Hudson Valley‘s power women in business. Photo by Carolyn Simpson | DoubleVision Photographers
Meet 10 extraordinary business leaders—from entrepreneurs to executives—who are redefining the region and making things happen. You’ll be inspired by their vision, passion, and remarkable stories of success.
By Linda Fears and Megan Wilson
Owner and founder, Peace in Piermont
In just three years, Katie Stoeckeler has not only launched and grown her yoga and mindfulness business, she has also become an important and beloved part of her tight-knit community. Katie, who grew up in Ellenville, started Peace in Piermont to help children and adults learn how to unwind, destress, and live in the present.
As a former special ed teacher for Head Start, Katie was well aware of the need for kids to get in touch with their emotions and wanted to help. After a career change, yoga teacher training, and a silent meditation retreat, Katie realized the profound impact of mindful living, particularly meditation, and decided to develop workshops and a curriculum to teach mindfulness practices to people of all ages.
When the pandemic hit, the Peace in Piermont team began offering virtual and outdoor classes. Katie also works with the Piermont School District leading mindfulness-based classes for students and also provides kids’ camps during school breaks.
Katie is not only committed to her business, she’s passionate about her village, too. She works regularly with the Piermont Tourism Bureau to boost visitation and regularly collaborates with other local businesses to facilite promoting one another. She also created a dedicated merchandise space in her studio to sell a variety of goods created by local artisans.
After seeing the positive impact her mindfulness teachings have had on her community, Katie began writing books to spread her message to a broader audience. Her series, Give Your Brain a Bath (giveyourbrainabath.com), covers such topics as meditation, yoga, and gratitude. Her next book, about grief and ways to cope with it, will be published in early 2022.
Advice for the next generation of female leaders? Be bold. Listen to your gut and follow what lights you up! Don’t view failure as the end, but as an opportunity to pivot.
Which power woman would you invite to dinner? Shonda Rhimes. I’m in awe of her brilliance and humble personality. Her creative work is inspiring—I’d love to learn more about what fuels her.
What do you want to accomplish next year? Find a production company to turn my books into a television series for families.
When you’re not working, where can we find you? Cuddled up with a good book and a cup of lavender tea or exploring New Paltz.
Favorite podcast? Super Soul Sunday with Oprah.
Last great show you watched? I don’t watch much TV, but The Blacklist and FBI: Most Wanted both filmed in and outside my studio last year—which was pretty cool!
What book is on your night table? American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins, Full Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabat-Zinn, and The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari by Robin Sharma.
Next vacation? Bali or Bora Bora.
Coral PS Hoh, Ph.D.
CEO at EduNational LLC, Lagrangeville
A pioneer in her field, Coral PS Hoh created Dysolve, the world’s first and only autonomous expert system for the diagnosis and treatment of learning disabilities in 2017. But her path to success was challenging.
After receiving her Ph.D in linguistics in the early 90s, Coral began volunteering to help children with language-related disorders. A friend confided in her about her son’s struggles with reading in school and told Coral that a professional evaluation was going to cost $2,000. Coral took her friend’s child on as her first patient for free. Designing the evaluation tests herself, she was able to identify his language-processing problems but didn’t know how to fix them.
Determined to find a way to correct these increasingly common issues, Coral researched and found a corrective methodology, and it worked. After 15 years treating individual cases, she launched her company in 2007 as a private practice. She led an international team to build an artificial intelligence (AI) system for dyslexia and wrote the patent application for her novel technology herself. Her AI system, Dysolve, is a noninvasive technology that diagnoses and treats dyslexia, dyscalculia, and dysgraphia. With an interface similar to that of a video game, children are able to navigate targeted activities individually using Dysolve.
Under Coral’s management, Dysolve was profitable within a year. She’s also been awarded patents by China, Japan, and South Korea, with more to come. Going forward, Coral wants to develop similar systems for other learning disabilities. Her peer-reviewed publications span seven separate disciplines, including linguistics, cognitive science, and math education, and her book on successful cases, Dyslexia Dissolved, co-written with Evan Y. Haruta, is one of the best-selling books on learning disabilities.
