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Mentor Bios


Mentor Bios

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Mentor Bios


Mentor Bios

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John Ason


Kewpie Associates

John Ason


Kewpie Associates

John Ason has been a professional angel investor for about 20 years specializing in early stage pre-revenue companies. He has made about 80 eclectic investments in the areas of e-commerce, technology, advertising, digital social media and entertainment. He currently has about 25 companies. Some of his better know exits are Xlibris.com, Diapers.com. LiveLook.com and Centrak.com. Sixteen of his companies have been founded by women.

John was at AT&T Bell Labs for over 25 years, first involved in bleeding edge software and technology development, then in marketing and business management of large telecommunications projects sold internationally primarily in the Far East. He is a graduate of the Illinois Institute of Technology and a guest lecturer at Wharton, Fairleigh Dickinson, NYU, Rutgers, and NJIT. He mentors the following women’s groups: Astia, Springboard, 37Angels and the Vinetta Project. John’s hobbies include traveling, golf, and mentoring companies. Check out his website at www.JohnAson.com.

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Holley Atkinson


Food+Tech Connect

Holley Atkinson


Food+Tech Connect

Holley Atkinson launched Making Food Work in 2009, emerging as a true leader in food and tech initiatives on a wide range of issues and challenges, with a focus on digital and social media, product development, project management, strategic marketing and advisory services. She is passionate about local food systems, social media, and information technology. Holley co-founded the Food+Tech meetup in early 2010 and also the Slow Money NYC Meetup later that same year. 

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Bryan Janeczko


Wicked Start Innovation

Bryan Janeczko


Wicked Start Innovation

Executive leadership in building startups and emerging food-based brands. Bryan is an innovator and entrepreneur seeking out extraordinary opportunities to fuel transformational experiences. Core competencies includes business model innovation, white space product development, go-to market strategies, and building operations infrastructure that drives scalability. Performance driven with a track record of results in start-ups, large corporate entities, and business incubators. 

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Jason Jones


Vital Farms

Jason Jones


Vital Farms

Jason is an entrepreneur and executive with a passion for upgrading our food industry from the inside. His fortes include conceptualizing disruptive brands and products, and assembling the capability to drive rapid growth. Hew as founding President of Vital Farms Inc, at one time the #1 fastest growing food & beverage company per Inc Magazine. Vital changed grocery shelves nationwide through their pioneering approach to quality food through animal welfare. 

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James Manfredonia


Magellan Partners

James Manfredonia


Magellan Partners

James has run equity trading desks generating hundreds of millions in annual revenues at Merrill Lynch and Bear Stearns. He has been an elected by his peers and regulators as an industry leader while also launching three entrepreneurial ventures.  As an advisor to many fledgling companies, James has created and edited presentations, analyzed financials and arranged numerous investor meetings.  James is an educator, a wealth manager and a communicator --- working to parallel his philanthropic efforts with his career.  Most importantly, he is the proud father of three.   

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David Postolski


Gearhart Law

David Postolski


Gearhart Law

David Postolski, a partner at Gearhart Law, is a registered patent attorney and Intellectual Property attorney. With over 15 years’ experience, David specializes in assisting inventors, creators, artists, start-ups, entrepreneurs, early stage companies and emerging companies with their U.S and International intellectual property strategy, protection, enforcement and monetization. David is also a Professor at Parsons School of Design where he teaches master level students about IP, ethics and other regulatory considerations in starting business ventures and products around design. David also teaches IP and Entrepreneurship at Montclair State University and the French Culinary Institute.  David is the current chair of the Professional Issues Division of the ABA Section of Intellectual Property law as well as a member of the CLE Board, Sponsorship Board, and founder of the International Action Group.

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Kara Rubin


JUST Foods

Kara Rubin


JUST Foods

 

Kara is driven by a fascination with food and how it is grown, raised and distributed; a deeply held desire to bring better, cleaner food to more and more people; and nearly 15 years of strategic and operational food retail experience. Kara has deep roots guiding retail strategy and working with brands ranging across the category spectrum.

Kara is a food and retail industry veteran who is the Vice President of Brand & Product Strategy at JUST Goods, Inc., producer of sustainably packaged and responsibly sourced consumer products, including JUST water. Prior to joining JUST, she spent a decade leading one of the largest regional business units for Whole Foods Market in the United States. Kara has also done independent strategic advisory work with clean-label brands and natural-channel retailers.

Holding degrees from both Duke University and the University of Michigan Business School (now the Stephen M. Ross School of Business),Kara  serves on the Corporate Advisory Council of Just Capital, a nonprofit that measures corporate performance based on the public’s definition of just behavior.  She’s been an advisor to the Rockefeller Foundation on the topic of food waste and she is a guest lecturer at the NYU College of Food, Nutrition and Public Health and the Institute for Culinary Education.

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Ilene V. Smith


I On Food

Ilene V. Smith


I On Food

For the past 17 years, Ilene has combined her expertise, knowledge and skills in food, nutrition and public relations to create game-changing communications programs for leading companies and organizations in the food industry. Among the brands, ingredient companies and commodity boards Ilene has counseled are KIND Snacks, Soyfoods Association of North America, Beyond Meat, Noosa, the Almond Board of California, the California Strawberry Commission and the California Dried Plum Board. Ilene has also worked with several leading CPG brands including those in the Kellogg, PepsiCo, Nestle and ConAgra portfolios. 

