Melissa Dawn Simkins
Velvet Suite

Melissa Dawn Simkins defines success by fulfilling purpose and empowering people to achieve their greatest potential.

As a wife, mother, executive, author, speaker and fitness advocate, Melissa brands a new model of success for women who lead.

She is CEO of Velvet Suite, Inc. a leadership innovation firm unleashing the future of profit through people. She is the brains and creative force behind some of the world’s most beloved brands. She is a pioneer in her field of personal branding being on the leadership team that launched the Swiffer brand, re-energized the iconic Mr. Clean, created the first-ever multi-cultural marketing plan for Victoria’s Secret Stores and her firm launched the first-ever, National Football League Player Brand University. She has served as an on-air contributor to CNN and currently contributes to Inc.com.

Simkins pioneered the Women In The Spotlight Community ™ and The Brand Leadership Institute ™, designed to empower high achieving women with the confidence, competence and connections to build a career and a life that is equally successful and fulfilling. The Brand Leadership Institute ™ is a technology based e-learning platform that is pioneering a new way to coach, develop and advance women. She is the creator of The She-Suite ® Summit designed to actively address the leadership gap.  

Simkins received a Master of Science degree from the Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) program at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois and received her undergraduate degree from Otterbein University. She serves on the Board of Directors for The SHRM (Society for Human Resources Management) Foundation and the Board of Trustees for Otterbein University.

Melissa is married to her husband and purpose-partner Will Simkins. She is a new mom to a beautiful baby boy named Kingston and she is also a step-mom to three fantastic sons: Kevin, Shaunn and Amari.

Marsha Ralls
President & CEO
Closed Monday Productions LLC

Marsha Ralls is President and CEO of Closed Monday Productions, LLC a company dedicated to the arts and advocating and advising entrepreneurs globally.  Closed Monday Productions LLC, in addition to organizing “pop up” shows around the world, is a leading curator for luxury hotel chains, and the producer of a new Lifestyle Art App.  She advises and works with world-renowned collectors from around the globe and assembles impactful collections. Amongst Ms. Ralls accomplishments was the founding of the internationally recognized global art advisory group The Ralls Collection, Inc.  She completed a legacy project as curator of almost 4000 works of art for the recently opened Marriott Marquis DC Convention Hotel.

Ms. Ralls is a 12-year member of the Economic Club of Washington DC. She is also a member of the Washington, DC chapter of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) for almost 19 years and has served in various leadership roles, in the DC Chapter, Regional Councils and with EO. Ms. Ralls was elected to the Kennedy Center Corporate Board Fund in 2012, a three-year term serving America’s leading performing arts center and living memorial to United States President John F. Kennedy.  In 2015, she launched the Women of EO Network within the Entrepreneur Organization to support women entrepreneurs. She ran the Boston marathon in 2012, 2013 and 2014. Marsha has two sons, Jake who recently graduated from Miami of Ohio University and Nathan who attends Babson College.

William Simkins

William A. Simkins III is President of Velvet Suite Financial, LLC. Simkins is a trusted wealth advisor with more than 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 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.

Simkins is a recognized industry expert and speaker who discussed topics such as 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 four sons Kingston, Kevin, Shunn and Amari. William is a coach of youth and high school basketball and is a member of Grace Covenant Church in Chantilly, Virginia.

Tina Sung
Vice President for Government Transformation and Agency Partnerships
Partnership for Public Service

Tina Sung is the Vice President for Government Transformation and Agency Partnerships at the nonprofit, nonpartisan Partnership for Public Service. In this role, she leads the design, development and implementation of the Ready to Govern initiative to onboard new political appointees and accelerate their understanding of how to get things done in government. She is a skilled facilitator and moderator of cross sector executive roundtables to share best practices.

She works extensively at the political-career interface and brings to the Partnership years of multi-sector executive leadership experience, as well as a track record of innovation and accomplishment in every phase of her professional career. Her government experience includes key senior executive service positions in the Department of Health and Human Services and the Social Security Administration. She served as President and CEO of the American Society for Training and Development and co-founded of two companies.

