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Chicks Rock! : A Recap of Guam Women’s Chamber of Commerce 2014 Leadership Retreat


The Guam Women’s Chamber of Commerce hosted a 2 day women’s leadership retreat themed:


I’m happy to say that GWCC delivered! Check out photos & what I consider some of the most important lessons of the weekend.

Day One

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   {Entertainment by Inetnon Gef Pago}

What’s a night out on Guam without some culture dance?

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{The Dream Project was in the building! Thank you GWCC & Heidi Ballendorf for the sponsorships!}

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{Our table of friends! And, what a great table it was because we ALL won something!}

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  {Dr. Anita Borja}

Senior Vice President of Academic and Student Affairs, University of Guam

Shortly after meeting Dr. Borja at a Whine & Wine event,  I read an article about her that was so very inspiring.

I couldn’t find it for this post, but maybe (with her permission) I can re-post on a later date.

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{Governor Eddie Calvo}

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{Ms. Kathy Sgro}

Chairwoman of the Board & Executive Vice President, Pay-Less Markets, Inc.

Although Mrs. Sgro did not render a formal speech, I did overhear her tell some girlfriends to meet her at 4:45 AM. Someone inquired about what was taking place at 4:45 AM and she replied, “Those are my running partners.”

Moral of the story: I didn’t wake up like this. I workout. And, early!

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{Mrs. Christine M.S. Calvo}

First Lady of Guam

“Guam is the place where strangers are welcomed as friends and friends become family.”

Yes, Mrs. Calvo, it is.

Before my family and I relocated to Guam, I had no idea what to expect….except brown tree snakes and geckos. (And, thank the dear Lord from above that I haven’t actually seen a snake.) My family and I moved halfway around the world and I’ve never felt more welcomed. We’ve been to more potlucks and celebrations than I can count.  You can get invited to a family dinner by simply walking down the street. Although we miss our friends and family back home in SC and are eager to see them again, I can honestly say that we have never felt homesick because the people of Guam have literally opened their homes to us and treated us like family. Mrs. Calvo hit the nail on the head when she said, “We take time out of our busy lives to spend time with one another.” That’s the point of difference on Guam. And, that’s what makes Guam so special.

Not only is Mrs. Calvo the First Lady of Guam and mother of 6, she’s also the founder of The Rigålu Foundation. The Rigålu Foundation generates community awareness and support for Guam’s foster children. Read more about Mrs. Calvo here.

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{Dr. Mary A.Y. Okada}

Chief Executive Officer & President of Guam Community college & Asian American Pacific Islander

“Help shape someone’s life. Somebody is out there looking fir you to guide them. When you guide another women through an educational/career path you’re not only giving a gift to that woman, you’re giving a gift to yourself.”

I think I found my soul-mate. I LIVE, BREATHE, EAT what she just said. I’m a women’s life coach who created a blog called Woman, Live! HELL-O! Can I just say how refreshing it was to be in a room full of women who support women? Now, I’m not going to be naïve and pretend like none of these women have ever been jealous, hurt, spiteful, rude, or any other unattractive quality. But, I do find it interesting that the majority of speakers shared from a deep place within their heart. They didn’t use their 15 minutes to talk about how many great opportunities had come their way and how awesome their early morning routines were. They told us about the hard times. The times when they were uncertain, the times they struggled, and how another woman was there to lift them up.

Dr. Okada’s mom, also her #1 cheerleader, uprooted her family so that she could give her children a better life. Tony Sanford mentored Dr. Okada and helped shape and mold her. And, now, Dr. Okada is paying it forward. She’s encouraging other women to do the same. When we walk into a boardroom, or any room, and there is another woman present, we shouldn’t have to wonder if we’ve just met our enemy or our ally. We should support and encourage one another just as we would want another woman to support and encourage our daughters, sisters, and mothers.

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{Rear Admiral Bette Bolivar}


Joint Regional Marianas U.S. Naval Forces & U.S. Defense Representative for Guam, CMNI, FSM & Palau


“It’s only when you surround yourself with people that share your dreams and push you that you will make those dreams a reality.”

Rear Admiral Bette Bolivar is only the highest ranked woman on the island of Guam. I think we all sat up a little bit straighter when she took the podium. She began her speech with, “Chicks Rock!” and I knew then I had to get a picture with her!

Rear Admiral Bolivar makes sacrifices for people she doesn’t know every single day. It’s her job. But, you don’t have to be in the military to decide that you’re going to make the world a better place for others. When you assist a woman by teaching her a skill, sharing a piece of advice, referring her to a someone that can help her, you’re never just helping her. You’ve helped her family, as well.

