Lauren Abda is the Founder and CEO of Branchfood, the largest community of food entrepreneurs and startups in New England, and Co-founder at Branch Venture Group, an angel network for investment in early-stage food startups. Prior to Branchfood, Lauren consulted for foodtech businesses in Boston and San Francisco, worked as an analyst for Salt Venture Partners LLC, a venture capital firm, focused on food startups, targeting content, commerce, and technology, and wrote reports on international food safety development initiatives on behalf of the Agriculture and Commodities division at the World Trade Organization in Geneva, Switzerland. She has a Masters in Food Policy and Applied Nutrition from the Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy and a Bachelor of Science degree in Nutrition and Food Science from the University of Vermont.
Lorne has a national life insurance practice focused on estate planning and corporate applications. He has worked with entrepreneurs and businesses across the country. Mr. Adrain has also been an executive at AT&T and worked for ten years as an entrepreneur in the technology and environmental sectors. He was the founder of KindMark, a leader in the creation of software and technologies advancing philanthropy.
Mr. Adrain is an active philanthropic and community leader. He was appointed by Rhode Island’s Governor Chafee as Chairman of the Rhode Island Board of Governors for Higher Education and to the Rhode Island Board of Regents for Elementary and Secondary Education. He was a candidate for Mayor of Providence. He served as vice president and director of the Harvard Business School Alumni Association and serves on the Boards of The Rhode Island Foundation, Big Picture Learning and The Business Innovation Factory. He is also founder of National Neighborhood Day and is co-founder of Social Venture Partners / Social Enterprise Greenhouse – Rhode Island and BetterProvidence. Mr. Adrain has served as Chairman of the Rhode Island Special Olympics and President of the University of Rhode Island Alumni Association. He has climbed Mounts Kilimanjaro, Elbrus, Aconcagua, Denali (McKinley) and other peaks in recent years to raise funds in support of women’s education, economic and health programs on Lake Atitlan, Guatemala and to support aspiring inner-city students from Providence.
Mr. Adrain has twice received Northwestern Mutual Life’s national Community Service Award and was recognized as their Most Exceptional Volunteer in the Nation. He has also been honored with the Rhode Island Foundation Inspiring Partner Award, the Jefferson Award for Public Service, Leadership Rhode Island’s David E. Sweet Leadership Award and the Providence Rotary’s 100th Anniversary Community Leadership Award. He is also an Eagle Scout.
Mr. Adrain earned his MBA from the Harvard Business School, and a BS from the University of Rhode Island. Mr. Adrain and his wife, novelist Ann Hood, live in Providence, RI and have four children.
Adjunct Lecturer in International and Public Affairs – Brown University
Throughout a career of over 40 years, Bill Allen has been an innovative and strategic leader in the philanthropic and nonprofit sectors. He held senior management positions in three local United Ways, most recently as Executive Vice President of Community Services (1977 to 2004) at the United Way of Rhode Island. He led a community building operation focused on systems change and achieving results. He also served as Interim President of this United Way in 1996. Currently, he is an adjunct lecturer in public policy at Brown University’s Taubman Center. Bill was elected to a four-year term on the Cumberland School Committee in 1986 and chair of the Committee in 1988. He has been chair of the boards of Lincoln School, Amos House, RI Service Alliance (now Serve RI), RI Kids Count, Clean Power Now and the Cumberland Library. He serves on the board of Butler Hospital Foundation and is Vice Chair of the board at Children’s Friend. Bill has a BA from St. John’s Seminary in Boston and a Master in Social Planning (M.S.P.) from Boston College Graduate School of Social Work. He received the John O. Stiteley Distinguished Public Service Award from the RI Chapter of the American Society for Public Administration and the David E. Sweet Leadership Award from Leadership Rhode Island.
Co-Founder/Director – The Food Innovation Nexus
Michael Allio is a practical strategy consultant to organizations in the private, public, and philanthropic sectors. He was the pioneering Deputy Director of Strategy at the Gates Foundation, focused on strategy, metrics, evaluation, and impact for a $1B grant portfolio. He has also led low-tech, bio-tech, and new-tech start-ups, and served as a marketing executive at a multinational consumer products firm. Michael translates strategy into practical implementation programs that enhance impact. Recent projects include formulating innovation strategies for two universities, and designing a portfolio of strategic fundraising tools for the Smithsonian. He has published more than 20 articles on strategy, and one book. An honors graduate of Harvard, he serves on a number of Boards, including the RI Foundation, and enjoys providing pro-bono counsel to high-potential non-profits. He currently co-leads the Food Innovation Nexus, a daring new venture at the intersection of food and medicine, and serves as Senior Advisor to the Provost at Brown, focusing on innovation. Michael lives in Providence, with his wife and two spry sons.
