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More than an award: ‘Tribute’ winners share honor’s impact on work, life

It’s an honor with a lasting impact.

For those who take home an EmBe Tribute to Women award, the effect goes far beyond one night of congratulations and memories.

“This is something that has shown it can change lives,” said Susanne Gale, chief development officer for EmBe.

“When you hear from former Tribute winners, you realize how EmBe’s mission of empowerment is captured in this honor.”

EmBe is seeking its next Tribute to Women winners. This year’s event will be April 21 at the Sioux Falls Convention Center.

Nominations are due by 5 p.m. March 1 and will be reviewed by a committee of volunteers that will select the final list of nominees.

Since its inception 49 years ago, Tribute to Women has honored 340 individuals and organizations.

“Think about that as you listen to some of last year’s winners reflect on what this has meant to them,” Gale said. “For each one of these women, there are more than 100 more with similar experiences.”

Business Achievement: Nikkee Rhody

Nikkee Rhody was honored with a Tribute award for her work developing Falls Fintech, a 12-week program designed to accelerate market readiness for early-stage financial technology startups and the only fintech accelerator founded by a full-scale, digital payments bank in the U.S.

With more than 20 years of experience in financial services and payments, she was a key contributor of Central Payments’ Open*CP Fintech API Marketplace, one of the only true bank-as-a-service payment platforms and the technology responsible for Central Payments’ rise to the fastest growing prepaid card issuer since 2015.

Since winning her Tribute award, Rhody has an elevated role in her organization. She’s now executive director of Falls Fintech, which launched in 2020 and just finished its fourth cohort of startup fintech companies looking to accelerate their growth.

Additionally, she serves as executive vice president of Central Payments, which is experiencing rapid growth, going from 30 team members a few years ago to nearly 70 today.

“Central Payments has complexly exploded in the last year, which has been a really fun and a remarkable experience,” Rhody said.

“And it’s not like I’ve become a great ‘woman of leadership.’ It’s realizing leadership isn’t something you arrive at. It’s this constant evolution of learning, growing, becoming more self-aware and surrounding yourself with people who can nudge you and encourage you and challenge you.”

The Tribute experience

Rhody was familiar with Tribute to Women from her time in the Women’s Leadership Program, which had already helped shape her leadership journey since she participated in 2013.

“It was absolutely critical and changed my perspective on what it means to be a leader as a whole and specifically a woman leader in our community and the responsibility that comes with that and how I want to show up every day,” she said.

“So my familiarity with Tribute connects back to Women in Leadership, but like so many, I was very surprised to be nominated myself, and then I got to see the actual video, and it was just really humbling to know that people see me through a different set of eyes than I often see myself.”

The lasting impact

For Rhody, the Tribute to Women recognition has prompted a number of people to reach out as they navigate their own journeys.

“I’ve been asked by a number of people to be their mentor: ‘Will you guide me? Will you carve out some time and serve me?’ And I’ve said yes, so I’m mentoring a woman who is active in the Women in Leadership program right now, so that’s been wonderful and super fruitful for me and, Lord willing, equally for her.”

She also credits her career advancement as “a direct tie to the Tribute award and the value I’m bringing to the organization,” she said. “I feel like that was recognized.”

Healthcare & Stem: Andrea Polkinghorn

Andrea Polkinghorn was honored with a Tribute award for her work leading immunization strategy at Sanford Health, providing oversight and consultation to 46 medical centers and 210 clinics to improve vaccination rates and standardize immunization practices, in addition to educating staff.

She also leads Sanford Health’s COVID-19 vaccination efforts and is the president of the Immunize South Dakota immunization coalition, along with providing her expertise to several national organizations.

Since winning her Tribute award, Polkinghorn has continued to manage through vaccination rollout for COVID-19 and other immunizations.

“Each time things settle down, there’s been another variant, so we’ve still been very consumed with that but also a lot of people got behind on other immunizations during the pandemic, so we want to make sure people are updated so we don’t have an outbreak of measles or something like that,” she said.

The past year also brought a new professional opportunity for her as she’s a member of the current Leadership South Dakota class.

“So it’s been great to tour the state and get exposure to so many good things we have in the state that I wasn’t aware of,” she said. “And then we’ve also been growing the Immunize South Dakota coalition. We have our first full-time employee, an executive director, and I’ve been able to grow my team at Sanford, which has been a great help.”

The Tribute experience

“Shocked” and “heartwarming” describe Polkinghorn’s reaction to being included in the Tribute awards.

“I was pretty zoned into COVID, so I was just so thankful and appreciative that my co-workers took the time to collaborate on a nomination for me,” she said.

“And I definitely did not expect to win. I knew several people in my category, and they’re phenomenal. What was unique was that I was home with my family, watching live, and they stood up and screamed and shouted, and I was crying, and then I started getting a flood of messages. Even the next day, people I didn’t know inside Sanford were congratulating me.”

The lasting impact

For Polkinghorn, the Tribute award reinforced the value of recognition.

“I’ve always found value in it, whether it’s formally writing it up or sending an email and making it super personal,” she said.

“But now, whether it’s externally or internally, when it’s shared with me that there’s an opportunity to recognize someone ,I also promote it to my peers and colleagues both within Sanford, locally, from a state perspective and nationally just to give credit where credit is due and lift up the good we’re all doing.”

Young Woman of Achievement: Amy Moore

Amy Moore was honored with a Tribute award for her work as creative director and co-founder of Lemonly.

As creative director, her role involves working with clients alongside her team to design clarity.

She has produced award-winning work for clients across a variety of industries including Netflix, tThe 9/11 Memorial & Museum, World Health Organization, Disney, Marriott, Johnson & Johnson and more.

Since winning her Tribute award, Moore has experience a year filled with transition. She and Lemonly co-founder John Meyer sold the business to Click Rain, and the combined firm is under construction with a renovated new office in downtown Sioux Falls.

“There’s no one-size-fits-all for this process. We learned a lot, and I’m super proud of all the work Click Rain and Lemonly leadership did to make a successful transition,” she said.

Outside of the office, she began a second term on the board of Startup Sioux Falls and recently joined the Levitt at the Falls board of directors, where she will chair the marketing committee.

“I have enjoyed applying my creative skills and experience from helping build a company to other organizations,” she said. “I’m truly honored to be involved in both organizations that provide so much value to our community.”

Personally, she and her husband welcomed a “pandemic puppy” to the family and are growing a real estate business as a side hustle, currently renovating a central Sioux Falls house they plan to sell.

The Tribute experience

Moore had attended several Tribute events and always enjoyed honoring friends, colleagues “and many other amazing women, men and businesses impacting their field,” she said.

After learning she’d been nominated and then won her Tribute award, she was flooded with messages from colleagues to classmates she hadn’t seen in years.

“Which I so appreciated,” she said. “It’s such an honor to be included in a lineup of exceptional community-builders and leaders. Last year, the event was livestreamed, so my husband, Carson, and I watched from home. Many of our neighbors were watching from home as well, so we were able to meet at The Source for a socially distanced celebration beverage after the event.”

The lasting impact

For Moore, having her name among the hundreds of other exceptional leaders has been a blessing, she said.

“Receiving the Young Woman of Achievement Award was a moment I felt seen, when my goals, values and contributions were worth sharing with others, and I won’t forget that feeling,” she said.

“If my perspective has changed at all, I probably listen less to that nagging voice in my head telling myself to constantly be better and spend more time thinking, ‘You’re doing great; keep going.’ ”


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