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Volunteer Spotlight

Bonnie Melville 

Bonnie is optimistic about the future of women entrepreneurship, she says “If the recent Guided Business Plan cohort is an indication of the future, women-owned small businesses are caring about their employees beyond an inexpensive labor source. In our last class, many of the small business owners were already thinking about career paths, professional development and how to provide low cost flexibility and perks to their future employees, even if the entrepreneurs knew they couldn’t yet afford better pay.

Jeff Andrews

When asked what surprises you most about working with WomenVenture clients Jeff said "I'm surprised by the passion and genuine interest that clients have for their business. This passion is supported by their desire to improve their business as well as their own personal lives through their own unique pursuit of entrepreneurship." 

Alexa Ruda

Alexa says she continues to be surprised by the strong support the WomenVenture client cohorts provide to one another. "I often feel like a facilitator of conversation rather than a consultant - these women know their stuff and are eager to share with one another!"

When asked what she would tell someone who is thinking about volunteering with WV, Alexa says: "It's simple, do it!" Thank you for your commitment to women-owned small business development in Minnesota.

Mary Jo Schifsky

Mary Jo has donated 40+ hours to WomenVenture since she started volunteering with us in early 2016. She says “WomenVenture’s focus on helping women start and run businesses taps my gratitude for those who helped me in my business-building. WV entrepreneurs share an energy and optimism I like being around. With my experiences starting departments, agencies and small businesses, I thought I had something to offer.” Which she does! Mary Jo has participated in Guided Business Plan, Lab Nights, Checkpoints and Ready to Launch Meetings. It’s a pleasure to have Mary Jo on our Volunteer Team!

Aminah Qandeel

Aminah is a junior studying applied economics at the University of Minnesota. She interned with WomenVenture as an economic development intern. During her time here, Aminah collected data on organizations like WomenVenture across the United States. She enjoyed hearing the stories of WomenVenture’s clients and learning about their businesses. In her free time, she likes to visit her favorite cafes in Minneapolis, going to the farmers market, and reading a good book.

Robert Lee

Robert is the founder of Alatheia LLC, a consulting company that serves small-and medium-size businesses across various industries, includng power generation, electronics manufacturing, and consumer products. Robert began his career as a business strategist in 1994 while working as a lead designer in Motorola's automotive electronics group. From there, Robert went on to work in a variety of strategist roles including as the Executive Director of Strategy and Business Development with Cummins Power Generation. His focus in that role was to identify and prioritize investments into soruces of competitive advantage.

Robert has been volunteering with WomenVenture since February. His strong belief in economic empowerment is a great match for WomenVenture's mission to enable entreprenuership. As a consultant with WomenVenture, Robert has shares his expertise with many business people. He strives to provide them with actionable advice that helps to clarify the most important priorities for success. When not working, Robert enjoys dinners with his wife, jogging, and reading.

Roseanne Hope

Roseanne Hope is the principal and owner of Hope Law, a boutique commercial real estate and business law near 50th and france. After a 20 year career working as an attorney for large law firms like Dorsey and Whitney, Faegre BakerDaniels and Robins Kaplan, Roseanne co-founded Compendium Capital, a small women owned business in 2009 working with the FDIC and failing banks during the financial crisis. Since then she has moved on to found Hope Law, a certified Women’s Business Enterprise, and is enjoying tailoring the practice the way she wants to to serve both private and non-profit clients. Roseanne is also a founding member of Minnesota Commercial Real Estate Women (MNCREW), an organization that proudly celebrates its 20th anniversary this year and provides a supportive network for women working in the male dominated real estate industry.

Roseanne has been volunteering with WomenVenture for over a year, teaching classes about commercial real estate for new entrepreneurs and working with small business owners one-on-one with lease review and negotiation pro bono. She says her feeling of reward comes from seeing entrepreneurs succeed who would not have been able to afford an attorney otherwise. As a business owner herself, Roseanne encourages other entrepreneurs to stay motivated and focused through the inevitable ups and downs of business ownership. When not working, Roseanne is busy marathon training, travelling, and volunteering with a variety of organizations! 

Emily Kelly

Meet Emily Kelly! Emily joined us in February as an intern in the marketing department and has been doing wonderful work on WomenVenture’s social media strategy and client stories. One of her bigger projects has included analyzing past social media messaging and use and comparing those statistics against current industry strategies to improve WomenVenture’s outreach goals and social media action plan going forward. Her work has also included client visits, interviews, and photos that are put together to create client features. Because of the opportunity to interface with real women and their businesses, Emily says working on client stories has been one of her favorite parts of interning at WomenVenture. According to Marketing and Events Specialist Jenée Anderson, “Emily has been an instrumental part of our team these last few months. She truly has gone above and beyond on the projects she’s worked on and her help has allowed us to build capacity and grow our new marketing initiatives.”

