Of the top 50 women business owners identified through a first-ever study, two are Utahns - and they were honored at a gala on Thursday.
Sandie Tillotson, vice president of corporate services for Nu Skin International, finished No. 8 on the list. And June Morris, chief executive officer of Morris Air, finished at No. 33.The National Foundation for Women Business Owners and Working Woman magazine compiled the list, ranking women business owners according to how much money their businesses grossed in 1992.
To qualify, the women had to be involved in daily company operations and own at least 20 percent of a privately held corporation or 10 percent of a public company (and be its single largest stockholder).
Tillotson, 37, owns 28 percent of Nu Skin (the second largest share). It grossed $500 million in sales last year and has 1,200 employees in the United States.
Morris, 62, owns 54 percent of Morris Air, which had $140 million in sales and has 900 employees.
They and others on the list were honored at a gala dinner at the National Museum of Women in the Arts. Event sponsors said Morris was unable to attend because of a board meeting in California.
"I was surprised I was No. 8. I thought many others would be higher," Tillotson said.
At a National Press Club press conference for winners, she urged women to ignore those who are skeptical of their ideas and dreams.
"I just say no to dream stealers and know I can become all I want to become through the entrepreneurial spirit," she said.
She was one of four co-founders of Nu Skin. She left teaching in 1980 to become a distributor for the Cambridge Diet Plan, where she learned the multilevel marketing strategy that is key to Nu Skin operations.
"When the Cambridge Diet filed Chapter 7 (bankruptcy) and cut out all its distributors in its reorganization, I thought the only way was to start over and be involved in the management of a company to ensure against mismanagement," she said.
Nu Skin's sales went from nothing in 1984 to $500 million last year. The company's marketing scheme had been challenged as an illegal pyramid scheme in several states, but the company said it has settled all major legal problems.
Tillotson - a New York native who first came west to attend Brigham Young University - has helped bring several new products to market including the Nu Colour line of makeup, the perfume Safiro and the company's new nutritional division, Interior Design Nutritionals.
Tillotson, who is divorced and has three children, says her entrepreneurial spirit has also affected her children. "I have a son who pulls a wagon around with perfume to sell to neighbors."
Morris started her career in the steno pool of the American Automobile Association. She later became a travel agent there, and then opened her own travel agency in 1970.
The Morris air charter company began in 1984 when she wanted to package low-cost vacations to the West Coast, Hawaii, Mexico and Alaska.
Last December, Morris Air became a full-fledged airline with its own fleet of jets and flight schedule. She took advantage of the depressed airliner market to buy Boeing 737-300s for only $17 million each after the price fell 40 percent.
Morris caps costs by flying only one type of aircraft (which limits maintenance expenses and simplifies training), sticking with short-haul flights and serving midair muffins instead of meals.
Working Woman magazine noted that Morris - a grandmother of eight - "has bucked cutthroat competition and an industrywide recession to become the only woman ever to be chief executive officer of an airline."