Cover Story

The Real Power 50: 2015

A look at the 50 people you want to know when doing business in the state of Minnesota

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s not what you know, but who you know?” Well, when it comes to doing business in the state of Minnesota, the people on our (Real) Power 50 list are definitely people you want to know.

The members of The (Real) Power 50 are the linchpins in their companies. The connectors in their industry. The heart of the operation. The people who make things happen. The remarkable players in the Minnesota business community with a knack for getting things done — and being helpful along the way.

To create this list, we selected people we trust to be nominators, people who understand what The (Real) Power 50 means — the alumni! We also scanned the state’s business community, asking our trusted partners and business leaders to identify the professionals who have impressed them in the past year. And thus, the list of 50 came to be.

Aaron Hall
CEO, Thompson Hall Santi Cerny & Katkov
Business attorney Aaron Hall learns from his clients even as he serves them. As CEO of Thomson Hall Santi Cerny & Katkov since 2008, Hall and his colleagues help Minnesota businesses strategize and grow into healthy companies. While his business law firm helps their clients solve complex problems and minimize legal risk, Hall says he receives inspiration from these business leaders in terms of “entrepreneurial drive, creativity, lifelong learning and passion to build something great.” Over the years Hall has donated his time to many organizations, including the Minnesota State Bar Association and YMCA Youth in Government. He has also served has an adjunct professor of business law at Concordia University in St. Paul, his undergraduate alma mater.

Alberto Monserrate
CEO & Co-Founder, NewPublica
Are you ready for 2043? If you don’t know what that means, you’d better talk with Alberto Monserrate. That’s the year the so-called minorities are estimated to become the majority in the United States. The upshot is that communities of color are increasingly becoming the dominant markets, employment pool, and future leaders. It makes good business sense for Minnesotans of European descent to gain multicultural expertise. That is why Monserrate co-founded public relations firm NewPublica in 2014. His background in Spanish language radio and print as co-founder and CEO of the Latino Communications Network has made him the Twin Cities foremost authority on marketing to Latino audiences. Now he is extending that focus to African Americans, Asian Americans, Native Americans, and immigrants. Monserrate was the first Latino elected to the Minneapolis School Board in 2010. He has served on the boards of the Citizens League, Make-a-Wish Foundation, and the Minnesota Broadcasters Association.


Amanda Downs
Director Advisory Services, KPMG
Amanda Downs is the account relationship director on the advisory services team for audit, tax, and advisory services firm KPMG. She is known for her leadership and vision. She is also the founder, former chairperson, and a current board member for Women Leading in Technology (, a program of the Minnesota High Tech Association with a mission to promote, educate, and empower women in technology. As a result, Downs has helped bring together female technology leaders across a number of organizations to share career goals and strategic knowledge. Previously, Downs held multiple positions with EMC Corp., SunGuard Collegic Inc., and Georgia State University.


Anne Bjerken
Attorney & Partner, Gray Plant Mooty
Attorney Anne Bjerken was named a “Minnesota Rising Star” by Thomson Reuters from 2012–2014. Bjerken is certainly comfortable with stars, because that describes a good part of her clientele at Gray Plant Mooty. She discovered she had the perfect temperament to work well with entertainers, top CEOs, and professional athletes – notably former Minnesota Twin Corey Koskie. Bjerken focuses her energies on estate planning for complex estates, estate and trust administration, and preparation of prenuptial and postnuptial agreements. Her volunteer efforts include being a board member of the Guthrie Theater, and serving as a volunteer attorney for the Minnesota AIDS Project. Bjerken has been at Gray Plant Mooty since 2007 and has been named a partner.


Barbara Hensley
Founder & CEO, Hope Chest
After losing both of her sisters to breast cancer, Barbara Hensley decided to serve other women facing that challenge. In 2001, she founded Hope Chest for Breast Cancer, a unique nonprofit and retail model. Stores in Orono and Bloomington sell high-end donated furniture, gently used women’s clothing, and accessories. The proceeds assist women and their families experiencing financial distress. “We provide quick access to their most urgent needs. We keep them in their home, keep the lights on, keep food on the table, and help the patient get to treatment by paying for transportation and child care.” Prior to Hope Chest, Hensley worked in leadership roles at Ceridian Corp., Datakey, and Honeywell. In 2014, she received the TwinWest Chamber of Commerce Entrepreneur of the Year award, and the Innovator International Award from the Women of Leadership Forum.

