Features

The (Real) Power 50

By Megan Gosch
04-25-2017

Behold the (Real) Power 50 class of 2017! These individuals were chosen by their predecessors and by our inner circle because of their dynamic presence in the Twin Cities business community and nonprofit sector. These are the shakers and movers that you need to know.

Ravi Norman & Philip Xiao
Roshini Rajkumar
Susan Link
Reed Robinson
Dustin Huibregtse
Melissa DeLay
Mike Rynchek
TJ Bonnett
Natasha Fedorova
Marshall Saunders
Omar Akbar
Lisa David
Tom Sagissor
JT Taylor
Erik Forsberg
Kate Mortenson
Fatimah Hussein & Douglas M. Carnival
Odeh A. Muhawesh
Lisa Lavin
Lewis Remele
Jennifer Smith
Lisa Lamm Bachman
Ezell Jones & Allison O'Toole
Maria Huntley
Marty Weintraub
Margaret Anderson Kelliher
Mike Paton
Sahra Noor
Nicki Vincent
Dr. Sheila Riggs
Dina Simon
Siyad Abdullahi
Nancy Lyons
Tawanna Black
Karin Gessner
Kelly Miyamoto & Nasser Mussa
Jana Shortal
John Hoffman
Jasmine Russell
Jill Renslow
Gary L. Cunningham
Gloria Freeman
Alan Arthur
Don Smithmier & Brooke R. Lee
Sirish Samba

Ravi Norman & Philip Xiao

Ravi Norman, CEO, Thor Companies

INDUSTRY: Real estate development, design, construction and consulting
BIO: I am recognized as a transformative thought leader, known for my inspirational & aspirational influences, as well as my efficiency models for productivity and innovation in the areas of entrepreneurship and job creation. I am a futurist with a vision for maximizing emerging markets. I have created a “SIT-EAT-GROW” model that serves as the basis for my vast mentorships and speaking engagements.
MOTTO: Deliver SMART models
POWER MUSIC: Hip-hop and R&B
TOP CHARITIES: Harvest Prep/SEED Academy, Summit Academy OIC and UNCF

Philip Xiao, CEO, Homi
INDUSTRY: Internet/Education
BIO: I identify as Chinese American, having grown up speaking both languages and embracing both cultures. My two skills are cooking Chinese food and playing tennis. My career is the product of great mentors who happen to share these interests and were willing to take a chance on a kid like me. I find happiness in meeting great people and having a positive impact on their lives.
QUOTE: The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know. —Albert Einstein Power
MUSIC: We Did It, Momoh 
TOP CHARITIES: College Possible, Habitat for Humanity and Youthlink

Roshini Rajkumar

Presence Engineer and Radio Host, Roshini Performance Group and WCCO Radio

INDUSTRY: Executive coaching and professional speaking
BIO: I am a professional broadcaster, conference speaker and executive coach on a mission to help people own their WOW! If everyone did, we would have a recipe for world peace. My family is my priority in life. I’m blessed with great friends who are like family. My favorite meal is happy hour. My favorite drink is a martini, preferably made by my gorgeous husband, but a fab bartender’s mix will do.
MOTTO: Own Your WOW! 
POWER MUSIC: Eye of the Tiger and You Get What You Give 
TOP CHARITIES: Alzheimer’s Association, Autism Society and Smile Network International

Reed Robinson

Director of Customer Success, Equals 3

INDUSTRY: Technology
BIO: I have a knack for connecting people, things and ideas, which I attribute to my family. I’m adaptable and thrive in fluid environments, but couldn’t do that without the steady support of my wife and friends. I can equally talk my way into and out of trouble. I try not to take my work too seriously, but I seriously care about the place I call home. 
QUOTE: The man who chases two rabbits, catches neither.
POWER MUSIC: Budos Band on repeat, when I need to get something out the door
TOP CHARITIES: Art Buddies, Beta.MN and One to One

Dustin Huibregtse

Technology Consultant, Deloitte Consulting & Director of TEDxMinneapolis 

INDUSTRY: Health care
BIO: I am a young professional born and raised in Minneapolis. My passion is organizing and designing experiences for the Minneapolis community. Such events celebrate ideas, inspire our most creative selves and connect our community to maximize impact. I’ve been with Deloitte Consulting for five years, and have focused on the digitalization of healthcare at major hospitals across the country. I serve as a Global Shaper with the Impact HUB MSP, where I work with young professionals dedicated to equality and equity.
QUOTE: Energy and persistence conquer all things. —Benjamin Franklin
POWER MUSIC: Lemonade, Beyoncé
TOP CHARITIES: ACLU, Outfront, RECLAIM

