Six honored at Women in Business awards ceremony
Conway Corp’s Crystal Kemp receives Diamond Achievement Award
The Conway Area Chamber of Commerce’s ninth annual Women in Business Awards took place Tuesday, Dec. 8, at Reynolds Performance Hall on the campus of the University of Central Arkansas. Presented by PattiCakes Bakery and Stoby’s Restaurant, the masked and socially distanced event honored four Outstanding Women in Business, an Outstanding Woman in Nonprofit, and a Diamond Achievement Award recipient. Watch a video from the event.
Crystal Kemp, chief marketing officer at Conway Corp, is the 2020 Diamond Achievement Award recipient. This award is presented to an individual with at least 25 years of professional experience who has inspired and empowered many generations of women and who has had a positive impact on those in her profession and in the community.
Kemp has worked for organizations in the heart of Conway for the past 29 years, including a 20-year career at Conway Corp. As chief marketing officer, Kemp has led her team in elevating the voice of the customer experience through the development of a brand-standard customer service training program. She also has served the cable and power industry on regional and national steering committees and panels and was recently listed among Cablefax’s 2020 Most Powerful Women.
As the mother of two daughters, Kemp was a Girl Scouts leader for more than 18 years. During her remarks upon receiving the Diamond Achievement Award, she shared with the audience notes she jotted down six years ago during a meeting where 13-year-old junior Girl Scouts were planning to lead younger Brownie Girl Scouts in an upcoming event. She had asked the girls for advice they would give to the younger girls. As she reflected on their words six years later, Kemp realized the list was meaningful to her today because “it was not a list of things to do to get ahead,” nor was it self-serving.
“It’s a list that focuses on other people and your willingness to be impacted by them,” she said.
Their tips were to be yourself, encourage others to be themselves, be there for your friends, don’t be two-faced, be an encourager, accept differences, don’t tell secrets, don’t tell lies, be open-minded, and share wisdom and lessons learned.
“It has been a long year, and I’m more than open to the things these 13-year-old girls had to say to me,” she said.
Kemp is a 1995 graduate of the Conway Area Leadership Institute (then the Faulkner County Leadership Institute). With other alumni of the program, she created the Conway Area Youth Leadership Institute, where she still serves as a session leader and committee member. Kemp serves on the boards for United Way of Central Arkansas as well as the Conway Kiwanis Club, where she earned the title of Kiwanian of the Year in 2000. She made history as the club’s first female president.
Outstanding Women in Business and Nonprofit
The 2020 Outstanding Women in Business are Vickie Crutchfield of Arkansas Property Brokers, Julie Goodnight of Julie’s Sweet Shoppe, Cate McConnell of Smith Ford, and Denise Perry of Sandstone Real Estate Group. Dr. Shaneil Ealy of the University of Central Arkansas is the 2020 Outstanding Woman in Nonprofit. These women “embody high standards of excellence, dedication, and accomplishment to their respective organizations, industries, and to the business community.” View additional photos of the honorees.
The selection committee consisted of Chamber executives outside the state of Arkansas: Adrian Cain, Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce (South Carolina); Melissa Cromwell, Greater Celina Chamber of Commerce (Texas); Shae Janner, Brenham/Washington County Chamber of Commerce (Texas); and Laura Perdew, Greater Irvine Chamber of Commerce (California).
A 25-year real estate veteran, Vickie Crutchfield has devoted her career to not only tending to the care and concerns of her customers but also serving the real estate industry overall. Under her leadership, the Faulkner County Board of Realtors formed the Community Charity Committee. This committee awards a monetary gift to a local charity each year, allowing Realtors to give back to the community that keeps them in business. Crutchfield’s talents leave a ripple effect as she mentors and encourages her peers at Arkansas Property Brokers and those starting out in the industry. Outside of work, she has devoted much of the past 10 years to her work with the Friends of the Faulkner County Animal Shelter initiative, which works to rescue and transport animals with the goal of building a shelter to serve the needs of Faulkner County.
With more than 34 years in the industry, Julie Goodnight’s work as the owner of Julie’s Sweet Shoppe has reached a level of success with no expiration date in sight. It is known that her products are delicious, but Julie’s behind-the-scenes work to inspire and mentor her team is now celebrated publicly. Always holding those around her to a high standard of excellence in their professional and personal lives, Goodnight’s passion for perfection is contagious. She offers quality service to her customers while committing countless hours and products to local organizations, such as Soul Food Café, Bethlehem House, Haven House, and Blackbird Collective, as well as hosting a Veterans Day celebration for the past 20 years.
