2022 Women of The Year
Every year, Utah Business honors the women who have made an impact in male-dominated industries including government, education, healthcare, nonprofits, and technology. The 2022 Women of the Year are being honored specifically for their steadfast determination to make the world a better place and the ways they forge new paths for women in the workforce. Join us in celebrating this year’s class.
SVP of Operations & CX | Gabb Wireless
At Gabb Wireless, Diane Acevedo leads a large, high-performing team with oversight of supply chain, logistics, demand planning, fulfillment, inventory management, operational systems, corporate training, technical support, customer experience, and family resources. Diane’s path has been untraditional and nonlinear. She started working in education, then legal, and finally made her way into tech. However, the common thread is being part of a mission-driven organization with an exceptional culture, a learning environment, and products and services that change the lives of children and families. Diane is excited about building a community of conscious leaders to drive change in their organizations by advocating for the underrepresented workforce: women.
Director, USANA Kids Eat | USANA Health Sciences
Various career opportunities influenced Michelle Benedict’s journey to the nonprofit sector. Working as a dance studio owner, inner city coach, and with community education dance programs in her young career gave Michelle insight into the challenges that inner-city and at-risk youth face. This experience led her to start The Kids Next Door charity organization. In 2019, Michelle joined the USANA Foundation to run and develop the Kids Eat program. She couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see how far she could take the dream. The momentum behind this effort continues to grow. Under the support of USANA Health Sciences and with Michelle’s vision and leadership, it has unlimited potential.
Worldwide VP/GM, Vascular Access Devices | BD (Becton, Dickinson and Company)
Kate Benedict is an inspirational and strategic leader with over 25 years of experience in the healthcare industry spanning medical devices, pharmaceuticals, and biologics. She is a change agent who can encourage positive, customer-focused cultures that create innovative solutions while producing above-market growth. Kate joined BD in 2016 and currently leads the company’s $2B Vascular Access business headquartered in SLC. She is excited about the future of healthcare and looks forward to leading BD in delivering transformative solutions that positively impact patient care. Kate lives in South Jordan with her husband Russ and teenage son, Cooper. She enjoys visiting national parks, skiing, hiking, and fly fishing.
Owner/Founder | Hey Grill Hey
Susie Bulloch found her passion for BBQ through a unique opportunity to develop recipes for a major grill manufacturer. Susie realized there were a lot more women cooking BBQ than were represented online or in the media, and that awareness pushed her to start her own food blog and business about BBQ. In the seven years since, Susie has been embraced and supported by that same community. She’s been featured on Food Network as a host, judge, and competitor. She taught Shaq how to spatchcock and cook his Thanksgiving turkey and launched a line of BBQ seasonings and sauces that are available internationally. Her greatest business accomplishment, however, is knowing that she helps millions of people every month to make better BBQ, feed the people they love, and become backyard BBQ heroes through her recipes and products.
Co-founder & CEO | Dónde
Rilee Buttars is a competitive, problem-solving achiever—or that’s what CliftonStrengths reports. She grew up in Idaho and always felt out of place. Her first time abroad was to India at age 19, which completely changed her life. Rilee left knowing her heart belonged everywhere else but home. She is the co-founder and CEO of Dónde, an HR tech startup that helps employers offer travel as a benefit. The mission is to make travel more accessible and to reduce the barriers that prevent people from taking time away from the office, allowing them to recharge and reconnect through travel. Rilee is excited about the “future of work” and the renewed focus on improving work-life balance and the employer/employee relationship. She’s married to her co-founder and is a mom to two girls, sparkly Blue and baby Frida Rose.
President & CEO | Suazo Business Center
Silvia’s love for entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship began in 1999 when she worked as the assistant director at the Women’s Business Center of Utah. She has over 20 years of experience working with nonprofit, government, and for-profit organizations. Her past experience includes working with executives and business owners from Fortune 500 companies, the State of Utah, Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County, and forward-looking nonprofits such as the Utah Microenterprise Loan Fund, the Austin Project, and the Goldman Sachs 10K Small Business Program. Silvia loves her community and is a fierce advocate for Utah’s Workforce and Economic Development Ecosystems. She currently serves on the Board of Trustees of eight different nominal organizations. Silvia is also the recipient of the 2020 Pathfinder Award from the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce.
