotion, events and guerilla marketing.

Wilcox has worked with more than 250 retail chains over her 28-year career, most notably Target Stores, OfficeMax, Starbucks, The Limited, Express, Victoria’s Secret, ToysRUs, The Disney Stores, Nordstrom, Marshall Field’s and Best Buy. She also has worked extensively with top consumer and retail manufacturers, including Estee Lauder, Coca-Cola, Nike, Procter and Gamble, Iams, Hanes, Disney, General Mills, Crayola and Mattel, and with production studios Disney, Universal and DreamWorks Animation SKG, and was responsible for the retail rollout of Shrek 2.

Wilcox co-founded BLACK in 2004. She was previously founder, president and chief creative officer of FAME, A Retail Brand Agency. Wilcox led FAME to $100 million in annuals billings over her 15-year tenure. All proceeds benefited The Humane Society.

April 19: Karen Sorbo, Professional Fundraising Auctioneer

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Karen Sorbo transforms the serious business of raising funds for worthy causes into carefully choreographed and highly entertaining events. Her clients are nonprofit organizations who seek fresh resources of revenue for their programming costs. Karen’s energetic stage personality, coupled with an astute business sense, make her one of the leading fundraising auctioneers across the United States and Mexico. Since 1993, she’s conducted over 1900 auctions with total earnings topping $150 million. Such strong outcomes are due to Karen’s knack for building empathy for the clients’ cause and igniting audience excitement into lively, competitive bidding.

A passionate and outspoken advocate for those in need, Karen also serves as a motivational speaker. She describes her personal triumph over childhood hardships and other traumas as encouragement for audience members to set aside their painful memories, reinvent their lives, and find their “Blessing.” Karen has received numerous honors and recognition. In 1991 she was crowned Mrs. Minnesota International. She has been featured in both local and national publications & TV for her auction specialty. As auctioneer, she has received the counselor of the Year Award and was recognized as one of the Leading Fundraising Auctioneers by the National Auctioneer Association. In 2009, she served as a judge for the prestigious title of International Auctioneer Champion. Karen is also listed in the International Who’s Who of Entrepreneurs.

May 17: Gail Rosenblum, Star Tribune Columnist

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Gail Rosenblum is a columnist for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, writing two to three columns a week on current issues, trends, and the complexities of human relationships. Gail joined the Star Tribune in 2000 as Variety Team Leader, and returned to full-time writing in 2005, covering the unique “relationships” beat. She was named a columnist in 2009. Before coming to the Star Tribune, Gail worked for nearly 20 years as a reporter, editor, and essayist for many newspapers and national magazines, focusing on family issues and women’s health.

She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of New Mexico and a master’s degree in journalism, with a concentration in public health, from the University of Minnesota. She has appeared many times as a guest on the Lori and Julia Show on 107 FM, as well as on KSTP/1500 AM, and KLBB of Stillwater. She has also taught writing at the University of Minnesota and the Loft Literary Center. Gail’s writing has garnered awards from the Associated Press, American Association of Sunday and Feature Editors, and the Society of Professional Journalists in Minnesota and Texas. Her first book, A Hundred Lives Since Then: Essays on Motherhood, Marriage, Mortality and More, will be published this Spring (2011) by Nodin Press. Gail is the mother of three children.

June 21: Heidi Collins, Fox 9 Anchor

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Heidi CollinsHeidi Collins came to KMSP from CNN in Atlanta and New York, where she was a news anchor and correspondent for eight years, three of which were spent as anchor of ‘CNN Newsroom with Heidi Collins.” Before that, she spent three years with KUSA-TV in Denver. Earlier, Collins was the main anchor for KKTV-TV in Colorado Springs, Colorado. She began her broadcast career as a news anchor and reporter for KFDX-TV in Wichita Falls, Texas.
In addition to reporting on and interviewing world leaders and U.S. Presidents for CNN, Collins has several other impressive journalistic accomplishments on her resume. She is the recipient of a Peabody, Alfred I. duPont, Associated Press and three Edward R. Murrow awards. Heidi holds a Bachelor of Science in Journalism from the University of Maryland. She’s a Twin Cities native and Mounds View High School graduate. Proceeds benefitted R.O.C.K. (Raising Our Celiac Kids).


August 16: Jane and Marni, Creators of Hollywood Fashion Tape

Co-owners and Fashion Fairy Godmothers, Jane Dailey and Marni Bumsted are dedicated toward preventing wardrobe malfunctions. It was a hapless gaping sweater in need of clusire that inspired the product that started it all: Hollywood Fashion Tape. Over 10 years, they have expanded the line to 25 fashion solution products and are fortunate enough to be working with wonderful specialty stores and boutiwues as well as larger retailers both domestically and internationally. Proceeds benefited Dress for Success.


September 20, 2011: Patricia Mitchell, CEO of the Ordway Center

Patricia Mitchell joined Ordway Center for the Performing Arts as President and CEO in August 2007. Mitchell began her career as Director of Community Services for The Guthrie Theater, and then joined Minneapolis-based Arts Development Associates, a national consulting firm providing services in research, planning, program development, and marketing to artists, arts organizations, and cultural agencies. She served as Executive Director of San Francisco Opera, and subsequently for Los Angeles Opera. In 2000, she was named Chief Operating Officer of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, where she oversaw Marketing & Communications, Finance & Administration, Education, and Government Relations. In addition, she was responsible for overall management and supervision of the Hollywood Bowl, an 18,000 seat outdoor amphitheater featuring a wide variety of classical, popular, jazz, and world music events each summer. She also managed a construction project resulting in a new $25M shell for the Hollywood Bowl. Mitchell currently serves on the Cultural STAR Board and RiverCentre Convention and Visitors Authority Board. Proceeds benefited the Minnesota Literacy Council.


October 18, 2011: Dr. Jennifer Dankle, Fairview

Jennifer grew up in Iowa, in a family of eight. She is the sixth doctor in her immediate family. She received her undergraduate degree in biology from the University of Iowa and a medical degree from DesMoines University, completed her internal medicine residency at the U of M, and completed a fellowship in cardiovascular medicine at UW-Milwaukee. Jennifer believes that the current cardiovascular medicine and technologies including better imaging modalities with reduced risk (ie radiation exposure) have contributed to a longer lifespan and better quality of life for those who suffer from heart disease. The mortality rates over the last 20-30 years continue to decline for both men and women. However, there is a gender gap in mortality rates, with more women dying from heart disease than men each year. Jennifer has focused her practice on tackling this issue by improving/providing community education, offering a primary prevention women’s clinic, and starting a support group for young women suffering with heart disease.