Business honorees reflect passion for service, people 

Release Date: April 24, 2009    

PLAINVIEW – Coming to the region from California, Laura Hardin has enjoyed her outside-looking-in view of Texans, especially in her new role as master facilitator for WesTex Allied Communities, based in Littlefield.

She has found West Texans in particular to be a passionate people who are willing to dig deep to see their dreams come true, and she’s been honored to help in that endeavor.

Similarly, three ladies honored for the Women in Business Award from Wayland Baptist University’s Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) team share that same passion, service and commitment to their community. Local CPA Jennifer Marley, recently retired creative arts instructor Jeanie Pennell and longtime insurance agent Lena Faye Hill were recognized Thursday at a banquet featuring Hardin as keynote speaker.

Aligning with SIFE’s principles of entrepreneurship and enterprise, Hardin shared some statistics on women-owned businesses in the United States – women now own 22 percent of non-farm businesses nationwide – before sharing her own excitement at being involved in startup business ventures on the South Plains.

Hardin came to Texas from a traditional sales and marketing job in California and said she quickly discovered why God led her and husband Dwight to Littlefield. The job with WTAC has been rewarding from several angles.

“The entrepreneurial spirit in Texas has been so fun to watch. Texans very much have an ‘I can do it’ characteristic that is fun to work with,” she said. “All our small towns around here have suffered in the farm economy, and have watched businesses close. Psychologically, I think our citizens have become downtrodden. But in Deuteronomy, God said he wants us to prosper in order to feed back prosperity to the kingdom.”

Hardin said so far WTAC has helped start 29 business, employing about 100 people. She said she’s committed to helping others with dreams of their own business, as long as they have the passion. She also said success has come from WTAC’s approach of the Trinity of Management – a strong product or service, the sales or marketing aspect, and financial management. And getting folks on board to help in areas where one lags is the key to business success, she said.

“There is such power in a team and such freedom when you come out of isolation as an entrepreneur,” she said.


In presenting the Women in Business Awards, Wayland President Dr. Paul Armes noted the same entrepreneurial spirit and passion in each of the honorees. Hill, who could not attend the banquet due to a cruise scheduled months previously, was noted for her years of service with Morgan-Eaves Agency, where she was a Certified Insurance Counselor and owned the agency for 16 years. She is now semi-retired and is active at Bethel Baptist Church.

Her son Andy and grandson Bracken Hill accepted the award on her behalf, sharing a note she wrote. Hill thanked her family for their support as well as her coworkers in the insurance agency. Then she added a few words of wisdom for young businesspersons.

“Work as if you’re working for the Lord, and be willing to go the extra mile. And do it all with a smile,” she wrote.

Marley, a Texas Tech grad who worked for Jones & Pendergast for six years before opening her CPA practice in 1991, was noted for her service to youth organizations like FFA, PTA and the Bulldog Booster Club, serving as treasurer for all three groups for several years and helping with the booster club’s concession stand at football games. She and husband Mark also supported the American Cancer Society by cooking briskets at the Relay for Life for several years, and she is in Soroptimist International of Plainview.

Pennell, who retired recently after being owner of The Barnyard Academy for 33 years, has taught baton twirling and gymnastics in Plainview for many years, learning the talent early in life. She twirled in junior high for O.T. Ryan and later at Plainview High and Texas Tech before taking her talents to area school students. She has been honored with many awards for her work and is active in Soroptimist and First Presbyterian Church.

“This is such an honor for me that I don’t take lightly,” Pennell said, giving thanks to Ryan, who attended the banquet, for the opportunity so many years ago and providing mentorship and direction. She also thanked several friends for longtime support and noted her special love for Wayland students.

“Over the years at the Barnyard Academy, about 25 students from Wayland worked with me, and their prayers really got us a long way,” she said. “I have never worked with a group of people I enjoyed so much.”

The banquet also featured a special presentation by the Plainview Association of Realtors, who awarded a $500 scholarship to economics and finance major Rebecca Redding of Plainview. Cary Eaves and PAR President Lynn Goddard presented the check.

The Women in Business banquet is an annual event organized by the SIFE team to recognize the special contributions of women in the local marketplace. Nominations for the 2010 awards will be accepted next March.