Bill Katter
Executive Vice President, United Properties
Bill Katter began his career in real estate more than 20 years ago as a property manager. Fast forward to today, and he’s the executive vice president of United Properties, a residential and commercial real estate company. Currently, Katter is helping lead the Nicollet Hotel Block project. Before joining United Properties in 2004, Katter was director of real estate equities for Thrivent Financial for Lutherans, overseeing the acquisitions, disposition, and asset management of all of the company’s investment properties located across the United States, and developing the company’s regional real estate investment program. Katter is also a member of the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties.


Dan Collison
Executive Director for East Downtown,
Minneapolis Downtown Council
Dan Collison is the director of the East Downtown Partnership for the Minneapolis Downtown Council-Downtown Improvement District, executive director for the East Downtown Council, senior pastor for First Covenant Church in Minneapolis, and a Collegeville Institute Fellow. Before becoming a pastor, Collison and his wife ran an adult foster care home for men with developmental disabilities. He also volunteers his time as a board member of the Minnesota African American Museum and Cultural Center. Dan has obviously made serving the community a constant in both his professional and personal life. As part of the East Downtown Council, he supports the activities of businesses, nonprofits, and property owners in the Downtown East and Elliot Park neighborhoods in Minneapolis.

Dave Dickey
CEO, Second Story Sales
Dave Dickey may very well be the best pitching coach outside of Major League Baseball. But we’re not talking curves or spitballs; Dickey specializes in sales pitches. His training background for his sales skills was not exactly in the minor leagues. Dickey was an early employee of Definity Health, the inventors of what has become the HSA — the health savings account. When United Health Group acquired Definity, he became president of the Healthcare Transformation Group for United. He then co-founded RedBrick Health, a health and wellness company dedicated to changing the financing to reward healthy lifestyles. As CEO of Second Story Sales, Dickey is out to cure anemic sales efforts for a range of companies. His offerings include coaching, workshops and public speaking — each of which have healthy servings of his trademarked enthusiasm.

Dean Phillips
Chairman, Phillips Distilling & Talenti Gelato
Three years ago Dean Phillips made the transition from peppermint schnapps to Peppermint Bark gelato. He resigned as CEO of Phillips Distilling Company, which was founded by his great-great-grandfather in 1912, and took the reins of Minneapolis-based gelato company Talenti Gelato. His zest for boosting brands helped grow the company into America’s best-selling gelato brand. Last December Unilever bought Talenti — which leaves Phillips searching for his next big branding adventure. As we go to press, he has not found it yet. But stay tuned. Phillips contributes his talent and experience to a number of charitable organizations, including the Jay and Rose Phillips Family Foundation of Minnesota, Minneapolis Parks Foundation, Hennepin Theatre Trust, The Blake School, Worldwide Orphans Foundation, University of Minnesota Humphrey School of Public Affairs, and WE Day Minnesota.

Heidi Gesell
President, BankCherokee
St. Paul
Heidi Gesell increased the assets of BankCherokee by nearly 75 percent since she became president in 1996. Gesell is the third generation of her family to run the independently operated bank in St. Paul, but she worked her way to the top. She began her banking career at First National Bank of St. Paul in computer processing and training, before joining BankCherokee in 1983. She served in various capacities until she was named the organization’s sixth president in 1996 and CEO three years later. Her father was chairman of the board, and chose her because of her management style and ability to build good relationships with clients and employees. Gesell also sits on the board of the Friends of the Library in St. Paul and is a trustee of the F. R. Bigelow Foundation. She has also volunteered for the United Way of St. Paul, Girl Scout Council of St. Croix Valley, and Rotary Club of West St. Paul/Mendota Heights.

Jaime Nolan
Founder & CEO,
IntrinXec Management
In 2004, Jaime Nolan founded IntrinXec Management, a consulting firm that provides associations with strategic insight, event planning, and operations management. This kind of support is crucial, because most organizations are run by volunteers who don’t have the time or resources to produce major events or programs. “Our job is to make their lives easier,” says Nolan. As part of her duties she is the executive director of the Minnesota Precision Manufacturing Association, and serves as an adviser to the boards of each association client by providing guidance on association governance, regulations, and current trends. Nolan is also a member of the AMC Institute, the Entrepreneur’s Organization, the American Society of Association Executives, and the Midwest Society of Association Executives. She also volunteers for the Preeclampsia Foundation, having founded their two largest fundraisers, which raise more than $500,000 annually for the organization.

Jake Spano
Deputy Secretary of State Chief of Staff, Secretary of State
St. Paul
If you ask Jake Spano, “How’s the government?” he may very well say, “Which one?” It could be Minnesota state government, because he’s the new chief of staff for Secretary of State Steve Simon. But he’s also a city council member for St. Louis Park’s municipal government. And his previous position was as director of marketing for the City of St. Paul, where he oversaw the Red Bull Crashed Ice event. At the federal level, Spano served in the office of U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar. In addition to his public service roles, Spano worked as an artist and foundryman in bronze art foundries before becoming a project manager and account executive in the architecture and design industry, leading multi-million dollar projects.