Melissa DeLay

Message Maven, TruPerception

INDUSTRY: Executive office 
BIO: I am Melissa DeLay, aka the Message Maven, and I help leaders manage their reputations. I show you how to master the art of making positive perceptions so you can close more deals, increase loyalty and communicate with confidence, even in the most difficult situations. I am a native of Iowa, where everyone tells it like it is. I currently reside in the Twin Cities area with two of the sweetest kids in the world. 
QUOTE: Perception is reality. That’s why perceptions of your brand, your company — and perceptions of YOU — matter so much. 
POWER MUSIC: Wings, Little Mix 
TOP CHARITIES: Camp Noah, LSS Rezek House and Lutheran Social Services of MN

Mike Rynchek

Founder and CEO, Spyder Trap

INDUSTRY: Digital marketing
BIO: I am always on the move, looking for opportunities to build. I can’t sit still when there’s an opportunity to unlock growth sitting in front of me — in my own business, others’ businesses or in life. Professionally, I exist in the digital space, but I thrive in connecting with people. I’m driven by relationships. And occasionally by good tacos and the Wild.
MOTTO: Always be yourself, unless you can be Batman. Then always be Batman.
POWER MUSIC: Master of Puppets, Metallica
TOP CHARITIES: Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, Community Health Charities and United Health Foundation

TJ Bonnett

President, Limpro

INDUSTRY: Sheet metal fabrication
BIO: Growing up with four accountants in the family proved a hard path to deviate from. Since graduating with an accounting degree, I have been proud to work at three respected local firms, before moving into the family business. It was a wonderful opportunity to acquire LimPro. After conducting an exhaustive search, the people made the difference at LimPro, and still do today. It has been a wonderful learning experience to go through the acquisition process, and it will be an incredible journey to turn it from a lifestyle business into a professional growing concern.
MOTTO: If there are ten people in the room, I’m in the bottom two for intelligence, but I’m in the top two for work ethic.
POWER MUSIC: Anything Prince right now.
TOP CHARITIES: Mia, U of M Women’s Hockey and Men’s Golf, Walker Art Museum

Natasha Fedorova

Program Director, Women’s Business Development Center – Minnesota

INDUSTRY: Nonprofit/business development
BIO: I am an idealist, dreamer, philosopher. An inspirer, coach, mentor. A perpetual student of life. An authentic leader. Driven, passionate and caring. I love people. I love Minneapolis and Minnesota, and working with its business community to serve women entrepreneurs. Personally, my passions include exploring new art and music. I like learning new languages. At the end of the day, I still opt for human stories and making human connections.
QUOTE: Women and children are the fundamental basis of our civilization. —Kate Bazilevsky, Human Population Academy
POWER MUSIC: Moonlight Sonata, Beethoven
TOP CHARITIES: Minnesota Marine Art Museum, the Museum of Russian Art and the Women’s Business Development Center

Marshall Saunders

Managing Partner, SaundersDailey.com and VentureNear.com

INDUSTRY: Crowdfunding
BIO: I like to start and run businesses. At 14 I started a vending company that eventually had an inventory of over 300 machines. In college I ran a lawn-mowing service that won federal government contracts. After college I started a video production business with clients such as the World Trade Center in NYC and Sears Tower in Chicago. After 12 years in residential real estate, I bought half of RE/MAX Results. In 2014, I helped start SaundersDailey, now operated as VentureNear.com.
MOTTO: Sometimes you eat the bear, and sometimes, well, he eats you.
POWER MUSIC: Piano Sonata No. 14 in C Sharp Minor, Op. 27 No. 2, Beethoven
TOP CHARITIES: Emergency Food Shelf, Project for Pride in Living and Ronald McDonald House

