PRESENTERS + PANELISTS
We’re bringing world-class entrepreneurial talent to our Hudson Valley backyard to inspire, engage and provoke. Each brings to SVI Hudson Valley an extraordinary story, a brave journey, a fresh take.
CEO & Founder / Eco-Bags Products
The “Original Reusable Bag Company™” ECOBAGS® brand is recognized as a category leader since 1989. The company is known for its commitment to outstanding quality, socially responsible supply chain, and innovation, “cleaning up the planet one bag at a time.™”
Sharon has been featured as an environmental pioneer in TIME Magazine, Glamour magazine, and in the award-winning documentary BagIt. She has been quoted in publications such as The Wall Street Journal, Nylon magazine, Entrepreneur, Conscious Choice, and heard on NPR and Air America.
ECOBAGS products were featured on Oprah’s first dedicated Earth Day show in 2007. She has won numerous awards, including the national 2012 Enterprising Woman Award, issued by Enterprising Women magazine. Eco-Bags Products, Inc. is a long-standing certified member of Green America, a certified B Corporation, a certified Woman Owned Business, and a member of the Organic Trade Association.
Executive Director / Etsy.org
Etsy.org is a 501(c)(3) dedicated to empowering under-represented entrepreneurial populations to build businesses that regenerate the planet, the community, and the self. Previously, Matt was the VP, Values and Impact at Etsy.com. In that role he oversaw the stewardship of the company's mission, and worked to give all employees the means and the desire to maximize the benefit their work has on people and the planet. He was an employee of Etsy since its earliest days.
In 2013 Matt was named a GOOD "Figure of Progress." The next year he was named as one of the Purpose Economy 100.
Matt serves on the boards of the Schumacher Center for New Economics and the Center for a New American Dream. He is a graduate of Oberlin College, and a reformed, indie rock musician. He lives in Brooklyn, NY with his wife, Benedikta, and their young sons, Francis and Lewie.
Case Study Panelists
President/CEO / New in Town
With a degree in Economics from Cornell University, a Masters in Brand Management from the University of Georgia and 20+ years in client service at the helm of New In Town, Inc., Melissa is a creative and innovative leader in the fields of business development, grassroots visioning, idea innovation, strategic marketing and collaboration. She is a partner in Dance Xross Fitness, an emerging community-based fitness company and the creator of a start-up retreat + tourism enterprise called Inner Woodstock. Most recently, she is working on an interactive game show concept around local crowdfunding.
Along with her workshops on marketing, collaboration and localism, Melissa has been a featured speaker at the Re>Think Local Wellness Conference at the Omega Institute, the National SHAPE America Convention, the ECA Worldfitness OBOW Conference and the Etsy Impact Workshop Series. A master networker and community advocate, Melissa is active in the Hudson Valley, NY, where she serves several organizations around sustainability, fitness and wellness, localism and women’s networking. She is also a nationally ranked snowboarder.
Principal / Manus+Co
Mara is an accomplished innovator in the field of nonprofit leadership and organizational development.
Mara started her career in the ﬁlm industry as a VP at MCA/Universal. In a dramatic career shift in 1994, Mara traded in her esteemed position in the film industry to move into the nonproﬁt sector as Executive Director of Chrysalis, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit organization that helps low-income individuals find and retain employment. During her four years of leadership, she established new offices in three additional communities, increased job placements by 350%, doubled the organization’s staff and expanded its budget from $1 million to $4 million.
She has worked as a Program Officer for economic development and a PRI Officer in the Arts at the Ford Foundation, as Executive Director of The Public Theater, and as Executive Director of The Film Society of Lincoln Center.
In 2011 Mara launched her nonprofit consulting firm, Manus+Co, where she facilitates the stabilization, capacity building, strategic growth of mission-based organizations. Clients have included Pilobolus Dance Theater, Southampton Arts Center, Playwrights of New York (PoNY), Slow Money, and most recently, the Arthur Miller Foundation.
Sustainable Business Consultant
Mac has been a consultant and entrepreneur since 1989, focusing on small businesses that prioritize sustainability and social responsibility. He specializes in broad-based, hands-on advising to early-stage entrepreneurs from coast to coast, almost all affiliated with Social Venture Network. Many have been in the natural products industry, including his role as co-founder (with Gary Hirshberg of Stonyfield Farm Yogurt) and CEO of O’Naturals, the first organic and natural quick service restaurant chain in the country.
As part of his work, Mac has served as the interim CEO of several well-known socially responsible companies, including Northeast Cooperatives (the original regional wholesale grocer in natural products), women’s clothing manufacturer Eileen Fisher, and the Greyston Bakery, the inner-city company that makes all the brownies for Ben and Jerry’s.
He moved to Maine in 1975 to be the Merchandise Manager of L. L. Bean and has had other management positions, including Director of all the businesses at the Museum of Modern Art. He earned an MBA at Harvard University. He continues to live in Maine with his wife, who is a university professor, but travels nationally to work with the small, values-driven companies that he is so passionate about.
President / Strugatz Ventures
As President of Strugatz Ventures, a NY State Benefit Corporation, Peter is an advisor to impact investors and social entrepreneurs in raising social capital, increasing equity value, growing revenue, building and nurturing strategic relationships, and adhering to triple bottom line standards. Presently he is working with Califia Farms, Pratt Institute's Brooklyn Fashion + Design Accelerator and Personal Black Box and their founders and senior teams.
