Special Section: Women in Business

In Utah, women have a way of blazing their own trails. The state’s corporations are full of smart, capable women in leadership roles, and scrappy female entrepreneurs launch and grow businesses at impressive rates. In fact, Utah ranks among the top 10 states for growth in number and economic clout of women-owned businesses, according to the 2016 American Express Open State of Women-Owned Businesses Report. The report estimates there are nearly 84,000 women-owned firms in Utah, representing annual sales of $14 billion.

Whether leading teams and major divisions in national corporations or launching new businesses from their homes, Utah women are a force to be reckoned with. Read on to learn about some of the incredible women who are impacting their businesses and industries, all while redefining strength and leadership in the Beehive State.

Susan Hallenberg
Chief Financial Officer,
Cottonwood Residential


A few years ago, Susan Hallenberg, Chief Financial Officer of Cottonwood Residential, received a phone call from an external consultant asking her (almost in desperation) to fill an unexpected opening on their Ragnar relay team . . . just a few days before the race. Susan, who had run the Boston Marathon several times in her earlier college years, “rolled off the couch” into her running shoes. It is that kind of attitude that has helped Cottonwood Residential become one of the leading real estate companies in Utah.

Susan was raised in Massachusetts and began her career with an international accounting firm. She found her way to Salt Lake City working in real estate and her love of the mountains kept her here. In 2004, she met Daniel Shaeffer and Chad Christensen over lunch to discuss the need for a chief financial officer of a newly formed company – now Cottonwood Residential. Susan agreed to join the team and has played a vital role helping Cottonwood Residential navigate through the great recession and evolve into a fully-integrated real estate investment company. Today, Cottonwood Residential employs over 550 people (93 here in Utah), has ownership interests in $1.3 billion of real estate and manages approximately 21,000 multifamily units across the nation including Utah. Susan is a key part of the company’s success as she oversees all aspects of financial reporting, accounting, treasury, risk management and investor relations.

Daniel Shaeffer, CEO of Cottonwood Residential, said “Susan has been an integral part of building this company from the ground up and has demonstrated real creativity and flexibility in adapting to the rapid pace of growth and development of the firm.”

Her team members describe her as a strong leader and someone who is honest, professional and personable. She knows how to work and play hard and that combination has contributed greatly to Cottonwood’s culture of responsibility, empowerment and flexibility. She gives each team member a sense of ownership and the resources to accomplish the tasks at hand. When not in the office, Susan enjoys spending time with her family, skiing, biking and competing in dressage, an equestrian sport. She also volunteers in a therapy dog program, visiting various locations with her dog to provide encouragement to those in need.

From left to right:
Amy Jackson, Growth Manager
Shante Schroeder, Director of Growth
Annalee Peters, Growth Marketer


Written by Michael Ann McKinlay

Located in the heart of Utah’s Silicon Slopes, 97th Floor is leading the way when it comes to successful organizational growth as well as building sustainable and long term value for its employees. However, what truly makes this Utah-based digital marketing agency distinct is their all female Growth Team—a unique dynamic in an industry dominated by males.

“The women we’ve hired have brought a new angle, a fresh way of thinking and new thought process to the mix,“ said 97th Floor CEO and Founder Chris Bennett. “We have awesome women blazing the trail in the company and blazing the trail for those not only at 97th Floor but in Utah business.”

Leading the department is Director of Growth Shante Schroeder, a former broadcast journalist and a digital marketing and communication specialist with a master’s degree in public relations from The Newhouse School of Public Communications in New York. She was named one of Newhouse’s Top 25 Young Alumni to Watch and bronze “Stevie” winner for Woman of the Year at the 2015 American Business Awards and recently named “30 Women to Watch” by Utah Business Magazine.

“There are unique challenges we all face, whether by birth or gender, men and women alike, and we have a ways to go before there is 100% equality in all things but we’re working towards that together,” she explains. “I choose to align myself with companies and leadership that embrace similar values as I and support women in business. Our C-Suite, Chris and Wayne have done an incredible job providing a runway for all their employees, including women.”

Schroeder joined 97th Floor in 2014 as a lead enterprise digital marketer, overseeing a team of digital marketers, content managers and designers on accounts that include Adobe, Citrix, Dell, ESPN, O.C. Tanner and Zagg.

In January 2016, Schroeder was offered the opportunity to start and grow the marketing and sales department for the agency. Specifically, the Growth department at 97th Floor focuses on developing and implementing growth opportunities, as well as on-boarding clients and partners. Schroeder and her Growth Team work to identify the right strategy and services for each client by diagnosing current situations, forecasting accurate growth trajectories and creating competitive results-based performance metrics.

Soon after the transition, Schroeder onboarded Annalee Peters, growth marketer, and Amy Jackson, growth manager, each with diverse skills and in-depth knowledge of their craft.

Peters has an exceptional understanding of strategy and digital marketing, working with startups to Fortune 500 businesses, including ESPNw, Time Warner Cable, O.C. Tanner, and Discover Student Loans on all things technical SEO and data-driven based to achieve bottom-line results. She received her B.S. in behavioral science and minored in business management.

“Working at 97th Floor gives me skills that have open countless doors and opportunities,” Peters explains. “I work with some pretty incredible women on the Growth Team. They’ve become my mentors and shown me that the way I process things as a woman is my greatest strength. And that strength can be applied anywhere, even in tech and business.”

