Women's Entrepreneurship Advisory Council
"Alone, we can do so little.
Together, we can do so much."
- Hellen Keller
CEO, MGS Global Group
Aya has been successfully creating and running her own businesses for over 15 years, making her an exemplary mentor for those looking to blaze their own trail in entrepreneurship. Aya is a Founder or Founding Partner in four separate ventures: MGS Global Group, an Architectural Design & Support Services firm; Architect My Life, coaching and online learning for creative entrepreneurs looking to scale their businesses, MGS Graphics Pro, a graphics production support service for creative agencies and e-commerce retailers and Tablea Chocolate, a chocolate manufacturer and café chain in the Philippines. Through all four of these enterprises, Aya continues to maintain an active and invested presence in her businesses, continually growing and expanding her standing as a highly successful entrepreneur.
President & CEO, Direct Opinions
Founded in 1983, Direct Opinions is a leading market research firm, specializing in customer satisfaction and employee engagement studies that produce strategic value and accelerate growth for their customers. Darlene joined the organization in 2001 in a sales and management position. Within 18 months, she became an owner and in 2003, took over the reins as President. She, along with her team, created a new vision for the company transforming it into a full-service research firm.
Before joining Direct Opinions, Darlene spent 11 years working for a national IT consulting company, having held positions in administration, operations, training, and sales. At the age of 27, she earned an opportunity to run their Cleveland office which encompassed the state of Ohio. As the youngest person ever to hold this position and the first woman,
she took its’ Cleveland operation from approximately $2 million in annual sales to over $27 million, in just six years. And so, her love and passion for growing a business began . . .
Darlene graduated from Bowling Green State University where she received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications.
CEO, Twin Sisters, and Creative IP, LLC
Karen Mitzo Hilderbrand is CEO of Twin Sisters Digital media and Creative IP, LLC. The record label is dedicated to teaching children through music, Apps, eBooks, teacher resources, and augmented reality products. By keeping up with AR, VR, EPUB, HTML5 and other innovations in publishing, the company’s goal is to become the leader in providing content to companies specializing in children’s educational products. Karen was selected and honored as a recipient of the SMART 50 Business Owners of 2017 award for Innovation. Twin Sisters® has received 1 platinum and 8 Gold Records with sales over 50 million albums sold to date. Karen has been a Voting Member of The Recording Academy for 25 years.
President, Executive Arrangements
Margy is President of Executive Arrangements, a firm founded in 1979 to help NE Ohio companies to woo out of town recruits by creating the critical first impression of Cleveland or Akron for candidates and their families which dramatically improves their ability to attract & retain top talent.
With a staff of 23 spread out over EA’s seven-county service area, the firm introduces almost 175 families a year to the quality of life in our region. EA’s Discover Cleveland/Akron immersion tours carefully match the candidate’s interests and lifestyle to the options available so they can experience life in NE Ohio first hand.
Margy joined EA in 1991, was named President in ’01, and bought the company in ’04. EA’s client list includes most of the major employers in the region including Medical Mutual, Nestle, University Hospitals, KeyBank, Signet Jewelers, Cleveland Clinic, Federal Reserve, Sherwin Williams.
Melanie is an angel investor and business advisor in the Cleveland area.
Her corporate experience includes Eaton Corporation in Cleveland and GlaxoSmithKline in Philadelphia and London. As VP of Organization Development, she was responsible for ensuring that the organization’s processes and people delivered on company objectives.
In 2001, Melanie got the entrepreneurial bug. With her husband, Toby, she funded and joined mental_floss, a magazine that grew into a multi-million-dollar media company. After selling mental_floss in 2011, Melanie and her husband went on to invest in and help other companies including BoxCast, a Cleveland-based live video streaming company and Waggit, a health monitor collar for dogs.
President & CEO, VoicePRO
In 1994, Leslie joined VoicePRO and her mother, Carolyn, who founded the business ten years earlier. As the current owner, Leslie continues to be passionate about working with clients to help them feel confident and successful in their areas of expertise. As President & CEO, Leslie has taken VoicePRO global with a client footprint that extends into South America, Europe and the Asia Pacific region. She is an in-demand executive coach. Her clients recognize that she has an affinity for identifying their specific issues, while also having the expertise to resolve them.
Community Manager, Substack
Katie is living what she coins, her "purposeful adventure" with a passion to enable the greater good in community development. A JCU grad, Katie took her first entrepreneurship course in the fall of her junior year and pitched her first big idea -- JES NET. JES NET provides curated experiences for Jesuit educated individuals and unites the unique Jesuit community beyond campus life. Since graduating, Katie published a book titled "Live LIVE! Creating Community in Music Experiences", and worked on community-building with the Tory Burch Foundation and Sofar Sounds.
