Meet the female and minority business leaders who are making a difference
Theresa Fette has proved that an eye for a lucrative opportunity and a sharp sense of timing are essential ingredients for business success.
But for the Las Vegas entrepreneur, learning to say no was an important part of the mix, too.
“When you are first starting out, you want to say yes to everything,” Fette said. “You want every kind of funding and deal you can make. Now, I know that there are some ideas that you have to say no to. You have to be more discerning. If you don’t feel like your business can grow well in that direction, there are times when you just have to decline the opportunity.”
Through a combination of a boldness and caution, Fette has crafted one of Southern Nevada’s numerous success stories by female and minority business owners and executives.
Two years after moving to Las Vegas as a partner in the tax law firm of Fette, Helquist and Park, she and her business partner Jason Helquist seized an opportunity to acquire Provident Trust Group, a company that focuses on tax and trust services and asset custody.
“The timing of that whole thing was just right,” Fette said. “It had some problems at the time and basically just needed new leadership and some new ideas.”
The fresh approach translated into dollars and serious recognition for Fette, Provident’s chief executive officer.
Over the past four years, the operation’s client assets have grown from $400 million to $3 billion. Fette expanded the staff from four to 20 people and added essential technology.
Then in August 2012, she was named one of Fortune magazine’s 10 most powerful female entrepreneurs.
Other honorees included Wildfire Interactive co-founder Victoria Ransom and CSOFT International founder Shunee Yee. Actress Jessica Alba, co-founder of The Honest Company, also made the list.
“I remember feeling a lot of surprise (when I was notified),” said Fette, who also recently was named Entrepreneur of the Year by the Las Vegas chapter of Entrepreneurs’ Organization. “To see the level of women who were on that list, I felt so honored to be recognized with other people like that.”
Speaking of exceptional people, many more exist locally. These are some other female and minority Las Vegans who have found success or supported the cause in Southern Nevada:
Candace Carr Bailey, founder
Luxury Suites International
When Candace Carr Bailey moved to Las Vegas in 2001 to become public relations manager at the Venetian, she began investing in real estate on the side. Eventually, her pastime proved more lucrative than her day job.
She co-launched a RE/MAX-affiliated real estate brokerage and property management firm in 2006. The following year, she founded Luxury Suites International, which manages about 2,500 hotel-condo units in Las Vegas, San Diego, Hawaii and the Virgin Islands.
Entrepreneurs’ Organization recently named Bailey, who holds an MBA from Harvard, Woman Entrepreneur of the Year.
In 2012, Bailey also opened My Healthy Meal, which provides a new approach to healthy eating on the run. Previously, she was involved in the opening of Assevia, a real estate transaction-related company, and Hottie Haute, a women’s online clothing boutique.
Leslie Parraguirre, founder and president
A native Las Vegan, Leslie Parraguirre opened the boutique interior design firm Colours Inc. in 1988. It specializes in luxury residential and professional atmospheres.
She is a graduate of the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising and worked under the direction of international design expert Sue Firestone for some time before returning to Las Vegas in the early 1980s. Parraguirre opened her first two firms — Design Associates and Swisher Hall Architecture — in 1984.
From 1997 to 2002, Parraguirre, in conjunction with partners Stephen and Bart Jones of Merlin Contracting and Developing, launched Et Al Studio. That was located in the Park Towers sales facility and served as an in-house design service for buyers at Park Towers, Las Vegas’ first luxury high-rise condominium project.
Renee West, president and COO
Excalibur and Luxor hotel-casinos
Before joining Excalibur, West was president and COO for Primm Valley Casino Resorts, where she managed a trio of casino-hotels at the California/Nevada state line. In Primm, she implemented a number of industry-leading programs, including developing the industry’s first full-service, on-site housing community and creating an award-winning employee transportation program.
Juan Mora, CEO
A native of Cuba, Juan Mora moved to the United States in 1960 and attended the University of Miami.
He worked for Sears Roebuck & Co. for 26 years before starting a retail product company called Pan American Industries.
He sold that company and started JS Products in 1986. It specializes in making hand, automotive, and tire service tools and supplies. He relocated the company to Las Vegas in 1994.
