Meet the talented and inspiring speakers of this year’s Women SEEN 2021 virtual conference
Women SEEN 2021 is upon us and we are thrilled to share more about phenomenal business women and experts at this year’s event.
Take a morning for yourself to connect with other women, get inspired and to better yourself in a number of ways. Are you hoping to learn more about investing for your future? How to build and grow your leadership skills as we all adapt to a future with more remote opportunities. Or maybe you want to improve your social media or presence on LinkedIn, or find out how to prioritize your mental health and choose a therapist.
Whatever you are looking to do, we’ve got you covered. So read on about our impressive line-up and get your ticket before they are gone!
Dr. C. Nicole Mason is the president and chief executive officer of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR), a leading voice on pay equity, economic policies, and research impacting women. For the past two decades, Dr. Mason has spearheaded research on issues relating to economic security, poverty, women’s issues, and entitlement reforms; policy formation and political participation among women, communities of color, and youth; and racial equity.
Dr. Mason is the author of Born Bright: A Young Girl’s Journey from Nothing to Something in America (St. Martin’s Press) and has written hundreds of articles on community development, women, poverty, and economic security. Her writing and commentary have been featured in the New York Times, MSNBC, CNN, NBC, CBS, Real Clear Politics, Nation, Washington Post, Marie Claire, the Progressive, ESSENCE, Bustle, BIG THINK, Miami Herald, Democracy Now, and numerous NPR affiliates, among others.
Yelitsa never had a doll that looked like her growing up. The one time her parents gave her a black doll, she burst into tears because it wasn’t the “pretty one”. Since then, Yelitsa has made it her goal to make sure that no other children feel the way she did about her own appearance growing up. Yelitsa has gone from not knowing how to do her own hair at the age 21 to teaching young girls all about their own. Since starting Healthy Roots Dolls, Yelitsa has graduated from RISD with a BFA in Illustration and a concentration in Gender, Race & Sexuality. She has won the Startup Stampede, New Voices Fund Pitch competition, participated in the Backstage Capital Accelerator program and was awarded the first Main Street Ventures Wendy S. Lea Female founders Grant. In 2019, Healthy Roots Dolls took First Place and People’s Choice at the Quicken Loans Detroit Demo Day. She is a 2021 Forbes 30 under 30 Honoree and to date, Yelitsa has raised $1,500,000. Healthy Roots Dolls is helping thousands of parents provide their children with a product that makes them feel seen and beautiful. Yelitsa’s mission is to make sure everyone loves their healthy roots.
Amanda Lewan is an entrepreneur with a mission to unite and move our region forward. As Co-founder and CEO of Bamboo, she leads the development and activation of Bamboo’s portfolio of modern work spaces. Bamboo specializes in spaces that foster inclusive innovation and community.
Bamboo started in Detroit in 2013 as a space for new ideas to start and grow. The company has since expanded to be a multi-location operator and platform for talent across Metro Detroit. Amanda’s leadership has been recognized by Crain’s Detroit, the City of Detroit, and nationally.
Amanda has a Master’s Degree in English from Wayne State University, and a Bachelor’s in Writing from Michigan State. With a decade of experience in operations and innovation, she often consults for foundations and Fortune 500 companies on co-working and startup communities. She currently serves on the board of Venture Catalysts, the Royal Oak DDA, and Co-leads the Detroit Writers Collective. As a writer, her work is inspired by place, class, gender, and identity, and she is published locally and nationally. She lives in Detroit with her husband Marc Hudson and their three rescue pups.
