Kristy Wallace: Ellevate Network CEO


My Native Admission Statement: My purpose in life is to connect women to their power, to help them succeed and invest in their ability to build businesses that positively impact the world.Personally, I aspire to be engaged in my community, which I define by my family, friends, neighbors, and the local people who surround me every day. I’m always thinking about how I can work to make that community stronger and better. I also push myself to learn more and be better; I strive to put myself in uncomfortable situations that push me to think outside the box, to improve, and to grow. Professionally I aspire to build and grow Ellevate and its impact in helping women succeed in the workplace – helping women make meaningful connections that provide the support and opportunities for them to succeed in the workplace.

Biggest Success?:

My greatest success is the Ellevate Mobilize Women Summit, for a variety of reasons. It’s an event that we created truly to disrupt the conversation around equality and amplify the voices that are often unheard in these conversations – the voices that don’t have the platform or the privilege to be heard. I say it’s my biggest success because as a parent, I bring my children to this event and know that I am exposing them to diverse ideas, people, and mindsets that will help to shape them as human beings. As a leader, I see impact on businesses globally where professional women are becoming stronger leaders and managers, and our organizations are working to develop inclusive workplaces. On a societal scale, it’s important to continue these conversations and to provide the platform that uplifts the voices of people who are marginalized, helping tomove our society to a place grounded in understanding and equality.


Fake it till you make it – like many others, I’m oftentimes in situations where I doubt myself, my abilities to be a leader, the importance of my voice in thought leadership. I worry that I will fail in some way, and I’ve decided to be intentional about pushing myself to rise to these challenges, to continue to use that self-doubt to propel me to a place of action and, ultimately, confidence.

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Erin Bury: Willful CEO


My Native Admission Statement: I describe myself as an entrepreneur, speaker, startup advisor, and former technology journalist. I’m the co-founder and CEO at Willful, an online estate planning platform that makes it easy for Canadians to create a legal will online in less than 20 minutes. At Willful I’m responsible for driving the company’s mission to make it easier for Canadians to prepare for and deal with death in a digital age. I’m also a professional speaker with Speakers’ Spotlight, a board member at Save the Children Canada, and I was named one of Marketing Magazine’s top 30 Under 30 marketers. I’m passionate about travel, and in 2019 I’m traveling to Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, and Scotland. My claim to fame is being retweeted by Oprah – twice.

How did you get into the industry?:

Willful was inspired by my co-founder (and husband’s) Kevin Oulds’s experience after a family member passed away. He realized so few people – about 56% of Canadian adults – don’t have a will, and even if you do, chances are it’s out of date due to a life event like the birth of a child or a divorce. Not only that, but we just don’t talk about end-of-life planning with our family, because of course it’s uncomfortable to think about death. Originally I was an investor in the company and a marketing advisor, and I ran a marketing agency that helped Willful with its naming, branding, and launch communications. When I was looking for a career change in early 2019, I decided to join the company as CEO.

Emerging industry trends?:

Estate planning is an industry that’s ripe for innovation. We plan for death the same way now that we did 50 years ago – by going to a lawyer during work hours and paying a lot of money for what is often a simple document. Just like Wealthsimple has changed the way we invest our money through a beautiful, user-friendly online platform, other financial processes like purchasing life insurance or getting will are also moving online. In the future, I imagine that not only will we prepare for our own passing using online tools, our executors will also be able to wrap up our life using online tools.

Industry opportunities and challenges?:

One big trend that is driving the industry is digital legacy – we leave a massive footprint when we pass away, from our emails to our social media accounts to our online subscriptions. I think a huge trend in the industry will be giving people an easy way to assign contacts to deal with our digital footprint.

Inspiration for the business idea, and your vision for the Business?:

My husband Kevin, who is also my co-founder, had a family member pass away unexpectedly, and while he did have a will, he had never discussed other end-of-life plans with his wife of almost 40 years. Kevin and his family were left scrambling, asking each other questions about his burial plans and funeral wishes, and guessing at what he would have wanted. It made Kevin realize that it’s a broken process to wrap up someone’s life, and it’s even harder if you don’t have a will in place. That can lead to long, drawn-out court battles, and the government deciding on how your assets should be distributed. He decided to launch Willful to make it easy for people to create a will – which we see as the “Painkiller” in estate planning, the thing that every adult with assets or children needs – while also allowing people to include other estate planning information like their burial preferences and preferred funeral wishes. Our vision at Willful is to help every Canadian create a legal will online easily and affordably, so no family is left scrambling when someone passes away.

