Emcee: Simone Ross
Simone D. Ross, a visionary leader and community builder, hails from Denver's Park Hill neighborhood in Colorado. Her passion for fostering human thriving through effective change management and community engagement has been the driving force behind her career and life. As CEO of the Colorado Women's Chamber of Commerce and Executive Director of the Colorado Women's Chamber Foundation, Simone is dedicated to advancing women in business and making Colorado #1 for women entrepreneurs. Additionally, she founded Simone D. Ross, LLC, a change management consulting firm, and serves as the CEO of SDR Events and Youth United University, an inclusive leadership program for middle school students. Simone's corporate background includes leadership roles at The Riveter, SCL Health, Delta Dental of Colorado, and Kaiser Permanente, where she played a pivotal role in business development and market expansion. Her academic achievements include an M.A. and M.B.A. from Colorado State University. Simone has earned numerous accolades, including recognition as an "Outstanding Women in Business" and "40 Under 40" honoree by the Denver Business Journal, Top 25 Most Powerful Women by the Colorado Women's Chamber of Commerce, and COBiz Gen XYZ Most Influential. Additionally, Simone has participated in Leadership Denver and the Colorado State Chamber of Commerce Executive Leadership Program. Simone serves on the Girls Inc. of Metro Denver, Colorado Enterprise Fund, and Centura Health Board of Directors. Above all, she takes great pride in her role as a mother to her two children, Gavin and Zoe, whose inspiration fuels her.
Keynote Speaker: Brian Lewandowski
Brian Lewandowski is the Executive Director of the Business Research Division at the Leeds School of Business, University of Colorado Boulder. Brian provides regional business and economic information and education, including economic and revenue forecasts, policy studies, economic impact analyses, and data workshops. Brian has 15 years’ experience conducting economic studies at CU Boulder. Prior to CU, he worked in both the private sector and government. He currently serves on the boards of the Denver Association of Business Economists and the Association for University Business and Economic Research and contributes to the Governor’s Revenue Estimating Advisory Committee
Keynote Speaker: Nancy Gedeon
Nancy Gedeon joined the State Demography Office in April 2020 as the Estimates Demographer, and produces population estimates for the State, counties, municipalities, and special districts that receive Conservation Trust Funds. She has a background in urban planning and experience with local government and community development from her 14 years as a demographic analyst for Douglas County, Colorado. Nancy has a bachelor's degree from Cornell University, a master's degree in urban planning and development from Cleveland State University, and is certified with the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP).
Panelist: Kat Cantillo
Kat hails from Colombia and has called the United States home for eight years. They have expertise in perishable and retail operations, focusing on financial matters. They are pursuing an MBA degree with a concentration in finance. Their commitment to environmental protection, promoting fairness, and serving their community is rooted in their environmental and energy resources engineering background. Kat serves as Capital Access Coach at Rocky Mountain MicroFinance Institute.
Panelist: Lisa Hudson
My calling card is empowering others, I love the ability to help people do what they are most passionate about to become their everyday. In my current position as Executive Director of the East CO SBDC, I help small business owners and entrepreneurs grow and thrive. My region covers 20 counties in Colorado. I love seeing how small businesses can support their local economy and really make a difference in their communities. Over the years I have helped my community develop and grow and I enjoy this in my role as the Executive Director of the East Colorado SBDC. The East Colorado SBDC is hosted by the Monfort College of Business at UNC, my alma mater.
Panelist: Tyler Parry
Tyler Parry is a Senior Vice President at FirstBank and has been with FirstBank for over 10 years. Tyler leads FirstBank’s business lending efforts for the South West Market of FirstBank and has experience with helping small business owners of all kinds who need a trusted banking partner. In addition to business banking, Tyler has experience with consumer, commercial, and construction financing. Tyler lives in Arvada, CO with his wife and two daughters.
Panelist: Renee Quintana
Renee Quintana is a small business relationship manager with Canvas Credit Union. She has been working with credit union members for over 10 years and loves finding solutions to help businesses thrive. Renee is an Innovation Lab Designer and a Picasso brand ambassador at Canvas Credit Union. She is a leader in business banking and loves helping her communities prosper. Renee believes that it takes a village to raise a good business and therefore will always help point business owners in the right direction.
When she is not working at Canvas, Renee is the Board President for Family Promise of Greater Denver, she is a serial entrepreneur and she enjoys traveling, sunshine, cycling and spending time with family.
