Marieka Walsh serves as the Project Manager at AEO. She is responsible for implementing AEO’s enterprise-wide project management framework, managing cross-departmental projects and collaborating with project owners to drive projects to completion. She also advises departments on project management best practices to ensure projects are completed in an effective and efficient manner.
Marieka offers eight years of global project management experience in the non-profit sector from both a professional and academic perspective. During her five years at PYXERA Global she managed innovative social impact programs and team-based projects with Fortune Global 500 companies that took place across India, Brazil, and the United States. Her corporate clients included Mastercard, Medtronic, and IBM. Most recently she led client management activities of Mastercard’s pro bono portfolio and in 2020 successfully launched and implemented two new pro bono programs, one of which was focused on engaging employees in skills-based projects with non-profits on the frontlines of racial justice in the United States. For nearly three years she served as the India Desk Officer where she acted as the HQ-based resource supporting India staff with program management and business development through business process roll out and training.
Prior to that Marieka managed student support for Alternative Breaks service-learning programs at American University, served as a Peace Corps Community Health Volunteer in Mozambique, and taught English in the Republic of Georgia. Marieka holds a MA in Public Administration with a concentration in Non-profit Management from American University and a BA in International Relations and minor in Economics from Mount Holyoke College. She is proficient in Portuguese.
Marieka is passionate about the non-profit sector and the power of organizations like AEO to help communities thrive. Currently she is the Community Relations Volunteer for the Center for Nonprofit Excellence and independently produces thought leadership content about how public, private and social sectors can and are collaborating to solve global challenges.
Sara Youmans serves as the Community Engagement Manager at AEO. In her role, she works with the Marketing and Communications team to facilitate relationships with members and organize engagement activities. She is passionate about bringing her skills to the nonprofit and microbusiness sectors.
Prior to joining AEO Sara was the Community Support and Engagement intern at Kiva Microfunds where she focused primarily on customer service and portfolio management. Prior to joining the nonprofit sector, she taught preschool in a Reggio Amelia style classroom in Ketchum, Idaho.
Sara is an alumnus of Whitman College where she earned a B.A. in History. Sara is an Idaho native, but now lives and works in Portland, OR. In her spare time, she races her road bike for Orion Racing, a women’s team based in Minnesota and Colorado.
Head of Small Business Growth Philanthropy, Wells Fargo
Flores is responsible for shaping the Wells Fargo’s small business growth philanthropy aimed at helping entrepreneurs access capital and technical assistance so they can expand their impact on the economy and ability to provide jobs.
She has more than 20 years of experience overseeing philanthropic investments, employee engagement and corporate citizenship initiatives. Most recently, she was head of community affairs and corporate social responsibility at Bank of the West, where she led the company’s strategy for small business engagement and impact including the creation of a new $30 million investment fund with community development financial institutions for small business owners. In addition, Flores advocated for an enterprise small business strategy in support of women entrepreneurs, resulting in a coordinated effort across the bank’s resources to provide female founders with access to capital, tailored mentorship and networks needed to scale revenue. Flores also launched a partnership with the Sustainable Ocean Alliance to accelerate the growth of innovative businesses focused on using the latest technology to protect the health of the ocean and the environment.
Prior to Bank of the West, Flores spent a decade in community development at Citigroup, and also held roles at the Congress of California Seniors, Greenlining Institute, and the California State Legislature.
She currently serves as a mentor with the Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center’s Milestone Makers Program and sits on the board of directors for the Ocean Conservancy. Flores received a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of California–Berkeley and a master’s degree from the FW Olin Graduate School of Business at Babson College in Wellesley, Massachusetts.
Jon Doody serves as the Innovation Program Coordinator at AEO. In his role at AEO, Jon leads the planning and coordination of the programs, pilots, events, and activities of the Innovation Hub team.
Prior to joining the AEO team, Jon served overseas in Namibia as a Community Economic Development Volunteer for the Peace Corps. He has extensive experience as an Operations Specialist in the fields of Logistics and Finance.
Jon is a native of Long Island, New York but has now lived most of his life in East Tennessee. He holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from East Tennessee State University.
Dedrick Asante-Muhammad is Chief of Race, Wealth and Community at the National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC). He oversees NCRC’s Fair Housing, Fair Lending and Small Business programs. Dedrick is known for his racial economic inequality analysis particularly as it relates to the racial wealth divide.
Dedrick comes from Prosperity Now where he was Senior Fellow and founder of the Racial Wealth Divide Initiative. Before Prosperity Now, Dedrick worked for the NAACP, where he was the Senior Director of the Economic Department and Executive Director of the Financial Freedom Center. Dedrick has also worked for Reverend Al Sharpton’s National Action Network and the Institute for Policy Studies.
Chris Wheat is the Director of Business Research for the JPMorgan Chase Institute. Prior to joining JPMCI, Chris served as the Director of Analytics at a financial technology startup, where he led the development of advanced analytics algorithms. He previously was an Assistant Professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management and at the Center for Urban Entrepreneurship and Economic Development at Rutgers Business School. As a faculty member, he taught and researched topics in strategy, entrepreneurship, global microfinance, economic sociology, and social network analysis.
Chris earned a B.S.E. in Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering from Princeton University, an M.S. in Computer Science from Stanford University, an M.A. in Sociology from Harvard University, and a Ph.D. in Organizational Behavior from Harvard University.
Stark has a 35-year tenure in the community and economic development field. Before coming to Community Strategy Solutions, she directed Enterprise & Economic Development at the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED) in Washington, D.C. Stark’s previous affiliations include the Rural Policy Research Institute, the National Center for Small Communities, and The Aspen Institute. She holds a M.S. in Public Financial Management from The American University and a B.S. in Community Organizing and Public Policy from Cornell University.
