CEO & Business Whisperer
Parissa Behnia is the secret weapon that busy CEOs use to design strategy that wins customers and beats the competition. She founded Sixense Strategy to build on her previous career incarnations and enact her Sixense Empathy Model™ to serve CEOs and senior leaders alike. Parissa is also a partner at 678 Partners, a firm offering strategic services to Family Offices.
Prior to that she served as Vice President, Account Director at Wunderman DC, a relationship marketing agency. She’s recognized in the Chicago entrepreneurial community as an advisor and angel investor, with a particular heart for fellow female founders but a love of creative minds above all else. Parissa co-taught an experiential entrepreneurship seminar for ACM, a collaborative association of Midwest small liberal arts colleges.
Parissa is a frequent speaker on topics such as strategy, leadership and entrepreneurship and is co-founder of ProductCamp Chicago. She’s also an active mentor and volunteer in cultural, civic, women’s, education and business organizations and has served in numerous service leadership and
non-profit board positions. Parissa holds an BA from Northwestern University and MBA from NYU Stern School of Business.”
Founder & CEO
Coco Brown guides leadership teams through periods of great change, accelerating growth and expansion within the constraints of broader economic and environmental conditions. With rich experience across F1000 companies, start-ups, and nonprofits in the roles of CEO, COO, advisor, and Board member, Coco possesses a unique understanding of the breadth of challenges and opportunities of leadership. She empowers leaders to execute successfully, working with them to develop the relationship between a company’s strategy and its organizational design and environment. Coco’s expertise in developing and strengthening these important linkages makes her a powerful C-level advisor and Board member.
Coco is founder and CEO of The Athena Alliance, an organization dedicated to advancing diversity in the boardroom by preparing executive women for board service and facilitating board matches. In addition to leading Athena, Coco is the founder and CEO of Executive Kinections, a CXO focused Silicon Valley
consultancy that advises executive teams in the development of their visioning, organizational design, and strategic planning process.
Prior to her current roles, Coco served as President, COO, and Board Director of Taos, a market leader in IT Services serving hundreds of F1000 companies, including Apple, Cisco, ebay, Facebook, and Silicon Valley Bank. She also currently serves as Chair of the Nominating Committee for the Anita Borg Technology Leadership Award, one of the most prestigious awards honoring women in technology
Thomas Day is the managing partner of Invent2026, a new nonprofit economic development agency, to lead a Midwest innovation corridor rooted in invention, technology transfer, and entrepreneurship. Beginning this fall, in partnership with the Women’s Business Development Center, Invent2026 will be supporting the InventIllinois partnership, a program to support entrepreneurs and small business owners who are commercializing inventions generated from applied research laboratories.
Tom was on the initial team that built The Bunker (now Bunker Labs), a business incubator for military-veteran entrepreneurs. He has a BA from Penn State University, an MSJ from Northwestern, and an MPP from UChicago. Tom served in the U.S. Army as a Military Journalist, deployed with the 101st Airborne during the invasion of Iraq and occupation of Mosul, and has been a bureau correspondent for McClatchy Newspapers in Kabul, Afghanistan.
Melanie De Caprio
Founder & CEO
New Sky Strategies, Inc
For the last 10+ years, Melanie has been applying her analytical mind to help organizations grow their revenue using web presence. Her approach to marketing is mathematical and scientific.
Melanie’s focus is on marketing strategy, search engine optimization and website usability, and marketing performance analytics. She takes pride in creating return on investment projections for clients, and continually exceeding those projections.
Her work is across many industries, with heavy experience in global manufacturing, online retail, law firms and other professional services, and established businesses serving their local community.
Founder & CEO
As Founder and CEO of Forward Progress, Dean leads his core team to provide digital influencer marketing solutions, serving over 2,000 corporate clients for the past 15 years. In 2015 Dean created and released a Social “Team Based” Education platform known as Social Jack™, and they have successfully trained over 100,000 professionals on Social Selling and B2B Influencer Marketing. Their curriculum is used globally by Fortune 500 companies, Associations, Conferences and Universities to instill best practices related to the effective use of social networks.
