2016 Annual Gathering – Speakers

Speakers and panelists for Mentor Capital Network’s 13th Annual Gathering, which was held in Washington, DC on September 30 – October 1, 2016.

Andy Shallal – Keynote Speaker

10:45am Friday, September 30th

Anas “Andy” Shallal is an artist and social entrepreneur. He is the founder of Busboys and Poets, Share Space DC & Mulebone Restaurant. Shallal’s concepts create an environment where racial and cultural connections are consciously uplifted. Spaces to feed the mind, body and soul and where art, culture and politics take center stage and collide. With 6 locations in the Washington Metropolitan Area, Busboys and Poets has become home for progressives, artists and intellectuals including such notables as Howard Zinn, Cornel West, Alice Walker and Nikki Giovanni to name a few.

Shallal’s businesses are members of the Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC) and the American Sustainable Business Council (ASBC) focusing on sustainable business and employment practices. Busboys and Poets and Mulebone Restaurant have been at the forefront of environmental stewardship being one of the first businesses in Washington DC to be 100% wind powered and are at the cutting edge of the local/sustainable food movement winning many awards and recognitions locally and nationally. Shallal has received numerous awards including the Mayor’s Arts Award, Employer of the Year from the Employment Justice Center and the Mayor’s Environmental Award.

Shallal has founded or co-founded several peace and justice organizations and holds leadership positions in numerous others. He is on the board of trustees for the Institute for Policy Studies and a founding member of Think Local First DC, a local business association. He also sits on the board of several arts and peace organizations and was appointed by the Mayor to head the Workforce Investment Council, an advisory board for the Mayor on how to spend workforce development dollars more effectively. Shallal continues to strive to make his hometown of Washington DC a more livable community.


Tom Chi – Speaker / Rapid Prototyping Workshop

2:15pm Saturday, October 1

Tom Chi has worked in a wide range of roles from astrophysical researcher to Fortune 500 consultant to corporate executive developing new hardware/software products and services. He’s played a significant role in established projects with global reach (Microsoft Outlook, Yahoo Search), and scaled new projects from conception to significance (Yahoo Answers from 0 to 90 million users).

Tom has pioneered and practiced a unique approach to rapid prototyping, visioning, and leadership that can jumpstart innovative new ideas as well as move large organizations at unprecedented speeds. These approaches have benefitted over a dozen industry-leading companies. He most recently served as head of product experience at Google X developing technology such as Google Glass and Google’s self-driving cars.

His current focus is delving into human development issues with social entrepreneurs around the globe, rebooting the fundamental frameworks of entrepreneurship itself, and teaching a limited number of workshops to select organizations.

Panel: Entrepreneurial Ecosystems

9:30am Friday, September 30th

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Avary Kent – Panel Moderator

Avary combines training in genetic engineering and ecology with a Sustainable Enterprise MBA to lead impact focused start-ups from idea to reality.  She started in Impact Investing focused on private equity impact measurement with HIP Investor.  She is the Co-Founder of ImpactAlpha.com focused on investment news for a sustainable edge.  She is an expert in experience design combining elements of neuroscience, behavioral psychology, and human centered design to craft participatory conference experiences in the impact sector. She is the Executive Director of Conveners.org a registered non-profit serving impact focused conveners and accelerators.

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Laurin Hodge: Panelist
Laurin often says she did not pick prison; prison picked her. It was the unexpected incarceration of her mother for a first-time, nonviolent, white-collar indictment, which motivated her to craft a social entrepreneurial career. As the Executive Director of Mission Launch, Inc., Hodge oversees the day-to-day development and serves as the vision keeper for Mission: Launch’s mission of improving socio-economic outcomes and accelerating self-sufficiency for Americans with an arrest and/or conviction record.

Laurin is a millennial woman of color with a plan for cities and regions to become “Reentry Ready” as a means to support inclusive economic growth and criminal justice reform.

