AWBC is a national non-profit 501(c)(3) organization founded in 1998. The AWBC works to secure economic justice and entrepreneurial opportunities for women by supporting and sustaining a national network of over 100 Women’s Business Centers (WBC). WBCs help women succeed in business by providing training, mentoring, business development and financing opportunities to over 140,000 women entrepreneurs each year in every state in the union.
To join a committee, contact the committee chair.
The Executive Committee (EC) provides leadership and support to the AWBC’s board and staff in order
to expand organizational capacity and increase organizational effectiveness in the service of the AWBC’s mission. The EC consists of officers and committee chairs.
Marsha Bailey, Chair, Women’s Economic Ventures, CA
Beth Gitlin, Vice Chair, weVenture, FL
Bonnie Nawara, Secretary, GROW, MI
Elena Vasconez, Treasurer, Denver, CO
Advocacy / Public Policy Committee
Purpose: Tell our story, preserve our funding, find new champions.
Works with government relations team and members to educate elected officials and key stakeholders to ensure that WBCs have the resources and support to carry out our mission and maximize the economic impact of woman-owned business. Supports and conducts program impact research and develops written materials to demonstrate WBC program effectiveness. Builds strategic partnerships with like- minded organizations. Provides training and support to help members be effective advocates.
Purpose: Create financial stability.
Identifies and cultivates funding sources and generates funding requests.
Purpose: Recruit and engage members and build member capacity.
Develops member benefits including programs and services and conducts annual membership campaign. Identifies and contributes resources accessible through the AWBC website.
Purpose: Tell our story, expand our reach.
Develops messaging and branding strategy. Develops promotional materials including client success stories and organization profiles, generates press releases, creates newsletters. Oversees and contributes social media and website.
Antonella Pianalto joined the Association of Women's Business Centers (AWBC) in September of 2014. As President and CEO, she provides leadership to support and sustain the national network of Women's Business Centers in their efforts to secure economic justice and entrepreneurial opportunities for women. Her priorities include enhancing the AWBC's visibility and influence in the women's business development arena, increasing the membership and member engagement, and creating long-term sustainability.
Prior to joining the AWBC, Ms. Pianalto served as Vice President of Government Affairs for American Express, where she managed a broad portfolio of legislative, regulatory, public policy and advocacy issues including small business and financial services. She built and maintained relationships with key policy makers, small business groups, trade associations and other corporate teams. Ms. Pianalto developed and implemented the strategic plan for advocacy efforts in Washington D.C. to raise the profile of the American Express small business division with policy makers and influencers. She partnered with the White House, Small Business Administration, and small business groups on initiatives, including the Give Me 5% and ChallengeHer government contracting programs, and led the Small Business Saturday efforts in Washington, DC.
Prior to joining American Express, Ms. Pianalto was the Executive Director of the Interactive Travel Services Association, where she managed all aspects of the association including government relations, member relations, communication and the budget.
Ms. Pianalto held several senior positions in the Clinton Administration. As Senior Adviser to the U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom, she served as his liaison to the Embassy's 700 employees and 26 government agencies. She also led the strategic planning and implementation of the Ambassador's outreach efforts.
At the White House, Ms. Pianalto served as Deputy Assistant to the President for Presidential Personnel where she managed the selection and hiring process of the President's 5,000 appointees. She also served as Associate Administrator for Management and Administration for the Small Business Administration directing the $260 million operations of the agency's 3,600 employees and 100 locations.
Marsha Bailey is the founder and CEO of Women’s Economic Ventures and the Small Business Loan Fund of Santa Barbara. Since 1991, WEV has provided entrepreneurial training and technical assistance to over 15,000 women and men and made more than $2.8 million in loans to pre-bankable small businesses. WEV has helped more than 2500 local businesses start or expand.
Ms. Bailey has been developing educational programs and services for women since 1983 and is the primary author of WEV’s self-employment training curriculum, From Vision to Venture. She has a Master’s Degree in Communication from UCSB and a B.A. from Michigan State University in Fine Art and Sociology. She is a certified Economic Development Finance Professional.