Founder & CEO
Laura is Founder and CEO of Peritius Consulting, a niche management consulting firm specializing exclusively in delivery services. ISM serves Fortune 1000 clients and government clients.
Prior to founding Peritius Consulting (ISM), Laura worked at Andersen Consulting (Accenture) and for Microsoft Corporation. With more than 20 years of consulting experience, she has successfully provided the hands-on leadership necessary to guide project teams through the life cycle of
complex initiatives and to help organizations develop and improve their project management competency.
She has been a featured speaker about project, program, and portfolio management for many international, national and local organizations, including Comdex, PMI,
and implementation, process improvement, coaching and mentoring.
CEO and Founder
Dima Elissa is serial techpreneur currently CEO and founder of VisMed-3D, a biomedical design and consulting firm that uses AI to design and visualize 3D printed body parts. Dima was selected by Chicago magazine as one of the top Women in Tech, ChicagoInno’s 50 on Fire, MakeItBetter’s Top Chicago Women in Science and by Chicago Tribune’s BlueSky Vault as one of the Top 100 entrepreneurs in Chicago.
Her recent designations include the American Medical Woman’s Association (AMWA) Tech and Innovation Lead under the Diversity, Inclusion & Innovation (DI&I) sector and an LGBT White House delegate on Technology and Innovation.
Dima also serves as a member of the board of trustees of Hanover College, board member for mHUB Chicago, iGIANT, is Chicago Chapter President for Women in Bio, and Chair of the STEM steering committee for the Apareció Foundation. Dima holds a B.A. in Chemistry from Hanover College and has earned her MBA from Texas A&M’s May’s School of Business.
Chairman and CEO
Founder & CEO
Linda Ginac, is the Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of TalentGuard. Prior to TalentGuard, she founded a successful career development franchise, The Ginac Group, serving clients across the U.S. and Canada since 1999. Prior to this, Linda was Vice President of Product Strategy at Cofiniti, where she was instrumental in pioneering Cofiniti’s global entry into collaborative financial planning using cloud-based technology and helping to prepare the company for a successful exit.
Linda also served as marketing executive at pcOrder collaborating with the team that led the company from a start-up to a NASDAQ-listed public corporation. In prior leadership roles, Linda served as Vice President of Marketing at EPSIAA, where she led global expansion of the brand through acquisition by Fiserv, Vice President of Business Development at Computer People and numerous leadership roles at Digital Equipment Corporation.
Mary Lou Giustini
Founder & CEO
Mary Lou brings a rich perspective as a leader with extensive experience in the financial services
industry. Before co-founding Invessence, she spent 35 years with Merrill Lynch, becoming a Managing Director and leading a team serving the largest institutional client base in the US. Mary Lou is also on the Board of Directors for the Chicago Stock Exchange. Professionally a champion of customer service and personally a leader in the community, Mary Lou is a founder and board member of Chicago Financial a member of the Chicago Stock Exchange Board of Directors and a house ambassador for Ronald McDonald House Charities. Mary Lou enjoys travel, a practicing golfer, a passionate home cook and time with her family.
Lisa Gutierrez is a Human Resources leader, having experience in a variety of industries experiencing high growth. Currently, Lisa is the HR leader for the Cloud Object Storage Business Unit at IBM. She joined Cleversafe as its VP of People, and after Cleversafe was acquired by IBM, led the people due diligence process during the acquisition and has remained with IBM, partnering with the IBM team in all facets of people integration. Since its acquisition by IBM in late 2015, the business unit has nearly doubled in size.
Prior to Cleversafe, Lisa led the HR function at ATI Physical Therapy. During her tenure, ATI experienced growth from 20 clinics and 200 employees to over 300 clinics and 3000 employees. In her role, she was responsible for creating the human resources function and overseeing it through the company’s growth. During her tenure at ATI, she was involved in the due diligence aspect and led the HR
Prior to ATI, Lisa worked in human resources within the hospitality industry for Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts. She received her law degree from Chicago-Kent College of Law and practiced employment law prior to transitioning to human resources and received her MBA from Northwestern University.
