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2014 Conference - Featured Speakers
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Thom RuheThom Ruhe
Vice President of Entrepreneurship, The Kauffman Foundation

Thom Ruhe is Vice President of Entrepreneurship at the Kauffman Foundation. In this capacity, he directs the Foundation's programs addressing entrepreneurial education, mentoring, access to capital and fostering entrepreneurial ecosystems.

Thom also serves as President of Kauffman Labs for Enterprise Creation, a school dedicated to advancing experiential-based entrepreneurial education. He oversees collaborative projects with innovative groups such as the Entrepreneurial Learning Initiative, FastTrac, Startup Weekend, the Angel Resource Institute, and Invent Now. Thom also serves on the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council for fostering Entrepreneurship, is on the Board of Directors for the Helzberg Entrepreneurial Mentoring Program and a founding trustee for Innovation Fund America.

Prior to joining the Foundation, Thom was the founding chief marketing officer for JumpStart, a nonprofit economic development organization and seed stage investment fund created to invest in and accelerate the growth of high-potential, early stage companies. Before JumpStart, Ruhe served as president of Optiem LLC, where he led the growth of a startup marketing practice to a nationally recognized interactive marketing, communications and public relations agency. Earlier in his career, he held positions in technology integration, marketing, finance, sales, and management. His experience spans founding several entrepreneurial endeavors.

Thom is a graduate of Bowling Green State University with a degree in management information systems, and is a member of the Board of Directors for the Plant A Fish Foundation.

Nancy Tartaglino Richards
Chairman, First Preston HT

Nancy Tartaglino Richards is Founder and Chairman of the First Preston HT family of companies. She is a recognized entrepreneur in the fields of real estate and technology-related products. Founded in 1988 as a small, woman-owned business, the company has serviced more than 425,000 single-family homes with a total portfolio value of more than $42 billion with clients from major lending institutions, Fortune 500 companies, government and GSEs, as well as privately-held companies.

In 2001, Ms. Richards founded HomeTelos whose technology products include HomeTracker® and BidSelect®, on-line, real-time web-based applications for managing and selling assets.

Ms. Richards was recognized by Ernst & Young as their "Entrepreneur of the Year” in Real Estate/Construction/Hospitality, and also won their prestigious"National Entrepreneur of the Year”award. As an advocate for small business, she has been recognized by the Marion Ewing Kauffman Foundation for her support of entrepreneurship and the creation of a national network of small and diverse-owned businesses providing subcontracting services. She was named as one of the Texas "Women of Excellence” by Women’s Enterprise Magazine and honored as the "2006 Philanthropist of the Year”by the Dallas Women’s Foundation. Ms. Richards and her business partner are recipients of the "Five Star Humanitarian Award" in recognition of their community support and leadership. HousingWire magazine named Ms. Richards as one of the most "Influential Women of the Housing Economy.” She is a member of the Board of Trustees for Texas Christian University, and also serves on the Advisory Board for the Dallas Women’s Foundation.

Ms. Richards graduated with honors from Baylor University.


Lisa Barrentine
CEO & President, First Preston HT

Lisa Barrentine is the CEO & President of First Preston HT, a leading full-service real estate advisory, technology and government services firm. Joining the company in 1991, Ms. Barrentine, a Certified Public Accountant, has been instrumental in the company’s development and success bringing new ideas for business strategies and growth. She contributes a wealth of experience in operations, finance and accounting and leads a team of 250 professionals and 2,000 local business subcontractors in managing a total portfolio value of more than $42 billion with 425,000 real property assets for corporate, institutional and government clients.

She earned a BSBA degree from the University of Arkansas. She is a charter member of the Texas Women’s Ventures Fund, a venture capital fund investing in businesses created by women entrepreneurs. Ms. Barrentine was recognized by Ernst and Young and the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, along with her business partner, as the national "Entrepreneur of the Year” in the category of "Supporters of Entrepreneurship.” She received the "Five Star Humanitarian Award” in recognition of community support and leadership. Along with her business partner, she received the REO Expo "Pinnacle Awards” in two categories for excellence in best practices services and best overall outsourcer.