Panelist: Jevon Taylor
A Denver native, Jevon's main passions lie in diversifying his impact within the community. As the CEO of Green Spaces, he is providing a platform to amplify the voices of local creatives and small businesses. Jevon is also spearheading various environmental and educational programs, working within school districts, and serving on RiNo'sBusiness Improvement District Board. His north star is to inspire continuous growth & positive change across the city of Denver for future generations.
Panelist: Angela Wells
Angela Wells is the owner of The Cake Bar, a 100% plant based bakery in downtown Denver. She started baking during the pandemic and turned her passion project into a thriving small business. Before working at The Cake Bar full time, Angela spent 15 years in the insurance industry as a Senior Territory Manager in the sales marketing division
Panelist: Steve White
Steve White is the Lead Lender Relations Specialist for the Colorado District Office of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). Steve began working for the SBA as a Lender Relations Specialist in the Colorado District Office in 2013. Steve was later promoted to Senior Area Manager for Western North Carolina prior to returning as the Lead Lender Relations Specialist for the Colorado District Office in 2017.
Steve’s experience with the SBA began in 1995 while working as a commercial loan packager for a privately owned bank in Tennessee. Steve also has a residential mortgage lending background.
Prior to working at the SBA, Steve served in the US Navy from August 1989 to June of 1995 and then Steve served again in the US Army from May 2003 to October 2012.
In between service in the Navy and the Army, Steve received his Bachelor of Arts from East Tennessee State University and his Master of Divinity from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY.
Breakout Presenter: Robert Anderson
Robert Anderson manages CEF's team of in-house small business consultants trained to help our borrowers succeed.He has a track record of small business success, identifying harmful constraints and implementing solutions to restore long-term organizational and financial health. Also served in various senior management roles in high-tech businesses with national and international presence. Is a lecturer in the Monfort College of Business at the University of Northern Colorado. Earned his Master of Arts degree in English from the University of Arkansas and an MBA from the University of Memphis.
Breakout Presenter: Bridgette Ferraro
Bridgette Ferraro, who currently serves as CEO of iCopy as well as owner of several other small businesses is an entrepreneur who gets excited about guiding other fledgling entrepreneurs to success. With experience guiding companies
anywhere from 1 employee to 60 employees, Bridgette has demonstrated success in visioncasting, establishing successful operating principles, and execution. As if running multiple businesses and consulting for dozens more aren't enough, Bridgette also home-schools her 3 daughters. She has served on the boards and at her church. Believe it or not,
this bio wasn't written by chat GPT. It was written by someone watching the unfolding of the whole journey. Her husband.
Breakout Presenter: Sonya Graywolf
Sonya Graywolf works part-time at CEF as a Business Navigator Quickbooks consultant, training people on Quickbooks Online as well as helping them with any problems that they’ve encountered in using Quickbooks. She enjoys empowering her CEF clients with Quickbooks Online as a tool to drive decisions for their businesses. Sonya has over 30 years experience in accounting while working in a variety of industries as a software developer, bookkeeper, accountant, and controller. Most recently, Sonya started her CPA firm in 2007 to help small businesses and individuals. Sonya earned her BS in Accounting from the University of Texas at Dallas and holds a current Colorado CPA license. When she can, Sonya enjoys hiking with her husband, two children and two dogs.
Breakout Presenter: Angel Johnson
Angel Johnson is the CEO and Founder of ICONI, a motivational and inclusive activewear line that champions confidence and community and donates 10% of profits to nonprofit organizations. Through her business, she empowers others with her philanthropy and her messaging of power, strength, and versatility. Angel's business ICONI was selected by Oprah
Winfrey to be featured on Oprah's Favorite Things 2020 in her first year of business, named as one of the Most Charitable Women's Activewear Brands by Women's Health Magazine, and is a semifinalist in Pharrell Williams’ Black Ambition Prize Competition 2023. Additionally, her business has been featured in Shape Magazine, Essence Magazine, People Magazine, Denver's 303 Magazine, and The Denver Post. Lastly, her business donated to nonprofit organizations throughout the pandemic including Clothes to Kids of Denver, The Food Bank of the Rockies, Girls on the Run of the Rockies, The Minnesota Freedom Fund, and My Sister's House -Charleston. Angel is an Air Force veteran and one of the first 100
Black Women to graduate from The Citadel, the Military College of South Carolina.