Mora recently was named Minority Entrepreneur of the Year by Entrepreneurs’ Organization. His company has grown from 65 to 90 employees since 2007. Its revenue last year was $126.49 million.
Kristin McMillan, president and CEO
Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce
Kristin McMillan took over the Las Vegas Chamber in May 2011 after leaving her position as vice president of external relations for CenturyLink’s western region.
Before joining CenturyLink, McMillan was co-managing shareholder of the Las Vegas office of Greenberg Traurig and a shareholder in several other Nevada law firms, including Lionel Sawyer & Collins and Hale Lane.
The chamber, which merged with the North Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce in October, is the largest business organization in Nevada. It aims to help member businesses grow and provide a voice for them in local, state and federal government.
Napoleon McCallum, president
Urban Chamber of Commerce
To many, Napoleon McCallum is best known as a member of the Los Angeles Raiders whose career was cut short by a gruesome leg injury suffered in a 1994 Monday Night Football game. But in Las Vegas, McCallum is making a name for himself promoting diversity.
As the president of the Las Vegas chapter of the Urban Chamber of Commerce, McCallum is the face of an organization that advocates for the creation, growth and general welfare of African-American businesses in Southern Nevada.
In the late ’90s, after his football career ended, McCallum started Digital Pro Graphics, a successful company he eventually sold. He has used his business experience to mentor other minority business owners, and through his position with Las Vegas Sands, has worked to pair minority suppliers with corporations that need their services.
McCallum also has served on the board of directors for the Nevada Minority Supplier Development Council and has spoken nationally on workplace diversity.
Lu Torres, president and CEO
Nevada Microenterprise Initiative
Lu Torres oversees a program essential to female entrepreneurs and other aspiring business owners.
“Our mission is to enhance the economic self-sufficiency and quality of life of low- to moderate-income individuals through entrepreneurial training, technical assistance and access to loans for new and expanding business throughout the state of Nevada,” Torres said.
The program offers a variety of entrepreneurial training classes that teach students how to make presentations to investors, how to form a business plan and how to get a business license.
“We also provide technical assistance and one-on-one coaching to business owners after they have received their funding,” Torres said. “We help them with their finances and review them routinely. If we see a trend toward losing money, we aim to correct that and turn it around.”
An example of an obstacle one businesswoman recently faced: “One of our clients tried to get a lease for her business,” Torres said. “The landlord told her to come back with her husband and then they could talk. He wouldn’t rent space to a woman. We stepped in and had some discussions with him about the legality of that. We ended up helping her find space to lease somewhere else, but those are the hurdles that women have to overcome.”
Tony Gladney, vice president of national diversity relations
Caesars Entertainment Corp.
Tony Gladney worked his way up in the casino industry.
After playing football at UNLV and spending a season in the NFL with the San Francisco 49ers, Gladney moved back to Las Vegas in 1990. He worked as a cage cashier before becoming director of the Multicultural Student Affairs Department at UNLV. In 1993, he was hired to run MGM’s Employee Outreach Program then was promoted to vice president of the company’s Community Affairs Department in 1998. He began working for the MGM Mirage in 2000 as vice president of corporate diversity.
In 2003, he left MGM for Harrah’s (now Caesars) Entertainment.
Today, he is responsible for helping to implement the company’s diversity initiatives. He is the chief liaison officer locally, regionally and nationally.
Earlier this year, Gladney was named chairman of a committee for the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce that links the organization with Fortune 1000 corporations. It is a two-year appointment.
He also received one of this year’s Señores of Distinction awards from the Latin Chamber of Commerce. Gladney was selected for his work supporting Las Vegas’ Latin business community and helping to build a stronger sense of community.
June Beland, founder, president and CEO
Women’s Chamber of Commerce
June Beland founded Nevada’s first Women’s Chamber of Commerce in May 2002.
She helped provide the vision and expertise to help female business owners and executives with their professional needs. The chamber also assists members in dealing with issues concerning women in business in City Hall, the state Capitol and the White House.
Beland is a longtime entrepreneur. She has opened a modeling school, has owned a publishing company and is a published author.
Since 2001, she also has served as director of the Nevada Association for Female Executives and Entrepreneurs for Southern Nevada.