Culture Transformation Leader & Author
MICHAEL H. HAHN is an in-demand speaker for conferences and companies around the country. He was an MPI Proprietary Content Speaker from 2012-2013 and spoke at 18 locations around North America. His strategic use of culture to achieve business results and engaging employees to create a grassroots movement has created a massive impact at Allstate insurance and several Chicago based high growth organizations. Michael has developed the Culture Change Handbook and ACES model. His articles have been featured in Inc. Magazine, Chicago Business Journal, StartUp Magazine, ChicagoBusiness Journal and Chicago Tribune. In 2015, he won the Public Relations Society of American Award for Brand Management and Reputation for his work with Allstate Insurance. He specializes in executive coaching, leadership team alignment and culture transformation consulting. From his first decade with McDonalds in Finance to the last few years leading a Culture Movement at Allstate Insurance, he knows what success looks like from every seat in the house! Michael Hahn is the CEO of Culture Guru of Beyond Good Teams and author of Hero Habits: The Guide to Thriving in Corporate America and in Life.
In real estate, it’s location, location, location. In starting and growing a business it’s connection, connection, connection! Connection with your customer, connection with your team and funding groups and connecting with strategic partners to discover market niches that will allow your business to grow smarter and faster.
Susan Harrington has facilitated and supported entrepreneurs in almost every B-C and many B-B categories to launch new products and services and grow their business by identifying new strategies and action plans that utilize effective and profitable partnerships. Susan and her company. Idealine Inc. have been responsible for many award-winning products and successful
Susan is committed to supporting small business owners to grow with the knowledge of tried and true corporate experience as well as an eye for innovation. Idealine, formed in 1998, takes the processes of large corporations and adapts them to the benefit of individual entrepreneurs and their management teams allowing for unpredictable and sustainable business growth. Susan’s specialties include market research, strategy design and execution, test market design and implementation, sales strategies, funding.
LING Development at Computer People and numerous leadership roles at Digital Equipment Corporation.
Samara Mejia Hernandez
Venture Capital Investor,
MATH Venture Partners
Prior to joining MATH, Samara spent eight years at Goldman Sachs, where she was highly ranked in selling financial products, providing market insights, advising on portfolio construction, and
consulting on business practices. She started her career in the Fixed Income, Currency and Commodity (FICC) group where she lead multiple technology enhancing projects across global exchanges. Samara is actively involved in the Chicago tech community and passionate about helping underrepresented groups get into STEM education, venture capital and entrepreneurship. She is on the leadership council for Women Tech Founders and an active mentor at 1871 and with the Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
Samara earned an Industrial and Operations Engineering degree from the University of Michigan and a master’s degree in Business Administration from Northwestern University FUELING Development at Computer People and numerous leadership roles at Digital Equipment Corporation.
President & Co-founder
Sandee Kastrul is president and co-founder of i.c.stars, an innovative nonprofit leadership and technology training program founded in 1999 to prepare inner-city adults for technology careers and community leadership. An early pioneer of the social enterprise model, i.c.stars has graduated over 400 community leaders, and will expand into multiple cities 2017 and 2018. Under Sandee’s leadership, i.c.stars was highlighted by the U.S Chamber of Commerce for its work in youth employment. She is a proud board member of Good City, The Ryan Banks Academy, and HICC
(Hispanic Innovation Center in Chicago) she is also an advisor for the Axelson Center, Chicago Ideas Week, and the Experience Institute.
Carl has spent the last 20 years helping employers from startups to global organizations optimize their talent practices, processes, technologies and strategies. A pioneer in encouraging employers to embrace online recruiting. Working both domestically and internationally, his experience extends to a variety of industries, including professional services, financial services, capital markets, healthcare, pharmaceutical / biotech, energy, high tech, engineering, manufacturing, retail, hospitality, CPG and not for profit.
Representative client engagements include PLS Financial, HSBC, Hyatt, Cadence Health, Sagent Pharmaceuticals, Exelon Nuclear, Chevron Energy Solutions, Huron Consulting Group, Hitachi Consulting Group, McClagan Consulting, Claro Consulting and PRGX Advisory Services. Carl founded and successfully ran Tiburon Group Inc, a talent consulting and recruiting company. After a decade, he sold the company to Capital H Group LLC. He joined TalentRISE in 2009 to grow the business revenues and manage key client relationships.