What's next for the Business in the near future?:

We’re currently participating in the FounderFuel startup accelerator program in Montreal, and we pitch on stage at demo day on July 9th. We’re also expanding across Canada, and launching partnerships with financial institutions and life insurance companies to get our platform in front of millions of people.

How do you motivate others?:

I prefer to motivate with empathy and positivity. I believe that the best leaders are empathetic, and motivate with kindness, constructive feedback, and mentorship. The best leaders have a mix of warmth and competence – you can’t have one without the other, so I strive to have a balance of both.

Career advice to those in your industry?:

My biggest tip is to pay attention to your personal brand, and put time into growing it. A strong personal brand can help with everything from networking to new business, and it’s something that most people ignore until it’s too late.

What do you do best?

I’m a great storyteller. I’ve spent a decade as a journalist telling startup stories and interviewing amazing entrepreneurs like Mark Cuban, and as a marketer who has helped startups shape their stories.

What makes you the best version of yourself?:

The thing that makes me the best version of myself is getting enough sleep and getting enough exercise. Those two things don’t happen all the time – or happen consistently – but when they do, I always feel better.


Positivity is a choice! I’m an extremely optimistic person, and I truly believe that you can decide to look at the world as a half-full glass.

Favorite People/Role Models?:

My role model is my mom. She was a marketing executive at Nortel in its heydey, and she now owns her own communications consulting business. She taught me the value of hard work, and showed me what happens when you build an incredible career. She also imbued with a love for travel, and I’m very grateful for that.

Favorite Places/Destinations?:

It’s so hard to choose my favourite place! We just went on our honeymoon to Fiji, New Zealand, and Australia, so I would say right now New Zealand is at the top of the list. It’s incredibly beautiful, and everywhere you go is a wine region (bonus). But I would say South Africa and India are two of my other favorite places. Going on safari is one of the most special things you can experience, and my favorite travel day ever was going on a tour of the Chandni Chowk market in New Delhi, which is an incredible place.

Favorite Products/Objects?:

My favorite product is my AirPods. They truly changed my life! They’ve changed the way I listen to podcasts, work out, and conduct business meeting.

Current Passions?:

My passion has always been travel. I’ve been lucky to travel to incredible countries like Brazil, South Africa, and India, and while I don’t care about fancy cars or expensive possessions, I am obsessed with spending my disposable income on travel.

A Day in My Life:

What do you love most about Your City?

I’m from Toronto, but right now I’m living in Montreal for the FounderFuel startup accelerator, and I absolutely love this city. It feels very European, and it’s absolutely beautiful – every side street has colorful walk-up apartments, trees, flowers, and historical buildings. It also has an incredible restaurant scene, which I’ve been working on exploring!

Favorite breakfast meal & restaurant?

If I have a breakfast meeting, my favorite breakfast meal is avocado toast from Soho House in Toronto. If not, I eat the same thing every date for breakfast: whole wheat toast with peanut butter.

What are you doing at:

6:00 AM – Sleeping! I usually wake up at 7am to go for a run or hit a workout class, and I’m at my desk by 8:30am.

10:00 AM – Working.

12:00 PM – Favorite Lunch spot/meal? My favorite lunch spot in Toronto (where Willful is usually based) is Le Gourmand, a cafe at Spadina and Queen – they have the best grab-and-go sandwiches and salads.

7:00 PM – Either at a workout class, at an event, or watching Netflix.

11:00 PM – I would like to say sleeping, but more likely, scrolling through Instagram.

What drink do you need to get through the day and at the end (and how many)?

At least two coffees in the morning, and lemon-flavored Perrier at night (I can’t have caffeine after lunch or I bounce off the walls).

Most used App/Favorite Instagram Account?

I use Todoist, a to-do list app that helps keep me organized.

Where do you enjoy getting lost?

In any new city when I’m traveling. My favourite thing to do is explore a new neighborhood with my husband when we travel – walk around, grab a cocktail, and get lost.

