College of Business > About > Centers & Institutes > Coleman Entrepreneurship Center > Women in Entrepreneurship Institute > Committee Members

Women in Entrepreneurship Institute Committee Members

Composed of leading entrepreneurs, business leaders and influencers, the committee supports the Women in Entrepreneurship Institute through funding, strategic planning, and advancing the institute's academic, research, start-up incubation and public policy initiatives.

  •  JinJa Birkenbeuel

    JinJa Birkenbeuel
    CEO, Birk Creative | Creator and Co-host, The Honest Field Guide | Publisher,

    "The institute is important to me because my ongoing and successful career has been platformed by the hands of women who speak up, speak out and speak loud not only by their words but also by their deeds. And if it weren't for the hands of a woman that lifted me, it was the hands of a man pushed forward by a determined woman."



JinJa Birkenbeuel is the CEO of Birk Creative, a strategy agency founded in 1997 that creates enterprise-level branding, online and digital strategies for large enterprises and enterprise-thinking businesses. Birkenbeuel is a serial entrepreneur.

She is an Apple iBook Publisher for her digital book publishing company Birk Digital, an seller for Utah Carol, an Americana pop-country band she founded with her husband in 1995 and also helped design the Digital Coaching Program for Google, Inc., created to train underrepresented American businesses, which include all women, to succeed online.

Driven by her desire to innovate and be creative, Birkenbeuel has positioned her company to be a highly trusted advising, brand consulting and professional training and development agency partner to customers like Google Inc., True Value, Tesla/SolarCity, AECOM, NextLevel Health, Chicago Transit Authority, Oakland Unified School District and smart entrepreneurs like American author Touré.

Birkenbeuel serves on Mayor Rahm Emanuel's Chicago Business Council and is on the Board of Directors for the Jewish-Black Business Alliance, which is a business-focused nonprofit founded on the legacy of the American Jew and their advocacy of the human and civil rights of black Americans suffering under Jim Crow in the 1950s. She is also a publisher and songwriting member of both American Society of Composers, Artists and Publishers and the Harry Fox Agency. Her current inspiration work is helping Chicago's newest cultural experience institution, Threewalls, reimagine and recreate their impact and significance in the communities.

  • Terri Brax

    Terri Brax
    Founder & CEO, TeacherCare, Inc. and Women Tech Founders

    "I believe the research-based approach the Women in Entrepreneurship Institute is leading will make an impactful difference for female business owners. I'm honored to be a part of this dynamic board."



Terri Brax is an impact entrepreneur who connects people, organizations and ideas. She builds platforms that marry technology with neuroscience and education to equalize imbalances of power and help others develop their potential. Brax created and leads both TeacherCare and Women Tech Founders (WTF). TeacherCare is a nation-wide agency that helps private families and organizations find highly qualified teachers for childcare and educational services. TeacherCare has been recognized as the leader in personalized educational childcare.

WTF is a platform that inspires, advances and connects women in tech, from startup founders to Fortune 500 leaders, and all those who aspire to join them. WTF also tells the stories of visionary women in tech to empower those who are underrepresented to overcome the status quo, reach their dreams, advance business and change the world. WTF hosts the annual Midwest Women in Tech Conference, Women in Tech Awards and numerous local events.

In addition to entrepreneurial roles, Brax speaks at leadership conferences, leads children’s charities and is a board member on impactful community-driven organizations. She has been awarded leadership recognition through prominent organizations, including TechWeek, the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Inno, and has been published and featured by various media outlets including Forbes, Crain's Chicago Business, WGN and Chicago Woman.

  • Amy Dordek Dolinsky

    Amy Dordek Dolinsky
    Co-Founder and Managing Director, GrowthPlay

    "As a serial entrepreneur and co-founder of two companies in the past few years, I felt that I needed to be part of the first women entrepreneurship institute so that I could pay it forward and also help shape the institute’s mission, vision and impact."



Amy Dordek Dolinsky has been actively involved in the Chicago business community for more than 25 years. She joined GrowthPlay at its inception and prior to funding by Driehaus Private Equity. She helped in the evaluation and integration of GrowthPlay's four acquisitions and subsequently focused her business development skills on driving revenue, scaling the business across all practices and building GrowthPlay's brand in Chicago and nationally.