With over 25 years of organizational development and nonprofit leadership/management, Patricia Harris has accumulated a depth of experience in nonprofit management, outcome-based strategic planning, nonprofit board governance development, organizational turnaround process, organizational capacity building, community development, and microbusiness development. Patricia has numerous national awards and accolades attesting her leadership and service to the nonprofit sector. Harris Consulting Group is a family owned business and has been in operation since 1990.
Jared Gleue, Community Development Officer for Utah and Wyoming for Wells Fargo Bank, has been in banking and finance for over 40 years. He started out collecting on defaulted loans, and has worked in UT, AZ, WY and now back in UT.
During this time, he has enjoyed varied experiences in banking. He worked in the business banking area and enjoys meeting small business owners, learning what they do, feeling their passion for their work, and helping them succeed financially by providing financial tools to help them run their business. He and his family owned a small business in Wyoming, a cabinet shop, and experienced the challenges and opportunities that an entrepreneur goes through.
He has enjoyed his years in community development, especially seeing nonprofits in the community as they work to help those in need. He is impressed by the dedication, determination, and creativity of nonprofit leaders who give so much of their time and resources. They are an amazing group! He covers the states of Utah and Wyoming. It’s a fun job and one that lets him see the hard work of the nonprofits and also the willingness of team members to get out and volunteer.
Jared enjoys working with AEO and supporting their great work in helping diverse small businesses succeed.
Tanya Hughes is a partner within the Banking, Insurance & Capital Markets practice, based out of Washington D.C. As a dynamic, passionate and innovative leader with more than 20 years of financial services experience, Tanya has worked with some of the largest global financial institutions. She leverages a strategic background in technology and operations to help clients to effectively enable their businesses by providing expertise and solutions in the areas of: digital, payments, core banking, robotic process automation, business process outsourcing, regulatory and compliance, as well as advisory consulting
Prior to joining Guidehouse, Hughes was a Managing Director at FIS, where she spent over 10 years advising clients on strategic initiatives to modernize and consolidate their legacy systems across core, eBanking, payments and infrastructure environments as they looked to enhance and simplify their customer experiences. She also has extensive experience working with third party oversight and vendor risk management functions related to the enablement of new technologies.
Ron Fong leads the Asian Pacific Islander Small Business Program (APISBP), which provides bilingual technical assistance to thousands of entrepreneurs, to help them start or expand their small and micro businesses. APISBP is a collaboration of five community-based organizations, formed to assist the development of small and micro businesses in Los Angeles with a particular focus on low-income immigrants of Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Korean and Thai descent.
Fong has established himself and the organization as a voice for low-income Asian immigrant entrepreneurs. He has over 30 years of community economic development, housing finance, and city planning experience. Prior to serving at APISBP, Fong directed small business assistance, land use, and urban planning initiatives for the Little Tokyo Service Center as part of their community economic development strategy. He previously served as the Community Development Director for the Fannie Mae Western Regional Office. Fong also directed the Los Angeles office of the California Housing Partnership Corporation, a statewide nonprofit that provides affordable housing financial consulting services. He has also worked for redevelopment agencies in Boston and St. Louis.
Fong has been elected three times to represent Little Tokyo on the Historic Cultural Neighborhood Council in the City of Los Angeles, and recently chaired Union Bank’s Community Advisory Board. Fong received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Architecture from the University of California, Berkeley and studied at the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Jen Faigel is a co-founder of the former CropCircle Kitchen, now CommonWealth Kitchen, and stepped in as Executive Director in 2014. Jen is responsible for setting organizational strategy, raising funds, wrangling staff and businesses, developing and managing strategic partnerships, and generally managing the chaos. Jen’s background is in real estate and community economic development. She was the lead real estate consultant for the $15 million Pearl project, which is now home to CWK’s flagship kitchen operation. In her career, Jen has developed more than 400 affordable homes and over 225,000 SF of commercial real estate – worth over $200m – as a means to create jobs and economic opportunity. Her motto in life is- “If you can’t ride two horse at the same time, then you shouldn’t be in the circus!” Jen’s all-time favorite food is white clam pizza from Pepe’s in New Haven.
Byna Elliott is a community reinvestment professional with over 20 years of experience. As the Senior Vice President and Director of Community and Economic Development for Fifth Third Bank, Elliot oversees its landmark $30 Billion Community Commitment. She started her career at the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency in 1993, where she spent five years administering all aspects of consumer compliance programs and Community Reinvestment Act initiatives. Elliott moved into the financial services industry in 1998, and in 2001 she launched her tenure with Fifth Third Bank, a $141 billion financial services company with retail presence is Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, Florida, Indiana, Georgia, Kentucky, West Virginia, Tennessee and North Carolina.
Elliott holds a B.B.A. Business Administration from Eastern Michigan University and a Boston College Corporate Citizenship Certificate. Her professional and civic positions include: Chairperson, Greater Works Foundation (GWF); Board & Trustee, St. Joseph Mercy Oakland; Board Member, Habitat for Humanity; Board Member, Wayne County Development Entity; Board Member, Woodstock Institute (Chicago); and Task Force Member, Detroit Neighborhood Forum.
Daniel Delehanty has been a leader in the field of community development for over 20 years. Delehanty launched his career international development at Trickle Up, where he led microenterprise efforts in Africa before serving as Deputy Executive Director. Later, he turned his attention to community development in the U.S., where he served as Deputy Executive Director with the Business Outreach Center Network in Brooklyn.
Delehanty later transitioned to the public sector, serving as the Director of the Community Affairs Unit at the New York State Department of Financial Services. There, he focused on facilitating partnerships between banks and community groups related to affordable housing, financial education, and small business development. He also spearheaded the Banking Development District Program, which focused on bringing banking services to underserved areas.
In 2006, Daniel returned to the private sector as a Senior Director on Capital One’s Community Development Banking team, where he was responsible for community ans small business development activities nationally and regionally. In 2016, Daniel joined BNB Bank as CRA Officer and Director of Community Development.