Omar Akbar

Managing Director, Aperion Management

INDUSTRY: Private equity
BIO: I am a first generation American, born and raised in Iowa and now a Minnesota transplant via New York and Chicago. I am a father of two and a dedicated snow-shoveler and lawn-mower. In my spare time, I like people, books and sports, especially basketball. At work, I like relationships and compromise, and all the challenges and complexities that come with it.
QUOTE: In my next life, I will try to commit more errors. —Jorge Luis Borges
POWER MUSIC: If I had to choose just one? Roots reggae.
TOP CHARITIES: Edina ABC, Intermedia Arts and MicroGrants

Lisa David

Partner, eCapital Advisors

INDUSTRY: Consulting services
BIO: I lead eCapital’s go-to-market strategy and solution definition. As a committed user-advocate with deep industry expertise, I rely on my business, sales and technology experience to understand my clients’ needs and offer solutions that exceed their expectations. My favorite part of the job is the “before and after” for customers hearing about how our solutions improved their businesses in a meaningful and measurable way. As a consummate people-person, I find passion and inspiration through many personal and professional relationships.
MOTTO: Live every day as if it were a Friday.
POWER MUSIC: Happy, Pharrel Williams
TOP CHARITIES: Courage Center, Susan Kohman and Vision Loss Resources

Tom Sagissor

President, RBC Wealth Management

INDUSTRY: Financial services
BIO: As president of RBC Wealth Management-U.S., I play a critical role in preserving the firm’s culture and accelerating its growth as a leading provider of banking and wealth management services to entrepreneurs, professionals and families throughout the United States. I lead the day-to-day operations of the firm’s private client group. Following a career in professional hockey, I joined Dain Bosworth (a predecessor company of RBC Wealth Management-U.S.) as a financial adviser. I am an active member of the Stillwater community and a strong supporter of the city’s high school sports programs.
MOTTO: Life is 10% of what happens to you and 90% how you react!
POWER MUSIC: Livin’ on a Prayer, Bon Jovi
TOP CHARITIES: Defending the Blue Line, Herb Brooks Foundation and Ronald McDonald House Charities, Upper Midwest

JT Taylor

Director, Supplier Diversity, Medtronic

INDUSTRY: Medical devices
BIO: I joined Medtronic in 2016 with 15 years of experience in supplier diversity, strategic sourcing and insights that spanned across the agri-business industry. I’m responsible for increasing alignment and coordinating supplier diversity goals among business units and functions. I’m an active participant in local and national organizations dedicated to stimulating the growth of minority-owned, veteran, service disabled, woman-owned and HUB Zone businesses. But my three basset hounds only care about getting their meals and treats on time.
QUOTE: I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. —Maya Angelou
POWER MUSIC: Ain’t No Stoppin Us Now, McFadden & Whitehead
TOP CHARITIES: Guardian Angel Basset Rescue, the Humane Society and the UNCF

Erik Forsberg

Overlord, Erik the Red, Dan Kelly’s Pub, Devil’s Advocate

INDUSTRY: Hospitality
BIO: If leadership has taught me anything, I own the best bars ever conceived by man. Also— I taught Socrates to drink I can boost your cellular coverage in rural areas I have all your lost laundry socks I can increase your IQ by 30 points I am the guy that can actually get you on the guest list I am the real most interesting man in the world I actually like your mother-in-law #alternativefacts
MOTTO: Party on, Wayne!
POWER MUSIC: Friends in Low Places, Garth Brooks
TOP CHARITIES: Special Olympics Bowling & Curling

Kate Mortenson

President and CEO, 2019 Final Four Minneapolis Local Organizing Committee

INDUSTRY: Sports
BIO: I would describe myself as a “free-range community impact leader,” because I have privilege that allows me to take some extra risks in pushing for the best outcome. Guided equally by ideals and pragmatism, I believe anything’s possible, but am really interested in what we can concretely DO. I’m a “we” geek. My password to online accounts is actually ‘Community.’ (I guess I have to change my password now!)
MOTTO: Our tagline for the Final Four bid: Winning happens here.
POWER MUSIC: Don’t Stop Me Now, Queen
TOP CHARITIES: MacPhail Center for Music, Minnesota Public Radio and Northside Achievement Zone

