Introducing the 2018 Women Business Owner of the Year Award Finalists

Sep 19, 2018 | Uncategorized


Smart, passionate, resilient, strong, determined, creative and driven—these are just a few of the ways you might describe the three finalists of this year’s NAWBO Women Business Owner of the Year Award, sponsored by Bank of America. The annual award recognizes an entrepreneur who demonstrates overall business excellence and excels at strategy, operations, finances, problem solving, overcoming adversity and giving back to her community. The winner will be announced during the gala on the final evening, September 25th, of the National Women’s Business Conference (WBC) in Spokane, Washington.

“Bank of America is honored to sponsor NAWBO’s 2018 Women Business Owner of the Year award,” says Jill Calabrese Bain, head of Small Business for Bank of America Merchant Services. “It’s our mission to invest in women because we fully appreciate the critical role women business owners play in driving economic growth, in fostering a competitive marketplace and in providing critically-needed products and services. We join NAWBO in shining a spotlight on women who not only have thriving businesses, but also give back to their communities.”

Learn about this year’s inspiring finalists below!


Francine Friedman Griesing, Griesing Law, Philadelphia, PA

Need expert strategic advice for your business? Meet Francine Friedman Griesing. She is the founder of Griesing Law, a full-service law firm based in Philadelphia with offices in Cincinnati and New York. Fran is a strategic advisor to entrepreneurs at all stages of their businesses, as well as executives and general counsel at major institutions. She concentrates her practice on commercial litigation, alternative dispute resolution, employment and business law. With over 35 years of legal experience, Fran founded Griesing Law so women could reach their potential in a male-dominated field.

Her membership with NAWBO over the past eight years has supported that cause and helped her to connect with other like-minded business leaders. “I have since made many friends, colleagues and business associates through NAWBO’s strong and diverse network. As the founder of a woman-owned law firm, that was launched to create an environment where women could succeed in the legal profession, I value the continued collaboration, support and advice of my fellow NAWBO members,” she says. “NAWBO affords me the opportunity to mentor others and to be mentored myself by trailblazing women entrepreneurs.”

As one of this year’s Women Business Owner of the Year Award finalists, Fran is excited to be a part of an event that recognizes and celebrates women in the business world. “I am honored and humbled to be selected, along with two very impressive women, and to follow in the footsteps of the women recognized in the past,” she says. “We, as women, are responsible for creating jobs, supporting families and growing our economy, and I believe this honor helps bring attention to the important contributions of so many women starting and running businesses of all sizes and in all industries. I look forward to meeting and connecting with more women leaders from across the country in Spokane this September.”   

Learn more about Francine and Griesing Law at


Penny Benkeser, SERVPRO of Northwest Charlotte, Charlotte, NC

Fires. Floods. Natural disasters. We’ve all seen the havoc they can wreak on families across the nation. But who picks up the pieces afterward? Enter Penny Benkeser. Her company SERVPRO of Northwest Charlotte helps clean up property damage caused by fire, water or mold. Since opening five years ago, she has grown her company 1,250 percent leading her team to become a TOP 100 SERVPRO franchise.

Penny quickly joined NAWBO after launching her business and has appreciated the network of support she’s found. “I knew I wanted to be around other women business owners to learn and grow with women going through the same challenges,” she says. “I was fortunate to find a diverse group of smart, fierce and successful women in both my local Charlotte chapter and at the national level who serve as an invaluable support network. These women are a daily influence in my life—as business owners, moms, wives, coaches, board members and friends. Engaging with the women of NAWBO—both locally and nationally—has enhanced my life far beyond my role as a business owner.”

Penny notes that she was honored and surprised to be named a Women Business Owner of the Year Award finalist. “Normally, I am not a person who takes time to celebrate my own accomplishments—I am always off to the next goal or challenge,” she says. “Recognition from NAWBO is a welcome validation of the time, energy and effort I’ve spent as a business owner.”

Learn more about Penny and SERVPRO at


Dawn Dyer, Dyer Sheehan Group, Inc., Ventura, CA

Dawn Dyer knows the importance that housing can have on the health of communities, families and individuals. She co-founded the Dyer Sheehan Group, Inc. (DSG) in 1997, a boutique real estate consulting and brokerage firm specializing in land-use consulting, project management and development services. The firm also provides its clients with real estate market analysis, feasibility studies and brokerage of investment properties and land for development. As a community leader, Dawn facilitates productive dialogue regarding land use planning, development and affordable housing—helping builders, elected officials and neighbors work together to create quality neighborhoods.

Dawn has also founded the non-profit Ventura County Housing Trust Fund, which administers a multi-million-dollar revolving loan fund for the creation of affordable housing. As a passionate advocate for women, she has been featured in Forbes magazine as one of seven California women business leaders.

As a new member to NAWBO, Dawn is now deeply honored to be recognized by the organization as one of this year’s Women Business Owner of the Year Award finalists. “I am pleased to accept this honor on behalf of ‘EVERY WOMAN.’ I started my career in real estate at the age of 25 and became a single mother of two young children the following year,” she says. “Throughout my career, I have been challenged to balance the needs of my family with my work, which is a situation that MANY women face. I am eager to encourage other women to pursue their passions, to strive to become experts in their chosen field and to contribute their unique talents and skills to enrich their local communities!”

Learn more about Dawn and Dyer Sheehan Group, Inc. at


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