A resident of Queens, NY, Delehanty is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of SUNY at Stony Brook and attended graduate school at Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs.
For more than 20 years, Gary L. Cunningham has served as a top leader of philanthropic, health care, public policy and educational organizations. Cunningham comes to Prosperity Now from MEDA, where he served as President and CEO from 2014 – 2019. At MEDA, he was committed to addressing racial economic inequities by fostering minority business development in Minnesota through MEDA’s proven market-based solutions.
Prior to joining MEDA, Cunningham served as Vice President and Chief Program Officer for the Northwest Area Foundation and as the President and Chief Executive Officer for NorthPoint Health and Wellness Center in Minneapolis. Currently, he serves on multiple boards, including: Co-chair, African American Leadership Forum; Board Chair, Association of Black Foundation Executives; Board Member, Corporation for Enterprise Development; Board Member, GREATER MSP; and Council Member, Metropolitan Council in the Twin Cities.
Cunningham has been locally and nationally recognized throughout his career for his commitment to civil rights, education, and public policy.
Brandie Conforti is the Global Chief Development Officer for JA Worldwide, having built a career as a trusted leader in the nonprofit industry over 15 years. During the eight years prior to joining JA, she focused her energies on building major, multi-million dollar partnerships in international and economic development. Most recently, she served as Vice President, Institutional Partnerships, at Accion, a global leader in financial inclusion, where she oversaw all aspects of fundraising from corporations, foundations, and public institutions. She also served as a member of Accion’s Management Committee.
Brandie launched her nonprofit career at World Boston, a World Affairs Council affiliate, whose mission is to educate the public about issues of global importance. Having started as a program manager at the organization, after two years she was promoted to the role of Executive Director, where she reinvigorated the organization financially and programmatically.
Brandie received a BA in Political Science from the College of the Holy Cross with an emphasis on Middle Eastern Studies. She also completed the Harvard Business School-Accion Program on Strategic Leadership in Inclusive Finance.
Joshua Brackett is the CFO of Access to Capital for Entrepreneurs (ACE), where he oversees finance, accounting, compliance and loan collection. Under his direction, ACE became nationally accredited and successfully secured debt capital from Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, PNC Bank, FHLBA, and Hamilton State Bank after undergoing rigorous due diligence processes by each institution. Brackett is a Babson College 10,000 Small Businesses Alumni and served on the Aeris Rating Advisory Board and the OFN “Performance Counts” CFO Working Group. He also successfully completed the Community Bankers Association consumer lending school. A graduate of Berry College, where he earned a BS in Business Administration, Brackett has served in banking with experience as a loan collector/auditor, financial analyst, and finance manager with several community banks.
Ms. Batten joined the Association of Black Foundation Executives (ABFE) as President and CEO in January 2009. ABFE’s mission is to promote effective and responsive philanthropy in Black Communities and counts among its members some of the most influential staff, trustees and donors of grantmaking institutions in the U.S. Under her leadership, ABFE has expanded its base of programming and membership across the country.
Prior to joining ABFE, Ms. Batten was a Senior Associate with the Annie E. Casey Foundation. At Casey, Ms. Batten served as staff in the Community Change Initiatives Unit which provided investments to help transform neighborhoods into family supportive environments. She also coordinated a portfolio on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion where she worked across the Foundation to strengthen its’ focus on addressing racial disparities. Her duties also included assisting Casey in its efforts to build and employ equitable and inclusive management and administrative practices (workforce diversity, grantee diversity, vendor practices, etc.). Prior to working in philanthropy, Ms. Batten held leadership positions in both federal and city government.
She is a co-founder of the Race and Equity in Philanthropy Group and serves on the board of the United Philanthropy Forum. Ms. Batten received her Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Political Science from Fisk University, and her Masters of Social Work degree from Howard University in Washington, D.C.
Courtney Robinson serves as the Financial Inclusion Lead for Square. Previously she was the Senior Counsel on the House Financial Services Committee, where she worked closely with Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA). At Square she works on issues critical to underserved communities and financial services policy development, particularly related to equal access to banking services and the broader financial system. She is a graduate of North Carolina Central University and American University.
With over 20 years of experience in non-profit management, and fund development, Jose Martinez serves as both Executive Vice President of Economic Development, and President of Prestamos CDFI, LLC. Mr. Martinez is responsible for the strategic direction and oversight of Prestamos – a subsidiary lending division of Chicanos Por La Causa, and also leads CPLC’s strategy to improve economic conditions in low-income communities by providing investments and services that lead to job creation and economic prosperity. Mr. Martinez also provides strategic direction for CPLC’s Opportunity Zone initiative.
Under his leadership, Prestamos has more than tripled its annual lending, deploying over $89 million (2011-2018), and has led the institution in providing access to capital and technical support to small businesses and economic development projects in Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico and Texas. In 2018, Mr. Martinez had recorded and managed a portfolio of over $52 million in assets.
Mr. Martinez has dedicated over 20 years to CPLC in various capacities, including his service as Vice President of Strategic Initiatives. Throughout his career, he has raised over $165 million for CPLC programs and joint ventures.
Mr. Martinez holds both a bachelor’s degree in Communication and a Master’s in Business Administration from Arizona State University.
Lenwood has more than twenty-five years of experience in community economic development, human resources and business management. He has held leadership positions in a variety of organizations, including statewide economic and community development agencies, national consulting firms, and nonprofit organizations. Lenwood also served as the Minority Affairs Assistant in the Office of former North Carolina Governor James E. Holshouser and the Chief of Staff for former Congresswoman Eva M. Clayton.
Most recently, Mr. Long, was the President/CEO of Carolina Small Business Development Fund (CSBDF), a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) and statewide nonprofit organization. The mission of Carolina Small Business is to foster economic development in underserved communities by providing capital, business services and policy research to support small businesses. Lenwood presently serves as the President of BV&L Associates, Inc.
