By Maria Jose Subiria
More than 230 business women gathered under one roof Thursday, for the Clayton County Chamber of Commerce Women in Business Council's fourth annual "Women in Business Luncheon."
The luncheon, held at the Georgia International Convention Center, 2000 Convention Center Concourse, in College Park, featured the announcement of the winner of the council's 2009 Business Woman of the Year award.
"This luncheon rejuvenates us as women ... [and] allows us to unify," said Yulonda Beauford, president and CEO of the Clayton County Chamber of Commerce.
Veronica Elie, branch manager and vice president of Fidelity Bank in Morrow, was awarded the 2009 Business Woman of the Year award. She took the stage in tears, and shared her joy with the crowd.
"Oh gracious be," she said. "Of course I am excited. I am so surprised ... I am truly humbled."
According to Elie, who has been a Clayton County resident for 11 years, she is co-chairwoman of the WorkTec Advisory Board, treasurer-elect of the Clayton County Rotary Club, a member of Keep Clayton County Beautiful, a member of the J.H. Brown Elementary School Council and serves on the Clayton County Fund Advisory Board of the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta.
Elie said she has had an interest in helping other women succeed in business.
She said she was appointed to be co-chairwoman for Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.'s Non-Traditional Entrepreneurs Economic Keys to Success Platform, which represents women in business industries that are not commonly sought after in the market. To aid these women, she said she created a program called the Round Table of Entrepreneur Business Women. A panel of six successful business women shared valuable information, and how to create and launch a business, she said.
"I know I am sincere in what I do," she said. "What I've done, I've done out of my heart and desire to do it."
Elie has also reached out to children, by providing them with hands-on learning experiences.
She said as part of the J.H. Brown Elementary School Council, in Jonesboro, Fidelity Bank and Brown Elementary School partnered to provide "Bank at School Savings Day" for fifth-graders. The participants are required to wear uniforms, be on time, collect deposits from the student body and attend a debriefing meeting.
"What drives me more is getting our recognition as a community," said Elie. "It hurts me when we get bad press, and when positive things happen no one knows."
Crystal Black, director of member services for the Clayton County Chamber of Commerce, said Elie was deserving of the award.
"I think her passion for Clayton County, and the community really set her apart through the judging process," Black said.
2008 Business Woman of the Year Sabrina Crawford, co-owner and service director for Heritage Cadillac-Saab, presented Elie with the award Thursday.
Asked whether she had any advice for aspiring business women, Crawford said, "Never give up. Give it 110 percent."