Explore Las Vegas

Women’s History Month in America

This month, we’re celebrating female leaders in various industries across the United States.

Today is International Women’s Day, but the achievements of women can be felt, seen and heard every day of the year. To honor Women’s History Month, we’re celebrating wonderful women in America who are making strides and breaking the barriers of gender inequalities daily. 

Celebrating Fantastic Females in America

Maxine Henderson, Founder of Bollygood

Born in Canada to immigrant parents from India, Maxine Henderson wanted a better hydration option for her four children and created one herself. Bollygood is a line of healthier sparkling beverages with Indian-inspired flavors and packaging to increase Indian representation in the marketplace. 

WT: How did you get your start in the industry?
Henderson: My husband, Alan, has been on his entrepreneurial journey for some time and encouraged me to go for it. He likes being his own boss, doing what he enjoys, and doing it on his schedule. He is also in the beverage arena but on the alcoholic beverage side. I’m an electrical engineer by trade, so becoming a beverage entrepreneur was a big switch.  

Over the last several years, I started noticing more and more Indian foods in stores, especially in the frozen section. And Naan breads were popping up everywhere. But, the beverage category had nothing. No Indian representation, but I thought there should be. So I decided to make Bollygood to fill that gap. I created an Indian-inspired sparkling beverage that will transport your tastebuds to India!  

WT: What has been your favorite personal achievement?
Henderson: I’d say, just seeing the first cans come off the production line. It was an amazing feeling to hold the first can in my hands, actually seeing the artwork come alive and my story on the backside. It took a lot of planning and development to get to that point.

But then it also is a little scary, because now you have all these pallets of product that you have to find places to sell it, and then find a way to get it in people’s hands. You hope everyone embraces it and enjoys it as much as I do. So it was definitely a favorite moment, but it was also scary at the same time.

WT: Can you tell me about any challenges you faced along the way? 
Henderson: I was trained to be an electrical engineer. If you ask me to figure out a schematics drawing for some complicated circuitry, no problem. But, the beverage industry is completely different. The language and all the acronyms are a new language to me.

So I’d say a big challenge was trying to learn a new industry and develop new skillsets. I really had to figure a lot out. But when you try something different, oftentimes, you don’t even know what you don’t know. And as in most things, experience is a great teacher. Not only what to do, but also what not to do.

WT: What do you hope the future holds for you and your career?
Henderson: I’m excited about the future! I feel good about the products we launched with; we are also about to start development on two more flavors. There is still so much to learn, but I’m up for the challenge. I hope to make the Indian community proud and turn Bollygood into its own recognizable name!

Our mission is to spread happiness and culture through delicious Indian-inspired beverages while supporting the empowerment of women and women-owned businesses in the USA and India. If things go as planned, Bollygood will be embraced by not only the Indian community but anyone looking to bring some adventure back to their sparkling beverages. 

Maxine Henderson, Founder of Bollygood | WhereTraveler
Maxine Henderson, Founder of Bollygood (Courtesy Bollygood)

Tia Graham, Founder of Arrive at Happy

A former hospitality leader, Tia Graham is the published author of “Be a Happy Leader: Stop the Overwhelm, Thrive Personally, and Achieve Business Results,” designed to help other business leaders and managers to find balance and happiness in their careers and roles. Her company, Arrive at Happy, is all about bringing happiness and working through the science behind a happy mindset. Graham is also set to speak at TedX in May 2022. 

WT: How did you get your start in the industry?
Graham: I got my start in the hospitality industry by attending the University of Hawaii and getting a degree in Travel Industry Management. I completed several internships while I was in school and then completed a Management Training Program with an international hotel company.

I got started in the Happiness industry by becoming a certified coach, getting multiple certifications in Positive Psychology, Neuroscience and becoming a Certified Chief Happiness Officer. I started coaching clients 1:1, then did workshops, then retreats and then started speaking and working ongoing with all different types of corporations.

WT: What has been your favorite personal achievement?
Graham: My favorite personal achievements have been being a mom and creating my company, Arrive At Happy.

WT: Can you tell me about any challenges you faced along the way? 
Graham: Recreating my personal brand as a Certified Chief Happiness Officer, Speaker, and Author after being a Director of Sales and Marketing for 14+ years and balancing growing a business, marriage, being a mom to two young children, having time for friends and prioritizing my health and wellness. Pivoting to a virtual business when the pandemic started, as I am a keynote speaker and corporate trainer—learning how to thrive in a new industry.

WT: What do you hope the future holds for you and your career?
Graham: Writing a lot more best-selling books! Expanding my team to have other speakers and trainers as part of Arrive At Happy, more global work, more collaborations and lots of fun travel with my family! 

Tia Graham, Founder of Arrive at Happy | WhereTraveler
Tia Graham, Founder of Arrive at Happy (Courtesy Arrive at Happy)

Sandi Robinson, Director of Sales & Marketing for Oxford Hotels

An award-winning professional, Sandi Robinson joined the Oxford Hotels and resorts team before The Godfrey Hotel Chicago opened. She worked her way through multiple roles before becoming the Director of Sales & Marketing for the hotel and the entire Oxford Hotels and Resorts company. Recent accomplishments include an IHLA “Department Head of the Year” award in 2019. In addition to her role at The Godfrey, Robinson co-founded ChiGivesBack, a local non-profit that aids communities around Chicago that are underserved. 

WT: What has been your favorite personal achievement?
Robinson: Being the co-founder of ChiGivesBack, Inc, an incredible non-profit organization that helps underserved communities and helps connect companies with those communities. 

WT: Can you tell me about any challenges you faced along the way?  
Robinson: Moving from Executive Events Manager to Director of Sales was a huge challenge. I went from managing myself to a full team that looked to me for leadership. This move was both challenging and rewarding because it gave us all a chance to learn and grow from each other. 