He has invested in several early stages social purpose companies including Stonyfield Farms and Zipcar, and as an entrepreneur was co-founder and co-CEO of IceStone, a Brooklyn-based manufacturer of high design green countertop material made with 100% recycled waste glass. At IceStone Peter led the effort in raising $20 million of mission-aligned capital and building out the manufacturing facility. He is passionate about triple bottom line standards and Cradle-to-Cradle manufacturing.
Areas of expertise include building high performance mission aligned teams, scaling impact with strategy implementation, sales and operations planning, valuation, deal structure, and ramping revenue. He is a former board member of the Social Venture Network and the ALS Association.
Founder/Owner / Business Culture Consultants
Flip's Burlington, Vermont firm assists good people in great organizations to experience more meaning and fulfillment. His background is perhaps best described as exploring the intersection of business, psychology, service, and spirit. Flip served for nine years on the board of directors of Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility, which at 1,100 members is the largest organization of its kind in North America. He is the author of Balanced Effectiveness at Work: How to Enjoy the Fruits of Your Labor without Driving Yourself Nuts.
Founder/CEO / On Belay Business Advisors
Co-founder + Board Member / Re>Think Local
Co-producer / SVI Hudson Valley
Ajax is a well-known and respected serial social entrepreneur/CSR evangelist/ trusted generalist business advisor/global connector of confidential business transactions. He has turned his abundant creativity, talent and positive energy to building organizations and a community that expresses a deep commitment to being conscious of the triple bottom line of people, planet and prosperity.
Ajax has deep experience leading and advising organizations in a wide variety of industries, from fitness to pharma, retail to manufacturing, clean tech to e-commerce. Some highlights: doubling one company’s gross revenue while more than doubling profits, personally generating 70% of a startup manufacturer’s revenue, award-winning marketing programs, building highly regarded world-class teams and industry-changing strategic thinking.
Ajax is an accredited associate of The Institute for Independent Business and a longtime member of the Social Venture Network. As a former world-class rock climber and adventure athlete he understands commitment, drive and vision.
Yoga + Meditation Instructor / Resonant Heart Yoga
A yogi, seeker, movement-junkie and devout student of the mind-body connection, Amy is a New York-based instructor known for her expressive and authentic approach to the art of awareness. With extensive training in both the Integral and Anusara methods of hatha yoga, Amy offers her skills to a diverse range of students in a variety of settings: NYC Public Schools, NYU and Fordham, New York Foundling Community Services, Spuytin Duyvil Preschool, corporate events, public parks, yoga studios and private homes.
She’s a staff member of the Lineage Project, which brings mindfulness-based practices to vulnerable youth throughout NYC. Amy also leads regular “homemade” yoga retreats in the Hudson Valley and a series of workshops called Visioning for Change (with her partner Scott Tillitt), a unique, profound way to map your future by combining awareness-based practices and community building with strategic visioning exercises.
She is also a singer-songwriter and may be performing around the bonfire Saturday evening.
Founder / Antidote Collective + BEAHIVE
Co-founder + Board Chair / Re>Think Local
Co-producer / SVI Hudson Valley
Equal parts strategist, publicist, marketer, social entrepreneur, nonprofit leader, and writer, Scott has an insatiable interest in big ideas and the behaviors that drive people, what resonates with them, and how to communicate with them.
He has 20-plus years in various culture-shaping (and sometimes suffocating) worlds — advertising, media, interactive design, photography, technology, television and fashion. Some years ago, catalyzed by 9/11 and an ongoing process of spiritual and social awakening, he broke the trance of an increasingly cynical consumer culture and started applying his corporate skills to social impact.
In his new incarnation, he's done media for the Dalai Lama and publicity for Phil Donahue’s anti-war film Body of War, PR for healthcare “whistleblower” Wendell Potter and groups like the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE) and Rainforest Action Network, branding for Rippel Foundation, strategic communications for the Local Economies Project of the New World Foundation. (In a rare lapse of socially-focused work, he did creative naming development for American Express and global visual rebranding support for Coca-Cola with Ogilvy & Mather’s Brand Integration Group.) He's helped clients on both US coasts and places in between, in Europe, and down under in Australia.
Scott is the co-founder and board chair of Re>Think Local and founder of the social venture BEAHIVE, collaborative spaces for work and community inspired by the coworking and Localism movements. He was the lead producer of TEDxLongDock in June 2013, a day-long event of stimulating and inspiring talks exploring the intersection of the creative economy and entrepreneurship and their impact on community vibrancy and economic development in the Hudson Valley.
MC + Poet
Decora (short for De Corazon) is an emcee and poet out of the Hudson Valley. As a founding member of a world-renowned spoken word group known as The ReadNex Poetry Squad, he completed 8 tours in more than 12 countries and 35 states across the US. Hip hop culture took hold of Decora at the age of 8 in Brownsville, Brooklyn, while listening to A Tribe Called Quest and he never looked back. By the age of 13, he began writing his first rhymes that he would finally perform his freshman year of college.
Now with various accolades and awards, including First Place at the Apollo, TV appearances, and being named one of Hudson Valley Magazine’s “Top 9 People to Watch,” Decora is well on his way as an artist.