| 1.800.790.7630 | Powered by Velvet Suite


The Premiere Personal Brand Experience for Leading Women to Level Up

Sharmi Albrechtsen  CEO & Founder, Smart Gurlz

Robotics aficionado, educator, author and mom, Sharmi Albrechtsen, CEO and co-founder of SmartGurlz, a fast-growing start-up company focusing on closing the gender gap in technology. SmartGurlz is the first robotics company focused on girls. 

 Sharmi began her career as an author and journalist and eventually spent the last decade in communication and consumer education in STEM companies focusing on health and wellness. She was the associate director of the Ida Institute, a non-profit organization whose mission was to empower adults and children to overcome hearing disabilities. 

 In 2015, Sharmi started SmartGurlz after she became frustrated when trying to find educational but fun toys for her daughter, Nina. She saw a world of opportunity with tech fun, coding and digital learning for girls and at the same time inspiring interest in STEM related subjects. 

As CEO, she is the visionary backbone of the company, ensuring that the company develops, markets and sells innovative products. SmartGurlz Partners include: BlackGirlsCode, Girl Scouts of America and DigitalGirl Inc. 

Sharmi was recently named a Morgan Stanley Multicultural Lab fellow and AdWeek’s 2017 Disruptor Award, in Championing Gender Diversity in Advertising and Tech. She has also been named Women Entreprenuer of the Year 2018 by the IEEE (largest engineering association in the world) 

 She has been featured in countless media interviews including Forbes, Huffington Post, Financial Times, Fox Business News, Fox and Friends and CNN.  

 SmartGurlz was recently featured on ABC’s Shark Tank, November 2017, where Sharmi battled more than 40,000 companies to get placed. On air, she battled celebrity sharks including Richard Branson,. Mark Cuban and closed a deal with Daymond John. 

 Check out Sharmi’s TEDx talk on

Isabel Bercaw  Owner, DaBomb

When Isabel Bercaw started making bath bombs in her basement at the age of 11 with her younger sister, Caroline, little did she know her hobby would turn into a booming business.

Guided by the belief that everyone loves surprises, the pre-teens created a line of bath fizzers that each have something fun inside. Toys, charms, messages and jewelry are just a few of the items you’ll find inside their products.

Since Da Bomb® Bath became an official business in April 2015, Isabel has somehow managed to juggle school and friends, while standing at the helm of a company that now produces and sells over 700,000 bath bombs per month. She proudly employs over 150 people in her community.

Each fragrant bath bomb is handmade in Minneapolis using just a few simple ingredients, and proceeds from the sale of the Earth Bomb go to organizations that support clean water for communities in Africa.

Isabel is the co-author of two bath and beauty books: FIZZ BOOM BATH! and GOOD CLEAN BEAUTY. Both are available for purchase on Amazon. To learn more about Isabel’s story, visit

Samuel Conaway  Senior Vice President Interventional Cardiology Sales,  Boston Scientific Corporation

With over 30 years of healthcare and medical device experience, Sam provides executive-level strategic direction to Boston Scientific’s Interventional Cardiology division. He leads the organizations’ 500+ Interventional Cardiology Sales team representing Coronary Therapies, WATCHMAN Left Atrial Appendage Closure & Structural Heart Valves portfolios.

With a passion in ensuring healthcare access to all, Sam also serves as Chairman of Close the Gap, Boston Scientific’s Health Equity program.

 Prior to joining Boston Scientific in 2014, Sam was with Abbott Vascular (formerly Guidant) for 23 years where he held several leadership roles including Vice President of Human Resources & Training and Vice President of Sales for both the Endovascular and Coronary divisions. 

Sam also spent two years with as Vice President of Sales, Marketing & Training at SentreHEART. 

Sam started his career in healthcare as a cardiovascular technologist at Washington Hospital Center in Washington, D.C.

 Sam is a visionary leader who draws from his many life experiences and uses his winning-spirit to inspire others to reach their full potential.

Donna Diederich Chief Human Resources Officer,  LMI

Donna Diederich serves as LMI’s Chief Human Resources Officer, overseeing all aspects of the organization’s human resources and talent acquisition efforts as well as its diversity and inclusion programs.

