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Ashton Harrison loves a challenge and has overcome many obstacles as a female entrepreneur since starting her first business more than 30 years ago.

Charis Jones has learned perseverance and persistence in the past couple of years since leaving a corporate job to create a brand of colorful, stylish accessories to sell online and at a retail shop while being a mother with 4-year-old twin boys.

Sarah Paxton, who has seen the business landscape change over the years, has advice for budding female executives: “Don’t be shy. Pay attention. Speak up.”

These three women and two other female executives have learned lessons and overcome challenges in starting and running their businesses.

They will take part in the next Metro Business Live event — on Sept. 17 — where they will discuss the topic, “Lessons learned: The powerful business journey for women.”

The panelists will be:

Ashton Harrison, who founded lighting products retailer Shades of Light in 1986; grew it into three locations, including the main store on West Broad Street across from Willow Lawn; created catalogs and a online store; and sold it in 2011. Since September 2017, she has been the CEO of the entity that operates Brass Beds of Virginia. She had been a vice president at the now-defunct furniture retailer This End Up from 1977 until she left in 1986.

Charis Jones, who started the Sassy Jones accessory brands in 2016 by selling jewelry out of her minivan and has grown it into a multimillion-dollar accessory brand with an e-commerce site and a brick-and-mortar boutique shop. She sells bracelets, earrings, necklaces, handbags and other accessories. She operates a distribution center in the Manchester area of South Richmond, where she employs 15 people, and she opened her boutique at 316 E. Grace St. in downtown Richmond earlier this year.

Sarah Paxton, who joined contemporary home furnishings retailer LaDiff in 1991 as an assistant housewares manager and buyer and is now president and co-owner of the business at 14th and Dock streets in downtown Richmond. Her husband, Andy Thornton, founded what was then called LaDifference in Charlottesville in 1980, but moved the store to the Richmond area in 1992. The store has been in its current location since 1998. She and Thornton were married in December 1995.

Kishau Rogers, who in 2004 founded Websmith Inc., a Richmond-based web application development company, and served as its CEO for 15 years. She recently founded and is CEO of Time Study Inc., a startup offering solutions for using machine learning, advanced natural language processing, and data science to automatically tell a story of how employees spend their time. She has a background in computer science and has more than 25 years of leading the development of enterprise technology businesses, including more than 15 years as a leader.

Dawn Beninghove, who started Companion Extraordinaire Home Care Services in April 2003 after more than 20 years of registered nursing experience. Beninghove, who is the company’s owner and chief operating officer, founded Companion Extraordinaire after it was difficult to find good care for her father during his struggle with Parkinson’s disease. The business has its corporate office on Lakeside Avenue, another office in Ashland and plans for a third office this fall.

Richmond Times-Dispatch Executive Editor Paige Mudd will moderate the discussion.

Metro Business Live events are a way to connect, challenge and inspire business owners, CEOs, employees, entrepreneurs, advocates and others. Even though the event will feature a panel discussion, participation by those attending is encouraged.

The event will be held at the RTD building at 300 E. Franklin St. The gathering, which includes a catered breakfast, will be from 7:15 to 9 a.m.

Tickets are $25 per person if purchased by Aug. 30, and $30 after that.

To buy tickets and get more information about Metro Business Live, go to

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