A senior majoring in financial economics at St. Kate’s, Emily plans to graduate next January. She hopes to do some travelling post-graduation before looking for work in the marketing research/analytics field. When asked what she does in her free time, Emily says, “what free time?!” In addition to school and WomenVenture, Emily works two(!) additional jobs as a receptionist for a salon and as a server for a golf course. But she loves shopping, her puppy, and seeing her friends as well.  We are so grateful for Emily’s dedication to women-owned businesses and to her own education! 

Lisa Johnson

Lisa has been volunteering with WomenVenture since 2013 as a trainer and consultant for start-up businesses. After an 18-year career in Human Resources at UnitedHealth, Lisa left the corporate world a few years ago to devote more time to being a mom and to helping run the dog-walking business her husband had recently started. Although Lisa was new to entrepreneurship at the time, she quickly brought value to the venture by getting the business incorporated, setting up Quickbooks, and responding to client needs. As the business has grown, they have now expanded their staff to 3 part-time employees and one full-time employee.
Now a facilitator, Lisa enjoys being amongst a group of passionate women who have recognized opportunities and are seeking help with translating their vision into action. She also consults with WomenVenture clients on different topics related to human resources. In her free time, Lisa enjoys working with the outreach ministry at her church, creative and artistic pursuits, biking, running, and enjoying the family cabin in Northwestern Wisconsin.

Barb Laporte

Barb Laporte has been volunteering at WomenVenture since November of 2014, helping staff assemble class curriculum, update client records, and prepare for meetings and special events. Barb has an extensive background in teaching, corporate training and development, and career counseling. She is recently retired from her position as Director of Career Services for the School of Public Health at the University of Minnesota. Barb has known about WomenVenture for years and upon retirement decided to donate her time and services to an organization that she feels does meaningful work;  “I like providing a necessary service that hopefully lightens the loads of the WomenVenture staff. The staff is always so appreciative and completing projects for them creates a sense of accomplishment,” says Barb. In her free time, she enjoys travel, exercise (Tai Chi Chih and yoga), and spending time with her grandchildren. Barb is also the author of the book “Goal Achievement through Treasure Mapping,” a 5-step process that taps into the power of intuition to help a person achieve their goals. WomenVenture is so thankful for Barb’s zen approach to appreciating the present moment, even when doing data entry for WomenVenture!

Barb Huibregtse

Barb Huibregtse has been volunteering with WomenVenture as both a business consultant and financial trainer for WomenVenture’s Guided Business Plan course since April of 2015! She is consistently one of WomenVenture’s most sought-after volunteers, often requested by name from those who have seen her in action. What contributes to her success? Barb got her business start in college managing a grocery store, and went on to spend 22 years in finance, accounting, and operations with Supervalu. She left Supervalu in 2012 to establish her own consulting business and is now working with small businesses in retail, manufacturing, and process improvement, as well as non profits and start-ups, not to mention volunteering her time to help WomenVenture clients!
Her depth of experience makes her an invaluable advisor to small businesses. Barb says she loves the variety of working with a wide range of people and enjoys seeing the business and financial impact she can make on an organization.  About her work with WomenVenture, she notes: “WomenVenture’s clients have developed solid business ideas, they are passionate about their chosen field, and they really want practical guidance and advice.  [Meeting with women entrepreneurs] has been productive and fun; it has been very rewarding to connect with a variety of enthusiastic clients.” Thanks Barb!

Elise Maxwell

Elise Maxwell has been a volunteer consultant for WomenVenture’s start up entrepreneurs for over a year. As a full time MBA student and entrepreneur herself, Elise understands that entrepreneurship can feel lonely at times and enjoys being able to encourage the women she works with. She says, “I hope that when I volunteer with clients, they feel like they have an advocate in their corner. The women that come to WomenVenture are putting themselves out in the world in a bold, new way, and that is inspiring.” Her best advice for new entrepreneurs? “Just start. There is no such thing as the perfect idea.” Elise’s own nascent business, Ova Woman, is an online community that serves as a safe space for conversations about women’s intimate health topics that may be taboo or infrequently discussed in the public arena. The online forum is also an aggregator for new, innovative health products related to women’s intimate needs. “We want women to be comfortable and confident as they navigate periods, pregnancy, breastfeeding and menopause,” says Elise.

Elise and OvaWoman have been the recipient of numerous awards for entrepreneurship in 2015, including the Acara Challenge (Domestic Division), MN Cup (Student Division), MN Cup Audience Choice Award, and the InnovateHER challenge as a second place finalist. WomenVenture is honored to have Elise on our volunteer team as an inspiration and guide for new entrepreneurs!

