Past Featured Members
Financial Advisor, Edward Jones
Belma has always been incredibly passionate about helping others. She grew up in Bosnia during the war in the 1990s and learned so much about life’s unpredictability and appreciating the little things. That’s why as a young adult, she pursued social work, working with women and children who were often fleeing domestic violence.
Now, as a financial advisor, Belma has the same opportunity to help women and other investors – helping them as they gain financial confidence and provide for the people and the things that they love most, while empowering them to take control of their own financial futures. Belma does this by putting herself in her clients’ shoes, learning their fears and what’s important to them well before she starts creating a financial strategy. Once they’ve established a relationship, Belma becomes their lifelong partner, reviewing their plans, making adjustments, and being there for them in times of turmoil and uncertainty.
Just as her clients are all different, Belma believes that no two portfolios should be the same, and she prides herself on the individual attention each of her clients receive. Whether they are men or women, business owners or families, veterans, or civilians, she loves having the opportunity to prove her dedication to her investors and being invited to share in their lives is her greatest reward.
Outside of the office, Belma and her husband stay busy with their two children. They love traveling together, going to the beach and going for walks. As a new mom, she's been having a great time cooking, staying active, and being outdoors. Belma is an active member of the Mt. Diablo Mothers Club and is membership co-chair on Mt Diablo Business Women’s board of directors. She also volunteers whenever she can, especially with groups helping the homeless and serving women and children.
Belma’s Pleasant Hill office serves investors throughout the San Francisco Bay Area, as well as out of state. Whether you’re just starting out or a financial pro, you can reach her at 925-293-6531 or send her an email to learn how she can help.
Financial Advisor, Edward Jones
As a financial advisor with Edward Jones, Judith works with both individuals as well as businesses. She works to actively understand and anticipate clients’ needs, building trusting relationships, and solving complex financial challenges. The advice she provides for individuals centers around the following areas: estate considerations and retirement planning; investment strategies; tax smart strategies; insurance and planning for the unexpected; charitable giving; business succession; and retirement plans. She also helps businesses to improve cash flow, employee retention, and business succession. Her work helps people to live the life they want, and to secure a brighter future for those they love.
Judith is also the diversity, equity, and inclusion co-leader in her region, working with women both inside and outside of Edward Jones. She focuses on supporting women in the community through financial literacy and equity education. She believes in the importance of emboldening women executives, business-owners, women on their own, and women in transition by empowering them to make a difference, have a voice, and enable them to be as financially successful as possible.
MDBW member, Diane Kaplowitz, introduced Judith to MDBW. Judith says she knew when she first attended a meeting that it was a good fit for her. “There are so many progressive, supportive, and entrepreneurial women looking to not only move their business forward, but to help others do the same. This is an incredibly dynamic group seeking to understand, build trust, and foster a positive, partnership-led relationship.”
Some good referral sources and partnerships for Judith are tax professionals, estate planning attorneys, business attorneys, HR/payroll professionals, insurance, those in real estate, and mortgage brokers.
When not working, Judith enjoys spending time with her spouse and children as well as cooking, hiking, yoga, travel, and wine tasting.
To learn more about Judith, visit her website or connect with her on LinkedIn.
Financial Planner, MassMutual Northern California
As a financial planner with MassMutual Northern California, Carolyne works with families and individuals who are focused on developing good habits to help secure their financial freedom in the future. She provides on-going financial guidance, and along with her team strives to be responsive, creative, and organized. Her goal is to be a lifetime resource for each and every client.
In the financial planning process, there are six key areas of planning and each family tackles each area differently, which personalizes the services provided. Carolyne and her team want each client to feel understood and confident when making a decision or changing their plan.
Carolyne’s ideal clients are individuals or couples who are aiming to grow their income, reduce their debt, increase their savings, and are focused on their careers, possibly starting a family, and are looking for a resource to get their financial house in order. They are curious about different ways to save, how to invest, and how to protect themselves from life’s “what ifs.”
