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Speaker Biographies

November 16 Keynote Speakers ​

2:00 - 3:00 PM
Ethical Decision-Making, Unconscious Bias, and Creating Spaces for Meaningful Connections
Jay O'Toole

Assistant Professor Department of Management
Old Dominion University


Jay O'Toole earned his Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and holds a Bachelor of Science from Miami University. He studies improvisation, entrepreneurship, and innovation. His research focuses on how teams and organizations can quickly coordinate collective actions by leveraging knowledge-based resources. His industry experience comes primarily from his work as an entrepreneur and consultant.

He started his first business, a web design consultancy, while an undergraduate before working for Deloitte Consulting and later joining a startup CRM company. Jay is a former member of Teach For America, through which he taught high school mathematics in Greenville, MS. Shortly after that, he started his second business, a nonprofit devoted to closing the opportunity gap in the United States, and began a career in education consulting through his work with the Institute for Research and Reform in Education (IRRE).

During his time working with the IRRE, Jay delivered professional development workshops on how to increase classroom teaching and learning efficacy, and he also helped develop technological systems and tools to gather, analyze, and report data used to guide school and district leadership decisions on how best to deploy resources to improve learning outcomes.

3:15 - 4:45 PM
Building Personal Elasticity
Aaron Montgomery

Managing Partner
The Montgomery Development Group


Aaron Montgomery is the Managing Partner of The Montgomery Development Group, an investment firm. Prior to his current role, Aaron was Chief Strategy Officer of Mission Lane, a Forbes Top 50 FinTech and Co-Founder of CarLotz (NASDAQ: LOTZ), a disruptive innovation in the used automotive retail market. Prior to that, he was a consultant at McKinsey & Co. and a sales executive at Kiva Systems, a robotics company that was acquired by Amazon in 2012.

In addition to his work as an investor, Aaron is also an author, speaker, and instructor. He recently finished his first book Suspend Your Disbelief as a giveback to the next generation by sharing stories from his life and career. He also teaches Leadership and Strategy at The PowerMBA an online course platform that is designed to democratize access to executive education and is a 3X Inc. 5000 honoree (2018, 2019, and 2020), and a 2X finalist in EY's Entrepreneur of the Year Program (2015, 2019). He was named Executive Partner of the Year by the Society of Human Resource Managers (SHRM) in 2013.

Aaron holds an A.B. in Economics from Harvard University and an MBA from Harvard Business School. And, he has served on the boards of the United Way of Greater Richmond and Petersburg and Junior Achievement of Central Virginia. An avid pilot fitness enthusiast, and novice golfer, Aaron lives in Richmond, VA with his wife Nimisha and their daughter Diya.

November 17 Speakers ​

8:00 - 9:15 AM Sessions
How to Prepare for Government Contracting

Lisa Wood
Virginia PTAC


Ms. Wood holds a MBA from the University of New Haven and a BSBA through the Robert Morris University of Pittsburgh. Lisa is currently pursuing her PhD in Instructional Management and Leadership (School of Education and Social Sciences) with Robert Morris University of Pittsburgh.

She previously was the Statewide Director of the Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTAC) for the Connecticut PTAC and prior to that was Statewide Director with the Ohio Department of Development after serving as PTAC Director for the Northwest Commission of Pennsylvania.

Before joining the PTAC community, Lisa was a Contracting Officer for Bechtel Plant Machinery, Inc. in the Greater Pittsburgh Area. In her prior roles, Wood performed contract administration and negotiation duties. She also recommended bidders, handled issue inquiries, negotiated bids, performed cost and price analysis, and prepared comprehensive letters to justify recommended contract actions.

How to use the Lean Canvas

Tom Tanner
Roanoke Regional SBDC


Tom has 23 years of small business ownership to include multiple store operations (25 locations) and direct supervision of 25 managers, and 150 employees.  He is very experienced in areas such as marketing, financial analysis, store operations and accounting. He is a federally licensed IRS Enrolled Agent (EA) along with possessing the Project Management Professional designation (PMP), a Six Sigma Green Belt, a QuickBooks Desktop ProAdvisor and Certified ProAdvisor for QuickBooks Online and hold the certification of EDFP which Economic Development Finance Professional from the National Development Council. 

