27th Annual Hall of Fame Awards Luncheon

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Thursday, September 26, noon

McCormick Place, Lakeside Ballroom, E354

Each year, the Women’s Business Development Center (WBDC) recognizes several outstanding women entrepreneurs who have demonstrated unequaled success, perseverance and creativity in their enterprises. The WBDC also recognizes advocates who have demonstrated an enthusiastic commitment to strengthening women’s business ownership and economic development. Congratulations to this year’s Hall of Fame Award Recipients!

27th Annual Entrepreneurial Woman of the Year

Carolyn Gable


New Age Transportation, Inc.

Carolyn Gable launched New Age Transportation, Distribution & Warehousing Inc., in 1989 with just one employee. Today, with 45 employees and annual revenues of $25 million, New Age is a leading third-party logistics business, which provides transportation and consulting services to dozens of companies, including several in the Fortune 500. Gable’s road to success was rocky. As a single mother, she was forced to make ends meet by working as a waitress for 12 years. When the restaurant closed, she took an entry level job at a freight company and eventually was promoted to a sales position. When the trucking industry became de-regulated, she saw an opportunity and seized it, starting her own independent freight business out of her home. The recipient of numerous awards for her business acumen, Gable gives back to the community in part through her Expect a Miracle Foundation, which has given more than 7,000 children nationwide access to music and dance lessons, sports and school tutoring. She is the author of a motivational book, Everything I Know as a CEO I Learned as a Waitress. Gable will receive her award at the 27th Annual Hall of Fame Awards Luncheon, beginning at 12 noon.

27th Annual Entrepreneurial Woman of the Year -
WBE Success

Lili Hall


KNOCK, inc.

Lili Hall founded and leads one of the few female-owned advertising agencies in the nation. In 2001, she gathered a core group of talent, many of whom continue on the leadership team today, and launched a business that has grown at a remarkable rate, landing the agency on the Inc. 5000 Fastest-Growing Companies list for two consecutive years. KNOCK’s strategic and creative approach to service has helped them win clients such as Target, New Balance, Levi’s and Perry Ellis. Hall also founded and heads two other local companies that support KNOCK’s service offerings: a trend-inspired product development business called Treat and Company (2006), and Neighbor (2012), a 3-D animation and creative content developer. Under Hall’s direction, KNOCK devotes a significant amount of pro bono work to help non-profit organizations. Hall serves on the boards of The Children’s Theatre Company and The Italian Cultural Center, and maintains an active membership in the Women Presidents’ Organization. She recently completed an International Masters of Practicing Management degree at McGill University, where she studied at five management schools around the world.

27th Annual Advocacy Award


Melody Spann Cooper

Chairman, Midway Broadcasting Corporation

President, WVON

As chairman of Midway Broadcasting, Melody Spann Cooper joined an elite list of female broadcast station owners after purchasing the company’s controlling interest in 1999. The company’s properties include WVON 1690AM, Chicago’s only black owned and operated radio station, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, and WRLL 1450AM, a Spanish-language station. For five decades, WVON has been more than just a radio station but has served as a platform for the African-American community and the voice of information for social, economic and political issues both locally and nationally. Spann Cooper’s accomplishments in broadcast media have been recognized by numerous organizations, including Crain’s Chicago Business, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Chicago Minority Supplier Development Council. She is a member of the Alliance of Business Leaders and Entrepreneurs, a board member of the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters and The Provident Foundation, and is a trustee of the Museum of Science & Industry and the University of Chicago Medical Center.

27th Anniversary Corporate Support Award


Carolynn Brooks

Vice President, Chief Diversity Officer and President, OfficeMax Charitable Foundation

Anthony Billinger

Manager, Supplier Diversity

OfficeMax will receive the award for its ongoing commitment to the advancement of women- and minority-owned businesses and its steadfast dedication to the Women’s Business Development Center and its mission. Accepting the award will be Carolynn Brooks, Vice President, Chief Diversity Officer, and President, OfficeMax Charitable Foundation, and Anthony Billinger, Manager, Supplier Diversity. Ms. Brooks joined OfficeMax in 2001 and was promoted to vice president, chief diversity officer in 2006. She oversees the strategic direction of all initiatives designed to create a diverse workforce and promote inclusive practices. In 2011, she was recognized by Black Enterprise as a Top Executive in Diversity and was also profiled in the Diversity Business Journal as an Executive Woman Worth Watching.

Anthony Billinger is responsible for creating and implementing the enterprise-wide strategy for supplier diversity. He joined OfficeMax in June 2009 after serving as the architect of the supplier diversity initiative at Snap-on Tools and serving as director of supplier diversity and minority affairs for the Missouri State Lottery for nearly ten years. Under Mr. Billinger’s leadership, OfficeMax’s diversity spending increased 60 percent from 2010 to 2012. He established OfficeMax’s 1st Annual Business Opportunity Exchange in August 2011, bringing together OfficeMax diverse suppliers and vendors for a one-day conference to develop strategic relationships with internal stakeholders. The 2nd Annual Business Opportunity Exchange, held in August 2012, required OfficeMax’s prime vendors and suppliers to engage certified diverse suppliers on contracts and projects. The program was expanded last year to include Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender (GLBT) Certified suppliers.

Luncheon Keynote Speaker

Laurel Bellows

Principal of The Bellows Law Group, P.C.

Immediate Past President, American Bar Association

Laurel Bellows, the principal of The Bellows Law Group, P.C., located in Chicago, is an internationally-recognized business lawyer who counsels senior executives and corporations on employment matters, employment and severance agreements, executive compensation and workplace disputes. Her expertise in executive compensation matters includes mid-level management compensation and benefit plans and matters involving incentives, pension, retirement, and workforce restructuring. The Bellows Group also offers transactional, counseling and litigation services to companies of all sizes.

Ms. Bellows is the immediate past president American Bar Association (ABA), one of the largest voluntary professional organizations in the world with 400,000 members. She also chaired its policymaking House of Delegates (2006-2008), the second highest elected office in the ABA, and she has held numerous high-level posts within the organization.

In 1991, she became only the second woman president of the Chicago Bar Association, one of Illinois’ largest bar associations with 22,000 members.

Ms. Bellows served on the United States Senate Judicial Nominations Commission for the State of Illinois, and is a past president of the National Conference of Bar Presidents and The Chicago Network. A winner of countless awards and honors nationally and locally, she was named one of Working Mother magazine’s 25 Most Influential Working Mothers in the country in 1997. ATHENA International honored her with its prestigious 2012 ATHENA Leadership Award presented to exemplary leaders for achieving the highest level of professional excellence, and for actively assisting and inspiring women to realize their full personal and professional potential.