Women Worthy of Note

A look at some of the women who are making a difference in Kentucky

By Lorie Hailey

Dr. Nicole Freels opened her medical practice 12 years ago. She is shown here with her niece, Bella, in an exam room
at Lexington Podiatry.

Our occasional feature, Top Women in Business, highlights some of the women in and around Kentucky who are making an impact in business, the professions, politics and economic development. The intent is to recognize not the household names, but those in key roles whose work ethic and body of work are making important contributions to commerce—and life—in the area.

The 10 women featured in this issue are among the many such women The Lane Report editorial board has identified. From activist to entrepreneur and medical practitioner to executive, these women are forging their own paths, proving that hard work, perseverance and creativity pay off.

Paula Blankenship, owner of Heirloom Traditions Paint, has been called the “Queen of Paint” by Forbes magazine. She started the company in 2014 from her kitchen in Prospect, Ky.

Laura Boison is Central Kentucky market president for BB&T, now Truist. She started working in banking straight out of college—“literally walked from my last final at the University of Kentucky to my job interview at First Security National Bank—now JPMorgan Chase,” she said.

Anne J. Brooks is a partner in PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Private Company Services (PCS) practice. In her role, she arranges, supervises and manages audit, tax and advisory services to family-owned businesses, multinational and domestic private equity portfolio companies, and foreign-owned private businesses across a broad range of industries.

Dr. Nicole Freels, a podiatrist in Lexington, overcame a mountain of debt to open her own practice during the Great Recession, just one week after Lehman Brothers declared bankruptcy in 2008. Lexington Podiatry has since grown into a popular and highly recognized practice.

Britney Ruby Miller started as a hostess in her father’s restaurants and now serves as CEO of Jeff Ruby Culinary Entertainment, the parent company of the popular Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse restaurant chain. She has advocated strongly for the restaurant industry during the pan-demic, lobbying for assistance and for reopening and staying open.

Sadiqa Reynolds, president and CEO of the Louisville Urban League, was the first African American woman to clerk for the Kentucky Supreme Court.

Shannon Moore Vitale started as a receptionist at Hilliard Lyons in 1987. Today, she is a financial adviser and branch manager to the Bowling Green and Elizabethtown offices of Baird Private Wealth Management.

Lacy Starling started Legion Logistics in 2009 from the basement of her home. The company has experienced incredible success; it’s now a $279 million company with 32 employees.

Monica Wardlow, a lending officer at German American Bank, recently received the ATHENA Award from the Bowling Green Area Chamber of Commerce. The award recognizes individuals who provide a valuable service to the community and actively help women attain professional excellence and leadership skills.

Tracey Johnson of Louisville is brand director for Woodford Reserve at Brown-Forman. She is responsible for marketing and business building activities to grow the Woodford brand.


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We welcome your suggestions of others who also are deserving of recognition for their efforts to boost the economy. Send your recommendations to [email protected]


Paula Blankenship
Paula Blankenship

Paula Blankenship

Paula Blankenship spent 35 years working as a furniture retailer and interior designer. In 2014, she founded Heirloom Traditions Paint from her kitchen. She developed a chalk-based paint that works on most surfaces, making it easier for people to do their own home improvement projects, such as refinishing cabinets, tables or dressers.

She started out selling pints of paint on eBay. Her All-In-One paint lines have been successful in large part because of e-commerce and social media promotion. She creates content daily to share with her followers, including live videos featuring Heirloom’s paint products.

In 2019, Forbes magazine called Blankenship “The Queen of Paint.”

“The success behind Blankenship’s idea lies in simultaneously identifying and serving an unmet consumer need while offering a quality product. This is simply good marketing practice,” writer Charles Taylor said in his Forbes piece.

Blankenship said this year’s sales are predicted to be over $18 million.

Here’s more of her story.

Top accomplishment: I received my first U.S. utility patent this year, and I have two more in the works.

