April 26, 2016

AZ Business Magazine

Most Influential Minority Business Leaders of 2016

Here’s a reason that Arizona businesses might want to embrace Latinos: Hispanics now make up more than 30 percent of the state’s population, while non-Hispanic whites have dropped to 56 percent of the population, according to Arizona’s latest census numbers.

Now, consider this, nearly 45 percent of Arizonans under age 5 are Hispanic, outnumbering the 39 percent on non-Hispanic white whites who are less than 5 years old.

As our state’s minority population moves toward majority status, it’s important to note that some of the state’s most innovative and dynamic business leaders just happen to be minorities … for now. While the future looks promising and more inclusive, there is still work to do. A Minority Business Enterprise Report commissioned by the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the Phoenix MBDA Business Center showed a significant number of minority-owned businesses in Arizona have had problems earning the trust of their customers, suppliers, peers and lenders and need help from the business community to help break down misconceptions and stigmas.

The men and women profiled over the next several pages are changing many of those perceptions. Hopefully, stories like this – the Most Influential Minority Business Leaders in Arizona of 2016 – will become obsolete in our lifetimes and we will see these men and women strictly for who they are: amazing business leaders that are changing the face of Arizona.

Tina Diggs

Diggs is executive director of Carrington College (Provided image)

Tina Diggs leads her career with love, passion for others and strong dedication to her work.

“Loving others incorporates respect, care, commitment, partnership, reciprocity and energy,” Diggs said.

Her passion lies with education and the interactions she has with students. Since 2014, Diggs has been the executive campus director of Carrington College in Tucson. She said taking the role has allowed her “to continue leading on an administrative level, while building relationships with students on an everyday basis.”

To get to her current position, Diggs has taken many different steps in her career path. And, being a minority never ceased her dedication to being and doing more.

“Being a minority in this industry has given me the drive to make a difference and be adaptable to different situations,” Diggs said.

She started out as a counselor for runaway youth and worked at a drug and alcohol treatment facility. She began to notice her passion for education as she shifted to career counseling and being a psychology instructor.

“Although I didn’t begin my career in education, I have always seen myself as an educator,” Diggs said.

She is attracted to education because, “you have the ability to change one’s thinking,” Diggs said. “If you can influence a student’s thinking, you can change their behavior and in turn change their family and their community.”

The “sweet spot” for Diggs is seeing the development and progress her students make as they pursue their education at Carrington.

“If a leader can inspire those around them, they can make a world of difference,” Diggs said.

Nicholle Harris

Harris serves on Gust Rosenfeld‘s diversity and recruiting committees (Photo by Shavon Rose, AZ Big Media)

Nicholle Harris is used to breaking barriers.

She is the first person in her family to graduate from college. When she was 8 years old, she told her mother she was going to be a lawyers after watching “LA Law.” Now, Harris has seriously moved the needle in Phoenix for African-American female attorneys.

In January, Harris was named a partner at Gust Rosenfeld PLC, which puts the Phoenix native in rarified air. Nationally, only .64% of African-American women lawyers are partners in their law firms.  In Phoenix, that number shrinks to less than a quarter of a percentage point.

“During our 95-year history, Gust Rosenfeld distinguished itself by seeking out the most highly skilled attorneys who share a commitment to our clients, the community and Arizona,” said Tom Chauncey, a member of the executive committee of the firm. “Nicholle Harris exemplifies this tradition of dedication to the law and outstanding service.”

Harris joined Gust Rosenfeld in 2012 after serving as assistant attorney general with the Arizona Attorney General’s Office. Her focus includes municipal law in matters relating to the operations of Arizona cities and towns. She represents clients in negotiating real property transactions, leases, contracts, and intergovernmental agreements, and has special expertise in procurement law, code enforcement, and public records. She also serves on the firm’s Diversity Committee.

But Harris’ road to success wasn’t easy. She was raised is a in a single-parent, low-income, African-American household in the West Valley, got her business degree from the University of Arizona and worked for an advertising agency before going back to law school.

“Even though my mom and dad weren’t college graduates, they always told me I could do anything, they pushed me and they wanted better for me,” Harris said. “So they directed me in that path and I had great mentors and counselors. There was never any doubt in my mind that I would go to college and become a lawyer.”

Jenny Poon

Founder and CEO of Co+HOOTS
Poon is founder and CEO of Co+HOOTS

Jenny Poon has utilized her understanding of the struggles that accompany being an entrepreneur to create a thriving support system known as CO+HOOTS.