Carolyne joined Mt. Diablo Business Women (MDBW) this year and says she’s benefited from the mentoring and networking that the group offers. She says she joined MDBW because she wanted to learn how other women have grown, or are currently growing their business. She also wanted to learn about women’s journeys, meet new people, and feel uplifted. “MDBW has been all of those things to me,” says Carolyne.
When not working with clients, Carolyne volunteers for Junior Achievement of Northern California. She is helping to establish a Young Professionals group for a local chamber, and loves to give back to the community through volunteering and charity.
In her free time, Carolyne loves to cook and organize dinners, celebrate with friends and family, squeeze in a good workout, and challenge herself to learn something new. She is an avid reader and is currently reading a book on floral arrangements. Carolyne lives in the East Bay with her husband and rescue cat, Caspa, both of whom she enjoys spending time with.
To learn more about Carolyne, visit her website and her LinkedIn page.
Local firms are sales offices of Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual), Springfield, MA 01111-0001 and are not subsidiaries of MassMutual or its affiliated companies. Carolyne Charvoz is a registered representative of and offers securities and investment advisory services through MML Investors Services, LLC. Member SIPC. CA Insurance Lic. #4063154 3003 Oak Road, Suite 250 Walnut Creek, CA 94597 925-979-2331
Owner, Payroll Vault
Cindy Thompson is the owner of Payroll Vault in Danville, a boutique-style local payroll service provider that designs customized payroll services and HR solutions for small businesses. Payroll Vault provides cutting-edge technology solutions to ensure that your payroll processing is simple, secure, and compliant.
For those businesses with anywhere between five and 30 employees, Payroll Vault is a perfect solution because it provides white-glove customer service and support that the big box payroll providers are not set up to offer. Payroll Vault provides complete outsourcing of back office functions so business owners can focus on growing their business.
Cindy says she enjoys supporting local small business and helping owners focus on their core competency and growth. She finds it rewarding to put to use her many years of sales, management, and business experience, (she previously worked for such well-known companies as Cisco, Microsoft, and Salesforce), in a way that helps the local economy. Another way she supports area businesses is by shopping locally when possible, and often sponsors, attends, or donates to events in the community.
Good referral sources for Cindy are accountants, CPAs, bankers, attorneys, financial advisors, HR professionals, and insurance brokers.
Cindy joined MDBW this year, and says she looks forward to the events, and finds everyone to be upbeat, supportive, and enjoys having a women's only group. She adds, “There is a kindred spirit and camaraderie.”
In her leisure time, Cindy enjoys cooking, gardening, entertaining, good wines, the outdoors, exercising, including walking (where she helps the environment by picking up garbage), as well as spending time with her seven grandchildren and her miniature schnauzer, Schatzi.
Visit Cindy’s website to learn more about her company, Payroll Vault.
Recruitment & Outreach Coordinator, CASA Of Contra Costa County
Sarah is the Recruitment and Outreach Coordinator for Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Contra Costa County, the nonprofit organization that Mt. Diablo Business Women (MDBW) proudly supports. CASA recruits, trains, and supports volunteers to work with local children and youth in foster care to make sure they do not get lost in the over-burdened legal system or languish in an inappropriate placement.
Volunteers are the voice of the youth in court, speaking up for their best interests during the dependency process. Volunteers help reduce delays and continuances and stay with each case until it is closed, and the child or youth is placed in a safe, stable, and permanent home.
CASA’s mission is what drew Sarah to the organization first as a volunteer, and now as a staff member. Her prior career was in education where she constantly observed the difference that a caring, stable adult can make in the life of a child, which is something CASA volunteers do every day and that Sarah says she feels incredibly privileged to be a part of.
Sarah says a good referral source for her are people interested in volunteering for CASA. She looks for volunteers who are emotionally strong, collaborative, responsible, flexible, and culturally sensitive. Volunteer Advocates (of which Sarah is one, in addition to being a CASA staff member) spend approximately 15-20 hours a month on their case, and volunteer tutors spend approximately 6-12 hours a month in their role. All volunteers are asked to commit to a minimum of one year, though many volunteers choose to stay much longer.