Breakout Presenter: Sarah Lehmann
Sarah Lehmann is Principal and Founder of Waypoint Collective, leading a team of senior-level strategists, creatives, project managers, and technical experts in executing strategic and creative branding solutions.
Sarah’s passion lies in serving as a thought partner for nonprofit, education, and social impact organizations helping them craft results that elevate their visibility, communicate their unique value, and achieve the key goals of their mission.
For nearly two decades, Sarah has specialized in brand strategy, communications, marketing, and donor relations for nonprofit and impact-driven organizations. Prior to launching Waypoint, Sarah was co-owner of Ebb+Flow Creative and prior to that served as the vice president of marketing and communications for the Denver Public Schools Foundation. It was there that she helped execute a strategy that realized 112 percent growth in fundraising revenue from $6.6 million to $14.1 million during her five-year tenure. Before moving to the greater Denver area, Sarah served as marketing and public relations manager at the Vail Valley Foundation. Sarah began her career in 2002 as a reporter for the Vail Daily, and still considers herself a journalist and storyteller at heart.
In her free time, Sarah’s passions include volunteering with youth development and educational organizations, supporting other women in business, championing breast cancer research, and working to break down the stigma around mental health. She can also be found hiking, skiing and cheering on her Tarheels (often slopeside) with her husband Jon, or simply soaking in the Colorado sky alongside her three dogs.
Breakout Presenter: Kristin McCarty
Kristin McCarty is a Lead Business Navigator for CEF, specializing in pre-loan support as well as finance and marketing support for our borrowers. She works closely with CEF clients and internal teams to identify issues holding up processes and helping all parties move forward to secure lending. Prior to working with CEF, Kristin spent 12 years in Wealth Management managing all aspects of finances for families and small businesses. Her passion for travel came from her time with Marriott International in various sales roles, the final one bringing her to Colorado in 2006 to open the Ritz-Carlton, Denver. Kristin holds a BS in Business Administration from University of Richmond, with concentrations in Marketing and International Business. When not helping CEF borrowers, you will find her on some sort of sports field, either cheering on her husband and two children in their endeavors or playing tennis in the summer and skiing in the winter.
Breakout Presenter: Olivia Omega
Olivia Omega is a branding strategist and seasoned entrepreneur with over 20 years of brand positioning, digital marketing, communications, and advertising experience across startup, nonprofit, public, and private sectors. She is currently the Senior Director of Marketing and Communications at the Denver Scholarship Foundation, a 501(c)(3) public charity whose mission is to inspire and empower Denver Public Schools’ students to achieve their college goals through college access, promise-based scholarships, and college success. Olivia serves a Board of Advisors member of the Presidents Leadership Class at the University of Colorado Boulder and is the Founder Track Chair for Denver Startup Week. As a TEDx speaker, diversity and inclusion advocate, and author, Olivia has studied the importance of authenticity for both brands and individuals and what it means to show up in a genuine way. Half of her career was spent at an advertising agency and the other 10 years as an entrepreneur and small business owner.
Breakout Presenter: Chalice Springfield
Chalice Springfield is a passionate and inspiring motivational speaker, personal coach, and trainer. She has over 20 years of expertise in the area of motivational speaking and received certified training as a personal coach. She has spoken at National Conferences and in Colorado for various groups, non-profits and businesses. Chalice believes in and embodies a life that is full of Mondo Beyondo possibilities where "daring greatly" and "being green and growing, not ripe and rotten" are routine items on her to-do list. She is the founder of Unstoppable Curiosity, a company dedicated to helping individuals and teams reach their full potential.
Breakout Presenter: Paul Weinrauch
Meet Paul D. Weinrauch, a passionate business owner hailing from beautiful Colorado. In '99, Paul sold everything he owned to hit the road, capturing his epic journey through a lens which ignited his passion for photography. While his photography skills let him express his creativity, Paul's true calling is to be of service to others.
When he's not buzzing around with a cup of coffee being the Department Chair of the Visual, Audio, & Media Arts Department at Red Rocks Community College or co-directing a non-profit, Colorado Art Awards Inc., Paul can be found capturing imagery for his commercial and advertising clients.
Occasionally Paul does need to unwind and on his time off, he goes for long runs, cooks up a storm in the kitchen, and spends quality time with his family and friends. During the summer (or winter), you'll likely find him scaling 14ers and taking in the stunning Colorado scenery.