The 2016 Inductees represent a wide range of generations and impact. All were selected because of their stature in their era and their accomplishments. These amazing women represent the entire state of Minnesota, more than 150 years of Minnesota history, and amazing contributions to our State’s economic success.
The following 9 women are the newest Inductees into the Minnesota Women Business Owners Hall of Fame:
M. Marie Bak
Wife of a top executive and former DIA (Defense Intelligence Agency) agent who lived in Poland and Germany, Marie Bak wanted to create a family business of her own. When a key investor fell through, she boot-strapped her young commercial cleaning services company by scrubbing floors herself and ultimately earning the respect of Fortune 500 executives like Curt Carlson who recognized that her business plan combined with her vision and work ethic were destined for success.
Marie Bak was a busy mother of two boys when she decided to launch her own business, Service Dependability Quality LTD. A passion for service and a personal touch are just as important in business as it is to raising a family, Marie started her small business in 1983, and in the last 33 years it has grown into one of the top three companies in its industry in the state of Minnesota.
Part of SDQ's unique model is the workforce. SDQ's workforce is 99% immigrants, and Marie has been a godmother to them, providing specialized training and treating them as professionals. Many of Marie's employees and their families have been with SDQ from the beginning. Made up of primarily immigrant workers, new to the state, eager to train, and specialize in commercial cleaning. Bak's nearly 500 employees/associates come from such diverse places as Korea, Ecuador, Latin America, and Guyana.
Bak's determination to never give up on herself or her business, is reflected in her many devoted and long term employees. She has said, "Make sure employees and associates know that you care about them, and then help to improve their lives. If you do this, you will always be successful." Marie has been married to Ed Bak for over 50 years, and she credits him as being an inspiration and trusted mentor as she grew her business.
With her partner in life and business, Walter, Lydia Deubener helped create one of the most useful tools in retail. The paper shopping bag. Working at their grocery store, the Deubener’s noticed that shoppers tended to only buy what they could carry in an armload. Lydia and Walter worked on a prototype paper bag with corded handles running the length of the bag to provide stability, strength and ease of transport. The bags were also embellished with attractive pictures cut from magazines. This humble invention increased the store’s sales seemingly overnight. “The Deubener Shopping Bag” was patented in 1919.
Eleven years later, the Deubener’s were the owners of a state of the art factory that shipped the shopping bags, now available in many different designs, textures and sizes, by the millions all over the United States and Canada.
The Deubener’s also expanded their business empire to include both retail and residential property management. Lydia and Walter Deubener were generous philanthropists, donating their luxurious estate and bird sanctuary on Lake George to the Courage Center to be used as a camp for disabled children and adults. It was named “Camp Courage North”. The couple also left large endowments to Bethel University and The Boy Scouts of America among many other organizations and institutions. The Saint Paul Chamber of Commerce honors small businesses with their yearly “Deubener Awards”. While history has credited Walter with most of the success of the couple’s businesses, Walter’s own words indicate Lydia was an equal and influential partner, “The business wouldn’t be what it is without her”.
"Lydia and Walter Deubener were generous philanthropists, donating their luxurious estate and bird sanctuary on Lake George in 1971 to Courage Center. Named ‘Camp Courage North,’ the camp’s initial programs were designed for the deaf and hard of hearing. In 1976 the programs were expanded to include other disabilities. Today, Camp Courage North is still thriving as part of the True Friends organization, and the Deubener’s 45-year legacy continues to provide life-changing experiences to children and adults with disabilities." - True Friends
Judy Austin Figge
Judy Figge, a Registered Nurse (RN), is the CEO of Prairie River Home Care, Inc. Along with husband Kenneth Figge, Judy also founded and managed In Home Health, Inc., a publicly held company in Minnetonka, Minnesota until 1996. The company grew from a single site in 1981, to 41 offices in 16 major markets. Revenue grew from $300,000 in 1981 to over $130 million in 1995 when the company was sold to Manor Care Inc. Figge was recognized during this period by winning the Ernest and Young Entrepreneur of the Year award in 1991.
Next, they purchased Prairie River Home Care, Inc. (PRHC) in Mankato, MN, a small company with five offices in rural Minnesota in 1998. After years of hard work to grow the company’s revenue, PRHC became a family business when daughter Lori, an RN experienced in critical care, and son Austin started working for the business during breaks while attending the U of Colorado. Lori is now the Chief Operating Officer (COO) and Austin is now the Chief Information Officer (CIO) for the company. Austin returned to school and is now also an RN. PRHC specializes in care for those with complex long term home health care needs and is now a $30 million company, providing nearly 1,700 clients services every week from eight branch locations. The company continues to grow, having recently added the Birchwood House in Hutchinson and planning an Assisted Living Facility in Watertown MN.
Part of the compassionate care found at PRHC can be traced to Figge’s own experience caring for her sister following brain surgery while leading In Home Health. More recently PRHC cared for her father while he was ailing from Parkinson’s Disease. These personal experiences sharpened the realization that patients do better and are happier in a home environment, while recognizing the reality of the needs of professional caregiving. Her goal is to make these options easier to navigate for families and healthcare professionals as well as the patient. Figge is now ready to turn over the business to her children and she and husband Ken split time between Minnesota and Maui and spend as much time with their grandchildren as they can.