Favorite career moment? It’s very gratifying to see each child who has dyslexia or a learning disability overcome the condition and thrive with our Dysolve program. The whole person changes dramatically, as does their home life. We celebrate participants with award ceremonies and graduations.
Advice for the next generation of female leaders? Dream BIG. There are many long-standing problems that impact huge swaths of society. Have the courage and resilience to realize your dream. When you look ahead, there will be mountain after mountain to scale. But once you climb the first few, they will no longer seem so daunting.
Which power woman would you invite to dinner? Whoopi Goldberg. She has personal experience with dyslexia and has continued to advocate for this community.
When you’re not working, where can we find you? In a pool, in my garden, or on the other side of the globe.
What book is on your night table? ADHD Nation by Alan Schwarz.
If you weren’t in your current career, you’d be a … Artist.
Next vacation? Tokyo.
Vice President for Development and Alumni Relations, SUNY New Paltz, and executive director of the SUNY New Paltz Foundation
Erica Marks is no stranger to crafting highly successful fundraising campaigns. In 2013, after being recruited for the position of vice president of development and alumni relations and executive director of the SUNY New Paltz Foundation, Erica was immediately able to put her then 30+ years of experience to good use. A huge believer in public higher education, as well as an arts administration grad with experience managing creative programs, her role at New Paltz was a perfect fit. While Erica is not the first to hold her current positions, the strides that have been made under her direction have been remarkable. She helped create the first capital campaign, which raised $24.7 million for the school, recruited a diverse board of directors for the Foundation, has grown the scholarship endowment from $14 million to over $34 million, and much more.
Erica has developed a strong culture of philanthropy at the university. She leads fundraising efforts for the Kressner Family Autism Spectrum Program, the Student Psychological Resilience Project, supporting student mental health, and the Educational Opportunity Program and Scholars Mentorship Program, both of which benefit underrepresented students. She also put in place programs that support veterans and military families, boosted funding for students studying abroad, and contributed to the substantial growth of the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art.
Ten years ago, the Foundation, of which Erica is executive director, distributed approximately $200,000 in scholarships. In 2020, over $1 million was distributed to New Paltz students.
She created the annual Women’s Leadership Summit to bring together female thought leaders to speak with and mentor students. A year later, Erica initiated the Hudson Valley Future Summit, inviting Hudson Valley leaders as keynote speakers and presenters on an annual topic. She also launched “40 Under Forty” to showcase the talents of young alumni as well as the President’s Round Table Series, where influential individuals speak to small groups of students at the president’s invitation.
As a proponent of female business leaders, Erica set a goal of ensuring that half of the Foundation board directors are women. Her staff has been encouraged to pursue their highest career aspirations, from advanced degrees to promotions. Erica also selects student leaders for mentoring, stays in touch with them after graduation and connects them with board directors, one of whom has recruited three for her minority law internship program.
Advice for the next generation of female leaders? Don’t be so hard on yourself. Remember that self-love makes you powerful, kind, and ultimately successful.
How do you maintain a work/life balance? It’s not easy! I dance to one song every morning before work. I meditate daily. I take long walks several times a week and spend as much time as possible outdoors.
Which power woman would you invite to dinner? Nancy Pelosi—she was the first woman elected (in 2007) to serve as Speaker of the House and she’s been reelected to Congress for 34+ years. She’s a great mentor to women, and a courageous leader who gets things done, all while enjoying her family and sporting a snazzy collection of high heels!
When you’re not working, where can we find you? In my lovely, historic Kingston home, hiking around the Valley, or traveling to Paris, Norway, and Ireland.
Favorite podcast? Damali Peterman’s BreakthroughADR, it’s all about positive conflict resolution.
What book is on your night table? Cleopatra by Stacy Schiff
If you weren’t in your current career, you’d be a … Dancer in a major modern dance company—but that’s in the past. Today, I’d be a coach for philanthropists considering how to maximize the best use of their donations.