The person(s) who most influenced or mentored me: My parents were both out-of-the-box thinkers. They instilled a great work ethic into my sister and me.  They also gave us wings to fly and always made us believe all things were possible if you wanted it.

My biggest challenge and how I overcame it: Focus. Learning to not chase so many ideas and staying on task with what is really making money.

My advice to younger women in business: Find something you are passionate about. The money will follow if you truly love what you are doing and others can see your excitement.

As a child, I wanted to be: President. (As you can see, I was a major dreamer.)

Something I love doing: I am an artist and I love to draw and paint. Being creative is my lifeblood.

One skill everyone should have: Be a problem solver, daily. Don’t put off what you can do today.

The most important attribute I bring to my job: I am a taskmaster and I don’t hesitate to pull the trigger, right or wrong. I make moves.

If I had to delete all but three apps from my smartphone, I’d keep: Facebook, Instagram and Amazon.

What do I want to accomplish in the next five to 10 years? We are on track to take the company public in five years.


Laura Boison

Laura Boison

Laura Tanno Boison has served as Central Kentucky market president for BB&T, now Truist, since July 2018. She previously served as senior vice president. She works with the bank’s commercial clients, the community and various product partners to provide a path to success for all, she said.

Boison has worked in banking and investments her entire career. That job interview at First Security National Bank (now JPMorgan Chase), turned into a 32-year stint as a business banking city executive. She spent two years as an investment adviser, then served as market president of U.S. Bank for nearly six years before joining the BB&T team in December 2015.

Boison has a bachelor’s degree in accounting and an MBA from the University of Kentucky. She’s currently back in school, pursuing a degree in not-for-profit management.

Here’s more of her story.

Top accomplishment: This is the easiest of all questions. I am blessed with a wonderful family. I have three adult children and two adult stepchildren. They are all building their lives in remarkable and meaningful ways. By far, any role I had in guiding them would be my top accomplishment.

The person(s) who most influenced or mentored me: My parents. My father always had the best one-line statements to keep us on track; he was an Episcopal priest from an Italian family (deeply Italian). The wisdom he gave was priceless. My mother is a leader for her generation. She is college educated (born in 1927) and is the epitome of graceful. She could have been Pinterest before the internet was invented. She beautifully entertained, sewed, gardened, nourished her family in every aspect. To this day, she is up early, dressed for her day with earrings and purpose.

My biggest challenge and how I overcame it: There have been many challenges which are truly teachers. So, my greatest teacher has been the demand to hold to my core regardless of the challenge. That is probably an answer more for someone my age. Challenges evolve given your space in life.

My advice to younger women in business: I am a believer in yoga for many purposes. My yoga instructor often states, “Get into your fullest extent of the pose—whatever that is for you.” For those younger than me, that is one piece of advice and they can interpret as they choose. The other is from my father: “Keep your eye on the doughnut not the hole.” Finally, establish your core group. I have been given dear people in my life that are more than I deserve. They keep me whole and help me always find the path. I could not be where I am today without all those people in my life.

Something I love doing: Travel and adventures. My kids (adults now) have been amazing in joining/participating with incredible adventures, each with many layers. Travel with a wide range of adventures to me is education and life at its best. I enjoy any time with my family. My community involvement is very important, too. UK sports are great. I play in the UK Alumni Pep Band. I enjoy watching and attending professional tennis.

A song from my childhood/teenage years that I still rock out to when no one else is around: I was an oboe player in high school and played saxophone in college in the band. My dad had a great collection of his generation’s music so my favorite space is the music of the core 1950 to ’60s.


Anne Brooks
Anne Brooks

Anne J. Brooks

Anne Brooks was recently promoted to partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) in Lexington. She works in Pwc’s Private Company Services Assurance practice, which helps companies across various industries and ownership structures navigate through complex accounting and business issues.

Brooks has more than 14 years of experience with PwC, serving clients across a broad spectrum of industries, including manufacturing, retail and consumer, marketing services, equine management, and not-for-profits.