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Ben Powell: Panelist

Ben Powell is the Founder and CEO of Agora Partnerships, a leading accelerator for early stage companies solving social and environmental problems in Latin America. Ben became convinced of the power of entrepreneurship to transform marginalized communities while working in Mexico, where he co-founded CityGolf Puebla, a miniature golf course. Since founding Agora in 2005, he has been professionally focused on how to build innovation ecosystems that foster trust and collaboration in order to increase the flow of capital to entrepreneurs working to accelerate the shift to a more sustainable and inclusive economy.

Ben’s leadership has been recognized by the Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation, the BMW Foundation, Ashoka, and the Social Venture Network, among others. He has testified to Congress on the importance of entrepreneurship and been named one of 2010’s top 40 under 40 development leaders in Washington, D.C. He earned an MBA from Columbia University, where he was awarded the inaugural alumni social innovation award, and an MSFS with distinction from Georgetown University. Ben has a BA with high honors from Haverford College, where he co-founded Tres Nacos Quesadillas Delivery and the Lighted Fools improv troupe. A native of Cambridge, Massachusetts, Ben lives in Washington, D.C. with his wife and three children.

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Vanessa Ferragut, CMP: Panelist
Vanessa is a Sustainable Event and Meeting Planner in Washington, DC. She is the founder of Ferragut Event Group, LLC, an event planning company that focuses on sustainable meetings and events. Vanessa is also a local foods enthusiast and Founder of Greenease, Inc – a mobile app dedicated to promoting restaurants, cafes and grocers that work with local farms and provide sustainable food options. She is passionate about supporting organizations that embrace sustainability in their business and service practices, promote community activism, and minimize their overall environmental impact in the hospitality sector.

She holds a B.A. degree in International Business and Spanish from Mount Saint Mary’s University, and a Masters of Tourism Administration from the George Washington University with a concentration in Event and Meeting Management. Vanessa is a Certified Meeting Professional, as awarded by the Convention Industry Council. She has over a decade of experience in the corporate social responsibility sector.

Panel: The Investor Perspective

1:45 PM Friday, September 30th


Vanessa Grellet, Director of the Nexus Impact Investing Group, is a Global Executive with 15 years of expertise in the Financial Services and Exchange industry. She currently works in PwC’s Asset Management division, serving as a key member of the firm’s global wealth management and private banking capabilities. She chairs the Nexus Working Group on Impact Investing, dedicated to educating, empowering, and connecting Next-Gen impact investors, philanthropists, and social entrepreneurs. She is a Partner at Acumen and the Co-Founder of Coda, an innovation and cross-cultural exchange platform for innovators, located in emerging countries. Mrs. Grellet graduated Cum Laude from Law School (Paris II Assas) and Business School (HEC) in France and is fluent in French, Italian, and Spanish. She is a Milken Institute Young Leader (MIYL) and a Young Leader Board member of the Off the Record lectures series (OTR) affiliated with the Foreign Policy Association.

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Jake Cusack co-leads the advisory business for CrossBoundry (http://www.crossboundary.com ) as well as its adjunct investment platform, CrossBoundary Energy. Mr. Cusack holds joint Master of Public Policy and Master of Business Administration degrees from the Harvard Kennedy School and Harvard Business School. He is also a graduate of the University of Notre Dame’s Honors Program. Mr. Cusack’s work at CrossBoundary has included the design and management of investment facilitation projects in Afghanistan and South Sudan and the execution of market intelligence and transaction support across East Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. Prior to CrossBoundary, Mr. Cusack served as a Marine Corps officer, receiving the Bronze Star for actions in Iraq, and worked at Abraaj Capital, an emerging market private equity firm. He has written for The New Republic, The New York Times, Forbes, Harvard Business Review, and Inc. Magazine.