Next vacation? Norway, to see my sister and her family.
Lauren Van Pamelen
Co-owner and brewer at Tin Barn Brewing, Chester
Half of the father-daughter duo that runs Tin Barn Brewing, Lauren Van Pamelen didn’t always know that she wanted to make craft beer. After all, she spent the first 10 years of her career as an optician. But one day she bought a home brewing kit, liked what she created, and knew her corporate days were over.
Lauren earned a brewing science and engineering certificate from the American Brewer’s Guild and honed her suds-making skills in Long Island. Soon after moving to Warwick, she found the perfect tin-roofed barn to buy—and a business was born.
To make beginning a career as a brewer even more complicated, Lauren opened smack in the middle of Covid. Yet in short order, Tin Barn has become a hot spot in the Hudson Valley. On summer weekends, there were lines to get in. But there’s plenty of space now: Lauren recently completed an 8,500-sq-foot expansion with a two-level deck and live music stage. No worries when the weather gets cold, Tin Barn has a 12,000-sq-foot indoor tasting room complete with a fireplace.
Although Lauren’s business partner is her dad, Dale, she brews all the beers—she specializes in New England IPAs and fruited sours, supervises a staff of over 30, and manages the company. (Dale’s a chef who whips up truffle fries and artisan pizzas). Her days are long, but she makes time to give back. In 2020, she brewed a beer named Pink for a breast cancer benefit and raised over $5,000 for Hudson Valley Making Strides Against Breast Cancer.
Friends say Lauren was born to run a business. She discovered what she was meant to do and is making her (large) mark in the brewing industry.
Favorite career moment? At the start of Covid, I posted on social media with only two days’ notice that we were going to sell our first-ever beer in cans. I was so nervous that no one was going to show up, but we had a line of people waiting at our door to buy the beer that I made! And they all really liked it.
Advice for the next generation of female leaders? You can do anything and be anything. Work hard and find something you love. Don’t listen to people who tell you that you can’t.
Which power woman would you invite to dinner? Taylor Swift. She’s an artist who maintains her own personality and voice. I’d love to hear her side of growing up in the entertainment industry and what she dreams of doing next. Plus, I think we’d have fun!
What do you want to accomplish next year? Launch another Tin Barn Brewing in upstate New York.
When you’re not working, where can we find you? Home with my Golden Retriever or visiting craft breweries.
What book is on your night table? The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.
Next vacation? Live Aqua in Cancun to relax in the sun!
Owner, director, teacher, and performer at Vanaver Caravan, Rosendale & New Paltz
In the small Ulster County town of Rosendale, Livia Vanaver works side by side with her husband Bill running a creative nonprofit that promotes unity, peace, and understanding. If you’re thinking this sounds very ’70s, you’d be right. The two have been spreading the love for over 47 years and their community (and audiences around the world) could not be more grateful.
Livia, who studied choreography and dance at NYU, met Bill, a musician and composer, in 1971. The following year they performed their first concert together, The Coming Together Festival of Dance & Music, in New York City at Washington Square Methodist Church.
The pair loved performances that incorporated a variety of music and dance styles, and when they couldn’t find an opportunity to create the types of shows they were passionate about, they established Vanaver Caravan (which was incorporated as a non-profit in 1974). Their sons were the first CaravanKids, along with the children of other performers. Livia says they always brought the kids on tour (which now, as adults, they say was the best part of their life).
Vanaver Caravan’s exuberant shows have been presented around the country and across the globe. The organization also offers after school and evening dance classes.
Livia’s dedication to dance and community has led her to work with the Friendship Ambassadors Foundation on projects in Eastern Europe, and with the families of 9/11 victims for peace and reconciliation. Livia and Bill have also won accolades for their work, including a citation for their devotion to the community and good citizenry from the New York State Assembly.
Favorite career moment? Performing at the Bienale de la Danse in Lyons, France, where I represented the United States, and touring for the State Department as cultural ambassadors in Greece, Tunisia, Cyprus, and Italy.
Advice for the next generation of female leaders? Pay attention, keep rediscovering who you are and what you can do to make the world a better place.