Since 2007 he has worked as a Senior Business Advisor at the Roanoke Regional Small Business Development Center (RRSBDC) in Roanoke. At the RRSBDC he advise small business owners in areas such as product development, operations, taxes, accounting, financial analysis and in other areas that help grow their business.

He is also the local coordinator for VetBiz, which is a local group he established to help veteran business owners connect with other veteran owners. Go to to register your business.

Amanda Forester
Roanoke Regional SBDC


Coming Soon

Finding Your Center's Brand

Tati Pena
Assistant Director
Capital Region SBDC


Tati has proudly been with the re-launched Capital Region Center since day two. She began her tenure with us as a social media and operational consultant and was subsequently brought on as the Program Manager before ultimately settling into the role of Assistant Director. Prior to working with the SBDC, she spent a handful of years in Richmond’s boutique management consulting space and over a decade in the hospitality industry.

A first-generation Richmond native, Tati attended Virginia Commonwealth University where she studied English with a focus on 16th and 17th-century Paleography; namely the works of Elenora Wyatt Finch and John Donne. In her free time, Tati prioritizes pouring back into the city that raised her. She is a lover of stories, people, food, and her dog. Ultimately, Tati highly values courageousness and care and strives to center joy and intentionality in all that she does.

9:30 - 11:00 AM Session
Reimagining Main Street

Panel Moderator

Christine Kriz
Laurel Ridge SBDC


As the director of the Laurel Ridge Small Business Development Center  Christine Kriz leads a team of experienced business advisors and educators to help small businesses grow and thrive. In addition to helping individuals to start, manage, grow, and sell their small businesses, Christine brings more than 25 years of business and industry experience, including work in human resources management with Kraft Foods, 10 years in training and program development at Lord Fairfax Community College’s Office of Workforce Solutions, and CEO for the Top of Virginia Regional Chamber. In 2019, she was honored as a Virginia State Star for the Virginia Small Business Development Center Network.

Kyle Meyer
Dept of Housing & Community Development
(DHCD) Virginia Main Street


Kyle Meyers is a market-driven and client-focused urban planner with over 15 years of experience in project management, community development, and commercial revitalization. Kyle administers Virginia Main Street (VMS), a program of advanced, asset-based, commercial district economic development associated with the National Main Street Center and housed in the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development. 

Through VMS I provide downtown and neighborhood commercial revitalization technical assistance and resources to designated Virginia Main Street communities and affiliates, Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) grantees and to any other organizations, city, town or county governments across the state.  He grew up in the Richmond region, have an avid taste for music and art, and enjoy outdoor, recreational pursuits and adventure travel with my wife and two kids.

Laura Messer
Virginia Tourism Corporation (VTC)


Laura Messer is a Destination Development Specialist for the Virginia Tourism Corporation with a focus on the Chesapeake Bay and Coastal Virginia regions including the Eastern Shore. Previously, Laura spent nearly 14 years with James City County working in tourism marketing and economic development. She has a Master’s degree from Arizona State University and a Bachelors in Communication with a focus in public relations from George Mason University. Laura is a Hampton Roads native, and she loves entrepreneurship and sharing good news.

Jenny Crittenden
Retail Alliance


Jenny Crittenden is the Senior Vice President of Retail Alliance and transitioning to the role of CEO slated for February 2023. Prior, she served sixteen years in the Main Street ecosystem leading the non-profit organization, Main Street Preservation Trust in Gloucester, VA. Additionally, Crittenden served as the Executive Director for the Cook Foundation and held the Marketing and Sponsorship chairs for the Gloucester Arts Festival. She has been recognized as a speaker at the local through national levels on retail and entrepreneurism.

During the pandemic, Gov. Ralph Northam appointed Crittenden to represent small brick and mortar retail on the Governor’s COVID-19 Business Task Force with the goal of assisting the developing reopening guidelines for businesses in Virginia.

She holds the distinction of having been honored with the national Main Street Forward Award, showcasing Crittenden’s recovery and resiliency efforts and execution of an E-Commerce Platform for the Gloucester downtown businesses.