Ms. Sung graduated cum laude from Princeton University and later completed Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government Program for Senior Managers and the Federal Executive Institute’s Leadership and Management Program. She was also a participant in the prestigious President’s Executive Exchange Program sponsored by the White House. Ms. Sung is a Certified Association Executive and a National Academy of Public Administration Fellow. She serves on the boards of Gazelles and the Society for Human Resources Management Foundation.

Benita Fitzgerald Mosely
Laureus Sport for Good Foundation USA

Benita joined Laureus USA as CEO following her senior executive role with the United States Olympic Committee as Chief of Organizational Excellence. Named a Game Changer by the Sports Business Journal in 2015, she led USA Track & Field’s 2012 Olympic team to win 29 medals in London, its best performance in 20 years, when she served as Chief of Sport Performance. Honored as Cable TV Executive of the Year by Television Week magazine, she was Women in Cable Telecommunication’s President and CEO for eight years. Her passion and appreciation for the values of sports participation includes her stellar performances on the 1980 and 1984 Olympic Teams where she won a gold medal in the 100 m hurdles at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games. Benita and her husband Ron are parents to two children active in sports. Benita is a graduate of the University of Tennessee (UT) with a B.S. in Industrial Engineering.

Greg Baroni

Greg Baroni is the chairman and chief executive officer as well as co-founder of Attain, LLC. Before founding Attain, Mr. Baroni held various leadership roles at Unisys Corporation, including corporate senior vice president of the company and president of its Federal Systems and Global Public Sector unit. In these roles, he was responsible for a worldwide business comprising six geographic regions and the U.S. Federal Systems group. Under his leadership, these business units achieved extraordinary results. During his tenure, the Federal Systems group doubled its revenue while achieving industry standard operating margins.

Previously, Mr. Baroni spent nearly 20 years at KPMG Consulting. He departed the company as its senior vice president of Public Services, serving government, education, health and nonprofit institutions. In this capacity, Mr. Baroni advised numerous organizations on critical business areas such as strategy, cost optimization, and distributed learning. He also led development, implementation and integration projects involving enterprise-wide packaged solutions and development of software solutions, including grants management, cost allocation, property management, space utilization and effort reporting software. Furthermore, he pioneered the spinoff of a distributed learning group that is now Blackboard, Inc.

Mr. Baroni has received numerous industry leadership awards such as the Fed 100, Fast Company’s Fast 50, Consulting Magazine’s Top 25, Executive of the Year through the Greater Washington Government Contracting Awards program, and most recently was recognized as the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year in the Government Services, Small category in Greater Washington. Mr. Baroni is an active leader in the professional association community and continues to actively serve the missions of our local charitable and industry organizations. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Economics at the University of Southern California.

Pamela Prince-Eason
President and CEO
Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC)

Pamela Prince-Eason is the President and CEO of the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC), having assumed the role in 2011. Her professional career as both corporate executive and woman business owner honed her expertise in supplier diversity, strategic leadership, management best practices and cost ownership processes. Prior to joining WBENC, Ms. Prince-Eason held the position of Vice President of Worldwide Procurement for Pfizer Inc. and held various leadership positions at Texas Instruments, GSE Systems, Warner Lambert and as a Co-owner of women-run RMR Associates.

During her tenure at Pfizer, she also held the role of Chair of the WBENC Board of Directors. Ms. Prince-Eason’s dedication to women’s business leadership is illustrated in her many professional and personal roles advancing women’s excellence and opportunity. She is also on the advisory committees of several corporations including the Ernst & Young Winning Women program, the Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network, Walmart’s Women Owned Business Advisory Council, Shell Diversity & Inclusion Collaboration Partners, MGM Resorts International Diversity Advisory Board, as well as the Coca-Cola Company’s 5by20 initiative.

