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story.lead_photo.caption Ashley Varner, Marylyn DeFeo and Dr. Jennifer Su are three of the 17 in '17 women in business featured for #jcmo Inside Business. Each local businesswoman is recognized for her professional success and positive impact on the community. Photo by News Tribune / News Tribune.

The staff at #jcmo Inside Business annually compiles a list of exceptional women from Central Missouri who have had an incredible impact on their organization and the community as a whole.

Like in previous years, this class of women, whom we've dubbed our "17 in '17," is quite exceptional.

The criteria for nominating a candidate for this list included experience mentoring other women; investment in the community through a career, local charities or other philanthropic efforts; and recognition that the candidate is a community leader or leader in her career.

Employees of the News Tribune and members of the community nominated candidates for the 17 in '17 list. Those nominations were narrowed to 17 through an employee vote at the News Tribune.

Within this edition, our reporters give a glimpse into the public and private lives of these incredible women then ask them a series of questions all honorees were given.

Their stories are inspiring; their responses are enlightening.

As a reader, I was most intrigued by what advice the women would give to future generations. The advice seemed to create a foundation for success.

There were three common themes espoused:

Be yourself: Too often, we are uncomfortable in our own skins. We may consciously or unconsciously create a public persona that runs counter to our private self. To be successful, we should be in harmony. Embrace the uniqueness of you and continually grow and evolve yourself into the person you want to be.

Invest in yourself: Few of us wish to be exactly the same in five, 10 or 50 years. We aspire to grow, to evolve, to improve ourselves. The first step in that journey has to be an investment in our self to be a continual learner. Look for opportunities to stretch yourself and to grow new skills that will help you reach the goals to which you aspire. Will you always succeed in these efforts? Certainly not. But even in failure, an opportunity to learn and to grow exists. Embrace it.

Control the things you can control: In all of our lives, we are faced with challenges and problems. With some, we have some measure of control. With others, we have little to no control. Recognize your situation, and be proactive and responsive to the things you can change. That's how progress is achieved. When we have little control, we're faced with either accepting the issue or altering our approach to the challenge in hopes of moving to a position where we do have some measure of control.

Because these 17 in '17 used these tenets to build a foundation for success, the fruits of their work are very evident today. They were able to seize the day and provide us with role models for how we should aspire for that level of success and contentment.

Carpe diem!

17 in '17 from #jcmo Inside Business :

Alice Longfellow: Garden center owner grows own business away from family ties

Andria Hendricks: Lincoln educator, minister invests in self and others

Ashley Varner: Wellness director aims to improve community health

Claudia Schoonover: Love of books turned career with variety for MRRL director

Debbie Hamler: SLC director views work with children as a ministry, not a job

Diane Gillespie: Basking in eclipse glow, CVB director strives to promote community

Emily Mantle: Building connections in health care through programs

Heather McCreery: Driven by family, lawyer now a proud business owner

Holly Stitt: Avenue HQ owner wears many hats in business community

Jennifer Su: Medicine, exercise and faith define dancing doctor

Jill Snodgrass: Event planner promotes organizations she supports

Kara Miller: Sticking with artistic passions in changing times

Linda Patton: Vet goes from summers at a farm to 26 years at clinic

Marylyn DeFeo: 30-year volunteer exudes generosity

Missy Bonnot: Chamber exec grows business community, economy

Nancy Gratz: Cancer survivor, real estate agent strives to make people smile

Nathalie Tungesvik: Education, improving health top dentist's priorities

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