Nothing Small About SBA Award Winner’s Commitment to Businesses in Arizona
The Arizona Small Business Association (SBA) named Lydia Duron-Kari, BMO Harris Bank Vice President and Tucson Branch Manager, the "2013 Women in Business Champion of the Year” — and with good reason.
The SBA award is presented to an individual who has demonstrated a commitment to the advancement of women’s business ownership and helps promote increased business and financial opportunities for women. This is Lydia’s second time winning this prestigious award — the first time was in 2008.
Says Steve Hart, Senior Area Manager at the U.S. Small Business Administration, “Some people are special, some people are naturals and some people easily touch other people’s lives. Lydia is all three wrapped up in one. She goes the extra mile to have a really positive presence in the community — is always willing to help, always available to explain the fundamentals of a banker’s relationship with a small business. You don’t find that everywhere, but we find it routinely with Lydia.”
Talk to Lydia for just a few minutes and it won’t take long to experience the energy and excitement she has for the volunteer work she does with small businesses — especially those owned by women. “There is no better motivation for volunteering than knowing that you are helping others reach their goals and follow their dreams," she says. “It’s so satisfying to see good ideas become real successes.”
Ask her about the organizations she works with, and that enthusiasm becomes more contagious. “There is so much need for support for women and minority entrepreneurs. These groups lay the foundation for strong businesses and strong communities,” she says.
Working to grow Arizona’s economy
Women Impacting New Entrepreneurs Inc. is a new group and the nonprofit arm of the National Association of Women Businessowners. Lydia is on the planning board, which fundraises to provide financial support for education for women who want to be business owners. But that’s just the start. Other organizations she supports include:
- The Minority and Small Business Alliance of Southern Arizona, a network of partnerships that represent a cross-section of the community from public and private businesses, governmental agencies and organizations. It provides resources, business development, mentoring and more. Lydia has worked with this group for four years.
- The Small Business Development Center, which provides Southern Arizona entrepreneurs with one-to-one business and financial counseling to help their small businesses succeed. For eight years, Lydia has worked with the Microbusiness Advancement Center, sponsored by the Small Business Development Center, serving as a member of the board of directors. Currently, she is a member of the Advisory Board.
Just so you don’t think Lydia is resting on her accomplishments, she is on the planning committee for the Women’s Business Center conference being held in February 2014, as well as presenting several workshops. And BMO Harris couldn’t be prouder.
A perfect partnership
“We applaud Lydia for her dedication to community activism and celebrate this achievement with her,” said BMO Harris Bank Arizona President Steve Johnson. “She is a wonderful example of how our bankers work with small businesses to help them achieve financial stability and success.”
And the feeling is mutual. “As a Branch Manager at BMO Harris in Arizona, we are all microbusiness developers,” Lydia explains. “Branch managers are also small business bankers and one works hand-in-hand with the other. BMO Harris Bank’s support for small businesses and minority- and women-owned business ventures empowers me and other branch managers to get involved in building economically sound communities — and that is very exciting to me.”
BMO supporting women
- BMO recently launched its women’s employee affinity group, known as W.I.S.E., or Women in a Supported Environment. The group is comprised of nearly 400 employees, both women and men, who champion the inclusion, connection, development, advancement, and support of women for the betterment of BMO's business, communities and culture.
- As pictured above, for the fourth year in a row, BMO Financial Corporation has been recognized as having one of the top banking teams in the U.S., according to American Banker’s annual ranking of the Most Powerful Women in Banking & Finance and the Top Teams in Banking.
- Justine Fedak, Senior Vice President and Head of Brand, Advertising and Sponsorships for BMO Financial Group, was awarded the 2013 Woman on the Move Award from the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.