Prior to joining Retail Alliance’s leadership team, Crittenden served in various facets with Retail Alliance, including its Retail Alliance Foundation Board, Executive Committee, Legislative and Membership Chairs and on the organization’s Board of Directors. For the last three years, she has served Retail Alliance as a subject matter expert teaching the Marketing and Customer Service module for the Retail Alliance Foundation’s Certificate in Retail Operations class.

Crittenden was recognized in 2021 as one of twenty top women in business by Inside Business.

She currently resides in Norfolk, VA with her rescue dog, Huckleberry.

Kathy Dolan
Virginia Department of Small Business Supplier Diversity (SBSD)


Kathryn Dolan is currently serving as the Director of Business Development and Outreach Services, with the Virginia Department of Small Business and Supplier Diversity.

Dolan, a native of Richmond, Virginia, has more than 35 years experience in economic development in Virginia in addition to several years in the private sector. She has a strong interest in small business development with a special focus on the economic impact of women- and minority-owned and veteran-owned businesses.

Before joining SBSD, Dolan worked with the U.S. Small Business Administration and the Virginia Department of Business Assistance. (SBSD is the result of a 2014 merge of the former Virginia Department of Business Assistance and the Department of Minority Business Development.) She is passionate about providing the tools to empower small and women- and minority-owned businesses to succeed for the growth of Virginia’s economy. Her state, federal, and private experience makes her a vital resource to Virginia businesses

At SBSD, Dolan assesses existing business models, coordinates strategies with key resources for small businesses across the Commonwealth and has recruited a statewide team. With almost 98 percent of businesses in Virginia being small, Dolan indicates “It’s beyond the right thing to do, it IS about a powerful economic engine for Virginia.”

Michele Bridges
Project Manager
Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDCAS)


Michele Bridges is a Project Manager in the Office of Agriculture and Forestry Development at the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS). She administers the Governor’s Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development (AFID) Fund Facility Grant program, serving as a business resource to new and expanding ag- and forestry-based businesses who are adding value to Virginia-grown products. In the last five years, she has assisted clients who have been awarded over $3.8 million in AFID funds which projects have led to more than $320 million in new capital investment, the creation of over 1,370 new jobs, and the purchase of more than $420 million in Virginia-grown products.

Prior to joining VDACS, she was the Assistant Director of Economic Development and Tourism for Rockingham County. Michele has over fifteen years of experience in marketing, customer service and supply chain management in the private industry.

She is a graduate of James Madison University where she received a Bachelor of Business Administration with a concentration in Marketing. Michele currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Rockingham County Fair and Friendship Industries. She lives in the Shenandoah Valley with her husband, two daughters, two cats and their beloved goldendoodle, Murphy. Michele enjoys spending time with her family, gardening, cooking, and traveling.

11:15 AM - 12:30 PM Sessions
Business Growth Preparation

Mike Williams
The Growth Coach of Northern Virginia


Before Mike launched The Growth Coach of Northern Virginia, he retired from Coca-Cola, where he held a variety of positions including account executive, business development manager, food service sales executive and on premise manager as well as distribution national sales executive. In his last role, he was responsible for millions of cases of product and managed and supported 32 food service distributors. Before that, he worked as a production supervisor, plant training supervisor, recycling coordinator and sales representative with Mobile Chemical Company (now Exxon Mobil) and he served six years in the Army. he am originally from Baltimore and graduated Magna Cum Laude as a Distinguished Military Graduate from Morgan State University.

His 26 years of experience with Fortune 500 companies have given him a unique perspective on business management and sales. Many of the tools and much of the training available at that level can have profound benefits for small- and medium-sized businesses. Being a Growth Coach gives him the opportunity to share my experience along with the proven Growth Coach process to the benefit of my clients and the community.

Hiring & Retaining Talent in a Tight Labor Market

Donna Norman
DLN Leadership Group, LLC


Donna L. Norman, MA, SHRM-SCP Certified Executive and Personal Development Coach and founder of DLN Leadership Group, LLC., Donna focuses on helping others use faith to define their truth, strengthen personal accountability, broaden perspective, and progressively grow in life or career.

Donna has a 25+ year career in Business, Human Resources, and Leadership Coaching. Her experience comes from working for multiple Fortune 100 companies, higher education, and small business.