The promotion, which occurred in July, is one of her top accomplishments, she said.

Brooks has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in accounting from UK.

Here’s more of her story.

The person(s) who most influenced or mentored me: My daughter has been my biggest motivation and champion for the last 18 years, inspiring me to be the best that I can be. On a professional level, I have been very lucky in having the right mentors at the right time helping me navigate my career.

My biggest challenge and how I overcame it: I love a good challenge and there have been many: passing the CPA exam, being passed up for a promotion, balancing work and life, difficult assignments. Each one was unique and difficult in its own right. The key for me was to not be discouraged, face challenges head on, and when they were over to reap the lesson that they provided me.

My advice to younger women in business: Ask for what you want. Say ‘yes’ to the things that scare you; say ‘no’ to the things that don’t develop you. And make sure you are having fun along the way. Our firm operates under the model of being purpose-led and values driven. I firmly believe it is important to identify this for you.

As a child, I wanted to be: A ballet dancer, a lawyer, a member of the Coast Guard, and a teacher … so I became an accountant.

Something I love doing: I love boxing and ballet. There is something about the movement that makes me feel so alive.

I’m inspired by: The people I work with and the work I do. I get excited about developing my teams and the next generation of accountants, working with my clients through the issues affecting them, and positively contributing to my firm and my community. 

Songs from my childhood/teenage years that I still rock out to when no one else is around: Anything Whitney Houston. I listen to “One Moment in Time” before any big meeting to pump me up.


Dr. Nicole Freels
Dr. Nicole Freels

Dr. Nicole Freels

At age 12, Nicole Freels began working in the podiatry practice of her grandfather, Dr. Arthur O. Kelly. She spent summer vacations, spring and fall breaks working with her grandfather and fell in love with podiatry.

“It didn’t seem like work. He would walk door to door, giving hugs to all of his patients, talking about the success (or disaster) his garden had been that year,” Freels said. “I immediately said to myself, ‘I can do this.’ I have tried to emulate the small-town, calming and relaxed environment that he did so effortlessly.”

After high school, Freels attended the University of Kentucky and then the Ohio College of Podiatric Medicine in Cleveland, Ohio, her grandfather’s alma mater. She started her own practice 12 years ago, Lexington Podiatry.

Here’s more of her story.

Top accomplishment: Creating and building one of the most recognized podiatric practices globally.

The person(s) who most influenced or mentored me: My grandfather, Dr. Arthur O. Kelly, was a podiatrist and wonderful teacher. I was also very fortunate to have been raised by parents who were constantly encouraging me to be my “best self.” My mom signed us up for everything. I was raised on a farm, so a strong work ethic was your only option. My brother and I were exposed to a wide range of chores, all of which built character, grit and determination, traits I rely on daily.

My biggest challenge and how I overcame it: Starting with $8 in my bank account, a mountain of debt and deciding to open my own medical practice in the fall of 2008, one week after Lehman Brothers declared bankruptcy. That decision straddles either bold or stupid. I’m going pretend that I was bold. Fortunately, my husband was able to supplement my “little” venture in the beginning.

My advice to younger women in business: Go for it. You never know unless you try. Don’t underestimate your abilities. Work around the clock, place all your focus and energy on accomplishing your goal. Trust your gut and don’t give up, even when you really want to. Don’t let societal norms hold you back. You are the master of your own destiny—you and you alone. Surround yourself with a core group of friends that support and relish in your wins.

Something I love doing: Travel! I love my patients, but traveling the world is my true passion.

One skill everyone should have: Exceptional customer service.  Our entire office treats every patient as if they were family, because WE are a family.  I love nothing more than to hear patients and our team members giggling in the exam rooms; it feels like I’m right at home. 

The most important attribute I bring to my job: My husband says it’s my work ethic. I eat, sleep and breath Lexington Podiatry. I’m always looking for ways to improve the overall experience not only for patients, but for the team members as well.