Jane Oslund

Jane Oslund has generously volunteered her time with WomenVenture since 2013 as the inimitable organizer of “The Marketplace,” a showcase of women-owned businesses and their products that takes place during WomenVenture’s annual fall fundraiser. Jane comes to us with a wealth of experience in the marketplace world; for two years she coordinated over 180 vendors for CedarFest, a music festival that took place on the West Bank of the University of Minnesota for many years, and for 5 years she coordinated over 120 vendors for the summer family festival “Marketfest” in downtown White Bear Lake. All of this in addition to championing both external and internal events for her employer BankCherokee has undoubtedly helped her create a welcoming environment for the 50+ vendors that participate in WomenVenture’s marketplace each year. Between planning meetings, designing layouts, vendor outreach, committee coordination, preparing maps & documentation for vendors and volunteers, and the day itself, Jane puts in close to 75 hours a year making sure that the day of the marketplace is a success. She says what motivates her is learning about new businesses she might not have encountered otherwise and contributing to a mission she believes in. Seeing how excited business owners are about their product and how their businesses have “blossomed over the year” makes all the work that goes into the day “fun”! WomenVenture is so thankful to Jane for her contagious laugh and her commitment to making the marketplace shine three years in a row!

In her free time, Jane loves supporting local restaurants, hitting the live music scene, and volunteering with the Irish Fair of Minnesota. Keep your eye out for her if you attend – she may be pouring your beer!

Toni D'Eramo

Meet Toni D’Eramo! Toni has been with WomenVenture since March of 2014, providing women business owners with marketing and financial consultations and teaching marketing classes for startup entrepreneurs. Toni started her career in large advertising agencies in Detroit and Minneapolis, working with big name brands like Pillsbury/General Mills, DowBrands, and Campbell’s. She eventually created the agency’s first digital marketing department. Now Toni runs her own agency, Marketing Outfitters. "We’ve worked with companies large and small, from Michael Foods, Land O’Lakes and Lowa, to the little gift shop at St. John’s Hill Monastic Manuscript Library," says Toni, who gets most excited about the lasting relationships she has with her clients: "You can accomplish so much when you develop a deep understanding of your client, their business and their customers." One of the most exciting moments for her Marketing Outfitters team was being chosen from 10,000+ competitors as a national WEBBY award winner for a web site they created.

When asked what challenges she thinks every entrepreneur faces, Toni has two pieces of advice. “First are the financials. Do not fear the numbers, instead, play with them and get comfortable. Try different scenarios and forecasts, go small and go big and see what it looks like. It’s critical to understand them so you can guide your business.” The second thing? Execution. “It is just as important as strategy. Many great ideas fail due to bad execution.” Toni loves working on new products and new ideas, and working with entrepreneurs at WomenVenture has allowed her to do just that. “It is energizing for me to meet these clients, help them recognize their own potential, and work an idea into a concrete business plan.”

Shaun Han

Shaun Han came to WomenVenture in June of 2015 as a recent graduate in Finance from the University of Minnesota. He has since spent the summer volunteering his time in WomenVenture's accounting department, updating financial spreadsheets and entering journal entries. Having donated over 120 hours, Shaun says it has been a great experience working in a non-profit based business environment. Trish Bosquez, WomenVenture's accounting manager, calls Shaun an aspiring young analyst: "He was so cheerful and helpful during our busy audit season. He'll do well where ever he goes during his career."  In his free time, Shaun plays intramural soccer at the University of Minnesota; his team placed second in the league this summer!

We wish Shaun luck as he pursues his career as a financial analyst!

Elana Centor

Elana Centor is an inspiration and a role model for WomenVenture clients. She began teaching WomenVenture’s classes for start-up entrepreneurs in January 2015. Since then, she has donated over 40 hours of time and has been instrumental in re-envisioning some of WomenVenture’s class curriculum. An “accidental entrepreneur” who has reinvented herself many times, today Elana works in leadership training, is a professional blogger, a social media consultant and the curator of Stilettos@Sixty—a social media community for women.

Elana’s passions include fabulous shoes, reading and fitness. Her goal is walking 10,000 steps a day, and she also enjoys barre, yoga and strength training. Elana loves volunteering at WomenVenture and says, “There is nothing accidental about the support this organization affords women who want to become entrepreneurs. Helping women start their entrepreneurial lives with their eyes wide open and their balance sheets solid is an absolute joy.” Elana’s motto: Never be invisible, always be brave.