Fatimah Hussein & Douglas M. Carnival

Fatimah Hussein, CEO & Founder, ASIYA

INDUSTRY: Athletic apparel
BIO: I was born in Somalia and raised in Minnesota. I enjoy reading, playing basketball, soccer, coaching and spending time with my friends and family. I have been dedicated to serving the community. After recognizing the need for physical activities for girls in the Muslim community, I established the Girls Initiative in Recreation and Leisurely Sports program (G.I.R.L.S.), a nonprofit organization which provides resources and gym access for girls.
QUOTE: The purpose of life is a life of purpose. —Robert Byrne
POWER MUSIC: Fight Song, Rachel Platten
TOP CHARITIES: Red Cross, Second Harvest Heartland and UnitedWay

Douglas M. Carnival, Vice President, Corporate Secretary & Shareholder, McGrann Shea Carnival Straughn & Lamb 

INDUSTRY: Law
BIO: I am driven to succeed at whatever I do. My strength has been working with other people in a cooperative way to achieve common goals. Relationships are the key to success in any field. Over my career, I have worked hard at developing positive and lasting relationships with those I come in contact with. It has made me an effective advocate on behalf of my clients.
QUOTE: I’ve been a lawyer for over 40 years. Do you know what I want to be when I grow up? —A client!
POWER MUSIC: Eye of the Tiger, Survivor
TOP CHARITIES: Boston College, Visitation School and Nativity Catholic Church

Odeh A. Muhawesh

Chairman and CEO, TruScribe 

INDUSTRY: Software
BIO: I am a recognized business leader and academic with many years of experience in founding, leading, fundraising, and mergers and acquisitions. I have many years of experience in helping found and lead various organizations to develop and articulate their business and technology plans, and properly staff for such demands. I serve as Chairman of the board and Chief Executive Officer of TruScribe, a company that delivers White Board Animation Videos to learning institutions both in the corporate and education domains, serving organizations such as NASA, Walmart, Nestle, the federal government, and many universities and colleges.
MOTTO: The most precious wealth is wisdom, and the most miserable poverty is stupidity.
POWER MUSIC: Spirit of the Canyon by Ah Nee Mah
TOP CHARITIES: All charities that help children, the Make-a- Wish Foundation and the Al Hadi Clinic

Lisa Lavin

Founder and CEO, Anser Innovation

INNOVATION: Internet of Things (IoT)
BIO: aI am a high-tech entrepreneur who loves creating new business from the ground up. I get jazzed by business strategy development, building teams and creating new, disruptive products. With that said, I am where I am today because of the mentorship and lifting hands of many successful entrepreneurs who preceded me. As a result, I am driven to help other entrepreneurs achieve their potential. The best part of my day is encouraging the success of others.
QUOTE: My humility and willingness to learn makes all things possible. —Michael Miller
POWER MUSIC: Roar by Katy Perry
TOP CHARITIES: Animal Humane Society, Heifer International and ACLU

Lewis Remele

Shareholder, Bassford Remele, P.A. 

INDUSTRY: Legal services
BIO: I have been a civil trial lawyer for 41 years, providing legal representation to a variety of individuals and companies on all matters relating to disputes involving money damages and related civil enforcement and regulatory issues.
QUOTE: There is a reason why the practice of law is called the practice of law. As a lawyer there is always something new to learn.
POWER MUSIC: Motown
TOP CHARITIES: Minnesota Opera, Plymouth Congregational Church and Prodeo Academy

Jennifer Smith

Founder and CEO, Innovative Office Solutions

INDUSTRY: Office products
BIO: I am a mom of two amazing kids and have been married for 30 years. I grew up in the office products business in my mom and dad’s store in Northfield, Minn. Graduated from Hamline University. I had one corporate job in the buying office at Dayton’s. Then the entrepreneurial side took over and I have had three of my own businesses to date. Travel is one of my passions as I love to meet new people and explore new cultures.
MOTTO: Be Innovative!
POWER MUSIC: Anything 80s
TOP CHARITIES: A Breath of Hope Lung Foundation, InSports Foundation and Matter

Lisa Lamm Bachman

Managing Partner, Minneapolis, Foley & Mansfield, PLLP 

INDUSTRY: Legal services
BIO: Every day I feel privileged to be an attorney. Patience, empathy, curiosity and a sense of fairness are essential to developing and maintaining meaningful connections with others. I strive to be a person of sound judgment and strong character. I follow through on my commitments and I believe that the most profound way to have a positive influence on any interaction is to lead by example. Kindness and a sense of humor are equally important.
QUOTE: Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing. —Theodore Roosevelt
POWER MUSIC: My musical tastes range from Frank Sinatra to Coldplay. I especially like Carlos Santana because of his unique talent.
TOP CHARITIES: Call for Justice, LLC, Tubman Children’s Law Center and Standpoint