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Julie Wurfel


Fresh Direct

Julie Wurfel


Fresh Direct

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Julie creates and implements strategies that enable companies to advance from proven concept to meaningful scale. She is especially interested in companies that place a high priority on ecological and social factors as much as economic returns in the food and agriculture industry—scaling supply chains while maintaining the highest integrity in sourcing and processing.

Julie has more than 20 years of experience in finance, strategy and operations.  As an investment banker for 8 years at Goldman Sachs and Lehman Brothers, she led transactions worth over $10 billion.  As Senior VP at the parent company of Food Network, Julie led the growth of non-US revenue by 6x over 3 years. She was part of the Brooklyn launch team at Good Eggs. She has secured equity, debt and PRI financing for several businesses, developed an investment plan for a 1,000 acre cacao farm in Hawaii for a $1 billion asset manager and advised a fund on a restructuring of its portfolio company, a US grass-fed beef wholesale business.  Julie is a mentor/advisor to Square Roots and FoodFutureCo, both accelerator programs in New York City, as well as The Mixing Bowl Hub, based in San Francisco.Most recently, Julie joined FreshDirect to help lead new business expansion.

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David Benzaquen


PlantBased Solutions

David Benzaquen


PlantBased Solutions

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David Benzaquen is the Founder and CEO of PlantBased Solutions, an award-winning, mission-driven, strategic brand management and marketing agency for plant-based consumer products. PlantBased Solutions helps companies launch and grow their businesses, through marketing, branding, fundraising and more. In addition to PlantBased Solutions, David serves as CEO of Ocean Hugger Foods, a company making sustainable alternatives to popular seafood items. David is a sought after industry expert and public speaker, serving as a mentor and advisor to multiple food incubators, accelerators and funds. David received his master’s degree in management from The New School and his bachelor’s in political science from American University.

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Camille Delebecque


Afineur

Camille Delebecque


Afineur

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Camille is an entrepreneur, consultant and pioneer in "consumer biotechnology" - using biotechnology and fermentation to produce healthier, tastier and more sustainable food products. He is the co-founder and CEO of Afineur, a Brooklyn based biotechnology company using controlled fermentations to enhance plant-based foods. Previously, Camille founded Synbio Consulting to foster biotechnological innovation.

Camille is an agronomical engineer by training and holds a PhD in biotechnology he completed between Harvard and Paris Universities. He is an advisor in biotechnology for the European Commission, and has also been recognized as an emerging leader shaping the future of sustainable food production through biotechnology by LEAP and Grist. 

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Sarah Dorey


Ignite Sales Management

Sarah Dorey


Ignite Sales Management

Sarah Dorey started at IGNITE Sales Management in 2014.  She came to the company with strong experience across multiple categories (dry, frozen and dairy) and many key retailers (Walmart and Target particularly). A 14-year, award-winning career with General Mills included building expertise in category management, account management, product marketing, trade marketing, merchandising strategy and analysis, and channel management.  Since joining IGNITE, she’s worked or consulted with over 30 clients in this fast growing space in food.  Her passion is ensuring that a brand is maximizing it’s selling capabilities while being very strategic about the resources they use.

Her family plays the most important role in her life and a husband and three little girls keep her busy — and being a busy mom has only amplified her awareness of convenient, healthier alternatives for her family in the grocery aisles. When she does find spare time, it’s typically cooking, reading, or getting active outside.

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Aaron Greenwald


Grid Capital

Aaron Greenwald


Grid Capital

After studying architecture and business at Washington University in St. Louis and interning with several architecture and real estate firms including Mitchell Giurgola Architects, BLTA and Massey Knakal, Aaron founded BOLD Organics (“BOLD”), one of the fastest growing better for you frozen food companies in the U.S. After expanding its products into over 10,000 retail stores, BOLD was sold in 2016 to one of the largest frozen food manufacturers in the country. Through BOLD and other investments, Aaron has built an extensive network of financial and strategic partner relationships. The son of two architects and the latest generation of a family of innovative real estate thinkers that dates back to the 1890’s in New York City, Aaron went on to study real estate at NYU and then formed Grid Capital with Justin Kniepman to leverage his relationships and background to pursue a variety of investment initiatives in real estate.

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Lou Cooperhouse


Rutgers University Food Innovation Center

Lou Cooperhouse


Rutgers University Food Innovation Center

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Lou Cooperhouse is Executive Director and a founder of the Rutgers University Food Innovation Center, a globally recognized food business incubator and economic development accelerator program of the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station at Rutgers University.  Lou is recognized as a leading global authority in food business innovation, incubation, acceleration and industry cluster formation. During his 30+ year career in the food industry, he has led cross-functional teams in a wide array of settings including: new business startups, mid-sized and family-run companies, multinational corporations, foodservice and retail operations, university entrepreneurship and innovation centers, and industry trade associations.

Lou also founded the Food Business Incubation Network, a global network of food incubators, accelerators, and shared-use kitchens; and serves on the Board of Directors of the International Business Innovation Association, the world’s leading organization advancing business incubation and entrepreneurship to early-stage companies, serving over 2,000 members in over 60 nations.