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Mary Galeti serves as the Executive Director and Vice-Chair of the Tecovas Foundation. The Tecovas Foundation funds social innovation and entrepreneurship by focusing on building community, leveraging new service models and sustainable economic development both domestically and internationally.  Ms. Galeti also serves as a Principal at Shiplake Partners, a boutique consultancy which helps institutions create and nurture relationships with the communities that exist both internally and externally. As a facilitator and moderator, she has helped many organizations find consensus around values, mission, and strategy.  She has worked with many organizations including the The Open Society Foundations, The Independent Sector, the Council on Foundations, and the Nexus Global Youth Summit.  Ms. Galeti served as a Global Board member of the Global Shapers Foundation, an initiative of the World Economic Forum. She is the Vice-Chair of the StartingBloc Social Innovation Fellowship Program. She served on the Board of Directors of the Council on Foundations, and chaired the Family Philanthropy Committee. In 2014, she was named a Senior Fellow in Social Innovation at the Lewis Institute at Babson College. She is a member of the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on Values.  She is a Startingbloc Fellow and a member of the Global Shapers’ Washington, D.C. Hub.

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Stefan Friedman of CoPilot Ventures has more than a dozen years of venture capital experience, including management of an internet-startup incubator and a seed-stage investment fund. He has served as the MCN’s board chair, and is the coordinator of MCN’s Green Grab program.

Panel: Off-Grid Technologies and Refugees

3:15pm Friday, September 30


Christine Mendonça – Panel Moderator
Christine is the the co-founder of Humans on the Move, which serves to bridge a market gap between impact investors, social entrepreneurs, and refugees, through a lens of ethical investment in existing solutions that address basic community needs and work to improve conditions for humans on the move.

She is also the Founder and CEO of Shore to Shore Advisory, an impact investment advisory firm, working exclusively with clients who want to put financial return seeking capital to work in positively changing the world. She works with family offices, foundations, high net worth individuals and other sector organizations to develop impact strategies that align with the clients’ values and objectives. She develops direct investment strategies, analyzes markets for both risk and readiness, builds investment pipelines, vets potential options, and manages investments on behalf of her clients.

Christine is an active international speaker on impact investment and engaging women into the investment process. She has spoken at the United Nations, Columbia University, Conference Board, MaRSDD, and Centre for Social Innovation. Before starting her company, Christine became the 5th generation in her family to work in the steel industry. At 21, she managed the due diligence process for Gerdau Ameristeel’s 2004 NYSE Equity and Bond Offering. By the age of 26, Christine led or co-led the integration of $187 MM in acquisitions (6 companies, 27 locations) and supported in the integration of another $4.5 BN of assets.

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Won Hee Chang – Panelist
Won is Founder/CEO at intracountry, a development stage startup that offers refugee/migrant support services via messaging platforms, starting with education. Our goal is to provide critical infrastructure, then legal, digital identity for the most at risk individuals. The global at-risk segment that we hear about every day are the 250 million migrants who are part of the productive economy, especially the 5 million displaced Syrians who are our first audience; yet this group is only a minority of the 2.5 billion people on earth who lack legal identity.

Once identified, intracountry will help include this segment of the population to the digital economy.

Previously, Won sped through a career as a classical flutist and an opera singer in France to being a trend assassin at Ogilvy & Mather Asia Pacific, all before she was old enough to vote. When she was not running away from her doctorate, traipsing through war zones, and crossing other failed states on foot, Won is a serial entrepreneur and ex-VC who also frequently speaks and moderates panels on the future of mobile technologies and infrastructure in emerging markets.

Tami Kesselman – Presenter: The Continuum of Scaling form BAD to BEST

4:15pm Friday, September 30th

Tami Kesselman

Tami Kesselman is the Chief Solutions Officer at TBL Alpha “Helping Individuals & Organizations Achieve Smarter Impact.” Whether in her early work with the U.S. Council for Int’l Business, as a Consultant for Bain, Director for global strategy at American Express, or in current client work, board appointments, and advisory roles — including at the Harvard iLab, UN Office for Partnerships, and Broadline Capital for their health and energy sector work — Tami is known for her focus on project-based capacity building and her ability to rapidly identify downside risk in impact programs and help clients connect the dots to fix problems before they occur.

Panel: Local Food Ecosystems

9:45am Saturday, OCtober 1


Chris Bradshaw – Panel Moderator
An expert in bringing social innovation, youth development, and entrepreneurship along with urban farming techniques to underrepresented communities, Christopher honed his organizing and entrepreneurial skills at Howard University while studying political science and business, developing a human rights centered world view as area coordinator for Amnesty International.