Rear Admiral Bolivar’s talk had many takeaways, such as:

1. Our ambitions, dreams, and aspirations are just that. People are what matter most.

2. If we’re able to be truthful without judgment, we can accomplish a great deal in a short amount of time.

3. The golden rule is treating people right.

What sticks out in my memory the most is a story she told about running with her squad. (I know zilch about the military so pardon me if I get some of the terminology wrong.) When her squad would run, the rule was that everyone had to finish together. You might not be able to tell in the photo, but Rear Admiral Bolivar is a petite woman and I’m assuming not the fastest runner. She said when she would get tired, her squad would open up a spot in the middle for her. And, they would carry her along until she could run again.

Mind blown.

Can you imagine having a group of friends that said, “I got you,” when your load became too heavy? Can you imagine girlfriends who cared more about finishing together than winning? Can you imagine women who gave up 30 minutes of their time to sit down and mentor another woman?

Rear Admiral Bolivar’s story is such a sweet glimpse of how Jesus commands us to love one another, cry with one another, and rejoice with one another. We have been called to help each other cross the finish line.

Rear Admiral Bolivar shared the story of her hero, her dad. He served 20+ years in the Navy as a cook. I bet he never thought he would raise one of the military’s highest ranking females, but I’m certain he raised her in hopes that she would surpass him. That’s the heart of all parents. We live our lives in service to our children, hoping that in some way we’re making the road a little bit easier for them. Hoping that we’re instilling values and morals that will shape and mold them into the kind of people who serve others wholeheartedly just like Rear Admiral Bolivar.

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{She was practically running out the door, but me and my paparazzi skills caught her! Say Cheese!}

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{From L to R: Deborah Espinoza, Brandi Hawthorne, Crystal Moradi, Kathy Sgro, Holly Rustick, and Siska S. Hutapea}

Day Two


{Vanessa Williams Ji, ESQ}

Attorney-At-Law, Law Office of Vanessa Williams

“No Excuses”

Vanessa’s story was so amazing! I’m a sucker for the underdog so when Vanessa began her speech with the story of how she “failed fantastically” in her 1st year of college, I was so tuned in I forgot to take a picture! If both of your parents had excellent careers before you were born, sent you off to college with tuition checks for all 4 years, and you got a job because, well, you were bored, you and I can’t be friends. Nah, I’m kidding. But, I do have a special place in my heart for those who struggled in college because I’ve been there.

You see, just like Vanessa I knew that going to college was going to be a huge sacrifice for my family. And, by family, I mean my 60 year old grandmother. And, yet, I still went to school and bombed, worked like a maniac to pay my way through school, and graduated with an abysmal GPA. But, enough about me. I just wanted you to know why I absolutely adore Vanessa.

After Vanessa bombed her freshman year, she was determined not to let her mom’s sacrifice go to waste. She found a study partner named Brandi. (Coincidence? I think not.) She transferred to another school. She worked her butt off at Denny’s and at school! And, she graduated with yes, an abysmal GPA. But, did that stop her from applying to law school? NOPE. She knew she had to ROCK the LSATs and ROCK she did! She was accepted to law school with a $7500 scholarship. $50,000 minus $7,500 is….Yeah, $7,500 didn’t help much.

See! I was so engrossed in Vanessa’s story that I didn’t jot down who gave her this little nugget of wisdom. Shucks!

Everything is negotiable.

Somewhere along the way, someone very wise taught Vanessa not to settle. Go after what you want. Negotiate the terms of your life.

So, Vanessa put on her big girl panties and asked the admissions officer to give her an extension until Friday. She knew that money had been promised to students that would decide to attend another law school and she needed that money. Long story short, Vanessa ended up getting a full ride for all 3 years! Yep, everything is negotiable. And, yep, Vanessa is a badass!

Keep moving.

Vanessa has had internships/clerkships at every branch of government. She didn’t settle for the first thing. She kept moving knowing that sooner or later she’d bump into something she liked.

Surround yourself with positive women.

“Women will strengthen you. Women will hold you up. And, it always starts with your mom.”

In her 4th year of practice, Vanessa joined GWCC. The GWCC’s board is a “powerhouse of women.”

jen camacho

{Jennifer Camacho}

Director of Business Development, Cars Plus

Speak Up!

Jen’s motto is:

Success is my duty, obligation & responsibility

She’s been working alongside her dad, Joey Crisostomo, for 15 years. Her dad is the president of Cars Plus. So, it’s no wonder Jennifer feel in love with the auto business at a young age. She appreciates that it’s a fast-paced industry, she never gets bored, and she like the challenge of working in a male-dominated business. Yep, Jen’s a BOSS! Her dad always taught her that if she got the experience, the money would follow. So, she worked her way up by:

1. Surrounding herself with like-minded women

2. Tuning into international business and sales expert, Grant Cordone

3. Keeping her nose in a book. Lean In & Nice Girls Don’t Get The Corner Office 101 are two of her favorites.

lean in    nice girls

But, despite working hard and gaining experience, the money wasn’t following. Jen decided to have a sit down with the boss. Daddy. Never having worked with my father, I’d assume that as I gained experience and proved myself, he’d pile on the bonuses! Apparently, it doesn’t work that way. In fact, Jennifer shared that in some ways it can be harder to stand up for yourself when working with family.

