Event Emcee

Astrid Chirinos

Astrid Chirinos is the Chief Development Executive of the Latin American Economic Development Corporation. Previously, she was past president of the Latin American Chamber of Commerce of Charlotte (LACCC). Her focus is on the support and prosperity of the Latino business community, including projects in leadership development and strategic partnerships. Under her leadership, the LACCC was recognized as the 2014 Best Hispanic Chamber (Medium Size) in the USA by the US Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
A native of Venezuela, Chirinos is a longtime North Carolina resident with more than 15 years in communications and marketing. An entrepreneur in multicultural marketing and workplace strategies, she led her company Diverso Global Strategies for more than a decade.
Her accomplishments on the value of inclusion and diversity have been widely recognized, including being named one of the 50 Most Influential Women in Charlotte (The Mecklenburg Times) and inclusion in the Charlotte Business Journal’s 25 Outstanding Women in Business.
She serves on boards of several non-profits, including the YMCA Metro, Community Building Initiatives, and the Centralina Economic Development Commission. Her other local boards include the Charlotte Mayor’s International Cabinet, the Charlotte Chamber and the Workforce Development Board of Mecklenburg County.
Chirinos is a graduate of the McColl Center Innovation Institute and from the Leadership Development Institute from Community Building Initiatives. She is a graduate from St. Mary’s College and North Carolina State University in Raleigh, NC.

Welcome Remarks & Keynote Speaker

Jennifer Roberts, Mayor of Charlotte, was raised in Charlotte and now she and her husband, Manley, are raising their two children here as well. Roberts graduated as valedictorian from East Mecklenburg High School, attended UNC-Chapel Hill on a Morehead Scholarship—where she was captain of the Tarheel women’s volleyball team her senior year—and has Masters degrees from the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies and the University of Toronto.
She has worked as a diplomat for the State Department, as an international business woman and as a high school math teacher. She served four terms as an At-Large Mecklenburg County Commissioner, including five years as Chairman. She is only the second woman elected Mayor of Charlotte and is the first person to serve as both Chairman of the County Commission and as Mayor.
Roberts is an outdoor enthusiast, having climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, and enjoys hiking North Carolina trails with her family and riding her bike on the greenway.

Chris Laney

Chris Laney is President and CEO of Zenergy Technologies, a software quality assurance and test automation solutions firm. Chris launched Zenergy in 2010 with two business partners and a total investment of $4,500. Today the company is over fifty people and has no debt. A Greensboro, NC business incubator, The Nussbaum Center for Entrepreneurship, was integral to Zenergy’s growth in the early stages. As an active member in his local community, Chris has served as president on multiple non-profit boards and currently sits on the advisory board for the North Carolina Entrepreneurship Center at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. In addition, The Triad Business Journal recognized Chris in 2006 as one of its Forty Leaders under 40. Chris is a US Navy veteran and graduate of East Carolina as well as a private pilot and accomplished writer with multiple bylines for numerous magazines. He also pens the motivational blog, Lessons from the Cockpit: Everyday Wisdom to Help Your Spirit Soar.

Panelists and Moderators

Eileen Joyce

Eileen Joyce is Marketing and Outreach Manager for the US Small Business Administration’s North Carolina District Office. With 28 years of experience at SBA, she has served in several capacities including media relations, congressional relations, event planning and small business counseling. She also has oversight responsibility for SBA’s counseling and training programs: Emerging Leaders, Boots to Business, SCORE, SBTDC, Women Business Centers and Veterans Business Outreach Center.
Prior to joining SBA, she worked for Procter and Gamble in Field Advertising in Kansas and Oklahoma. She has an MBA from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and a Finance degree from Auburn University.
She lives in Cornelius with her husband and son.

James Jordan

James D. Jordon is President of JCC General Contractors of Greenville, S.C., where he provides residential and commercial construction and specializes in interior renovations. Projects include a residential upfit for Greenville’s ONE Building, as well as interior renovation of a 40-unit assisted living complex.
A native of Michigan, Jordan grew up in a family of builders and launched his first business real estate venture in 1999, only two years out of high school. While working full time, he studied at a Wisconsin community college, earning leadership roles and accolades before going on to Marquette University. By 2002, he was running his own construction and development business and by 2008, the company he later co-founded was holding some 70 properties. He co-founded another company in 2008 that became the first Wisconsin Monkey Joe’s franchise. The same year, he started Dynasty Food Group, bringing Milwaukee its first Wing Zone restaurant.
JCC General Contractors started in 2012 and was selected as a Greenville Chamber Minority Business Accelerated (MBA) program participant. Jordan also received a South Carolina Black Pages 40 Under 40 award.

Davon Bailey

Davon Bailey has what he calls "a nine to five and five to nine," although he works more than twelve hours per day. In his nine-to-five role in compliance at Bank of America, he's learning the communication skills necessary to ask the right questions and find the best solutions. In his five-to-nine role at Eat Work Play (EWP), he's stretching his leadership capabilities and using his creative skills to build and grow something he feels has no limitations. He officially launched Eat Work Play a year ago through City Startup Labs incubator program and has turned it into a business with 20,000 users so far. EWP's vision is to serve as the professional's playground, where like-minded individuals can connect and network beyond the typical cup of coffee.