Jamie Post Candee
CEO, Questar Assessments Inc.
Apple Valley
Wait just a minute, Governor Dayton, who says we have too many assessments in public schools? The problem is not the quantity as much as how we use assessments, says Jamie Post Candee, CEO of Questar Assessments. As a child of two teachers, she takes education very seriously. Post Candee knows that we need to be sure students are on track to prepare for college and careers, and meaningful assessments are a useful tool for that. She has spent most of her career devoted to education, holding multiple positions at Edmentum (previously PLATO Learning Inc.), including chief revenue officer. She also applies Questar’s philosophy of using assessments to “bridge the gap between learning and accountability” to her personal life. Post Candee is checking out the assessment scores of local schools to find the best kindergarten for her 5-year-old.

Jeanne Crain
President & CEO, Bremer Bank
St. Paul
Jeanne Crain’s role model for having pride and dedication in her work is her father, who was a watchmaker and owner of a jewelry store. As president and CEO of Bremer Bank — Minnesota’s largest commercial bank — she helps the community twice when she makes a successful loan to a business. First, the business itself helps the economy, and then more than 90 percent of the profits from the bank go to its parent, The Otto Bremer Foundation, which in turn makes grants to the community. Crain serves the community even further as a volunteer. She sits on the advisory board of the Metropolitan Economic Development Association (MEDA), the investment committee of the Basilica of St. Mary, and the boards of Enterprise Minnesota and the Minneapolis Club. Crain sharpened her skills during more than 33 years of experience in the banking industry, and was the president of M&I/BMO Harris’ Minnesota operations when she was tapped to lead the Bremer Bank in the Twin Cities in 2012.

Jill Lloyd
Founder & CEO, Lloyd Security
When Jill Lloyd started her career in a sales position at Honeywell and regional dealer manager for Security Link, security meant little more than fire and burglar alarms. Now the field has expanded to include technological security for computers and smart phones, and environmental monitoring for such things as smart homes. What has remained constant is Lloyd’s dedication to customer service. This attitude serves her well, and it helps to explain the growth of her business, Lloyd Security, which she launched in 2001. Her motto for customer satisfaction is that they “live more and worry less.” Don’t let her low-voltage contractor license fool you, for she has a high-voltage personality and the drive to succeed. Lloyd shares her time and skills with Rotary International, EWomen Network, Executive Connections, GE Security Pro Dealer Network, and the Entrepreneurs’ Organization of Minnesota.

John Blank, MD
Chairman, Treehouse Health
From his unique expertise in both perspectives, Dr. John Blank believes the health care system can be even more complicated that the human body! He began his career as a practicing physician specializing in children’s cancer (pediatric hematology/oncology), but moved into the business side of health care. As chairman of Treehouse Health, Dr. Blank operates a think tank of sorts that solves problems for both giant and small health care companies, often by having them help each other. In 2004, he led Harmony Health Plan through a successful acquisition by WellCare, followed by serving as CEO of Unison Health Plans where he grew revenues to more than $950 million before the business was acquired by AmeriChoice in 2008. Blank then served as COO of AmeriChoice and then became senior vice president of the Emerging Business Group at UnitedHealth.

Jon Freeland
Partner, M&A Group
Growing up on a farm in North Dakota, Jon Freeland learned a thing or two about a strong work ethic. Known by others for his energy, tenacity and resourcefulness, Freeland works hard serving clients at his private investment banking company, M&A Group. But Freeland says his entrepreneurial spirit is something that has been a part of him since he was young, and as a result, something he’s pursued throughout his career. Prior to co-founding M&A Group in 2001, Freeland co-founded and led a corporate restructuring and turnaround consulting firm, and he owned and led a Minnesota-based manufacturing company.

Josh Stowers
Principal, MSR
As partner and principal of architectural and interior design firm Meyer, Scherer, & Rockcastle, Josh Stowers is the director of the firm’s marketing and business development for two offices. His architectural duties for the firm focus on workplace design. Stowers is the recipient of the American Institute of Architects Minnesota 2014 Young Architect Award. Specifically, Stowers was recognized for his work in advancing the national dialogue surrounding the adaptive reuse of existing environments. Stowers speaks regularly on topics related to the intersection of historic rehabilitation and sustainable design. He is also vice president of finance for the CoreNet Midwest Chapter and has served as a volunteer for the Minnesota Governor’s Residence Council’s Greening of the Residence Advisory Group.