Entrepreneur, activist, and educator Pashon Murray has been working toward sustainable solutions in Detroit—and beyond—for years. While she was born and raised in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Pashon credits childhood visits to her grandparents’ rural Mississippi farm with her personal and spiritual connections to soil. After earning her bachelor’s degree in business administration from Texas Southern University—one of the country’s largest HBCUs—Pashon returned to Grand Rapids where she helped to manage the city’s Leadership in Energy and Environment Design (LEED) project. Shortly after the conclusion of her LEED project, Pashon relocated to Detroit and began consulting in sustainable practices, green infrastructure, professional and workforce development. She has continually advocated for educational programs that teach future generations about the importance and value in recycling, climate, and composting. Her advocacy and educational efforts moved to the national stage in 2008 and 2009 as Pashon lobbied for various climate initiatives in Washington, DC; working with groups like Sierra Club, Repower America, and the National Wildlife Federation. In 2010, Pashon co-founded Detroit Dirt, a revolutionary closed-loop composting company that provides compost and food waste solutions to the local business community. Thanks to partnerships with the automotive industry, the Detroit Zoological Society, and local businesses, Detroit Dirt has been instrumental in revitalizing Detroit’s economic and environmental infrastructure. Pashon and her work with Detroit Dirt began receiving national attention and have been featured in ads for Ford Motor Co. and Shinola. Newsweek named the MIT Media Lab Fellow one of its “13 Women in Business to Bet On” and the United Nations Foundation named her one of 10 women in the world to watch at its inaugural Global Accelerator Women’s Entrepreneurship Day. She’s been featured in both Forbes and Food & Wine magazines, with the latter naming her one of its most innovative women. Her environmental work has also been recognized by Modern Farmer magazine and Martha Stewart’s American Made Awards. In 2017, Pashon expanded her impact by establishing the Detroit Dirt Foundation. The nonprofit serves the public through environmental education, research projects, and sustainable programs. She is also the founder of Pashon Inc. and co-founded Culture of Carbon, a sustainability consulting firm, with Nya Marshall. Today, Pashon still resides in Detroit where she works as the City of Detroit Green Task Force Climate Action Co-Chair, in addition to her work with Detroit Dirt and its nonprofit arm.
After struggling with her own mental health, coupled with the loss of her sister who took her own life, Citizen Yoga founder Kacee Must began a search for meaning. Seeking answers and purpose, Kacee packed up and went to India to spend 3 years living at a formal academy studying Vedanta philosophy. A lifelong practitioner of Yoga, it wasn’t until the academy needed someone to lead the daily 30-minute Yoga session that Kacee stepped into the role of the teacher, and discovered she was born to teach. Upon returning to Detroit, Kacee started Citizen Yoga in 2013 with a mission to improve mental health and prevent suicide, offering yoga as a tool for handling the stresses of life, as inspired by her sister, Miya. Citizen Yoga expanded to Detroit in 2015, Bloomfield in 2017, and Cleveland, Ohio in 2018. Inspired by the pandemic, Kacee saw that fitness and mental health resources needed to be more accessible and affordable. In November 2020, Kacee and her team launched the Citizen Yoga App and On-demand platform that offers 200+ fitness videos, talks by real therapists about mental health, meditation and more.
A former TEDx Speaker, graduate of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Program, member of Crain’s Detroit 40 under 40 class of 2018, Kacee is committed to growing a business that is mission driven and incorporates the traditional principles of yoga philosophy. Kacee still teaches 8-10 classes per week, helps in leading the 200hr + 300hr teacher training, mentorship, and continues to take more training to improve the programs at Citizen Yoga.
Sava Farah is the founder and CEO of The Pulpo Group (formerly SavCo Hospitality), an Ann Arbor based restaurant group specializing in experiential restaurants that are grounded in hospitality. Her group currently operates three acclaimed restaurants: Sava’s, Aventura and The Dixboro Project.
Sava’s, an Ann Arbor institution since 2007, grew from a humble 23 seat diner to a bustling 300 seat restaurant. In 2013 Sava and her team opened Aventura, an authentic Spanish concept serving world renowned paella and modern Spanish Tapas. Sava’s latest venture, The Dixboro Project, is a multi-concept restaurant development nestled in picturesque Dixboro Village housing The Boro, The Boro To Go, and Dixboro House (slated to open in the coming months).
From humble beginnings to the American Dream, Sava began her career bussing tables at age 13 working her way up from a bus girl to an esteemed hospitality CEO with no formal training or investors. Sava authentically demonstrates what one can achieve through hard work, vision and personal development. Sava leads with intention and gratitude, always inspiring those around her to believe that anything is possible, all while embracing her role as a hustlin’ momma and wifey.
