Meet Our 2022 Women in Business Award Winners

This dynamic dozen exemplifies what it means to be high-achieving and stewards of the Hudson Valley region.

From Kingston’s first female council president to a remarkable young winemaker to a mover and shaker who heads up tourism for the entire Hudson Valley, this group will inspire you with their stories of success and genuine passion to empower communities.

women in business

Josayne Anderson-Tejera

Executive Director of The Love Quest Foundation

Josayne Anderson-Tejera

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Josayne Anderson-Tejera’s motivation to create The Love Quest Foundation was her personal experience with domestic violence. “I became pregnant during my junior year in college and was [abused by] the biological father of my daughter, who is now twenty years old,” she explains. “I wanted more for myself, for her, and for everyone in similar situations.”

The organization started in 2004 (under another name) while Anderson-Tejera was a student at the University of Hartford. To help herself heal from the trauma, she began writing down her deepest feelings and experiences. Eventually, she collaborated with musicians on the East and West Coast, putting some of her prose to music. “I believe music is a universal love language,” says Anderson-Tejera. “It inspires, enlightens, and empowers.”

Today Love Quest “breaks the silence surrounding intimate partner and teen dating violence, domestic abuse, and sexual assault,” by hosting awareness and prevention campaigns with Hudson Valley youth including songwriting bootcamps and six-week workshops. “I wish there had been somewhere I could have gone [as an abused, pregnant student],” says Anderson-Tejera. “I want to provide young people experiencing trauma an opportunity to express themselves, learn to advocate for themselves, and help them build confidence. I want to provide answers to the questions I would have told my younger self.”

Career highlight? Writing songs about my personal experience that become anthems for our participants and serve as the music components for our awareness and prevention campaign videos.

Which power woman would you invite to dinner? Valeisha Butterfield Jones, co-president of the Recording Academy. Her versatility and career trajectory is rooted in service, commitment, and a passion for music. She continues to shift cultures and inspires so many people.

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When you’re not working, where are you? Traveling with my family anywhere and everywhere.

Favorite podcast? “Unshakeable Woman,” by Cheryl Stabler in collaboration with UnCommon Gospel Magazine.

What are you reading? Thrive Through It: A Guide to Redefine Resilience, Communicate with Empathy, and Practice Allyship in Your Life and Business by Brittany Cole.

If you weren’t in your current career, you’d be a… Full-time author.

Next vacation destination? I’d love to go to Ghana for Afrochella.

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Amanda Dana

President of Hudson Valley Tourism • Director of Tourism and Film for Orange County

Amanda women in business

Amanda Dana has two big jobs. As president of Hudson Valley Tourism, she presides over the 10-county board of directors and is responsible for promoting the region and creating marketing initiatives that attract visitors. Dana is also the point person for communications with Empire State Development and helps bring funding to the HV. When she’s not busy with that position, she manages a team of marketing and film professionals as the director of Orange County Tourism and Film. The group works to attract visitors and production companies to Orange. “In both of these roles, I work with incredibly talented tourism professionals who work hard building marketing strategies that will increase visitation to our areas,” says Dana, who adds that she’s always had her toes in the water with hospitality and tourism, starting back in college at Binghamton University when she worked in hotels. “I’ve always felt very strongly that every bit of tourism is economic development,” says Dana, “and in fact, it should be no surprise that the Hudson Valley is one of the fastest growing tourism regions in New York State—with visitor spending at $3.8 billion in 2021.”

Which power woman would you invite to dinner? Judge Judy. She is real and smart and she would tell you exactly what’s on her mind.

When you’re not working, where are you? With my kids—cooking and watching comedies.

Favorite phone app? Pinterest.

Last great show you watched? “Big Little Lies.”

What are you reading? Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens.

If you weren’t in your current career, you’d be a… Sports commentator.

Next vacation destination? Naples, Florida.

Alexandria Gilleo

Owner of My Zen Den

Alexandria women in business

When Alexandria Gilleo was 18, she began her career as a makeup artist because, she says, “I love making others feel beautiful, and I love talking and connecting with people of all walks of life—whether it’s a famous actor, a World Cup athlete, or your neighbor down the street. I find inspiration from each individual and that lights up my soul.”

Gilleo opened My Zen Den in Beacon during the pandemic when her makeup business came to a screeching halt. She took a big risk and chose to invest in her own wellness brand. My Zen Den offers red light therapy, infrared sauna, and holistic facials in addition to mediation classes, breathwork workshops, women’s wellness circles, and more. She focuses on skincare and overall wellbeing as well as education on stress management and how to follow a healthy lifestyle.