Kim Plahn
President & CFO, Dunn Bros Coffee
As president and CFO of Dunn Bros Coffee, Kim Plahn helps many coffee drinkers start their day out right. Plahn joined Dunn Brothers in 2006 and was promoted to president in 2009. She oversees nearly 80 stores in nine states, and all but five of them are franchises. People see Plahn as a strategic leader with creativity and foresight. Her career started at McGladrey Hendrickson, where she was an intern and staff accountant, and then joined Minnesota Mutual in the investment accounting area. She became vice president of finance at Damark International and held additional executive positions at Territory North (dba Legacy and Biorefining). She is active in the Women Presidents’ Association, served two board terms for Vision Loss Resources and is now on the board of Reading & Math Inc., part of ServeMinnesota.

Larry Yatch
CEO, Sealed Mindset
New Hope
The original inspiration for Larry Yatch’s career was watching Tom Cruise in Top Gun. But by the time he graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy, he switched from wanting to be a jet pilot to becoming a Navy Seal. He made it onto Seal Team 3 as a lieutenant and was assigned to the Middle East. After 10 years of service on the front lines he entered civilian life, but could not abandon his drive to protect people. His wife came up with the idea for his next career: leverage his experience to launch Sealed Mindset, a SEAL-inspired defense training center. Aside from hands-on self-defense training courses, services include leadership lessons, contingency planning, and personal safety in the corporate world. You don’t have to remind him to hire a vet. He figures that 90 percent of his employees are military veterans, including three former Navy Seals.

Laura Kelly
Partner & CEO, Keyot
St. Paul
Laura Kelly learned early in her business career that she loved the rhythm of a consultant – to enter a company, implement a program or project, and leave the operation of it to the company’s employees. Then on to the next project! Her sister Anjie Cayot shared that passion, so they spliced their names together and formed Keyot in 2008. Starting in Iowa, they expanded to Minnesota and Texas to best serve their clients, with a focus on helping them innovate and grow. But Kelly soon learned that growing clients face another problem: finding skilled employees. Her response was to build a “consultant farm,” aka Crew212. Keyot cherry-picks talented college graduates, integrates them into their consulting force for a year or two to learn specific skills, and then offers them up to be hired by her clients. Kelly is also an active member of the Women Presidents’ Organization, the Project Management Institute, the Business Analysis Institute, and the Health Insurance Association of America.

Laura Liu
COO, College Possible
St. Paul
As chief operating officer at College Possible, Laura Liu is able to combine her strategic vision with her passion for helping people. Headquartered in St. Paul, College Possible is a nonprofit organization dedicated to making college admission and success possible for low-income students through an intensive curriculum of coaching support. Prior to joining College Possible in 2014, Liu managed an international team of 2,200 employees as senior vice president of Northwest Airlines’ international division, and served as senior vice president of development at Capella Education Company. Liu also donates her time and expertise by serving on the boards of The St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, YWCA of Minneapolis, and Regions Hospital.

Leslie Holman
CEO, Pinnacle Performance Group
As a skilled engineer, Leslie Holman has seized on a simple formula to improve any business: employee development leads to performance improvement. Human development was a guiding value when — as a member of McKinsey & Company — she served on the Job Growth Task Force of the Itasca Project. She carries the same precise, yet value-driven attitude to the Pinnacle Performance Group, which she purchased in 2012 and leads as CEO. Pinnacle designs and develops custom training, documentation, and performance tools for leading corporations. Holman’s employees all work from their homes on flexible schedules — some even on a part-time basis. Her clients and employees alike benefit from her strong coaching and mentoring abilities. Before applying her methodical practical wisdom to people, Holman began her career as a mechanical engineer, which included designing and implementing solutions at Ford Motor Company.

Lili Hall
CEO & President,
Lili Hall founded KNOCK Inc. in 2001 after spending 14 years working in brand-building and business development. KNOCK is a creative agency that helps connect people to brands they love. Starting out with a group of experienced contacts who worked as freelancers, KNOCK now employs a staff of more than 50 people. Hall was recognized for her business success as one of 11 recipients of the Ernst & Young Entrepreneurial Winning Women National Award in 2010. She is also a founding member of Ernst & Young Global Women in Business Advisory Council, and serves on the boards of the Children’s Theatre Company and Juxtaposition Arts. Hall is an honorary board member of the Italian Cultural Center of Minneapolis St. Paul.