James Babbitt

James Babbitt has volunteered his valuable time and legal expertise with WomenVenture since March 2015. A licensed attorney in both Minnesota and California, James has provided legal guidance to a number of WomenVenture's start-up entrepreneurs in the areas of vendor negotiations, contract review, copyright law and more. James has also been particularly helpful in reviewing legal documents for loan applicants. He finds his volunteer work extremely rewarding and says, “Of all the non-profits and boards I have participated in, WomenVenture is at the top; it's great to see that volunteer hours produce tangible results and have such a positive impact on the clients.”

James currently serves as general counsel for RMR Capital Group, LLC. He also works as a music compliance researcher for Broadcast Music, Inc. A Minnesota native, James returned to his home state after spending time going to school and working in New York and California. He enjoys visiting the newest breweries and restaurants, as well as taking in live shows at various local music venues.

Lorraine Painter

Lorraine Painter joined WomenVenture as a new volunteer in March 2015; her efforts are focused on coaching clients who participate in the GUIDED Business Plan™ program. Lorraine helps participants pull their business stories together into comprehensive plans and demonstrates stress-testing for market share and break-even sales. She is an enthusiastic cheerleader for each client she works with and brings a great deal of business expertise to her role.

Lorraine recently retired from Cargill, Inc., where she created business plans for new business lines, product launches and geographic expansions. Previously, she managed product portfolios, launched new products and led expansions into new distribution channels for U.S. Bank, Katun Corp., Xcel Energy, Trend Enterprises and Core Group Marketing. Her education includes a bachelor's of science in design from Iowa State University and BBA and MBA degrees from the University of Minnesota.

Ami Jarosinski

As a freshman studying business, marketing and communication at the University of Minnesota, Ami Jarosinski attended a community involvement fair where she met former WomenVenture Volunteer Director Ann Mays. After learning about the agency's mission to help women start and grow small businesses, Ami was energized by the prospect of being involved with WomenVenture. She joined the team as a marketing intern in October 2014 and assisted with the annual fundraising luncheon last fall.

More recently, Ami has dedicated her time and communication skills reaching out to clients about the WomenVenture Client Business Directory. She has been successful in connecting with nearly 100 of the client business owners featured in the online directory. "I really like interacting with clients and professionals that I would not have the opportunity to talk to otherwise," Ami said. "Being at WomenVenture and seeing how everyone works toward the same goal to help women build profitable businesses has been great."

Ami aspires to be a strong business woman with the confidence and skills to work both independently and as a team. She is interested in the hospitality industry and plans to pursue a career in marketing and events.

Marisa Melchert

Marisa Melchert joined WomenVenture in January of 2015 as a small business training intern. A junior at Carlson School of Management studying finance, international business and French, Marissa found out about WomenVenture through Carlson's Gary S. Holmes Center for Entrepreneurship. She was interested in contributing to the agency and the economic success of women—a passion that began while she was in Africa, researching the impact that micro finance institutions have on low income women in developing countries.

In addition to helping prepare course materials, Marisa is currently reviewing and compiling pre- and post-session evaluation information provided by participants of WomenVenture's Getting Ready and GUIDED Business Plan™ classes. Marisa's work helps WomenVenture improve the quality of instruction it provides for entrepreneurs.

"I have learned that when women come together for the same goal of building up women, great things can happen," Marisa said. "My favorite part has been meeting the WomenVenture staff and hearing everyone’s backgrounds."

Lance Radziej

A certified public accountant and a chartered global management accountant, Lance Radziej began volunteering with WomenVenture in January 2015. In addition to teaching the finance sections of WomenVenture's GUIDED Business Plan™ class, Lance provides one-on-one financial assistance to pre-loan clients. A life-long learner, Lance holds a bachelor’s degree in accounting and four master’s degrees in accountancy, business taxation, business administration and theology.

Lance first became familiar with WomenVenture through VolunteerMatch and he continues to volunteer with the agency because it provides the opportunity to utilize his expertise and contribute to the business community in a meaningful way. "Growing up with entrepreneurial parents, and being an entrepreneur myself, I appreciate the value of WomenVenture’s programs," he said. "I’ve enjoyed learning the entrepreneur’s stories and I am happy to help them along their path toward economic self-sufficiency."

Karen Schaffhausen

From simple beginnings at the Minneapolis Grain Exchange to a mitt full of acquisition assessment and integration in New York City, Karen has had the opportunity to interface and grow her career serving an expansive cross section of B2B businesses. Today, she brings 18+ years of international business and marketing strategy knowledge to entrepreneurial clients. Since May 2014, Karen has logged over 50 volunteer hours with WomenVenture, training and consulting women throughout their journeys to building profitable and sustainable businesses!