Inspiring Women: Leading by Example

These incredible local women share about their journeys, inspirations, challenges and more!

Amelia Aparicio, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Ventura County, Mentor of the Year

“Amazing, simply amazing.”

Childhood Dream:As the youngest of six, my older siblings would often look after me. One weekend, my older sister Aurelia took me to the Sespe River, where I skipped rocks while she painted. When she had almost completed the painting, she called me over and asked if I wanted to finish it. I was thrilled because the painting looked flawless and I would get to use her amazing art supplies. After I finished, she complimented my work and made me feel like I’d created a masterpiece. I knew then that I wanted to be an artist when I grew up.

Your Journey: After working in the advertising field for over two decades as a graphic designer and art director, I wanted a career that was more meaningful. While volunteering at a nonprofit, Precita Eyes Mural Association, I realized that programs like this enable youth to explore and develop their voice and gain the confidence to express themselves through art while collaborating with others to bring a positive change in their community. I entered my current profession to promote and encourage youth to develop their voice.  

Mentors:A mentor is someone who shares guidance, motivation and inspiration—characteristics I see in the folks who surround me, including the youth I work with. Along with my family members, one of my earliest mentors was Ann Meyers, who played for UCLA and was the first woman to be signed to a four-year athletic college scholarship, the second woman to sign with a National Basketball Association team and a television broadcaster for 25+ years.

Advice for Women:No matter your age, pursue your dream! Once you realize what you’re interested in, research, create partnerships and make connections.

Favorite Accomplishments:I am most proud of my ability to work with youth and inspire them to do good. Youth have the capacity to make a positive difference in their home, school, community and the world. Malala Yousafzai, for example, at 17, was the youngest Nobel Prize laureate for her humanitarian efforts.

Future Goals: To help improve the lives of youth who have been cited for vandalism by helping create a mural collective within BBBS.

Game Plan:To match an established artist with a youth that has to complete community service hours for their crime, with the goal that the youth would create a friendship with a mentor and learn the steps of creating art rather than defacing private property.

Free Time:Running, cycling, hiking and walking.

Awards & Honors:I led a group of students in the “LA Bike Tour,” held by the city of Los Angeles on the day of the LA Marathon. We received certificates and medals congratulating us—seeing how proud the youth were after they realized their accomplishment was a rewarding honor.

Extra: Creating positive change in the world can seem overwhelming, but if I take even a small step daily, I will eventually get there and reach my goal.


Caroline Connolly, OptoTest Corp., CEO/Founder

“No one can ever take away your education.”

Childhood Dream: I wanted to sell; I joined Junior Achievement and we built products and had to sell them. I loved it and decided that sales would be my profession.

Your Journey: In my early 20’s, I moved to California to live near my brothers and basically started applying for jobs—the one that I thought fit me best was a small fiber optic manufacturing company. Because we were so small, I got to build fiber optic cable assemblies and eventually took on a sales role where I excelled and, most importantly, had a lot of fun. 

After leaving the industry to build a family, I was contacted by a former colleague to start a sales structure for a new product; before we knew it, OptoTest had revenues. I built up a sales department covering over 50 countries, one order at time.

My partner passed away in 2013, leaving me with the responsibility of managing the company; I eventually bought out his family and served as CEO ever since. 

Secret to Your Success: Much of my success has been with the help of others. People have been willing to teach me, and I am so happy to learn from others’ successes and failures. I consider myself a lifelong learner—I am currently in a Strategic Leadership program.

Most important to our success is our committed employees, who stuck with me and OptoTest after our CEO passed away; they were more committed than ever and pulled together to maintain a successful, strong company.

Mentors: It’s a very long list: my Vistage Group, people in our industry who have helped me along the way, and, most importantly, my family who have supported my crazy work and travel schedule and sleepless nights. My son and my husband have no doubt in my capabilities as a CEO, even when I have doubts.

Advice for Women: As a woman in a very male-dominated business, I say stay your course. If you know what you want to do, summon the strength and confidence and persevere. Support your fellow women on their journey to success as well. There are going to be many obstacles; success comes from overcoming them. 

Favorite Accomplishments: Transitioning from Sales Director to CEO of OptoTest was an incredibly difficult time for me—I had a lot to learn in a short period of time. I had to persevere when times got tough and doing so really made me stronger and better.

Future Goals: To grow OptoTest!

Free Time: I love to go to the gym with my husband and walk in the mornings with my amazing girlfriends.

Inspiration: The people I work with—they are seriously talented.

Extra: They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger—I am living proof. The Corona Virus has shaken us all to our core and we know this will be temporary; we will persevere and do everything in our power to stay safe, healthy and take care of our employees, customers and vendors.


Alicia Doyle, Award-Winning Journalist & Author

“The only way out is through.”

Childhood Dream: I have loved writing for as long as I can remember, journaling since age 8; I grew up with a love for reading books—I wanted to be a children’s book author.

