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April 13, 2023

8 a.m. to 12 p.m.

Mission Health/A-B Tech Conference Center 16 Fernihurst Drive, Asheville NC 28801

This April, we convened more than 250 small business owners, community leaders, and organizational partners to celebrate Western North Carolina's community of women entrepreneurs and how we are better together. The morning began with breakfast and dedicated time to connect with one another, and the day kicked off with live musical performances, inspiring keynotes, presentations from North Carolina Secretary of State Elaine Marshall and Canton Mayor Zeb Smathers, and concluded with dancing and networking.  

Our Speakers

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KEYNOTE SPEAKER: Jennifer Pharr Davis

Jennifer Pharr Davis is an internationally recognized adventurer, speaker, author, and entrepreneur who has hiked more than 14,000 miles of trails on six different continents. In 2011 she set the overall fastest known time on the Appalachian Trail by finishing the 2,185-mile foot path in 46 days (an average of 47 miles a day). And she hasn't slowed down since. Jennifer has backpacked 700 miles pregnant, walked across North Carolina while nursing her newborn son, and hiked in all 50 states with her two-year-old daughter. She is a member of the President’s Council of Sports, Fitness and Nutrition, was featured in the 2020 IMAX film Into America’s Wild, and served on the board of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. Jennifer is truly a force of nature. But what excites her most is introducing people to the life-changing opportunities that nature provides. 

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Erika Andresen

Erika Andresen, CBCP, JD, MPA, is a business continuity professional, army veteran, lawyer, and professor of emergency management. After a career working in actual disasters with life and death consequences, Erika saw that business owners needed similar services to survive but did not know where to start. Erika started EaaS Consulting, LLC, with the goal of keeping businesses in business. She authored "How to Not Kill Your Business: Grow Your Business in Any Environment, Navigate Volatility, and Successfully Recover When Things Go Wrong," a conversational introduction to business continuity. She has been quoted in Forbes, Dark Reading, Smartsheet, and MoneyGeek.  

Cristina España

Cristina España, a Guatemalan born in Costa Rica, is the Deputy Director for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at the Office of NC Governor Roy Cooper, supporting DEI Leads of cabinet agencies, part of local and nationwide integration networks, boards, and commissions, and advancing on the integration of New Americans - Immigrant and Refugees - in North Carolina. Cristina was a career diplomat for Guatemala for 12 years and served in Raleigh, Atlanta, and Madrid. Cristina holds a master's degree in Neuromarketing and a bachelor's in Advertising from the University Latina of Costa Rica, and formal studies in Fine and Contemporary Arts in Costa Rica, Guatemala, California, and the European University in Madrid. One of her art pieces was displayed at the NC Museum of Art and the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Arts. 

Denise Foy

Denise Foy is an award-winning web designer and, to date, is the only female recipient of said award. Her business is ZHOOSH, a web + branding agency. ZHOOSH means “to make more lively and attractive” and that’s precisely what they do for their clients - taking their businesses from drab to fab. Denise was a former IT Project Manager for large financial institutions. As a youngster, she would be found dabbling with computers and creating websites with HTML code. Since she was the only girl in her Computer Science class in high school, she didn’t imagine it would be possible to be a professional in technology. She carried on with a degree in Finance and managed to work in IT, but now she has so much gratitude for having the skills and the passion to help others with something that is overwhelming to so many. Check out her website at for more information on Denise and her team. 

Sarah Thompson

After serving as a Dogwood Health Trust board member, Sarah Thompson joined the Impact Team as Vice President - Economic Opportunity. In this role, Sarah is responsible for the visioning, development, and implementation of ambitious economic impact strategies that will increase pathways to high-quality and more equitable employment opportunities for Western North Carolinians. Sarah previously served as the Executive Director for Southwestern Planning and Economic Development Commission. Sarah has also served as Executive Director of the Downtown Sylva Association and as Chair of the NC Rural Economic Development Center Board. She holds a Master of Arts in Public Administration from Western Carolina University and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from Miami University. 

Thank you to our partners!

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Thank you, sponsors!

Title Sponsor

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Platinum Sponsor


Gold Sponsor

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Silver Sponsors

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Other Sponsors, Partners and Supporters

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Conference Highlights

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