“The hardest thing about being an entrepreneur is the lonely part of it,” said Poon, founder of CO+HOOTS. “A lot of the time, people walk alone and don’t have a support system to cheer them up if they fail.”

Poon founded CO+HOOTS in 2010 with the idea of creating an environment where people with small business ideas could come to collaborate and gain support. CO+HOOTS is home to graphic designers, architects, website developers and many others.

“We’re more than a space,” said Poon. “We’re a group of like minded people who are hell-bent on positively impacting our community through businesses, and are focused on improving the startup and entrepreneurial community in Phoenix.”

While Poon said her employees hold a high level of respect for her, she recognizes that every one is human.

“It’s important to feel comfortable being you,” said Poon. “We’re bringing people into our family, and we want them to be amongst people who can be themselves. We want to work with people we can trust.”

As a startup company, Poon is still experimenting with the best ways to find suitable fits for her company. In order to create a comfortable environment, potential employees must undergo a personality test and are asked about their weirdness meter.

“I want an environment where people feel comfortable and there’s a mentality where people can be pushed to try new things,” said Poon.

Nicole Davis

Davis is a member at Baskin Richards

Davis has a track record for counseling senior executives in spearheading operational improvements and developing multi-level strategic partnerships. She was deputy general counsel for former Gov. Janet Napolitano, has been a director for the Greater Phoenix Black Chamber of Commerce since 2012, and a member of Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton’s African American Leadership Roundtable since 2013.

Nishant Anand, MD

Anand is chief medical officer at Banner Health Network

Anand, initially worked as senior medical director for Banner Health Network, was named chief medical officer in June 2015. Anand is an accomplished physician leader at Banner Health, and is board-certified in emergency medicine. Anand is a clinical assistant professor at the University of Arizona College of Medicine.

Lonnie Williams

Williams is a partner at Stinson Leonard Street LLP

Williams, a graduate of Yale, is a fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers, one of the premier legal associations in America. Fellowship is extended by invitation only to those experienced trial lawyers who have mastered the art of advocacy and whose professional careers have been marked by the highest standards of ethical conduct, professionalism, civility and collegiality.

Juan Salgado

Executive director at Phoenix IDA 
Salgado is executive director at Phoenix IDA

In 2015, Salgado earned the Council of Development Finance Agencies’ Excellence Award for Leadership. Under Salgado, the Phoenix IDA has more than doubled its fund balance and increased revenue by $2 million annually for the last three years. Since January 2009, the Phoenix IDA has issued over $1.5 billion in bonds for education, waste management, multifamily housing, healthcare, and manufacturing projects.

Sethuraman Panchanathan

Senior vice president of knowledge enterprise development | Arizona State University 
Panchanathan is senior vice president of knowledge enterprise development | Arizona State University

Panchanathan is responsible for advancing research, innovation, entrepreneurship and economic development at ASU. Panchanathan was the founding director of the School of Computing and Informatics and was instrumental in founding the Biomedical Informatics Department at ASU. Panchanathan’s research interests include ubiquitous computing environments for enhancing the quality of life for individuals with disabilities.

David Adame

Adame is president and CEO at Chicanos Por La Causa

Adame leads CPLC,which provides political and economic empowerment to people to learn the skills and develop the resources necessary to become self-sufficient, offering a hand-up rather than a hand-out. CPLC’S areas of focus are economic development, education, health and human services and housing.

Amin Meredia

Meredia is CEO at Sprouts

Since being named CEO in 2015, Meredia has helped lead Sprouts to earnings that exceeded Wall Street estimates. He serves as the steward of one of the largest natural and organic retailers in the country and champion to the company’s passion: to inspire, educate and empower every person to eat healthier and live a better life.

Leonardo Loo

Partner at Quarles & Brady 
Loo is partner at Quarles & Brady

Loo is chair of Quarles’ Business Law Practice Group. He also chairs the board of directors for Chicanos Por La Causa, is on the boards for the Arizona Asian American Bar Association and Greater Phoenix Black Chamber of Commerce and serves as general counsel for the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

Nicolle S. Hood

General counsel at Camelback Partners Group 
Hood is general counsel at Camelback Partners Group


Hood is the general counsel of Camelback Partners Group, a private equity group which owns several medium sized businesses in the Southwest, including more than 50 Dunkin Donut restaurants in Phoenix, Las Vegas, California and Colorado. She has served on the board of Native American Connections since 2007.

By Michael Gossie, Samantha Pouls and Gianna Tracey