Under Bailey’s leadership, WEV has grown from a small organization with two employees and an annual budget of $75,000 to a nationally known women’s business development organization with 11 employees and an annual budget of $1.2 million. WEV serves clients in Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties. She has served on the Board of Directors of many local organizations and is the past president of the California Association for Micro-Enterprise Opportunity.
In conjunction with her work with WEV, Ms. Bailey has mentored and trained emerging women leaders from California, Nepal and Jordan, has provided entrepreneurial training for women in Hungary, and lectured at the Sorbonne in Paris. She has provided consulting and training on organizational development and sustainability to a USAID funded women’s business organization in Amman, Jordan as well as to many U.S. organizations.
Karman Briggs is the Director of the Western Dairyland Women’s Business Center in Northern Wisconsin. Hosted by the Western Dairyland Economic Opportunity Council, a community action agency charged with alleviating poverty related conditions, the Western Dairyland WBC serves a primarily rural population with special emphasis on reaching low-income women seeking to attain economic self-sufficiency through entrepreneurship. Through the support of community partners and industry experts, the Western Dairyland WBC provides a wide range of group training opportunities, one-on-one business counseling and networking events, but is best known for hosting the annual Women’s Business Conference in Eau Claire, WI. In its fourteenth year, the Women’s Business Conference brings together approximately 500 participants for a full day of business education and networking. The Western Dairyland WBC operates a revolving loan fund, specializes in distance education and has a strong history of working with child care providers. Karman has been with the organization for 10 years, and has served as WBC Director for 4 years. At Western Dairyland, she previously worked as a Business Development Specialist, facilitated Inventor and Entrepreneur Clubs, developed a multi-vendor E-Commerce Site and managed the Youth Entrepreneurship Program. Karman is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Wisconsin Business Innovation Association, the Wisconsin Family Child Care Association, the Eau Claire Area Economic Development Corporation and the Black River Area Chamber of Commerce.
In March 2008, Amy Bunton joined Pathway Lending and currently serves as President of the newly created
Pathway Women’s Business Center. While at Pathway Lending, Amy created and launched the $50 million
Tennessee Energy Efficiency Loan Program and oversaw the execution of the Tennessee Energy Education Initiative which educated more than 2,500 individuals and companies on the benefits of sustainability and energy management practices.
Amy has extensive experience in working with entrepreneurs and has owned several businesses including a furniture manufacturing company whose most recognized piece was the button tufted “Chesterfield” sofa. Many of the distinctively styled pieces can still be seen on movie and television sets today even 20 years later.
Amy was previously at the Tennessee Valley Authority where she oversaw the TVA’s Existing Business and Industry initiatives and Economic Development Loan Funds. She conducted TVA’s efforts with power distributors, communities, and industry to create new jobs and generate capital investment in the Tennessee Valley. Under Amy's leadership, TVA funded more than $100 million in investments to firms and communities throughout the Southeast and helped create more than 200,000 jobs.
Prior to her role with TVA, Amy served as the Assistant Commissioner of Administration and Chief of Staff for the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development. She was responsible for managing the daily operations of the department including all federally funded programs such as CDBG and Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC). While at ECD, Amy also served as the Director of Existing Industry and through the Manufacturing Means Jobs Initiative, coordinated federal and state agencies to assist Tennessee's manufacturing sector. Amy's team was hailed as the Top Economic Development Group during this tenure.
Amy obtained a Bachelor of Arts Degree from Virginia Wesleyan College and a Master’s Degree in Business Administration. She has also served as a logistics analyst for the Department of Defense. Amy has been a board member of the Tennessee Manufacturing Extension Program, the Southern Automotive Women’s Forum, the Tennessee Automotive Manufacturers Association, the Nashville Association of Women Business Owners, Technology 2020, and Pathway Lending. She is the past president of Business Retention and Expansion International, a professional economic development organization committed to the economic development strategy of assisting existing business and industry. In 2013, she was named TN Sustainable Innovator of the Year.