Known as a trusted advisor and for helping clients achieve their critical business objectives, Dolinsky has worked with major, global corporations across multiple industries. Having served as both a sales person and a leader in a variety of professional service firms, Dolinsky understands how to drive growth. She is a thought leader on sales effectiveness, social media, leadership development and entrepreneurship.

Prior to joining the firm, Dolinsky had her own sales effectiveness/training consulting firm which was merged with GrowthPlay. Before that, she managed the Midwest Region for BPI group, a global outplacement and HR consulting firm, where she led key client relationships while also spearheading account management and marketing activities. She was also a member of the Executive Leadership Team.

Previously, Dolinsky served as client relationship manager for Capital H Group, a human capital consulting firm where she led business development and worked with leaders across a wide range of industries. She was also vice president of business development for an accounting and finance consulting firm for 10 years earlier in her career.

Dolinsky is a serial entrepreneur, having been involved in four previous start-ups in leadership roles and has experience working with private equity-backed firms. She is on the board of the International Women’s Forum Chicago and served two terms as board president of Meals on Wheels Chicago. She has also been involved with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, on the board of Jewish Vocational Services/Jewish Children & Family Services as well as Reading is Fundamental. She also currently serves on the advisory board of a social media startup. Most recently Dolinsky and her husband, Steve, started a Chicago pizza tour company, Pizza City USA.

Dolinsky is passionate about developing and mentoring future women leaders. She started a formal mentoring program with another Chicago female co-founder to develop a dozen early stage female startup founders.

  • Dima Elissa

    Dima Elissa
    CEO & Founder, VisMed3D | Co-founder,

    "It is incumbent on each of us, as women of innovation, to inspire and ignite. We do this by sharing our authentic journey. By showing that we can overcome adversity with grace and confidence. We can then pave the walkway of opportunity such that our legacy may shine upon future female leaders in our wake."



Dima Elissa was selected by Chicago magazine as one of the Top Women in Tech, Chicago Innov’s 50 on Fire and by Chicago Tribune’s BlueSky Vault as one of the Top 100 Entrepreneurs in Chicago. Her current ventures, VisMed-3D, a 3D biomedical design and consulting firm, sustains her thirst for new technology and innovation. Elissa is also co-founder of, a blockchain healthcare platform enabling interoperable big data to flow. Alongside these novel start-ups, she is pursuing her passion — devoting time, energy and guidance to women founders and entrepreneurs. Elissa exemplifies her committment to giving back and paying it forward by teaching entrepreneurship as an adjunct professor at DePaul's Driehaus College of Business.

Elissa also manages and operates new products and execution of business initiatives through a variety of markets and industries. In 2016, she was named technology and innovation lead for AMWA’s (American Medical Women’s Association) Diversity & Inclusion initiative.

A hard-driving, metrics-based leader able to deliver concrete results through influence and collaboration enhanced by her global perspective, Elissa has emerged as an in-demand speaker in her industry. Her distinct insight and outlook have been sharpened by serving as a board member for domestic and international community-based organizations and non-governmental organizations. Elissa also serves as DePaul Coleman Entrepreneurial Center advisory board member, board member for mHUB, board secretary for iGIANT, executive advisory board member for Ms Tech, and past president and board member for Women in Bio, Chicago.

Elissa holds a bachelor's degree in chemistry from Hanover College and has earned her MBA from Texas A&M's Mays School of Business with a concentration in finance. She is also a member of the board of trustees at Hanover College.

  • Chantal Forster

    Chantal Forster (MA '98)
    Executive Director, Technology Affinity Group

    "We've all seen the data: our society and economy benefit when a broad range of people is actively leading and innovating. Now is the time to leverage this opportunity by understanding how to best equip female entrepreneurs and then evolve the innovation space nationwide."



