Mentors: LEAD MENTORS

Leah Fremouw

Leah Fremouw

Summary of Qualifications Leah Fremouw is a familiar face in the Richmond business community and has a rich history of managing dynamic, fast-moving projects with multiple stakeholders. Leah currently serves as an Assistant Vice President at Virginia Community Capital, a financial organization deploying loans and advisory services to projects in all regions of the Commonwealth. In this role, she partners with businesses in a variety of industries and growth stages to support their movement to the next level. Prior to this role, she led talent management and cultural initiatives for CarLotz, a fast growing Richmond business, served as an organizational development consultant with the Performance Management Group at Virginia Commonwealth University, and for three years worked in the city’s public housing communities. Leah’s commitment to the Richmond community brings her out of the office and into initiatives moving the greater region forward. She helps lead TEDxRVA, the innovative speaker series initiated in 2012, along with Impact 100, where she supports strategies to raise large grant funds for local nonprofits. Leah earned her Bachelors and Master’s degrees at VCU, where she was recognized as an L. Douglas Wilder Graduate Scholar 2008-2010. She is also a 2011 graduate of the Partnership for Nonprofit Excellence’s Emerging Nonprofit Leaders Program.   Want to meet with this mentor? Schedule an...
Sydney Lester

Sydney Lester

Summary of Qualifications Sydney Lester is a personal stylist with over eight years in the fashion industry. She is the founder of Chic Stripes, a full-service personal styling company designed to help women create sustainable and timeless wardrobes that work for them, not against them. In 2009, Sydney launched Chic Stripes, her personal style blog that focused on creating individualized style by shopping second hand first. She parlayed her blog into a successful personal styling business where she now works one-on-one with clients and focuses on giving women confidence through their wardrobes and teaching them how to create a timeless, personalized style and sustainable wardrobe that work for them, not against them. Services include: closet audit, personal shopping, and outfit creation. Sydney has been featured in the Richmond Times Dispatch, Richmond Magazine, R-Home, Richmond GRID, and Coffee with Strangers; appeared as a style expert on Virginia This Morning, ABC8 News Richmond, and NBC12 News Richmond; has worked with local brands such as VCU Massey Cancer Center, Jackson and James, and Elements Beauty Shop, national brands such as Kendra Scott  and J. Crew; and has been interviewed by The Wall Street Journal and The Today Show and continues to be the area’s go-to style expert. Before her career switch to fashion, Sydney spent over ten years working in fundraising in the nonprofit field, holds dual masters degrees in Social Work and Christian Education and was part of the 2014 class of Leadership Metro Richmond. Sydney earned her fashion credentials at the Los Angeles-based School of Style, and currently lives in Richmond with her husband and their three cats. Want to...
Rebecca Thomas

Rebecca Thomas

Summary of Qualifications Rebecca is a veteran entrepreneur with experience in real estate, retail and most recently, restaurants. She is the founder of kybecca, a 150 seat restaurant and was a partner in a real estate firm. Rebecca opened kybecca in 2005 as a small retailer focusing on small production wine and beer. Over the years that expanded into a wine bar, and then a small restaurant. Today, kybecca is 150 seat restaurant with a craft cocktail bar. Through these various incarnations and receiving mentorship of her own, the concept continues to grow and evolve to meet the needs of her clientele and fill a distinctive niche in the market. Restaurants, in particular, are challenging due to the volume of moving parts and decisions that each affect the bottom line. Her experience in building the business from the ground up, sustaining it and evolving it to meet a changing marketplace has enabled her to understand how important it is to set your enterprise up correctly. Structure sets success. She can provide mentorship in all aspects of understanding your business: each component, how they work together and where to focus your efforts to ensure profitability and steady growth. While not a specialist in marketing, working with Rebecca can improve your marketing efforts. Often businesses aren’t sure where profitability lies within their offerings. Narrowing what the customer wants and how to tell them about it has the result of quickly improving the bottom line. Rebecca has developed real estate for specific use both in residential and commercial, worked with cities to secure incentives, scouted locations, created a concept and brought it to...
Bismark Agbemble

Bismark Agbemble

Summary of Qualifications Bismark Agbemble is currently the Executive Chairman of Bernstein and Bernstein an international investment boutique firm with a core focus in assisting their clients in expanding their business (s) into emerging markets.  For over a decade Bismark has developed customized products and services to meet the needs of both large and small scale businesses expanding into West Africa and beyond. Bismark’s core area of expertise is international business expansion, where he customizes his client’s expansion plan covering: Sales, Marketing, Legal, Operations and Finance. Many of his colleagues and clients call him “The Trade Ambassador” because of his passion and desire to assist SME’s in setting up their operations overseas, regardless of size. Bismark, has developed strategic relationships with Trade Finance and Business Development firms around the world to leverage on resources and contacts in countries where he has conducted business in as such; Germany, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, Malaysia, Holland, South Africa, Ghana, Nigeria to list a few. Prior to joining Bernstein and Bernstein, Bismark was a Bank Officer at Bank of America where he was responsible for sales, marketing and operations within their retail division. Bismark is also a lecture at Southern New Hampshire University and his passionate about inspiring students of all ages to think local but act global. Bismark is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University with a Bachelor of Science in Economics and holds an MBA from Eastern University with a concentration in Financial Management. Bismark is an author, technology enthusiast in the area of social media. Bismark is an active member in his community, providing mentorship, life coach services and...
Sarah Choi

Sarah Choi

Summary of Qualifications Sarah summarizes what she does best into three action-packed verbs: MOVE, DO and CONNECT. She specializes in marketing strategies focusing on social media and believes relationship building is at the core of any small business success. Sarah loves telling the right stories to engage core audience to solidify brand identity. She most recently spearheaded turning Shoryuken Ramen pop-up into a successful brick and mortar restaurant in support of Chef Will Richardson. Sarah dives into operational side of each business she helps to gain good understanding of its unique challenges to help develop effective solutions. A classic Type A extrovert, Sarah loves networking and find joy in connecting people and ideas. Want to meet with this mentor? Schedule an...