Ms. Prince-Eason holds a Bachelor of Business Administration in accounting from East Tennessee State University and graduated magna cum laude from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore with a Masters of Administrative Science in international business and finance. Professionally, she has achieved the designation of Certified Professional in Supply Management form the Institute of Supply Management. Among many other awards, in 2014 Ms. Prince-Eason received The National Association for Female Executives (NAFE) Women of Excellence Award, recognizing her as a “Woman of Achievement” for her proven success in business and in serving others in her workplace and around the globe.

Smruti  M. Patel
Nexus Vision LLC.

Smruti Patel works with organizations and leaders looking to accomplish exceptional business and professional goals. Smruti is a leadership coach and executive educator with an international client list and a career spanning corporate consulting and law. She brings a unique combination of discretion, intellectual rigor, keen business acumen and practical experience to each client engagement. Smruti specializes in leadership coaching, executive workshops, facilitation and cross-cultural training.

With an international background and education (U.S.A., U.K. and Kenya) Smruti partners with top-level executives across the globe, to a breadth of industries. Smruti’s diverse client list of leaders she coaches individually includes CEOs, executives, lawyers, entrepreneurs and commanding officers in the U.S. armed forces. She is repeatedly hired as a coach by Deloitte and Georgetown University for Executive Leadership programs.

Smruti practiced as an attorney at law firms in the U.K. such as Hogan Lovells and specialized in litigation and private wealth management. In the business world, through her experience with CEB (now Gartner), Smruti has partnered extensively with Fortune 500 companies resulting in an advanced knowledge of international HR best practices particularly in high-potential development. She co-authored a research book titled, “Upgrading Organizations’ Talent Management Strategies.”

Smruti holds a double bachelors from the U.K. in Liberal Arts and Law. Her graduate degree is in International Law from Georgetown University and she is a certified leadership coach from Georgetown’s Institute of Transformational Leadership.

In 2009, Smruti launched her leadership development practice, Nexus Vision, with a mission dedicated to “enabling leadership potential worldwide.”

Jacqueline M. Welch
Senior Vice President of Human Resources

Human Resources, Diversity & Inclusion
Freddie Mac

Jacqueline M. Welch is senior vice president and head of Human Resources at Freddie Mac, and deputy head of Human Resources, Diversity & Inclusion.  She serves on the company’s management committee.

As head of Human Resources, Jacqueline oversees talent acquisition and management, compensation and benefits, organizational development, training and leadership development, succession planning, employee engagement and retention, and employee relations.

Jacqueline is a skilled business leader who brings to Freddie Mac more than 20 years of experience in HR management, including most recently as senior vice president of international human resources for Turner Broadcasting in Atlanta.  Previously, Jacqueline worked for organizations such West Rock (formerly Rock-Tenn Company), Accenture (formerly Andersen Consulting) and Willis Towers Watson (formerly Towers Perrin). Jacqueline began her career as a merchant with Lord & Taylor, then a division of The May Department Stores.

Jacqueline earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Syracuse University in New York and a Master of Science in Human Resources Management from the Milano Graduate School, also in New York. She resides in northern Virginia with her husband Tarik Welch and their two sons, James Oliver and Jackson McLaine.

Freddie Mac makes home possible for millions of families and individuals by providing mortgage capital to lenders. Since our creation by Congress in 1970, we’ve made housing more accessible and affordable for homebuyers and renters in communities nationwide. We are building a better housing finance system for homebuyers, renters, lenders and taxpayers.

Laura Evans Manatos
Laura Evans Media

Laura Evans Manatos is the Founder of Laura Evans Media, a media consulting company  helping business leaders, social entrepreneurs, and community-builders who work on the side of social good get their message heard and their story told. Her clients are working to solve social, health and economic problems and improve overall community wellness.

You may recognize Laura since before launching her own media consulting business, she served as anchor and reporter on Fox 5 DC News for the past 18 years, most recently sitting in the anchor chair on the 5 o’clock news.

In her 26-year journalism career, Laura’s reporting earned her several honors and awards including multiple Emmys and Emmy nominations, Associated Press Awards, Golden Mics and a Radio and Television News Directors Association Award for Best News Series.