Susanna Barkataki: Yoga Unity Activist, Speaker and Teacher


My Native Admission Statement: As a mixed Indian-British woman from Assam, living in the U.S. I’ve often felt excluded in many of our yoga spaces. Yet I know this exclusion is the opposite of what yoga is meant to be. Yoga is unity. It is meant to be inclusive and transformative for all, but that isn’t what happens. I am a yoga diversity, equity and culture educator and activist. I know it is past time for the practice of my indigenous wisdom to get the authenticity and diversity it deserves. I speak for my ancestors and say we are no longer here to allow this corruption and lack of diversity of the healing path of yoga today. We all lose. Instead, we can lean back to yoga’s original aims while practicing forward to a future that includes everyone. I use my unique experiences and voice to help do this through writing, teaching and speaking. I love asking people, “does what you are doing cause more separation, or more unity?” Yoga helps us see that anything other than union is just illusion. And gives us the tools to heal division and separation and get to union with self, with others, with the world.

Any emerging industry trends?

Yoga and wellness is embracing diversity and inclusion! For better or worse, these are a lot more trendy now than they’ve ever been. However, we have to be careful to not just pay lip service to these ideas, but to truly explore them deeply and fully. To ask ourselves the hard questions, make changes, and go deep. Otherwise, the trend won’t stick. Or to say this another way, these concepts need to move beyond trends and become deep practice.

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Andy Mooney: Fender CEO


My Native Admission Statement: A blend of left and right brain, inherently creative but analytical from finance training. I’m able to go from high concept strategy to tactical detail. The former’s exciting, but tactical execution creates results. Every good business idea I’ve had (e.g. Disney Princess) was a paradigm shift that got me close to being fired. I fight for good business ideas, whomever generates them and no matter how impolitic that can sometimes be. It’s been a high risk, high reward strategy for me personally.

Inspiration for the business idea, and your vision for the Business?:

Successful business ideas often come from simple observation of human behavior. Limited Edition footwear at Nike came from someone pulling up beside me in my used black Porsche 924 in a shiny new yellow Sebring Edition 924 Porsche and me wondering if the concept of Limited Edition would work in athletic footwear. It worked. The Disney Princess idea came from waiting in line at a Disney on Ice show and seeing mothers and daughters decked out in princess regalia they’d made at home.


Two years ago, I met Phyllis Fender, Leo Fender’s widow. Late in Leo’s life, in one of his more philosophical moments, he told Phyllis that ‘All artists were angles and his job on Earth was to give them wings to fly’. This has now become Fender’s vision statement and the job description of everyone in the company.

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Fatima Zaidi: Founder & CEO, Quill & Former VP, Eighty-Eight Agency


My Native Admission Statement: I’m inspired by making money! I know that may sound shocking and shallow to some, but at the end of the day, I’m a sales person. If that isn’t your answer as a sales professional, then I recommend finding a new calling! To clarify, I’m not only motivated by making money for myself, but also in a large part by contributing to a company’s bottom line. That’s another reason why I love working at startups, because you can see the fruits of your labor almost immediately. You can only connect the dots looking backwards and my career trajectory has been pretty unusual and non-linear. -

My Thought of the Day:

Among other obstacles, I’ve noticed that women in business are paid less, less frequently hired, and definitely don’t promote themselves to the level that they should. On a practical level, I’ve found that we can end up being our own enemy when it comes to self promoting and self branding. While I acknowledge that the system itself is flawed, I think we can counteract this to some extent by putting ourselves out there and asking for what we deserve, learning to promote themselves and not worrying about coming off too strong or hurting other people’s feeling. Many women put an incredible amount of effort into branding for their clients, while forgetting to also take control of their own personal branding and career. At the end of the day, we are each CEOs of our own brand.

Favorite Places/Destinations?:

Mongolia specifically the Gobi desert, my country Oman, and South Africa

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Morgan Lashley: Vestique Co-founder


My Native Admission Statement: My passion for entrepreneurship began nearly a decade ago when I left my corporate job to start Vestique, a women’s clothing and accessories retailer. Since that day, my partner and I have opened 9 retail locations in the Southeast, with no plans of stopping,and built a multi-million dollar e-commerce operation. I am a people person and an extremely hard worker. I fully believe that if you are in a management position, you should lead by example. My employees all know I am not above cleaning the bathrooms, taking out the trash or doing whatever it takes for the good of the company. In fact, you can still find me working the sales floor in one of my stores most days. Interacting with our customers is hands down my favorite part of the job!