Carl serves on the Chicago Leadership Advisory Board for UpwardlyGlobal.org, helping immigrant professionals successfully navigate their U.S. job search. In 2010, the Chicago Area Minority Recruiters Association honored him with the prestigious “Staffing Management Consultant of the Year Award.”
Carl frequently speaks at industry events, trade shows and private corporate annual meetings on topics relevant to talent risk mitigation, recruiting and leading social media practices and trends. Carl is a graduate of Loyola University, Chicago, Illinois, with a B.S. in Psychology.velopment at Computer People and numerous leadership roles at Digital Equipment Corporation.
CFO & COO
Early Growth Financial Services
Robert has decades of COO and CFO experience building and scaling high growth B2B service, SaaS,
bio-tech, manufacturing, distribution and other companies. He utilizes his experience and his MBA, JD, and Masters in Accounting (GPA 4.0/4.0) to implement a holistic, end-to-end, alignment of the company’s full value chain – integrating customers, suppliers and operations with the company’s products or services. Robert has been brought in by VC’s and other private investment firms to assess and optimize the company’s strategic direction, implement financial and operational tools and help drive profitable hyper-growth. Previously, as part of the executive team, he helped NRE, a global manufacturer and distributor, grow to $300 million in revenue.
Robert has led mergers & acquisitions, joint ventures, and strategic alliances. He has done business
in 30+ countries, involving establishing and overseeing operations and working with management
teams on 5 continents.
CEO & President
Entrepreneur and developer of FarmLogix.net, a farm-to-plate online technology platform that connects a nationwide network of farmers online with the commercial kitchens of restaurants,
hotels, schools, universities, airports and other institutions. Online ordering, aggregation, transportation/distribution and sustainability reporting are key inherent features for the user.
Current users include:
School districts (turnkey farm-to-school programs marketing and reporting)
Distributors (turnkey private-label farm-to-plate solutions)
Foodservice management companies (farm to education solutions)
Airports, museums, universities & institutions for turnkey sustainability programs. Non-profits in the social responsibility sector for farm-to-plate solutions. Restaurants (online ordering and delivery of local produce) development at Computer People and numerous leadership roles at Digital Equipment Corporation.
General Partner/ Managing Director
Vue Capital, LLC
Noted in Forbes as a female leader within in the Startup Community, Ann Marie Murphy has advised, mentored, and managed over 30 companies since 2012 while serving as the COO and Managing Director of a Chicago based seed fund she Co-Founded. As a former trading fund owner and Commodities trader risk management and relationship development have been the foundation of her success. She has over 14 years of proven sales, integrative marketing, mentoring, investing, and management experience. Her door-always-open approach, has enriched the community allowing start ups to learn from her bold approach towards investing and negotiating on both the
investor and entrepreneur side. After much traction from her interview with WGN she has co-hosted Turning Point and is currently partnered with BizCastHQ, Alibaba, Forbes, Chicago Inno and Entreprenuer.com as the host for Vue’s View.
As a partner in Howard Tullman’s fund G2T3V, Ann Marie’s network of mentors and access to other valuable deal flow and people within in the Midwest is well regarded. Not one to fit the typical investor mold, she is a Usui Reiki Master Teacher and spiritual counselor, and has been featured in the media as the founder of Ohm.Chi.Ohm.
Chief Talent Officer
Havas Chicago Village
Jennifer leads the Talent Team at Havas’ Chicago Village consisting of Talent Acquisition, Talent Management, HRBPs and employee culture. A strategic human resource business partner with deep experience in high growth tech, advertising and retail environments, Jennifer works with leaders to help shape organizational culture and scale their workforce to drive business growth. Prior to joining Havas in 2016, Jennifer lead the People Team (encompassing all of HR) at Grubhub and was the head of human resources at SurePayroll, a subsidiary of Paychex.
VP & General Manager –Health, Beauty & Wellness
Silvija Martincevic is the Vice President and General Manager of Health, Beauty and Wellness at Groupon. In her role, Silvija oversees sales, operations, merchandising and product strategy for Groupon’s salon, spa, health and wellness business. Silvija joined Groupon in 2011 and has held leadership roles in inventory management, analytics, pricing and merchandising for Groupon’s Local business.
