Hosted by the CEO of Lillian James Creative, Aaron Fulk, The Cocktail Hour Podcast inspires and highlights women in business that are doing things that benefit society and go against the status quo. This program touches on topics that women in business battle with or are afraid to talk about. Each episode's guest shares ideas and concepts that are designed to motivate, inspire and challenge today’s businesswoman.
From the Steeplechase to the Boardroom with Ann Gaffigan
Ann Gaffigan has over 15 years of experience in business, non-profits, sports and technology. She started her first company shortly after graduating from the University of Nebraska in 2004 with her degree in computer science. Gazelle Inc provided affordable and reliable custom solutions in order to streamline and modernize the operations of non-profit organizations and businesses. A decade later, she became Chief Technology Officer (CTO) and part owner of Land Pros Realty, a real estate brokerage specializing in Midwest land. A few years later, Land Pros merged with National Land Realty, a nationwide land real estate company, and Gaffigan became CTO and part owner. In late 2019, she embarked on a new journey to find new career challenges. As a result, she will be starting a new role in March 2020 that will be announced soon. Gaffigan lives in Olathe with her husband Jason High, an MMA fighter and realtor, and their daughter Jaelyn. A former professional athlete, Gaffigan won the 3000m Steeplechase at the 2004 Olympic Trials, setting an American and U.S. All-Comers Record. She believes strongly in equality and in giving back to your community and is a big supporter of WIN for KC, KC Women in Tech, Women Leaders in College Sports and Girls Inc.
From corporate to start up with Mary Shannon
Mary Shannon is the founder of Connectus Worldwide, a professional business consulting firm specializing in the delivery of services to Small, Minority, Woman-owned, Veteran, and LGBTQ Business Enterprises, as well as majority organizations seeking to connect and do business with diverse businesses. She is passionate about her work and possesses decades of experience and knowledge that blends corporate strategy and business solutions with entrepreneurial spirit and personalized service.
The services she provides include pre-application for certification, coaching and development, and access to corporate and government contacts for diverse businesses to succeed and accomplish their goals and objectives. Connectus Worldwide offers Supplier Diversity Program development, and Public Participation & Engagement Consulting for corporate and public organizations wanting to become more intertwined in the entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Prior to starting Connectus Worldwide, Mary managed a supplier diversity program for a Multi-Billion Dollar company for several years. She developed a proactive program for supplier identification, supplier growth and development, strategic planning, and program measurement, which resulted in increased and effective utilization of diverse suppliers throughout the corporation. In her role, Mary collaborated with internal executives, business partners, and stakeholders, as well as external colleagues across the country for the betterment of her program.
Mary served two consecutive terms as co-chair of the National Minority Supplier Development Council’s (NMSDC) “The Working Group.” The group is comprised of 25 product and consumer companies such as: ADM, Cargill, Colgate-Palmolive, Disney, Johnson & Johnson, MillerCoors, Medtronic, Monsanto, Pfizer, and P&G.
Mary is on the Leadership Council for the National Small Business Association in Washington D.C. She is a graduate of the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce Globe Program (Global Leadership Opportunities for Business Executives). She is a Black Achiever in Business and Industry, Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Greater KC and the Black Achievers Society. She is honored to have a published piece on Supplier Diversity and Certification, in the 2018/2019 Thinking Bigger Business Media Entrepreneurs Guide.
Using a theatre background to grow your company Erica Brune
Erica Brune is President of Lever1, a Kansas City-based professional employer organization (PEO) providing human resources, payroll and employee benefit solutions. Within five years of launching Lever1, Erica helped drive the company to become Missouri’s Fastest Growing Company of 2017—ranked No. 44 in the nation by Inc. Magazine and Women Presidents' Organization recently named Erica No. 4 in The 50 Fastest-Growing Women-Owned/Led Companies 2018. With Erica’s guidance, Lever1 has secured an industry-wide reputation of excellence, operational reliability and thought leadership.
Erica Brune holds a dual role as CAO of an Inc. 500/5000 Fastest Growing Company, Blue Chair Holdings – which includes subsidiary Gragg Advertising. Honored among Kansas City Business Journal’s 2016 Women Who Mean Business, 2019 Fast 50 and the Leadership Trust, Lever1 has also been recognized as 2017’s Top 25 KC Companies by Thinking Bigger Business and recognition as 2017 and 2018 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Finalist.
Erica currently serves as President for the Kansas City chapter of NAWBO (National Association of Women Business Owners) as well as other Boards both regionally and nationally.
Erica is also seen regularly speaking across the nation as an expert in human capital management and business growth strategies with topics such as pay equity, HR for your small business and recruiting top talent to grow your business. Erica's expertise has been shared in renowned publications including Kansas City Business Journal, National Apartment Association and Thinking Bigger Business.