In addition to her professional certifications, Donna has a Masters from The George Washington University, and is currently pursuing ICF Coaching certification while studying theological leadership development at the Freedom School of Ministry. Her mission is to help others find success through self-mastery, Donna is a wife and mother of three who enjoys reading books, playing board games with family and friends, and serving in her assigned ministries

Strength Finders:
Futuristic, Ideation, Relator, Connectedness, Adaptability

Introversion, Intuition, Thinking, Perceiving (INTP)

Emergenetics Preferences:
Conceptual, Flexible

VIA Strengths:
Curiosity, Spirituality, Fairness, Love of Learning, Hope

Contact Donna L. Norman at for additional resources

Video Kills: The Marketing Star! - Examining & Understanding the Video-First Marketing Scene

Nicole Cooper
Modern Buzz Media


Nicole Cooper is founder and lead educator of Modern Buzz Media, a Roanoke business focused on demystifying, empowering and teaching wasy to make marketing meaningful. Nicole recently worked as a marketing advisor with the Roanoke Regional SBDC. Prior to that, Nicole had been teaching children K through 8th grade how to navigate, use and create digital media. Teaching best practices on how to stay safe when receiving media messages and how to be safe, creative, AND ethical while creating them has been her passion.

2:00 PM - 3:30 PM Session
Understanding Virginia's Tech Ecosystem

Panel Moderator

Josh Green
ICAP Virginia SBDC 


Josh Green is a mentor and entrepreneur whose career has primarily focused on business and organizational development. He is currently the Director of the Innovation Commercialization Assistance Program (ICAP) – a program of George Mason University and the Virginia SBDC. ICAP works with early-stage technology and innovation-driven companies to validate their market and continues to support them as they seek investment and scale their ventures. For 15 years, he has advised private companies and nonprofit organizations across the United States in a wide array of industries.

Josh is also a founding member of a startup that produces a high-performance and environmentally safe hydraulic fluid, as well as an aerospace startup that manufactures next-generation unmanned systems.

Josh received his undergraduate degree from the University of Arizona and an MBA from the University of Nevada.

Conaway Haskins
VP – Entrepreneurial Ecosystems
Virginia Innovation Partnership (VIPC)


Conaway Haskins has spent nearly 20 years helping public and private sector organizations navigate economic development, public policy and strategic management challenges and opportunities at the local, state, and national levels. He currently serves as Vice President for Entrepreneurial Ecosystems at the Virginia Innovation Partnership Corporation (VIPC) where he provides strategic vision and operational results for the organization's new Entrepreneurial Ecosystems Division.

Prior to joining VIPC, he served as Associate Director of the Virginia Tech Center for Food Systems and Community Transformation and as the State Economic Development Specialist for the university's Virginia Cooperative Extension division. He was responsible for leading and executing technical assistance, applied research, and public engagement efforts serving communities and regions across the Commonwealth. Before that, Conaway led a variety of efforts for the Virginia Community Economic Network, Virginia State University, Council on Foundations, US Senator Jim Webb, and the Cameron Foundation. He began his career as an economic and workforce development researcher at the Aspen Institute.

Conaway is an Adjunct Professor at the Virginia Tech Center for Leadership in Global Sustainability and is an active member of the Virginia Economic Developers Association and International Economic Development Council. He earned a Masters of Regional Planning degree from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a B.A. with honors & distinction in Government and Politics from George Mason University.

Alex Euler
Senior Investment Director
Virginia Innovation Partnership (VIPC) VVP


Alex Euler is a recognized thought leader on entrepreneurship and early-stage investing with a background in the physical and life sciences. He joined GAP Funds in 2011 to lead all aspects of seed and early stage investments, including post-investment, for Virginia-based technology and life science companies. Alex serves as a board representative for select VIPC portfolio companies, is one of the founding board members of the Charlottesville Angel Network and is an active mentor within the i.Lab @ UVA.

He is also currently a member of the Virginia Commonwealth University Commercialization Advisory Panel, as well as a member of the board of directors for the Virginia Biotechnology Association. Alex holds a BS in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from UMBC and earned his MBA at the F.W. Olin Graduate School of Business at Babson College. Outside of his work for VIPC, Alex is a Firefighter/EMT with Wintergreen Fire & Rescue.