She joins LMI from Abt Associates, where she also served as its Chief Human Resources Officer, focused on building a global talent strategy. She has more than 20 years of experience in senior human resources positions and leadership roles, including as Senior Vice President of CACI International’s human resources department and as Vice President of Human Resources for the National Public Sector and the Americas Region of DXC Technology (formerly CSC).

In addition to her extensive human resources background, Donna has developed and executed organizational change, communications and strategy. She has designed and implemented numerous training programs affiliated with change management and has vast experience with assisting organizations with cross-departmental transitions.

Donna received her bachelor’s from Missouri State University and holds a Senior Professional in Human Resources certification. She has taken executive programs in business development and selling from the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, human resources at Cornell and the University of Michigan, and strategic talent management at UCLA.

Nicole F. Fisher  Founder & President,  Health and Human Rights Strategies

Nicole Fisher is the founder and President of Health & Human Rights Strategies, a health care and human rights-focused advising firm in Washington, D.C.

She is also a health policy advisor on Capitol Hill and expert on health innovation, technology, and brain health – specifically as they impact vulnerable populations.

Fisher contributes to Forbes, contextualizing health, and highlighting ideas, companies and people that are changing the health landscape.

She also curates an international dinner series, ‘A Seat at the Table,’ bringing together thought leaders for off-the-record discussions for moving research, policy and planning forward.

Fisher co-runs the nonprofit Brain Treatment Foundation, and is pursuing a doctoral degree at the University of North Carolina. Her writing has appeared in numerous journals and publications, and her talks can be found on the United Nations website and various news and sports outlets.

Before pursuing her doctorate, Fisher earned a master’s degree in public policy from the University of Chicago and an undergraduate degree from the University of Missouri. 

Michelle D. Freeman  Owner and CEO,  Carl M. Freeman Companies

Michelle DiFebo Freeman is the owner and CEO of the Carl M. Freeman Companies, a Real Estate company established in 1947, that specializes in land acquisition, land planning, development and redevelopment, and the management of national recognized amenity-rich residential communities, restaurant, neighborhood shopping centers and commercial properties. Freeman Companies also owns and operates two award-winning golf courses including, Bayside, an 18-hole, Jack Nicklaus Signature Course in Fenwick Island, DE and Bear Trap Dunes a 27-hole course in Ocean View, DE.

Michelle is president and chairman of the Carl M. Freeman Foundation, which has been giving grants to organizations where her employees live, work and play since 1960. She is the founding Chair of the Joshua M. Freeman Foundation, which honors her late husband Joshua Freeman by providing arts and arts education to create opportunities to elevate the human spirit. She was the visionary of the Foundation’s first program: The Freeman Stage at Bayside. Among the numerous awards for business and philanthropic leadership, Michelle received the 2014 Irene and Abe Pollin Humanitarian Award on behalf of the Carl M. Freeman Foundation, Coastal Style Magazine’s Business Woman of the Year for 2015 – 2018, she was inducted into the Montgomery County Business Hall of Fame in 2018 and Washingtonian’s 2019 Most Powerful Women.

Michelle serves on the Board of Halcyon Foundation of Georgetown and Georgetown University Entrepreneurship Advisory Group at McDonough School of Business.  She has been committed to raising awareness and funds for nonprofit organizations in Montgomery County, MD, Washington, DC and Delaware including THEARC and GETHEADSTRONG Campaign for our Military men and women.

Michelle is a minority partner in Monumental Sports and Entertainment which owns Capital One Arena, The Stanley Cup Champion Washington Capitals, Wizards, the 2019 WNBA Champions Washington Mystics. In 2013, Elle Magazine named her as one of the 10 Most Influential Women in Washington, D.C.  She is an active member of the Young President Organization, the Urban Land Institute and ICSC.  In 2010, co-produced the documentary The Other City with her business partner Sheila Johnson and is currently producing two films -Born into the Gig and Visible Men.  Michelle is most proud of her three children: Nicholas, Benjamin and Juliana Freeman.

Kimberly Goff-Crews  Secretary and Vice President for University Life,  Yale University

Kimberly Goff-Crews is Secretary and Vice President for University Life at Yale. She is responsible for the university’s work to further diversity, equity, and inclusion in service of the university’s mission, and ensures the alignment of policies and procedures to maximize support for all students. She also oversees the university chaplaincy and the conduct of official university functions, including Commencement.