Under the title of office manager, Cate McConnell assists with countless aspects of Smith Ford, proudly serving the dealership her great-grandfather started more than 100 years ago. She is known for always projecting a positive attitude, whether it be in leading her team or working with customers to offer them quality service. McConnell carries on the legacy of her family by devoting as much time and energy to her community as she does her company. Professionally, she has ensured Smith Ford’s support of local initiatives by providing cars or other auction items to local schools, churches, and hospital fundraisers. Personally, McConnell and her family support the United Way of Central Arkansas, and she has served on the boards for both United Way and the Conway Area Chamber of Commerce.
To some, Denise Perry is best known as an educator, teaching fourth grade at Ellen Smith Elementary School for more than 16 years. To others, she is known as the Realtor who got in on the ground floor of Sandstone Real Estate Group – the first minority-owned real estate company in the area – or the executive broker who has trained and mentored fellow female real estate agents, helping them achieve their goals and serve clients. Perry continues her enthusiasm for education by volunteering with organizations such as the Reynolds Performance Hall Community Council, specifically their Main Stage Education Series, which offers educational performances to local students throughout the school year. Additionally, she serves on the Conway Corporation board of directors, the first African American woman to do so, as well as the Conway Area Chamber of Commerce’s Strategic Planning Steering Committee.
Dr. Shaneil Ealy
Dr. Shaneil Ealy has served the University of Central Arkansas for the past 17 years and now holds the role of associate vice president, leading her team in the Division of Outreach and Community Engagement. The responsibilities that fall under her professional umbrella seemingly overlap with the initiatives that Dr. Ealy devotes her free time to. In leadership roles for the Conway Area Youth Leadership Institute, UCA Women’s Leadership Network, Conway Downtown Partnership, Conway Area Chamber of Commerce’s Minority Business Task Force, Conway Public Schools Foundation, and more, Dr. Ealy has shown a commitment to advocating for others, connecting people with resources and like-minded mentors, elevating the student experience, and investing in her community. Additionally, she and her husband own two diesel repair companies in Conway and Little Rock.
About the Event
This year’s speaker was Arkansas native and CNN Washington correspondent Jessica Dean. Dean has covered Joe Biden’s campaign since the president-elect announced his candidacy. Prior to joining CNN, she was the weekday evening co-anchor at KYW-TV in Philadelphia. She has covered a number of local and national political stories, including anchoring live from both the Republican and Democratic National Conventions in 2016 and from Rome and Philadelphia during Pope Francis’ 2015 visit to the United States. A past resident of Little Rock, Dean covered Arkansas politics and the state legislature while working as an anchor and reporter at KARK and KATV. Her career began at KNWA-KFTA in Fort Smith, where she was a general assignment reporter.
From her hotel room in Wilmington, Delaware, where she is stationed until Inauguration Day to cover Biden’s presidential transition, Dean joined journalist Melissa Dunbar Gates in conversation via Zoom. She shared with the Women in Business audience her experience covering the 2020 campaign season during a pandemic, which involved following monumental events from the safety of her home or hotel room in her socks.
“Usually during a campaign, you bump into people at dinner or in the hotel lobby or at the hotel bar, and that’s a way you really form relationships and get information,” Dean said. “This is now done primarily by phone or email or text, and it’s just really different.”
Following the conversation, each Women in Business honoree accepted her award on stage, shared remarks, and was presented with a jewelry gift from Francis M. Fine Jewelry to wear as a keepsake. Honorees and their guests as well as event sponsors were then dismissed for lunch at pre-assigned restaurants to avoid large gatherings without masks.
Lunch partners included Brick & Forge Taproom, Colton’s, Eat My Catfish, Pasta Grill, Purple Cow, TGI Fridays, Walk-On’s Sports Bistreaux, and Wunderhaus. Each attendee received a gift bag provided by Baptist Health-Conway that was filled with an assortment of gift items, including a candle from Park Hill Home, a soap gift from Buff City Soap named “All Hail the Queen,” and a certificate for a complimentary oil change from Crain Hyundai and Crain Genesis of Conway.
In addition to presenting sponsors PattiCakes Bakery and Stoby’s, the 2020 Women in Business awards ceremony was sponsored by First Arkansas Bank & Trust, Francis M. Fine Jewelry, Lake Liquor, Conway Corp, Nabholz Corporation, and Acxiom. Learn more about Women in Business at ConwayChamber.org.