What do you want to accomplish next year? I’m looking forward to passing the baton to the younger women in the company and helping to empower them to continue the work of The Vanaver Caravan.
When you’re not working, where can we find you? In the woods, walking, doing Tai Chi, visiting with my beloved friends, cooking, and being with my family.
Favorite podcast? On Being with Krista Tippett.
Last great movie you watched? Casablanca.
What book is on your night table? Red Cavalry by Isaac Babel and The Reality of Being by Jeanne de Salzmann.
Next vacation? India (where we often travel for work) and Greece.
Co-founder and director of operations, New York State Solar Farm, Modena
Out of nearly 500 SunPower resellers in the nation, there are fewer than 35 recognized as Master Dealers. New York State Solar Farm (NYSSF) in Modena is one of them—and it’s thanks to Bianca Cauchi. In the male-dominated solar power industry, Bianca has used her hard work, leadership skills, and business acumen to make a name for herself and position NYSSF as a successful female lead company.
Although she and her husband, Anthony, had initially dreamed of creating a solar farm as newly minted college grads about 12 years ago, they were met with tremendous resistance from the state. So, the entrepreneurs switched course and focused on rooftop solar panels to help homeowners become more energy independent. Since then, the company has helped over 2,000 Hudson Valley residents and businesses go solar—the equivalent, says Bianca, of planting 15,281 trees and avoiding 28,877 barrels of oil consumption.
The solar industry doesn’t just change yearly, but sometimes on a day-to-day basis. Bianca has navigated through the variety of regulations of different utility companies, suppliers, local, state, and federal institutions to ensure the company remains informed, educated, and ready to adapt as necessary.
Her biggest challenge? Convincing people to make the switch. But her team believes in the mission and are passionate about creating a greener Hudson Valley. They credit Bianca with being an excellent role model by creating a positive work environment and adhering to her motto of lifting other women as she climbs.
Advice for the next generation of female leaders? Take a “no” as a maybe, never give up, keep moving forward, and always take a moment at the end of your day to reflect, and most importantly, always pay your success forward to other women.
What do you want to accomplish next year? I would like to expand the business and our team. I also want to start a family.
Favorite phone app? Calm. I love it because you don’t need to disconnect to “meditate.” You can listen to the app while doing something else and just feel better afterward.
Last great show you watched? Countdown: Inspiration4 Mission to Space on Netflix and 100 Foot Wave on HBO.
What book is on your night table? None, I fall asleep in 10 seconds. However, a title that has transformed our business is Profit First by Mike Michalowicz.
If you weren’t in your current career, you’d be a … I grew up in an entrepreneurial family, so I would head up another organization that helps people and the environment.
Next vacation? Sicily. It’s more like a second home for me and I look forward to going back in April.
Co-founder and co-director, The Amity Foundation for Healing with Horses, Warwick
Watch Corey DeMala in action for just a few minutes and you’ll immediately notice her love for both people and horses. A psychotherapist and professional horse trainer and riding instructor, her Amity Foundation story began when Corey noticed her riding clients struggling to connect with their horses. When routine training didn’t help, she knew it must have been something affecting her clients’ lives outside of the ring.
In 2008, Corey headed back to graduate school at Fordham to gain the necessary training she would need to combine her two careers. She also received dual certification as a mental health and equine specialist from Eagala, the global standard for equine-assisted therapy. Her non-profit organization provides equine-assisted psychotherapy and coaching to a wide range of clients, but specializes in healing trauma and addiction.
Horse therapy is effective because the animals are instinctually aware of their internal and external surroundings and need to form beneficial relationships to survive. The skills that are natural to them are what humans seek to learn and improve upon in therapy, so with horses integrated into psychotherapy, the healing process from trauma is accelerated.
The foundation’s services are available at little to no cost. Amity also holds events for the local community of Warwick like a Paint and Sip in the barn, and Family Fun Days at the farm, with all proceeds going toward making equine therapy accessible to those in need. In addition to running these programs, DeMala maintains an on-location private psychotherapy practice, the Amity Counseling Center, where she sees individuals, couples, and groups for psychotherapy, coaching and trauma healing.