Career highlight? I was featured in Forbes just a few months after I opened My Zen Den. They wrote all about my new business and my favorite wellness spots to visit in the region. When I browsed through the digital version and saw my face, it was such a pinch-me moment!

Which power woman would you invite to dinner? Cleopatra. She was highly intelligent and ruled a kingdom when she was only 18. She spoke many languages, was a major influence in art, fashion, and beauty, and was determined to fight for her country in a world dominated by men. Talk about boss-lady vibes.

When you’re not working, where are you? Wandering in nature or in the sauna with a good book.

Favorite podcast? “The School of Greatness” by Lewis Howes.

Last great show you watched? I just finished “The Roman Empire.” I love ancient history.

If you weren’t in your current career, you’d be a… Farmer or herbalist. But hey, it’s never too late, you can never know what the future holds.

Next vacation destination? Spain!

Melanie Hasbrook

Director of Advancement and Marketing at The Olana Partnership

Melanie Hasbrook Women in Business

In 2007, as a recent college graduate with a degree in marketing and management, Melanie Hasbrook accepted an entry level position in the Development Office at The Olana Partnership, a private, not-for-profit education corporation that works cooperatively with New York State Parks to support the restoration, conservation, and interpretation of Olana State Historic Site in Hudson. “I never imagined that my role would grow with the organization,” says Hasbrook.

Her current position as the director of advancement and marketing has her overseeing both the development and communications departments which includes marketing, communications, membership, volunteers, grants, events, design, and fundraising. For Hasbrook the job is “the right blend of business and loving what you do. Every day presents new challenges and opportunities. I’m always learning and meeting new people.”

Career highlight? In 2019, I led the research, development, and implementation of a customer relationship management system (CRM), the first on site. This included the upgrade of Olana’s website and in-store sales system. The first successful online sales were very exciting—the CRM has completely transformed the visitor experience and our operations.

Which power woman would you invite to dinner? Katherine Wolfe of Hope Heals. Her story is so inspiring. She has faced many physical challenges and continues to have a positive outlook on life, teaching others to have hope.

When you’re not working, where are you? Taking lots of photos and enjoying the outdoors—you’ll find me hiking, walking, snowshoeing, and definitely kayaking.

Favorite podcast? “How I Built This.” I’m always interested to hear how businesses get started and become successful.

Favorite phone app? I recently downloaded the Merlin app and am now using it everywhere I go to learn what birds are singing in different habitats.

Last great show you watched? “Poldark.”

If you weren’t in your current career, you’d be a… Traveling nature photographer.

Kia Hitt

Assistant Winemaker at City Winery Hudson Valley

Kia Hitt women in business

Hitt was working in New Zealand when she interviewed for her position. “When I arrived in 2019, there was literally no winery,” she says. “Our team installed tanks, moved in barrels, and set up the winery lab. We managed to transform an empty room with piles of rubble into a fully operational winery ready to ferment grapes for the 2019 vintage in just a few months.”

Today Hitt oversees a winemaking team and a busy schedule. Although every City Winery (there are 12 in all) makes wine on site, the Hudson Valley location serves as the main winemaking and supply hub. In addition to managing fermentations, Hitt and her crew stay busy fulfilling orders for the New York City Winery locations and supplying wine for their onsite tasting bar, restaurant, and concert and wedding space. The rest of the year is all about blending, lab analysis, kegging, bottling, and vineyard maintenance. “Despite the hard work and challenges, it’s incredibly rewarding to make a craft beverage for customers to enjoy, and I get to make it with the best cellar crew!”

Career highlight? Every day feels like an accomplishment when you’re part of the 10 percent of women who make up the winemaking industry in the country.

Which power woman would you invite to dinner? Michelle Yeoh. Her role in “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” taught me at a young age that a small Asian woman could be beautiful, powerful, and not be afraid to kick some butt.

When you’re not working, where are you? Playing and coaching volleyball, cooking and baking, and traveling with my husband and dog. We’ve also been busy renovating our house and growing our permaculture farm.

Favorite podcast? “Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend.”

What are you reading? Uncultivated by Andy Brennen.

If you weren’t in your current career, you’d be a… Psychiatrist.