With just $1,000, and initially based in her home, Elise Hernandez established Ideal System Solutions (ISS) in 1997. ISS now has 40 employees and multiple locations in Minnesota, New Mexico, Iowa, South Carolina and Virginia.
Ideal System Solutions, Inc. provides clients with business driven enterprise technology solutions, infrastructure management and professional services. ISS has become an industry leader in support of government, education and commercial organizations nationwide to design and implement custom IT solutions that can achieve a client’s business objectives. Ideal’s professional sales and technical teams provide clients with a broad range of innovative solutions and services to improve the overall performance and efficiency of their computing and data center, while optimizing technology investments.
Elise has now made history as the only Minnesota based, Hispanic, woman owned business to be among 65 companies awarded a $20 billion government contract. ISS is partnered with over 100 leading edge technology manufacturers such as Avaya, HP, NetApp, CISCO, VMWare, Oracle and National Instruments. Its customers include the U.S. Department of Energy and U.S. Department of Defense and numerous other agencies. For the past six years, Hernandez has been working with the Metropolitan Economic Development Association (MEDA) and its Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) offices in Minneapolis and Washington, DC to grow her business. Most recently, Hernandez was selected to receive the prestigious award of MBDA Minority Business Enterprise of the Year. Elise has garnered many more honors and recognitions including Entrepreneur Magazine’s “Top Women Owned Companies” of 2007, NAWBO’s “Emerging Business Owner” 2008 and “Established Woman Award” 2009. In 2009 she was also named one of The Business Journal’s “Women to Watch” and one of Enterprising Women Magazine’s “Women of the Year”.
Elise values mentorship as she feels it has played an instrumental role in her success with ISS, and she spends time mentoring women who want to become entrepreneurs and business owners. Ideal System Solutions, Inc. contributes to numerous local and national organizations. Elise had served on the board of a local chapter of Rotary International for over 5 years, currently serves on the MEDA Board of Directors and has been involved in numerous nationwide women’s organizations and community projects and activities including: The Minnesota Special Olympics, the Girl Scouts of America, Susan G. Komen affiliate and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of America. In the past few years, Elise has mentored both women and students in the areas of business and entrepreneurship through the University of Minnesota’s GAP program and Entrepreneurship Club, respectively.
Elise is also passionate about spending time with her husband of 20 years John McGuire and two daughters, Addison and Grace. Of them she says, “Right now it is all about my children. I have two teenage daughters that are at an age where it is pertinent that I am a role model that demonstrates humility, hard work, and dignity and will teach them to become strong individuals.”
Darlene M Miller
Darlene came to Permac Industries as an outside sales representative, and knew from her first sales call that manufacturing was something she loved and knew she could be successful. In 1992, Permac Industries was a small parts machine shop serving commercial customers since 1966.
When Darlene found out that the company was in "workout" with the bank, she purchased 45% and by 1994 owned 100% and has served as president and CEO ever since.
Darlene believed that she, along with her team, could transform an out of date manufacturing company into a 21st century precision, clean, and highly respected manufacturing company. Not surprisingly, that is exactly what they did – now providing quality and service to entities such as global aerospace, defense, medical device and other high-tech customers.
For her vision and hard work, Darlene has been recognized in many different ways, such as the "Top 25 Women‐Owned Businesses in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area" in 2003, "Woman Changemaker" by the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal in 2003, and was a National Award Winner and Regional Finalist of the US Chamber Small Business in 2007 and 2008. In 2011, Darlene was appointed to the President's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. During her two years of service, Darlene created a fast tracked credentialed training program called "Right Skills Now" that is currently being replicated in 8 states. Darlene is active in manufacturing associations such as MPMA and PMPA – having served on their boards and being the first and only female president in 80 years at PMPA.
Darlene is a devoted mentor to the youth of our community, notable organizations include Hope for Tomorrow, a mentoring program that pairs business leaders with eighth and ninth‐grade girls and boys. The program seeks to create tomorrow's leaders by getting them to utilize all of their talents, step outside their comfort zone, and be the best they can be.
Her other passions include staying abreast of current affairs and being politically active. She is currently running for U.S. Congress in the 2nd District. She loves spending time with her family – significant other Steve Hirsch, her sons and grandchildren – and believes "you are never given a dream without the opportunity to make it come true."
Marya Owston Hage
After her father’s death when she was 2 years old, Marya Hage’s mother raised her as a single parent during the great depression of the 1930’s. Though at the time, society primarily thought of “women’s work” as being in the home only, Marya’s mother pursued an education for herself to provide for the family. It was her mother’s inspiration that has led Marya to become an impressive entrepreneur and community leader.
Hage started her business Meridian Services in 1980 when she noticed that there weren’t opportunities for individuals that needed assistance with living independently and successfully in the community. At the time there were no organizations that provided such a service, giving her no models to follow, thus, Hage became a pioneer in new ways of looking at treatment options in physical and mental health, as well as now models in treatment for addiction.