Ms. Goff-Crews leads Belonging at Yale. This initiative includes the university’s diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts and fosters a learning environment and campus community in which everyone feels a sense of belonging. In this role, she works closely with the deans and other university leaders, committees, students, faculty, and staff.

Before returning to Yale, Ms. Goff-Crews was Vice President for Campus Life and Dean of Students at the University of Chicago. She also served as Dean of Students at Wellesley College and as Chief of Staff to the President and Director of Planning at Lesley University.

Ms. Goff-Crews is a graduate of Yale College and Yale Law School. After several years in private law practice, she became an assistant dean in Yale College and director of the Afro-American Cultural Center.

Ms. Goff-Crews is a commissioner for the New England Association of Schools and Colleges and a member of the board of United Educators, an insurance company that supports educational institutions, and the International Festival of Arts and Ideas. She is also a member of the 2020 NASPA – Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education Annual Conference Leadership Committee and chairs the Vice Presidents of Student Affairs Initiatives.

Kate Goodall  Co-Founder & CEO  Halcyon

Kate Goodall is the Co-Founder and CEO of Halcyon, a non-profit dedicated to solving 21st century problems by providing space and access to emerging leaders in social entrepreneurship and the arts.

Goodall continues to grow Halcyon’s offerings with By The People, an international arts and innovation festival in partnership with the Smithsonian and numerous organizations throughout DC.

In 2016, Goodall helped establish WE Capital, a consortium of leading businesswomen investing in and supporting women and women-led companies. Goodall is an active board member serving with Black Girl Ventures, Georgetown Business Improvement District, and Lyft DC Council

Goodall has served as juror at national and international social entrepreneurship competitions, like the Creator Awards, and MIT Tech Review Innovator Europe & Latin America. She was listed as one of the Washington Business Journal’s Power 100,40 Under 40and Washington’s New Guard in 2018, Washingtonian’s 2017 Tech Titans, and Techweek 100 DC’s Talent Cultivators. 

She has two sons who keep her on her toes. 

Allison Green  SVP, Chief Diversity Officer, and Head of Employee Engagement  Lincoln Financial Group

Allison Green is Senior Vice President, Chief Diversity Officer and Head of Employee Engagement for Lincoln Financial Group. In this role, she is responsible for diversity and inclusion strategy and implementation, as well as leadership of employee engagement practices that shape company culture.

She is a member of the senior Human Resources leadership team and is responsible for reporting diversity and inclusion results to the company’s Board of Directors on a routine basis.

Throughout her career, she has held positions business operations; management consulting; organizational development and design; talent management; and diversity leadership positions of increasing responsibility at well-known companies, including Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, Vanguard, The Hay Group and State Farm.

Green earned her B.A. degree in psychology at Spelman College, and her M.A. in counseling psychology at Howard University. She currently serves on i4cp Diversity Board of Directors. She is a member of The Forum of Executive Women, and an active member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated.

She has been frequently honored as a leader in diversity both internally and externally, through various media outlets. Green is an active leader, volunteer, fund raiser and contributor to community, non-profit, and academic organizations that advocate for the welfare of children. Her philanthropic efforts support college scholarships for students attending Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU).

Laura Evans Manatos  President & Founder,  Laura Evans Media

Laura Evans Manatos is President and Founder of Laura Evans Media, a media consulting company committed to giving a voice to those who are trying to make a difference.  

Before launching her company, Laura served as anchor of Fox 5 News at 5 in the Nation’s Capital. In her 26-year journalism career, Laura’s reporting earned her several honors and awards including two Emmys and five Emmy nominations, Associated Press Awards, two Golden Mikes and a Radio and Television News Directors Association Award for Best News Series. 

 Laura launched Laura Evans Media with the idea of providing solution-based news content to media outlets nationwide. She has always believed those are the stories that inspire us as individuals to do better. Laura’s goal is to break through the noise of the bad news and make sure audiences across the country hear about the organizations that are working to make us better, our communities healthier and our world kinder.  