Lauren Johnson

Founder and CEO of The Hyacinth Group

Lauren women in business

Throughout her 12-year-long career as a digital specialist, Johnson was laser-focused on finding a full-time digital job and frequently felt like she was failing. But, through the help of a career coach, Johnson realized she had a history of helping major brands like Victoria’s Secret, Steve Madden, and Aerosoles dominate online, resulting in millions of dollars in sales.

“My coach said if I could make those brands millions, why not do the same for myself? So, after six years of trying to find the perfect position, I created one by starting my own marketing agency,” she says. The goal of The Hyacinth Group, which Johnson launched three years ago, is to convert online browsers into buyers by making websites work smarter. “I’ve strived to be a thought leader in the digital space. Sharing my knowledge with companies, students, and local women-based organizations has resulted in over 73 percent of our clientele being women-led businesses.”

Career highlight? Having the opportunity to talk about my business in Women’s Wear Daily. I started my career in fashion, and WWD is the holy grail for fashion news. I felt like I finally made it.

Which power woman would you invite to dinner? Bozoma Saint John. She was the head of marketing at big tech companies like Netflix, Uber, and Apple Music. She’s also an entrepreneur and mother. I’d love to hear how she climbed the corporate ladder as a woman of color.

When you’re not working, where are you? Traveling the world and checking off places on my bucket list. I also love yoga and sharing meals with family and friends.

Favorite phone app? As CEO of a remote agency, my Google Drive app is my lifeline.

Last great show you watched? “The Serpent Queen” and “House of the Dragon.”

If you weren’t in your current career, you’d be a… Lawyer.

Next vacation destination? Africa.

Susan Johnson

Co-Founder and Managing Director of Denning’s Point Distillery

Susan Johnson

Susan Johnson handles all sales and marketing, brand strategy, business development, product development, and weekend hospitality for visitor tastings and cocktails at Denning’s Point. With her background in sales, marketing, and design, and her partner Karl Johnson’s 25-plus years of chemical engineering distilling experience—the two took the leap and launched their business in Beacon in 2014.

“Our motivation to start the distillery was to draw on local agricultural abundance to create a modern interpretation of classic spirits,” says Johnson. “We have a full complement of best-in-class spirits including Beacon Bourbon, Great 9 Gin, Beacon Apple Brandy, Viskill Vodka, and more that represent the best in New York craft spirits,” she says. “Equally important to us has been to shine a light on our rich local history through our packaging. Each bottle points to an important aspect of our place within New York. Even the signature turquoise wax on our bottles draws on local history—during the Revolutionary War, the officers wore a turquoise sash to distinguish themselves from the foot soldiers.”

Career highlight? Every time someone tastes our spirits and their eyes light up.

Which power woman would you invite to dinner? I’m fascinated by women who have made a successful business out of something that didn’t exist before like [Spanx creator] Sarah Blakely. I’d love to find out how her mind works. Plus, she seems like a lovely person.

Favorite podcast? “The Daily Stoic” by Ryan Holiday. I love that ancient philosophy is as relevant today as ever.

Last great show you watched? “Succession.” I think it’s the most well-written and acted show ever. While I impatiently await the next season, I’m re-watching “Mad Men.” It blows my mind that everyone had a bar cart in their office—our bottles would have fit right in that show.

What are you reading? I just finished Haruki Murakami’s Sputnik Sweetheart.

If you weren’t in your current career, you’d be a… Mentor to other women in business.

Next vacation destination? Berlin. I’m very excited that Play Airlines has come to Stewart Airport!

Maureen Lashlee

CEO at Habitat for Humanity of Dutchess County

Maureen Lashlee

Maureen Lashlee’s primary goal at Habitat for Humanity is to build safe, healthy, and financially sustainable homes for working families who are unable to afford fair market value. “I’ve worked in the anti-poverty world since 1987, starting as the manager of Southern Dutchess Programs for the YWCA of Dutchess County, providing personal development classes, health classes, and youth programming,” she says.

After her time at the Y, Lashlee moved to the anti-poverty agency for Dutchess County, The Community Action Agency, now called the Community Action Partnership (CAP). “When I started we were a Band-Aid on poverty, but over my 19 years there we truly experienced a paradigm shift. We added matched saving accounts, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Dress for Success, and Central Hudson’s Powerful Opportunity Program (POP) to help low-income families living in high energy usage homes reduce their consumption.”