As a volunteer Red Cross psychologist she was called by Pentagon in the days following 9/11, to provide mental health services to firefighters, police officers, search and rescue crews, construction workers and military personnel as well as members of ATF and FBI.
Hage believes that a truly successful organization is one that is successful both in its line of business and as an employer and contributor to the community. She is also passionate in her commitment to education, particularly for women as the path to greater individual success, as well as the success of family and community. She is deeply committed to access to education for all. Marya Hage (husband Orval Hage is now deceased) has 4 children, 11 grandchildren and 2 great grandchildren.
Marcia Page Co-founded Värde Partners and recently assumed the role of its Executive Chair. As a co-founder she has held numerous roles over the firm’s 20+ year history, most recently as Co-Chief Executive Officer and Co-Chief Investment Officer, overseeing its global investment strategy and management as well as serving as the co-chairman of its Investment Committee. In her new role, Marcia will retain her seat on the Investment Committee, Chair the Partner committee and lead key initiatives of the firm.
Värde is a $10 billion global alternative investment firm, and recently announced the opening of new offices in New York, Tokyo and Sydney as part of a strategic plan to expand its global investing platform. With other offices in Minneapolis, London, Singapore, Barcelona, Dublin, Luxembourg, Madrid, and Milan, it isn’t surprising that collectively Värde employees speak over 30 languages! The firm’s name is the Swedish word for “value” and is a nod to both the central feature of its investment strategy as well as the firm’s Minnesota and Nordic roots.
Marcia graduated from Gustavus Adolphus College, Minnesota with a B.A. in Economics and received an M.B.A. from the University of Minnesota. Marcia serves on the Board of Trustees of Gustavus Adolphus College and on the Board of Overseers of the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota. She is a member of The Committee of 200. Prior to founding Värde in 1993, Marcia served as vice president of EBF & Associates, an alternative investment firm. There, she helped establish Merced Partners, an investment partnership. Prior to EBF & Associates, Marcia traded distressed and high yield bonds and managed fixed income portfolios at Cargill. She credits her parents for providing important leadership skills, finding the balance between compassion and business sense, learning the value of hard work and civic involvement. She is interested in women’s issues in the U.S. and abroad and harbors a growing interest in the use of direct lending to empower women and affect change in their lives. Marcia has been married to John Huepenbecker (a retired dentist) for 30 years. They have three daughters, all in various levels of post-secondary and graduate level studies.
Nola Treat and Lenore Richards
In the winter of 1924, Richard’s Treat Cafeteria opened in downtown Minneapolis. The tiny eatery was the venture of two young U of M home economics professors, Nola Treat and Lenore Richards. The pair had published the book Quantity Cookery in 1922, just as the need for instruction on institutional cooking (for school, hospital and workplace cafeterias where quantity was as important as quality) was becoming apparent.
With the slogan “Your home downtown”, classic, comfortable décor, and a reliably delicious rotating menu of breakfast, lunch and dinner items, Richard’s Treat quickly became a success. Over the years, the downtown establishment not only expanded to four more dining areas in the building, but added modern improvements like air conditioning. These qualities contributed to Richard’s Treat keeping the doors open during the Great Depression and the turmoil of World War Two.
In 1943, Nola Treat was the first woman to be appointed to the board of the Minneapolis Civic Council, and in 1945, Lenore Richards became a director of The National Restaurant Association. In 1957, the pair was named to American Restaurant’s Hall of Fame.
After 33 successful years, Richard’s Treat was forced to close its doors due to the destruction of the building to make way for a new downtown bank. The women continued to advise and consult with businesses and institutions on their dining programs and left generous donations to Millikin University in Decatur, Ill, Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and Abbott Northwestern Hospital.
Lenore Richards passed away in 1971, and Nola Treat in 1983. The two are buried next to one another, the long relationship both personal and professional remembered to this day. Lenore’s letters to Nola sum up the pair perfectly. In January of 1918, Lenore wrote to Nola, “Let’s get something to do together, I can live and work so much happier when I am with you and I feel so stupid and uninspired when I am alone.” The next year Lenore wrote to Nola, “The further I go, and the more I think about the possibility of losing you, the more I realize how happy I am, and how hard working without you would be. For with no one to work with, and no one to laugh with, and no one to love with, life would be too dull.”
"The enduring legacy of Nola Treat and Lenore Richards extends well beyond the generous gift Miss Treat gave to help fund construction on our campus of the student center, including our dining hall, that bears their name," says Millikin University President Patrick White. "These two women achieved outstanding success as business owners at a time in our national history when that accomplishment was rare for women. The drive, courage, and indefatigable energy with which they lived their lives stand as an example to Millikin women and men of the entrepreneurial spirit we strive to empower in all of today's Millikin students as they seek to fulfill their best imaginations of who they can become.” Dr. Patrick White, President of Millikin University, the alma mater of Miss Treat and home to a student center named in honor of both Miss Richards and Miss Treat