Favorite book I’ve read recently: “The 4-Hour Work Week.” It taught me how to squeeze 30 hours out of a 24-hour day through efficiency tools and tips.

A song from my childhood/teenage years that I still rock out to when no one else is around: “Ice, Ice Baby” by Vanilla Ice.

If I had to delete all but three apps from my smartphone, I’d keep: Pandora (because I am always listening to music), Delta and Amazon.

What do I want to accomplish in the next five to 10 years? The sky is the limit. I’m always looking to do something more. Who knows, maybe I’ll be the next Dr. Pimple Popper?


Britney Ruby Miller
Britney Ruby Miller

Britney Ruby Miller

Britney Ruby Miller started working as a hostess in one of her father’s restaurants when she was in high school. Her father, Jeff Ruby, is widely considered one of the nation’s pre-eminent restaurateurs: His restaurants are nationally acclaimed for decadent foods and impeccable service.

Miller worked her way up through the ranks of the family business. After earning a bachelor’s degree in religious studies from the University of Cincinnati, she attended culinary school. Three years ago, she took the helm as CEO of Jeff Ruby Culinary Entertainment, a restaurant group that manages seven high-end steakhouses in Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee that are widely regarded as among the best in the nation. She leads of a team of more than 700 employees.

And, as if her plate wasn’t full enough already, she’s working on earning her MBA from Xavier University.

Miller has served as CEO during a time of record sales and profits, and during one of the most challenging times the hospitality industry has ever endured: the shutdown of restaurants because of COVID-19 and the subsequent reopening under new safety guidelines. She calls it her biggest challenge.

“[My biggest challenge was] being forced to shut down for three months due to COVID-19. We overcame it by staying focused, leaning on our strong advisory board and the solid cash position we are in, due to the hard work of our team and support of loyal guests,” she said.

The company developed a 40-page reopening plan, Miller took a spot on Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s restaurant advisory board, and successfully lobbied for revisions to the Paycheck Protection Program to make it more functional for restaurants.

Here’s more of her story.

My top accomplishment: Mommy to Grace, 9, Hannah, 7, and Asher, 3.

The person(s) who most influenced or mentored me: This one is really a no-brainer to me. My dad has taught me so much about the restaurant business, yet I am somehow always still learning from him. He’s such a wealth of knowledge. Working with him over the years has been one of the biggest joys of my career.

As a child, I wanted to be: A sports broadcasting reporter. I actually got to test this out with ESPN and WLWT Cincinnati.

Something I love doing: Prayer, reading, yoga and enjoying my industry—eating amazing food and drinking incredible wine.

I’m inspired by: I have the “Ruby blood”—my wheels are always spinning. I’m probably too driven, so for me it’s about balancing the entrepreneurial spirit with staying focused and not doing too much at once.

One skill everyone should have: Listening.

The most important attribute I bring to my job: Grace.

Favorite book I’ve read recently: I’m writing my own book right now so don’t have much more time to read others. The last book I read was Ford Taylor’s “Relactional Leadership.” It’s a must-read in business.

If I had to delete all but three apps from my smartphone, I’d keep: Drivetime Devotionals, Spotify, bank app.

In the next five to 10 years, I hope to: Overcome COVID-19, come back more profitable and stronger than before, and to be able to say the COVID-19 disruption was a positive game-changer for our business model (i.e. carry out, delivery, off-premise catering, etc.).


Sadiqa N. Reynolds
Sadiqa N. Reynolds

Sadiqa N. Reynolds

For five years, Sadiqa Reynolds has served as president and CEO of the Louisville Urban League (LUL), a community organization dedicated to eliminating racism and its adverse effects on the community. LUL assists African Americans and other marginalized populations in attaining social and economic equality through direct services and advocacy. The organization serves the Kentucky counties of Jefferson, Shelby, Oldham, Bullitt and Hardin, along with the Indiana counties of Floyd, Harrison and Clark.