Inspiration for the business idea, and your vision for the Business?:

I began my career in PR, which meant I spent most of my days in my cubicle writing or researching. Every now and then, I would take “creative breaks” and scour the web for the one thing that made me truly happy: clothes! At the time, back in 2010, online boutique shopping was scarce. Of course, the big box stores had e-com sites but smaller, and more importantly affordable, boutiques just didn’t. I reached out to my friend and now business partner and pitched the idea of us starting one. We both loved fashion and spent all of our free time and money buying clothes so it was a natural fit. A main goal of ours was to keep everything we carried affordable, so everyone could look and feel their best without over spending.


Find a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.

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Persia Lawson: Author, Speaker + Love Coach

My Native Admission Statement: I’m an author, speaker and ‘one of the UK’s most successful love coaches’ – according to The Times magazine. Having once been a serial cheater and obsessive love addict, I’m super proud to now be in a healthy, committed relationship with my fiancé Joe, and I’mpassionate about helping millennial women achieve the same in their own love lives via my books, talks, workshops, podcast and my digital coaching program ‘Get Your Soulmate’. My core message is that, in order to find real love in the superficial world we’re living in, we need to stop looking outside of ourselves for the partner we want to get, and start looking inside of ourselves for the partner we want to be. Trained in cognitive behavioural therapy, reiki and addiction studies, I’m honoured to have supported thousands of women (including some well-known celebrities) in radically transforming all aspects of their lives, and delighted to have been deemed an “irreverent British guru” by Marie Claire magazine and “refreshingly honest, raw and relatable” by Sadie Frost. My work has been featured in Vogue, Cosmopolitan, Women’s Health, Psychologies mag, The Telegraph, You magazine, The Daily Mail, OK magazine, Channel 5 news, The BBC and The Evening Standard, as well as in a documentary alongside Russell Brand. I also regularly write and consult for online dating platform eharmony.

Favorite People/Role Models?:

Entrepreneur Marie Forleo has such a brilliant work ethic and treats everyone she meets with some love and generosity. My fiancé Joe is the best people person I’ve ever met, and has taught me what real love is.

Favorite Places/Destinations?:

Pretty much every festival! I also adore Costa Rica, India and Nepal – oh and Italy and Cornwall!

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Andrew Tarvin: Humor That Works Founder & Best Selling Author


My Native Admission Statement: Ever since I can remember, I’ve been obsessed with efficiency. Even my name is efficient. My full name is Andrew, but I go by Drew because it’s only one syllable. Efficient. As an IT Project Manager at Procter & Gamble, I led multi-million dollar projects for a $350 million brand. As a super-nerd (computer, math, engineer, sci-fi and video game) I was all about getting results. While there, I discovered that you can’t be efficient with humans, you have to be effective. I didn’t have the skills I needed to be effective with people, but I had started doing improv and stand-up, and realized that work wasn’t just about what you did, but how you did it. So I left P&G to become the world’s first humor engineer, teaching people how to use humor to get better results and have more fun at work.

How did you get into the industry?

I have always been an engineer. As a kid, I liked to take things apart and put them back together again, things like clocks, radios, and my brother’s sanity. Becoming a humor engineer was much more happenstance. In college, my best friend wanted to start an improv comedy group, needed people, and forced me to join. And when I first started, I was not very good. But over time, with practice and repetition, I got better. Once I started working at Procter & Gamble, I found that some of the same skills you need to be effective as an improviser are the same skills you need to be effective as a leader. I eventually proclaimed myself the corporate humorist of P&G to combine my two passions: engineering and comedy. I assumed, at some point, someone would stop me. Someone from HR or legal would say, “Hey, you can’t just create your own job title.” But no one ever did. Instead, people just started referring to me as the corporate humorist. I fell in love with the work and started Humor That Works part-time in 2009. I spent the next three years building it into a business while also testing ideas through blog posts and internal training events at P&G. By 2012, I decided to take the leap from the corporate world and focus on the company full-time, and that’s what I’ve been doing ever since.