As a new member of MDBW, Sarah says she has been impressed by how welcoming and supportive everyone is, and that she is incredibly grateful for the support the group shows to CASA.
In her free time Sarah enjoys hiking and exploring local trails with her rescue pup, Boone, kayaking at Lake Chabot, and visiting the coast or Tahoe with her family.
For more info on CASA visit its Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter pages.
Lily Dong Photography
Lily Dong, of Lily Dong Photography, is able to bring out the inner model in everyone she photographs. Her understanding of people on an intuitive level results in photos that capture a person’s essence and energy. Her skill at creating headshots and portraits results in her clients feeling confident about themselves and their business and puts them on the path to attracting new customers.
Lily has an innate sense of how her clients want to be portrayed. It is her keen observation of little mannerisms, attitudes, and body language that gives her a sense of how they want to be portrayed and results in all her clients looking like experienced models. During photo sessions, all objections are addressed and overcome with Lily's soft knowledge in posing as well as her technical knowledge about lighting and equipment, in the end, turning complaints into assets and self acceptance for even the most self critical person. “Prepare to fall in love with your image!” is something Lily tells her clients.
Lily has been a professional photographer for over 10 years. She was previously a designer of couture wedding gowns and was known as the “local Vera Wang.”
A good referral source for Lily are men and women entrepreneurs that have a high need to be seen, such as a realtor, or need an update on their headshot older than three years.
Lily recently joined Mt. Diablo Business Women, and is already doing a great job serving on the Board as secretary. She says she enjoys the group because she loves “how each woman she’s met is powerful in what they do, open to connect with others and help each other.”
In addition to being involved with MDBW, Lily is also active in the community. She is soon to be a board member with the Lafayette Chamber of Commerce and has previously volunteered with CASA and Assistance League.
To learn more about Lily, visit her website, and check out her Facebook, and Instagram.
Diane Salmon Writing & Consulting
Do you have a business plan, Request for Proposal (RFP) submission, email newsletter, donation letter, or web content that you need to write? Has it been lingering on your to-do list, either because you don’t have the time, or you simply don’t like to write? If this sounds familiar, then no worries! Delegate your writing projects to Diane Salmon, owner of Diane Salmon Writing & Consulting.
Diane can help you clearly communicate your ideas and information to your customers, business partners, a grantor, or other decision-makers to influence them to respond to a call to action to move your business forward. The content Diane produces will steer your audience to make a donation, purchase a product, award a grant, or click a link for a free trial.
Delivering results is what motivates Diane. She enjoys using words to organize, craft, and deliver projects, and feels especially rewarded when her work delivers top results for clients. She also enjoys each project’s discovery process — meeting new people, understanding how the project supports their goals, and learning about their business and areas of expertise.
A good referral for Diane is someone who has a specific writing need, whether a one-time project or routine needs such as an email newsletter, an annual business plan, or using a company’s business results to create RFP proposals. She is currently writing grant applications and RFPs for B-Corporations, and various non-profits, including Yours Humanly, a global education nonprofit.
Diane also writes Mt. Diablo Business Women’s email newsletter as part of her role as Publicity Chair on our Board of Directors. Being a MDBW member for several years, Diane says it’s the friendships, encouragement, and creative ideas she gains from the members that she most appreciates. She values the inner personal benefits of a support group combined with the outer business benefits of networking and education.
When she’s not working, Diane can be found outdoors walking, running, hiking and backpacking. She also loves reading and doing “just for fun” writing, which she sometimes pairs with her husband’s great photos.
To learn more about Diane, visit her LinkedIn page.
IT Maverick Solutions Representative
JoAnn Adams represents Erick Martinez of IT Maverick Solutions. Erick is expert at helping with and/or solving problems with the technological devices and systems that we cannot manage without these days: computers, tablets, mobile phones, and other technical systems/devices, including irrigation systems so critical in these days of drought.