How do you maintain a work/life balance? It’s a work in progress. I try to make time for self-care including my own therapy (a must for therapists), plus time with my husband and furry family—two Great Danes, two cats, and a horse.
Advice for the next generation of female leaders? Stay true to yourself, learn to set boundaries, and take business classes.
Which power woman would you invite to dinner? Elizabeth Lesser, founder of The Omega Institute. Her vision and support of holistic health and women’s empowerment is inspiring and has motivated me in many ways.
What do you want to accomplish next year? Increase our addiction programs and launch our healing modality, Self-Lead Therapeutic Horsemanship to the world. I also want to continue working with my horse toward our USDF silver medal in dressage.
Favorite phone app? Beachbody on Demand.
What book is on your night table now? No Bad Parts by Richard Schwartz
If you weren’t in your current career, you’d be a … Professor.
Next vacation? St. Lucia.
Executive director, Ronald McDonald House of the Greater Hudson Valley, Valhalla
Christina Riley had always wanted to work in healthcare, but as a young single mom she struggled with balancing school and a job. In 2010, after a few years bouncing around various office management roles, she took a position as the administrative assistant for the new Ronald McDonald House of the Greater Hudson Valley (RMHGHV) and never looked back. Christina quickly fell in love with their mission: to provide a home-away-from-home for families during their child’s medical crisis, plus the resources families need to ease the emotional and financial burdens. Riley was quickly promoted to house manager of the 12-bedroom facility at Westchester Medical Center, just steps away from Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital. She quickly implemented many new programs including Meals That Heal, enlisting over 3,000 volunteers to provide daily meals for families annually, and Pet Therapy, which invites certified therapy dogs and their handlers to come to the facility to provide comfort and support.
In 2015, Christina was promoted again to director of operations—it was during this time that she realized the need for services was increasing: RMHGHV consistently had a wait list and had to turn families away. Three years later, as the new executive director, Christina created the Overflow Housing Program to offer families hotel accommodations while they waited for a room to become available. Since its opening, RMHGHV has served over 2,000 families, saving them more than $5 million in out-of-pocket lodging and meal costs. Since implementation, the pet therapy program increased their visits to three times a week due to high demand, and the Overflow Housing Program has provided 100 families with alternate accommodations to access their child’s medical treatment. Christina’s next goal? To offer programs to hospitals and pediatric care centers across the Hudson Valley that support children and families.
Advice for the next generation of female leaders? Find something that excites you. Do your best not to focus on money or status or title. Don’t go to school just to go to school if you don’t have passion for what you’re learning. When you do find something that you love, open your mind and soak in everything.
When you’re not at work, where can we find you? At home cleaning and doing laundry. But I can’t stay in for too long without getting antsy, so I try to do something fun with my family—like a local festival with my sons, a new restaurant with my husband, or singing karaoke.
Favorite podcast? Anything with Brené Brown, and Nonprofits are Messy.
Last great show you watched? Maid on Netflix. As a former single mom of two boys who was broke and struggled to buy food and pay rent, it hit home and was inspiring to watch.
What book is on your night table? The Crooked Branch by Jeanine Cummins.
Favorite phone app? Google Calendar!
If you weren’t in your current career, you’d be a … Nurse or social worker.
Next vacation? Most likely the Outer Banks with friends who I have known since elementary school. We all live in different states now and never get to be together. We’ve made it a goal for next year!
Mary Ellen Whitney
CEO and founder of STRIDE Adaptive Sports, West Sand Lake
Back in 1985, Mary Ellen Whitney was working as an adaptive physical education teacher. While conducting research within the school system on the effects of sports for the development of self-esteem, life skills, and self-image in children with disabilities, Mary Ellen knew the kids needed more than gym class.
What started out as an after-school skiing program for a handful of local children with special needs turned into STRIDE Adaptive Sports, an educational nonprofit that provides therapeutic sports and recreation programs for children and individuals with disabilities. Mary Ellen volunteered for 23 years to grow the program while maintaining her full-time position as a teacher.