Kristina Callis Duffin, MD, MS
Professor & Chair, Department of Dermatology | University of Utah Health
Kristina Callis Duffin received her MD from the University of Washington School of Medicine. She completed residencies in internal medicine at the Maine Medical Center and dermatology at the University of Utah. Her clinical and research focus is the care of patients with psoriasis. She has participated in over 60 clinical trials for new psoriasis therapies and has authored or co-authored over 120 peer-reviewed articles, reviews, and book chapters on various topics, including genetics, therapeutics, and outcome measures in psoriasis. Since 2002, she has taught investigators about clinical trial measures and partnered with the Group for Research and Assessment of Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis (GRAPPA) to develop standardized online training modules for psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis measures. She has served many leadership roles for GRAPPA and has been very active in the National Psoriasis Foundation. She is the vice-chair/chair-elect of the NPF Medical Board.
Founder & CEO | Mothers Without Borders
Kathy Headlee gives voice to the power of love. She founded Mothers Without Borders in 1989 with a mission to empower women and youth, challenge and change gender stereotypes, and protect the most vulnerable. Under her direction, Mothers Without Borders has implemented community development projects and volunteer expeditions in 13 countries across six continents. She spends several months each year living in Africa, sharing her passion for creating sustainable solutions to the HIV/AIDs crisis, mitigating intergenerational poverty, strengthening communities, as well as rescuing and rehabilitating children who are victims of human trafficking. She is excited to continue living her life promoting peace, compassion, unity, kindness, and hope in actionable ways to every corner of the world.
President | Baltic Born
After graduating a year early from high school, Allison Hunt continued her education at Brigham Young University when she was just 16 years old. In 2010, she married her husband and lived in eight states in nine years while raising her three children. Allison co-founded Baltic Born in 2016 with her two sisters as a creative outlet, and it quickly became a full-time job. The company recently moved into a 30,000-square-foot warehouse in Lehi. Allison has built an empire with her two sisters by never giving up and being able to pivot the business to fit consumers’ needs. Allison is excited to see a major global expansion with Baltic Born in 2023. She is grateful to her family and husband for their support and the opportunity to work with her two sisters.
Sandi Sumner Hendry
Founder & Owner | Minky Couture
When Sandi Sumner Hendry’s daughter became very ill, she asked for a “big baby blanket” to snuggle up with during her recovery in the hospital. At this time, Sandi created the first adult-size Minky Couture blanket. Family and friends started asking if they could purchase the blankets to give to their own loved ones, and Minky Couture was born. Sandi has now opened six beautiful retail stores throughout Utah with over 200 employees. She has received many awards through the years, including the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award and the Women in Business Athena Award. Sandi has always kept “giving back to the community” top of mind as Minky Couture has grown, and her Heart of Minky program donates thousands of Mini Minkys to NICUs all over the country. Sandi loves to “blanket the world with love” one blanket at a time.
Helen Knaggs, PhD
Head of Global Product Research & Development | Nu Skin
Helen Knaggs earned bachelor’s degrees with honors in biochemistry and pharmacology and a doctorate from the department of biochemistry and molecular biology at the University of Leeds, England. Her experience as a research biochemist in the dermatology department of Leeds General Infirmary and her work for Unilever in the United States, Europe, and Asia prepared her to develop innovative personal care and wellness solutions as Nu Skin’s head of global product research and development. During her 16 years at Nu Skin, Dr. Knaggs’ role and expertise have evolved from personal care to also include beauty devices and wellness as she manages a global R&D team of more than 50 culturally and gender-diverse scientists across multiple disciplines. Outside of her work, Dr. Knaggs loves to inspire younger generations, particularly young women, and show them that the possibilities are endless in today’s world.