Ms. Barrentine currently serves on the Advisory Board for Texas Christian University’s Neeley Entrepreneurship Center. She is a former member of the Board of Trustees for Southwestern University, and has also served on the Board of Directors for Habitat for Humanity-South Collin County.

Lisa Barrentine is the CEO & President of First Preston HT and has over 20 years of experience in the real estate industry. She leads a team of 250 employees and 2,000 local business subcontractors that together have sold and managed 275,000 properties nationwide, delivering top-quality service and sales results to its public and private-sector clients. During her tenure, Ms. Barrentine has been instrumental in streamlining the operational processes and technological advances of First Preston HT to manage and dispose of large real estate portfolios meeting the goals of the client. Her extensive operational and financial background, coupled with strong standards for quality services, has enabled First Preston HT to implement improvements to respond to market and customer changes. She earned a BSBA Degree in Accounting from the University of Arkansas and is a Certified Public Accountant. In 2005, Lisa was recognized and awarded as one of the "National Entrepreneur of the Year” for her business success and support of entrepreneurship.

Lisa Barrentine is CEO & President and an integral part of the success of the First Preston HT family of companies, including the support and development of small business entrepreneurs to provide subcontracted services. Her extensive operational and financial background coupled with strong standards for quality services has enabled First Preston to implement improvements to respond to market and customer changes. Lisa, a CPA, joined First Preston HT in 1991, early in the company’s development, and was instrumental in its growth and success. She contributes a wealth of experience in operations, finance and accounting and new ideas for business strategies and growth. Before joining First Preston HT, Lisa was a financial accountant for Chemlink, Inc., an accounting manager for National Realty Advisors, Inc. and a senior accountant with Ernst & Young, LLP. She earned a BSBA degree from the University of Arkansas in 1986. Lisa identified the opportunity to create mentor-protégé partnerships with small disadvantaged businesses to allow them to compete for large federal contracts, with First Preston HT serving as their mentor and joint venture partner. Two entrepreneurs, launching new businesses with First Preston HT through this arrangement, have been awarded major real estate asset management and marketing contracts through the federal government. Lisa is also a founding member of the Texas Women’s Ventures Fund, a venture capital fund investing in businesses created by women entrepreneurs.


Homer EreksonO. Homer Erekson

John V. Roach Dean, Neeley School of Business at Texas Christian University

O. Homer Erekson is the John V. Roach Dean at the Neeley School of Business at TCU, and Professor of Managerial Economics and Strategy, joining TCU in July 2008. Dean Erekson’s areas of specialization include Corporate and Public Policy, Environmental Economics and Sustainability, Economics of Education Finance, and Business Ethics. He holds a B.A. in Economics and Political Science from TCU and a Ph.D. in Economics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He also has completed the Management and Leadership in Education program at Harvard University.

He is the coauthor of Sustainability Perspectives for Resources and Business and Major Moments: Life Changing Lessons of Business Leaders, and his research articles have been published in over 50 academic journals and other publications. He is 1st Vice Chair and on the Board of Trustees for the Alliance for Higher Education. His international experience includes conferences and other professional activities in Canada, China, the Czech Republic, France, India, Japan, Luxembourg, Norway, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Turkey, and the United Kingdom.


Michael MorrisMichael Morris

Academic Director, Entrepreneurship Program, University of Florida

Michael H. Morris, Ph.D., holds the George and Lisa Etheridge Professorship at the University of Florida, where he is the Academic Director of the Entrepreneurship Program. He previously was the N. Malone Mitchell Chair and founded the School of Entrepreneurship at Oklahoma State University and before that launched the Department of Entrepreneurship at Syracuse University.