Gustavo is a seasoned microfinance practitioner passionate about advancing opportunities for underserved communities through capital. Prior to becoming President and CEO of PeopleFund he held leadership positions with top-tier community lenders where he was instrumental in their growth at a national level. Highlights of his career include: the development of LiftFund’s MMS – an early “lending as a service” platform tailored to microlending in the US; the financial engineering of a $30M asset purchase agreement between LiftFund and Citibank – a first in US microlending; the expansion of Oportun (from 35 to 85 stores) where he was directly responsible for the production of 20,000 loans per month; he redefined the CFO role for Opportunity Fund and put together credit facilities that helped the organization become the largest non-profit microlender in US. Most recently he co-founded and managed Listo, an organization providing financial products and services to thousands in California. Gustavo has served on the boards of Opportunity Finance Network, Foundation for Women and School of Excellence – San Antonio and holds a Master’s Degree in Business Administration from the University of Texas at Austin.
Innovation Program Manager
Diane Reinhold is the Innovation Program Manager at AEO. In her role, she researches, convenes, and incubates innovative projects. A critical component of Reinhold’s role is planning, overseeing, and leading the development of new services from ideation through completion. She works closely with our partners and members from the initial development phase through implementation.
Prior to AEO, Reinhold held a variety of commercialization and innovation roles at the Center for Creative Leadership. She was responsible for the development of new offerings ranging from complex organizational development initiatives to individual leadership development programs to simple digital tools. During her tenure at CCL, Reinhold created not only new offerings but researched what made learning stick and created a model that became the foundation of all of the Center’s programs. She led the Language Strategy Initiative which enabled CCL to deliver programs in multiple languages; attracting and retaining over $20M in business. She also successfully launched offices in Europe and Asia extending the Center’s reach around the globe. Her areas of expertise include boundary spanning leadership, learning transfer, and action learning. While at CCL, Reinhold helped develop new business models that enabled CCL to serve entrepreneurs and contract workers, as well as non-profits and Faith-based organizations.
Reinhold has broad experience in product and service development. She has worked to develop new products and services for educational, technical, medical, and financial organizations. Reinhold holds three degrees – an MBA from Fairleigh Dickenson and two Bachelor’s degrees from Lehigh University, one in Chemistry and the other in Technical Writing.
Director, Marketing & Communications
Rosalie “Rosie” Judd comes to AEO with over 15 years of Marketing and Communications experience, primarily in the digital marketing space. Rosie is passionate about applying her skills to the non-profit community and has dedicated over 6 years of her career to leading the digital marketing teams at both Georgia Aquarium and the Shepherd Center, a non-profit hospital dedicated to brain and spinal cord injury. Other previous roles include digital marketing positions within the travel and retail industries at Delta Air Lines, Petco, InterContinental Hotels Group, and AirTran Airways.
Rosie is a marketing and communications expert dedicated to crafting the ultimate brand and organization experience using behavior and analysis to drive innovative content and strategies. Rosie specializes in member lifecycle development and designing omni-channel experiences that both attract and retain members while also delivering continuous improvements and increased engagement. Her ability to develop new channels, new best practices, and new audience segments has resulted in numerous successes and awards throughout her career, including Atlanta Marketer of the Year in 2013 for a Georgia Aquarium social media campaign.
Rosie also believes strongly believes in servant leadership and participates in many speaking opportunities and mentorship projects for marketing students and entry-level marketers throughout the year. The internship program that she developed at Georgia Aquarium has placed her former interns at well-respected companies throughout the east coast, including Georgia-Pacific, The Home Depot, Arby’s, Delta Air Lines, and ListenFirst Agency. As a highly engaging speaker, she has also had the opportunity to present her strategies and leadership style at several esteemed marketing conferences, including IBM Think Digital, Dreamforce, and SXSW and has served on many local marketing panels in the Atlanta Marketing community.
Rosie is an alumnus of Oberlin College in Ohio where she completed a B.A in Medieval History, while also concurrently minoring in Politics, Russian Studies, and Art History. Rosie is an Atlanta native, where she currently lives and works while restoring her grandparents 100-year-old home in South Atlanta and volunteers with the High Museum of Art, Dauphin Island Bird Sanctuaries, and the Atlanta Community Food Bank. In her free time, she enjoys live music, swing dancing, and travelling to see museums and historic sites.
Veronica Maturino is the Executive Director of ONABEN, a national nonprofit dedicated to growing the economies of Indigenous peoples. Responsible for overseeing the organization’s operations and acting as ONABENs spokesperson, she also manages the training programs associated with the organization.
Previously, Maturino led the Cherokee Nation Economic Development Trust Authority, an Oklahoma-based, Native CDFI. An advocate for small business creation and economic development, Maturino was named the 2010 Minority Business Advocate of the Year by the Native American Business Enterprise Center, a facet of the Minority Business Development Agency. She has also been recognized twice as a 40 Under 40 winner by the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development. With a background in marketing and public relations, Maturino works to create opportunities for Indigenous-owned businesses to grow and prosper. Over the course of her career, Maturino has created a network of opportunities designed to enhance business development within Native American communities.
Veronica is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, where she formerly served as a member of tribal government and engaged in economic development and private and Tribal public relations and communications.
Germaine McIver-Cherry serves as the Innovation Program Coordinator at AEO. Germaine joins the team with extensive knowledge and experience in serving underserved entrepreneurs through technical assistance, program development, training and mentoring. She is an experienced banker, social worker, and entrepreneur who leverages her practical knowledge to enhance impact in underserved communities.
She is a highly organized project administrator skilled at synthesizing information and tasks to achieve organizational goals. She has previous work experience working with small business owners by providing end-to-end technical assistance, as well as, coaching to help nurture, grow and strengthen entrepreneurs along their journey to achieve maximum business success.