Ending Period Poverty With Jessica McClellan
Jessica is a Motivational Speaker, the Founder and President of Giving Hope & Help Inc., “Voice of the voiceless”, survivor and advocate for domestic violence and sexual assault survivors, education and cancer support advocate, philanthropist, humanitarian, and radio/internet talk show host of PURPOSE, PASSION & POWER With Jessica Lynn on KUAW.org (Kansas City’s Global Community Radio Station). Jessica has received several awards including the 2019 - I Change Nations Community Ambassador Award. She was honored as the 1st Kansas City Mom of the Year 2019, by Magic 107.3 Radio Station. She’s also a 2019 Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. - Women of Courage Award Recipient, a 2018 Women of Distinction of Jackson County Honoree and a 2017 LIFT HER UP Honoree, based on her philanthropic work, humanitarianism and leadership with Giving Hope & Help Inc. She will accept the Nefertiti Award from the Greater Kansas City Chapter of Societas Docta, Inc. March 28, 2020.
She is a 1st generation graduate from Southern University and A&M College – Baton Rouge, LA, where she earned a Bachelor’s of Science in Business Marketing. She also holds a Master’s of Science in Business Management (MSM) from Baker University – Baldwin City, KS. She is the 2014 Grand Prize Winner of the Be Your Possible Essay Contest sponsored by Barclaycard MasterCard. Jessica holds over twenty years of sales and management experience including ten years of pharmaceutical and medical sales experience. She is an Independent Corporate Trainer/Facilitator; an active member of the Kansas City Women’s Chamber of Commerce, Central Exchange, Polka Dot Powerhouse – Kansas City, KS Chapter, Sister’s Circle-GKC, Southern University And A&M College Alumni Federation, an INROADS Kansas City Inc. Alumna and a faithful member of City Center Church.
Leading from the top as a woman with Polly Thomas
Polly began her career as a physical therapist, studying at the University of Missouri, where she also met her husband Eric. While she maintained a passion for healthcare, she quickly learned that direct healthcare delivery was not where she wanted to focus her career. She joined Harcourt Health Sciences as a medical sales representative in 1999 and realized she had a passion for sales. In 2001 she joined Cerner Corporation in the healthcare consulting practice. Polly spent nine years working at Cerner Corporation, utilizing her clinic experience to help optimize clinical process utilizing technology and implementing Cerner’s onsite health center for employees. In Cerner’s executive development program Polly held a variety of roles including consulting, international assignments and led the organizational change management group of 150 clinicians focusing on changing healthcare delivery in her last position there. Her most proud accomplishment at Cerner was creating and implementing their onsite health clinic for employees. Polly joined CBIZ an employee benefits consulting firm, as a benefits consultant in 2009 and has held several positions in the company. In September of 2016, Polly was appointed President of the Kansas City CBIZ Employee Benefits practice, a division of CBIZ Benefits & Insurance Services, Inc. During her tenure with CBIZ, Polly created the national onsite clinic consulting practice and assisted many clients with developing comprehensive total reward programs that retain and attract talent. Her current focus as President of the Kansas City Employee Benefits division is organizational culture, growth strategy and client retention.
Polly and Eric have two children, Ella and Owen and recently a puppy named Mae, or Mary Puppins as Ella and Owen like to call her.
Overcoming obstacles to lead entrepreneurs with Alicia Hooks
Alicia Hooks is the Director of Technology & Workforce Development at the Kansas City Kansas Community College serving the communities of the Greater Kansas City area, Wyandotte and Leavenworth Counties. When originally tasked with creating an Entrepreneurial program/center for area businesses and entrepreneurs, over 300 entrepreneurs were assisted in the first 3 years. In October of the following year, she was given the additional responsibility of the Workforce and Career Center. Since then she has initiated innovative programs and services with business and industry resulting in being asked to be a contributing author in a revised training text for workforce leaders.
Dr. Hooks additionally is the CEO of BRP Counseling Services, Inc., founded in 1994, the President of BRP Enterprises LLC, and a public speaker who has spoken at regional and national conferences. She has been a faculty member at the University of Phoenix and Ottawa University in the areas of psychology and substance abuse. Dr. Hooks is a published author, has been featured in national magazines, on at least two cable television shows, and is a contributing writer to an international blog for women of color. Previously she worked in the capacity of Executive Director, Operations Manager, Clinical Director, Intervention Specialist, Instructor, Trainer, and Counselor at various facilities. She has personally assisted numerous for profit and not-for-profit businesses in organizational start-up and growth; and has conducted workshops/seminars on a variety of topics.
Dr. Hooks’ governmental experience includes having served as the Senior Constituent Services Aide to Congressman Dennis Moore and Legislative Aide to State Senator David Haley supporting her knowledge base for helping contractors obtain state and federal contracts.
Customer ReviewsSee All
Best Podcast for Women in Business
It’s empowering to hear so many amazing women making moves in the KC business community! Aaron provides a great platform for business women to share their story, inspiring the next generation of female leaders! I look forward to tuning in each week!
Love this podcast!
Uninspiring. The host has the poorest interview skills I’ve ever listened to.