WT: What do you hope the future holds for you and your career? 
Robinson: Longevity and growth. This industry is so large, and the possibilities are endless. I look forward to being in and around it for as long as it will have me. 

Sandi Robinson, Oxford Hotels and Resorts | WhereTraveler
Sandi Robinson, Director of Sales & Marketing for Oxford Hotels and Resorts (Courtesy The Godfrey Hotel Chicago)

Tricia Costello, Fresh Wata and StarBase, Founder

Creativity is at the heart of Tricia Costello’s career, and it shows in the work she has put into her agency Fresh Wata and the event space StarBase. Costello has created innovative designs and utilized technology in new and exciting ways to help reshape the event industry in Las Vegas. 

WT: How did you get your start in the industry? 
Costello: My sister introduced me to a career in events as she was doing events for FOX at the time and hired me as her assistant. Through my experience at FOX, I was able to get an internship working on the design team for the Academy Awards and GRAMMY Awards. 

From there, I was breathing and living everything design, production, lighting, and effects and trying to learn absolutely everything about behind-the-scenes equipment that went into large-scale productions, as well as parties/events and the people who were planning them. I was very ambitious, dedicated, and hard-working because I was passionate about the industry. 

WT: What has been your favorite personal achievement?
Costello: My favorite personal achievement is having my daughter and helping shape our future generation. My little girl is ten months old, and it’s my job to provide for her day in and day out. My family has always been very important to me, and in some ways, our company culture at Fresh Wata is like a small family as we all rely on and support one another in order to be successful. 

Now it’s my turn not just to be a great leader at work but also to be a great mother to my daughter. As parents, it’s our responsibility to make sure our children contribute to society in meaningful and successful ways, and I look forward to challenging my daughter to do just that over the next few decades.

WT: Can you tell me about any challenges you faced along the way? 
Costello: There is so much to learn when running a business. When I started in the industry at 22 years old, I definitely did not have many answers or even a clear path that I was on, but I was determined and passionate to learn and grow within my field. 

One of the best ways to learn is from experience and from making mistakes, as it opens your eyes to how you can improve your business and company as a whole. Every year we come up with new solutions and processes that are put into place for positive change and growth. We are always looking for ways to be better. 

We faced numerous challenges through the pandemic. It seemed like every single day, I had to make a tougher decision than the last. The events industry was one of the hardest hits, with tradeshows, conferences, meetings and events all coming to a halt at the start of the pandemic. There was no income to be made, but our monthly bills still needed to be paid. 

There were a lot of tears shed and a ton of weight on my shoulders. The to-do list felt as if it was never-ending when it came to what needed to be done to keep the company afloat, remain open and thrive post-pandemic. I think we did a good job pivoting to launch StarBase, a hybrid event space, and get back to hosting events both physically and virtually.

WT: What do you hope the future holds for you and your career? 
Costello: As a producer, it’s always rewarding seeing a project through from start to finish, providing a sense of accomplishment and something to be proud of. Brand engagements that are both challenging and have never been done before are my favorites to work on as long as I can add value to their team. 

There are endless opportunities at Fresh Wata as long as we are constantly evolving and improving while maintaining our company culture and remaining a great company to work for. Fresh Wata strives to be a better partner through our commitment to excellence, inclusivity, leadership, stewardship, and continuous improvement. 

We’ve recently launched some new verticals, including the launch of StarBase, our hybrid event space, which is cultivating a new community that we are very passionate about. We are also working on MetaVegas, which is still in its infancy, but I’m excited about our groundbreaking as the world’s first city to enter the metaverse. Basically, lots of experiences and ideas are launching into orbit that makes me very excited about our future. 

Tricia Costello, Founder of Fresh Wata and StarBase Las Vegas | WhereTraveler
Tricia Costello, Founder of Fresh Wata and StarBase (Courtesy StarBase)

Elizabeth Blau, Founder & CEO of Blau & Associates

Elizabeth Blau is a household name to most foodies in Las Vegas. Her company, Blau & Associates, operates local favorites such as Honey Salt and Buddy V’s Ristorante. With over three decades of experience in the industry and a James Beard Award nomination, Blau has her finger on the pulse of the Las Vegas food scene. 

WT: How did you get your start in the industry? 
Blau: My first job in the industry was working in NY for the Maccioni family. I think it is still true to this day that Sirio Maccioni was one of the world’s legendary restaurateurs. Opening Osteria del Circo and Le Cirque 2000 in New York were certainly pivotal moments in my career. I credit everything I learned about service to the Maccioni family.

WT: What has been your favorite personal achievement? 
Blau: Co-founding the Women’s Hospitality Initiative is one of my most important achievements. As a 50-year-old woman reflecting on my career, I realized the power of the incredible mentors that I had in my life that have helped shape my career path. Realizing that less than 7% of females graduate from culinary school, however, less than 50% of them make it to, and executive chef level was just an untenable statistic.

Despite founding the Initiative just two weeks before the pandemic shutdown, we have still been able to start incredible partnerships with UNLV, FIU, CIA, SDSU in creating a one-of-its-kind college course, “From the Classroom to the Boardroom: Leadership for Women in Hospitality.”

WT: Can you tell me about any challenges you faced along the way? 
Blau: I think the challenges are what makes life interesting, and I don’t think I can single any challenges that are unique and individual that so many others haven’t faced along the way.

WT: What do you hope the future holds for you and your career? 
Blau: A Casa Dragones margarita! No, seriously, I have been very blessed with an incredible team, incredible business partner, husband and amazing family. 

Elizabeth Blau, Founder & CEO of Blau & Associates Las Vegas | WhereTraveler
Elizabeth Blau, Founder & CEO of Blau & Associates (©Bill Milne)