Samira Cook-Gaines serves as the Founding Director of the Washington, DC Women’s Business Center (DC WBC). The DC WBC supports woman entrepreneurs through training, individual consultation, mentoring, and business growth through government procurement opportunities and exporting. Mrs. Cook-Gaines is responsible for providing women with the knowledge to create stable business foundations and growth through training and technical assistance. The DC WBC has assisted over 1000 women in achieving their business goals. In honor of her work with small businesses, Mrs. Cook-Gaines was recently selected as a White House Champion for Change in the area of entrepreneurship mentoring.
Throughout her public service career, Mrs. Cook-Gaines has worked to enhance community economic development in several states and local governments including New Jersey, St. Louis, and San Francisco. Her interest in community economic development has also taken her to several countries in Europe and Africa to assist in local business development. She has also served the residents of the District of Columbia as a Community Planner where she assisted Business Improvement Districts and Business Associations and as Assistant Director for Training and Education for the Department of Small and Local Business Development.
Mrs. Cook-Gaines received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts and her Master of Public Administration degree from The George Washington University located in Washington, DC. Mrs. Cook-Gaines is an active member of her Fort Lincoln neighborhood and volunteers on the Board of the Brandywine Street Association and the Association for Enterprise Opportunity.
Carmen has been with the Center for Women & Enterprise (CWE), for the past ten years. She has a diverse array of professional experience that includes an Educator, Community Resources Representative, Job Developer, Counselor for Teenagers, Spanish Interpreter and Manager. Carmen is also an entrepreneur having started a learning center in her home country, the Dominican Republic. Today she is the Senior Director of Programs & Services Delivery, for CWE’s five locations in New England. Carmen holds degrees in Social Studies (BA) and Psychology (BA) and a Master in Science-Concentration in Organizational Management and Leadership. Her hard work was showcased when Carmen was the winning recipient of the U.S. Small Business Administration’s “2010 Women in Business Champion” award and 2011 Extraordinary Women Award in Business Development as well as the “The Outstanding Dominican Community Leader” award in 2013. In 2013 Carmen was also recognized with an “Alumni award from the Latina Leadership Institute”. In 2014 Progreso Latino recognized Carmen with the “Latino Enterprise” award for her work with the Latino Business Community. The YWCA in 2015 awarded Carmen the “Women of Achievement” award, for her dedication to empowering women. Her dedication, hardworking attitude, and innovative approach make her a known leader in the fields of business, women’s leadership and community development in Rhode Island.
Beth Gitlin is principal and founder of BJG Global Consultants, an organization that provides evidence based interventions and solutions in business mentoring, leadership development, executive coaching and teamwork for leaders and their organizations to effect profitable and sustainable strategic growth. Most recently, she was, Executive Director of weVENTURE, powered by Florida Institute of Technology, a regional economic development initiative focused on accelerating sustainable business growth for womenpreneurs. weVENTURE was recognized by the SBA in 2014 and 2015 as a Regional WBC Center of Excellence and won the national WBC Center of Excellence in 2012. Ms. Gitlin was awarded the 2014 Small Business Advocate of the Year for Florida and the 2014 Space Coast Business Leader of the Year for Business Development.
Ms. Gitlin was president and owner of Global Passages, an international trade consulting company. Additionally, she has 20 plus years of experience in the retailing, manufacturing and global sourcing of consumer packaged goods. She also served 4 years as a lieutenant in the US Army Signal Corps.
Ms. Gitlin serves as Vice Chair of the national Association of Women’s Business Centers (AWBC). And, regionally, she is a board member of the East Coast Zoological Association and Lead Brevard.
Beth is an adjunct professor for Florida Tech’s Nathan M. Bisk College of Business where she has taught courses in cross cultural management and the essentials of business development to undergraduate and graduate students.
She earned an MBA degree at Chaminade University of Honolulu, an MA in Asian Studies at the University of Hawaii and an MS in Industrial/Organizational Psychology at Florida Institute of Technology. Gitlin is currently working on her dissertation researching women’s entrepreneurial leadership as a PhD Candidate in Industrial/Organizational Psychology. She serves as a Fellow for the Institute for Cross Cultural Management at Florida Tech.