Laura is a mom of 3 and an active supporter of multiple local charities, serving on boards, as an emcee, honorary chair and on executive committees. She’s involved with the Leukemia Lymphoma Society, Lazarex Cancer Foundation, Rare Care for Kids, and she and her husband Mike recently chaired the 2017 Make-A-Wish Foundation Gala.

Laura helped spearhead the creation of, and continues to lead, the DC Newswomen: a collaboration of more than 20 on air personalities in the DC area that hosts an annual “Bash Against Breast Cancer”, raising 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 covered everything from California Wildfires, the Northridge Earthquake to the OJ Simpson murder trial.

Oguchi Onyewu 
Professional Soccer Athlete

Oguchi Onyewu is a top professional soccer athlete having played with some of the top clubs in the world. He started as a student-athlete at Clemson and quickly rose to national prominence. He was NCAA All-American and ACC 50th Anniversary Team highlighting the best 55 players in the past 50 years. He also started in FIFA World Cup Team in 2006 and 2010. He has been had to come back from difficult injury and has maintained a relentless focus to achieve his greatest potential. Since becoming a professional athlete in 2002, Oguchi has always aimed to maintain a strong and healthy lifestyle. Growing up in a large family of extremely athletic siblings, pushed Oguchi to work even harder at his craft if he wanted to stand out and be noticed. He has played professional soccer in 8 countries and is conversational in 4 languages. Oguchi has always taken a strong interest in health, as well as aiding others to achieve their peek health performance. It is to no surprise that it seems only natural that in the last five years while competing at the professional level in soccer and also completing his college degree, Mr. Onyewu’s has been successful at establishing two separate companies that are both geared towards health and wellness promotions. These companies are G.O. Global, Inc and ONYX Elite, LLC.

Diane Cole Stevens
Cole – Stevens Salon 
Cinderella Foundation 

Diane Cole Stevens has interchangeable roles as business entrepreneur, philanthropist and top educator.  Armed with a business degree and years of business management and marketing experience, she’s created one of metropolitan D.C.’s most highly sought beauty destinations-Cole Stevens Salon. Cole Stevens Salon is located in Washington DC and in Greenbelt, Maryland.

Diane Stevens is the founder and CEO of The Cinderella Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non profit organization.

She’s been featured in USA Today, Bill Clinton’s Book ‘Giving’, Salon Today Magazine, JET Magazine, The Washington Post and appeared on Fox Live, Fox 5, Voices of America.

Deborah Ben-Canaan
Major, Lindsey & Africa

Deborah Ben-Canaan is a Partner with Major, Lindsey & Africa and the leader of the Washington, D.C., In-House Practice Group. With more than 16 years of search consultant experience, she is one of the firm’s top recruiters, focusing on senior-level searches with in-house legal departments. She places attorneys globally with corporate legal departments at all levels and across all industries.

Deb’s clients consider her to be a true partner in their attorney hiring, and she works closely with them to understand their needs, cultures and dynamics. Her track record of more than 300 placements is a testament to her success; she is particularly proud of the number of clients who return to her time and time again for assistance with their hiring needs.

Deb serves on numerous panels speaking on a variety of topics, including leadership, compensation, the state of the legal market and what it takes to become a general counsel. She has written articles such as “Pre-IPO Companies Face Talent Imperatives” and “How to Find the Right General Counsel Candidate for Your Executive Team” which was published in Chief Executive, as well as multiple blogs. She has also received numerous accolades within Major, Lindsey & Africa for mentoring women and junior recruiters.

Deb is a former business litigator who practiced in the San Diego, California, before entering legal recruiting.

Kristen Valdes
Founder and CEO
b.well Connected Health

Kristen is the Founder and CEO of b.well Connected Health – a platform that puts the consumer at the center of their healthcare.

Most recently, Kristen was the VP of Government Claims and XLHealth at United Healthcare, the largest health insurance company in the country. As VP, Kristen was responsible for oversight and performance of Operations and Technology including analytics and medical economics for the Care Improvement Plus health plans operating in 12 states. In her role, Kristen was responsible for maintaining and growing the profitability of the plan and was instrumental in the acquisition by United Health Group in late 2010 for $2.4 billion.

