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Inspirational Women of Boise

What motivates an extremely successful nutritionist, advertising executive, bank CEO and politician-turned-meeting-facilitator?

Article by Kurt Orzeck

Photography by Provided

Originally published in Boise Lifestyle

What do the owner of an Idaho nutrition company, the CEO of a major bank, a former State Legislator-turned-media personality and the COO of an award-winning ad agency all have in common? They are four of the most influential businesswomen, as chosen by Boise Lifestyle, who are keeping the city’s commerce sector bustling.

In fact, as Boise continues to rank among the top 10 cities for jobseekers in the U.S., according to MoneyGeek, these four female leaders are also helping inspire younger women to strive for greatness in the city’s burgeoning white-collar sectors. Get to better know Deneen May, Jill Watterson, Jana Kemp and Deena LaJoie in the following pages.

JANA KEMP
FACILITATOR, AUTHOR, SPEAKER

Jana Kemp is a Renaissance Woman. The former Republican State House Legislator and independent gubernatorial candidate is also an author, a media personality, facilitator, presenter, speaker, writer and change agent.

Try putting all that on a business card. When asked to name her current main focuses, Kemp narrowed them down to facilitating meetings, coordinating employee education workshops and writing — both her own books and ones she ghostwrites.

If “meeting facilitator” seems like a superfluous role, then you haven’t attended a meeting lately. On their way back to the office after COVID shutdowns, many employees appear to have forgotten basic steps like taking meeting minutes, setting an agenda and following through on decision-making.

“I’m brought in when meetings become so painful that people want help,” she said. “I really enjoy facilitating, through which I can help groups accomplish their purposes. At the same time, I get to learn what the employees’ passionate projects are. It’s variety-filled.”

Thirty years ago, Kemp founded Jana M Kemp, LLC, the umbrella organization for most of her projects. She has always worked as a contractor or worker for hire.

But actually, Kemp started honing her human-resource skills back when she was in her jammies.

“Growing up in 4H, we learned to run and participate meetings and understand rules of order,” Kemp recalled.

Obviously, Kemp has near-limitless highlights in a vast-reaching career that encompasses various fields in the for-profit, nonprofit and government sectors.

But the most historically significant one is that she was the first woman on the general election ballot for governor in Idaho.

“I remember saying, ‘Let me not be the first and last candidate in this century,’” Kemp said, noting that another female candidate appeared on the ballot after her.

In light of all her tremendous accomplishments over the years, the Idaho Historical Society recognized her in an exhibit about trailblazing women.

“I’m really proud to have been included along with Ruth Bader Ginsburg, astronauts and Olympians,” Kemp said.


DENEEN MAY
CEO, ZIONS BANK

Zions Bank Chief Executive Officer Deneen May has spent her entire career in banking, in positions from commercial lending to retail.

Her fascination with coordinating meetings and serving as team leader started at an early age. May recalled being in 4_H 

In 2009, she joined Zions Bank as manager of its Meridian Silverstone Branch. She helped many businesses prosper by providing financing, growing their branch loan portfolio by $18 million during her first six years as manager.
 
In 2021, May was promoted to Western Idaho Region President, responsible for the strategic direction, market share growth and profitability of the bank’s 12 branches in the Treasure Valley and North Idaho. 

“Helping my employees grow in their individual roles while developing a synergistic team makes it worth coming to work each day,” May said.
 
May said she is passionate about small-business lending because it helps create new jobs and bring economic prosperity to Idaho communities. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, more than 176,000 Idaho small businesses employ more than half of the Gem State’s workers, May noted.
 
“I’m proud that Zions Bank has consistently been among the top ranked Idaho lenders for U.S. Small Business Administration loans, which are a strong financing option for new businesses,” she said.
 
May serves on the advisory board of directors of the Boise Chamber of Commerce, as well as the board of directors for Capital Matrix. She also engages in the community through Zions Bank’s Paint-a-Thon, United Way Day of Caring and Teach Children to Save Day. Previously, she served on the board for the Meridian Food Bank and Meridian Chamber.
 