Founder, Empowered & Poised
Leah is on a "mission to empower and educate girls on how to be beautiful from the inside out through discovery of social, mental, and physical components." She has attained over 10 years of experience working with youth through teaching PE, camp counseling, coaching, volunteering, and caretaking. After graduating from John Carroll University with her Bachelor of Arts in Exercise Science and Entrepreneurship in 2017, Leah founded Empowered & Poised LLC. This inspired her to return to school, where she received a Master of Science and Social Administration (MSW equivalent). She specialized in children, youth, and families, and school social work while in graduate school, and is now a licensed social worker. Leah published her first book, Conscious Empowerment: A Guide to Helping Girls Build Self-esteem & Confidence in June of 2021. Leah has also attained a plethora of experience working with and supporting a variety of small businesses and start-ups.
Founding Partner, Rathbone Group, LLC
Kim is one of the founding Partners of the insurance subrogation firm of Rathbone Group, LLC. Recognized as a Super Lawyer Rising Star for 5 years, as an Inside Business One to Watch, and as one of the Top 25 under 35 in Cleveland, she has focused on insurance subrogation throughout her entire legal career. Her education background includes a B.A. from The Ohio State University, Telecommunications, 1996 and a J.D. from Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, 2001, where she graduated with honors, received the CALI award in Legal Writing, and attended on the Max Ratner Scholarship and the Nurenberg, Plevin, Heller & McCarthy Endowed Scholarship in Law. She also attended the Weatherhead School of Management’s executive education program at Case Western Reserve University in 2009. Kim is admitted to the Ohio State Bar, the Northern District of Ohio Federal Court and the 6th and 7th Circuit Courts of Appeals. She has been published in several magazines and completed many speaking engagements.
Founder, Kids of 216
Stehp is a recent third-generation John Carroll University alumnus (MBA) who also holds a Master of Science in Biology from Cleveland State University. She turned an MBA class project into a nonprofit organization called "The Kids of 216," which focuses on bringing young inner-city adults out of poverty. Steph currently serves as Executive Director of the nonprofit with the goal of becoming a national model. She is passionate about Cleveland and focused on keeping Cleveland talent in Cleveland.
Founder, Duet Fine Catered and Prepared Foods
Pamela, a native of Cleveland, began her career as a Chef while still in high school, having discovered her passion for food, Pamela started a catering service called the Kitchen Witches. During her college years, Pamela gained valuable experience while cooking at La Regalido, a Relais Chateau in the South of France. Graduating with a degree in French and Art History from Wellesley College, Pamela decided to pursue her culinary dream. Two years later, after earning her degree in Culinary Arts from The Culinary Institute of America, Pamela was on her way to Northern California. While cooking in such fine restaurants as The Auberge du Soleil, The Sonoma Mission Inn, Splendido Restaurant, and Acquerello Ristorante, Pamela honed her skills and increased her love of cooking healthy, Mediterranean cuisine.
In 1994 Pamela moved back to the Cleveland area and became the Executive Chef of The Lockkeepers in Valley View. For twelve years she helped nurture the small steak house, growing it into one of Cleveland’s most prominent four-diamond restaurants.
In 2006 Pamela left Lockkeepers to open Duet Fine Catered and Prepared Foods in Rocky River. The small retail store offers fine quality prepared foods to take home, as well as boutique wines and handmade gift items. Over the last twelve years, Duet’s full-service catering has blossomed into one of Northeastern Ohio’s premier catering companies. Duet specializes in personalized food, service, and décor for weddings, private events and corporate affairs
Nicole is the founder of Skin in the Game, a platform that turns every American TV viewer into an investor funding entrepreneurs, creating jobs and fuel innovations. Skin is a fund, a show, and a movement that brings all of us together on TV, online and out there on-the-road, funding businesses and changing the game for good.
Prior to launching Skin in the Game, Nicole was the founder and CEO of Zorch, a tech-enabled portal that disrupted the $20 billion branded merchandise industry. Under Nicole’s leadership Zorch was recognized as the 8th fastest growing company in the country (Inc. 500). After surviving the sharky waters of venture capital, Nicole stepped down as CEO of Zorch to build a better model for funding entrepreneurs…that’s how Skin in the Game was born.
Founder & CEO, PROS Corporation
For over twenty years, PROS has managed freight and logistics for some of the largest and most demanding shippers and manufacturers in North America. We manage truckloads, less-than-truckloads (LTL), expedited freight, flatbed and refrigerated carriers, small parcel, regional short hauls, multi-modal, special handling, international, and dedicated fleet services.
LaunchPad Director, Techstars
Courtney is an engineer by training and entrepreneur by nature helping student entrepreneurs succeed with Techstars. Courtney has a passion for building startup communities and encouraging young professionals to pursue careers in technology and entrepreneurship. She is an entrepreneur at heart, and left her job as a power systems engineer at NASA to work for her own startup company in 2014.
Courtney co-founded a clean energy startup company while studying electrical engineering at the University of Akron. During this time, she was named to the “Forbes 30 Under 30” list and was also named a “Top 40 Under 40” in Cleantech by Midwest Energy News, one of Crain’s Business “Twenty in their 20s” and received the ComEd Female Founder Prize for 2015 through the Clean Energy Trust. Inspired to share her personal experience with entrepreneurship, she authored the book “Entrepreneur is a Verb” in 2017 to inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs.
Today, Courtney helps student entrepreneurs succeed through the Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars entrepreneurship program, which connects students across the globe to the Techstars Network.