Akosua Acheamponmaa
NSU Innovation Center 


Akosua Acheamponmaa Nwala has helped entrepreneurs, innovators and support services including George Mason University, Old Dominion University, Norfolk State University, Tidewater Community College and Hampton University to
establish their vision into tangible resources and platforms in Hampton Roads.

In 2021, her programs at Norfolk State University Innovation Center added over one million dollars to the economy.

She' s helped her clients save up to five to six figures in less than 30 days of training with her. Her passion is to help people turn their ideas and business models into solutions customers will pay for over and over again.

Evans McMillion
Executive Director
757 Accelerate


Evans is passionate about solving problems through innovation and collaboration. As an attorney, she helped growing businesses rethink their options and knock down the hurdles in their path towards growth. Most of Evans’ opportunities materialized because she was willing to say “yes” and then get to work.

Prior to joining 757 Accelerate, Evans worked as an attorney counseling big and small companies at all stages of growth from entity formation through IPO. She has practiced in law firms in Seattle and Virginia Beach, as well as serving as corporate counsel to ADS, Inc. Evans attended Dartmouth College and Duke University School of Law.

Ian Frazier
Program Manager
757 Accelerate


Ian is passionate about solving unique problems through innovation and collaboration. As a Program Manager, he helps growing businesses rethink their strategy for near and long-term growth in their path to scale. He works for 757 Angels and 757 Accelerate, exposing him to the investor and founder side of entrepreneurship. He is active in his community through organizations Women in Venture and Start Peninsula, for which he acted as both a marketing manager and judge, respectively. He values his ability to ask the right questions to guide founders and coworkers to their own conclusions faster than they could alone.

Prior to becoming the Program Manager of 757 Accelerate and 757 Angels, Ian attempted to create an emerging market fund focused on the newly legalized public cannabis industry in Canada, initiating his interest in entrepreneurship and continuing his interest in investing. Ian has held multiple financial positions domestically and in Australia in the fields such as real estate, sales, asset management, and data analysis. During his free time, Ian participates in cryptocurrency mining, supporting Helium's crowdsourced telecommunications network and Kadena's safer, smart contract network. He holds a B.S. in Finance from Virginia Tech and maintains a "give before you get" mentality for founders.

William McPheat
ICAP Life Science Mentor 


William (Willie) McPheat (PhD MBA) has a wealth of pharmaceutical industry experience through 25 years with AstraZeneca (UK and Sweden) as a Principal Scientist, drug discovery Project Leader, and leader of multiple international academic/business collaborations. He co-founded (2009) the UVA-AstraZeneca collaboration in cardiovascular sciences.

He retired and relocated to Norfolk, Virginia in December 2013. William’s PhD was in microbiology (Whooping Cough vaccine) from the University of Glasgow, UK (his hometown). At AstraZeneca, he led projects in areas as diverse as Chlamydia diagnostics; Host Defense vs Infection; atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease; pulmonary hypertension; and diabetes.

William completed an Executive MBA from the College of William & Mary (2015) and has since established an extensive network across the healthcare ecosystem in Virginia. He is a member of the Review Boards of two intramural funds at UVA; the Commercialization Advisory Board of VCU’s Innovation Gateway; and the BioLife Investment Advisory Board of VIPC’s VVP seed fund.

William combines biotech consultancy in Virginia (one company recently being awarded an SBIR grant) with teaching translational biology, research commercialization, and building effective teams to graduate and medical students at Eastern Virginia Medical School.

Liz Pyle
ICAP Life Science Mentor


Elizabeth has 20 + years experience working with early stage startups, turn-around and rapid growth companies with $3,000,000 to $12,000,000 in revenue. Prior to joining GMU’s Life Science Business Mentor Team, she served as COO for Aperiomics, Inc. Aperiomics combined the latest advancements in science, technology, and medicine to change the way healthcare providers identify causes of infection. She oversaw the clinical test development, validations, regulatory affairs and operations on behalf of the company. ​