A pioneer in curricular innovation and experiential learning, his entrepreneurial outreach efforts have facilitated the development of hundreds of ventures, and he has started three ventures of his own. Professor Morris is the Director of the Experiential Classroom, founded in 1999, which shares best practices in entrepreneurship education with faculty from around the globe, and annually coordinates the Entrepreneurship Empowerment in South Africa Program. He has published 11 books and over 130 articles in peer-reviewed journals. He co-edits the Prentice-Hall Entrepreneurship Series, and is editor emeritus of the Journal of Developmental Entrepreneurship.

Dr. Morris is a Past President of the United States Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship (USASBE), and has chaired the American Marketing Association’s Entrepreneurship & Marketing Taskforce. He has been awarded the Edwin & Gloria Appel Prize for contributions to entrepreneurship. A former Fulbright Scholar, Dr. Morris was selected as a top twenty entrepreneurship professor by Fortune Small Business, and received the Leavey Award from the Freedoms Foundation for impacting private enterprise education. USASBE recognized him as Entrepreneurship Educator of the Year in 2012. He earned his Ph.D. from Virginia Tech in 1983.


Rachel CrosonRachel Croson
Dean, College of Business, University of Texas at Arlington

Dr. Rachel Croson began her tenure at UT Arlington as Dean of the College of Business on January 14, 2013. From 2007-2013, Dean Croson served at UT Dallas as a professor and the director of the UT Dallas Negotiations Center. During her time at UT Dallas she was honored with a two-year leave to serve as the National Science Foundation’s division director for Social and Economic Sciences, managing a $100 million annual budget and eight programs.

Prior to joining UT Dallas, Croson served as an assistant and associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School in the Department of Operations and Information Management. She earned her bachelor’s degree in economics and philosophy of science from the University of Pennsylvania and her master’s and doctoral degrees in economics from Harvard University.

Contributing to many disciplines, much of Croson’s research has centered on experimental and behavioral economics, investigating how people make a variety of economic decisions, including financial, charitable and risky. Her research has been supported by the National Science Foundation, Aspen Institute, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. She has served in numerous professional leadership roles.

Croson also is the co-editor of a recently-published book, Oxford Handbook of Economic Conflict Resolution, with Dr. Gary Bolton, and continues her research on topics including entrepreneurial exits, including "Entrepreneurial Firm Exit: The Moderating Effect of Goal Specificity on Escalation of Commitment.” (with Susanna Khavul, Livia Markoczy and Ronit Yitshaki).

Donna Marie De CarolisDonna Marie De Carolis
Founding Dean, Charles D. Close School of Entrepreneurship, Drexel University

Donna Marie De Carolis is the founding dean of the Charles D. Close School of Entrepreneurship at Drexel University. The Close School is one of a very small number of freestanding schools of entrepreneurship in the United States and the only one in the Philadelphia region.

Formerly, Donna held the position of Associate Vice Provost for Entrepreneurship Education at Drexel University. In this role, she oversaw the development and coordination of all academic entrepreneurial offerings and student activities at Drexel; served as the spokesperson for Drexel University entrepreneurial education initiatives and oversaw the Baiada Institute for Entrepreneurship. She also served as the Associate Dean for Graduate Programs at the LeBow College of Business at Drexel University, and was responsible for the administration and strategic direction of all graduate and corporate degree programs.

In her former position as Associate Dean for Strategic Initiatives at the LeBow College of Business, she was the key individual responsible for the implementation of the LeBow Strategic Plan, and also had strategic responsibility for the business school’s four Centers of Excellence. In addition, she coordinated the development of synergistic programs and initiatives among the business school, other colleges at Drexel and with the business community at large.

Donna is a weekly commentator on KYW Newsradio in Philadelphia providing a business commentary on trends in entrepreneurship and leadership. In addition, her opinions and commentaries have appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Philadelphia Business Journal and Business Week On-Line. Donna also serves in an advisory capacity to several regional new ventures.

Donna designs and delivers seminars on innovation, strategic thinking, corporate entrepreneurship and technology commercialization for companies and organizations.