Prior to joining the AEO team, Germaine served as the Director of the Innovation & Entrepreneurship Center (IEC) where her responsibilities included managing the day-to-day operations of the site, developing strategic and sustainable partnerships, developing and managing various entrepreneurial programs and workshops, supervising student interns, and supporting the business services team across the state of NC.
Germaine earned both a BSW and MSW degree from North Carolina Central University. She has served as an independent consultant for The Support Center, Project Support Team Coordinator for Frontline Solutions International, LLC, and various positions at SunTrust Bank. She has volunteered time as a Parent-Family Engagement Consultant for Village of Wisdom and serves as a ministry leader at Impact Church of Durham. She has a heart to serve the underserved and a passion to help others which truly motivates her in this body of work.
Jamon Phenix works on the Advocacy team at AEO. In his role, he assists AEO’s Advocacy Director with government relations in connecting, maintaining, and strengthening relationships with elected officials and government agencies, while also advocating for AEO priorities and special initiatives.
Previously, Jamon worked in communications at a political-style firm in Virginia, as well as a district and federal offices for two Virginia Members of Congress. Jamon has worked as a political campaign manager in local and state electoral campaigns. Additionally, he served as his college student body president.
Jamon is a native of Atlanta, Georgia. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in History and Political Science from Virginia Union University in Richmond, Virginia.
Jessica Milli, Ph.D., is an Economist and Research Director at AEO. In her role at AEO, she collaborates with senior management to develop the organization’s research agenda, ensuring that it is innovative, compelling, and drives engagement with AEO. Dr. Milli engages in research throughout the innovation cycle, including exploratory research on underserved entrepreneurs and impact evaluations of programs serving microbusiness. A key component of this work is communicating the findings of AEO’s research in a way that is accessible to diverse audiences and that has clear recommendations.
Prior to joining AEO, Dr. Milli was a Study Director at the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR), the leading think tank in the United States that focuses primarily on policy research through a gendered lens. At IWPR, she led the Institute’s work on women in business and STEM fields and diversity in corporate leadership. She also managed IWPR’s portfolio of paid sick days technical assistance projects, which produced research that informed the passage of laws in nine states and 14 cities and counties across the country. As a representative of IWPR, she presented her research at events across the country and her research was widely cited in national press, including Bloomberg, The Atlantic, and MarketWatch.
Before launching her career in public policy research, Dr. Milli taught economics courses ranging from principles of microeconomics and economic statistics to game theory and labor economics at several institutions, including as a Visiting Assistant Professor at Randolph College in Lynchburg, Virginia. During her year there, she developed several new courses, including one course that was inspired by her passion for women’s issues, called “Women in the Global Economy.”
Dr. Milli received her Ph.D. in Economics from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. During her studies, she applied her focus of Labor Economics to relationships within households and what economic factors put women at more risk of experiencing domestic violence. Her dissertation analyzed the complex relationship between domestic violence and various measures of women’s socioeconomic status, such as welfare receipt and employment.
Melissa L. Bradley is Managing Director of Project 500 – accelerating new majority entrepreneurs from high potential to high growth. She is also an adjunct professor at the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University where she teaches impact investing, social entrepreneurship, P2P economies and innovation.
Melissa is also the Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Sidecar Social Finance, a social impact agency that provides impact investing advisory and capital services to individuals, institutions, and social enterprises. She is also a Nonresident Senior Fellow in the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution and Co-Chair of the National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship (NACIE) appointed by Secretary Penny Pritzker from the Department of Commerce.
Melissa currently serves as a Board Member for The Reinvestment Fund, as well as an advisor to Wallet AI and the Center for the Advancement of Social Enterprise (CASE) at Duke University. She is a Founding Advisor to the Dell Center for Entrepreneurs as well as a Senator with the Board of Governors at Georgetown University. She is also Founder and Former Chair of the Georgetown Entrepreneurship Alliance; Founding Member, The Woodhull Institute for Ethical Leadership; and Founding Advisor to LGBTQ Center at Georgetown University.
Roberto Barragan is the President of Northern California Community Loan Fund, where he is focused on formulating Community Reinvestment Act solutions for financial institutions, raising small business loan capital and grant support for Community Development Financial Institutions and originating and funding small business loans to women and minority owned small businesses in low and moderate income communities nationally. For the past 17 years, Barragan was the President of Valley Economic Development Center (VEDC). During his tenure, he led a team that served over 3,000 businesses yearly with financing and technical assistance, while amassing $70 million in assets and a small business loan portfolio of $35 million. Mr. Barragan is also the founder of two organizations: the San Fernando Valley Financial Development Corporation, a SBA 504 lender, and Pacoima Development Federal Credit Union.
Barragan has over 30 years experience in nonprofit management, with the last 20 years dedicated to community economic development and technical assistance for profitable and nonprofit entities. He is a nationally recognized expert on loan funds and microlending, and is a regular lecturer and media expert on these subjects. Barragan holds a Bachelor of Arts from Princeton University and studied Marketing and Real Estate Financing at the University of California, Berkeley’s Hass School of Business Administration.
Hyacinth Vassell is the Vice President of Innovation Engineering. In her role, she oversees and develops strategies across programmatic, research, and advocacy initiatives organization-wide. A critical component of Vassell’s role is leading teams in multiple complex problems that create and develop standards, models, and tools for technical assistance solutions. In the post, Vassell is also responsible for shaping new initiatives, as well as building and managing philanthropic and partner relationships.
Prior to AEO, Vassell was the Director of the Inner City Capital Connections program at Initiative for a Competitive Inner City (ICIC). She was responsible for the development of the program’s scope, strategy, and content. During her tenure, Vassell created and oversaw the CEO Series, which provides online cutting-edge content for CEOs across the U.S. She also successfully developed and scaled the Inner City Capital Connections program to 10 cities and connected a nationwide network of capital providers, which made almost $1.5 billion of debt and equity capital available to program participants. While at ICIC, Vassell helped participants develop business strategies that enabled them to create almost 16,000 jobs in underserved communities.