Kim Anderson Founder/President – Ava Anderson
Kim’s more than 30 years as a business leader and entrepreneur started in the Executive Training/Buying Departments of Jordan Marsh and Macy’s. She founded Teapots & Tassels, Co., which was awarded “Best of Rhode Island” repeatedly, and was featured in Southern Home Magazine. Kim has founded and led several significant community based programs, including the Barrington Business Task Force, and was awarded “Entrepreneur of the Year” award by the SBA in 1991 and “Citizen of the Year Award” in 2005 by the East Bay Chamber of Commerce. She founded and chairs Flower Power, a community beautification effort in Barrington, and has raised close to half million dollarsin twelve yearsfor this endowed effort. In 2009 Kim and her daughter, Ava, founded Ava Anderson Non Toxic, a direct sales company offering the safest full line of 90+ organic and natural personal care and home cleaning products, whose singular purpose was to reduce harmful chemicals linked to disease for humans and the environment.In 7 yearsshe and her daughter built the company to a $60M run rate, with 100 local employees, and 20,000 enrolled Independent Consultants across the country. The Andersons sold the business in 2016, and Kim is now dedicated to working with her family to impact invest for climate crisis solutions.
Entrepreneur-in-Residence – Brown University School of Engineering
Hamzah received his undergraduate degree from the University of Nottingham in 2006, a Masters from King’s College London in 2008, and his PRIME Masters from Brown University in 2009. Hamzah co-founded Accelereach, an angel-funded developer of health and wellness coaching software, with fellow PRIME alum Adam Emrich in 2009. The company’s software has helped thousands of people around the country lead healthier and more fulfilled lives. Hamzah joined the Rhode Island Health Insurance Exchange as a Consultant soon after it’s establishment. While there, he developed new lines of business, growth strategies, and sources of revenue. In 2011, Hamzah was honored by the Rhode Island Tech Collective as one the top 10 IT entrepreneurs in the State. Finally, he has advised United States Senator Sheldon Whitehouse on legislative policy governing immigration reform, economic development and funding for small businesses. As the Entrepreneur-in-Residence he mentors, coaches and advises student ventures, and facilitates the commercialization of Brown technology and IP.
Sarah Atkins Interim Executive Director – Aquidneck Island Planning Commission
Martin Baginski Founder – Professional Ambulance, LLC
After graduating from Babson College in 2010, Martin founded Professional Ambulance, LLC located in Providence. Growing “ProAm” has offered a unique perspective into today’s healthcare system, and the challenges facing the entrepreneurs of tomorrow. His perspective as both an entrepreneur and as a paramedic offered an understanding of reimbursement economics, clinical outcomes improvement, and healthcare policy. Sharing experiences and knowledge has allowed Martin to maintain Professional Ambulance’s competitive position while also identifying entrepreneurial opportunities in healthcare services arena. Outside of his career, Martin is an avid skier, triathlete, and photographer.
Kristin Barishian CPA and Director of Assurance – Marcum LLP, Providence
KristinPizziis a CPA and Director of Assurance in the Marcum LLP’s Providence office. She has over 7 years of experience in public accounting, focusing on audits of companies ranging from start-ups to publicly traded companies. She works primarily with companies in the technology industry, in particular software. She has also worked for 4 years in private industry as a manager of SEC and financial reporting and as an accounting manager. She was a mentor in the 2015 Small Business Association of New England (SBANE) New England Innovation Awards and a judge in the 2015 Greater Boston Chamber Small Business of the Year Awards. She is also a board member of the Boston VA Research Institute (BVARI). Kristinearned her Bachelor of Science and Master’s Degrees in Accountancy from Bentley University.
Kenneth Barrette Managing Director – Alvarez and Marsal's Healthcare Industry Group
Kenneth is a results-oriented executive with 20 years of experience in business operations and technology. Specializing in translating vision into actionable strategy, he consistently drives turnarounds of underperforming organizations, accelerates revenue growth and profitability for new business ventures and product launches, and improves velocity and value realization of strategic business investments and acquisitions. As a proven change leader, Kenneth has extensive experience in all aspects of designing business operations, including product development, marketing sales and distribution, consumer engagement and service, operations transacting and administration, technology enablement, and organizational structure and performance. Ken is a Managing Director in Alvarez and Marsal’s Healthcare Industry Group.
