It takes a village, and that's why Twin Cities Startup week is proud to welcome the TCSW 2022 Steering Committee to the fold. By working with these valued community members, TCSW 2022 will be the best event yet.
Angel Even is the Founder & CEO of Led by TRUTH, a 501.c.3 nonprofit that supports Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) entrepreneurs by building their capabilities to become change agents in their communities. Led by TRUTH's individualized business coaching services and mentorship program has assisted in BIPOC entrepreneurs across the Twin Cities to build their confidence as CEOs, develop a plan & tactics to help deliver results, and be authentic to who they are & their story.
Angel also supports entrepreneurs in her role as the 2022 Entrepreneur in Residence at Lunar Startups, an organization that specializes in growth, connection, and innovation for Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC), LGBTQ+, women, and non-binary entrepreneurs. Prior to founding Led by TRUTH, Angel spent over 7.5+ years as a consultant that leveraged her skills around strategy, process improvement, and executive coaching to assist organizations in the development, implementation, and sustainment of strategic initiatives. Angel's approach to coaching & consulting with individuals stems from embracing a LEAN methodology. From coaching C-Level Executives on ways to streamline operations to overseeing a $6.9 million cost savings system initiative, she has incorporated the mindset of "thinking differently" to propel teams and organizations toward their goals.
Angel has learned that leaving behind parts of her knowledge for improvement, sharing lessons learned, and allowing teams to test fast, fail fast, and be motivated to try again is what sets her apart from others. Angel’s ability to inspire others to work with an entrepreneurial spirit has led to key organizational & personal growth for the leaders & teams.
Audra Robinson is Founder and CEO of Rocky Robinson Self-Care for Girls. An impact driven brand concepted during her time working in corporate marketing roles in the Twin Cities. Often “the only” or of “the few” in the room who looked like her, Audra wanted to shape the future with products that all girls love and use every day, leveraging the self-care platform and consumer packaged goods to create social impact and give back to local organizations that help Black and Brown girls dream the highest dream for their lives. Following a layoff in December 2019, Audra launched her business full time in March 2020. During her journey found her way to the Minnesota startup ecosystem through winning a Seed Spot pitch competition at FINNOVATION Lab, being accepted to Lunar Startups Accelerator Cohort 3, gaining Pro Bono support from Fueled Collective and Target, and resources and connections from organizations including Black Women’s Wealth Alliance, Neighborhood Development Center and SISG.
In the past 2.5 years, building a brand during the most tumultuous times of change in our cities, Audra has volunteered with Project Diva, Pimento Relief Services, Girls Taking Action, and local Public Schools, giving back monetary and in kind gifts of self-care products, and mentoring, committing thought leadership to help Minnesota become a model for the possibilities of what racial and economic equity, including the growth of Black owned businesses could look like in the future.
Ben Ihde found community among hackers and makers at the University of Minnesota and followed their lead into the startup ecosystem after graduating. Starting in 2017, he volunteered at TCSW while working on a social venture called Kaloli Energy and emceed the clean energy track at TCSW 2020.
Since November 2021, he has been the Coordinator of Forge North, a coalition of entrepreneurs, investors, enterprises, and support organizations committed to increasing racial equity, access to capital, and enterprise engagement in the MSP startup ecosystem.
Brad Otto is a senior associate at SpringTide Ventures where he supports the firm’s investment sourcing, diligence, and evaluation efforts. He is passionate about supporting health-tech founders. Prior to SpringTide, he was an associate on the corporate VC team at UnitedHealth Group where he helped launch a behavioral health startup. Brad earned his bachelor’s degree in finance from the University of Minnesota and his MBA from Harvard Business School.
Chelsea Plant is an investment manager with 3M Ventures, the venture capital arm of 3M, where she drives investments in early stage startups and enables collaboration with those startups across 3M’s portfolio.
Prior to 3M Ventures, Chelsea was an M&A investment banker with BMO Capital Markets and Tyton Partners. She also spent two years in a Corporate Development role at Apollo Education Group. She earned her bachelor’s degree in finance and international business from the University of Wisconsin – Madison (Go Badgers!) and her MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.
Connie Rutledge, CEO of FINNOVATION Lab, has over 20 years of experience in entrepreneurship and business management. Her experience includes all aspects of business including concept design, market analysis, fundraising, product development, operations, and strategic partnerships. In her current role, Connie has built the FINNOVATION Fellowship Program to incubate new social business leaders and their ideas, developed ImpactSKU to scale purpose-driven CPG brands, and created numerous workshops and events for entrepreneurs interested in social impact.
Prior to joining FINN Lab, Connie's experience ranges from bringing a consumer product to market with her husband, managing relationships and deals at a seed stage venture firm, building and delivering innovative experiential curriculum for both undergraduate and graduate students, to coordinating large scale events to bring makers, investors, entrepreneurs and artists together. Her passion is supporting innovators with practical advice and strategic analysis so they can recognize their vision in a socially responsible and financially sustainable way.
Connie holds a BA in sociology from the University of Tulsa and an MPA from the Humphrey School at the University of Minnesota.
Courtney McClimon helped start Avisen Legal, a boutique business law firm, as the Office Manager. She takes her passion for giving people the confidence they need to make changes in their lives and in the world and apply it in a new way.