This experience taught Jennifer a valuable lesson.

“It’s not anyone else’s responsibility to make me successful, not my husband, not my mother and not my father. It’s mine.” 

No playing the blame game. If you want it, you have to do the work and go for it 100% because at the end of the day your life is what YOU make it. Thanks for reminding us to take responsibility for our lives, Jennifer.

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 {Shalyn Allen}

Associate Broker, Captain Real Estate

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” -Gandhi

Shalyn is one of those “If not me, then who?” women. She began a micro-enterprise renewing vehicle registrations. Why? Because she knew what it was like to stand in that long line. She knew that a 30 minute to 1 hour lunch break just wasn’t going to cut it. And, she knew that if she felt the stress of renewing her vehicle registration, she wasn’t alone. So, she opened up shop with one assistance, some Facebook marketing, and simply placing fliers on cars with expired registrations.

“Once things improved, I knew I wasn’t going to be needed anymore. It wasn’t about me. It was about Guam,” says Shalyn.

So, clearly Shalyn didn’t start this business to set records. She established it because it was needed. She established it because she could.

What if we all did our parts to help make the world a better, more efficient place for ourselves and everyone else?

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{Siska S. Hutapea}

MAI, MRICS, MRE, President, Cornerstone Valuation Guam, Inc.

Siska is from Jakarta, Indonesia. She is the oldest of 4 girls, a mother of 5, and a SBA – Women in Business Champion Award Winner. In other words, she’s a great multi-tasker!

She credits her work ethic to her father and her perseverance to her mother. If she and her siblings were not the top of their class, they knew they were going to hear it from Mom.

Although Siska shared some of her achievements, they were not the focal point of her speech. Siska’s talk was about something deep down on the inside. She shared with us some of her life’s lowest moments such as when she forgot to put her name on her exam and blew her chances of going to the University of Indonesia or when her baby had to spend its first weeks in the hospital when the doctors discovered meconium in her amniotic fluid. She shared those moments to remind us that happiness is fleeting. But, joy comes from within.

Siska’s secret to a happy, successful life is: “Rejoice always & pray without ceasing.”

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{Crystal Moradi}

Author & Senior Vice President, PLJ Income

Motto: The secret to getting ahead is getting started.

Mission: To help every woman have a lifetime stream of income during her most exciting years.

Crystal Moradi was our keynote speaker for the retreat. She was born in Iran. She and her parents fled the country like Sally Fields and her daughter in the movie, Not Without My Daughter. She and her family lived in the airport for a month like Tom Hanks in the movie, The Terminal. I think I can speak for 99% of the room when I say, “OMG!” What an opening! All eyes and ears were fixed on Crystal.

If I recall correctly, Crystal’s passion for becoming an income strategist was watching her grandmother struggle with the finances after her grandfather passed away. I saw this play out many times when I worked at the DMV. Divorcees would come in for new ID’s, etc. and they were unable to show proof of residency because their names weren’t on any of the bills. PLJ Income seeks to ensure women don’t outlive their money and are not intimidated by their finances.

The pearl in Crystal’s talk can be summed up in two words: WILL BE

So often we hang our dreams, goals, and visions on I might, Maybe, and I’ll try. That’s code for I won’t. There isn’t room for indecisiveness. Either go for it or sit down.

You have to change your thoughts to change your world.

Crystal reminded us that we are our biggest enemies. We hold ourselves back because by the thoughts we think of ourselves.

Crystal is a big advocate for mentorship. Who is going to shape you and help you? She believes in the power of perspective. She’s also a fan of Napolean Hill’s Think & Grow Rich. And, she warns us of sharing our dreams with “bad seeds.”

Crystal is the author of Your Personal Money Diary and #1 best selling book in retirement planning, Get Your Hand Out Of My Purse! I’m Not Giving You My Money!

Visit for more information.


I’m sad to say that I left the conference shortly after Crystal’s first talk because my husband was injured while playing basketball. But, I heard the remainder of the event was just as amazing as the portion I was able to attend.

If I could sum up the event in 3 words, I’d say:

Women Support Women

Everyone talked about how another woman had helped them along the way by modeling perseverance, being a listening ear, providing pearls of wisdom, and taking them under their wing.

No one that stepped on that stage could say they got there without the support and guidance of another woman. And, that should be the takeaway. No matter where you are, reach back and help the next woman up. We can do much more together than we can apart.

Please support Woman, Live! by sharing, “liking”, and commenting!

With lots of sisterly love,


One thought on “Chicks Rock! : A Recap of Guam Women’s Chamber of Commerce 2014 Leadership Retreat

  1. Pingback: Don’t Lose It All In The End: Retirement Planning Starts Now {GIVEAWAY!} | Woman, Live!

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