Featured Guest: Michelle Goldblum

Michelle-34Michelle Goldblum believes in the power of joy to change the world. Her journey has taken her from her former life as a pharmaceutical branding exec to the co-founding of Soul Camp Creative, a full-service strategic branding agency for the wellness industry, and Soul Camp, all-inclusive mind/body/spirit day camps and overnights camps for adults.

Michelle and her Soul Camp co-founder Ali are campers at heart, both attending (the same!) sleepaway camp every single summer for 8 weeks from the age of nine. The few years’ difference in their age kept them in different universes altogether at camp, and it wasn’t until 15 years later, in 2013, when Ali spotted Michelle in a Facebook post featuring an intenSati flash mob in New York’s Union Square, that they actually met in person. Both Michelle & Ali were on their individual spiritual journeys and also owned branding businesses in the mind/body/spirit/wellness space – they quickly became best friends, business colleagues, and fellow travelers on the path to personal growth.

Michelle and Ali were at a retreat together when their old camp director messaged them on Facebook and broached the idea of bringing a small yoga group for adults to their childhood camp. The girls immediately felt the energy of Soul Camp take hold, and they began to dream up what a brand-new, grown-up version of summer camp could look like, complete with all of their favorite wellness clients & friends and without the loneliness or insecurity so many campers experience as children. The miracles, transformations and incredible community that was born at the first camp in 2014 woke the girls up to the deep knowing that this concept was much bigger than what either of them could have dreamed, and the rest, as they say, is history, err.. campstory! Upcoming Soul Camps are happening in New Jersey, Chicago, New York and California. More information via www.soul.camp.

Featured Guest: Jonathan Beninson

BeninsonJonathan is a serial social entrepreneur with several exits across multiple industries. In recent years, he has committed himself and his businesses to creating opportunity for innovators around the world, particularly those who have to go further to get a fair shot. He sits on several boards and has mentored hundreds of companies. His focus is on supporting females, youth, and minority entrepreneurs. Jonathan coined the phrase “whole entrepreneur mentorship,” which includes not just business advice, but “psycho-social-emotional” support as well.

Jonathan speaks and writes on the subjects of startup life, fundraising, and building community through collaboration. In 2014, he was awarded a fellowship through The Royal Society of Arts. In 2016, he was honored as a 40 Under 40 through the Center for Excellence. He is a member of Nexus, an international organization of wealth holders who have committed to use their resources in order to better the world.

Featured Guest: Alex Amouyel

unnamed-4-696x464Alex’s passions lie at the intersection of the private and non-profit sectors, whether it relates to social entrepreneurship and private capital solutions to global challenges, or driving efficiency and professionalization in the non-profit sector. Currently, Alex is the Executive Director of Solve, an initiative of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Solve is a community of cross-sector leaders devoted to identifying and supporting solutions to actionable challenges through open innovation. Previously, Alex was the Director of Program for the Clinton Global Initiative, where she curated the content for the Annual Meeting. She also worked for Save the Children International in London and across Asia, the Middle East and Haiti, and at the Boston Consulting Group. Alex holds a double Masters from Sciences Po, Paris, and the London School of Economics, and a Bachelors from Trinity College, Cambridge, UK.

Featured Guest: Joaquin Bartra

JOAQUIN HEADSHOTJoaquin’s background is extensive in many ways. His family came to the U.S. from Peru and continued to go back and forth 5-6 times a year throughout most of his childhood. His dad was entrenched in the Silicon Valley tech scene as a software engineer, and his sister founded a tech-centric marketing agency where he ended up working in a variety of roles from the time he was in college (effectively ending his brief stint in pre-med studies and leading to his degree in Communications) through his late twenties. He enjoyed DJing and the electronic music scene, becoming active in the community. He has no formal “business” education, but more than a decade of curiously business-like experience – consulting, networking, marketing, and promoting were all activities he engaged in incidentally while helping both theMIX agency clients and his personal musician friends reach their goals.

His life has molded him into a half- artist, half- businessperson, with an entrepreneurial instinct that comes from something bigger than business: a drive to help others achieve their vision both through creative guidance and logistical support. Though it was tough to leave his role as COO of theMIX agency after ten years growing with the company, (he’s always enjoyed working with his sister on their unique family business), he’s now managing artists at Mixed Management and helping grow a record label and clothing line in Los Angeles.