Donna is an active member of the Alliance for Women Entrepreneurs, the Academy of Management and the Strategic Management Society. She serves on the on the advisory board of several start-up companies and is a member of the Union League of Philadelphia

As an educator, Donna has researched, written and lectured extensively on various aspects of entrepreneurship, technology management and technology commercialization. She is certified in Emotional Intelligence coaching and integrates her expertise in this area into her technology leadership curriculum.

She is the recipient of the prestigious Lindback Foundation Award for Distinguished Teaching (2003) and the Distinguished Teaching Excellence Award from Executive MBA’s.

Her research has appeared in journals such as the Strategic Management Journal, The Journal of Management, Journal of Business Venturing and Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice.

Prior to coming to Drexel, she was a strategy consultant and lobbyist. She earned her doctoral degree in strategic management from Temple University, and holds an MBA from Villanova University.


Finley GravesO. Finley Graves

Professor and Dean, College of Business, University of North Texas

Dr. O. Finley Graves, CPA, is Professor and Dean of the College of Business at the University of North Texas. He has held the positions of Chair of the Department of Accounting and Senior Associate Dean in the college. Previously, he was Professor and Head of the Department of Accounting at Kansas State University, Professor of Accounting at the University of Mississippi and Visiting Professor of Accounting at the University of Newcastle in Australia. While on the faculty at the University of Alabama, Graves served as Chair of the Department of German and Russian.

Dr. Graves is a CPA licensed in the State of Mississippi. He was a staff accountant with Coopers & Lybrand (now PricewaterhouseCoopers) before launching his teaching career in accounting.

Dr. Graves is a member of Beta Alpha Psi, Tau Alpha Chi, Phi Kappa Phi, Beta Gamma Sigma, Delta Sigma Phi, Pi Delta Phi, and Delta Phi Alpha honorary societies; and he has been a Germanistic Society of America/Fulbright Scholar at the University of Freiburg in Breisgau, Germany. He earned a Ph. D. and a Master's in Accounting at the University of Alabama in 1985 and 1979 respectively. Earlier, he earned a Ph.D. in Germanic languages and literatures from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a Master of Arts degree in modern German literature from Rice University and a Bachelor's degree in modern languages from the University of Mississippi.


Terry ManessTerry S. Maness

Dean, Hankamer School of Business, Baylor University

Terry Maness was appointed dean of Baylor University’s School of Business in 1997. He previously served as associate dean for Undergraduate Programs and as chairman of the Department of Finance, Insurance and Real Estate. He is the author of six books about financial analysis and financial management. Dr. Maness is also a contributor to various publications, such as Journal of Finance, Journal of Banking and Finance, Journal of Financial Education, Journal of Portfolio Management, Journal of Financial and Quantitative Analysis, Journal of Futures Markets, Cashflow, Journal of Cash Management and Corporate Controller. His primary areas of expertise include financial management, cash flow analysis and small business valuation.

Dr. Maness earned the Distinguished Professor Award from the Baylor Hankamer School of Business in 1982, the University Distinguished Professor Award in 1984, Hankamer School of Business Most Popular Professor in both 1989 and 1996, and the Top Professor Award for the 1980-1981 academic year from Mortar Board.

A Certified Cash Manager (CCM), Dr. Maness frequently serves as a consultant for small business valuations. He serves on the Board of Directors of the Brazos Higher Education Service Cooperation; Citizens, Inc.; Extraco Banks and Hillcrest Baptist Medical Center. He is a deacon, and he and his wife, Nancy, are active members at the First Baptist Church in Woodway, Texas. He holds BA and MS degrees from Baylor University and a DBA from Indiana University.


