Mentors: STRATEGIC PLANNING

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...
Paul Cassimus

Paul Cassimus

Summary of Qualifications Paul is the local River City King with King of Pops. Armed with just a cart and some handcrafted ice-pops, he started slinging pops to the good people in Richmond in 2012. Since then, the business has grown to 10 carts, 3 full-time employees and 25+ part timers in the summer. Paul’s unique perspective comes from having done every job within the business possible; from making pops, to selling on the sidewalks, to accounting, training employees, social media, marketing and advertising… he’s done it all and he sees how everything works together to achieve his business goals. Having a business that relies heavily on customer service and interaction, he began to see the close relationship marketing has with management. He understands how to fully exploit both to create a fun, awesome culture for his employees to then create the fun vibe King of Pops is known for. Paul once said “numbers kick ass” which could be an odd thing for a person who self-proclaims that he “isn’t a numbers guy.” It was in reference to how his business shifted dramatically and positively once he started managing his business according “buzz-word” things like Key Performance Indicators or metrics. Paul says it is the “least sexy” part of a business, but it is the “most important” part if you want to be successful and not “work insane hours the rest of your life.” Also a former teacher, he’s seen countless lessons he learned teaching students overlap “almost identically” with challenges he’s seen in the business world with managing employees, customers, and himself in the workplace. Random achievement: He once...
LaTilda Owens

LaTilda Owens

Summary of Qualifications LaTilda is an active member of the She Empowers Advisory Council, a business mentor with Richmond’s Office of Minority Business Development, a business consultant for Virginia Community Capital and a financial analyst for the Commonwealth of Virginia. LaTilda Hudnall Owens, MBA was born and raised in Northumberland County located in the beautiful Northern Neck region of Virginia. LaTilda attended Hampton University in Hampton, VA where she obtained her Bachelors of Science degree in Business Management. In 2004, LaTilda began her professional career at Wachovia Securities in Richmond, VA as a Brokerage Operations Specialist and a Corporate Accountant. Eventually, she moved on to Genworth Financial where she remained employed as Senior Financial Analyst until July 2013. During her professional career, LaTilda obtained her Master’s degree in Business Administration (MBA) with a concentration in Accounting. In 2013, she established LHO Solutions, LLC, a small business consulting firm offering financial analysis, accounting, and strategic planning to area small businesses. LaTilda has a passion for helping others succeed and reach their goals. She believes she is fulfilling her purpose by touching one business at a time. Throughout her career, LaTilda has planned, organized and participated in numerous community outreach events which has served the underprivileged and at–risk members of her community. LaTilda is happily married and the Mother of four. In her free time, LaTilda enjoys serving in the Children’s Ministry at her church, traveling, acting, and being a Sports Mom. Want to meet with this mentor? Talk with your Lead...
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...