Prior to leading LUL, Reynolds had a private law practice, worked as inspector general for Louisville Metro Government, and was the chief law clerk for Kentucky Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert F. Stephens—the first African American woman to clerk for the Kentucky Supreme Court. She has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Louisville, a juris doctor from University of Kentucky College of Law, and an honorary Ph.D. from Spalding University and Simmons College.

Here’s more of her story.

Top accomplishment: Helping to clean a brownfield, and leading the charge to build the largest economic development project in the most underserved part of Louisville (the Norton Sports Health Athletics and Learning Complex).

The person who most influenced me: My mother. She required that I always do my best. As a child, my mother put no pressure on me to do any particular job or grow up to be anything other than the best version of myself. I saw my mother use her influence to help others and even risk her own position to help lift others. No one has had more influence on me.

Biggest challenge and how I overcame it: I am my mother’s only child. I lost her many years ago, but being able to move forward after her death has been the greatest challenge of my life.

Advice to younger women in business: Trust your gut. Be honest with yourself first and everyone you are doing business with. Every time you speak, consider that you are speaking on behalf of people who may never have the ability to sit in the rooms you are invited into, so represent yourself and them to the best of your ability—even if that is not in your best interest short term. Your responsibility is about more than you.

As a child, I wanted to be: A truck driver or flight attendant. I just wanted to be on the move.

Something I love doing: Traveling, reading for pleasure, EATING!

I’m inspired by: Helping people. My favorite thing in the world is to run into someone who says I made a difference in their life.

One skill everyone should have: Listening for understanding.

The most important attribute I bring to my job: Absolute conviction.

Favorite book I’ve read recently: “The Warmth of Other Suns” by Isabel Wilkerson.

A song from my childhood/teenage years that I still rock out to when no one else is around: “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor.

If I had to delete all but three apps from my smartphone, I’d keep: Twitter, Facebook and Pandora.

What do I want to accomplish in the next five to 10 years? I want to increase home ownership for people in Louisville by 50%.


Shannon Moore Vitale
Shannon Moore Vitale

Shannon Moore Vitale

Shannon Vitale has worked for the same company, The Mahurin Group, for 33 years. She started in 1987 as a receptionist and then studied and trained to be a financial adviser. She attended Western Kentucky University, and has earned the Series 7, 9, 10, 63, 65, Insurance License. She also completed the Hilliard Lyons Wealth Planning Essentials Program through Wharton University of Pennsylvania.

In addition to becoming a financial adviser, she also serves as branch manager to the Bowling Green and Elizabethtown offices of Baird Private Wealth Management, with which Hilliard Lyons merged in late 2019.

Here’s more of her story.

Top accomplishment: I am mom to three incredible boys. I’m also proud to be a founding member and inaugural board member for The Women’s Fund of South Central Kentucky, a nonprofit organization that helps women, children and families.

The person(s) who most influenced or mentored me: My mom, Helen Moore, raised six kids and helped manage our family farm. She did it all—cooked, gardened, kept us all going, and still always managed to help others. I am also grateful for my professional mentors, Sue Badgett and Pete Mahurin, who both constantly remind me to think big in all endeavors.

My biggest challenge and how I overcame it: Balancing the family I love and the career I love. I’m fortunate to have grown up with the model of a strong woman who can seemingly do it all, and then some —my mom. I’ve learned to find joy in the sacrifices I make, like catching a beautiful sunrise on the way into the office early in the morning. Building a trustworthy and reliable team means I can step away when a son needs me, too.

My advice to younger women in business: Love what you do and love the people you do it with. Don’t be the smartest person in the room. Surround yourself with people who challenge and motivate you. Move on when you make a mistake; the only people who don’t make mistakes are the ones who don’t do anything.

Something I love doing: I really enjoy helping others, whether it be my family, friends, clients or community. I also love to read and play with Ollie, our adopted 10-year-old “everything” dog.

I’m inspired/driven by: Helping others.