Your Journey: I retired from boxing in 2000, leaving the limelight that came with fighting as one of only a few hundred women in America competing in this male-dominated sport. Back then, I started writing about my experience in the ring, but my story never came to fruition. I needed to take a step back, put these pages aside, and deeply contemplate my battles in the ring, as well as the battles I overcame long before earning my championship titles.

When my manuscript was finished, I didn’t want to share it with anyone. Exposing my deepest pain made me too vulnerable. I didn’t want anyone to know the person I used to be, the insecurities I keep hidden to this day, the inner battle I’m still fighting. But the people I love and trust felt otherwise. I’ve been told that vulnerability is something all humans share, and that the world’s most inspirational people are those who talk about their battles and adversities they overcame. To this day, the skills I discovered in boxing translate to everyday life. I learned that the fight starts from within—and when faced head-on with conviction, honesty, vulnerability and faith, the battle is sublime.

Secret to Your Success: I credit a higher power for publishing my first novel. The chapters about my childhood were tough, because I knew the importance of being honest with my readers, which meant being candid about what I survived. Writing about my past was a painful process. At times, I felt I didn’t have the inner strength to complete Fighting Chance, but whenever I hit a snag, I prayed for the wisdom and clarity I needed to finish.

Advice for Women: Consider the ABCs backwards: Conceive, Believe, Achieve. Conceive what you want to manifest, believe you have the ability to do it, and you will achieve the results you remain consistently focused on.

Favorite Accomplishments: Earning two Golden Gloves Championship titles, and writing Fighting Chance.

Future Goals: I am completing a book about Flo Trapani, a female cop on the Simi Valley Police Force in the 1980s, who faced sexual harassment and discrimination and ultimately lost her career. I’m also writing a book for children and young adults, Kid Gloves.

Free Time: Taking walks near the ocean in Ventura and coaching children at Kid Gloves.

Inspiration: Watching people achieve dreams that others believed were impossible. I am inspired by those who overcome great odds and keep moving forward no matter what.

Awards & Honors: 2018 Alignable Small Business Person of the Year; 2017 Certificate of Appreciation for Ongoing Service to the Annual Ed Hunt Rehab Point for People with Disabilities; 1999 Distinguished Community Service Award for Simi Valley and Moorpark.

Extra: Fighting Chance is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble, order an autographed copy:; visit for more.


Dawn Dyer, President, Dyer Sheehan Group, Inc.

“Attitude is Everything! We can’t always control what happens to us in life; but we can control our reactions.”

Childhood Dream: I knew it would be something really important that will make life better for lots of people.

Your Journey: I chose a career in real estate because I believe that “real” property has tangible value and is the cornerstone of financial security for most families. I wanted to help people make sound, well-informed investment decisions. I built a business by finding needs and meeting them.

As a California Delegate to Drexel University’s Vision 2020, a non-partisan national women’s equality coalition, I raise awareness about the centennial of women’s right to vote. 

It’s extraordinary that our right to vote was granted by the brothers, uncles and fathers of the suffragists! It’s crazy that it came down to one single vote!—24-year-old Republican Tennessee State Representative Harry Burn, planned to vote no on August 18, 1920, but ultimately cast the pivotal YES vote to ratify the 19th Amendment after finding a letter in his pocket from his mother: “Hurrah, and vote for suffrage! Don’t keep them in doubt.… be a good boy and help Mrs. Catt put the ‘rat’ in ratification.”

Secret to Your Success: Motivation, resilience, gratitude and attitude! At 26, I became a single mom of two children; living on straight commissions, with no child support—I had to succeed to feed my family. I focused on my goals and kept moving forward, recharging by walking on the beach, screaming at the ocean when things got tough, and surrounding myself with a solid support system. Maintaining a positive attitude and finding constructive ways to manage stress is critical to living a happy, successful life.

Mentors: My business partner, Paul Sheehan, who encourages me to grow professionally. My husband, Harvey, who lives an extraordinary life with courage, passion and grace; daughter, Tiffany, for her valuable work; and mother, Gail, for being a beacon of love and light.

Advice for Women: Choose well, excel, then go out and give it away!

Favorite Accomplishments: I’m proud of the neighborhoods and apartment communities I helped create; and of being the “Founding Mother” of the Housing Trust Fund Ventura County. I’m proud of my children, who both earned advanced degrees and whose lives and work reflect strong values.

Future Goals: Serving on the Board of publicly traded companies, creating a new business model to help bridge the health care gap, and writing books.

Free Time: Spending quality time with my husband, family and friends—long walks, travel, music, reading and discussing politics and life.

Inspiration: My granddaughter, Sienna Grace. I want to be a launching pad from which my children and grandchildren can soar to great heights and realize their potential.