Manuel J. Batlle Providence Center Director – RI Small Business Development Center
Manuel is the Director of the Providence Center with the Rhode Island SBDC. He is a serial entrepreneur, college professor and small business counselor. He holds a MBA from LSU, attended The Executive Program at the University of Virginia and is a Certified Global Business Professional (CGBP). He has C level managerial experience with Fortune 500 companies in the Wine & Spirit Industry and in Food Manufacturing. Manuel was the 2016 State Star for Rhode Island. His area of interest are Minority Owned Business, Food Manufacturing, Agribusiness, Wine, and Spirits. Manuel is a native of the Dominican Republic, and is responsible for the Providence Region, which includes Warren and Barrington. Manuel is the Director of the Providence Center with the Rhode Island SBDC. He is a serial entrepreneur, college professor and small business counselor. He holds a MBA from LSU, attended The Executive Program at the University of Virginia and is a Certified Global Business Professional (CGBP). He has C level managerial experience with Fortune 500 companies in the Wine & Spirit Industry and in Food Manufacturing. Manuel was the 2016 State Star for Rhode Island. His area of interest are Minority Owned Business, Food Manufacturing, Agribusiness, Wine, and Spirits. Manuel is a native of the Dominican Republic, and is responsible for the Providence Region, which includes Warren and Barrington
Allison Bebee has worked as a Packaging Engineer at Ocean Spray Cranberries for the past 8 years, obtaining her Bachelor of Science degree from Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in 2007. This past year Allison left this field to pursue her passions in social enterprise and politics, with a specific interest in the foster care system. Allison has demonstrated her passion for social change through her involvement in leadership throughout her life, holding positions in college with student government, the Institute of Packaging Professionals Student Chapter, and Monroe Community College Board of Trustees. During her tenure at Ocean Spray, Allison was involved in committees to improve corporate culture and employee engagement, helping to give employees a bigger voice. Outside of her work Allison participates in several volunteer organizations, including mentoring through RISE and supporting the Greater Boston Food Bank financial goals as a kitchen cabinet member. Allison hopes to bring these experiences and apply them to social change within the RI community. Allison resides in Cranston, RI.
Christopher Bender Director of Operations – Stoneacre Pantry
Christopher Bender discovered his passion for food, wine, and spirits at an early age throughout the home kitchens of his family and with the convivial gatherings that they inspired. He immersed himself in restaurants in the New Haven area starting the age of 13 and never looked back. After becoming well versed in nearly all available aspects of the local industry at that time, he decided to continue his education at Johnson & Wales, pursuing Culinary Arts and Food & Beverage Management. While in Rhode Island, Christopher further developed an understanding of market trends and business operations while working at several establishments such as XO Cafe, Spiced Pear and 22 Bowen’s. With an ever-growing thirst for experience and exposure, Christopher pursued the opportunity to join the team at Thomas Keller’s celebrated New York restaurant, Per Se, shortly after it opened. The time there expanded a depth of knowledge and understanding of the inner workings of the industry in an exponential fashion. Further developing a personalized style of high end service with a humble tone, he moved on to become General Manager and Beverage Director of the acclaimed West Village restaurant, Mas (farmhouse) for the next 5 years. Christopher furthered his passion for wine during extensive domestic and European travels throughout this time, culminating in the birth of an import and distribution company that was developed concurrently with a renovation and expansion of Mas (farmhouse) and Mas (la grillade). On a small scale, roughly 20 different wine producers began to have an ever present face in the New York market, steadily increasing sales each year, whilst providing not only Mas, but several other restaurant with the option of exclusive and high quality wines. In addition, the overall business increased efficiency through diligent cost control measures while achieving additional awards and notoriety. Through his experiences in the South of France and Basque country, Christopher saw the opportunity to create a unique dining and drinking experience that combined a carefully curated selection of sustainably produced wines with Southern French / Northern Italian influenced local fare in an environment that was both casual and refined. Christopher developed each aspect of the concept of Stoneacre from chef selection and menu development to hiring and collaborating with architects on the restaurant’s design and décor and every detail in between.
Consultant – Impact for Education
Kathy Bendheim has a strong analytical and organizational development background that she uses to address social and educational issues. Her early career was spent in public accounting followed by business school and then management consulting with McKinsey & Co. where she focused on organizational and financial issues. However, her passion has consistently been the improvement of the public education system. Since leaving the for-profit world, she has worked in Bridgeport, CT for the YMCA where she started a summer and after-school program that won the Chairman’s Award for best new program and worked on the merger of the Bridgeport and New Haven YMCAs. She has also worked in New York City for Clearpool, Inc., an education reform initiative, in program operations and development of for-profit initiatives to generate sustainable funding. She also led the merger of the development departments of three education-based non-profits to create one more effective operation.Her most recent position was Executive Director of the White House Council for Community Solutions that focused on identifying best practices in successful community solutions with a focus on how to create more opportunity for disconnected youth. Kathy has a bachelor’s degree in business from Texas A&M University and an MBA from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business.
Managing Director – Thoughtcap
John has been building and leading software development teams for over 20 years. He is currently Managing Director at Thoughtcap, a boutique consultancy based in Providence, RI. John’s areas of expertise include coaching high-performance teams, lean product development, DevOps and continuous delivery, large-scale distributed systems, and data-center-to-cloud migrations. Previously John led the engine