Breakout Session Experts
Nikki O’Donnell – Mental Health Issues and How to Choose a Therapist
Nikki is a Master’s Level Psychologist with over 17 years of clinical experience. She is an innovator whose contributions to the field of child psychology has created a movement that aims to normalize mental health: VIEWSPIRE. VIEWSPIRE is a powerful creative vehicle for delivering positive mental health messaging.
Nikki is dedicated about serving the community in which she lives as an outpatient therapist at Viewpoint Psychology & Wellness in Metro Detroit. Nikki’s professional and educational background has allowed her to pursue her passion of serving children, teens and families in many facets. After earning a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Albion College, Nikki went on to earn her Master’s Degree in Clinical and Humanistic Psychology from the Michigan School of Professional Psychology. While pursuing her degrees, Nikki gained extensive clinical experience in both private practice and inpatient psychiatric settings where she helped teens struggling with self-harming behavior, children with autism, athletes, and emotionally impaired children.
Accomplishments: Local “Top 40 Under 40” of 2020, Community Coalition Community Champion of 2020, Creator of the “Worry Warrior” parent training program, Creator of the “Teen Synergy” group therapy program, Founder of Henry Ford Health System’s “Let’s Get Healthy Program”, Certified Love and Logic Parent Training Instructor, Certified through the Beck Institute for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Treatment of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Board of directors for Empowering Michigan Women’s Magazine, Speaker/Presenter on Topics of Mental Health, Children and Wellbeing Contributor to publications, Behavioral Health Expert for ABC affiliate WXYZ-TV and NBC affiliate WDIV.
Connect with Nikki on LinkedIn.
Michele Rochester – Leadership Skills for the Future
Dr. Rochester is Associate Vice President and Managing Director of Kaufman Institute, LLC. the learning hub of the H.W. Kaufman Group (Farmington Hills, MI). Her experience with adult learning grew out of the first job she started thirty days after graduating from the University of Michigan and was in the role of Executive Human Resources Team Leader with Target Stores. In this role, Michele served as both a district human resources expert and new stores’ specialist assisting with the opening of nearly a dozen new Target stores along the Eastern seaboard to include the Washington, D.C. and New York metropolitan areas.
Dr. Rochester’s next role moved her into the realm of organizational development in the gaming and hospitality industries, where her career would progress with employers to include MGM Grand Detroit, MGM MIRAGE Las Vegas, Rock Gaming and Greektown Casino & Hotel. Dr. Rochester is a current member of both the Association for Talent Development (ATD) and the International Society for Performance Improvement (ISPI). She served for two years on the board of directors for the Detroit chapter of the ATD, and as Committee Member, Reviewer for Outstanding Practice Award for the 2010 Association for Educational Communications and Technology.
Dr. Rochester holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in History and American Studies from the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor), a Master of Arts degree in American Studies from the George Washington University (Washington D.C.), and a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Education, Learning and Design Technology from Wayne State University (Detroit).
Dr. Rochester has also earned recognition and several awards for her professional excellence including the Outstanding Student Leader award presented by University of Michigan President James J. Duderstadt, Outstanding Team Trainer presented by Target Stores, the Jimmy Settles Jimmy Settles’ Award for Exemplary Diversity Facilitator’s Training, and acceptance by the United States Department of Justice into the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Citizen’s Academy.
Connect with Dr. Rochester on LinkedIn.
Jennifer Foster – How to use PR to Grow Your Business and Brand
Recognized by Crain’s Detroit Business as a Notable Woman in Marketing, Jennifer Foster has nearly 15 years of experience in public relations, community relations and social media.
With extensive experience in the retail sector, Foster counsels clients on retail theory and communications strategies through her PR business, Catalyst Media Factory. For several years, she wrote a near-monthly column on social media for the Detroit News and Detroit Free Press and is a blog contributor to the Michigan Retail Association. Additionally, she was often called upon by area businesses, professional organizations, news media and educational institutions to share her thoughts on topics such as social media and the changing retail landscape.
