Volunteer Spotlight

Tunisia Irby

After owning and operating her own medical billing company for 10 years, Tunisia Irby was ready to give back to other entrepreneurs who needed a helping hand. She found WomenVenture and liked the mission and focus on women entrepreneurs. Three years ago, she volunteered with WomenVenture for the first time and hasn’t looked back.

Tunisia built her own business from the ground up. Entrepreneurship quite literally changed her life. When she started her business, she was a single mom of seven. In a decade, she went from being broke to building a six-figure business and owning her own home.

Although she eventually found success, Tunisia is no stranger to struggle. She didn’t know the first thing about business when she began, but she started her company anyway as a means of survival. When the first launch did not go as expected, Tunisia decided to take a step back and find more resources to educate herself on running a business. She took WomenVenture’s business training class at the time, after which she re-launched her business with much more success. Now, over a decade later, she is back at WomenVenture, teaching those same concepts that helped her succeed.

Tunisia started volunteering at WomenVenture as a mentor for Small Business Essentials, and then became a trainer for the Getting Ready series. She uses her own experiences and anecdotes to inspire and motivate clients, while also making sure they have realistic expectations when it comes to starting a business.

Tunisia also works hard to make sure that her students know that you don’t necessarily need to start with wealth to succeed in business. Owning a business can be a key to BUILDING that wealth. If a budding entrepreneur has a good business idea, business skills, and determination, she can succeed no matter what her economic background may be.

Tunisia genuinely enjoys sharing her expertise to help other women succeed in business, and she loves being at WomenVenture. “If you want to give back, WomenVenture is a great place to do that,” Tunisia says. “Their classes really do help. I WAS that woman who WomenVenture helped, so I know first-hand.”

If you are interested in volunteering with WomenVenture, contact volunteer manager Blair Halperin at bhalperin@womenventure.org or join us at an upcoming volunteer information session.

Carrie Hefte, Carole Clark Isakson, and Lorraine Painter

These three women are the recipients of the WCCO Good Neighbor Award in recognition of their contributions as WomenVenture volunteers.

Carrie Hefte

Since 2016 WomenVenture volunteer Carrie Hefte has helped women entrepreneurs from all backgrounds navigate intellectual property law. With over 30 years of legal practice with Wells Fargo, Carrie comes equipped with the right tools to protect women from choosing risky business names. In one-on-one sessions, she uses trademark databases to advise women on names, logos, and taglines. Carrie has had many memorable moments with her clients, but one experience stands out. “A woman came to me with a name for her childcare business, which I saw as a moderate risk. I asked her if she could come up with another word,” says Carrie. “My client spoke to her nine-year-old daughter, who came up with a clever name on the spot!” Every day Carrie witnesses the creativity of women entrepreneurs of all ages, and she finds herself incredibly excited and happy to be a part of their journey. She is currently recruiting additional women trademark attorneys to mentor WomenVenture clients regarding intellectual property rights.

Carole Clark Isakson

Carole Clark Isakson became a WomenVenture volunteer in November 2017 when she began looking for a way to better women’s lives with her legal expertise. With over 30 years of experience in business sales and acquisition, Carole knew she could help women interested in buying existing businesses. The process can be overwhelming and confusing, and many women cannot afford lawyers to sort through the necessary contracts and leases. A personal highlight for Carole was her work with LaTonya Johnson, her first client as well as the Emerging Business Award Winner at the 2018 Women Mean Business Luncheon & Marketplace. “I protected her from a potentially dangerous situation, and I made sure we did it right,” says Carole. “I almost cried when she won that award. It was so affirming to see I am making a difference in my community.” Carole is currently a Shareholder and on the Board of Directors at Barna, Guzy & Steffen, Ltd. 

Lorraine Painter

As a volunteer Lorraine Painter has been an integral part to WomenVenture curriculum and classes, which have helped women entrepreneurs reach their full potential. After retiring she knew she wanted to pass on her hard-earned experience to other women and fill her own life with purpose. Over the past four years she has contributed to WomenVenture’s Small Business Essentials and Getting Ready classes, both by restructuring curriculum as well as teaching the material. She coaches each woman through their presentations and graduation and acts as their “second mom,” giving them both discipline and a lot of encouragement. Lorraine lights up when she remembers the women she has coached through WomenVenture. “One of my mentees was an award winner at Women Mean Business two years ago, and it was so rewarding to see her on that stage,” says Lorraine. “Another woman thanked me in a speech this year, and it just picked me up. I am able to live a wonderful new life with a grateful heart.” In addition to her work at WomenVenture, she volunteers through Reagents Hospital and edits microloan applications for Kiva.