Kiesha Haughton has 15 years of non-profit and entrepreneurship experience in providing economic development solutions to small businesses, NGOs, and government agencies. For the past two years, she has served as the Managing Director of the Maryland Women’s Business Center (MWBC), which provides business services to Montgomery, Prince George’s and Frederick Counties. Special business programs offered by the MWBC include: Child Care, Veteran’s Boots 2 Business, and International Trade and Advanced Technology. Kiesha is also an entrepreneur, running an international management and consulting firm in her spare time. Prior to joining the MWBC, Kiesha was the Regional Director of the Maryland Small Business and Technology Development Center, a Senior Business Consultant/Trainer, and was a Trainer/Counselor for Women Entrepreneurs of Baltimore. Kiesha holds an MBA in international business, an MA in Global Finance, Trade and Economic Integration, and a BA in Government & Politics and German.
Anne M. Janiak is the Executive Director of the Women's Enterprise Development Center Inc. (WEDC), a non-for-profit microbusiness development organization in White Plains, NY that helps women achieve economic self-sufficiency through small business development. She has been WEDC’S Executive Director since its founding in 1997 and has been active in women’s issues, local government & public policy matters in Westchester County for more than 30 years.
She is a former Mayor of the Village of Scarsdale and serves as the Executive Director of the Westchester Municipal Officials Association. She is also a former President of the Scarsdale League of Women Voters and a former chair of the Westchester County’s Women Advisory Board.
She has received several honors in recognition of her work to promote women’s business ownership including the Lillian Vernon Award from the Westchester Association of Women Business Owners and the Women's History Month Award from the African American Chamber of Commerce of Westchester and Rockland Counties. In 2005 she was inducted into Westchester County’s Women’s Hall of Fame.
She has a BA in Secondary Education from the Pennsylvania State University and a MA in Women’s History from Sarah Lawrence College.
Briles Johnson is the Executive Director of the Women’s Business Center of North Carolina. She is responsible for the continued growth, education, certification, training and advocacy of women entrepreneurs across the state. Briles’ experience includes 13 years of Economic Development, including her time with the NC Department of Commerce and NCIMED. She has also managed and operated two small businesses in North Carolina. Briles and her team have helped businesses create and retain over 600 jobs, obtain $8.5 million in capital and clients awarded over $17 million in government and private contracts.
Under Briles’ leadership, the Women’s Business Center of North Carolina was named the 2014 National “Women’s Business Center of Excellence” by the US Small Business Administration. The center was also recognized by the US SBA for the Center of Excellence for the Southeast and North Carolina. Briles also developed, created and launched NC Commerce’s BLNC.gov website and spearheaded the marketing campaign.
Briles is a graduate of Meredith College in Raleigh as well as the University of Nebrija in Madrid, Spain. She is a Certified Global Business Professional which offers clients Global Business Management, Global Marketing, Supply Chain Management and Trade Finance assistance.
Briles was recently appointed to the 5/3rd Bank Community Advisory Board, she is an Advisory Board Central Piedmont Community College’s Small Business Center, Small Business Advisory Committee Member for Vocational Rehabilitation of NC, Governing Body member for AthenaPowerLink of the Triangle, Greater Women’s Business Council Site Committee member and a mentor with The Queens Foundation.
Heather Lux oversees all daily operations in WWBIC’s Southeast Wisconsin office. She brings in vision, strategy and relationship building. Ms. Lux was formerly Director of Junior Achievement where she was responsible for special events, fund raising, networking, board development and overall program sales. Prior to that, she was the territory and regional sales manager for a large paper mill on the east coast. Ms. Lux earned her degrees in Business administration and Public Relations from Carthage College.