One important skill everyone should have: I think it would be a combination of being curious, hard-working and willing to do any role. If I had to choose just one, though, it would be listening—to mentors, to clients, to team members and to loved ones.

The most important personal attribute I bring to my job: I bring contagious energy and a positive attitude to my work; I seek generosity and gratitude every day.

A song from my childhood/teenage years that I still rock out to when no one else is around: I love KC and the Sunshine Band and the Bee Gees!

What do I want to accomplish in the next five to 10 years? I want to continue learning, helping my clients, and serving my community, plus mentoring and helping the next generation in our business and community.


Monica J. Wardlow
Monica J. Wardlow

Monica J. Wardlow

Monica Wardlow has spent most of her career in the banking and wealth management industry. She is a lending officer at German American Bank in Bowling Green, where she helps others fulfill their dreams and goals by providing loans for various needs. She also develops and enhances business relationships while promoting the bank in her community.

Before German American, she was a manager at Wells Fargo Financial, and a lender at Republic Bank. She served as a lender at Citizens First Bank when it merged with German American in July 2019.

Wardlow also serves as an ambassador for and board member of the Bowling Green Area Chamber of Commerce. She also is involved with many local nonprofit groups, including Junior Achievement and United Way.

In 2019, she received the chamber of commerce’s Volunteer of the Year Award. She received the chamber’s 2020 ATHENA Award, which honors a local businessperson “who contributes most greatly to the community and advancement of women in the business world.”

Here’s more of her story.

Education/training: Bachelor’s degree in marketing and a master’s degree in corporate communication from Western Kentucky University.

Top accomplishment: Winning the 2020 ATHENA Award.

The person(s) who most influenced or mentored me: My family, starting with my grandparents and parents. They have continually given support and encouragement in all my endeavors.

My biggest challenge and how I overcame it: Realizing there are things that I have no control over, but what I can control is how I react to them. This is a constant test throughout life.  Learning that every path is not lit up and straight, and when we are on those paths we must walk by faith and not by sight.

My advice to younger women in business: Learn from those around you. Don’t be afraid to share your ideas. Be persistent. Never give up!

Something I love doing: Junior Achievement classroom volunteer/motivating others to succeed, spending time with family and friends.

I’m inspired/driven by: I am driven by faith, family and the belief that you are blessed to be a blessing to someone else.

The most important personal attribute I bring to your job: A strong work ethic and the ability to lead or be led when needed. And enthusiasm.

Favorite book I’ve read recently: “Small Great Things” by Jodi Picoult.

Songs from my childhood/teenage years that I still rock out to when no one else is around: “Rappers Delight” by Sugar Hill and “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” by Whitney Houston.

If I had to delete all but three apps from my smartphone, I’d keep: Bible app, banking app and Maps.


Lacy Starling
Lacy Starling

Lacy Starling

A “wild path” brought Lacy Starling to her role as president of Legion Logistics in Northern Kentucky, she said. She has done everything from selling booth space at county fairs to managing a jewelry store to fundraising for United Way.

She handles human resources, finance and marketing for Legion, as well as strategic direction. She also serves as an adjunct professor in marketing at the University of Cincinnati College of Business.

Starling recently founded Starling Consultants, which helps companies with strategic planning, selling, marketing and company culture. She has a bachelor’s degree in newspaper journalism from Kent State University and an MBA from Malone University.

Here’s more of her story.

Top accomplishment: I was named an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year in 2015. That felt pretty momentous. But I always like to think my top accomplishments are still ahead of me.

The person(s) who most influenced or mentored me: For the past four years, I’ve been part of an amazing Women President’s Organization roundtable with women from around the country. They are incredible business owners, visionaries and friends and they have inspired me to be so much better, stronger and more confident. Each one of them has had a hand in my success.

My biggest challenge and how I overcame it: Self-doubt has been and continues to be my biggest challenge. Believing in my own ability and not being afraid to announce it to the world has always been difficult, but I feel as though I’m getting better at it all the time.