Chris further developed his skills in social entrepreneurship and innovation as a Starting Block Fellow and honed his skills in growing techniques at Growing Power and the University of Arizona’s Controlled Environment Agriculture Center.

His call to social organizing led him to leave Howard to form Dreaming Out Loud, Inc. (DOL), which fully embraces urban agriculture and cooperative social enterprise as mechanisms for changing communities. DOL works to impact the food system through action, advocacy, and policy — managing a growing network of farmers markets, developing a 2-acre urban farm and food hub in Ward 7, while advocating for social equity.

Chris helps to shape public policy, serving as a member of DC’s first-ever Food Policy Council and co-chair of the Urban Agriculture and Food System Education Working Group. He was selected as a 2015 Ashoka-American Express Emerging Innovator, a finalist for Ashoka Changemakers’ Nutrients for All competition, and one of 50 Under 50: Innovative Leaders Transforming Metro DC’s Food System. He is a frequent speaker on social innovation, urban agriculture and regional food systems, and the food justice movement.

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Ann Yang – Panelist
Ann is passionate about creating a better food system, and her experience as the daughter of first generation immigrants in a low-income household has taught me how to do a whole lot with very little resources. That skill-set has become the foundation for her creative career.

She co-produced an art show in an urban garden for the Capital Area Food Bank and has been featured as a female entrepreneur in Seventeen Magazine and Cosmopolitan. She co-produces events in DC for women in hospitality that connect the foodie movement with the good food movement. She also helps facilitate cross-country train trips for young innovators. On 4/20 a guy bought a bunch of MISFIT without our permission from our wholesale accounts, resold it with weed and then The Washington Post wrote about it.

Ann has spoken about food sustainability for the United Women in Business, The Advisory Board, University of Maryland Social Enterprise Symposium, Culinary Institute of America, the National Venture Capital Association, the Georgetown School of Continuing Studies and George Washington University. She has also moderated panels featuring the country’s best fast-casual entrepreneurs and DC’s best female farmers.

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Jeff Prost-Greene

Jeff Prost-Greene – Panelist

Jeff  is the Director of Operations for Up Top Acres. He has spent that last few years installing green roofs for one of the leading greenroof companies in the D.C. area, working at one of DC’s largest urban farms and serving as a Sustainable DC ambassador. Jeffrey studied business as an undergrad and while abroad, completed graduate courses where he led a team in conducting an extensive report on a business’ triple bottom line. Jeffrey brings a background in triple bottom line analysis, marketing, and experience working in a startup. Jeffrey graduated cum laude from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst with a Bachelor of Arts in Marketing.

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Jimmy Edgerton

Jimmy Edgerton – Panelist
Jimmy, the co-founder of WatUSee Foods, lives in Washington, DC, where he built a a sustainability focused real estate company as a licensed professional civil engineer. When not managing development projects, Jimmy utilized his personal training and nutritional consultant certifications, and passion for action, to local bootcamp workouts and organize urban triathlons. His goal has been to make the World a healthier, more sustainable place, so it is a natural fit to create and grow Watusee Foods’ business since 2013. “What you see is what you get” is the slogan of Watusee Foods to highlight their simple ingredients packed with protein, but also resonates with Jimmy’s core values of transparency and open communication.

Finalists from the MCN Sustainable Business Plan Collaboration

Finalist Presentations: 10:45am Saturday, October 1

jordan sawadogo

Jordan Sawadogo –
Finalist Presenter for Drink to Life

With parents from Midwest Iowa and Rural Burkina, Jordan Sawadogo spent his childhood shuttling back and forth between the United States and West Africa before settling in Maryland for high school and then attending Princeton University. At Princeton Jordan applied his longstanding interest in product design and chemistry to major in Chemical Engineering. From his senior thesis which examined novel desalination techniques to co-ops at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center which implemented new in-house analyses, Jordan brings a history of and passion for developing new technologies to Bébé Burkinabè

Post-graduation, Jordan worked as a field engineer in Ghana, Chad, and Equatorial Guinea before deciding to apply his engineering background in a more fulfilling manner through social entrepreneurship. Together with his classmate and co-founder, Justin Karfo,Jordan spent the past year traveling between Burkina Faso and the U.S. developing samples, completing field tests, securing vendors, and building a network of medical professionals who are just as passionate about improving maternal and child health as they are.