Ann W. Madsen is the Executive Director of The Helen Gordon Davis Center for Women in Tampa, Fl., a nonprofit whose mission is to help women succeed personally and professionally. The Center operates six distinct programs, including the only SBA-designated Women’s Business Centre (WBC) on the West Coast of Florida. Madsen, who is an experienced entrepreneur (she founded two firms), launched the Women’s Business Centre in 2013 and secured funding from the Office of Women’s Business Ownership the following year to make the national resources of the SBA available to aspiring and nascent female entrepreneurs. Ann is a former journalist whose professional experience extends across corporate, academic and nonprofit sectors.
Sharon Miller is the Chief Executive Officer of Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center, a position she had held since 1999. Her responsibilities include directing programming, fund raising, finance and administration. During her tenure, Renaissance became the San Francisco US Small Business Administration Women’s Business Center (1999), added a second location in Bayview Hunters Point (2001), merged with a third location in East Palo Alto (2007), opened a fourth site, Renaissance Marin (2012), and became the US SBA Marin County Small Business Development Center (2013).
Prior to Renaissance Sharon worked in nearly every position in a non-profit organization - from program development and operations to fundraising and public relations. She served as Executive Vice President of American Jewish World Service, a non-sectarian international development organization where her work focused on microcredit and economic development. She also was the co-founder and co-owner of an international travel wholesale company.
Bonnie Nawara is the CEO of Grand Rapids Opportunities for Women, a Women’s Business Center in Grand Rapids, MI. A former business owner, she is a facet in the local business community and was recognized as one of the Top Fifty Most Influential Women in West Michigan by Grand Rapids Business Journal in 2012 and 2013.
Bonnie owned Sir Speedy printing center for fifteen years prior to joining GROW in September of 2010. Bonnie has a wealth of knowledge in business, including start-up, finance, operational growth, human resource management, and marketing. She uses her deep understanding to lead GROW in fostering the economic development and growth of our community’s women-owned businesses.
“I was an in-the-trenches business owner, always thinking on my feet, learning as I grew and at times making critical decisions based on very few facts. I learned a lot from that experience and can transfer that knowledge to our clients. It is crucial for business owners to understand that they are not alone in making tough decisions and that they can surround themselves with experienced professionals to help them succeed.”
In addition to small business ownership, Nawara spent six years as a Planned Giving Officer for the American Cancer Society. For five years in a row she was named Top Fundraiser for the Great Lakes Division. She also spent seven years as parts manager for Freightliner of Grand Rapids—the only female parts manager in the country at that time.
Bonnie Nawara has a litany of further accomplishments. She was the first female board member for the Golden K. Kiwanis Club and founded a chapter of the Toastmasters. She has been a member of Grand Rapids Economic Club, Greater Lansing Estate Planning Council, West Michigan Estate Planning Council, and is a graduate of Leadership Grand Rapids.
Bonnie has had leadership positions with West Michigan Planned Giving, of Women Entrepreneurs, Kent County Silent Observer, National Day of Philanthropy, Michigan Women’s Foundation, and Quota International. She served two years as chairperson for the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce CEO Roundtable program, and served for ten years as facilitator of the CEO Roundtable. Additionally, she is a former mentor for United Way’s FACT Program where she mentored 3rd grade students in reading comprehension.
Bonnie is proud to serve the business community in Grand Rapids.
After a career in education, Dr. Barbara Rackley launched a totally new
career as coordinator of REI's Women's Business Center when REI Oklahoma
received its' first contract for a Women's Business Center. As the first
director of the newly created center, she was able to develop a program to
assist women entrepreneurs and has continued to modify the program as it
has expanded to provide resources for small business owners. Now in the
14th year, the REI Women's Business Center has grown from one SBA contract
serving one quarter of the state to two SBA contracts serving the entire
state of Oklahoma. In 2011 she was named Program Manager of REI's Women's
Business Center with responsibility for the statewide program.
During the 14 years, the REI WBC contracts have served over 20,000 aspiring entrepreneurs and small business owners with a staff of four covering the state. Oklahoma's enterprising entrepreneurs are provided one-on-one counseling in addition to training programs, networking events and mentoring activities.
