2019 Speakers

2019 Speakers


Nathalie Molina Niño
Author of LEAPFROG, The New Revolution for Women Entrepreneurs

9:00-9:45 a.m. (Q&A from 9:45-10:00 a.m.) | MORNING KEYNOTE SPEAKER

Nathalie Molina Niño is the author of LEAPFROG, The New Revolution for Women Entrepreneurs (Penguin Random House, Tarcher Perigee) and an impact investor targeting high-growth businesses that benefit women and the planet. A confessed but recovering serial entrepreneur, Molina Niño launched her first tech startup at the age of twenty. She's the cofounder of Entrepreneurs@Athena at the Athena Center for Leadership Studies of Barnard College at Columbia University. Before that, she spent over a decade sharing her opinionated flavor of business advice and growth strategy with organizations like Disney, Microsoft, MTV, Mattel, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Just prior to launching her last venture, BRAVA Investments, Molina Niño led the launch of Nely Galán’s New York Times bestselling book and online education venture, Self-Made, and stepped in as CRO of PowerToFly, the fastest growing hiring platform for women in tech and beyond.

Denise Carkhuff
Partner, Jones Day
Founder, Adrenaline Monkey

10:15-11:00 a.m. | BEEN THERE DONE THAT-SUCESS STORIES FROM FEMALE ENTREPRENEURS: Takeaways on what to do and what not to do when growing your business

Denise has spent the last twenty-three years (thirteen of which as partner) at the global law firm, Jones Day, acting as the principal outside lawyer on a multitude of M&A and private equity transactions. Her experience covers a wide range of matters in a variety of industries and deal structures. Denise has worked on all aspects of the full life cycle of a company, from incorporation to liquidity event or dissolution. While the main focus of Denise's practice has been the representation of private equity funds, she also has served in a general counsel function for countless private companies. After helping clients with their businesses for the last twenty-three years, she decided to invest in her own business, Adrenaline Monkey, a family adventure and training center dedicated to empowering guests of all ages, sizes and abilities through fun and physical challenges. She sits on the board of Breakthrough Charter Schools, urban charter schools with the mission of giving every scholar a chance to go to college. For over a dozen years, Denise led Women In Transactions, a networking group for women doing transactional work, which currently sits under the ACG umbrella. She co-leads RRAIN, a women’s group for the Cleveland Jones Day women lawyers. She is a member of In Counsel With Women. She was selected to be a “Wise Woman” as part of Deloitte’s Wise Women leadership program. Denise was a member of the 2018 Leadership Cleveland class.

Constance Hill-Johnson, MPA
Business Owner/Entrepreneur, Speaker, Philanthropist

10:15-11:00 a.m. | BEEN THERE DONE THAT-SUCESS STORIES FROM FEMALE ENTREPRENEURS: Takeaways on what to do and what not to do when growing your business

Constance Hill-Johnson is the Owner and Managing Director of Visiting Angels Living Assistance Services in Cleveland Ohio. Visiting Angels is an in-home service provider assisting the elderly and older adult to live as independently as possible by remaining safely in their own familiar home environment. Ms. Hill-Johnson started her business in 2002, and now in its 17th year, has successfully served hundreds of seniors throughout the greater Cleveland area and surrounding communities. Her professional background includes over 10-years of senior health care management experience in a variety of health care settings. She is regarded as a both a dynamic motivational leader and speaker who shares with audiences her entrepreneurial journey which began in her early 40’s, in addition to her recent journey as an adult caregiver to a mother with dementia.

Coves K. Gragg
Owner, Covesa Kelly Events

10:15-11:00 a.m. | BEEN THERE DONE THAT-SUCESS STORIES FROM FEMALE ENTREPRENEURS: Takeaways on what to do and what not to do when growing your business

Covesa started her career in event planning over ten years ago in the banking industry by leading and teaching home buyer instructional classes. The attendees in the class recognized her energy and passion which fueled her to become more hands on in planning the material, scheduling, and logistics for the classes. Covesa was able to use some of this training for her own wedding in 2007 which impressed her family and friends and started the ball rolling for her own event planning business. Covesa’s inviting nature and friendly personality, along with an ambitious attitude is what continues to set her apart from others in her field. These qualities along with her financial background in budgeting and attention to detail are making Covesa one of Northeast Ohio’s top picks for event planners. She is well known for utilizing her connections and experience to create top notch weddings which have stunning décor, and run from an organized timeline. Covesa has a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration and believes in participating in continued education opportunities to further her experience and growth in the event planning industry. Covesa’s passion for helping others is evident in the level of customer service that she requires of herself and her team by going above and beyond for their clients.

Kate Volzer
Co-Founder & CEO of Wisr

10:15-11:00 a.m. | BEEN THERE DONE THAT-SUCESS STORIES FROM FEMALE ENTREPRENEURS: Takeaways on what to do and what not to do when growing your business

Kate Volzer is the co-founder and CEO of Wisr which is a venture-backed software startup in the higher education technology space. As a former first-generation college student, Kate is extremely passionate about improving educational outcomes for college students across the country. Kate is active in the Cleveland entrepreneurial scene Chairing the JumpStart Young Professional Advisory Council and serving on the DigitalC Fund Advisory Board. When Kate’s not helping others with their startups, she’s probably doing yoga, spending time on Lake Erie, playing with her dog, or enjoying a good conversation over a glass of wine. Kate was a member of the varsity volleyball team at the University of Chicago where she received her BA and MBA. She was born and raised in Hartville, OH but now resides in Rocky River.