Frank FordFrank Ford

Four Day Weekend

Frank Ford is one of the founding members of Four Day Weekend and has studied at the renowned Second City Conservatory in Chicago. He has appeared in numerous commercials including McDonald’s,The Movie Channel and a series of spots for the Whataburger chain as their national spokesman. He can also be seen in such award-winning independent films as Pale Blue Moon, Shtickmen, Hit and Posing Wacholtz. Frank recently won a "Best Actor” award for his starring role in the short Forever Together and currently plays a part in a feature film opposite Crispin Glover that also stars Jason Lee entitled, Drop Dead Sexy. His critically acclaimed full-length comedy revues,Feetprints, Don’t Fail Me Now and 3112, have been official selections to the Chicago Sketchfest, the Dallas Comedy Festival and the NYC Underground Comedy Festival. In addition, his short film entitled, F-Word, was recently named as a top-three finalist for "Best Short” at the Santa Clarita Independent Film Festival (SCIFF). You can check out the short film and more of Frank’s written material at www.frankjford.com and View Frank’s Commercials. He is represented by The Horne Agency in Dallas, Texas.


David AhearnDavid Ahearn

Four Day Weekend

David Ahearn started his career performing stand-up comedy at clubs across the country.He has appeared at such premiere clubs in Los Angeles as The Laugh Factory, The Improvisation and The Comedy Store. In 1997, he co-founded Four Day Weekend, and he has been the host of the show since its inception. Ahearn wrote and directed Four Day Weekend’s television pilot,Get Lost, which caught the attention of the studios in Los Angeles. The pilot helped Four Day Weekend to acquire Hollywood representation. An accomplished filmmaker, Ahearn's second short film, burning the grump, was named a finalist in the USA Film Festival and won the Special Jury Prize at The Northhampton Film Festival. Ahearn was named "Best Filmmaker” by the Fort Worth Weekly. Recently, Ahearn penned a feature length film script entitled, run, and attached Oscar winning actor Harvey Keitel to the project. The film is currently in development. In 2011, Four Day Weekend was awarded the Key to the City by Fort Worth Mayor Mike Moncrief for being "Fort Worth’s Greatest Ambassadors.” That same year, Ahearn and Four Day Weekend delivered a keynote address at the Democratic Caucus Issues Conference for the United States Congress. In attendance were President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. In 2012, Ahearn and Four Day Weekend were awarded the prestigious ISES Award (International Special Events Society) for "Best Entertainment.” The year was capped off when Ahearn and Four Day Weekend performed on September 11, 2012 in Las Vegas with former President George W. Bush. In early 2013, Ahearn and Four Day Weekend published their first book, The Art of ImproviZEN.The book is geared towards businesses that are looking to infuse creativity into their work environment.Along with Four Day Weekend, Ahearn travels around the world delivering the keynote address of the book’s principles.The book is available at Amazon.com. Ahearn has performed more than 5,000 live shows with Four Day Weekend. He travels the world performing both Four Day Weekend’s live shows and hosting events for Fortune 500 companies.For interest in hiring David contact (817) 226-4DAY.


Four Day Weekend Comedy

FourDayWeekend introduced the art of improvisational comedy to Fort Worth in February of 1997. Scheduled for a limited six-week run at Casa Manana’s Theater on the Square, the show quickly garnered critical acclaim and a growing audience. No one could have guessed that the limited engagement would become the longest-running show in Fort Worth’s history. After only one year, Four Day Weekend outgrew the Theater on the Square. The troupe packed up their props and three black chairs and moved into the beautiful 212-seat Caravan of Dreams Theater. Although the new venue was more than twice the size of their previous digs, Four Day Weekend was soon selling out their
new theater on a consistent basis. When the Caravan of Dreams closed its doors in 2001, Four Day Weekend was offered the opportunity to take over the theater and the
Four Day Weekend Theater was born. Having performed more than 5,000 shows, Four Day Weekend has become a Fort Worth institution. Audiences know that every weekend, they can catch a glimpse of tomorrow’s television and film stars right in their own back yard. More than 550,000 people have attended the shows, and that number is still growing. Four Day Weekend is critically acclaimed both locally and nationally. The troupe has received the Key to the City of Fort Worth from Mayor Mike Moncrief and has performed for the United States Congress (where they received a standing ovation for their efforts and even met with the President himself!).

