|The New Jersey Chamber of Commerce announced today that it is honoring three women who have used talent, hard work and ‘outside-the-box’ thinking to create economic opportunities and help make New Jersey a better place to live and work. They are:
· Yla Eason, founder of Olmec Toys, a multicultural toy company. Her Sun-Man action figure was the first Black superhero toy created to promote positive self-images for her son and other children.
· Jessica Gonzalez, founder of InCharged Inc., a maker of unique cell phone charging products. She also created VendX, a touchless interactive vending machine that distributes prizes; and LUX-Disinfect, a line of sanitation technology.
· Barbara Heisler, CEO of the Newark-based nonprofit GlassRoots, which harnesses the fire and danger of glassmaking to engage and teach thousands of Newark area youth and young adults.
These women will be honored at the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce’s fourth Alice H. Parker Women Leaders in Innovation Awards virtual event on Nov. 10 at 2 p.m.
The Chamber’s award ceremony will be part of the Weekly Women Entrepreneurship (WWE) initiative of the Feliciano Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Montclair State University. More than 240 universities in 32 countries and dozens of businesses will participate in this initiative which will run from September through November and feature virtual talks, interviews, panel discussions and celebrations of women entrepreneurs.
“The three award recipients selected by the NJ Chamber have demonstrated that hard work, business acumen and desire can reap considerable rewards for themselves and their communities,” said Tom Bracken, president and CEO of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce. “Each of our recipients embody the best of innovative thinking. They translated their new ideas into vibrant businesses that created jobs and expanded economic opportunities and now they are using their leadership skills to help make New Jersey a better place.”
Yla Eason, Entrepreneur – Founder, Olmec Toys
Eason created Olmec Toys, a multicultural toy company, in 1985 after discovering there were no Black superhero dolls on the market. She was motivated by her son, who said that he could never be a superhero because all superheroes are white.
After securing investors and developing her product, Yla Eason was able to grow the company to $5 million in sales with worldwide distribution in major retailers. Olmec’s success remains a case study for business school classes teaching multicultural marketing.
Eason, an assistant professor of professional practice at Rutgers University, has earned numerous awards including The Business Enterprise Trust Award from President Bill Clinton in 1996 and she received an honorary doctorate from Bloomfield College. Eason earned an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School and a B.A. from Fitchburg State University.
Jessica Gonzalez, CEO and Founder of InCharged, Inc.
Gonzalez founded InCharged Inc., a manufacturer and distributor of custom cell phone charging stations, in 2009 by selling everything she had, moving in with her parents and working three jobs simultaneously. It paid off. Today, her company’s client roster includes the likes of Amazon, Audible, Coca-Cola, Facebook, Google and Verizon.
As a Latina woman and a mother, the path to building a business hasn’t been easy, but Gonzalez lives and works by a nothing-is-impossible attitude. Over the last decade, she’s grown InCharged into a fixture at corporate events and has partnered with major brands on campaigns and events. She is constantly innovating. Her company recently launched a new interactive vending machine called the VendX which gives people prizes in exchange for a custom interaction like playing a game or sharing information.
Now, as the landscape changes, Gonzalez has redirected her efforts to deliver medical-grade sanitizing and disinfecting equipment for commercial, residential and medical spaces. Gonzalez was named a Leading Woman Entrepreneur in 2015; she was a ‘SMART CEO Future 50’ award recipient in 2016; and she was recently named to Gov. Phil Murphy’s Restart and Recovery Commission to advise the governor on plans for the state to emerge from the pandemic.
Barbara Heisler, CEO, GlassRoots
Heisler steers GlassRoots, which has hosted tens of thousands of Newark-area youth for field trips, lectures and “art-for-art’s sake” glassmaking classes. Kids gain hands-on experience in chemistry, physics, and math. They experience the power of their own creativity and the discipline required to safely work with 2,200-degree fire and molten glass. In year-long programs, they become young entrepreneurs as they develop and market their products. In 2019 alone, GlassRoots provided 5,000 hours of instruction to 2,000 students.
GlassRoots not only teaches entrepreneurship, it practices it. A third of its income is earned through a portion of each purchase of jewelry, dinnerware and glass art/awards created in its studio.
Heisler brings extensive leadership experience, having served as the executive director of Funding Exchange; the CEO of Fund for an Open Society; and as founding executive director for the South Orange/Maplewood Community Coalition on Race; as well as regional director of post-secondary education at the U.S. Department of Education. She earned a master’s degree in management from Cambridge College.
To register for the 2020 Women in Innovation Awards event, click here.
About the Alice H. Parker Women Leaders in Innovation Award
The Alice H. Parker Women Leaders in Innovation Award was created by the N.J. Chamber of Commerce to recognize and celebrate the contributions of women to the rich legacy of innovation in New Jersey. The N.J. Chamber named the award after African-American Alice H. Parker, a long overdue acknowledgement of the Morristown resident’s significant contributions. In 1911, Parker earned a patent for a “natural gas-fueled, new and improved heating furnace,” the blueprint for the forced-air, thermostat-controlled home heating systems used everywhere today. Other than this patent, little is known about Parker’s life. Howard University confirmed that she was a student there, that she took classes with honors, and earned a certificate from its academy in 1910. The North Jersey History and Genealogical Society has a thin file containing not much more than the copy of her patent, which states she lived in Morristown.