2016 Woman Business Owner Award Winner:

Julie Ayers, Member, LBA Haynes Strand, PLLC.

Julie’s ability to help clients overcome financial obstacles began when she worked for a prominent property management company who oversaw the management of prestigious condominiums in Washington, DC. Faced with unsold condominiums and a down turn in the market, condominium associations turned to her to find ways to reduce their overwhelming financial burden. Julie realized that by helping the association she was able to also help the individual owners save their homes. Armed with this knowledge and passion, she left the company and became a CPA to work in public practice.

Julie knows the complexities of tax law and she understands the variety of ways regulations can be applied to serve the needs of her clients. Clients rely on Julie’s personal approach to problem solving, knowing that she will work tirelessly to help.

When clients encounter stressful situations, they know that Julie offers creative alternatives to reach their goals. She starts by asking each person what they hope to achieve. After Julie understands the goal, she works backwards while considering all options and choosing the best path for success.

Julie is also the head of the LBA Haynes Strand’s Charter School Accounting. She ensures that all Charter Schools that come to LBA Haynes Strand receive the time and attention necessary to running a financially successful Charter School.

Julie and her family enjoy weekend travel to her son’s soccer games and other travel in the U.S and abroad. Her trips to Italy and other destinations are filled with visiting friends and family, and a hearty appreciation for the local cuisine.


Congratulations to our 2 Business Woman of the Year Award Finalists:

Jennifer Maier, President & CEO, WDS (Women’s Distribution Services)

Jennifer Maier founded WDS, Inc. in November 2007 as a small home-based business sourcing recycled packaging to manufacturers. Since then, she has led WDS into one of the fastest-growing women-led companies in the world. Under her leadership, WDS has grown to dozens of locations and is the largest BRC-certified storage and distribution company in the US and Canada. WDS has expanded its services to provide supply chain management, manufacturing, automation, and business analytics solutions to the manufacturing sector. A great part of the company’s success is because Jennifer has created a work culture of innovation and customer service at WDS, keeping everyone focused on what it takes to create an excellent customer experience.
Business acumen is not the only outstanding thing about Jennifer. She is dedicated to helping women and girls realize their potential in the business world. She supports aspiring women entrepreneurs through mentoring programs, financial contributions to causes that provide assistance to women, and through sharing information to increase awareness of diversity issues in business. She is also a strong believer in giving back to the community. She established WDS Cares to provide volunteering and financial support to causes chosen by employees, serving families in local communities across North America. Whether it’s serving in a leadership role or contributing as a volunteer, Jennifer has actively given her time and talents to a variety of nonprofit organizations on a local and national level.

Suzy K. Johnson, President and Owner, Employee Benefit Advisors of the Carolinas, LLC.

With more than 32 years of experience, Employee Benefit Specialist and President/Owner of Employee Benefit Advisors of the Carolinas is an expert in assisting businesses who value their employees in design and implementation of employee benefit programs including group health insurance, High Deductible Health plans with Health Savings accounts, group life and disability insurance, group dental and vision and pre tax premium plans for employees.

Suzy’s company currently serves 285 employer companies in and around the Charlotte area who value their employees and work with Suzy and her team to create the highest value offerings available to create financial security and a positive work experience for the employees while helping the employer control cost.

Suzy has the highest designation achievable in the employee benefits arena as she earned her CEBS (Certified Employee Benefit Specialist) designation in 1999 through a program provided through the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

Prior to purchasing the business from her partner of 22 years in May 2012, Suzy was the President and partner in Strategic Employee Benefit Services which she presided over and developed from a start up company with her partner Jim Worrell.

In May 2012 Suzy purchased the assets from Mr. Worrell and renamed the business Employee Benefit Advisors of the Carolinas, LLC

Suzy has been a member of the Women’s Impact Fund in Charlotte for 8 years and has served on the health grants committee three of those years and currently serves on the Finance Committee of the Women’s Impact Fund.

Suzy is the local President of the Chapter of ISCEBS (International Society of Certified Employee Benefit Specialists). She is the past President of the Charlotte Association of Health Underwriters (2012/2013) and continues to serve on the board.  Suzy is also Chair of the national LPRT (Leading Producers Round Table) committee for the National Association of Health Underwriters and travels to Capitol Hill with NAHU annually in February to lobby on Capitol Hill for business/employer friendly changes to the healthcare law.