Ezell Jones & Allison O'Toole

Ezell Jones, VP Business Development & Relationship Manager, CBIZ Insurance Services 

INDUSTRY: Financial Services
BIO: I am a connector. I forge trusted relationships and collaborations, facilitating the flow of information and resources to build community and sustain growth. A native of Memphis, Tenn., I moved here to attend the U of M and play for the Gophers football team. As a member of the M Club Hall of Fame, U of M Board of Trustees and championship team, I coach, advise, consult and motivate the next generation of leaders.
MOTTO: Build the relationships before the ask.
POWER MUSIC: Ever Changing Times, Aretha Franklin
TOP CHARITIES: NAACP, National Urban League, United Negro College Fund (UNCF), African American Leadership Forum

 

Allison O'Toole, CEO, MNsure

INDUSTRY: Health care
HOW COLLEAGUES DESCRIBE ALLISON: “Allison is inspiring, dynamic, encouraging, committed, bad a**, caring, approachable, entertaining and focused.”
MOTTO: What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?
POWER MUSIC: Top 40 hits (I wish I was kidding).
TOP CHARITIES: Greater Minneapolis Crisis Nursery, The Jeremiah Program and The Sanneh Foundation

Maria Huntley

Executive Vice President, Minnesota Academy of Family Physicians

INDUSTRY: Health care
BIO: I am inspired and motivated by influencing those around me to be relevant and meaningful both professionally and personally. I am annoyingly positive to some and tend to seek out challenges that I want to tackle even if I don’t know what the result will be. My greatest joy are my two daughters.
MOTTO: The only thing you can control in difficult situations is how you react to them.
POWER MUSIC: HAMILTON!
TOP CHARITIES: ACLU, Minnesota Academy of Family Physicians Foundation and Second Harvest

Marty Weintraub

Founder, Aimclear

INDUSTRY: Marketing
BIO: I’m an entrepreneur, author, speaker & BWCA wilderness guide. I founded Aimclear, a marketing agency dominant in psychographic targeting. It was the 2016 winner of three US Search Awards. Entrepreneur Magazine said my success was due to my “unique persona that is instantly recognizable.” I’ve been described as “not your typical agency type,” a “social media maverick,” and “more innovator than follower.”
QUOTE: Anybody can change the world today, especially me. Anybody can totally suck today, especially me.
POWER MUSIC: A-YO, Lady Gaga
TOP CHARITIES: The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, Mayo Clinic Research and The Zeitgeist Center

Margaret Anderson Kelliher

President and CEO, Minnesota High Tech Association

INDUSTRY: Nonprofit/business association
BIO: I think of myself as a problem-solver. My favorite thing to do is to solve a puzzle, whether the puzzle is a public policy problem, a sewing pattern, the Sunday Puzzle on NPR or how to plan a good party.
MOTTO: You must do the thing you think you cannot do. —Eleanor Roosevelt
POWER MUSIC: Rosanne Cash, Beyoncé, Dixie Chicks, Carly Simon, Dessa, Ella Fitzgerald
TOP CHARITIES: Girls on the Run, Greater Twin Cities United Way, Minnesota High Tech Foundation and Textile Center of Minnesota

Mike Paton

Founder, Achieve Traction and Visionary at EOS Worldwide Achieve Traction & EOS Worldwide

INDUSTRY: Management training and professional services
BIO: I am passionate about helping entrepreneurs. Trying to run a small business myself, I felt stuck and frustrated. A search for answers led me to Gino Wickman 10 years ago, and I’ve been devoted to sharing EOS with the world ever since. Today I’m able to give back as a sought-after speaker, author, certified EOS Implementer and the Visionary for EOS Worldwide. I live in Minneapolis with my wife Kate. Together we have five great boys, Jon, Michael, Jack, Henry and Charlie.
QUOTE: If you think you can do a thing or think you can’t do a thing, you’re right. — Henry Ford
POWER MUSIC: Anything Bruce Springsteen.
TOP CHARITIES: CaringBridge, FirstBook and First Universalist Church of Minneapolis