Vassell also has broad experience as a senior business consultant. She worked with firms such as Arthur Andersen and Accenture, leading diverse project portfolios in re-engineering, process improvement, and change management. Vassell has worked in the telecom, industrial and consumer products, information technology, health care, entertainment, hospitality, and the banking industry. Former clients include AT&T, Fidelity, Fleet Bank, Caterpillar, Starwood Hotels, and MGM Grand.
In addition to championing small business, Vassell is also an entrepreneur. She is the CEO and Owner of French Studios and the Royal Solutions, and served as the past co-Chair of Roxbury Prep and advisor to the Girl Scouts strategic initiative. Vassell is a proud graduate of the University of Massachusetts—Amherst, where she earned a B.S. in Psychology.
Corey Briscoe, Vice President of Strategic Engagement and Communications, has been a part of the AEO team since December 2015.
Corey is a thought leader who transcends industries. He is the Managing Partner for Operations at ABCD & Company, where he oversees daily operations and human capital strategy. Known as “the company culture guy,” Corey specializes in molding leaders and uniting people around common goals. His ability to drive strategic agendas has privileged him to work with leaders across various sectors. A masterful orator and strategist, Corey has served as an advisor to legislators, university presidents and corporate executives.
Corey’s expertise in meeting planning and building strategic communication campaigns has served many associations, nonprofits and institutions of higher education with a significant multicultural presence and target audience. His work in this field includes engagements with organizations such as The Apollo Theater, New Jersey Performing Arts Center, University of the District of Columbia and Hampton University. He has been featured in numerous media outlets, including the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, NPR and ABC. He has also been named a “BE Modern Man” by Black Enterprise. The BE Modern Man award celebrates 100 influential men of color “who have done or are doing exceptional work within their communities, within their respective industries and/or globally.”
Corey is an alumnus of Howard University, where he served on the Board of Trustees. Additionally, Corey holds a B.A. in Political Science, a B.A. in English and a M.S. in Management. A native of Charleston, South Carolina, Corey now resides in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. In his free time, he enjoys spending time on his boat.
Connie E. Evans is the President and Chief Executive Officer of AEO.
Connie is a visionary leader, astute strategist, activist and social entrepreneur who has founded three organizations. In 1986 she was the founding president of the award-winning Women’s Self-Employment Project, the first and largest urban microbusiness development organization in the U.S., and the first adaptation of the Grameen Bank model to a U.S. urban setting. She also pioneered one of the first matched-savings program—Individual Development Accounts—in the country. In 2000 she founded WSEP Ventures, a social enterprise-hybrid organization developed to serve as a catalyst for social change, economic development and community empowerment. In 2007 she founded CSolutions Consulting, an advisory boutique specializing in solutions that address social change.
An international development consultant with more than 25 years of experience, she has been recognized and utilized by such groups as the World Bank, the Clinton Administration, and a host of local government, private and independent-sector organizations. With international experience spanning 43 countries, she draws on her expertise in developing and implementing strategies to further economic development, health and social change in communities.
Connie started her career in community mental health as a master-level psychologist. Her commitment to improving the health and life options for disadvantaged women and their families moved her to “harness the marketplace” for solutions. As the Assistant Director of a Hull House Association affiliate in Chicago, she became the Project Director for the first resident-managed public housing site in the city. She helped low-income women organize, develop leadership skills and learn business acumen in order to take control over a multi-million dollar enterprise.
Connie has given lectures at universities throughout the U.S., and is a frequent panelist and keynote speaker at conferences around the globe. She has many distinguished awards, including: being named the Inaugural Twink Frey Social Activist in 2006; the 1996 Chicagoan of the Year by Chicago Magazine; the first Teknion Humanitarian Award in 1999; Gloria Steinem Woman of Vision Award; 1998 Community Leader of the Year presented by the African American MBA Association at the University of Chicago; and the Chicago Community Service Fellowship Award by the Chicago Community Trust.
Connie’s broad experience across the worlds of business and finance compliments her skills in development finance. She served two elected terms on the Board of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago—the first African American woman to hold such a position—and was appointed by President Clinton to the CDFI Advisory Board, a fund in the Department of the Treasury. She was appointed by President Obama to be a member of the U.S. Delegation to the United Nations 54th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women. She was also appointed by President Clinton as a member of the U. S. Delegation to Preparatory Meetings for the Summit of the Americas, the U. S. Delegation to Preparatory Meetings for the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, and again for Beijing Plus Five.
A strong advocate of good governance in nonprofits, she has nearly 20 years of service on philanthropic foundation boards, and serves on a number of national and international boards.
Ines Polonius is CEO of Communities Unlimited, Inc., a CDFI and not-for-profit organization driving community economic development through the building of entrepreneurial ecosystems, direct assistance and capital to micro-enterprises, small businesses and infrastructure improvements in persistently poor rural places across Arkansas, Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee.
In 1998, Ines founded alt.Consulting and became its Executive Director in 2003. alt.Consulting was dedicated to starting, growing, transitioning and turning around micro-enterprises and small businesses in the Arkansas Delta until a successful merger with Community Resource Group in 2014 formed Communities Unlimited, Inc.
In 2011, Ines and her team launched Delta BioEnergy, a wealth creation value chain that introduced a winter energy crop in the Arkansas Delta and built out the infrastructure to generate biofuel from the crop and waste vegetable oil. Ines has personally worked with more than 200 small businesses, conducting organizational and financial audits, facilitating strategic planning sessions and customizing management systems. Previously, she served as a Business Development Consultant at the North Carolina Institute for Minority Economic Development.
