2016 Minnesota Women Business Owners Hall of Fame Inductees

Mar 4, 2016 | Uncategorized

Nine exceptional women to be inducted into the 
Minnesota Women Business Owners Hall of Fame

This year’s honorees, include many women who have 
succeeded in traditionally male-dominated industries


Nine legendary and inspirational women leaders will soon be added to a very elite group, when they are inducted into the Minnesota Women Business Owners Hall of Fame. This year’s honorees will include a posthumous honor to inventor and philanthropist Lydia Deubener, who helped create the first paper shopping bag with handles. The women will be inducted during a gala event to be held April 19 at the Golden Valley Country Club. Cargill is a founding sponsor of this event.

“These are pioneers and trailblazers whose business and philanthropic accomplishments are worthy of historic acknowledgment,” comments Marnie Ochs-Raleigh, chairman of the Minnesota Chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO-MN) and a Selection Committee volunteer. “This is the fourth year that we’ve honored women who deserve to be recognized for their roles in Minnesota history. We’re working hard to create an institution with this Minnesota Women Business Owners Hall of Fame, not simply to hold an event.” 

The event’s emcee will be Fox 9 morning anchor Alix Kendall.

About the Minnesota Business Owners Hall of Fame

The Minnesota Business Owners Hall of Fame was established in 2013 to honor women who made enduring contributions to Minnesota’s entrepreneurial community. Additionally, each inductee must have:

●      Made an impact on women’s entrepreneurial development in Minnesota

●      A meaningful connection to Minnesota (such as place of birth, education, and/or business location) and

●      Demonstrated leadership qualities or a spirit of entrepreneurial innovation that can serve as an inspiration to future generations of Minnesota entrepreneurs, and

●      Been publicly acknowledged for their accomplishments by winning a major business award and/or receiving similar recognition from their industry

2016 honorees have changed Minnesota’s business landscape 

“Collectively, the humbleness of these women is so inspiring,” says Ochs-Raleigh. “They each have amazing stories of overcoming obstacles and breaking down barriers, yet they do not seek the spotlight.”

This year’s honorees are:

●      M. Marie Bak, Service, Dependability, Quality, Ltd., Minnetonka. In the 1970s, Bak lived in Soviet-controlled Poland, where women lacked the freedom to own their own businesses. The experienced inspired her to become an entrepreneur in a field where personal pride and a personal touch could make a difference. She founded SDQ Janitorial in 1983. She persevered despite it being a cut-throat industry where unions engaged in intimidation tactics. Bak says the constant head wind helped her to become stronger. Today, SDQ Janitorial is Minnesota’s largest non-union commercial cleaning service, and one of the top ten companies in its industry in the state, with multi-million dollar revenues. It is consistently ranked one of the top women-owned businesses in Minnesota. Bak now has more than 500 employees, about 99 percent of whom are immigrants. Bak credits her success to standing by her values and principles with faith, hard work and prayer. says her workers average more than 17 years of service.

●      Judy Auston Figge, Prairie Home Care Inc, Minnetonka. In 1981 Figge, a registered nurse, and a colleague purchased a small homecare company that eventually became In Home Health.She bought out her partner three years later, at which time her husband Ken became CEO. Together, theymanaged In Home Health, Inc. until 1996. That company grew from a single site to 41 offices in 16 major markets. Revenue grew from $300,000 in 1981 to more than $130 million in 1995, which is the year the sold that business.  In 1988, they completed the purchases of Prairie River Home Care. After overcoming financial difficulties stemming from the company’s previous ownership, Figge has led Prairie Home Care on an upward trajectory. It is now a $510 million company, providing services to nearly 1,700 clients. This year Figge plans to break ground on a 58-bed project in Watertown, MN.

●      Marya Owston Hage, Meridian Services, Minneapolis. Raised by a single mother during the great depression of the 1930s, Hage founded Meridian Services in 1980 when she noticed that there weren’t opportunities for persons who needed assistance with living independently and successfully in the community. At the time, there were no similar services so she had no models to follow. Meridian is now the largest for-profit behavioral health company in Minnesota. In addition to being a business trendsetter, Hage volunteered as a Red Cross psychologist at the Pentagon after 9/11, helping soldiers and emergency workers cope with the disaster.

●      Elise Hernandez, Ideal System Solutions, Minnetonka. Hernandez’s story reads a little like something out of a Horatio Alger novel. She grew up with three siblings in a low-income, single-parent home. Raised on welfare, there was no money for college tuition. Working for a technology company while in college, she learned skills to succeed in the heavily male-dominated field. Hernandez was the first in her family to earn an MBA. Eighteen years ago, she took her school business plan and created one of the fastest growing woman-owned IT solution providers in the company. Last year, she made history as the only Minnesota-based Hispanic woman-owned business to be among 65 companies awarded a $20 billion government contract.

●      Darlene M. Miller, Permac Industries, Burnsville. Prior to owning Permac Industries, a precision small-part machine shop, Miller knew nothing about running a manufacturing business. She came to the company in 1993 as an outside sales rep; and within two years had purchased it in its entirety. She soon modernized the company, earning multiple awards from the U.S. Chamber and other organizations. Miller is also actively involved in the community. In 2005, she co-founded the local chapter of Hope for Tomorrow, a mentoring program. She continues to serve on its board. Miller is now running for Congress in the Second Congressional District.

●      Marcia Page, Värde Partners, Minneapolis. Entrepreneurship is in Page’s DNA. She was itching to start a business when she co-founded Värde Partners in 1993, putting her own savings and reputation on the line. The start was much slower than anticipated. The partners went through nearly all of our savings, and at one point, strongly considered selling part of the business for a pittance. They waited nearly three years for the first paycheck. Värde Partners has now become a $10 billion global alternative asset firm with primary offices in New York, Tokyo and Sydney. 

●   Lydia Deubener, St. Paul. Posthumous. Where would we be without shopping bags?In 1918, Deubener and husband Walter operated a small grocery stand in downtown St. Paul. Cash-and-carry groceries were just starting to replace home delivery.After watching customers struggle to carry their purchases, the Deubeners invented the paper bag with corded handles. That first year, they sold a million handled bag at five cents each. By 1927, they sold more than 10 million bags. The Deubeners became real estate developers and philanthropists. Their northern Minnesota estate, which they named Deep in the Pines was donated to the Courage Center to serve physically disabled children and adults. She and her husband also established the Deubener-Juenemann Foundation, to support the Deubener award given annually by the St. Paul Chamber of Commerce as well as other annual awards. 

  • Nola Treat and Lenore Richards, Posthumous, Richards Treat Cafe, Minneapolis. Treat and Richards were University of Minnesota Farm School home economics professors when they decided to quit teaching and put their nutritional and management theories into practice. They placed importance on buying, storing, preparing and serving foods to retain the most nutrients. Their home-like cafeteria restaurant because a landmark in downtown Minneapolis, earning a national reputation for good food and hospitality. Their restaurant became a training ground where young college women majoring in home economics could gain experience in all areas of the restaurant trade before graduation. Their cookbook, Quantity Cookery, served as a college student text. The two women also funded the Richards Treat University Center at Millikin University. 


Tickets to this year’s Minnesota Women Business Owners Hall of Fame celebration are $99 each, and may be purchased athttps://nawbomn.regfox.com/hof-041916


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