Chantal Forster is the executive director of the Technology Affinity Group, promoting the strategic use of technology in philanthropy. As a veteran consultant in digital IT, Forster has launched community-driven technology initiatives for public and social sector clients and built collaboration programs for data and platform sharing since 2008. Prior to launching her consultancy, Forster was digital director for the Bioneers, digital manager for the City of Albuquerque, and senior information architect for SPSS (an IBM Company). Forster is known for spearheading the adoption of user-driven design methods as well as agile development approaches. She holds an MA from DePaul University in Chicago, as well as her BA from Purdue University.

Forster is also a straight-shooting Chicago native passionate about building resilient, equitable communities and supporting urban arts and culture. She serves on the Board of Directors for the Grant Park Music Festival, Chicago's classic music summer tradition since 1935.

  • Laura Gale

    Laura Gale
    President, Crossmedia451, Inc.

    "I have long been interested in seeing women build businesses and become leaders. This began early on with Girl Scouts and continued through my business career, especially because I worked in industries that typically had few women leaders. My experience taught me that the best thing a woman can do is become her own boss, and own or start a business. "



Laura Gale is president of Crossmedia451, Inc., a privately held Chicago-based digital marketing and business development firm that works with local businesses to raise their brand awareness, increase customer engagement and lift sales. Her work with graphic arts companies includes training sales teams in consultative selling, creating service offerings, and working with and coaching owners and executives to create business plans and value propositions beyond basic commodity selling. She also has expertise in e-commerce, social media, and publishing across multiple media platforms. Gale also serves as an executive coach for Right Management, a global career management company, where her work with senior leaders guides them to find their next career steps.

Gale also held senior management roles at United Stationers, a Fortune 500 business products wholesaler. The roles she held included Vice President of Marketing, Vice President of Enterprise Content Management, and Chair of the Company’s Diversity & Inclusion Council.

Before joining United Stationers, Gale held a number of senior roles in publishing and graphic arts companies. She was an owner and founding partner for Prinexus, a company offering print, online and digital marketing services that was built through a series of acquisitions.

Prior to that, Gale was vice president of production technology in the global production and manufacturing group of International Thomson Publishing, a division of what is now Thomson Reuters. Prior to Thomson, Gale held executive positions with publishers Rand McNally and U.S.News & World Report, as well as printing giant R.R. Donnelley.

Gale was named one of the Top 100 Under 50 Diverse Corporate Executives by Diversity MBA magazine, and is a recipient of the prestigious Luminaire Award from Women in Production in New York. She is a member of the Ben Franklin Honor Society and the Production Executive’s Hall of Fame. She also received the Graphic Arts Technical Foundation’s Naomi Berber Award, which is given to a woman who has made a major contribution to the development of the graphic communications industries.

Gale co-authored a two-book series on Cross-Media Publishing. She also chairs the board of directors of the Gift Theatre in Chicago.

Gale earned her bachelor of science and master of arts degrees in journalism from the University of Illinois, and is proud to be a lifetime member of the Girl Scouts of America. She regularly speaks to business groups about the value of customer engagement, how businesses can leverage social media, and what it takes for women executives to succeed in industries in which they are the minority.

  • Jill Hebert

    Jill Hebert
    Founder & CEO, Matrex Exhibits, Inc

    "Women have an effective leadership style creating healthier business environments and better returns. Women generally exercise caution and need to fully understand their position and have confidence before stepping forward. Women need mentorship and role models more so than men and we at the Women in Entrepreneurship Institute are here to provide it."



Jill Hebert is founder and CEO of Matrex Exhibits, Inc. Matrex brings brands to life thorough events, trade shows, permanent product installations, multimedia presentations and interactive engagement products. With an international reach she employs more than 70 people nationwide and is the largest woman-owned, WBENC- certified Exhibit Company in the U.S.

As the executive director of Heartland Angels, Hebert has taken a leadership position to become a catalyst in promoting innovation in a variety of markets by creating forums where intellectual and financial capital join to help businesses launch.

A champion of entrepreneurship, Hebert has been a guest speaker on several university panels; is an active member of The Committee of 200, an invitation-only network of women entrepreneurs and C-level global leaders; a member of Independent Women's Forum and serves on the board of directors at Deborah’s Place, assisting more than 300 women each year who have experienced homelessness.