Ines earned an MBA and an MA in Economics from Boston University. Before pursuing her graduate work, she worked for three years with rural micro-enterprise development in Chile and the Dominican Republic. She received her undergraduate degree from Georgetown University.
Former Cleveland Mayor Jane Campbell serves as the Director of the Washington Office of the National Development Council (NDC), where she works in over 100 communities across America lending to small businesses, building public facilities and creating commercial redevelopment, low income housing, all through public private partnerships and creative use of federal, state and local financing tools.
In addition to serving as the first female mayor of Cleveland, Campbell’s public service career includes six terms in the Ohio House of Representatives, and five years as Staff Director and Senior Advisor for the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship. While on the Hill, Campbell directed policy to support small businesses’ access to capital, federal contracting opportunities, business counseling, and engagement in international trade.
In the past 2 years, she also served as the President of Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP), a national nonpartisan organization advocating for economic opportunity on behalf of women entrepreneurs. Durign her tenure, she was instrumental in building the organization’s strategic partnership with WBENC. In her current role at NDC, Campbell brings NDC’s nearly fifty years’ of experience and expertise in working to bring capital to underserved communities into the federal public policy debate.
Phyllis Cassidy is the Executive Director and founder of Good Work Network, a non-profit, micro-enterprise development organization serving the greater New Orleans area. Good Work Network has provided educational programs, technical assistance, operational support, capital access assistance, and market access services to more than 4,500 minority and women-owned businesses in the New Orleans area. Its ConnectWorks program has assisted 61 clients acquire over $30MM in contract awards.
Prior to establishing Good Work Network, Phyllis served as president of First Capital Life Insurance Company of LA, a family owned business. She also taught accounting and information systems at Dillard University and University of New Orleans. Phyllis has served on various community boards and as a Court Appointed Special Advocate. She is a graduate of Duke University (B.A. in Business Administration) and University of New Orleans (M.S. in Accounting), and is a licensed CPA with over 35 years of experience. She is the proud mother of three children and seven amazing grandchildren.
Alex Forrester is Co-Founder and Chief Strategy Officer of Rising Tide Capital, a New Jersey nonprofit committed to the economic empowerment of low-income families and communities through entrepreneurship. In his role, Forrester is driven by an interest in high-performing social enterprises. He is passionate about organizational infrastructure, systems architecture, and outcome measurement, as well as the role that values and culture play in creating long-term systems change.
Since its inception, Rising Tide Capital has achieved national recognition for its approach to economic empowerment through entrepreneurship. Lauded by Forbes, the White House, CNN, and the World Economic Forum, the organization now works with over 1,000 entrepreneurs per year across six cities in New Jersey. Rising Tide Capital has also recently launched a national replication initiative to license its model for use by other organizations in cities across the US.
Forrester’s work in social justice, entrepreneurship, and micro-finance focuses on use of strategic philanthropy and social entrepreneurship to respond to the challenges of systemic oppression, social equity, environmental sustainability, and economic inclusion in the new, automated economy of the 21st century. Alex is a graduate of Harvard University, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in Postmodern Philosophy and Theology.
Samira Cook-Gaines serves as the Chief of Economic Empowerment for the National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC). In the post, she provides strategic and programmatic leadership in the areas of wealth creation and asset building for NCRC’s direct services programs, including two business centers serving the Washington, DC metro area.
In 2010, Cook-Gaines founded the Washington, DC Women’s Business Center (DC WBC), which supports women entrepreneurs through training, individual consultation, mentoring. In particular, the DC WBC fuels business growth through government procurement opportunities and exporting. Under Cook-Gaines’ direction, the DC WBC has assisted over 1,000 women in achieving their business goals. In honor of her work with small businesses, Cook-Gaines was selected as a White House Champion for Change in the area of entrepreneurship mentoring.
Cook-Gaines received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts and her Master of Public Administration degree from The George Washington University in Washington, DC. She is also an active member of her Fort Lincoln neighborhood and volunteers, and a board member of the Association of Women’s Business Centers, and the Brandywine Street Association. Cook-Gaines is a proud member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated.
Usman Ahmed is the Head of Global Public Policy at PayPal Inc. His work covers a variety of global issues including financial services regulation, innovation, international trade, and entrepreneurship. He has given talks on these subjects at conferences and universities around the world and has published in the World Economic Forum Global Information Technology Report, MIT Press Innovations Journal, and the Boston University International Law Journal. Ahmed is also an Adjunct Professor of Law at Georgetown University Law School where he teaches a course on Fintech Law and Policy. Prior to PayPal, Ahmed worked at a number of policy think tanks in the Washington DC area focusing on good governance issues.
Ahmed earned his JD from University of Michigan, his MA from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, and his BA from University of Maryland.
Rogie D. Nelson is Program Coordinator at South Carolina Commission for Minority Affairs. He began his career as a microbusiness practitioner at the South Carolina Minority Business Development Center. He later worked for the South Carolina Department of Transportation in the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Program for ten years before joining the South Carolina Commission for Minority Affairs in as the Small and Minority Business Coordinator. In the post, Nelson has worked with individuals, special interest groups, municipalities, local, state, and federal governments to create economic prosperity for minority-owned businesses.
Currently, Mr. Nelson is the Program Coordinator for the Micro Business Development program. This statewide program provides education and training, business management and technical assistance, and micro lending referrals to firms and individuals interested in starting or expanding a micro business.
Nelson attended University of South Carolina, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology.
Donna J. Gambrell is a steadfast advocate for the revitalization of America’s most vulnerable, low-wealth communities. A champion of microbusinesses, Gambrell was the first African American woman to be appointed as Director of the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Community Development Financial Institutions Fund (CDFI Fund).