Valerie Mayen
Founder, Yellow Cake Shop, Fashion Designer

10:15-11:00 a.m. | BEEN THERE DONE THAT-SUCESS STORIES FROM FEMALE ENTREPRENEURS: Takeaways on what to do and what not to do when growing your business

Valerie is originally from Corpus Christi Texas, she found her way to Cleveland by attending The Cleveland Institute of Art. Little did she know this would be the foundation of her new fashion career and family. Valerie landed a spot to compete against 17 other highly skilled Fashion Designers on Lifetime’s Project Runway series, Season 8, finishing among the top 7. She was then invited back to compete in Project Runway Allstars Season 5 to much success. Valerie’s experience with Project Runway further sharpened her superior sewing skills and keen eye for detail. Yellowcake Shop was born in 2009 and shortly after, it’s sister Hullabaloo became one of Cleveland’s latest and most talked-about fashion events. Valerie is dedicated to providing high quality clothing to others without the major environmental impacts other fast fashion clothing often causes, while finding creative ways to build up the community in Cleveland that supports her.

Aunt Flow, Claire Coder
Founder, Aunt Flow

11:15 a.m.-12:00 p.m. | Aunt Flow
Claire Coder is the founder and CEO of Aunt Flow. On a mission to ensure everyone has access to menstrual products, Aunt Flow stocks over 300 companies across the USA with their 100% organic cotton tampons and pads. Coder launched her first company at age 16, designed a bag for Vera Bradley that sold out in 24 hours, and has her own line of GIFs. The 22-year-old founder has been featured in TeenVogue, Forbes, and starred in TLC’s Girl Starter Season 1. When she is not jamming out to Macklemore, she is pretending like she knows how to run Google ads.

Shelley Pippin
Brewnuts, Co-Owner

12:30 - 1:30 p.m. | Lunch Presenter: Hear from some of the best dessert makers in NEO
Brewnuts is the lovechild of two Clevelanders - Shelley & John Pippin - who gave up their jobs working for "The Man" to pursue their three favorite things: donuts, beer and Cleveland. Long story short, one night Shelley bolted up in bed and asked John what he thought about the idea of making craft beer based donuts. After a long pause he said "I like that." The next day the twosome went out and bought a counter top fryer and got busy hatching their plan to make Cleveland's most unique and delicious donuts. From this exploration, Shelley & John created Brewnuts, the country's first Donut Bar serving craft-beer based donuts. Love donuts? Love beer? Love Cleveland? Put it all together and you’ve got Brewnuts.

Shelia Mixon
Executive Director at Ohio River Valley Women's Business Council (ORV~WBC)

1:45-2:30 p.m. | BREAK OUT SESSION I: Minority Breakout Session: Minority Certification – The Who, What, Where and Why of Minority Certification

Sheila A. Mixon is Senior Vice President of the Business Development & Entrepreneurship Department for the Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio (ULGSO) where she provides vision, leadership, organizational governance and strategic direction for the department. The Department programs include the SBDC (Small Business Development Center), the Economic Empowerment Center (AABDP) and ORV~WBC (Ohio River Valley Women’s Business Council), where she serves as its Executive Director. ORV~WBC is a certifying entity for the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC). Ms. Mixon has 41 years in business development experience; the financial services industry and not-for-profit organizations. During her time with ULGSO she has garnered many awards and recognition for her work with small business owners. Through her leadership, the SBDC was selected by the SBA Columbus District as the Small Business Development Center of Excellence and Innovation Award recipient for 2012. In 2011, was selected as the SBA Minority Business Champion. Most recently was awarded the 2016 Women’s Business Champion by NAWBO (National Association of Women Business Owners, 2016 Women of Excellence and the establishment the Sheila A. Mixon Women’s Entrepreneurial Start-up Fund by the Women of Color Foundation. In 2017 she was recognized as a Women of Color 2017 Hall of Fame Inductee and 2017 Women of Influence Awardee. Ms. Mixon was recently appointed to the Cincinnati Academic Center Advisory Committee for Union Institute & University and is a member of the City of Cincinnati’s small business commission, the Small Business Advisory Council, the Advisory Board for the City’s Department of Economic Inclusion, the Cleveland Clinic Supplier Diversity Advisory Council and the MetroHealth Supplier Diversity Council. She also serves on the Board of Directors for HCDC and HCDC Entrepreneur Assistance Committee, appointed to the Kauffman Advisory Group for the Kauffman Foundation and to the WBENC Board of Directors.

Patrice Blakemore
Business Advisor
Goldman Sachs /10,000 Small Businesses in partnership with
Cuyahoga Community College

2:45 p.m.-3:45 p.m. | Intentional Networking

Patrice Blakemore is the interim business services director and a business advisor for the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses in partnership with Cuyahoga Community College. This $500 million national business development initiative is a practical business management education program that helps entrepreneurs develop the skills they need to grow their company. She is also president of Blakemore Coaching where she enables women to elevate their performance, maximize their opportunity and increase their productivity. In 2009, Patrice decided to use her experience as an attorney to create workshops and coaching programs for women in male-dominated professions. She assists participants in increasing their confidence and productivity through goal setting and execution.