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BRATTLEBORO — There was no shortage of inspiration at this year's Remarkable Women Awards ceremony.

Joy Boyd, owner of Shear Designs Hair Studio & Tanning, was recognized as this year's Business Leader during the Brattleboro Reformer's event Thursday at the River Garden. She is going into her 25th year of business.

"I never thought I was smart enough," she said. "I never thought I was capable."

Now, Boyd mentors young girls through different programs. She also runs a Locks of Love event where hair is donated to cancer patients and regularly partakes in other charitable acts.

"When you have drive and passion to do something," she said, "I feel at this point there's nothing I can't do."

Susan Kessler, assistant executive director at Kurn Hattin Homes for Children in Westminster, was recognized as this year's Non-profit Leader. The private elementary school is for children dealing with crisis.

"What a facility and the work that it does with the kids there," said Mike Purcell, co-owner of Berkley Veller Greenwood Country Realtors. "She's been committed to that for 25 years."

Kessler said she was "very surprised" and honored.

Erin Maile O'Keefe, co-founder of Tiny House Fest Vermont and creator of circus yoga, was recognized as this year's Entrepreneurial Leader.

"You are an amazing woman," said Kristen Ziter Taylor, president and broker of Brattleboro Area Realty who won the award last year.

O'Keefe said she is working on a project to develop a community space in West Brattleboro.

"We're sorely missing a place where we can gather," she said, holding the award. "I'm going to dedicate this to that project."

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Guest speaker Rachel Desautels, executive director of Girls on the Run Vermont, called the event "inspiring." Her group is a national nonprofit that is said to have empowered more than 45,000 girls around the state since 1999.

"You all make a difference in everyone else's lives," she said. "Women are making a huge difference in this community."

Desautels said Girls on the Run programming gives girls in grades 3-8 self confidence, self worth, positivity and a sense of community.

"We've made progress but girls are still being put in a box," she said. "They are facing social pressures and conflicting messages about who they are and who they should be."

In September, the Reformer sought nominations for the awards then opened voting up to the public for about two-and-a-half weeks. Each category had three finalists based on votes from the community.

A panel of judges looked over nomination applications and biographies. Each judge voted for a winner in each category.

Other finalists for the business leader award were Allisyn Houghton, retirement plan account executive at The Richards Group, and Tami Purcell, broker/co-owner of Berkley Veller Greenwood Country Realtors.

Other finalists for the entrepreneurial leader award were Sandy Harris, organizer of Brattle Paddle Event and Elizabeth Wood, owner of New Leaf CSA.

Other finalists for the non-profit leader award were Carol Lolatte, Recreation and Parks director for the town of Brattleboro, and Sue Graff, field services director for the Vermont Agency of Human Services.

The panel of judges was made up of Kimberley R. Diemond, executive director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Vermont; Cassie Kelley, marketing director for Brattleboro Savings & Loan; Denise Naeck, customer service supervisor at C&S Wholesale Grocers; Kate O'Connor, executive director of Brattleboro Area Chamber of Commerce; and Serenity Smith Forchion, executive director of New England Center for Circus Arts.

Events sponsors included C&S, Berkley Veller Greenwood Country Realtors and Brattleboro Area Realty.

Reach staff writer Chris Mays at, at @CMaysBR on Twitter and 802-254-2311, ext. 273.