She joined Habitat 10 years ago as CEO. As a result of Lashlee and her team’s hard work, MacKenzie Scott (ex-wife of Jeff Bezos) recently awarded Habitat Dutchess an unsolicited and unrestricted $1.25 million grant. Her role, she says, is “an opportunity to work with families who are forging a pathway to a financially healthy life and to create equity and community connections. I believe we are all called to leave this world better than we found it and Habitat gives me the opportunity to do that.”

Career highlight? The dedication of my first Habitat home as the CEO, and the privilege of watching the growth of that family over the past 10 years.

Which power woman would you invite to dinner? Dorothy Day, activist and founder of the Catholic Worker movement. Her life stood for all that is good in humankind.

When you’re not working, where are you? You’ll find me with my grandchildren. I can even get time on the golf course now that they are learning the game. I love the beach and luckily they do, too. Fishing, reading, and gardening fill out my leisure time.

Last great show you watched? “Five Days at Memorial.”

What are you reading? Several books—Three Sisters by Heather Morris, Life is Messy by Matthew Kelly, and Blink by Malcolm Gladwell.

If you weren’t in your current career, you’d be an… Archeologist.

Next vacation destination? Ireland.

Damali Peterman

Founder and CEO of Breakthrough ADR, LLC.

Damali Peterman

As an attorney and mediator since 2009 and 2000, respectively, Damali Peterman was frequently involved in conflict resolution. She studied international policies and conflict resolution in grad school and at The Hague in the Netherlands. “I was a mediator before I became a lawyer, which is rare in my industry,” explains Peterman. When she realized that there were crucial steps individuals could take to prevent disputes from escalating, she started Breakthrough ADR (Alternative Dispute Resolution), a global conflict resolution firm that teaches people how to listen, negotiate, and resolve conflict in the workplace and beyond.

“Conflicts lead to inefficiencies, the loss of good employees, stress on relationships and, at times, the involvement of law enforcement in non-emergency matters,” she says. “Breakthrough ADR offers creative solutions for training people to effectively navigate conflict; we are also a trusted third party to help resolve disputes. I want my company to provide a variety of options that people never knew existed.”

Career highlight? The opportunity to train hundreds of New York City police officers in conflict de-escalation and how to use their words instead of their weapons.

Which power woman would you invite to dinner? Mellody Hobson, the president and co-CEO of Ariel Investments and chairwoman of Starbucks Corporation. I would love to learn more about her entrepreneurial endeavors and her board work. Her 2014 TedTalk “Color Blind or Color Brave” was very enlightening.

When you’re not working, where are you? In the library working on my negotiations book or at the gym working out with a Crossfit trainer.

Favorite podcast? Can I choose my own? “Breakthrough Barriers with Damali.”

Last great movie you watched? “The Woman King.”

What are you reading? Finding Me by Viola Davis.

If you weren’t in your current career, you’d be a… Professional percussionist.

Next vacation destination? Indonesia.

Niraj Sharma, M.D.

Cardinal Spine & Pain Medicine

Niraj Sharma, M.D.

When Niraj Sharma decided to focus on interventional spine and pain medicine after medical school, a year-long internship, three years of residency (including one as chief resident), and one year in a fellowship program, she was entering a male-dominated field.

“As far back as I can remember, all I ever wanted was to be a doctor,” says Dr. Sharma. “The internet was not widely available at the time, so navigating the pre-med/medical school process was quite daunting. I had nobody to guide me…I had to prove my mettle many times over my male counterparts,” she says.

After working in different settings, Dr. Sharma decided she wanted to practice medicine her way and spend as much time as she wanted with her patients, so 10 years ago she ventured out on her own. “I knew nothing about business when I opened my practice, but I learned quickly. It’s been a balancing act between working and spending time with my family, but it has only made me stronger.”

Dr. Sharma is board certified in two specialties—pain medicine and physical medicine and rehab, which she says allows her to treat more body parts. She named her practice after cardinals because, “Improving function and decreasing pain makes individuals feel less weighed down and free as a bird. Our motto is ‘Let Life Take Flight.’”

Career highlight? When my patients, colleagues, friends, and family showed up to my ribbon cutting ceremony. It was standing room only. I was overwhelmed by the support.

Which power woman would you invite to dinner? Ruth Bader Ginsberg. She is one of the reasons I can have my own business credit card!

When you’re not working, where are you? On the soccer field with my family.

Last great movie you watched? “The Terminator.” It’s hard to top this classic!

If you weren’t in your current career, you’d be a… Pastry chef.

Next vacation destination? Egypt sounds fascinating.

