Mentors: LEAD MENTORS

John Ramirez III

John Ramirez III

Summary of Qualifications John is a financial professional with over 19 years of experience helping to meet the financial needs of consumers and small businesses. In banking since 1998, John Ramirez III Group Manager and Vice President for Fulton Bank has focused primarily on business development, strategic planning, management, small business lending, consumer lending, team development, coaching and community development. Additional abilities include building successful work teams, project management, multi-layer communication, networking, and relationship building. Throughout his banking experience, he has been able to bring value in the form of financial education, service, open communication, and ownership. John’s career in banking began as a Teller through Crestar Bank and continued in growth over the years through many roles and levels of responsibilities. These roles included Customer Service Representative, Assistant Branch Manager, Branch Manager, Area Manager, and current role of Group Manager. While working as a full-time banker, continuing education was a priority. He began his academic career or life-long learning journey at Northern Virginia Community college to which he received three career study certificates (Bookkeeping, Small Business, and Information Technology) along with two Associate Degrees (Business Management and Business Administration). Upon graduation, he attended George Mason University graduating in 2005 with a Bachelor’s of Science in Management. The journey continued in learning by completing the Virginia Bankers School of Bank Management in 2012 and working towards a MBA to which was completed in 2014 from Bellevue University. As a strong believer in life-long learning, he has been privileged to participate in two community leadership programs. One was the Leadership Fredericksburg program in which participants learned about leadership skills and...
Lauren DeSimone

Lauren DeSimone

Summary of Qualifications Lauren is an enthusiastic and creative “social stitcher” with a passion for engaging people. With a zeal for living a full life, she curates her own adventure: she is currently Vice President of Engagement for EngageMore, a software startup in the health and fitness industry; Director of Community Partnerships for Gather, a network of community workspaces for entrepreneurs; and a Visiting Artist for Richmond Memorial Health Foundation’s Health Equity Arts program. Lauren is an organizational designer with a diverse background. She earned a BFA in Sculpture from VCUarts, has focused on design, management and entrepreneurship as a profession, and is passionate about cultivating people’s skills and talents. Lauren works at the intersection of design and business, in particular figuring out the best way to build and leverage the human relationships necessary to make the project, organization or business with whom she works a success. Integral to how Lauren thinks and works is her belief in values-based leadership and the importance of creating environments in which those working within them are equipped with the tools they need to be successful. She is interested in working with creatives, startups and other entrepreneurial ventures to create this culture. Want to meet with this Lead Mentor? Schedule An...
Polly White

Polly White

Summary of Qualifications Polly is a veteran entrepreneur and consultant whose experience spans all industries and whose expertise focuses on people. She is a founding partner and owner of Gather, whose coworking spaces provide a community to more than 200 entrepreneurs, freelancers, and small business people. In 2002, Polly left the corporate world to start her first consulting business serving large and Fortune 500 companies in the areas of leadership and organizational development. Her business continued to grow in both size and capabilities over the next several years adding services in HR, compliance, strategy and workforce development. In 2009, she joined forces with her husband, Doug, to form Whitestone Partners, a full-service small-business consulting firm. Together, they work with clients across all industries and have extensive experience in real estate, construction, the trades, professional services, non-profits, advertising and marketing, manufacturing and financial services. They help businesses that want to get to the next level as well as those needing to get back on track. Today, Polly is recognized as a small business expert, successful serial entrepreneur, angel investor, and founding partner of Gather, coworking spaces that create community for more than 200 entrepreneurs, freelancers, and small businesses. She writes weekly columns (with her partner, Doug) for both RTD Business and Entrepreneur.com. She is a best-selling author, sought-after speaker, and business consultant. Want to meet with this Lead Mentor? Schedule an...
Brian Beard

Brian Beard

Summary of Qualifications Brian Beard is the founder of River City Food Tours. He spent 4 years working at Capital One as an analyst, and the last 3 years running his own business, currently ranked the #1 Tour in Richmond on TripAdvisor. Brian moved to Richmond in 2009 to work as an analyst at Capital One for operations and marketing teams. His role was to use data to drive decisions that would influence the way customers interacted with their credit card company. Seeking a change (and a move away from a traditional 9-5) he founded River City Food Tours. For Brian, starting RCFT was a way to move out of a desk job, and into something more fun, but he had no idea just how awesome it would be! The business has allowed Brian to get involved in Richmond in so many ways – he gets to show off the city to food tour guests, and he gets to work with other small business owners every day. Brian has also joined BreakawayRVA as one of its founding members. One of the challenges of working in small businesses is the lack of data compared with the abundance available in his former role at Capital One. As a result, Brian has fine-tuned his intuition when it comes to business strategy, marketing plans, and the execution of both. Want to meet with this Lead Mentor? Schedule A...
Kimmie Lockett

Kimmie Lockett

Summary of Qualifications Kimmie Lockett is a Design Strategist, helping create more manageable products and services through a consumer-centric lens. She is hired for collaborative project-based work in concept and product development, branding, and user research. Kimmie uses Design Thinking as a framework to facilitate Innovation Management and Brand Strategy. With a User-Centered approach, she helps businesses discover and communicate their value. Her role is to help prepare the concept for market— enabling clarity, reducing complexity, and articulating opportunities. On Brand Strategy: She helps businesses identify their key values and differentiating factors which provide sustainable competitive advantages. By working with Kimmie Lockett, founders will discover ways to mitigate competition in their market and create brand resonance. This is achieved by translating business models into brand systems. On Innovation Management: Kimmie facilitates the process of discovering, defining, and designing products and concepts. She offers a structured approach to iterative cycles of exploration, knowledge acquisition, and rapid prototyping. Want to meet with this Lead Mentor? Schedule An...