Featured Guest: Travis Sheridan

160224_STLMAGtravis1907Travis Sheridan is a born hustler. His background includes everything from military service and bank management to stand-up comedy and start-up consulting. He believes that innovation is for everyone:

“There are a lot of similarities between the guy who’s selling T-shirts with a clever logo and the guy who’s banging out code for a surefire app,’’ he says. “I see innovation as a process for improving the human condition in an unconditionally constructive way, and that applies to government services, education, the arts, lots of things beyond tech and biotech.”*

Travis is currently President of the CIC Venture Café Global Institute, headquartered in St. Louis. His eclectic background makes him a perfect fit for Venture Café, which exists to broaden, connect, and support the innovation community through a public network of spaces and programs to help anyone with an idea succeed.  Travis oversees Venture Cafés in St. Louis, Miami, Rotterdam, and Boston – new locations are being added each year.

*http://techli.com/2014/09/travis-sheridans-background-gives-new-meaning-to-the-word-eclectic/#. 

Featured Guest: Camilo Ferro

CamiloFerroCamilo comes from a family of entrepreneurs, and he grew up experiencing trial by fire as an operating standard. The path he took to co-founding his current company, Renew Packaging, was not for the faint of heart:

Following the collapse of his logistics company in the 2008 recession, in the midst of being evicted from his apartment and hiding his car from the repo man, he had a spark of inspiration. As he packed belongings into a friend’s leftover plastic bags, he began to wonder if he could sell advertising on shopping bags. Furthermore, he had recently read that San Francisco was banning plastic bags, a trend he guessed would catch on throughout the country, leading to a need for an inexpensive and sustainable material other than plastic – these ideas led to the establishment of a company that sold advertising spots on compostable bags.

Some time after that, an interesting opportunity befell Camilo – LinkedIn selected 16 members to attend a forum on small business in San Francisco featuring then-President Obama. The connections that resulted from that meeting eventually helped his business gain traction and, a few years later, transition away from selling advertising. His current company Renew Packaging, which operates with the dual mission of reducing the use of plastic in disposable products and promoting the practice of composting, manufactures to-go bags, trash liners, and other items to replace the plastic bags still used by so many businesses.Written in short format, Camilo’s story sounds like a streamlined success, but in fact it’s been nine long years of both triumph and failure since Camilo first mailed an envelope with his business idea to himself to protect his intellectual property. Yet, he is still pursuing his vision – and wants to inspire others to do the same.

Read an interview with Camilo here:  http://www.itsmylifeinc.com/2012/08/overnight-success/

Featured Guest: Olivia Byanyima

oliviaOlivia was born in Uganda, and raised in a family focused on change: her father through politics and her mother through social entrepreneurship. In 2003, she left her home country for the United States. Olivia’s path from there was shaped both by her parents’ changemaking legacy and her affinity for analytics. She received a Master’s degree in quantitative methods, which she used to work for HSBC and engage in the startup world. Her next stepping stone was an MBA at Columbia followed by a stint in investment banking. Her experience in the often-abstract banking world helped her realize that her vision for herself included the ability to make a more tangible, meaningful impact on the world.

Shortly afterward, Olivia met Shanley Knox. She was drawn to Shanley’s similar vision and complementary skills, and the two women founded Olivia Knox to create new luxury markets for products crafted from East Africa’s unique materials. They started with a rare type of horn from an indigenous cow called the Ankole, using it to make luxury eyewear, accessories and home goods, which ultimately improves the economic value of this culturally significant breed, and provides incentive for Ugandan ranchers to continue their ancient practice of raising the Ankole.

Additionally, Olivia is passionate about clean energy and consults on clean energy projects for the World Bank Group and other international organizations. She is currently working on an ambitious project to transition Africa’s population away from cooking with charcoal to using LPG, a cleaner cooking solution.

In her own words: I am an American and a “Muhima-kazi” (Muhima woman) and I split my time between both worlds. Being both things. I love the fast life of New York city where I live with my family; but in Uganda, I love to spend time on our family’s cattle ranch, reading a book or catching up with a village cousin; the sound of our cows in the distance ever present. Returning to this space never fails to put everything into perspective.