Lori Spiess
CEO, OffiCenters MN & VirtualOffiCenters
Lori Spiess owns and operates five award-winning, hybrid co-working and business center locations in the Minneapolis area under OffiCenters MN & Virtual OffiCenters, which she first launched in 1981. The office spaces offer people a variety of office solutions to create their business strategies, and are designed to support home-based businesses — and help them grow. In 2013 OffiCenters MN and VirtualOffiCenters were named the Most Innovative Workspaces by the Global Workspace Association. Known as a leader in her industry, Spiess was also awarded the WINspiration Award by the Women in Networking Twin Cities in 2012.

Luis Moreno
Sr. Marketing Manager for Synchrony Financial
Co-Founder of the Twin Cities
Business Peer Network
You might know Luis Moreno if you are the kind of person who likes to ride lawn mowers, motorcycles, and snowmobiles. He helps people get financing for those and other products in the outdoor power equipment and power sports industry as the senior marketing manager for Synchrony Financial. The company is the brainchild of General Electric, which formed it in 1932 to enable customers to get financing for home appliances. You may also know Moreno as the co-founder of the Twin Cities Business Peer Network, a 1,500-member organization that helps students and peers grow personally and professionally. His own professional growth includes more than 15 years working in both the United States and Latin America, leading teams at a number of Fortune 250 companies.


Marc Grossfield
CEO & Founder, Tzfat Spirits
of Israel, Aviv 613 Vodka
Marc Grossfield is doing his best to bring spirituality back to distilled spirits. He hopes that you find his Aviv 613 Vodka to be heavenly, but at the very least it will be Biblical. The luxury spirit is made in Israel, and the ingredients are all found in the Bible: wheat, barley, olives, figs, dates, grapes and pomegranates. The water comes from the Sea of Galilee. The bottle is adorned with ethical advice and spiritual images; its glass is made with sand from the Negev Desert in southern Israel. Grossfield worked on Aviv for nine years before he introduced it in 2012. It is widely available at restaurants and liquor stores in Minnesota, and in January it launched in New York, New Jersey and Florida. Previously, Grossfield was co-founder and president of marketing agency Johnson Grossfield for 18 years, and was CEO of BreatheableBaby, a company that sells safe sleep products for babies.

Maura Steblay
Partner, Minneapolis Financial Group
Maura Steblay can teach you all you need to know about financial planning using just three buckets. That’s because she has a unique combination of professional experience: early childhood education and accounting. Steblay started her career as an accountant at GE Capital Fleet, but took time off to have a child. During that time she became an assistant in an early childhood education program and worked with special-needs children and their families. She returned to the workforce, and in 2008 became a financial advisor and eventually a partner at Minneapolis Financial Group. Steblay focuses on working with families with special needs and the businesses that support them, women business owners, and elders in transition. To clarify the complexities of financial planning, Steblay uses her “Teach, Lunch, and Learn” sessions, in which she uses her three-bucket demonstration. Steblay is on the board of the Academy of Whole Learning School, and the board of the Association of Women Contractors.

Matt Arens
CEO, First Light Asset Management
Given the prowess of health care firms in the region and the unbridled growth of health care in general, Matt Arens had a bright idea: Why not start an investment firm primarily focused on small-cap health care stocks? That was the genesis of First Light Asset Management, which began in 2013 and surpassed $150 million in assets under management within six months. His clients are primarily high net worth individuals and institutions. The only question he has now is: Why didn’t anyone else think of it? Previously, Arens served as president and senior portfolio manager at Kopp Investment Advisors as the sole portfolio manager for health care investment strategy. He has been a keynote speaker at the PricewaterhouseCoopers CFO Forum, and has been featured in publications such as BusinessWeek, Barron’s, Pensions & Investments, Investment News, Star Tribune, and St. Paul Pioneer Press.

Matt Hilker
Co-Founder, Altrulytics
After spending much of the last 12 years working with entrepreneurs and startups, Matt Hilker recently became an entrepreneur himself. In 2014, Hilker co-founded Altrulytics, a company that partners with nonprofits and small to medium-sized businesses to help them turn data into insights, and then into action. Thus, the company’s name is a merger of “altruistic” and “analytics.” Their motto is “doing good with data.” Before starting his own company, Hilker held leadership positions at a variety of companies, including Magnet 360. He then spent three years leading the Minnesota Cup — the largest statewide new venture competition in the country. Hilker also serves as an advisory board member for Mighty Axe Hops (a 2014 Minnesota Cup semi-finalist), and is board treasurer for Kingfield/Fulton Farmers Markets.