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Aleksandra Scepanovic: Ideal Properties Group Co-founder

My Native Admission Statement: I am a co-founder of Ideal Properties Group, a leading real estate brokerage that focuses on premier New York City neighborhoods. As an individual, I thrive in environments that call for informed decision–making with a high tolerance for risk. I excel in the dueling roles of a modern-day leader of a decade-old business and a mom ofa magnificent seven-year-old child. When we set out to bootstrap Ideal, we knew that Brooklyn would soon became the next most sought-after market so we focused on building a technologically-innovative firm that focuses on friendliness, transparency and service.

How did you get into the industry?:

I am a journalist with investigative skills who has, upon moving to New York City, added interior design training to her repertoire of skills. It was in the hotbed of good looks, the Big Apple, that I discovered my passion for interiors... which has lead me to real estate. I aligned my nascent brand of a real estate professional with a boutique brokerage firm in Manhattan… and got my start in the industry.

Most Challenging Moment?:

When we launched Ideal, the real estate market was collapsing in the wake andaftermath of the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy. While this was a challenging time – where confidence in the market was low and our money was tight – we focused on our belief in Brooklyn and with our enthusiasm, we were able to build a successful firm.

Biggest Success?:

Being a mother to a kind, talented daughter and a worse half to a caring, strong and dedicated partner.

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Patrik Hellstrand: by CHLOE. CEO + Founder/Author, thrivewired + Advisor, KingsCrowd

My Native Admission Statement: My passion lies in strategically optimizing customer experiences and unlocking the potential of teams in high-growth businesses. I learned what matters most in people-centric businesses from starting my career cleaning hotel rooms and in various food and beverage positions; the same principles serve me now as CEO.

How did you get into the industry?:

I got into hospitality almost by accident. At the age of 20, I wanted to travel the world and figured that hospitality would be the best way to achieve that, by working on a cruise ship. So I got a job at a small hotel and started cleaning rooms, helping in the restaurant and helping in the bar, which ultimately landed me a job as a bar waiter on a small expedition ship cruising Antarctica. I ended up falling in love with the hospitality industry and stayed with it.

Biggest Success?:

My biggest success is linked to letting go of my ego entirely to succeed. Having mid-career started over from zero and not being able to afford anyone to help with anything, and learning to ‘figure it out’ and finding success in new and different ways without any resources was one of the hardest things I’ve done, and, also one of the most rewarding and valuable things I’ve done.

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Bola Sokunbi: Clever Girl Finance® Founder


My Native Admission Statement: I’d describe myself as motivated, curious and committed. I love taking on a challenge and solving difficult problems. Once I start working on a problem, I have to figure it out – either on my own or by getting the right people or resources involved. I’m passionate about wellness in all aspects of life. I like to look on the bright side of things and focus on the positive outcomes. Doing this helps me stay focused and keeps my mindset in check. My goal in life is to be a good person (wife, mother, friend, sister etc) and to leverage my opportunities and platform to help others.


Choose to be happy.

Life is unpredictable but you are in control of the perspective you take. I choose happiness.

Favorite People/Role Models?:

Oprah Winfrey, Michelle Obama, Sara Blakely

Such incredible women – their life and business stories inspire me.

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Andrew Weinberger: PropertyClub Founder & CEO


My Native Admission Statement: I’m the founder and CEO of PropertyClub, a real estate startup that’s focused on shaking up the real estate industry by creating a transparent marketplace for real estate listings and rewarding buyers and renters with cash and crypto rebates and rewards. I’m an out of the box thinker and very good problem solver. It doesn’t matter what the problem is or if I have the knowledge to solve it directly as I’ll always be able to find a solution. For example we’ll get close to deadlines for new product launches and might encounter delays in design or development and even though I have no formal training in either field I always find a simple solution.

Any emerging industry trends?