Jason Wilkins

Jason Wilkins is Co-founder of Innovaknits, LLC, a textile innovations and contract manufacturer in Conover, NC. With a focus on bringing fully fashioned knitwear and manufacturing back to this country, Innovaknits works with brands in the Fashion, Medical, Performance, and Industrial markets to push the limits of flatbed knitting.
Jason is a native Floridian who holds a BS in Marketing and a MBA from FSU. After finishing his post-graduate education in 2010 Magna Cum Laude, Jason began his professional career at a St. Petersburg, FL based manufacturer of Prosthetic devices called ALPS SOUTH (known for their role in assisting Winter the Dolphin as portrayed in the hallmark film, "A Dolphin's Tale."). During his tenure at ALPS he pioneered and managed the growth of a multimillion dollar per year textile division, ultimately stepping down as Vice President of Textile Development to start his own venture in 2015.
Jason has always been connected to manufacturing: from asphalt to thermoplastic elastomers to textiles, he is focused on the ability to produce goods domestically and bring manufacturing jobs back to the USA.  So in addition to the manufacturing and product development services offered by Innovaknits, Jason has partnered up with the Manufacturing Solutions Center and textile industry partners to launch specialized training programs for workers in the flatbed knitting industry to help rebuild a workforce that has been absent for decades.

George McAllister (2)

George McAllister, is the Regional Director of the Small Business and Technology Development Center, SBTDC. George McAllister is the Regional Director of UNC Charlotte’s Small Business and Technology Development Center (SBTDC). The SBTDC’s mission is to provide business counseling, management education, and technology development services to help the business community successfully meet challenges, manage change and plan for the future.
Prior to joining the SBTDC, George has had a diverse business background ranging from commercial lending and developing Bank of America’s first online banking service to running his own company. He has also done merger and acquisition consulting in various industries as well as turn around work.
As Regional Director of the SBTDC, George has worked with hundreds of companies in all areas of business management. He has assisted numerous companies in obtaining financing from almost every possible source including angels, venture capitalists, banks, the SBA and many others.
While at the SBTDC, George has analyzed 100’s of business plans for all types of startup and existing companies. He has had the unique opportunity of being involved with many of these companies over the long term to compare their business plan forecasts with the actual results. This has given him a unique insight in how to create realistic plans.

Ryan Kennedy

Ryan Kennedy is Founder and CEO of Atom Power. He has been in the electrical
design, project leadership, and engineering industries for over 22 years. A native of Charlotte, North Carolina, Ryan began his career as an electrician and worked on large commercial projects for 5 years before starting his study of electrical engineering at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Once Ryan received his Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering Magna Cum Laude from UNCC in 2004, he continued full-time in his career as a Project Manager for a large electrical contracting and engineering firm. As Project Manager, Ryan negotiated and built some of the most high profile projects in the southeast for several large corporations. Having managed and built over $90-million in construction projects and built over 4-million square-feet of building space, his connections within the industry reach across the world to many building owners and property developers that he has successfully built powerful relationships with. He is an NCEES record holder and a Professional Engineer in five US states and is an active member in IEEE, CLT Joules, and UNCC ECE.

Michelle Menard

Michelle Luhr Menard is President and CEO of Choice Translating. Michelle founded Choice Translating in 1995 while an undergraduate at The University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Today, shaped by Michelle's vision to "Change the World, One Word at a Time," the company is a multimillion dollar borderless business.
Michelle holds a B.S.B.A. in international business and a B.A. in French from UNC Charlotte. In 2000, the U.S. Small Business Administration named her North Carolina Young Entrepreneur of the Year. She was recognized in 2004 as one of the Charlotte Business Journal's "40 Under 40" high achievers and was a finalist for Business North Carolina magazine's Small Business of the Year award in 2005. In 2007 she received the Charlotte Business Journal's "Women in Business" achievement award. She was recognized as one of the "50 Most Influential Women" by The Mecklenburg Times in 2011.
Michelle has been an active member of the Entrepreneurs' Organization Charlotte Chapter since 2002 and is an alumna of Leadership Charlotte Class XXV. She currently serves on the advisory board of the UNC Charlotte Belk College of Business and on the House Committee for the Charlotte City Club.

Mike Murphy

Mike Murphy is the Co-founder and Chief Operating Officer of ProctorFree, a rapidly growing technology company that uses machine learning to improve the quality of education. Mike has a passion for innovation and mission-driven businesses. Prior to starting his own business, Mike worked as marketing director for Everblue Training Institute, a startup focused on marketing environmental sustainability and green building. Earlier in his career, Mike served in the Army and as a defense contractor where he completed three tours in Iraq. Mike is also a Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce Board Member and Vice Chairman of Communication and Technology.

Facilitator, Pitch Demonstration

Dan Roselli, QC FinTech


Dan Roselli is the Co‐founder of Packard Place which focuses on the core values of "Innovation. Entrepreneurship. Community.” It has over 100 companies as residents and is one of the largest entrepreneurial and tech centers outside of NY, Boston and Silicon Valley.  Dan also leads two of the top incubation programs in the region: QC FinTech, a three-month boot camp style program focused on identifying and accelerating growth of early-stage companies focused on driving disruptive and innovative emerging financial technologies and RevTech Labs a three-month incubator program focused on early-stage mobile, software and web companies. Dan’s first career was in Fortune 500 marketing working in senior marketing positions for General Mills, Colgate Palmolive, and M&M/MARS. In 2000, he relocated to Charlotte to become the Brand & Advertising Executive for Bank of America where he oversaw Brand Strategy and Marketing Communications for the company globally. In 2003, he launched his entrepreneurial career as one of the original co-founders of internet marketing firm Red Ventures and has co‐founded three different companies that have made it to the INC 500 list of fastest growing private companies in America.
Dan has a finance degree from Michigan State University and a MBA in marketing from the University of Minnesota.