NAWBO San Antonio’s Women Business Owners of the Year share their style secrets

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For 20 years, the San Antonio chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners has awarded the top businesswomen in the area with prestigious accolades during their Women Business Owner Awards. This year, we wanted to sit down with the winners to see what makes their sartorial sense a winner just like their careers.

Deborah Bauer, winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award for her work in commercial real estate, says heading up Drake Commercial means donning a fashionable yet classic style. “I would say I’ve become less conservative over the years, depending on the occasion, but I still maintain a sense of appropriate and suitable fashion in all regards.” As for a wardrobe staple she simply can’t live without? “A starched white blouse.”

NAWBO-SA also honored four women with the Women Business Owner of the Year Award, each of whom displayed their own talents and achievements at the March 28th awards ceremony. From architecture to food and beverage, the career paths were as unique as their senses of style.

While operating 81 Denny’s restaurants across six states, winner Dawn Lafreeda believes as CEO her attire should set an example for the rest of the company. “I think you have to dress to make yourself feel good, no matter what the dress code is,” she says. “Often at meetings they say we can wear jeans but I am not comfortable so I wear what I feel best in. I like to present a professional image always.”

WaterFleet CFO Allison C. Pyle brings a “trendy traditional, with a dose of hippie” style to her company, which manufactures mobile water treatment equipment that’s revolutionizing the remote work industry. To young women looking to enter the workforce, she recommends to “honor your personal style without disrespecting the company you represent or yourself.” Pyle continues, saying, “Don’t be afraid to be feminine; but don’t distract your audience from seeing you, because they are looking at your outfit or a wardrobe malfunction.”

Also disrupting the energy industry is Paula Waggoner-Aguilar, who founded The Energy CFO as a solution to companies seeking financial guidance without the burden of full-time staff. Waggoner-Aguilar says she’s learned the hard way how to dress in a male-dominated industry. “Once, I showed up to take inventory at a jungle location in open toe sandals. I had no idea what to expect, but I remember standing there watching all the snakes and spiders fall off the bags of drilling mud. Big lesson – always, always wear appropriate footwear.”

Finally, Judith K. Zimmerman serves as President of RVK Architects where she says women in her industry have more opportunities to “mix it up”. “We are not restricted to a suit and tie,” she says. “I personally love the freedom of styles in women’s clothing that allows our personality to shine through.”

Congratulations to Sarah “Sally” Cheever who received the Legacy Award and all the award winners, and to NAWBO-SA for 20 years of highlighting women entrepreneur success in San Antonio. All of us at San Antonio Woman applaud you!

By Aquila Mendez-Valdez

Photography by Beth Coyle