There’s a lot of pressure for change in the industry as the existing models are outdated and don’t serve consumers well. Nobody’s really happy with the overall experience from how you search for real estate to how cumbersome it is to complete a transaction to the high fees involved and there are a lot of companies in the space trying to disrupt different facets of the business. The most exciting to me are companies that are improving the end user experience when it comes to searching for homes as well as those that are lowering costs to consumers either via rewards, commission rebates or flat fee listing services. This means that there are a lot of opportunities out there, but the main challenge is creating a platform with enough marketplace liquidity. It’s easy to build the tech to solve the problem, but for it to be valuable and effective you need enough supply and demand, and the real challenge is in acquiring both. This is really where every real estate startup fails. They might build an excellent product from a technical perspective, but without solving the chicken or egg problem there’s essentially no value in their solution.

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Tom McLoughlin: Founder, SEO Travel


My Native Admission Statement: I’m the founder of SEO Travel, passionate traveler and father of 3 children. I’m an honest Yorkshireman and passionate about helping small travel businesses grow. I never dreamed of running my own business when I was younger, but this idea seemed too obvious not to follow through when I had it. We’ve grown from being a single freelancer (me!) who helped a few clients whilst travelling, to being the best marketing option out there for travel SMEs (and it takes a lot for a Brit to be so bold!). I now focus my days on making what we offer even better and building a team that I’m proud to be a part of. In my spare time I play football, go running and watch Formula 1, and I even won a dance competition once…

How did you get into the industry?:

I initially worked in PR, then moved into SEO as a planned segway to get into writing. Whilst working at an SEO agency I started a travel blog as part of my writing portfolio, but it ended up becoming more of an SEO testing ground instead. I could see that one of the key difficulties for any SEO agency was specialist knowledge of the industry they were working in, so decided I should use the knowledge I’d picked up in travel to offer that specialized service. The business has grown since then so we can deliver a range of marketing offerings for clients, including PR, website design and SEO. We’re now much more of a one-stoptravel marketing shop for small-medium sized travel businesses who want help getting more customers, wherever they might come from.

Favorite Places/Destinations?:

Seville. We lived there for a while whilst were establishing the business and loved every minute. We’re now settled back in the UK, but would love to go and be based there again at some point. Incredible food, great value and beautiful surroundings.

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Burunda Prince: Managing Director of The Farm, a Comcast NBCUniversal startup accelerator


My Native Admission Statement: I connect with all kinds of people, embracing their journey and am eager to understand their story so that I can help them be their best selves.  My love of the written word has cultivated a love of reading and writing which also means that I’m constantly being exposed to new ideas and learning. And we know that practice makes perfect so through that love has grown a certain competency of written expression whether it be business, journalistic, or reflective writing.  It’s one of my greatest gifts and assets.I aspire to help others, make the world better and relish the journey.  I’ve already accomplished the greatest feat possible by giving the world three amazing people.  So, I have nothing to prove but much to give and share. That allows me to use my considerable experience to help others unlock their power and pursue their dreams.

How did you get into the industry?:

My journey to the world of tech innovation was non linear and somewhat unexpected. Yet, the narrative fits.  The role of The Farm Managing Director combines three of my passions — technology, a joy of learning and helping others– with three of my superpowers — intelligence, relational leadership and the ability to forge new paths. It’s been reinforced that disruption and innovation have long been part of my career narrative.  I traveled from Atlanta to Cambridge to become one of eight African Americans in my class to graduate in Chemical Engineering from MIT. As a young engineer at Procter & Gamble, I piloted the continuous manufacturing process to commercialize PertPlus. An MBA from Harvard Business School was followed by becoming the first woman consultant of color at Bain and Company.  That led to a career at Rohm & Haas, an entrepreneurial venture in leadership of high performing teams and educational consulting and even eight years in civic leadership as a publicly elected official. You get the picture. I excel at disrupting, leading disparate groups and leveraging synergies for exceptional outcomes. So, while being a Baby Boomer woman of color may not fit the traditional tech influencer model, I can’t think of a better illustration of disruption at its best than me and technology. Technology first of course!