Prior to Groupon, Silvija spent 10 years in investment management industry building investment portfolios for state and corporate retirement funds. She was the founder and President of Zenna Financial Services, an investment management company, which was sold in 2007, and held other senior leadership roles in the investment and hedge fund industry. Silvija received an MBA degree in Econometrics and Statistics from the Booth School of Business at The University of Chicago, and a BA from Beloit College.
McKinsey & Company, Formerly CHRO, PayPal
Marcia joined PayPal’s leadership team in 2015 as the Chief People Officer for the newly spun-off entity. She was instrumental in laying a strong foundation for growth and shaping PayPal’s unique culture, one that inspires every employee to embrace and advance its transformational business vision and social mission. The PayPal culture transformation story was featured in Marcia’s keynote address at the Great Places to Work annual conference in May 2017. The live-stream, by Fortune, can be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UvcwKqmzoZM
Marcia is deeply committed to mentoring and developing future leaders. She has been recognized by the National Diversity Council as a Top 50 Multicultural Leader in Technology (2017), Top 50 Most Powerful Women in Technology (2015) and Top 50 Most Powerful Women in Oil & Gas (2014).
Marcia is a frequent speaker at conferences and expert panels on culture and diversity. Her professional achievements were recognized by HRO Today as Leader of Distinction and Finalist for the CHRO of the Year award (May 2017). Her groundbreaking work at PayPal was featured in the CEB Quarterly Voice of the CHRO (July 2017).
Founder & CEO
Kristy has over 10 years of talent acquisition and development experience and is the Founder + CEO of Talent-Savvy. She consults with growing companies to help them achieve their recruitment and retention goals through implementing innovative talent attraction and employment branding
strategies. She coaches executives, corporate recruiters, and HR managers on the nuances of recruitment in order to set them on a path to crush their goals and scale efficiently.
Prior to starting Talent-Savvy, Kristy served as the head of HR for a growing tech firm. She holds an MBA in Leadership and Change Management, as well as an SPHR and SHRM-SCP certification. She loves connecting job-seekers with their ideal opportunities and helping companies fully realize their potential to retain top talent.
Founder & COO
Mona Pearl started and successfully operated three businesses of her own, and has worked with over 20 start-up initiatives internationally. She led projects in Europe, North America, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East. In her role as a project leader, she helps companies build and scale businesses worldwide.
As a subject matter expert, she is a respected international advisor to many of the world’s leading companies and governments on global strategy, transformation and innovation. Mona is a global business development and implementation leader, helping plan, shape and carry-out strategies to launch products, services and private/public initiatives across industries and borders. She has been working with companies in various stages around the world, as well as governments, Fortune 1000, middle-market, and emerging markets companies that wish to fully tap into their global potential She has lived on three continents and speaks five languages. She also teaches global marketing and management in universities around the world (North America, Europe, Asia), and is a requested speaker in conferences worldwide.
Mona is the author of “Grow Globally: Opportunities for Your Middle Market Company Around the World” and is a sought after contributor to worldwide conferences, media and leading publications such as: Deal Reporter, CNBC, Oracle, Investor’s Business Daily, AsiaBiz, Chicago Tribune, NPR/WBEZ, the UN, and more.
Linda Strom Petchenik
Founder & President
Linda Strom Petchenik is a seasoned business consultant with a 30 year track record working with executive teams to improve organizational effectiveness and profit. She is the founder and President of GrowthLines, Inc. GrowthLines offers services in Executive Coaching, Succession Planning, Board Orientation and Evaluation, Talent and Transition Management, Communications, Organization Development, M&A Integration and Strategic Planning. Prior to starting her own firm in 1999, Linda served as a Consulting Director for Amoco’s Organizational Capability group. She annually led consulting teams working on 8.5 million dollars in projects ranging from Culture Change and Talent Management to Brand Strategy and Shared Services. In addition, Linda led the Merger Integration Team on Succession Planning for the combination of BP and Amoco.