Additionally, Four Day Weekend has been voted "Best Comedy Troupe” by the FW Star Telegram, FW Weekly, WFAA-List and FW Texas Magazine; "Best Entertainment” by the International Special Events Society, and "Best Entertainment in Texas” by The Official Best Of organization.

Four Day Weekend recently published their first book, The Art of ImproviZEN, which teaches readers how to combine creativity with commerce to create harmony in the workplace. When not performing at their theater in the heart of Sundance Square, Four Day Weekend tours nationally for corporate events. Their client list reads like a "who’s who” of the Fortune 500. For more information on booking the troupe or renting the Four Day Weekend Theater for a private performance, visit their website at www.fourdayweekend.net.


Holly TuckerHolly Tucker

Country Music Singer, a Top 6 performer on Season 4 of The Voice (Team Blake), Baylor University Student

Twenty year-old Holly Tucker has accomplished a lot in the past 8 years of beginning her career in country music, but her musical story begins even before she was born. Her parents, Johnny and Cheryl Tucker, founded a professional Christian band when they were in college called Revised Edition. They traveled all over the U.S. but eventually wound up back in Texas falling in love, getting married, and having 3 beautiful children, the last of which would carry on their love of music.

Holly began singing from a very early age and got on stage for the first time at her home church of FBC Woodway when she was 7 years old. She got serious about her career around the age of 12 when she jumped into a little car with her parents and traveled the highways of Texas and Louisiana, singing in country music shows, talent competitions, churches, local opry shows, and radio shows.

Needing product to sell at these Texas gigs, Holly began her studio singing career at age 14 when she recorded her first full-length CD, "It’s About Time”. At 15 years old, she traveled to Nashville to record her voice on a 4-song songwriter’s demo entitled "For You”. Around 17 years old, she recorded her 2nd full-length CD entitled "Love Is What She Likes”. When in school at Baylor University, Holly was a part of a student-run record label called Uproar Records and recorded an original 3-song EP entitled "Something To Be Said”. These 4 albums allowed Holly to find her voice and a sound that is truly pleasing to audiences of all ages. In addition to following her ultimate dream of being a solo artist in the country music industry, Holly plays the guitar, piano, and alto saxophone. In order to further her career, she has written songs of her own and has co-written with other songwriters. Between all of this, she graduated from Lorena High School with honors, and now attends Baylor University, double majoring in Speech Communications and Spanish.

The Voice was the most recent of Holly’s successes. In July 2012, she was in Dallas for a different singing opportunity and had some spare time. She heard about the open call auditions for the show and decided to audition last minute. She ended up making it through a few callbacks that landed her a spot in the blind auditions. On that stage, Holly sang Garth Brooks’ song, "To Make You Feel My Love” and got the attention of all four coaches who turned around to campaign to get her on their team. Holly chose Blake Shelton as her coach, and the rest, as they say, is history. She competed and made it to the Top 6 out of over 40,000 hopeful auditioners in the nation. Holly learned a lot about music, the business, and herself the through this "superstar boot camp” experience. This is only the beginning of her already budding career in the country music world.

Holly Tucker is an artist who knows exactly who she is and what her goals are for the future. She can be a unique, powerful voice in country music that inspires and entertains all different kinds of audiences. Her story, her positive message, and her voice itself will be the separating factors from all other female singers on radio today.


Adam BlakeAdam Blake

CEO, Brightergy

Adam Blake is an entrepreneur with a background in energy and real estate related ventures. Adam is currently the CEO of Brightergy, a distributed generation energy company that finances, owns, and manages commercial solar and distributed energy systems throughout the US. Brightergy has offices in Boston, Kansas City, and St Louis.

Prior to Brightergy, Adam founded Atlas Properties, a private equity firm that manages investments for individual and institutional owners in real estate, solar, and natural gas. A sampling of Atlas’ projects include an 18 story mixed-use high rise in downtown Fort Worth, multiple condo development projects, historic redevelopment projects in Kansas City, and natural gas projects in Fort Worth’s Barnett Shale and another in the Northeast Marcellus Shale.