Michael Langley
President & CEO, Greater MSP
St. Paul
Michael Langley has a simple job description at Greater MSP: Grow the local economy. That’s a tall order, but he does not disappoint. Langley figures that the efforts of his organization can account for two-thirds of the 150,000 new jobs that have come to the region since 2011. That’s the year the Itasca Project launched the Minneapolis St. Paul Regional Economic Development Partnership, aka Greater MSP. Langley has been successful at similar public-private partnerships in Pennsylvania and Florida. He began his career as a Navy pilot, and has undergraduate and graduate degrees from the U.S. Naval Academy. Langley’s business past includes working for Westinghouse and his own Langley Group. For his success in community improvement he was awarded an honorary doctorate from American Continental University.

Mike Bromelkamp
Principal, Olsen Thielen
St. Paul
As principal at accounting firm Olsen Thielen, Mike Bromelkamp primarily works with small and midsized companies and nonprofit organizations, helping them to maximize their financial and operating results. He has more than 38 years of experience in accounting, technology, and business areas, 22 of which he has spent at Olsen Thielen. Bromelkamp has also devoted much of his time to volunteering with many local organizations. He is currently on the boards of Century College and the Minnesota Society of CPAs. Over the years Bromelkamp has been active with the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, the White Bear Area Chamber of Commerce, and the Vadnais Heights Economic Development Corp. He takes special delight in trying to counter the CPA stereotype by taking time out every day to do things he considers “fun.”

Myrna Marofsky
Founder, The Business Women’s Circle
When Myrna Marofsky was president of diversity consulting firm ProGroup, she realized that one of the most powerful things a businesswoman can have is the opportunity to discuss business issues with another businesswoman. She discovered that a platform was already in place for this — the Women Presidents’ Organization (WPO). She now chairs three of the six chapters of WPO in Minnesota, which boasts the largest membership of any city in the world. The only problem is that to get into WPO a woman’s company must have $2 million in revenue in product sales or $1 million in services. That’s a pretty high bar, so Marofsky launched The Business Women’s Circle as a starter group. That way women can work together to improve their business acumen, and thus improve their revenues. They meet monthly as a peer advisory board to share best practices, learn from each other, and hold each other accountable. So far four women have “graduated” from the Business Women’s Circle to WPO, and two more are on
the way!

Nick Hernandez
CEO & Owner, Aeritae Consulting Group
St. Paul
Nick Hernandez says people refer
to Aeritae Consulting Group as the
“” of the IT industry. He finds the IT experts whose skills best fit the needs of a business, and makes the match. The company offers an array of strategic, service innovation, technical, and talent services, including events for the local IT community. Aeritae’s clients range from Fortune 100 companies to mid-range firms. Hernandez began his career at IBM in 1983, marketing to large commercial businesses and the public sector before joining a number of successful startups. He co-founded Aeritae Consulting Group in 2001. Since its inception, Hernandez has helped grow the company into a successful consulting firm with passionate employees who are focused on delivering quality results for clients.

Paul Jaeb
CEO, Heartland Investigative Group
Paul Jaeb started his career as an investigator with one of the largest financial research companies in the world before launching his own investigative and specialty security company in 1991. Since then, Heartland Investigative Group has grown into a 100-person team licensed in Minnesota, North Dakota, and Wisconsin. The investigations are divided between background checks and looking into wrongdoing of various sorts. Typical clients include banks, law firms, and corporations. Jaeb is also the creator and host of The American Private Investigator Podcast, which is heard by more than 2,500 private investigators throughout the world. This international network allows him to track cases across the globe. Jaeb volunteers on the board of trustees at the Minnesota Zoo and was national director of the National Association of Legal Investigators, among many other organizations.

Rachel Otten   
Shareholder, Thoresen Diaby Helle Condon & Dodge Inc.
Working for Thoresen Diaby Helle Condon & Dodge Inc. CPAs & Advisors since 2000, Rachel Otten currently serves as a shareholder and officer at the accounting firm. Known for her strong work ethic and dedication, Otten has extensive experience providing accounting, forensic, tax compliance and planning, and business consulting services to a variety of clients across industries. She is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, Minnesota Society of Certified Public Accountants, Association of Women Contractors, Twin Cities Chapter of Certified Fraud Examiners, and the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners.