Linda is an active member of the National Association of Corporate Directors and the Private Directors Association. She has provided service to both public and private boards. Additionally, Linda spent several years on the Advisory Board for Indiana University’s Executive Partnership and helped them build a world-class executive development program. As a board member for the Institute for Management Studies, Linda helped shape the agenda for Corporate Universities and Management Institutes. She has partnered with the Conference Board, The Corporate Leadership Council, the HR Planning Society, the Academy of Management, and the American Society of Training and Development on many best practices and benchmarking studies.
Linda Reese, PhD
Leading Onboarding, Inc
Linda Reese is the Managing Partner of Leader OnBoarding, inc, a management consulting and coaching firm specializing in culture-building and fostering the success of newly-placed executives. She has professional training in Industrial and Organizational Psychology, and uses a pragmatic approach in serving as an advisor to senior management.
Linda’s firm has developed two web-enabled onboarding assessment tools (Culture Snapshot and LevelSet: Early Feedback) that are marketed to internal and external coaches. These tool and LOB’s proprietary methodology are also at the core of their onboarding coaching process, which focuses on managing risk associated with hiring and promoting executives.
Since 1990, Linda has been a practicing coach and consultant, working with leaders of over 40 companies in healthcare, financial services, professional services, manufacturing and retail sectors. She has led real-world research examining the characteristics of high-growth companies, and has a particular interest in organizational evolution and leadership behavior in successful technology firms. Prior to this role, she served in corporate and operational leadership roles for a large retailer. Linda also founded the Columbus, OH chapter of the Women President’s Organization (WPO) in 1996, which serves firms that generate at least $2 million per year in revenue.
Director of Growth
Paro is a marketplace that connects the top 5% of on-demand finance professionals with businesses looking to take their growth to the next level. As Paro’s Director of Growth I have the chance to work with entrepreneurs, business owners, and CEOs every day. I’m insanely passionate about driving down to their core pain payments and developing solutions to support their continued success, which is why I love this job so much!
Prior to this, Jon worked as a Senior Manager of Strategy for GoHealthe developed a strategic operating plan and financial model for agent distributed business, increasing profitability per issued policy by 30% year-over-year
● Devised product mix strategy enabling distributors to increase profitability by up to 200% despite declining industry commission rates
● Crafted variable compensation model for 30 employees, aligning bonuses with quantifiable metrics
Patty Riskind is the Chief Operating Officer of Health Scholars. She is passionate about transforming the healthcare learning experience to impact and improve patient safety, care quality, and the patient experience through Health Scholars’ innovative training technologies. Patty is a dynamic
leader with demonstrated success developing advanced analytic software products, selling digital solutions, streamlining operational processes, supporting C-level clients, and managing high performance teams.
Prior to Health Scholars, Patty was Chief Client Experience Officer at Press Ganey Associates, the world’s largest provider of patient experience measurement, performance analytics, and strategic advisory solutions for healthcare organizations. Previously, Patty founded PatientImpact LLC, an
e-survey company that was the first “Survey Monkey” for healthcare, empowering outpatient providers with collection of real time patient feedback to help market their clinics, increase patient loyalty, and improve service operations. Press Ganey acquired PatientImpact in 2009. Prior to PatientImpact, Patty had success achieving exponential growth with both small and large companies in the healthcare data, analytics, and quality space.
Board Member, Storyleaders
VP WW Sales, Micro Focus – Data Security
Tammy Schuring brings with her 25 years of experience in enterprise software, a passion for data security and a wealth of knowledge in how to build and lead successful teams. She believes leadership and sales success is a result of three primary guiding principles: building authentic relationships through removing the mask and embracing vulnerability, talking
about what you do through the power of story and that success is a byproduct of joy so follow the joy. Tammy is currently the WW Vice President of Sales and Field Operations for Data Security at Hewlett Packard Enterprise (recently merged into Micro Focus). She is also a board member of Storyleaders.
Prior to HPE/Micro Focus, Tammy was responsible for enterprise sales, channel, field operations and sales engineering worldwide for over 11 years at Voltage Security. With Micro Focus– Data Security, Tammy continues to lead worldwide enterprise sales and channel.
