City Lifestyle

Want to start a publication?

Learn More

Featured Article

Leading by Example

Local women give back while running successful businesses

Running a successful business takes commitment and drive to constantly put your best foot forward.

Aside from developing and running successful businesses, we found seven local women, who are also dedicated to making their community a better place with their efforts and talents. We feature them here in our first Women's Issue.

Danielle Bakic

Danielle Bakic could be confused for a mermaid, spending almost as much time in the water as on land.

The former competitive swimmer has been coaching and teaching swimming for the past 17 years.

“I’ve spent my entire life in the water,” Bakic said.

With her Swimming Fishies Swim School, she’s taught hundreds of children how to swim over the past 16 years. She’s nearly perfected a program, which has a majority of her students swimming in just a few days.

“By day nine they can swim across the pool with the most confidence you’ll ever see,” Bakic said. “That’s the most rewarding part of the job. They are screaming and crying on day one and by the ninth day they are swimming. We’re teaching kids with positivity and constant affirmation.”

A byproduct is a growth in confidence to tackle other fears and tough tests.

Teaching children to swim is not a job for Bakic. It’s a mission, one to eradicate drownings in the region.

“It’s the number one cause of death for children one to four, and it’s so preventable. My mission is to save lives and help the community be safer,” she said.

She’s worked to partner with local pool companies to establish scholarships for underprivileged children to be able to get swimming lessons. Some of the recent recipients were children of domestic violence.

“We are working to help those without,” Bakic said.

She will open her own school this year in the Argyle area to carry out her mission. She has also been selected to speak at the International Pool and Spa Expo in Las Vegas in November about her efforts.

Kay Braswell

Helping clients with their insurance needs is a family business for Kay Braswell.

Her mother introduced her to the business and her daughter Kelsey now works with her.

“We’re four generations in the insurance business,” said Braswell, referring to her 1-year-old granddaughter, who is often at the Northlake office.

Braswell has been in the industry for more than 30 years, starting her own business in 2014. In the office, they help clients find solutions for auto, home, business, life and health insurance.

Along with running her insurance business, Braswell is the founder and president of Community Businesses Making an Impact. The group’s vision is to bring local businesses together to help nonprofits in the area. Braswell said she was inspired to create the group during a sermon at church in December 2020.

Working with Kelsey, they held their first fundraiser in February, the High Tea and Fashion Show. The event at the Champion Circle Marriott raised more than $16,00 to help Ranch Hands Rescue/Bob’s House of Hope and First Refuge Ministries.

“It was a dream come true. We worked for a year and a half on it,” Braswell said. “We did quite well.”

She plans to meet with the Metroport Chamber and work to grow the organization to help other area nonprofits.

“We’re doing this to help people,” Braswell said.

Jessica Burton

While Jessica Burton’s son, Brady, was attending Southwestern Oklahoma State University in Weatherford, Okla., and competing in rodeo, he started learning about the importance of nutrition. He was introduced to Herbalife products.

“He started getting in tune with his health and saw amazing results,” Burton said.

In September, Jessica and Brady took ownership of 407 Nutrition, serving delicious drinks to the local community, packed with vitamins and healthy minerals.

Burton can be found in the store most mornings before making her way to her auto finance job.

“We offer people a healthy option,” Burton said. “We have a lot of teachers, nurses, UPS drivers, and after school, a lot of young people come in looking for something healthy.”

As a small business owner, Burton loves the chance to interact with a diverse customer base. She points out that there is no drive-thru so customers have to come in.

“We want to create a space for people to come in, feel welcomed, and be part of something,” Burton said. “We can talk about their day while working to be quick and efficient.”

Jessica and Brady look to give back to those who work on behalf of the community — military members, educators and first responders. They are offered discounts on different days of the week.

“We have such respect for those professions and understand the sacrifice they make,” Burton said. “Any way we can give back and show our support, we want to.”

Debra Duffy

It was her junior year of college at SMU when Debra Duffy’s career path changed.

A professor suggested she pursue dentistry to capitalize on her artistic talents.

“You never know where guidance will take you,” Dr. Duffy said. “She put me with a female doctor in Dallas to shadow.”

By the end of dental school, she found her calling for the past 30 years, pediatric dentistry. Dr. Duffy now operates clinics in Flower Mound and Justin, “helping kids love dentistry.”

“We try to make it fun,” Dr. Duffy said. “Even when we’re not doing fun things, we try to get children to relax. We want them to stay healthy, so when they have checkups it’s not that bad.”