Rick Brimacomb
Founder, Brimacomb & Associates
Rick Brimacomb began advising and investing in early-stage and emerging companies as a venture capitalist in 1991. Before that, he covered and worked with early-stage companies as a research analyst and investment banker. For more than two decades, Brimacomb has helped numerous companies develop into “investment grade” opportunities, attract funding, and create shareholder value. In 2005 he founded his own advisory practice, Brimacomb & Associates, which assists business leaders in refining strategies, assembling resources and securing funding. Brimacomb joined Sherpa Partners in 1998 and co-founded the Sherpa Trek venture capital fund in 2001. He is an advisor to several early-stage companies and is founder of Club Entrepreneur, co-founder of The Network Connect, co-founder of MOJO Minnesota and a past President of the Minnesota Venture Capital Association.
Rob Holt
President & CEO, Super Radiator Coils
Starting his career out as a manufacturing engineer, Rob Holt is now the president and CEO of Super Radiator Coils, an engineering and manufacturing company that builds thermal-efficient heating and cooling coils. Their products are used for everything from industrial purposes to military applications. They have even been installed in wind tunnels built by NASA to test extreme temperatures. In addition to leading Super Radiator Coils, Holt also serves as vice president and owner of Mead Metals — a metal service center in Shoreview. Both firms are family-owned and operated. Holt is also part of the Twin Cities chapter of the Young Presidents Organization, and a trustee and chair of the annual fund for Breck School.

Rob Metcalf
Managing Director — Private Wealth, UBS
A lawyer turned financial advisor, Rob Metcalf is the managing director — private wealth at financial services company UBS. Metcalf has been consistently recognized for his success in the financial services industry by local business publications over the years. Prior to joining UBS in 2012, Metcalf worked for the Senior Investment Advisory Group of Bernstein Global Wealth Management, and also as a licensed attorney for seven years, representing professional athletes, business owners, and executives. Metcalf is a board member and past chair of People Serving People in Minneapolis, the largest homeless shelter for families in Minnesota, with children making up 60 percent of its clientele.

Ross Levin
Founding Principal & President, Accredited Investors Inc.
Not only is Ross Levin the founding principal and president at financial services company Accredited Investors Inc., he’s also an accomplished author. In his book Implementing the Wealth Management Index: Tools to Build Your Practice and Measure Client Success, Levin expands upon his groundbreaking Wealth Management Index tool. Levin is also a renowned expert and the first recipient of the Financial Planning Association’s Heart of Financial Planning Award, and the inaugural recipient of Financial Planning Magazine’s Lifetime Achievement Award. Levin has become a nationally recognized expert in wealth management, and is a regular columnist for the Journal of Financial Planning and the Star Tribune. Additionally, he serves as vice chair of the University of Minnesota Foundation — also his alma mater.

Ryan Burnet
Restaurateur, Barrio
As a successful restaurateur and real estate developer, it may seem like there’s nothing Ryan Burnet can’t do. This young professional is well-known for his nosh-worthy restaurants, including Barrio, Bar La Grassa, and Burch Steakhouse and Pizza Bar. Burnet is working on a new restaurant in the luxury apartment building Latitude 45 in the Mill District, and is planning a Barrio for Target Field. Burnet is also co-owner of the real estate firm Burnet and Birkeland (, which specializes in top-tier properties. The firm prides itself for having sold 1,000 homes totaling more than $1 billion. Burnet also helped start Project L.E.A.D. (Leadership Emergence and Development). In 2014 he founded Fighting Chance, a nonprofit that uses boxing as a tool to provide a positive influence for youth. He is looking for a permanent home for the organization and plans to open a Fighting Chance Boxing Club.
Ryan Broshar
Founder & Managing Director, Matchstick Ventures
A true entrepreneur at heart, Ryan Broshar went from founding startups to investing in them. His latest effort is Matchstick Ventures, a rebranding of Confluence Capital Partners, which was founded in 2013. Matchstick, with a fund in the neighborhood of $5 million, will invest in early-stage tech startups across the country. As its name suggests, Matchstick wants to light a fire under them. Broshar launched his first company while still an undergraduate at the University of Minnesota — University Guide, which he sold in 2008. He’s also the founder of St. Paul-based, which sells customizable nursery art. And just in case you were thinking he wasn’t busy enough, Broshar co-founded Beta.MN — an organization that supports Minnesota’s start-up community — and Twin Cities Startup Week, an annual event that takes place every September.

Sara Beatty Ratner
SVP Operations, Redbrick Health
Between being a competitive triathlete and serving as senior vice president of operations at consumer health engagement company Redbrick Health, Sara Beatty Ratner keeps busy. Joining the Minneapolis-based company in 2013, Beatty Ratner oversees clinical screening and health coaching operations. Throughout her career, Beatty Ratner has held a variety of operating and leadership roles in integrated health care delivery, clinical management, and pharmacy management. She has also published health care articles in a variety of trade journals, and authored a chapter in Risk Management for Health Care Organizations.