His 20-plus years of IT experience and five years of experience with landscaping/maintenance issues give him the knowledge and skills to help with solving many of our problems. Erick will come to you to provide support and critical advice for keeping your technical universe manageable and running smoothly.
Erick provides training for you so that you are comfortable with your digital systems and devices; he can communicate with you in English, Spanish, or Tagalog to help make you much more knowledgeable about your devices and systems.
Services Erick provides include help with making your internet connections) stable and dependable, consolidating many devices into a system, recovering data and security, training visually impaired people, dealing with video and audio-visual issues, setting up and troubleshooting camera and security systems, integrating high tech into water conservation, preventing future tech problems.
JoAnn is happy to represent IT Maverick Solutions; she is pleased to connect people who need help with their technical systems with Erick. You will find him realistic, helpful, and providing easy-to-understand explanations.
As an active member of Mt Diablo Business Women since the late 1990’s, JoAnn looks to MDBW for information and assistance. She spends much time spreading the good word about the organization.
When taking time for herself, JoAnn enjoys reading from the many books in her personal library, especially nonfiction.
For more information about Erick Martinez and IT Maverick Solutions, contact JoAnn (you can find her contact information on our member directory) and when you work with Erick, be sure to mention that JoAnn referred you.
Owner & Founder, Planet Renu
Amy Golan’s inspiration and vision for starting Planet Renu began when she started to look at her carbon footprint and realized that she could make many improvements related to her buying decisions and reliance on plastic. She began researching plastic alternatives and found great eco-friendly products that she not only started using, but also wanted to offer to other consumers. The brainstorm for Planet Renu happened while Amy was traveling (and had free time), and she officially launched her online store in 2018. Today, Amy has physical stores in Walnut Creek and on the UC Berkeley campus.
Planet Renu offers a myriad of plastic alternatives as well as high quality organic refills. The products help consumers reduce their reliance and purchases of single-use plastics or products housed in plastics. These changes in buying behavior have a positive exponential effect on our environment and eco-systems.
In addition to the stores, Planet Renu offers its private label products wholesale, has an online store and works with schools and businesses providing education on how to live more sustainably. Some of its efforts include working with schools on zero-waste lunch programs, providing farmer’s markets with reusable produce bags, and offering eco-friendly promotional products to corporations. Amy says she “loves educating people and watching them make changes that are geared more towards a sustainable, less-wasteful lifestyle.”
As a member of Mt. Diablo Business Women, Amy says that she has enjoyed learning more about fellow female entrepreneurs and looks forward to getting to know everyone better now that the group is meeting in person.
A good referral for Amy is any business interested in sustainability or individuals wanting to purchase better, more sustainable products.
When not in one of her stores or managing Planet Renu’s online presence, Amy enjoys volunteering at homeless shelters and food kitchens as well as at the Walnut Creek schools her children attend. She also enjoys yoga, spending time hiking, dancing, traveling and spending time with family and friends.
To learn more about Amy, visit Planet Renu’s website , or follow Amy on LinkedIn, or @planetrenu on Instagram.
Broker Associate, Windermere Diablo Realty
Ellen represents real estate sellers and buyers in what for many is their most important transaction in life. A real estate transaction is complex, especially in today’s ever-changing market. Many find it challenging to navigate through the various pieces of a transaction. Ellen is able to put clients at ease and guide them through the process with confidence and minimal stress.
Ellen connects well with all consumers, including seniors, and holds the Senior Real Estate Specialist designation issued by the National Association of Realtors.
“It is often overwhelming and emotional for seniors to have to part with their home that they have been in for decades,” says Ellen. “According to some of my past clients, my presence is their calming factor throughout a transaction.”
Plan-Action-Results is Ellen’s business motto. She listens to her clients to understand their needs and wants, helps them to come up with a plan, and following that, achieves results.
For Ellen, Mt. Diablo Business Women (MDBW) has been an organization that’s expanded her horizons by introducing her to many driven business women in various professions who are strong, successful, compassionate, and leaders in their own right. She feels that the caring and support in the organization goes beyond business successes.
