Boundary-Breakers Honored at Annual 30 Women to Watch Awards

Utah has a legion of great entrepreneurs and executives, and the women among them are doing double duty: driving a thriving economy and setting an example for other girls to follow.

On Tuesday, Utah Business recognized some of the state’s top women in the 19th annual 30 Women to Watch awards.

“The honorees are a group of extremely talented and ambitious women. They are business owners and entrepreneurs; they lead major divisions in large corporations; and they are passionate advocates of the causes they believe in,” said Utah Business publisher Donnie Welch. “We at Utah Business are pleased to be able to recognize their accomplishments and the impact they have on our community.”

Having women lead the way can benefit more than just that woman or even their families, said Gail Miller, owner and chairman of the board of the Larry H. Miller Group of Companies, who was the event’s keynote speaker.

“Each of your achievements in the business world have earned you a place of respect,” Ms. Miller said. “It’s true Utah is a strong, vibrant community of women business leaders working hard to open doors for themselves and others. … You’re making a difference not only for yourself but for women watching you and following in your footsteps.”

Ms. Miller, a self-proclaimed “late-bloomer” in the business world, recounted her own journey to becoming a leader in the community. She was content to stay home and raise the family’s children while her late husband, Larry H. Miller, built an accidental business empire of sorts—one dealership turned into one, then two, then three, then kept growing even as the Millers added the Utah Jazz, a string of movie theaters, a lending company and other business divisions to their umbrella. Ms. Miller served as a sounding board for Mr. Miller, learning the intricacies of the business as she helped him work through problems, but wasn’t directly involved until his death in 2009.

“That was when my life changed drastically. That is when I became a businesswoman. Not because I chose to be, but because I had to in order to protect and grow our legacy,” she said. “I promised myself and him that I would continue the legacy that we had built over the last 30 years and carry it into the future.”

At 64, Ms. Miller entered into the board room for the first time—and discovered that she liked it. Over the last nine years, she has found ways to learn, serve, and grow that she never would have considered before having to take the reins of the company. Today, her involvement in companies, boards, and other organizations is so prolific it’s hard to find an area of her community she hasn’t touched. And in that time, she said, she’s learned a thing or two. Among those lessons is the importance of continued learning and teaching, and the necessity of remembering the days preceding success no matter how big a company grows.

“It’s OK to be a big business, but it’s not OK to act like you’re better than anyone else. Always treat your employees and customers with respect,” she said. “I believe by learning and teaching, we can build good leaders and we need to cultivate good leadership. Don’t be afraid to step up and lead.”

Tuesday’s honorees included the President and Chair of the board for The Younique Foundation, Shelaine Maxfield and Kat Judd, Vice President of people operations with Lucid, as well as Sydney Jacques, Chief Executive Officer for Jacques and Associates and Four Foods Group Co-Founder and Chief Merchandising Officer Shauna Smith.

You can find more information on all of this year’s 30 Women to Watch honorees in our May issue.