Union County Women Mean Business

Upcoming Events

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Previous Events – 2024

The Union County Board of County Commissioners announces the return of the Union County Women Mean Business summit on June 11th.

This once-a-year conference is designed to bring together women entrepreneurs, professionals, and industry leaders at every stage of their careers to share their collective knowledge about career development, inclusion, work-life balance, and other topics of interest and importance.

“Having experienced the challenges and successes of being a woman in the workforce, I understand the value of shared wisdom and support amongst women,” said Union County Commissioner Chairwoman Kimberly Palmieri-Mouded. “I am honored to witness the power of women coming together to share their experiences and insights. It’s through discussions like these that we empower each other and grow both personally and professionally.”

Admission is $55, and includes a continental breakfast and lunch. Attendees will be able to attend a variety of workshops and discussion, with panelists from various industries and professions ready to share their knowledge. This year, the keynote speaker is Adenah Bayoh, founder at Adenah Bayoh & Companies.

Keynote Speaker – Adenah Bayoh

Adenah Bayoh embodies the American dream. At age 13, she escaped the civil war in her native country of Liberia, immigrated to the United States and is now one of the most successful entrepreneurs in the state of New Jersey.

Inspired by her grandmother, who owned a restaurant in Liberia, Adenah is now the owner of 10 restaurants including 4 IHOP franchises in northern New Jersey. She opened her first IHOP in Irvington Township, New Jersey at the age of 27, making her one of the youngest franchisees in the country at that time.

In late 2017, Adenah launched Cornbread, her first independent fast casual, farm-to-table, soul food restaurant, which she co-founded with fellow entrepreneur, Zadie B. Smith. They recently opened their second location in downtown Newark, a third in Brooklyn, NY, and their fourth and newest location in Montclair in October 2023.

Additionally, in keeping with Adenah’s mission of bringing high quality food and services to urban communities, in the summer of 2021 she launched her latest restaurant concept, Brick City Vegan, in downtown Newark, and more recently, a second Brick City Vegan in Montclair.

Adenah is a successful real estate developer with a portfolio of several major residential and mixed-use urban redevelopment projects across northern New Jersey, including the former Irvington General Hospital site, and several other urban locations. In 2023, she was awarded a 9% NJHMFA affordable housing credit for her 100% affordable, 40-unit property located in Newark’s South Ward, making her the first black woman developer in the US to accomplish the feat.

Despite her numerous successes as a restaurateur and real estate developer, Adenah’s proudest achievement is being able to give back to her community.

Session One – 9:40 am – 10:40 am

Finding Your Superpower:
Recognizing the Extraordinary Within

Join us as we delve into the realm of personal and professional superpowers, unlocking the unique strengths, talents, and passions that define each of us.

Through interactive discussions, guided self-reflection, and empowering narratives, we’ll navigate the path towards discovering and harnessing your individual greatness.  Get ready to ignite your potential, amplify your impact, and emerge as the unstoppable force you were always meant to be.

This is your moment to shine, and we’re here to empower you every step of the way.

Mission Possible:
Unlocking the Success of Your Team

The Hill Tavern

Join us for an immersive, interactive experience where you’ll learn how to navigate the complexities of strategic alignment to support your team’s results. This session is your roadmap to unlocking the full potential of your team to achieve intended business outcomes.

By the end of this session, participants will have a clear understanding of what’s important for team alignment and how to execute for team’s success.

Through discussions and exercises, attendees will gain insights into crafting actionable plans, fostering team alignment, writing clear, actionable goals based on strategic priorities.

Session Two: 10:50 am – 11:50 am

Choice of One

Empowering Growth:
Navigating Constructive Feedback


Dive into an immersive workshop-style breakout session where participants will actively engage in giving and receiving constructive criticism. Regardless of gender or generation, this session is designed to equip individuals with the necessary tools and mindset to navigate feedback in professional environments.

Through interactive exercises and guided discussions, attendees will learn techniques for giving and receiving feedback with openness and using it as a powerful catalyst for personal and professional growth. This workshop aims to cultivate a culture of constructive feedback within teams, empowering participants to not only embrace criticism but also leverage it to enhance their performance and contribution in the workplace.

Get ready to elevate your feedback skills and drive positive change in your professional journey!

Balanced Bliss:
Strategies for Busy Women

The Hill Tavern

Indulge in a sanctuary of self-care and wellness at our session tailored for the modern woman on the move. Join us as we delve into mastering time management strategies and holistic wellness techniques designed to elevate your well-being amidst life’s hustle and bustle.

Discover a wealth of practical tips and tricks to gracefully juggle the demands of work, family, and personal pursuits. Immerse yourself in mindfulness and time management practices that will revolutionize how you navigate your daily routine.

Through interactive exercises and guided discussions, you’ll explore mindfulness techniques to cultivate presence, focus, and mastery over your time, fostering a sense of calm and intentionality in your schedule.

About our Speakers

Lena Cohen-Hawkins

Finding Your Superpower: Recognizing the Extraordinary Within

Lena Cohen-Hawkins, MAHS – Director of DEI, Culture, and Communications at Brother Industries

Lena Cohen-Hawkins has a deep passion for improving communities and the lives of others. As an International Speaker, 3x Best Selling Author, and powerhouse Business Consultant Lena has truly made her mark in this world.

From working with various companies like CBS, Prudential, RWJ/Barnabas, Atlantic Health, and the U.S. Army; to gracing the TED stage telling her amazing story of triumph, Lena’s impact is felt in a mighty way. She’s been in service to countless community organizations like National Sales Network, Somerset County Commission on the Status of Women, and Women Operating in Opulence, resulting in her being recognized nationally and internationally for her contributions. Lena has also dedicated a great deal of her time to public service, spending several years as a legislative aide to Assemblywoman Cleopatra Tucker, 28th District State of NJ.

