Chamber to celebrate extraordinary women

Local female professionals will speak about their roles as leaders in the community at the April 25 women-only event.

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The West Orange Chamber of Commerce has selected five local professionals — all of them women — for their leadership in the community, and they will be recognized at the chamber’s Celebrating Extraordinary Women event Wednesday, April 25. The women-only gathering will include cocktails and conversation.

Four of the five will speak during the round-robin discussion: Julie Kleffel, executive vice president and head of community banking at Seacoast Bank; Suneera Madhani, founder and CEO of Fattmerchant; Stacy Papp, creative designer and founder of Bay Hill Jewelers; and Tiffany Moore Russell, Orange County clerk of courts.

The fifth honoree, Jamie Seh, sports director for WKMG News 6, is unable to attend because of her work schedule, but chamber president Stina D’Uva said she hopes to have Seh speak at the second event in this series.

“They are all successful in a wide range of industries, two business owners and entrepreneurs and two who work within larger organizations, yet all have garnered the respect of their peers,” D’Uva said of the selections.

Kleffel’s career in banking has spanned decades. She is a chamber past chair and the organization’s youngest Lifetime Director.

“She has received numerous awards and serves on many boards and is always sought out for her calm, yet no-nonsense approach to getting any project accomplished,” D’Uva said.

Kleffel said she is humbled to have been selected and is looking forward to learning from them. She wants to share with the audience some practical, real-life tools she uses daily to help them in their personal and professional lives.

“I hope that my personal story will inspire the women in attendance that anything is possible if they engage their passions around their work,” Kleffel said. “I am a big believer in the power of mentoring other women and investing in others — as so many people have invested in me over the years. I would not be where I am today without the help of so many people.”

Madhani has led her technology-based credit card-processing company to win many awards, including the Bright House Start Up 2016 award, and others for best place to work and Top 100 companies. Suneera recently was a panelist at Mayor Teresa Jacobs’s 2018 Economic Summit and spoke about the growth of her company.

“She is dynamic and a charismatic woman,” D’Uva said.

Madhani said she is eager to share her story.

“As a successful female CEO and leader in a male-dominated industry, I have the honor of being (a) trailblazer for the many other woman out there who have #MomBoss potential,” she said. “My story is one that is not heard nearly often enough, and I'm honored to be a part of the change for the next generation of female leaders.”

She hopes to inspire other female entrepreneurs and young professionals to “unleash the hustler within and never take no as an answer,” she said.

Madhani said she believes anyone with passion can make their vision a reality through hard work and drive.

Russell was first introduced to the chamber many years ago through the West Orange Political Alliance. She has been the youngest person to serve on the Orange County Board of County Commissioners, and she is the county’s first black clerk of the courts.

“Her energy and passion are evident, and her role as clerk of the courts demonstrates her abilities to lead and be a public servant,” D’Uva said.

Russell, too, said she was humbled by the selection.

“There are so many women doing great things in their respective professions, and I am just thankful someone thought to select me,” she said.

At the April 25 event, Russell plans to talk about her professional journey and how she manages the many hats she wears as a female. 

“I feel I can empower women to achieve their dream because of my personal life journey,” she said. “I am truly a minority in politics, not because I am African-American, but because I am one of the few elected officials to get married and start a family while serving in public office. 

“Because of that unique experience, I should be able to share a lot of advice and lessons to young women navigating their professional journey.”

Papp has built her business from one location to three. The philanthropist founded a nonprofit organization that helps at-risk youth further their education.

“Her creative vision and artistry and her client-first focus are the forces behind the impressive growth of this family-owned local business,” D’Uva said.

Papp has met and risen above many challenges when opening and expanding her business.

She will speak on “the challenges that a new business will have, how not to give up, how to face adversity,” she said.

She said she hopes her advice will inspire other women to persevere.



Amy Quesinberry

Community Editor Amy Quesinberry was born at the old West Orange Memorial Hospital and raised in Winter Garden. Aside from earning her journalism degree from the University of Georgia, she hasn’t strayed too far from her hometown and her three-mile bubble. She grew up reading The Winter Garden Times and knew in the eighth grade she wanted to write for her community newspaper. She has been part of the writing and editing team since 1990.

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