During Gambrell’s tenure, the CDFI Fund experienced significant growth, doubling funding under its flagship program. The CDFI Fund also designed and administered a number of new initiatives targeted to underserved markets, including the Capital Magnet Fund, the Healthy Food Financing Initiative, and the CDFI Bond Guarantee Program.
Previously, Gambrell served in several executive positions at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), including Deputy Director for Compliance and Consumer Protection, where she was responsible for overseeing the FDIC’s national compliance bank examinations, as well as the agency’s community affairs, consumer affairs, and deposit insurance programs.
Currently, Ms. Gambrell is a visiting scholar at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. In addition, she is a board member for Southern Bancorp, Inc., in Little Rock, Arkansas. Ms. Gambrell also speaks and consults on issues related to consumer protection and community and economic development.
Ms. Gambrell received a B.S. Degree from Towson University in Baltimore, Maryland, and an M.S. Degree from New York University.
Keith Catanzano is the interim Managing Director of the Association for Enterprise Opportunity’s myWay to Credit program. Keith served as a member of the initiative’s founding team during the U.S. Treasury’s 2015 Innovation Challenge, won by AEO for the myWay to Credit concept and proposal. For the past three years, Keith has led the technology development of the myWay to Credit marketplace.
Prior to his current role, Keith served on AEO’s Micro Capital Task Force, a group that assesses the strengths and weaknesses of banks, CDFIs, community lenders, and alternative lenders working to meet the capital needs of micro- and small-businesses.
Keith is a co-founder and partner of 2River Consulting Group. 2River helps financial services companies integrate AI and data analytics to increase sales and profit. Keith sets the vision and leads the design of 2River’s LIFT AI and data analytics platform, supporting customer acquisition, underwriting, and customer success operations.
A frequent speaker and author on the convergence of technology, data, and analytics, Keith has more than two decades of experience designing and developing simulations, statistical models, and gaming techniques for Fortune 500 companies and the U.S. Government.
Prior to co-founding 2River, Keith spent fifteen years with global strategy and technology consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton. As a Vice President in the Analytics practice of the firm, he advised clients in the government, private and non-profit sectors.
Long has 28 years of combined experience in the financial services industry. She began her professional career in commercial banking in Credit Management and Commercial Lending with First Union and SunTrust banks in Orlando, Florida. It was while working for them that she met Judy Jones, the former President of the Black Business Investment Fund (BBIF).
Under Long’s leadership, BBIF Florida has provided over $47.6 million in loans to over 406 Black and minority businesses, created and sustained over 12,906 jobs all while maintaining a historical loan loss rate of approximately 4 percent; invested and leveraged $55.2million in community economic develop projects. She has led the organization to: (1) expand its geographic service area to statewide, (2) expand its client base from Black businesses to include other minority and underserved small businesses, (3) receive two federal New Markets Tax Credits allocation of $20 million each, two FA awards totaling $1.9 million, and (4) be selected as one of three initial CDFI’s to be nationally recognized and received a Wells Fargo Bank Diverse Community Capital grant of $1 million.
Nou Vang joined AEO in November 2015 as Vice President, Operations. With more than 10 years of nonprofit management experience, Nou oversees AEO’s membership, IT, accounting and human resources.
Prior to joining AEO, Nou managed the daily operations of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), a membership organization of 130,000 members, where she oversaw a $1 million administration budget and managed a variety of projects including the Association’s $1.8 million office consolidation, conferences and meetings and software upgrades. She has worked for national and community-based non-profit organizations including Hmong National Development and Illinois Center for Violence Prevention. Her professional skills include project management, nonprofit audits, contract management and negotiation and equipment procurement.
Nou is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and holds a B.A. in Political Science and Masters of Public Administration degree.
Carolina Martinez is the CEO of the California Association for Micro Enterprise Opportunity (CAMEO), a California’s statewide association that represents over 220 lenders, training programs, job creators, agencies and individuals dedicated to furthering Microbusiness development in the state. CAMEO advocates for its members and builds their capacity to support the more than 21,000 very small businesses they serve.
Mrs. Martinez has over 12 years of experience working in economic development and business consulting. Her vision has been defined by the variety of experiences she’s had with nonprofits and universities in South and North America. She has developed bilingual, culturally appropriate entrepreneurial training programs; trained and coached pre-venture and startups; developed international networks promoting partnerships among private corporations that boost industries; provided consulting services to vulnerable communities to explore entrepreneurship as a way to generate wealth; and owned her own business consulting firm.
Before moving to California in 2017, Mrs. Martinez was appointed to the Pennsylvania Governor’s Advisory Commission on Latino Affairs and served as Chairwoman for the Berks County Latino Chamber of Commerce in Pennsylvania.
Doug Schaeffer is a financial executive with more than 30 years of experience managing critical business operations. Launching his career in 1984, he has served at every level of banking. Upon graduating from college, he worked for KPMG, GE Capital Mortgage, JPMorgan Chase, and Ally Financial. Schaeffer has held multiple positions, including: Chief Financial Officer, Chief of Staff, Strategy Executive, Deputy General Manager, Managing Director—Treasury, and Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) Executive. He has led the improvement of large community reinvestment programs resulting in regulator-approved CRA strategic plans; improved examination results; and, the transformation of programs into sustainable profit-oriented businesses.
Schaffer joined the executive leadership team at Woodforest National Bank in 2015 as EVP-CRA Director. He leads CRA efforts, including a team of 30+ CRA professionals. His role is centered on creating innovative strategies to increase the impact of Woodforest National Bank’s expansive CRA program, which covers 17 states and over 200 CRA assessment areas.
Schaeffer sits on the boards of CEI Capital Management and the National Association of Affordable Housing Lenders. He also serves on the Board of Trustees for Moorestown Theater Company, and volunteers his time supporting Strong Women Strong Girls and other charities. Schaeffer is a Rutgers University alumnus and a Beta Gamma Sigma graduate of Drexel University.