Within the community, Ellen has been active having previously served on the board of the Contra Costa Association of Realtors, and was the president of the Real Estate Association of America Greater East Bay Chapter. She even led a U.S. real estate delegation to Hong Kong and Macau for a real estate summit.
Ellen is currently on the board of the Diablo Symphony Orchestra and is chairing its Diamond Jubilee Committee, which is rolling out a series of programs and events to celebrate 60 years of providing high quality classical music in the community.
For more information about Ellen, visit her LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages and check out her website.
Communications Director, CASA of Contra Costa County
Gordana Zura is Communications Director for Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Contra Costa County. She sets and guides the strategy for digital communications, marketing, website, social media and collateral media to consistently articulate, promote, enhance and advance the mission, vision, and goals of CASA. The organization recruits, trains, and supervises volunteers who work with children and youth in foster care who are the victims of abuse and neglect. CASA volunteers are ordinary people willing to make an extraordinary difference in the life of a child that has experienced distress and mistreatment.
Volunteers are highly trained by CASA, and appointed by judges to advocate for foster children, and to help them move out of foster care into a safe home environment, whether reuniting them with their family of origin, or through adoption. They make sure kids don’t get lost in the overburdened system.
Gordana enjoys working at CASA because it contributes to good in the world. The organization’s work impacts the lives of children and youth, making their lives better, as well as less scary and lonely. She also loves the entire CASA team who she describes as great, hard-working, knowledgeable people who all work really well together.
Gordana was named MDBW’s Woman of the Year in 2021, and she is an integral part of the organization. She has been on the organization’s Board of Directors for several years as director of digital technology and works diligently to keep the MDBW website current. She says she’s benefitted from being involved with the group and that it’s helped her understand how to find solutions for business problems, build meaningful relationships with business women, and boost her energy and motivation. The group’s camaraderie and support is what she sees as one of MDBW’s best features.
When not working at CASA or making improvements and updates to MDBW’s website, Gordana enjoys roller skating, hiking, website design, and singing. She also makes beautiful and unique jewelry pieces that are often popular raffle items at MDBW events.
Learn more about Gordana by connecting with her on LinkedIn.
Personal Lines Insurance/Group Benefits Broker with R.C. Fischer & Co. Insurance Brokers
Diane has been a member and highly involved with Mount Diablo Business Women (MDBW) for the last three years. She has served as hospitality chair and during the 2020 pandemic served as president of MDBW, helping our group transition from meeting in a restaurant to meeting via Zoom.
Diane is licensed in property, casualty, life and health as a broker. She is your subject matter expert in the insurance industry. Diane and her team at R.C. Fischer have a combined experience of over 100 years in the insurance industry.
She is appointed with many different insurance companies and provides clients with solutions to protect assets and minimize loss. She enjoys developing relationships with the people and businesses that she provides insurance solutions for. Diane works with only the best interests in mind for her clients and prospective clients. She is able to go to many different markets and build a policy portfolio that will provide the best protection for the least amount of premium.
Good referrals for Diane include attorneys, CPAs, bookkeepers who work with partnerships, and business owners with 10-50 employees and are wanting personal attention during open enrollment season for their employee benefits. Other good referrals are a new home buyer, a mortgage lender, a financial planner or wealth manager, a trust attorney, or anyone who wants a review of their current insurance policies or as Diane calls it, “a second pair of eyes.”
Being involved in the community is important to Diane and her husband. She and her husband open their home for respite care to the foster care community, and financially support many non-profits including ARF, the RESTORE ministry for the homeless and recovery program for the addicted in Concord and Walnut Creek, and Compassion International.
Having a passion for small businesses, Diane mentors and coaches many younger new business entrepreneurs in the Bay Area, helping put together business and marketing plans as well as introducing them to the art of networking.
When not working, Diane enjoys working on a book she hopes to publish in 2023, reading, gardening, hiking, golf, and wine tasting.
Visit Diane on LinkedIn to learn more about her.