My advice to younger women in business: Don’t think you have to have it all figured out. Life is really long, and surprising. I had no idea 10 years ago I’d be where I am today, and 10 years from now, I’m sure I’ll be someplace completely different. You just have to move forward with intention, stay focused on your core values and goals, and leave yourself open to possibility. The universe puts opportunities in front of all of us, and we have to be brave and flexible enough to grab them.

As a child, I wanted to be: A newspaper reporter. My undergrad degree is in newspaper journalism, but by the time I graduated college, most newspapers had started to shrink operations, so I had to pivot.

Something I love doing: I love kayaking. I started a few years ago, and now my husband and I try to take our kayaks out at least once a month to explore some new river in Kentucky. I also love to lift heavy weight, and I see a trainer three days a week so I can do just that.

I’m inspired by: Self-improvement. I want to be better, faster, stronger, smarter, everything-er. I want to learn and grow and improve every day.

One skill everyone should have: Everyone should learn how to write effectively. It doesn’t have to be Shakespeare, but being able to communicate clearly in writing is so important.

The most important attribute I bring to my job: I think my most important personal attribute is my energy and enthusiasm. I can inspire action and motivate others because I dive fully into the work and am always excited about the possibilities.

If I had to delete all but three apps from my smartphone, I’d keep: Ten Percent Happier, my meditation app. Libby, the library app where I check out books for my Kindle. And Spotify, because I listen to podcasts and music all the time.


Tracey Johnson
Tracey Johnson

Tracey Johnson

Tracey Johnson has been successfully marketing popular brands for many years. For the past 16 years, she has worked for Brown-Forman in Louisville, one of the largest American-owned spirits and wine companies. She currently serves as brand director for Woodford Reserve, which is owned by Brown-Forman.

Johnson also has held positions in interactive and multicultural marketing at Brown-Forman.

Prior to working in the alcohol beverage industry, Johnson marketed brands such as Band-Aid bandages, Johnson’s baby products and KFC.

Here’s more of her story.

Education/training: I graduated from Vanderbilt University where I was a math major, and I have an MBA from the University of Michigan.

My top accomplishment: Balancing my professional career with being a wife and mother. I’m proud to successfully manage both. Professionally, my biggest accomplishment was weathering the storm of a job loss. Four years ago, the company decided to sell a brand I was leading to another company, and I was faced with leaving the company. I remained positive, leaned into my network, and was able to find another role at Brown-Forman.

The person(s) who most influenced or mentored me: My father was influential in my life. One of his sayings was, “Outwork them.” I watched him do that throughout his career, and he was successful professionally, and even more successful as a father. He thought I could accomplish anything I decided to do. Today, my husband has taken over the role as my biggest supporter.

My biggest challenge and how I overcame it: Hearing and acting on feedback. I used to hear constructive feedback, and if I didn’t agree, I would discount it. I had to realize the feedback I received, whether true or not, is someone’s perception, and I should work to address it.

My advice to younger women in business: Don’t be afraid to take risks and pursue opportunities. We never know how far we can go unless we stretch. I’m speaking to myself as well. My dad also used to say, “Let someone else tell you ‘no’; don’t you do it.”

As a child, I wanted to be: I wanted to be an attorney when I was young. I thought I could make compelling arguments.

Something I love doing: Spending time with my family and trying new food and drink recipes. I can see a cooking show in my future.

One important skill everyone should have: Everyone should hone their public speaking skills. It is really something that gets better with practice, and it makes a difference in your ability to lead and influence others.

The most important personal attribute that I bring to my job: Flexibility has proven to be quite important. Now more than ever, our business environment requires all of us to make quick decisions, adjust and learn as we go.

A song from my childhood/teenage years that I still rock out to when no one else is around: “1999” by Prince.

What do I want to accomplish in the next five to 10 years? I want the folks on my team to achieve their professional goals while we crush our business goals.


Lorie Hailey is special publications editor of The Lane Report. She can be reached at [email protected]

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