By 2007, demand for STRIDE became too overwhelming for Mary Ellen to manage without a full-time staff so she decided to leave her teaching position and began leading the nonprofit as its paid CEO.
The program has grown exponentially: STRIDE now supports 18 different sports programs in 28 venues across three states in the Northeast (New York, Massachusetts, and Connecticut). Over 2,000 individuals with disabilities enjoy a variety of activities; the largest program is skiing and snowboarding, hosted at three New England resorts. STRIDE teaches over 11,000 adaptive sport lessons annually, utilizing 350+ volunteers. In 2019, Mary Ellen opened the STRIDE Health and Recreation Community Fitness Center in West Sand Lake. She is a member of the Adaptive Board of Educators for Professional Ski Instructors of America, as well as a member of the skiing leadership committee for the United States Paralympics.
Favorite career moment? As I was approaching my 50th birthday, I was at my desk staring at the STRIDE logo on my office window—a little man out of his wheelchair on top of a mountain with arms outstretched in celebration. It literally inspired me to reach higher—so I climbed Kilimanjaro that summer!
Advice for the next generation of female leaders? The era of entitlement and living within social safety nets is neither fulfilling nor a recipe for success. Reform your attitude: avoid the elevator, always take the stairs.
Which power woman would you invite to dinner? Oprah! She believes we are each responsible for our own life, and that doing your best this moment puts you in the best place for the next moment.
What do you want to accomplish next year? Begin the leadership transition for my position.
When you’re not working, where can we find you? Doing an outdoor activity, in the gym, or on an international travel adventure.
If you weren’t in your current career, you’d be a … Teacher, or working in the travel industry.
Next vacation? The Croatian coast.
Vice president, co-founder, and chief product officer at Hudson Hemp, Hudson
Melany Dobson’s involvement with Hudson Hemp began when her brother, Ben, called to tell her that he had harvested 10 acres of hemp in Hudson and that she should move back to New York from California to work with him. By that point in her career, Melany had already co-founded a temporary cannabis labor firm, People Need People, designing plant-to-product systems and managing over 40 contracted laborers.
Hudson Hemp was among the first companies licensed to grow hemp in New York State, and thanks to the unique terroir of the Hudson Valley, they had an ideal growing environment. Melany and her team work with breeders to develop cannabis genetics to create unique cultivars that thrive in our region. Their goal is to provide low-impact industrial and medicinal hemp products as key solutions to global challenges created by traditional industry—from consumer waste to social inequality. As chief product officer, Melany oversees products from conception to manufacturing launch. The company has three in-house brands.
What makes Hudson Hemp an industry pioneer? They not only produce high-quality CBD products but are dedicated to regenerative agriculture—which the company describes as farming techniques for the betterment of our planet, people, and society.
While the interest in and acceptance of CBD is growing, Melany is constantly dealing with the misinformation that conflates hemp and marijuana. But her expertise and belief in her convictions have greatly contributed to Hudson Hemp’s success; her dedication to farming that is designed to improve the earth makes her a true pioneer in the cannabis industry.
What are some challenges you’ve faced in your business? The oversupply of CBD coupled with the lack of education around how it can be useful.
Advice for the next generation of female leaders? Be fearless, fair, unapologetic, and kind. Remember to always be yourself, you are more than enough.
Which power woman would you invite to dinner? My grandmother, Karen Radkai. She was one of the first female photographers for Condé Nast.
When you’re not working, where can we find you? On a walk with my dog, making food with friends, or showing people around Hudson. I love the community and all the development that is happening here.
Favorite podcast? On Being with Krista Tippett.
What book is on your night table? This is your Mind on Plants by Michael Pollen and Call of the Reed Warbler by Charles Massey.
Last great show you watched? Fantastic Fungi on Netflix.
If you weren’t in your current career, you’d be a … Environmental lawyer advocating for the rights of the earth.
Next vacation? Portugal!