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Suze Yalof Schwartz: CEO/Founder, Unplug Meditation, Author, "Unplug: A Simple Guide To Meditation for Busy Skeptics and Modern Soul Seekers", Creator, Unplug Meditation App


My Native Admission Statement: You know how people are really stressed, have anxiety and can’t sleep at night? Well I do, because I used to be one of those people. I’m on a mission to make meditation so easy and inspirational that you will actually WANT to meditate every day. I opened upUnplug, the world’s first drop-in meditation studio, so that I could I help busy people with busy lives (like myself) stress less, feel good and enjoy the present moment. We offer short, meaningful guided meditations and meet people where they are, whether it’s in-studio, or 24/7 on the Unplug: Guided Meditation app, or flying around the world to teach corporate sessions in Fortune 500 companies.

How did you get into the industry?:

I was stressed out on a trip in NYC and my mother-in-law (who is a therapist) taught me a 3-minute breathing and visualization technique that instantly shifted me from stressed to calm. It was so simple and powerful and I wanted more! She suggested I learn how to meditate. This was November 2012. When I Google searched for a place to learn, I realized that there was no easy way. All of the options were either a major time commitment or too expensive. I am a mother of three, so I was looking for a quick fix. Think the Drybar (a blow dry hair salon) experience – walk in feeling icky and walk out feeling great in only 30 minutes. It turned out that not only was there no place to easily learn to meditate in Los Angeles, but there wasn’t even a single drop-in studio exclusively for meditation in the world. I couldn’t believe it! I told my husband that I was going to quit my job as a fashion editor and be the first to open up a meditation studio. He suggested that I learn to meditate first. That is honestly how it all began. The idea for Unplug came to me in a flash – the look, the concept, and the mission was consuming. The more I learned about the power of meditation, the more I realized that this is what I want to do with my life. Now, I not only have a place for myself to study with the best teachers, but I am delivering meditation to the world in a much more accessible way than previously existed. People thought that I was crazy and that no one would come but today Unplug Meditation gets over 5,000 visits per month. We are amazed on a daily basis by the positive effect our classes are having on people, from cancer patients to their surgeons, writers, professional athletes, CEOs, stressed-out lawyers, mothers and even children. People travel from all over the country and world to experience Unplug. As of now, we have two physical studios in LA, a book called Unplug: A Simple Guide To Meditation For Busy Skeptics and Modern Soul Seekers that is published in 14 languages, and the Unplug: Guided Meditation app that is being used in 82 countries and was featured in iTunes’ New Apps We Love.

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Jessamyn Stanley: Award Winning Yoga Instructor, Body Positivity Advocate & Author of 'Every Body Yoga.'


My Native Admission Statement: As a fat, black, queer yoga practitioner, I’m very familiar with the obstacles which prevent most people from feeling as though yoga is accessible. As a teacher, author, tech entrepreneur, and thought leader, I use my voice and platform to democratize the yoga experience. My mission is to make space for all people to authentically experience their Truth, and I travel around the world sharing my own journey towards self-acceptance. My greatest success thus far has been learning that I don’t always have to know everything and I don’t always have to know the right answer. Because there’s usually no right answer.

Inspiration for the business idea, and your vision for the Business? 

My inspiration for The Underbelly, my digital yoga studio platform, was to create an online yoga space that celebrates practitioners who are frequently excluded from the mainstream yoga world. My vision is for The Underbelly to serve as a safe haven for anyone who has ever felt as though they don’t “fit in.”

Favorite People/Role Models?:

Michelle Obama, Oprah, and Dr. Maya Angelou

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John Ban: Grass Fed Coffee Founder


My Native Admission Statement: My name is John Ban, Founder of Grass Fed Coffee. We make a ready-to-drink Butter Coffee with MCT Oil that is sold in most of the natural grocers in Southern Californiaas well as on Amazon & I’m a Korean-American that grew up in Indianapolis, Indiana. I became one of the top DJ’s in my city at the age of 17. I was spinning in all of the top night clubs and also the hip-hop radio station Hot 96.3FM. I also launched the first food truck in Indianapolis in 2010, which created a huge food truck culture in that city. After selling 2 of my food truck businesses, I moved to Los Angeles in 2014 to start Grass Fed Coffee.

How did you get into the industry?:

In 2014 I learned about the concept of adding grass-fed butter and MCT coconut oil to coffee. I bought all the ingredients and tried it out for a few days. I instantly felt my usual morning brain fog evaporate. A nice mental clarity came over me and I had lasting energy without a crash. I was surprised by how good it tasted without any sugar. I continued drinking this daily and then noticed that I was also losing fat. I discovered the Keto diet and learned how these fats in the butter were helping my brain function and metabolism. I saw an opportunity in the coffee/beverage industry for the first ready-to-drink butter coffee. This is how it all began.