Alongside Schroeder and Peters is Jackson, who joined the growth department in May 2016. With a background in military intelligence, sales, coaching and coming from a strong entrepreneurial family, Jackson has a drive to engage people, understand objectives and see quality growth.

As Jackson explains, “It only gets better with the strong women who make up the Growth Team. Women who have experienced a lot, who have keen business acumen, good hearts, and driven minds.”

Awarded Agency of the Year at the 2014 and 2016 American Business Awards, 97th Floor is located in Lehi, UT.

Mary Crafts-Homer, CEO
Founder of Culinary Crafts


Mary Crafts-Homer’s endless creativity, rock-solid integrity, and dazzling zest for life are just the beginning of her story. She’s also an engaging keynote speaker, a go-getter for Utah, and a masterful caterer—equally adept at wowing 5,000 corporate dinner guests, and, assuring your daughter’s wedding is a magical experience. When the stakes are high, you want Mary Crafts-Homer on your team. Speaking of “steaks”, her catering company won the International Caterers Association’s (ICA) Best Barbecue Award this year. In fact, Culinary Crafts is Utah’s most awarded caterer. They’ve received more awards than we can list here!

It all started in 1984, when Mary founded Culinary Crafts with a few hundred dollars and a cache of down-home recipes from her Iowan parents. A few years into it, KBYU TV recognized Mary’s dynamic appeal and gave her her own cooking show, “Culinary Creations.” The rest is history. Culinary Crafts caters over 850 events a year. Their client list reads like a who’s who, including 2 U.S. Presidents, Diane Keaton, Oprah Winfrey, and dozens of Fortune 500 companies. Mary works tirelessly to raise the bar for catered events in Utah, and through her roles as CEO of Culinary Crafts and President Elect of the Visit Salt Lake Board, Mary is instrumental in bringing large-scale conventions, destination weddings, and millions of dollars to Utah’s economy. All this, and Mary still finds time to serve on many non-profit boards (again, too many to list here), as well as mentoring culinary and business students at Utah Valley University. And, because education is another of her passions, Mary has endowed 2 scholarships, one at the ICA, and another at UVU.

Stay tuned for the launch of Mary’s YouTube channel, “The Craft(s)”! It promises great times and many surprises while cooking with Utah food artisans. Also check out Culinary Crafts’ food blog, “TheTastingRoomSLC” for intriguing discussions about hosting events and all things culinary.

Mary and Culinary Crafts…. Catering, and a whole lot more!

Jean Marcelonis
VP of Project Management,


Jean Marcelonis joined Progrexion in 2013. As the vice president of project management, she oversees a team of project managers and business analysts, covering a variety of business functions. She also leads the company’s Change Team, which helps Progrexion effectively implement change initiatives across the organization.

In her short time at Progrexion, she has helped align efforts across the organization to create a more cohesive and collaborative environment. She has also orchestrated the creation of technology and services to help Progrexion clients launch new products intended to meet the needs of their customers at all stages of the credit journey.

Marcelonis believes that the key to success is having clarity and maintaining focus, ensuring that the organization shares a common understanding of what it is trying to achieve and why. “When we’re clear and focused, we deliver,” said Marcelonis when discussing the accomplishments of her team. Marcelonis’ unwavering drive for excellent communication has led not only to success in her career, but has created more unity and organization across Progrexion’s departments.

As the first female vice president at Progrexion, Marcelonis has loved seeing the assimilation of more women in business. She explains that women are valued and needed in the business world because of the innate strengths they bring. “Women are often skilled diplomats with the ability to listen closely and pick up on subtle nuances in conversation and behavior that are reliable indicators of understanding, agreement and commitment. I strive to leverage these strengths and have experienced success in my own career because of them,” said Marcelonis. Progrexion has a culturally diverse workforce, but Marcelonis has been pleased to also see a significant increase in female developers within the Information Technology Department.

Marcelonis graduated from the College of New Jersey where she studied political science and economics. She began her career in public relations, but soon transitioned to information technology in 1991 when she joined Bristol-Myers Squibb. After relocating to Utah, Marcelonis worked at Zions Bancorporation as vice president and senior program manager.

Susan Mooney Johnson
President and CEO of Futura Industries


Relationships Create Better Business for Buyers of Extruded Aluminum. Futura Industries President and CEO Susan Johnson is shaping more than metal. She’s forming strategic business relationships with buyers of extruded aluminum. “We supply our customers with metal parts and components used to build thousands of everyday products; if what we provide helps them build a better business, we’ve done our job,” says Johnson, who has led the 70-year-old Utah-based company since 1995.

…but it’s not all about the metal.
The same leadership style that causes Johnson to give her team more than they might expect – like an in-house primary care clinic for employees and extended families – is equally evident in Futura’s dealings with customers. The company’s focus on flexible manufacturing allows it to deliver customized, start-to-finish aluminum extrusion services to fit precise needs.

Futura’s team looks beyond the metal and considers what can be done to improve customers’ business operations.
This “working together” approach has resulted in long-term relationships with customers being the norm. Futura’s customer retention rate is well over 99 percent. For instance, Futura has been selling an important profile to a major North American Class-8 truck manufacturer for over 40 years.
This is truly the differentiating factor between Futura and others in the industry. The company creates long-term relationships of value with customers and employees, leading to great partnerships.
“Our relationships with customers add value to their businesses,” concludes Johnson. “Great metal is simply the tool we use.”