President & COO | Recursion
Tina Larson has built her career at the intersection of bioengineering and mission-driven businesses seeking to improve lives. During her tenure, Recursion entered the public market in 2021 by launching the largest healthcare and biotech IPO in Utah state history (raising over $500 million), advancing four investigational medicines into clinical development, and securing two of the largest partnership deals in tech-enabled drug discovery. Tina is a 20-year veteran of the biopharma industry and held senior leadership roles at Genentech, Roche, and Achaogen prior to Recursion. She is a strong advocate for advancing women in engineering and business. She has a unique ability to build and empower exceptional leaders and teams to solve problems and drive innovation. Tina is deeply committed to Recursion’s vision to use technology to power a data-driven drug discovery process. She is excited to continue translating insights from the company’s Maps of Biology into potential new medicines that can radically improve people’s lives.
CEO | Community Action Services and Food Bank
Karen McCandless is passionate about creating thriving communities. As CEO of Community Action Services and Food Bank (CASFB) and as a former Orem City councilmember (2001-2014), she has been striving to create an environment where everyone has the opportunity to achieve their potential. The sudden death of Karen’s husband ten years ago gave her the opportunity to reconstruct her life, which led to the nonprofit world. Karen has completed coursework and clinicals to become a chaplain, volunteers with local nonprofits and Meals on Wheels, and loves being a grandma. She is excited to lead the change at CASFB as it becomes even more holistic and guest-focused.
CEO | Jane.com
Born and raised in Paris, France, Joana is a seasoned tech leader with more than 20 years of global leadership experience in building global brands and businesses, inspiring innovative thinking, and driving international growth spanning the enterprise, e-commerce, and retail industries. A veteran of the technology sector, she has held key leadership roles in sales, general management, product management, marketing, supply chain, and operations. Joana has built her career by leveraging “human leadership” and a people-first mindset. As she looks to the future, Joana is inspired to build a seller-centric marketplace to support and scale women-owned businesses and brands.
Abby Palmer Cox
First Lady of Utah | Show Up Initiative
Born and raised in the small rural town of Mount Pleasant, Abby Palmer Cox grew up on the Palmer family farm, where the values of hard work and grit were a way of life. Abby is the fifth of eight daughters and two sons. As Utah’s first lady, Abby hopes to inspire Utahns to break down the barriers that separate people from treating one another as equals. She is an outspoken advocate for “getting proximate,” connecting through our differences, and combating our country’s empathy crisis. Abby uses her platform to convene, contribute to, and champion projects related to educator wellness, promoting service as an important part of a meaningful life, raising foster care awareness, and providing sporting opportunities for children who live with intellectual disabilities. She hopes every single Utahn will get involved will the Show Up Initiative.
Dean & Professor, College of Health Professions | Weber State University
At age eight, Yasmen “Yas” Simonian already knew she was going to be involved in cancer education and research. It was a promise she had made to her maternal grandmother, who was dying of colon cancer. Years later, she joined the division of hematology/oncology, and Yas discovered her love of teaching while sharing her research with others. It became apparent that it will take the collaboration of the entire world to find a cure for cancer. While cancer would always be an important part of Yas’s research, she realized she needed to be proactively involved in healthcare and medical education. She has been teaching for over forty years and is a passionate advocate for promoting women in healthcare and women’s health, particularly in underserved populations. As Yas looks into the future, she envisions a world with equitable and advanced healthcare that encompasses global well-being for all.
Sales Director | Scorpion
Sarah Tippets is an accomplished sales leader who started her sales career more than 10 years ago. Sarah uses her sales experience to manage and mentor a team at Scorpion. Although her career has been challenging, she uses her experiences to help further sales organizations in Utah. She works closely with her team in the trenches, encouraging them and helping them further their careers. Sarah is excited to see change within the industry, be an advocate for diversity, and help pave the way for new sales leaders.
To learn more about the 2022 Women of the Year honorees, check out the video embed below and find more event photos here.