The Celebrating Women in Business Luncheon and Fashion Show at RES 2012 should be an experience both inspirational and emotional for its expected 1,400-plus attendees.
One of the highlights of the luncheon, to be held in Mandalay Bay’s South Pacific Ballroom on March 1, is the presentation of the National Native American Woman Owned Business Award. This year, it is going to Lori Nalley, Creek, president and owner of Tiger Natural Gas, Inc., a natural gas marketing company headquartered in Tulsa, Oklahoma, for her excellence in business leadership.
Nalley launched Tiger Natural Gas from a spare bedroom a little more than 20 years ago, generating $2.1 million in sales her first year. In 2010, with more than 40 employees and a customer base of more than 23,000 across 18 states, sales were $275 million. “She is just a fantastic woman,” said Margo Gray-Proctor, Osage, chairwoman of the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development (NCAIED) board of directors.
Also at the luncheon, the Corporate Advocate of the Year Award will go to Michael Pagliaro, a manager of IBM’s Global Supplier Diversity program, for superb leadership on behalf of American Indian/Alaska Native businesses and economic development in tribal communities.
The fashion show was a hit when it debuted at last year’s luncheon. This year’s 20-minute show, organized by Jackson Harris, a Native entrepreneur, will spotlight two designers: Bethany Yellowtail, Northern Cheyenne and Crow, whose designs blend contemporary and Native craftsmanship; and Shayne Ray Watson, Navajo, a newer designer who describes her work as traditional wear that can be interpreted in a “new world” way.
As at past luncheons, there will be a cause—raising awareness and funds for a non-profit organization working for that cause. This year, the focus is the American Indian Cancer Foundation, located in Minneapolis. In addition to a silent auction, a montage of photos of Natives—mostly family and friends of attendees, who have survived cancer, are battling it or lost the battle—will be shown to a song performed by Paula Bowers-Sanchez, Seminole.
It is a subject that Margo Gray-Proctor knows all too well. Herself a cancer survivor (and cancer-free since 1988), she lost her mother to the disease and has a cousin with a terminal case. Two NCAIED board members, she said, are battling cancer now: “I took [the idea to make cancer the theme of the luncheon] to them and said, ‘Look, we have got to be able to use this platform for good.’ For good is bringing a face to it.”