Awards & Honors: One of four Women of the Year by Senator Jackson and Assemblymember Limón; NAWBO 2018 Woman Business Owner of the Year.

Extra: I’m committed to honoring the sacrifice of those who fought for women to have full rights of citizenship. We cannot have a healthy democratic form of governance without an informed and engaged electorate. I encourage everyone to Use your Voice and VOTE! 

Kim Pagano, “The Brighter Side of Life” Radio Host & Hair Therapist

“Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and carry on.”

Childhood Dream: I wanted to be a social worker.

Your Journey: As a hair stylist, I ended up talking to clients and helping them through their life, so I adopted the name “Hair Therapist.” I would not only help my clients look good and feel good but would often help them through hard times.

I started a women’s group, because my hair clients would hang out to keep talking even after I’d finished their hair. I wanted to empower women to be their best version of themselves. When my group grew, I wanted to do something bigger that would impact more. I answered an ad that said: “Are you a mom with something to say?'' I did a test show and branched out from there, now hosting “The Brighter Side of Life” for over 13 years on 1590 KVTA on Saturday mornings.

Mentors: My mom, grandmother and aunt. I was brought up by amazing strong, passionate women. I love women who make a difference in their community and who are open to sharing their stories, good and bad, about how they got to where they are today.

Advice for Women: If you can dream it, you can have it. You have to be bold and brave. Put yourself out there, wherever you want to be. Never burn bridges by being nasty—you never know when you’ll cross them again. I believe good things come to good people and you need to always be true to yourself. I want to do the right thing, so I can sleep at night.

Favorite Accomplishments: My family and being a mother to my four amazing children and being a nana to my four grandchildren. I enjoy my work and love and cherish my clients and listeners. I am forever grateful to all of them for believing in me and my skills. 

Future Goals: I have a book that will be finished soon. I would love to have a talk show on TV and continue to be a voice for our community.

Game Plan: I really believe in God incidents and noticing the golden nuggets of our life. I also believe if it’s meant to be, it will happen.

Free Time: I love spending time with my husband, family and girlfriends. I would never turn down a massage or a foot rub!

Inspiration: I love all the community angels that look for opportunities to help each other and give back.

Awards & Honors: When my kids were in school, I won an award for being the longest room mom in our district. I have also won awards for my radio show as the Favorite of the Ventura County Star, as well as the Excellence in Broadcasting award from The Richman Peace Foundation. 

Extra: This is a great time to be authentic and believe in each other. Love on each other and truly be there for one other. We all are precious gifts from our creator and we all have unique gifts to share. 

Jennifer Strong, Wealth Advisor at MB&T Advisors, a division of Montecito Bank & Trust

“Trust but verify.”

Childhood Dream: I had no idea! I just knew I did not want to be an astronaut or a ballerina.

Your Journey: After graduating from UC Santa Barbara with a degree in Psychology, I realized that I did not want to pursue a career in psychology. I actually looked in the classified ads (the physical newspaper) to search for some sort of job that would be a promotion from my college restaurant server job! I landed a receptionist position at the stock brokerage firm, Smith Barney in Santa Barbara, which represented my entry into the world of finance and investing.

Secret to Your Success: Perseverance, a self-expectation of excellence in any work I performed, an instinctual motivation to succeed since birth, an entrepreneurial spirit and my listening and communication skills, which I attribute to my Psychology education.

Mentors: My strong, encouraging and nurturing mom in childhood, successful entrepreneurs who are self-made and America’s Founding Fathers.

Advice for Women: Balance! Give 100% to your career, give 100% to your family and give 100% to taking care of yourself… does that add up?   

Favorite Accomplishments: Staying strong, calm and motivated during a few key times of hardship in my life. I do not measure success with dollars or assets, I measure it by what is most important to me: independence and happiness, which I have attained.

Future Goals: Continue to live, work, play and give back in the Conejo Valley community in which I live.

Game Plan: Stay positive, persevere, work hard and always be in the process of learning something new! 

Free Time: Dining out in the Conejo Valley with my favorite people.

Inspiration: Single parents, the teacher of my 19-year-old special needs son, the givers in my Rotary Club of Thousand Oaks, Americans in times of crisis.

Awards & Honors: Rotarian of the Year 2017-2018, Rotary Club of Thousand Oaks

Related Businesses

The Nelson-Atkins Museum

Community Services

The Nelson-Atkins Museum

Kansas City, MO

The Nelson-Atkins is a comprehensive art museum with works of art dating from ancient to contemporary.

Chandler City Lifestyle

Special Events

Chandler City Lifestyle

Phoenix, AZ

The magazine is committed to bringing the "good news" of Chandler to the community. Every month we share the best stories...

Animal Hospital of West Chester

Pet Services

Animal Hospital of West Chester

West Chester, OH

We are a full service medical and surgical veterinary hospital for all types of cats and dogs and specialize in taking care...

See More

Related Articles

See More