Andrea Shaut

Pianist • President of the Common Council of Kingston

Andrea Shaut

Andrea Shaut has two very different professional roles—she is a pianist and a government official—and she excels at both. “I played my first gig at age 14 and I’ve had an amazing career ever since,” says Shaut. Although she has performed everywhere from Lincoln Center to the Grand Ole Opry, she says her proudest years were when she started the Hudson Valley Recital Project. “Through curated concerts, I raised awareness and money for different causes,” explains Shaut. For one of those “projects,” she played piano for 12 hours straight to raise $6,000 for pancreatic cancer research. She is also the pianist for the West Point Glee Club and teaches piano lessons.

Shaut is equally passionate about her civic duty. “As much as I adore music, I had a strong urge to do more for my community, which is why I ran for office,” says Shaut. “That same urge was the reason I now attend Albany Law School as a first-year student. I want to use my drive and discipline to help as many people as I can—through music and public service.”

Career highlight? When my niece held the Constitution as I took the oath to serve as the first female council president in Kingston’s history. I have a photo on my desk of the two of us hugging. It reminds me daily how important being the first is.

Which power woman would you invite to dinner? Attorney General Letitia James for career advice!

When you’re not working, where are you? In the mountains. I love hiking and am so grateful for the beautiful nature in the Hudson Valley.

Favorite phone app? OverDrive. I download library books to listen to while I’m driving, working out, and cleaning the house.

What are you reading? Antiblackness by Moon-Kie Jung, Grit by Angela Duckworth, and my law school textbooks.

If you weren’t in your current career, you’d be a… Lawyer!

Next vacation destination? I dream of taking my partner to Italy, but not until law school is over.

Rebecca Simpson, LMSW, LNHA

Administrator at The Pines at Poughkeepsie

Rebecca Simpson, LMSW, LNHA

In 2010, Rebecca Simpson worked in sales at Jenny Craig and had a health scare. “[It] made me re-evaluate my life on every level. I wanted more. I realized I could be a good mother to my children, a good wife, and an executive—I did not have to choose,” she says. Soon after, she decided to pursue a master’s degree in social work. She was interested in working with people who were suffering from addiction and asked to be in a rehab setting. “I was placed at The Pines at Poughkeepsie, which is a medical rehabilitation center. I had never been interested in working with seniors or in healthcare to be honest, but my advisor told me my learning experience would be enhanced if I interned outside of my comfort zone.”

Simpson reluctantly stuck it out at The Pines. “Two weeks after I started, I was talking with a resident in the dining room and I felt completely content.” She knew it was a sign she was where she was meant to be and worked her way up to the administrator. Her role involves resolving issues, ensuring communication, building relationships with residents, staff, family members, and more.

Which power woman would you invite to dinner? Hillary Clinton. I envision us drinking Chardonnay and discussing the perils of politics for women.

When you’re not working, where are you? On weekends I Iove hiking or exploring the Hudson Valley with my husband.

Favorite phone app? My calendar! I don’t know what I’d do without it to stay organized.

Last great show you watched? “The Food That Built America.” Stories about people coming from nothing and becoming successful intrigue me.

What are you reading? The Witching Hour by Anne Rice.

If you weren’t in your current career, you’d be a… Psychotherapist.

Meet Kate Snow

The “NBC Nightly News” Sunday anchor—a Westchester resident for over 18 years—was honored to be the keynote speaker at the 8th Annual Women in Business Awards luncheon this month. Here, the successful journalist talks about making your own opportunities, mentorship, and motherhood.

Kate Snow

When I was 23, I was working as a behind-the-scenes producer at CNN. I knew that what I really wanted to do was to be on camera and tell the stories as a reporter. I made my own demo tape that I sent to 100 different markets and got three job offers. I left my car, my apartment in Atlanta, and a boyfriend, and moved across the country to New Mexico. And it was one of the best things I ever did.

I was so lucky to have people like Barbara Walters, Diane Sawyer, and Andrea Mitchell in the generation just ahead of me. They broke barriers and got a seat at the table. I am now surrounded by so many working moms who are journalists, and at NBC we talk all the time. I try to mentor younger women coming up so that they feel the support I enjoyed as a younger reporter.

My son Zack is in his first year of college and my daughter Abby is a senior in high school. It hasn’t been easy to juggle being a mom and working more than full time. I don’t believe there’s such a thing as balance. You’re either consumed by work or consumed by home life and parenting. It’s kind of hard to do both well at the exact same time. The joy now is that they’re older and can appreciate what I do for a living. We have some great conversations!

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