Adam has been featured in Entrepreneur Magazine, Young Money, Fortune Small Business, and several other industry related publications. Adam was the recipient of the Global Student Entrepreneur Award in 2005, a prestigious international award for the top student entrepreneur. Adam has been recognized as a 40 under 40 recipient in Fort Worth and Atlas Properties was recognized as the 123rd fastest growing companies in 2009. Adam received a business degree in entrepreneurial management, accounting, and finance from TCU.


David GrubbsDavid Grubbs

CEO, Vendevor

David Grubbs is a successful serial entrepreneur and has founded eight companies in the internet services and internet marketing industries by the age of twenty-eight. He currently serves as the CEO of Vendevor, an ecommerce and payment processing plugin and widget that enables individuals and small businesses to easily sell products through their website, blog, or Facebook fan page and immediately accept credit cards from customers.

In addition to Vendevor, David is an active partner in two companies providing a range of direct to consumer products. In February 2011, he launched the Accelerated Ventures program at Baylor University with Dr. Les Palich and Dr. Kendall Artz. The innovative new program enables students to create real companies, raise real funds, launch products and services, and generate sales within months. Students learn the strategies and principles required to start and run a successful business while applying these principles in a live business.

David is a graduate of Baylor University (BBA) class of ’07.


Matthew HinsonMatthew Hinson
Founder, Rollout

Matthew Calvin Hinson, an MBA graduate at the University of Texas at Dallas, with concentrations in Innovation & Entrepreneurship and Finance, and has an undergraduate degree from The University of Houston in Construction Management Technology. Matt was co-founder of Brainfund, a crowd scholarship website which won the 2012 UT Dallas Business Idea Competition. He is also the Founder of Rollout, a computer hardware and software solution provider which will serve the architecture, engineering, and construction industry, in which he has over six years of professional experience.

Matt aspires to revolutionize the AEC industry with Rollout, which won the 2013 UT Dallas Business Idea Competition and has attracted several venture capital investors.


Valerie LindenmuthValerie Lindenmuth

Co-founder, Valerie & Valerie Weddings and Events

Valerie Lindenmuth is the co-founder of Valerie & Valerie Weddings and Events, a full service planning company serving the D/FW Metroplex and nationwide. Valerie graduated summa cum laude from the Cox School of Business at Southern Methodist University with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Marketing. After graduation she served as an Account Executive for The Freeman Company - the world’s largest leading provider of integrated services for face-to-face marketing, specializing in convention management and trade show management. Here she worked on accounts including The Republican National Convention and recognizable brand names such as Mary Kay and The Metro PCS Dallas Marathon.

After her tenure at The Freeman Company she took her entrepreneurial spirit, her marketing expertise, and her love for design, and formed her company with partner Valerie Exnicios. Together they have become two of the most sought after wedding planners in the Dallas market. Valerie is certified through the American Association of Certified Wedding Planners (AACWP) and enjoys competing in triathlons, most notably the Ironman and Ironman 70.3 series.


Ashley MurpheeAshley Murphee

CEO and Founder, Carpe Diem Private Preschool

Ashley Murphree is the CEO and Founder of Carpe Diem Private Preschool. She is completely dedicated to the task of offering exceptional early childhood education and care to families who recognize the importance of providing a strong, nurturing foundation of learning in the first years of their child’s life. She is also a huge advocate for women, children, and the arts.

Ashley was born in Saigon in 1973 during the Vietnam War. In 1979, she and her family escaped Vietnam huddled in the bottom of a small, wooden boat. It was an arduous ordeal, but they survived; and eventually, they found their way to the Dallas area in 1980 and settled in Garland. With a strong work ethic and a great deal of determination, Ashley excelled in school from day one and eventually put herself through college at the University of Texas at Arlington, earning a Bachelor of Business Administration. She worked for several years as a Human Resource professional.