While all of this may seem exciting and/or impressive, nothing’s more important to her than her family and friends. She enjoys traveling the world with her husband, spending time centered in creative expression, and hanging out with her 3 yr. old French bulldog. 

Dr. Diane Brescher

Mission Possible: Unlocking the Success of Your Team

Dr. Diane Brescher, CPTD is President and Founder of GEM Leaders, a small boutique Leadership Development and Coaching firm.

Diane has over 30 years of talent development experience specializing in adult learning and leadership development and coaching. She is well versed in all aspects of Talent Development: ranging from creating Learning Strategies for organizations to Learning Journeys for individual. She also has expertise in Needs assessments, Designing and developing courses, Competency development and Mapping, Facilitating meetings and Training Workshops in person and virtual, Leadership and Career Coaching for groups, teams, and individuals. She supports leaders in the areas of Emotional Intelligence, Change Management, dealing with resistance, Building Trust, Influencing Skills, Communication Skills, and Empowering others.

Throughout her career, Diane has worked with leaders at all levels and across various industries. Her passion lies in helping mid-level leaders tackle workplace challenges efficiently and effectively during workplace transitions. Diane’s leadership coaching style enables leaders to ‘polish their perspective,’ to better understand themselves in terms of how they think and feel which helps them become more strategic and emotionally intelligent when achieving business results.

Diane is certified in various coaching assessment tools including 360’s, Hogan assessments, Korn Ferry’s Talent Q, DDI’s Leadership assessments, various personality, communication style, and conflict style assessments, Disc, the 5 Behaviors of a Team, and Emotional Intelligence i2.0. She also is a DDI Licensed Partner| Reseller.

Diane has published articles on influencing others, networking, going through transitions, entrepreneurship, and leadership. She is currently writing about FEAR and how leaders can identify it so they can effectively address it.

Diane, she holds the Certified Professional in Talent Development (CPTD) credential and is working towards her ICF PCC certification. Several hobbies include: Skiing, Biking, Traveling, Hiking, Kayaking, and her latest hobby, Pickleball.

Marissa Ruggiero

Empowering Growth: Navigating Constructive Feedback

Marissa Ruggiero is a recovering employment law attorney and a senior Human Resources professional.

She has held multiple roles at Fortune 500 companies, including Verizon and Bed Bath & Beyond. She is currently a People Business Partner Director for Ralph Lauren. Marissa regularly speaks on a variety of HR issues, including employment law compliance, coaching leaders on their team’s performance, and developing oneself professionally. 

Marissa is a resident of Springfield. She is active in the community and sits on multiple non-profit boards. Marissa is a Commissioner on the Union County Commission on the Status of Women. She is also a Co-Founder of the Springfield Unity Project (SUP), whose mission is to actively promote change through education and celebration, to combat bias and social injustice, and to foster deeper and more meaningful understanding among diverse communities in Springfield. Marissa was elected its first president, and was responsible for setting up the organization as a non-profit, as well as drafting the bylaws. She is currently the Fundraising Director.

Marissa is member of the Springfield Planning Board, as the liaison to the Environmental Commission. She is also active politically, and is on the Union County Democratic Committee for Springfield, as well as co-president of the Springfield Democratic club.

Marissa is a graduate of Rutgers University in New Brunswick and Seton Hall Law School in Newark. She and her husband Kevin have a daughter at the Academy of Law & Justice at UCTech and have lived in Springfield since 2013.

Dr. Carla J. Cooke

Balanced Bliss: Strategies for Busy Women

Dr. Carla J. Cooke is a Union County resident and business owner who is affectionately known as a “quiet storm.”

She is a global leader, entrepreneur, author, and trusted voice in the field of psychology. As the CEO of Sound Psychological Assessment Center, Dr. Carla serves as an expert witness in legal cases of discrimination, sexual assault, and other personal injury matters.  She has been entrusted to present internationally and nationally on the need for trauma-informed psychological evaluations to address misdiagnosis and misaligned recommendations for children and adults in systems overrepresented by communities of color. Dr. Carla’s professional expertise has been sought after by many, including the State of NJ, where she served as Assistant Commissioner for the prevention of child abuse and neglect during the child welfare reform efforts.

Dr. Carla holds an Associate Degree in Psychology from Bergen Community College. She obtained her BA in Psychology and her M.Ed. and Ed.D in Counseling Psychology from Rutgers University. As a Licensed Psychologist, Dr. Carla is certified in EMDR (evidence-based trauma informed therapy method) and Faith Formation (via Fordham University). 

As a speaker and coach, Dr. Carla is charged with empowering high-achieving professional women, and some awesome men, to take care of the business of self to be more successful in business and life by practicing mental wealthness™ principles. She possesses a unique ability to discern, unearth and transform internal barriers that hinder high achievers from operating at peak performance. Her background and expertise make her uniquely positioned to partner with entrepreneurs and business owners who understand the value of being emotionally empowered. Dr. Carla also collaborates with key stakeholders with the vision to provide a purposeful psychological shift within their audience, membership, and organization as she serves as a keynote speaker, workshop presenter, and organizational mental wealthness™ expert.

Dr. Carla holds fast to Maya Angelou saying, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Attributing her inspiration to her mother, she allows adversity to fuel her instead of deterring her and remains transparent. She loves family, values the significance of authentic relationships, and never met a vegetable she didn’t like.

Previous UCWMB Events