Jordan is currently pursuing an engineering MSc at Imperial College London as he continues to support product development at Bébé Burkinabè. He would also like to encourage other entrepreneurs (as well as mentors) to capitalize on MCN’s understanding of social enterprises, which has been instrumental in advancing Bébé Burkinabè’s mission.


Onur Unal – Finalist Presenter for Manta Biofuels

Born and raised in Turkey, Onur was always driven with passion to make a positive change that would affect many. He moved to the US for college to follow this dream. After studying genetics at UC Davis, Onur moved to PennState to do research in molecular biology. With a Master’s degree in Pharmacology and an MBA, Onur moved over to the business side and worked for various start-up biotechnology companies gaining valuable experience in management and entrepreneurship. He was quickly bitten by the entrepreneurship bug and went on to co-found start-ups in medical devices and software. Onur also worked in government and funding organizations, which he calls the “other side”.

At Manta Biofuel, Onur is now working towards commercializing a cost effective, renewable and carbon neutral replacement for crude oil, a precursor to most transportation fuels, essentially doing what he is most passionate about, making a positive impact.

Eric Katz

Eric Katz – Finalist Presenter for Kulisha

Eric is an undergraduate student in the Stephen M. Ross School of Business. Eric is interested in how business can integrate strategies to alleviate social issues into their business, which can improve business and contribute to communities. He co-founded Kulisha, a for profit social enterprise that is developing a system to grow insects en masse as an alternative protein for the Kenyan animal feeds market. He developed the idea for the venture while working on the Quinault Indian Nation with his co-founder and learning more about the issues facing the animal feed, particularly aquafeed, after working on their salmon hatchery.

Eric is from Grand Rapids, MI and is also passionate about the revitalization of Detroit. He has worked on a variety of projects in the city including consulting for the an education non-profit about creating an alumni outreach program, translating for Spanish speaking Detroiters at an NGO that gives free legal services to immigrants, and working for a digital advertising startup.


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Stefan Friedman: Judge

Stefan has more than a dozen years of venture capital experience, including management of an internet-startup incubator and a seed-stage investment fund. He has served as the MCN’s board chair, and is the coordinator of MCN’s Green Grab program.

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Dr. Wayne Curtis: Judge
Wayne Curtis, Ph.D is co-founder and managing partner of Curtis Concepts, LLC, an advisory services firm providing executive-level expertise in economic development, strategy, policy, and government relations. Curtis Concepts was part of a team that set up the US Treasury’s State Small Business Credit Initiative (SSBCI), a $1.5 billion targeted small business lending initiative. Dr. Curtis is on Mentor Capital Network’s Board of Directors.

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Dawn Edwards: Judge
Dawn has more than 25 years of institutional relationships formed through her work at global capital markets firms, nonprofit organizations, and her co-founder role in leading global business development, corporate engagement, and marketing strategy at Pomegranate Consulting. Most recently Dawn managed institutional investor and issuer relationships as Senior Managing Director of Institutional Markets at Mission Markets, an impact investing capital markets firm based in New York City. In 2006, Dawn co-founded AltruShare Securities, LLC, the first institutional brokerage firm specializing in community investment, and the only nonprofit owned brokerage firm. Dawn continues her passion for community service by serving on the board of the National Disability Institute, a leading advocacy group for disability policy in the United States.

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Ian T. Fisk

Ian Fisk: Executive Director of the Mentor Capital Network

As his role, Ian has been working to build the field of support systems for for-profit social entrepreneurs for more than fifteen years. This includes building a network for more than 1,000 mentors through the MCN, as well as industry research projects with Dr. Matt Lee, and coordinating projects for Wall Street Without Walls. He is active with organizations such as the Social Venture Network, Opportunity Collaboration, and Nexus, and has been recognized for his field-building work by Agora Partnerships and Conveners.org.