When Ashley planned to have children of her own, she did extensive research and wasn’t pleased with the available options for childcare. At that point, she decided to open her own preschool, which would offer the very best staff, facility, and curriculum based on the most current research on developmentally appropriate learning and practices for young children. She also wanted to change the widely held view of childcare givers as undervalued employees to that of professional teachers, by valuing their expertise and providing corporate benefits to her staff. This empowerment led to the creation of a highly skilled workforce and gave many employees the ability to advance in their careers.

The result is Carpe Diem Private Preschool: Richardson, which opened its doors in October 2001—Ashley’s dream came true. And that dream has been repeated very successfully at three other locations: in Frisco (2005), Allen (2009), and Southlake (2010). Ashley plans to continue to expand, which will provide more children and families access to Carpe Diem’s exceptional and exemplary approach to early childhood education and care.

For the past five years, Ashley has also volunteered her time as President of the Board of Directors of Tuzer Ballet, Inc., a non-profit organization that gives hundreds of disadvantaged children and families access to the performing arts every year. She believes that art is fundamental to children’s development because it encourages innovation, critical thinking, and their imagination. As the result, Ashley is incredibly passionate about this cause.


Rebecca WhiteRebecca J. White

Professor, Entrepreneurship and James W. Walter Distinguished Chair of Entrepreneurship, Director, UT Entrepreneurship Center, University of Tampa

Dr. Rebecca J. White is Professor of Entrepreneurship, James W. Walter Distinguished Chair of Entrepreneurship, and the Director of the UT Entrepreneurship Center at the University of Tampa. Dr. White was co-founder of RiskAware, LLC. She serves on numerous Boards, including the Global Consortium of Entrepreneurship Centers Executive Council and the United States Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship. Dr. White was Founder and director of the Women’s Entrepreneurship Institute, an educational program for female entrepreneurs offered jointly by NKU and the New York Times. Dr. White is a 2006 Athena® Award finalist, a 2005 recipient of the Freedoms Foundation Leavey Award for Excellence in Private Enterprise Education and was named Ernst and Young Entrepreneur Supporter of Entrepreneurship in 2003. Dr. White has been awarded several distinguished research and service honors. She received B.S. from Concord University in 1978; MBA from Virginia Tech University in 1980 and Ph.D. in Strategic Management from Virginia Tech University in 1994.


Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey

Co-authors, The Barefoot Spirit: How Hardship, Hustle, and Heart Built America's #1 Wine Brand

Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey started in their laundry room in 1986 and created a nationwide bestselling wine label. With virtually no money and no wine industry experience, they employed innovative ideas to overcome obstacles and create new markets.

They pioneered "Worthy Cause Marketing" and performance-based compensation. Their comprehensive view of customer service resulted in the National Hot Brand Award for outstanding sales growth in 2003 and 2004. In 2005 they successfully sold the brand to E&J Gallo. Since then, they have consulted Fortune 500’s and start-ups alike. One of their clients just made the 2013 Inc 500 list of fastest growing companies.

Michael & Bonnie now share their experience and innovative approach to business as consultants, authors, speakers, and workshop leaders. They are sought-after workplace culture experts in both print and broadcast media with hundreds of interviews and articles in professional and national publications. They co-author weekly, no-nonsense, business blogs at www.barefootwinefounders.com & www.thebrandauthority.net.

Their book, The Barefoot Spirit, which chronicles the history and lessons learned building the popular Barefoot Wine brand is now required reading at more than a dozen universities teaching entrepreneurship.

Michael & Bonnie have spent the past year speaking to entrepreneurial students throughout the country. Business leaders and professors of entrepreneurship highly recommend them as inspirational speakers, role models, and entrepreneurial thought leaders. They are an excellent extension of the classroom education into the real world of practicality.

To book Michael & Bonnie for your classroom, conference, or company, contact Mike Elliott at MDE@thebarefootspirit.com (707) 887-8866.

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