Foster holds a bachelors of science degree in microbiology and a Bachelors of Arts degree in communication from the University of Michigan-Dearborn, and has performed graduate work at the University of Michigan-Dearborn and Wayne State University. She has earned multiple social media certificates from PRNews.
Foster has sat on the Regional Board of Destination Imagination, an international organization that teaches creative problem solving to school-aged children, for more than a decade. She is a CASL Alumni Affiliate Board of Governors member at the University of Michigan-Dearborn as well as an advisory board member for the expanding SEEN magazine.
Connect with Jennifer on LinkedIn.
Meagan Ward – Branding Yourself and Your Business
Powerfully poised in entrepreneurial activism and global empowerment, Meagan Ward is the incomparable impact leader, strategist and branding maven consistently positioning women for greatness in business and life. Crafting her own life’s work around the transcendence of womanhood and career, Meagan’s keen expertise as an industry trailblazer has propelled hundreds of women forward through the transformation of passion into purpose, helping each woman to uniquely define and create success on their own terms–something she achieved for herself in just three years.
Meagan has created an enterprising network of women as owner of Creatively Flawless, a branding agency for women-owned businesses, owner of FEMOLOGY, Detroit’s first female focused co-working space, and creator of The Powerful Women, the acclaimed movement highlighting powerful women in Detroit which cultivates rich experiences for women to embrace, learn, bond and uplift through sisterhood.
Connect with Meagan on LinkedIn.
Brenda Meller – Top 10 LinkedIn Strategies for 2021
Brenda Meller is a self-proclaimed “ambassador” of LinkedIn, national speaker, and the Chief Engagement Officer at Meller Marketing (www.mellermarketing.com), which provides marketing and social media support for individuals and businesses, specializing in LinkedIn. She has been leveraging social media to propel her personal and professional efforts for over ten years, and now blends this experience with her marketing expertise to help clients achieve their goals.
You can find Brenda Meller and Meller Marketing online on all the major social media channels. In January 2021, she published her first book, “Social Media Pie: How to Enjoy a Bigger Slice of LinkedIn.” Other Important Facts: Brenda loves coffee, chocolate, and pie. In her downtime, she enjoys jigsaw puzzles.
Connect with Brenda on LinkedIn #socialmediapie.
Chelsie Dzbanski – Social Media Strategies for 2021
Chelsie began her career in the fashion/beauty industry, assisting entrepreneurs and startups to expand their brands on social media and build a digital presence. She then took her skills to the editorial media world, where she managed and curated multiple social platforms and created engaging digital content for a lifestyle media brand. During her four years, she successfully grew an Instagram account to 20k+ followers, continually increased website views month-to-month, and regularly produced top read stories online.
Today, Chelsie is the owner and digital creator behind Social Goals, a boutique social media agency that works one-on-one with busy business owners. Chelsie takes the constant demand of social media marketing off of business owners’ plates by providing stylish storytelling, effective strategies and a detail approach to build an invested, loyal and engaged customer base.
Finance for Women: Wired to Invest, Unlocking your financial power
Paula Swain is a retirement specialist dedicated to helping her clients achieve a successful retirement. Paula specializes in retirement income strategies and distribution planning, which seeks to help her clients preserve their capital, protect against outliving their money, and provide income for the rest of their lives.
Paula’s passion is helping women plan for their future especially after the death of a loved one or a divorce.
Paula is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional (CFP® professional) and has completed extensive training and experience requirements while adhering to rigorous ethical standards. She works closely with her clients to explain the complexities of an ever-changing financial climate and makes recommendations that are in her clients’ best interest, not her own.
Paula is a past columnist for the Observer & Eccentric newspaper. She has appeared in Hour Detroit and DBusiness magazines.
A lifelong Metro-Detroiter, Paula lives in Royal Oak. She enjoys spending time with her five adult children and grandchildren. She plays golf, pickleball and enjoys staying fit and healthy in her spare time.
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