Sahra Noor

CEO, People’s Center Health Services

INDUSTRY: Health care
BIO: As the CEO of People’s Center Health Services, Noor is leading organizational change and transforming how healthcare is delivered to thousands of community members each year. In 2015, Noor received the “40 Under 40” award by MSP Business Journal. She was appointed by Governor Dayton and served as co-chair of the Minnesota Task Force on Health Care Financing. Noor is a member of Young American Leaders Program (YALP) at Harvard Business School.
QUOTE: I have too many flaws to be perfect, but I have too many blessings to be ungrateful. —Unknown
POWER MUSIC: River Deep, Mountain High, Tina Turner
TOP CHARITIES: Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota, Open Arms of Minnesota and People’s Center Health Services

Nicki Vincent

Executive Director, ACG Minnesota 

INDUSTRY: Finance
BIO: I am a bold woman who loves life, my family and my profession. I have an innate ability to bring unique stakeholders together to achieve common objectives. I am constantly seeking new opportunities for growth. I love to travel and connect with people from around the world. I am a passionate and compassionate leader with ferocious determination. The job is not done until I’ve hit the goal.
MOTTO: Positive thinking produces positive results.
POWER MUSIC: Diamonds, Rhianna; I Love It, Icona Pop; Can’t Stop The Feeling, Justin Timberlake
TOP CHARITIES: American Red Cross, Banyan Community and Loaves & Fishes

Dr. Sheila Riggs

Chair, Department of Primary Dental Care, University of Minnesota School of Dentistry 

INDUSTRY: Health care
BIO: I am an academic and policy leader with an established record in developing and implementing innovative results through peer-reviewed research and hands-on community engagement. I am also Vice Chair of the Board of Directors of Hennepin Health System and serve on the board of The Cargill Foundation.
MOTTO: Our family’s mission statement: At our core, we are fair and self-respecting leaders who are responsible and do meaningful work to make our communities safe and secure and our society just.
POWER MUSIC: Roar, Katy Perry
TOP CHARITIES: Greater Twin Cities United Way, Planned Parenthood and the YWCA of Minneapolis

Dina Simon

CEO, Simon Says Lead

INDUSTRY: Consulting
BIO: I am an executive coach, C-suite leader and network advisor, author and a Forbes Coach Council Contributor. I believe that nothing important in life happens working alone. I collaborate with my teams, clients and networks to think big and accomplish amazing things together. My ‘why?’ I live to lead — with individuals and organizations — to make the world a better place.
MOTTO: Live and lead while living out your legacies.
POWER MUSIC: Girl On Fire, Alicia Keys
TOP CHARITIES: Catholic Charities of St. Paul, the Jefferson Awards Foundation and Simon Says Give!

Siyad Abdullahi

Pres/CEO, Language Banc & Pro-Health Care

INDUSTRY: Health care
BIO: I am a proud Dad, business leader, community leader, problem-solver, consensus-builder, thought leader, avid reader and a political junkie. I enjoy playing and watching soccer and am a Chelsea fan! I love a quiet day with family, traveling and hanging out in used bookstores.
QUOTE: Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not .... Genius will not ... Education will not ...Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. — Calvin Coolidge.
POWER MUSIC: Ai Du, Talking Timbuktu, Ali Farka Toure
TOP CHARITIES: ACLU, Minnesota Children’s Museum and Southern Poverty Law Center

Nancy Lyons

CEO, Clockwork

INDUSTRY: Technology
HOW A COLLEAGUE DESCRIBED NANCY: “You are a fierce woman, an inspiring leader, a loyal friend, a tireless advocate. You tell the truth with empathy and lead with integrity. You show women how to be both powerful and vulnerable and that the price of success does not have to be conformity. You prove that strong leaders have open hearts, and that taking care of business also means taking care of people.”
MOTTO: Be a good human.
POWER MUSIC: I like music. All of it. I look to Beyoncé for a woman power-centering session.
TOP CHARITIES: Comfort Cases, Family Equality Council and Still Kickin

Tawanna Black

Executive Director, Northside Funders Group

INDUSTRY: Philanthropy
BIO: I’m a nationally recognized thought leader known for inspiring and equipping cross-sector leaders to transform personal convictions into actions that produce equitable and thriving communities. I am a visionary champion of what’s possible, and a disruptive force for ground-breaking, sustainable, triple-bottom line wins. I am a high energy, deeply committed, but often over extended-woman with a deep passion for civic engagement and community impact.
QUOTE: Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has. —Margaret Mead
POWER MUSIC: Something Big by Mary Mary
TOP CHARITIES: Girls, Inc., The Links, Pillsbury United Communities