Courtney is passionate about giving back, has volunteered with Dress for Success and Special Olympics, and has helped raise support for ALS research and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. She also sits on the board of a local dance company that specializes in movement rehabilitation. She graduated from Iowa State University with a Bachelors of Science in Fashion Merchandising, Design and Production and then obtained her post-baccalaureate degree in Paralegal Studies.
Courtney enjoys practicing yoga, ballroom dancing, going to concerts, and cheering on her favorite baseball team.
Dalton Scott is an empathic leader focused on empowering humans and organizations to be the best versions of themselves. He is the founder of Mesh, an ecosystem research and development company that is accelerating innovation through recruiting incredible humans to impactful missions and visions. He is motivated to cultivate a worldwide community who appreciates beauty, diversity, and authenticity through human connection and opportunity.
Dalton also believes in a work-life blend. Other aspects of his life include a passion for reintegrating nature into urban environments and inspiring a sense of wellness for humanity. Dalton is a yoga enthusiast, a mycophile, a tree hugger, an ecstatic dancer, and a passionate explorer of Earth.
The MSP community has been one filled with love, support, and fellowship for Dalton and he is excited about the opportunity to give back at TCSW. He and the entire Mesh team can’t wait to bring another cohort of cool humans to our region through the fly-in program this year!
Jeff Aguy believes the inclusive economy everyone deserves is not only possible but the likely outcome when we work together in private-public-philanthropic partnerships. His goal is to add $43 Billion to local U.S. economies by 2043 with $1 Billion allocated to Minneapolis-Saint Paul-Bloomington. He is the Founder & CEO for 2043 SBC, a data driven economic development firm at the intersection of capital, people, and infrastructure. Jeff is also a Founding Partner at NCXT, a global transformation technology firm specializing in research, strategy, and organizational change.
Kelli Nelson is a nonprofit leader with extensive experience at the intersection of workforce development and social enterprise. In addition to supporting the Impact Ecosystem work of Social Enterprise - Minneapolis St. Paul, she serves as Executive Director of From Mission to Mission, a national nonprofit dedicated to the formation of individuals and programs doing cross-cultural service work.
Kelli has experience working with social enterprises in the Twin Cities, Chicago, and internationally in Peru. She is passionate about worker justice, gets excited about sustainable swaps, will drink all of your coffee, and loves some quality family time.
Lisa Smith is the CEO and Founder of SMITH Company. As a COVID-prenure, SMITH Co’s goal is to support small to medium-sized professional service companies to thrive. Her vision is to leverage thirty years of design thinking, sales, marketing, and advertising experience to help companies sell better. As an entrepreneur herself, she constantly seeks opportunities to support the start-up community. Recently, she was the instructor for the Biz Smart Series for entrepreneurs through the Wisconsin Small Business Development Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Business.
When she is not running her business, volunteering, or teaching, Lisa follows her son’s journey as a professional jazz musician in the Midwest and enjoys living and working in Saint Paul.
Marlaina Love is a Software Project Manager for Danfoss (Autonomous Vehicles). Her prior experience includes 5+ years as a technical project management professional servicing many industries, including Data Migrations, Medical Device Technologies, Retail, Supply Chain and Manufacturing. She is passionate about serving her community, living the motto "Paying It Forward." Marlaina is the current chapter president for Blacks in Technology - Twin Cities, a global non-profit organization with over 11,000 members, providing support and resources for existing and future technology professionals. She is also the CEO & Founder of Pipe Dream Academy, an EdTech platform empowering learners to explore affordable, alternative pathways to a more fulfilling and meaningful career.
Michael Abata is a consumer futurist and brand marketer at the retail startup CAMP. He formally worked at Target volunteering with the Target Accelerator program. He is passionate about showcasing the value of the North and spends his time outside of work volunteering with Twin Cities small businesses to help them grow. Michael also sits on the advisory board for FashionWeek MN.
Michael lives in South Minneapolis with his husband Joel and Jack Russell Terrier, Jett. He’s a huge fan of yoga, dining out, live theater, and staying curious. Michael is excited to bring his creative energy and curious thinking to Twin Cities Startup Week.
Hi! My name is Rica, like Costa Rica. I am a Community Manager for all WeWork facilities and operations in Minneapolis. WeWork was founded in New York in 2010 with the goal of offering coworking spaces to entrepreneurs, startup companies, freelancers, and even larger enterprises. We are one of the largest global workplace providers, with over 700 locations worldwide and employing thousands of exceptional employees.
I am passionate about empowering others to reach new heights and strive to have outstanding expectations of themselves. I also value implementing an inclusive community by participating in organizations that support DEI initiatives to improve resources and support systems. Last year at WeWork, I was recognized for accepting the Culture Ambassador Award, a global recognition program designed to acknowledge employees of the organization who have a continued impact on culture and business outcomes.
Outside of work, I recently became a first-time homeowner. You can find me on weekends working on home remodeling projects with my roommate/cat Otto, checking out the latest art exhibits, and cruising around the chain of lakes on my moped.
Zack Steven is CEO of Cloudburst, SBC and a Partner at Monkey Island Ventures. He is a lifelong entrepreneur and leader whose experience spans sales, operations, finance, and product development and ranges from startups to private equity and public companies. He is passionate about good design, big ideas, and strong communities, with particular interest at the intersection of entrepreneurship, tech, equity, and art.