Zions Bank has a rich history of bolstering economic growth and fostering opportunity for all, May said. She added that, when the bank opened its doors in 1873, it was one of the few institutions to open savings accounts for women.

“Each day, I strive to advance Zions Bank’s mission to create value for the communities we serve — and it’s gratifying to contribute to Idaho’s national leadership in job creation,” she said.

DEENA LAJOIE
OWNER, IDAHO NUTRITION

“People will tell you they know what they need to do to get healthy. But I don’t think they really do.”

That’s the conclusion Boise nutritionist Deena LaJoie inevitably arrived at — and continues to believe — after decades of researching and educating herself about both physical and mental health.

Ask 10 people for one diet tip each, and you’ll get 10 different diet tips. LaJoie says diets are trendy and fail more often than not.

For LaJoie, “Nutrition and lifestyle are the missing pieces to the puzzle of our culture.”

LaJoie inadvertently entered into the world of nutrition after seeing what her five children ate at school: candy bars that teachers gave them as rewards and snacks for minuscule amounts of exercise.

We’ve been setting up younger people for disaster over the years,” LaJoie said. “And now there’s evidence of that. We might be looking at the first generation that won’t live longer than their parents.”

Subsequently, LaJoie obtained her Resident Doctor credential and worked as a dietician over the past 10 years. In turn, those accomplishments provided the foundation atop which she built Idaho Nutrition.

The company’s philosophy involves coaching and educating patients about nutrition. It also hosts an array of services, from health coaching to weight loss to sports nutrition to supplements and more.

LaJoie’s bustling business now boasts 11 staff dietitians who work part-time (except for LaJoie, of course).

“Being a dietitian is something like being a teacher,” she said. “You’re not going to make a fortune. You’re doing it because you generally care. You want to see your children be healthy, grow up in a healthy environment and live healthy lives.”

LaJoie continued, pivoting to her thoughts about her own life.

“What has guided me to develop this business and keep growing it is the fact that I believe registered dietitians and nutritionists are an underutilized but very valuable component of our health care system,” she said.

“That’s what I reach for.”


JILL WATTERSON
COO, PARTNER, DUFT WATTERSON

If there’s one thing all Boiseans can agree on, it’s that the city’s population continues to go up, up, up. And when a metro area is booming, that means more commerce, industry, companies — and, of course, advertising.

It’s time for Idaho native Jill Watterson to shine.

And she does. Watterson boasts an ear-to-ear smile and a down-to-earth nature that comes from running a farm (which she does, with her husband and two children). She also exudes a quiet confidence that one gains when sitting atop a bustling advertising agency.

Nicknamed “Idaho’s most awarded advertising agency,” Duft Watterson — which Watterson founded with business partner Ward Duft — won 2020 Agency of the Year from Ad Age, among other honors.

Make no mistake about it: Duft Watterson had to do a bunch of climbing to reach the prestigious, peak position the ad agency is in right now.

“It used to be people didn’t know much about Boise and didn’t consider it a metro area, so it was tough for us as an agency,” Watterson recalls of the company starting in 2018. “It was hard to get our foot in the door with a meeting.”

However, it was during those early years — when revenue was an occasional trickle instead of a steady stream — that Watterson made sure she built personal relationships with clients she believed would stick with her practice no matter what.

“I grew up with a dad who owned a business, and I watched him work his rear end off to get the business to where he wanted it to be,” she said.

Indeed, “tenacity” is a word that must be included in any conversation about Watterson. Thanks in part to her hard work, the ad agency’s client list includes Geisinger Health System, HiRoad Insurance, Washington Trust Bank, Zacca Hummus and Combat Flip Flops.

Oh, and a little hospital system you may have heard of, too.

“We recently gained St. Luke’s, which is really great,” Watterson noted.

With that line, Watterson just earned another award — for Biggest Understatement of the Year.

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