Karin Gessner

CEO, Radia

INDUSTRY: Equipment manufacturing
BIO: Our company’s five core values probably best describe me: family, humble, continuous improvement, accountable and responsive.
MOTTO: Do. Or do not. There is no try. —Yoda.
POWER MUSIC: The Hamilton soundtrack
TOP CHARITIES: Groves Academy, Ronald McDonald House Twin Cities and Washburn Center for Children

Kelly Miyamoto & Nasser Mussa

Kelly Miyamoto, Founder & Owner, The Firm Mpls

INDUSTRY: Health, wellness and fitness
HOW COLLEAGUES DESCRIBED KELLY: I am humbled and honored by their words: Kelly is the physical manifestation of the sun; radiant, powerful, giving, strong, a leader and a nurturer. Loyal, passionate, trailblazer, avant-garde, creator, effervescent. She’s known for her vision, words and actions. We all live and breathe The Firm’s mantra of building community one name at a time. When you first meet Kelly she makes you feel like you are old friends getting reacquainted. Motto: Love unconditionally.
POWER MUSIC: Any and all music with inspirational lyrics!
TOP CHARITIES: Hospice Care & Home, the Humane Society, MN AIDS Project

Nasser Mussa, Financial Services Coordinator, Community Action Partnership of Ramsey & Washington Counties 

INDUSTRY: Nonprofit
BIO: I’m dedicated to the financial empowerment of low-wage workers by providing socially and culturally relevant asset development strategies, including home ownership, starting or expanding a small business and pursuing higher education. By doing so, I help to strengthen the ability of individuals and families, particularly at the lower end of the economic ladder, to manage their finances, giving their lives more stability.
QUOTE: I’ve never been one to stay still. I was born a nomad, and I still am a nomad and always will be.
POWER MUSIC: I love bluegrass
TOP CHARITIES: ACLU and Humphrey Policy Fellows (U of M)

Jana Shortal

Journalist, KARE 11
 
INDUSTRY: Television news/media/journalism
BIO: I wouldn’t still be here if it weren’t for this community inviting me into it, as I am. This place, this home, this space constantly picks me up when I fall and, without question, brushes off the dust and whispers, “Keep going.” I’m a product of that grace and permission. No matter if I was warned elsewhere. Or given an explanation as to why I should conform. Minneapolis taught me....to persist.
QUOTE: When they go low, we go high.
POWER MUSIC: Freedom by Beyoncé 
TOP CHARITIES: Food For Change, Moyer Foundation (Camp Erin, specifically) and Penumbra Theatre

John Hoffman

Regional Managing Director, Principal Financial Group

INDUSTRY: Financial services
BIO: I graduated from North Harvard — aka Minnesota State-Mankato. I’m a single dad to a 13-year-old son, Ashton. I come from the greatest family with a mom and dad you read about in books. I work with some of the most successful, talented and humble people. I take pride in being a leader, am very intense, loyal to a fault, fearless and can guarantee you I am never the smartest person in the room.
MOTTO: Whether you’re the lion or the gazelle, when that sun comes up you better be running.
POWER MUSIC: Rowdy country music
TOP CHARITIES: Body & Soul MS, Hope 4 Youth and Wiggle Your Toes

 

Jasmine Russell

Head Founder, Monicat Data

INDUSTRY: Arts, creative economy
BIO: I have nine years of experience in quantitative and qualitative market research and digital analytics. I work in the Minneapolis community with groups to facilitate idea awareness, women empowerment, diversity and technology development. At Monicat Data I seek to broaden the creative community’s view of data usage to elevate understandings of their craft.
MOTTO: One task at a time. One step at a time.
POWER MUSIC: Favorite Soundcloud Podcast: Complexion, Future Beats Show
TOP CHARITIES: GiveMN, Springboard for the Arts and Women’s Foundation of Minnesota

 