Laura is a mom of 3 busy kids and an active supporter of multiple local and national charities. She serves on the Board of Directors for Rare Care for Kids, as a lead volunteer and advocate for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, and she and her husband are currently serving as Gala Chairs for the 2020 Make-A-Wish Foundation Evening of Wishes Gala. 

Laura is a founder and leader of the DC NewsWomen’s annual NewsBash: a collaboration of more than 30 on air personalities in the DC area which hosts an annual event to raise money for various local breast cancer charities. She also single handedly launched a successful mindfulness program at a Bethesda Elementary School. 

Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, Laura moved to the Nation’s Capital from Santa Barbara where she anchored for the ABC affiliate and before that, the NBC affiliate in Eureka. In the beginning of her career she covered everything from California Wildfires to the Northridge Earthquake to the OJ Simpson murder trial.    

Shannon Schuyler Chief Purpose & Inclusion Officer, PwC US

Shannon is PwC’s US Chief Purpose & Inclusion Officer—a position that brings together unique insights and perspectives from her prior roles as Chief Purpose Officer and Responsible Business Leader. The combination recognizes the responsibilities we have to realize a diverse culture infused with purpose and belonging for our people. This nexus supports our ability to embrace our people’s full identities, create thriving workplaces and address opportunity gaps that exist within our communities.

Shannon’s work helps activate PwC’s purpose—to build trust in society and solve important problems—and further embed it into PwC’s business and people strategies. She connects purpose with belonging, creating an environment that celebrates identity, and drives innovation and business value.

Shannon also brings a focus to the work we do outside our four walls, extending beyond our clients. With corporate responsibility as our foundation, we’re evolving the role PwC plays in society. Responsible Business Leadership acknowledges doing something good for the world can also be good for business. Her work leading a team to teach financial and tech literacy harnesses the power of our business to help close the opportunity gap so people in our communities have a chance to reach their potential.

In support of our US Chair and Senior Partner Tim Ryan, Shannon also leads CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion™, the largest CEO-driven business commitment to advance diversity and inclusion in the workplace. In this role, she drives the strategy for engaging more than 700 company CEOs and academic institutions and associations.  

Melissa Dawn Simkins  CEO, Velvet Suite

Think of Melissa Dawn Simkins not as merely a trusted advisor to Fortune 100 C-Suite executives and prominent influencers, but a visionary personal brand leadership pioneer on a mission to reinvent the way we learn, live and lead.

Melissa is CEO of Velvet Suite, a leadership innovation consultancy advancing the future of profit through people. For nearly two decades, Velvet Suite has provided consultation to renowned brands including: Procter & Gamble, Boston Scientific Corporation, Kraft, The National Basketball Association, Lincoln Financial Group and more. She is Founder of The Brand Leadership Institute (BLI), a 24-week e-learning technology platform addressing leadership gaps within Fortune 500 high-potential women with proven results. “My greatest joy is the hundreds of women I’ve been fortunate to support on their journey toward leading a significant life and a successful career.” She hosts the annual She-Suite Summit, a national experience for influential leaders.

Affectionately known as “The First Lady of Personal Branding,” Melissa has been the brains behind some of the world’s most beloved brands. Throughout her career, she has helped launch Swiffer, developed the first multicultural marketing plan for Victoria’s Secret and launched the NFL Player Brand University, the first professional athlete brand leadership program in all of professional sports. She has also worked one-on-one with well-known celebrities such as Shania Twain, Mary J. Blige, Common, Hill Harper, Carmelo Anthony and more.

Today, her understanding of personal brand strategy and leadership innovation make her a highly-sought after keynote speaker. Melissa is a former contributor to and CNN and frequent guest on the news and business media including HLN, MSNBC, Essence and more. She is author of the book, Brand Me. Make Your Mark: The Ultimate Playbook for Personal Branding.

Melissa is grounded by her faith, love for her best friend and purpose partner husband, Will and children and the opportunity to live in purpose each day.

“My greatest joy is the hundreds of women I’ve been fortunate to support on their journey toward leading a significant life and a successful career.”

William A. Simkins III President, Velvet Suite Financial

William A. Simkins III is a trusted wealth advisor with over 20 years of proven performance in comprehensive financial services including retirement, business planning, life insurance and employee benefits. His practice uniquely serves high net worth individuals as well as small to midsized businesses with a concentration in qualified and non-qualified retirement plans. 