Working with children came naturally for Dr. Duffy, spending time growing up babysitting, serving as a camp counselor and teaching swimming lessons.

When she’s not looking out for children’s health, she’s finding ways to give back to them out of the office. She worked with the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation for more than a decade and has recently put her efforts into working with the Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Denton County.

“I’ve been on their committee for their gala,” Dr. Duffy said. “Obviously children are my passion, and it’s a nice avenue to give back and serve.”

Leah Johnson

Making jewelry started as a hobby for Leah Johnson, while on a break from her career as a speech pathologist to raise children.

“It was something I could do more myself,” Johnson said. “When I started, I tapped into my creative side. I took classes on metalsmithing and fell in love with it.”

When she returned to her career, she continued to make jewelry and soon a following grew.

“I keep meeting new ladies who loved what I was doing,” Johnson said.

In 2014, she started LJ Artisan Designs, creating beautiful rings, necklaces and earrings to help women stand out in a crowd, no matter their lifestyle.

Not long after starting her business, she realized she could use it to also help people. In 2017, when floods struck Baton Rouge, La., her sister lost her home. But her sister told her about another family that lost everything and needed help. Inspired, Johnson created a necklace design and donated 50 percent of the proceeds from its sales to the family.

“It was something I could do to help the family, with every purchase,” Johnson said. “It’s one of my favorite vehicles to help others. All of us are meant to help.”

She donates 10 percent of proceeds to help a list of North Texas nonprofits from CASA, Camp Sweeny to the Loreto House.

“I love to support organizations that help vulnerable people,” Johnson said.

Summer Miyatake

After 20 years of working in salons, Summer Miyatake’s career goals changed.

She suddenly felt compelled to open her own salon, with the mission to mentor other artists. Six years later, Miyatake is operating two salons. After opening the successful Denton Color Lab in 2017, she opened the Northlake Color Lab last year.

“We now have 30 artists working with us between the two locations,” Miyatake said.

The artists offer hair coloring, haircuts for women and men, highlights, balayage, color melt, all-over blonding, color correction, hair repair services, Brazilian blowout, grey hair coloring, wedding hairstyles, fashion color, makeup application, facial waxing and lived-in color.

“We keep evolving. The secret to success is never becoming complacent,” Miyatake said.

But she wants to pave the way for the next generation of artists, many of who will be the breadwinners for their families. One day in March, she brought cosmetology students from Denton in to tour the salon and learn about it. She is also working with Denton ISD to establish scholarships for students from low-income families to help them get their licenses.

“It can be life-changing for them and their families,” Miyatake said.

She’s also worked to provide free haircuts to those in need, including children served by Cumberland Youth and Family Services.

“What the community needs, we work with them to help,” Miyatake said.

Kay Thibodeaux

The Touring Chocolatier Kay Thibodeaux found her sweet career by chance.

Attending a home party in 2009, she was introduced to a program with Dove Chocolate. Living in Minnesota, she joined Dove Chocolate Discoveries, selling exclusive chocolate products and teaching how to create desserts.

She earned the first incentive, a trip to the Dominican Republic and a meeting with the cacao guru for the Mars Co.

“That was the beginning of the intrigue,” she explained.

She soon became obsessed with learning about cacao. She stayed with Dove earning more exclusive trips to further her sweet education.

Then in 2014, she and her husband relocated to Texas. She began hosting parties at her home, introducing others to fine chocolate. That grew into hosting successful classes. After a temporary slowdown during the height of the pandemic, her business suddenly picked up with the hot cocoa bomb craze. When it grew from one room of the house, her husband said she needed somewhere else for her chocolate business.

In late 2021, she opened the Touring Chocolatier in Justin.

“I’ve been blessed. I didn’t go to culinary school. I’m not a pastry chef and don’t enjoy baking or cooking,” she said. “I got my certification in ’17 and really delved into craft chocolate.”

She’s since traveled the world, including multiple trips to Hawaii to learn about cacao and how to make quality chocolate.

She's used her shop and classes to pass along that knowledge to customers on what goes into producing fine chocolate.

“The education is really important to me. People don’t know the work that goes into making chocolate,” Thibodeaux said. “It takes three days to make quality truffles.”

She offers classes to children and adults. She also uses her knowledge and quality chocolates to help nonprofits at fundraisers.

"All of us are meant to help," Leah Johnson, owner of LJ Artisan Designs.

  • Danielle Bakic
  • Kay Braswell
  • Debra Duffy
  • Leah Johnson
  • Summer Miyatake
  • Kay Thibodeaux
  • Summer Miyatake