Jill Renslow

SVP of Business Development & Marketing, Mall of America

INDUSTRY: Retail and entertainment
BIO: I am someone who juggles each day and I do my best to be an engaged mother of two middle-schoolers, a caring wife to my husband of 18 years, a leader at the largest retail and entertainment destination in the country, an impactful community leader and a trusting and dependable friend. In my spare time (when I have any), I enjoy getting out for a run, entertaining friends and curling up with a good book.
MOTTO: Focus on what is important because not everything is.
POWER MUSIC: My favorite artist right now is Bruno Mars. His music has great energy and he’s an amazing performer!
TOP CHARITIES: Pinky Swear Foundation, Special Olympics and the Women’s Foundation of MN


 

Gary L. Cunningham

President and CEO, Meda

INDUSTRY: Business support organization
BIO: I’m a proud and blessed husband, father & grandfather. Growing up in a racially segregated, poor part of Minneapolis, I learned to adapt to challenging situations. I was taught you can achieve whatever you set your mind to. I’m driven to improve our community by creating successful minority businesses. I love learning new things & am open to the awe of new experiences.
QUOTE: Service is the rent we pay for being. It is the very purpose of life, and not something you do in your spare time.—Marian Wright Edelman
POWER MUSIC: Uptown Funk by Bruno Mars
TOP CHARITIES: African American Leadership Forum, Minnesota State Fair Foundation and North High Boys Basketball Team

Gloria Freeman

Founder and CEO, Olu’s Home & Olu’s Center

INDUSTRY: Service industry
BIO: I founded Olu’s Home and Olu’s Center because I saw a critical need to provide community-based services. In the process I have become a successful entrepreneur. My mission is to create generational wealth & my passion is to serve people.
MOTTO: I believe everyone has a right to live a fulfilling life.
POWER MUSIC: A Seat at the Table, Solange Knowles
TOP CHARITIES: United Negro College Fund, Hennepin Theater Trust and Positive Image/Father-Daughter Dance

Alan Arthur

President and CEO, Aeon 

INDUSTRY: Affordable housing real estate
BIO: Just another human being, who can really eat, and cares about stuff.
QUOTE: To laugh often & much; to win respect of intelligent people & the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics & endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded. —Ralph Waldo Emerson
POWER MUSIC: The Blues.
TOP CHARITIES: Aeon, Domestic Abuse Project and the Hope Community

Don Smithmier & Brooke R. Lee

Don Smithmier, CEO/Founder, Gokart Labs & The Big Know

INDUSTRY: Marketing and technology
BIO: I’m a small business owner, entrepreneur, musician/songwriter, and volunteer. I like to create and build businesses, bands and better communities. I’m lucky to be surrounded by ridiculously talented people at work who share my passion for bringing new, meaningful ideas to the world. I love American history, fishing, baseball and songwriting (I’ve co-written 3 Billboard hits). I’m also a former contestant on The Price is Right (I won two exercise bikes & a year’s supply of Dynatrim).
QUOTE: The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time. —Abraham Lincoln
POWER MUSIC: The Foo Fighters.
TOP CHARITIES: Be The Match, Giving WoMN and Hammer Residences

Brooke R. Lee, CEO, Anchor Paper Company

INDUSTRY: Paper and packaging distribution
BIO: I believe that passion is at the core of business success. I try to bring passion to all I do at Anchor Paper, passion for the team building our future and passion for the community in which we work. I was raised to be curious, kind, honest, and to leave people and things better than when I found them. Those values drive me as I work with our team to move Anchor forward.
QUOTE: If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito. — Dalai Lama XIV
POWER MUSIC: Don’t Stop Believin’ by Journey
TOP CHARITIES: Kids in Need Foundation, Spare Key and Twin Cities Meals on Wheels

Sirish Samba

President and CEO, Sambatek, Inc

INDUSTRY: Civil engineering, construction, real estate
BIO: I started at MFRA (now known as Sambatek) as an entry level civil engineer in 1994. I became the firm’s CEO at age 39 during the great recession and led the firm to become the 48th Fastest Growing A/E firm in the United States. I championed the efforts of successfully restructuring MFRA from a private equity ownership to Sambatek, a firm owned and run by its employees. I serve as a Board Member at American Consulting Engineers Council and am recognized as a member of the Young Presidents’ Organization.
QUOTE: Be the change you wish to see in the world. —Mahatma Gandhi
POWER MUSIC: Adrenaline, Gavin Rossdale
TOP CHARITIES: Feed My Starving Children, Risen Christ Catholic Schools and United Way