Steve Stoup
Director of Business Development, BDO
As director of business development at accounting firm BDO, much of Steve Stoup’s job is about building relationships. Those who know him well say there is no one better at it than Stoup. Over the years, he has established a reputation for his networking and connecting abilities. Prior to joining BDO in February 2014, Stoup served as senior vice president of marketing and business development at Fidelity Bank in Edina, where he worked for more than 11 years. In addition to his work at BDO, Stoup also serves as the chair of the St. Jude Tournament of Hope, an annual golf event that raises money on behalf of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Sue Kruskopf
CEO, Kruskopf & Company
More than 25 years ago, Sue Kruskopf founded Kruskopf & Company as a new “best-of-breed” advertising agency. Fast forward to today, and Kruskopf is still incorporating the same entrepreneurial spirit that the company was founded on. In 2006, Kruskopf drew on that entrepreneurial nature to found — a website that helps people plan their own funeral online, eliminating guess-work for loved ones. The business placed second in the Minnesota Cup in 2008, and was featured on ABC’s “Shark Tank.” Kruskopf is also a member of the Women Presidents’ Organization.

Theresa Pesch
President, Children’s Healthcare Foundation
Originally trained in nursing, Theresa Pesch has devoted her career to improving health care. Currently serving as the president of the Children’s Healthcare Foundation, Pesch has 25 years of health care administration experience. Pesch joined the Children’s Healthcare Foundation in 2007, and has since led the team in launching and completing its $150 million Next Generation of Care fundraising campaign — the largest campaign in the organization’s history. Since Pesch started with the foundation, fundraising has increased dramatically, providing the organization with more resources for innovation and other improvements. Pesch also serves on the Women’s Health Leadership TRUST, and is a member of Women Business Leaders in Health Care, and the Women Presidents’ Organization.

Thompson Aderinkomi
Founder & CEO, RetraceHealth
With an advanced degree in statistics as well as an MBA, Thompson Aderinkomi has turned his analytic sights on health care throughout his 15-year career. He has seen how a good analysis of the data combined with some common sense can produce greater efficiencies in the system — and at various health care companies. In 2009 he co-founded Evidity, a healthcare data analytics firm serving the physician market. A bad experience with his 1-year-old — four clinic visits in a month that wasted time and money — prompted Aderinkomi to launch RetraceHealth in 2013. It’s a technology-driven, fee-for-service primary care clinic without walls. And it makes house calls! Of course the first visit is via online video, to make sure a visit by a human practitioner is warranted. Aderinkomi is one of the organizers of a 700-plus member organization that brings together Minnesota’s healthcare entrepreneurs in an effort to strengthen the healthcare start-up ecosystem. Governor Mark Dayton appointed Aderinkomi to the Minnesota Health Insurance Exchange Board of Directors in 2013. He also serves as a board member at WATCH MN, and Youthprise.

Tomas Perez
Director of Sales, National Life Group
Montpelier, Vermont
As director of sales at financial services company National Life Group, Tomas Perez is able to put his relationship-building skills to use. With more than 12 years of experience in the insurance and financial industry, Perez has used his talents to contribute to companies like Allianz Life Insurance and UnitedHealthcare. In 2008, Perez helped found the Twin Cities Business Peer Network, a group of professionals, entrepreneurs, and students who use their talents to help one another grow professionally and personally; he still serves as a board member. Perez is also a board member and the education co-chair for the Minnesota chapter of the National Society of Hispanic MBAs.

Tony Barranco
VP of Development, Ryan Companies
As vice president of development at Ryan Companies, Barranco leads project teams through all aspects of the development process, from site selection to sale negotiations. However, it was before joining Ryan Companies that Barranco whet his entrepreneurial appetite as co-founder of Crazy Carrot Juice Bar when he was just 23. It grew to five locations until Jamba Juice purchased the company’s assets. Since working at Ryan Companies, Barranco has led multiple retail and mixed-use development projects, such as 222 Hennepin — a downtown Minneapolis mixed-use redevelopment — and Underwood Crossing — a shopping center anchored by Target and Trader Joe’s in Brookfield, Wisconsin. Tony was also involved in the development of Downtown East and Vintage on Selby in St. Paul.

Wendy Nemitz
Founding Principal & Strategist, Ingenuity Marketing Group
St. Paul
Wendy Nemitz has been working with professional service organizations since 1987, when she wandered into an accounting firm and started editing their newsletters. Five years later she founded Ingenuity Marketing Group, which focuses on professional services. Referred to by others as a “popcorn popper of ideas,” Nemitz consistently brings fresh ideas and concepts to the table. In addition to overseeing business development at her firm, Nemitz often speaks and writes for professional groups around the country, and is the author of Leadership: A New Conversation.