A native of Oklahoma, Barbara completed degrees in Home Economics Education from Oklahoma State University and Southeastern Oklahoma State University with a Ph.D. in HEECS and Higher Education Administration at OSU. She taught Vocational Home Economics (Family & Consumer Science) at Caddo High School for eight years. During her 21 years at SOSU, she was the Teacher Educator and Chair of the Home Economics Department and the last eight years served as Director of Career and Placement Services. Barbara is active in many professional organizations and serves on the Board for the Women's Foundation of Oklahoma and the Association of Women's Business Centers. She was named SBA women in Business Champion of the Year for 2004 and the Women's Business Center received the SBA Women's Business Center of Excellence Award in 2011 and 2012.
Joanne Randolph is the President & CEO of the Women’s Business Center of North Alabama (WBCNA). She is the former President & CEO of BizTech, Huntsville’s technology incubator, which she helped launch in 1997.
Ms. Randolph has a bachelor’s degree in business management from the University of Alabama in Huntsville and spent the first 20 years of her career in the IT industry, working for NASA/Marshall Space Flight Center and Grumman Data Systems. Ms. Randolph began exploring small business opportunities in the early 90’s, an adventure that equipped her with experience in entrepreneurship, business management, mentoring, business incubation, international marketing, and telecommunications. In the late 90’s, Ms. Randolph applied her diverse background and expertise to the non-profit sector and found her calling.
Under Ms. Randolph’s leadership, the Women’s Business Center was selected as the Alabama 2010 “Women’s Business Center of Excellence” by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), the 2010 BBB of North Alabama Torch Award for Marketplace Ethics, and the 2007 “Non-Profit of the Year” by the Huntsville-Madison County Chamber of Commerce. The SBA selected Ms. Randolph as the 2007 “Women in Business Champion” for the State of Alabama and the 6-state region. She was also selected as the 2006 Small Business Advocate of the Year by the National Small Business Association (NSBA) for the Lower South Region comprised of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Puerto Rico, and Texas.
In 2012, Alabama Lieutenant Governor Kay Ivey appointed Ms. Randolph to the State Personnel Board, the State Employee’s Insurance Board, and the State Flexible Benefits Board.
Ms. Randolph is currently on the Board of Directors of the Association of Women’s Business Centers (AWBC), a national organization of 100+ WBCs. She is also on the Board of Directors of the Business Council of Alabama, serving on the Executive Committee as the District Chairman for North Alabama. She is currently a member of BancorpSouth Advisory Board for the Huntsville market, the Mayor’s Advisory Council for Economic Development, the Huntsville Rotary Club, the Women’s Economic Development Council, the NDIA/TVC Small Business Council, and the Huntsville Association of Small Businesses in Advanced Technology (HASBAT).
She is a graduate of the 2000 Huntsville-Madison County Leadership Class and the 2003 Leadership Alabama Class. She was the 2005-2006 Chair of the Leadership Huntsville-Madison County Alumni Association and the 2011-2012 Chair of the Leadership Management Academy, a new leadership program she helped to launch.
Elena Vasconez has more than 15 years of experience in business development, strategic
planning and organizational development. As a bilingual business consultant, she has helped
launch more than 250 businesses and has taught a variety of business courses both in English and Spanish. As the Director of the Women’s Business Center at Mi Casa Resource Center she leads a team of consultants that help more than 900 startup and existing businesses annually through affordable entrepreneurial training, micro lending, computer and financial literacy, and individual business counseling. She also manages a very successful satellite office. Under Elena’s guidance, the Small Business Administration recognized the Denver Women’s Business Center as the 2014 Women’s Business Center of Excellence for Region VIII.
Elena is an active member of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and the Association for Talent Development (ATD, formerly ASTD). She serves in the Advisory Board for Colorado Enterprise Fund, Advisory Board for Social Enterprise at Mi Casa Resource Center and, is the Chair of the Advisory Board for the Business Program at Arapahoe Community College. She also serves as the Treasurer for the AWBC.
As a business owner, she started High Impact Solutions, LLC. Elena has an MBA and a Master’s degree in Organizational Development from Azusa Pacific University.