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Timothy Draper: DFJ Capital Founder


My Native Admission Statement: I am a hardworker with a mission to spread entrepreneurship and venture capital around the world. Since I have succeeded to some degree. I have a mission to decentralize the world to where borders become meaningless.

Industry opportunities and challenges?:

Yes. Crowdfunding, tokenization, and transparency are changing things. The business is becoming more automated and the money is getting to be more direct to the entrepreneur. I imagine a time when a VC raises money in Bitcoin, they invest in Bitcoin, and the startups pay their employees and suppliers in bitcoin, and the relationship with the LP is through a smart contract. In effect, our business could take place without a lawyer on either side, an accountant, a transfer agent, a custodian, an escrow agent, a bookkeeper, or any of the bureaucracies who regulate all of this.

Career advice to those in your industry?:

Meet 4 new people a day and ask them what they do for a living. You will have a much better understanding of the world, and be far less frustrated when things aren’t working the way you want them to.

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Ann Garnier: Lisa Health Founder & CEO


My Native Admission Statement: Ann Garnier, founder and CEO of Lisa Health, is a seasoned healthcare leader, helping to create, launch, and scale innovative tech companies and products that have improved patient outcomes and access to care. At Lisa Health, Ann leads the team to enhance the well-being of midlife women. She is passionate about women’s health and advancing research beyond pregnancy and fertility to reduce the serious and costly health risks that women face as they age and help them celebrate the start of something great. Her entire career has been spent in healthcare as an entrepreneur/executive/advisor to venture-backed companies in femtech and healthcare technology and services. Helping to improve patient outcomes and the patient experience through technology isenormously rewarding. Waking up every day with the intention of improving people’s well-being is a good way to spend your life.

Inspiration for the business idea, and your vision for the Business?:

My inspiration came through my own menopause transition. I was one of those eighty-five percent of women who were struggling with symptoms. Like most women, I went to my doctor to understand what I could do to make the symptoms go away or at least be less impactful. And, like most women, the experience was very disappointing. The only solution she had to offer me was hormone therapy, which I am not opposed to, but I prefer holistic solutions whenever possible. Most physicians are not trained in lifestyle medicine and are too busy to spend time with women to review the options. As someone who has created many healthcare products for complex and chronic conditions, I knew there had to be a way to manage my symptoms using lifestyle interventions. After extensive research into the scientific literature, I started experimenting with different lifestyle changes and after a few weeks noticed that my symptoms either disappeared or were significantly reduced. Then, the lightbulb went off, and I decided to create a modern science-based digital app for menopause and midlife health. Our north star is to make midlife women visible, eliminate the shame and silence around menopause, and help every midlife woman get the well-being she deserves.

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Stefanie Barboza: Barboza Method Founder


My Native Admission Statement: The Barboza Method is a full body, no impact workout all done on the floor—no machines, no weights, it’s you fighting gravity and your own body weight. The studio is in Hollywood, and it is designed with mirrors on the ceiling so when you lay on a yoga mat you can see yourself, so you can keep your body in proper alignment and proper form. I use epic music which will sound familiar because they come from movie and tv and video game scores—music that makes you think and keeps you motivated to keep your head in the game. I think I’m a good problem solver. You never know what you’re gonna get and I always think of a solution and keep moving forward. I care a lot. Whenever I do anything I put my all into it.

Any emerging industry trends?

Everything is going app. Online. I don’t like that because as a teacher my job is not just what you do, but how you do it. The job of a teacher is to make sure you do the thing you’re supposed to be doing correctly. If you do it incorrectly, you will get injured. My goal as a teacher is to get you out of the house so we can do the class together, meet the people in class with you, and have the one-on-one support and be part of a team and a community.  Also I think functional fitness and isometric workouts are coming back. I think there was a trend recently about more intense, body builder-type workout classes—and now we’ve shifted back to the basics, the— “I just need to be healthy and live an active life”—which my class, which is about posture and alignment, exemplifies.

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