Kristen began her career in the financial services industry at T. Rowe Price. She then moved into the Medicare and Medicaid space focusing on program reform and cost containment efforts. Kristen was part of the teams that stood up the first fraud, waste, and abuse detection programs across Medicare and Medicaid. In that role she worked closely with all major claims payers, the FBI and OIG to develop programs and tools to safeguard government funds. She later joined a Baltimore-based disease management company where she was responsible for developing advanced predictive models to isolate gaps in care and intervention opportunities for seniors with chronic conditions. Her role quickly transformed into building back office operations and technology as the Vice President of Operations and Technology for XLHealth as they transitioned to become the fastest growing and most profitable Medicare Advantage Special Needs Plan in the country.

Lani Inlander
Owner & Chief Stylist
Real Life Style

Real Life Style is a style consulting company providing personal styling and corporate style consulting services in the DC and New York areas. Real Life Style was founded in 2006 on the belief that fashion should be fun, not frustrating.

Lani Inlander has been helping clients look & feel their best for over 15 years. Her fashion expertise has been featured in In Style, New York Magazine, The Washington Post & Washingtonian. She has styled segments for major television programs, including Oprah Winfrey & The View. Lani is deeply passionate about empowering clients through fashion, & helping them find clothing & accessories that fit their figures, suit their style, & boost their confidence. A Chicago native & graduate of Parsons School of Design in New York, Lani lives with her husband & two sons in Washington, DC.

Sean Snell
Lead Trainer
Nars Cosmetics 

As a NARS Lead Trainer based out of Washington DC, Sean works to further develop the artistry skills of his fellow NARS Artists. Drawing inspiration from all aspects of the creative spectrum, he loves to push artists, as well as his clients, to have fun with makeup, following one of the central philosophies of the NARS Founder and Creative Director, François Nars.

Sean became a makeup artist to help women feel better about themselves while also working to inspire inner creativity. Having been with NARS since 2009, Sean finds the most rewarding aspect of his work to be the expression a client has when they look in that mirror after an application and instantly smile.

Sean has worked backstage with designers such as Marc Jacobs, Thakoon, Creatures of the Wind and 3.1 Phillip Lim. His dynamic approach to makeup artistry is modern, edgy, fashion forward and sophisticated and perfectly embodies the spirit of NARS.

In his role, Sean is fulfilling a position designated to help communicated the philosophies and ideal that François Nars bestowed on the company at its inception.

Cristina Flores
Associate Director of Public Affairs
National Women’s Business Council

Cristina Flores is the Marketing and Engagement Manager of the National Women’s Business Council (NWBC). In this role, Cristina oversees the Council’s outreach strategy and implements a digital media strategy.  Cristina started with the National Women’s Business Council back in 2014 as the Special Assistant.

Prior to joining NWBC, Cristina was a development assistant for the Metropolitan Policy Center at The Brookings Institution. She has also worked at the White House as the Associate Director of Hispanic Media, the University of Texas at Austin Psychology Department, interned for the White House Office of the First Lady with the Office of the Social Secretary, served as Running Start Star Fellow in the office of Rep. Linda Sanchez, completed the Bus Project’s ten-week fellowship as a PolitiCorps Summer Fellow, the Texas Governor’s Fellowship Program at the Criminal Justice Division, and interned with Criola, an NGO dedicated to empowering women and girls in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Cristina is Pacific Standard 2017 30 top thinkers under 30 and a graduate of the American University Women and Politics Institute’s WeLead Program, Class of 2015-2016. She is also a mentor of the Bill Archer Fellowship Program and the Weslaco East High School Mentoring Program.

Cristina graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 2013 with a bachelor’s degree in Sociology with Honors, a minor in Spanish and a Bridging Disciplines Human Rights and Social Justice Certificate. She was born and raised in Weslaco, Texas, a small city on the Texas-Mexico border.