Ms. Pyle served as Associate Director for Technology Entrepreneurship and Director, for the NSF ICORPS Site Program at the University of Virginia’s School of Engineering & Applied Sciences (SEAS). She focused on developing and expanding the SEAS Technology Entrepreneurship Program beyond the classroom and across the university. ​

Elizabeth founded Pyle & Associates, LLC, an Interim Executive Management firm providing management and business consulting services across diversified industries. Her extensive experience in business development, strategic planning, marketing, operations, and leadership have left a lasting impact on overall business performance from startup to turn-around situations. ​

Ms. Pyle holds an M.B.A. degree from Averett University, a M.Ed. from the University of Houston, and a B.A. in Geology from Cedar Crest College. Known for her candor and high ethical standards, positive energy and astute people skills, she has become a valued resource for business incubator programs throughout Virginia and her success as a business consultant is reflected in the successful outcomes of her clients.

3:45 PM - 5:15 PM Session
Financing - Knowing Your Options!

Panel Moderator

Bill Holloran 
Business Analyst
Hampton Roads SBDC 


Bill Holloran brings 41 years of experience in business, strategy development and economic development to the leadership team of Early Education Business Consultants. He served as a senior vice-president for strategy, mergers and acquisitions, and general manager at Day & Zimmermann (formerly The Atlantic Group) from 2006 to 2018; a $1.3 billion industrial maintenance conglomerate providing maintenance modification, specialty contracting and staff augmentation to the power industry and government customers. He also worked for eleven years with the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce and Thomas Nelson Community College, serving as executive director of the Small Business Development Center.

Bill developed and implemented management assistance, international and financial programs throughout the Hampton Roads region, serving over 2,200 small businesses and resulting in an average addition of approximately 300 jobs and additional capital investment of more than $17 million per year. His role in EEBC is to ensure seamless and successful transitions of the acquisitions of early care and education businesses to the Clear Capital ECE portfolio.

Jeff Richardson
Beach Commercial Finance


Coming Soon

Perry Olenych
Co-Founder and CEO
All Merchant Funding


Co-Founder and CEO of All Merchant Funding, which is a specialty finance company that has helped fund over $250 million since its inception in 2013.

Mike Austin
Hampton Roads SBDC 


Mike Austin was the recipient of the Virginia SBDC Network 2021 State Star Award. This award was presented in recognition of the tremendous impact he had both here in Hampton Roads, and throughout the Commonwealth with his work on access to capital. A life-long resident of Hampton Roads who spent 37 years in the banking industry, Mike began his career in 1979 with United Virginia Bank, when he gained experience and is expertise in small business and SBA lending. His career included stints at Bank of Tidewater, Resource Bank, and finally Fulton Bank.

During over three decades of work experience he reviewed thousands of small business applications and approved hundreds of SBA backed and bank-direct loans. In addition, Mike became a frequent content expert speaker at local small business training sessions, helped to set up a local micro loan fund and was a member of the Board of Directors for the SBDC of Hampton Roads.

Following retirement in early 2017 he started working on a part-time basis as the Access to Capital Adviser for the SBDC of Hampton Roads. His work with this group greatly expanded in response to the COVID-19 crisis with a focus on the range of SBA-backed loan and grant programs being offered to small businesses throughout the Commonwealth via our statewide network.

Joey Barnes

Senior Vice President

Virginia Community Capital  


Coming Soon

Anna Mackley
Chief Credit Officer
Virginia Small Business Financing Authority


Anna is Chief Credit Officer for the Virginia Small Business Financing Authority, a political subdivision of the Commonwealth of Virginia which provides economic development financing programs statewide. As VSBFA’s Chief Credit Officer, Anna has responsibility for managing VSBFA’s credit administration and lending functions. Anna has more thirty-seven years of commercial lending experience in both the private and public sector. Prior to joining VSBFA, Anna had a successful career in commercial lending at a regional Virginia bank and at a small entrepreneurial company which specialized in lending to physicians.


Anna graduated from the McIntire School of Commerce at the University of Virginia with a B.S. degree in Finance. She is also a graduate of the School of Commercial Lending at the University of Virginia’s Colgate Dalton Graduate School of Business. Anna has served on the board of directors and in various leadership capacities with several statewide professional organizations, including the Virginia Economic Developers Association and the Virginia District Export Council.

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