Her previous experience included VP of Sales with Wakesoft (service-oriented architecture for J2EE), and Senior Director of Western Sales for Versata. She has consistently led top-producing teams and is focused on working with customers to enable data-centric protection so that sensitive data has no value in the wrong hands. She leads from the front and builds high performance teams focused on building authentic connections while talking about solutions
through the power of stories.
Chicago Traction Center
Todd Smart is “serial entrepreneur” — as described by Crain’s Chicago Business –Todd has founded and been President of four successful businesses since the age of 22.
In addition to Crain’s, Todd has been featured in a number of publications, including Forbes, Success magazine and a cover article of Inc. magazine.
Todd’s first business in the food industry grew from start-up to 85 people in 18 months. Since then he has also been in technology and publishing. Currently he works with leadership teams and entrepreneurial peer groups to increase their effectiveness. In the last 17 years Todd has been a speaker, trainer and facilitator for over 1,000 events. Todd is a Certified EOS (Entrepreneurial
Operating System) Implementer and also a master trainer with YPO/WPO/EO.
Todd is married and lives in Chicago with his wife and four children.
Managing Director-Direct Investments
Sarah has an extensive background in financial services, sales, and early stage technology investing. She is currently the Managing Director of Direct Investments at Romar Partners, a JV between the family offices of two serial tech entrepreneurs here in Chicago. Together they work closely with the early stage companies they back to drive operational improvements and fuel growth.
Before joining Romar in 2013, Sarah led marketing initiatives for Perella Weinberg Partners’ $10bn Alternative Investment Platform, as well as at Silver Lake, a $39 bn global technology investment firm. Sarah started her career in financial services via multiple roles at Morgan Stanley in New York, including Investment Banking and in Firm Management. She holds an Honors B.S. degree in Finance and International Business from Marquette University.
Founder & President
Direct Steel, LLC
Rosemary Swierk is founder and president of Direct Steel LLC, a general contracting and construction management firm. Swierk holds a Bachelor of Science from Indiana University, a Dartmouth “Tuck” Executive Degree and the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business Certificate. She has decades of experience in real estate development and construction. Additionally, she contributes her time in several community initiatives. Swierk has received recognition for her accomplishments from many organizations including Manufacturers, Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, Today’s Chicago Woman magazine, Athena International, Small Business Administration and theChicago Sun-Times. Swierk is also the recipient of the 28th annual Entrepreneur of the Year award from the national Women’s Business Development Center. Additionally, she is a State of Illinois appointee to the Small Business Development Center advisory board.
CEO & Founder
Leslie is an enterprising Chicagoan with a keen entrepreneurial spirit, and am focused on making a difference in the tech and business community. Seeing a need for business-minded marketing solutions that were as agile as the industries they served, she founded ClearEdge in 2006. ClearEdge has helped technology software, professional
Leslie is also passionate about attracting, retaining and advancing women in technology, and is a proud co-founder of ARA. In addition to working with technology leaders through ClearEdge and ARA, Leslie is honored to serve on the Board of Advisors for The Chicago Innovation Awards and i.c. stars, where she serves as the Vice-Chair of the marketing committee. In 2015, Leslie and her ARA co-founders were named to the Techweek100, a list that identifies
leaders who have made a significant impact on the technology and innovation ecosystem in which they operate. We were also named among the Blue Sky’s Top 100 Chicago Innovators
Kristi Zuhlke (invited) is an Entrepreneur, idea generator and global consumer insights & strategy expert with 6 years of proven strategic leadership experience at Procter and Gamble and 3 years of being the CEO of KnowledgeHound.
In the summer of 2011, Kristi founded New Consumer Solutions LLC to pursue her passion for innovation and impacting lives. Within a year, she developed, launched and sold a technology which takes pictures of moles and analyzes their symptoms for skin cancer. Shifting focus back to leverage her background in Consumer Insights, tackling a huge problem that she experienced when at P&G. While at P&G she worked on billion dollar brands, Gillette and Always, and expanding brands, like Old Spice, with the very unique opportunity to work on the Gillette business while still in the acquisition transition to P&G. In her role, Kristi delivered consumer driven innovation through strategic leadership while driving top-line, bottom line, and market share growth.