 Simkins holds his FINRA series 6, 7, 51 and 63. He is licensed to solicit life, health, property and casualty insurance and is a Certified Long-Term Care Consultant.

 Simkins’ career in comprehensive insurance and investment planning began at Northwestern Mutual Financial Network in 2001. Simkins found early success in his financial service practice and was recognized as the top in his class for client acquisition. He went on to obtain his Certified Financial Planner Certificate from Virginia Commonwealth University. Soon after, Simkins transitioned to Mass Mutual Financial Group where he achieved the Blue Chip Council (top five percent of Mass Mutual representatives) and Top of the Council as well as received the highest industry award in insurance and financial services through the Million Dollar Round Table. He also earned representative of the year by his local firm, Capital Financial Solutions.

 He currently has an exclusive partnership with Allstate to offer financial advisory services to its customer base in the northern Virginia area.  Through this relationship Simkins has earned numerous outstanding achievement awards including top performance in the northeastern region. Due to his track record of outstanding performance; he serves as a trainer for new and existing Allstate agency owners on the successful integration of financial services into their existing business model.

 Simkins has spoken at numerous industry and agency meetings on the inclusion of protection and qualified planning into agency practices. He is a member of the greater Washington National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors. He has also served as the board of Education Chair for the Capital Region National African American Insurance Association.

 He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Political Science from Morehouse College in 1995. As a student-athlete and scholar, Simkins discovered his passion for his career and earned his life and health insurance license his junior year in college.

 William is married to Melissa Dawn Simkins and has three sons Kevin, Shunn and Amari. William coaches youth and high school basketball and is a member of Grace Covenant Church in Chantilly, Virginia.


Lisa Sun  Founder & CEO, Gravitas

Lisa Sun is Founder & CEO of GRAVITAS, a company whose origin story dates back to Sun’s first professional review. The feedback that changed her life? Being told that she “comes across as young and overly enthusiastic at times,” that she “lacked gravitas,” and “should go buy a new dress, big jewelry, and great shoes.”

With those words in mind, an understanding of the transformative power of clothing, and a determination to create a game-changing company, Sun secured the global patent to build shapewear directly into dresses. She launched GRAVITAS as a “confidence company” that offers innovative apparel and styling solutions designed to makeover women from the inside-out.

Two months after launch, GRAVITAS was featured in O, The Oprah Magazine, PEOPLE, and The TODAY Show in the same month.  

Prior to founding Gravitas, Sun spent 11 years at McKinsey & Company where she advised leading luxury, fashion, and beauty brands globally on strategic and operational issues.

Sun has always had a passion for style and for helping people look and feel their best, having been a size 22, a size 8, and now proudly a size 12. At every size and age, she has found creative ways to show off her style, having been named one of Washingtonian Magazine‘s Best Dressed Women.

Sheryl Swoopes-Tellison 4-Time WNBA Champion and Co-Founder of Back to Our Roots

Sheryl Swoopes-Tellison is regarded as one of the greatest female athletes of all time. She is often referred to as the “Female Michael Jordan”, and was inducted in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 2016.

Swoopes was the first player signed to the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA), and with the introduction of the Nike Air Swoopes in 1995, Sheryl became the first female athlete to have a Nike Signature Shoe named after her.

Sheryl is a 3-time Olympic Gold Medalist, 4-time WNBA Champion, and a NCAA National Champion.

As a professional athlete in the WNBA, Sheryl Swoopes spent ten seasons with the Houston Comets where she won four consecutive championships. She was named the league’s Most Valuable Player three times, Defensive Player of the Year three times, and Scoring Champion two times. Sheryl was named a WNBA All-Star six times. She was also named to the All-WNBA First Team five times and the All-WNBA Second Team two times. IN 2011, Swoopes was named one of the WNBA’s Top 15 Players and in 2016, she was named to the WNBA Top 20 @ 20 list. Sheryl also spent time with the Seattle Storm (May 2008-September 2008) and the Tulsa Shock (May 2011 – September 2011).

Sheryl is co-founder of the non-profit Back To Our Roots, whose mission is to empower and educate our African American youth to believe in themselves through goal setting, basketball and exploring their ancestral heritage through travel to Africa and other countries