  • Kate Kimmerle

    Kate Kimmerle
    President and CEO, Revolution Beauty USA

    "As an entrepreneur and the founder and owner of a women-owned business, it’s an honor to participate as a member of the Women in Entrepreneurship Institute. I hope my story inspires others to be creative, brave and to always do what they love."



From the time she was a child, Kate Kimmerle was fascinated by beauty. She delighted in doing her mom’s makeup and nails, and she became the go-to beauty expert for friends and family. Today, her passion continues, as Kimmerle travels the world to uncover new skincare, spa and makeup products for the customers of her companies, Miss Spa and Snaproducts.

Kimmerle started Snaproducts in 2000, developing custom products for retailers and wholesalers; 10 years later she decided to spin off her own Miss Spa bath-and-body brand. Additionally, when she sold the distribution arm of her company to a British firm, Revolution Beauty, in 2017, Kate became president of its American division, Revolution Beauty USA. While she serves as the product and trend visionary for Snaproducts and Miss Spa, she oversees sales and marketing at Revolution Beauty USA.

  • Carolyn Leonard

    Carolyn Leonard
    CEO & Co-founder, DyMynd and DyMynd Angels

    "At DyMynd Angels we are creating a world in which women can invest in women. It's vitally important to me to be a part of the ecosystem supporting female entrepreneurs and founders to have equal access to capital, mentors and education. Collectively we can be the change in the midwest and set the standard for the rest of the country."



Carolyn Leonard is seasoned at tearing down the walls that stand between women and the world of finance. Leonard was the first female pit trader on the Chicago Board of Options Exchange trading her own money in 1976. She started trading with more than $250,000 in debt ($1.1 million in today’s dollars), and in less than seven months she made more than a quarter of million dollars allowing her to become debt free. In her bubble gum pink trading jacket, Leonard leveraged the diversity that the "boys club" tried to hold against her to her advantage on the floor and successfully traded on her own broker dealer license for 21 years in the most competitive pits in Chicago.

In 2011, Leonard co-founded DyMynd, a boutique financial empowerment firm for women, to bridge the gap between women with wealth and financial institutions that — like those male traders in the 1970s — are missing million-dollar opportunities. DyMynd’s financial identity profile is the first online assessment for women and designed by women to holistically understand their emotional relationship with money. DyMynd Angels is Leonard’s latest initiative. With her partner and co-founder, Monika Black, DyMynd Angels was formally launched January 2018.

DyMynd Angels is a angel investing initiative that creates a new table for female funders committed to closing the 97 percent funding gap for female entrepreneurs.

Leonard is an in-demand speaker to entrepreneurs, business women and conferences in finance and entrepreneurial spaces. She can frequently be found on local radio and TV shows and has been the subject of numerous articles. Her book "Rising from the Pits" will be launched in 2019. She currently is on the Midwest Board of the Anti-Defamation League and is a National Commissioner, a mentor at 1871, and was recently named as a 2018 finalist for The Illinois Technology Association (ITA) CityLIGHTS award as a Prominent Woman in Tech.

  • Jody Navta

    Jodi Navta
    Founder, Varsity Time

    "Being part of the Women in Entrepreneurship Institute is important to me because I want to empower students and women of all ages to be entrepreneurs. Education, support and leadership are all part of that process. It is my duty to share my experiences and mentor those who want to live up to their fullest entrepreneurial potential.



Jodi Navta is passionate about family, entrepreneurial spirit, moral citizenship, fostering creativity and teamwork, disruptive marketing, and the University of Michigan. Navta swam for the Wolverines while she was an undergrad, earned Academic All-American and NCAA finalist status four years in a row, and represented the U.S. at the World University Games in Fukuoka City, Japan.

After graduating from the University of Michigan and retiring from her 16-year swimming career, Navta started her content career in media at Sports Illustrated magazine in New York City, then moved to Chicago to attend Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, where she earned a Master of Science in journalism.

She spent the last six years in-house at Coyote Logistics where she built the marketing and communications function from the ground up using an integrated marketing and communication approach. She was at the helm of global brand reputation, internal communications and culture, lead generation, business strategy, executive communications and sales enablement. Navta rapidly built a "disruptive" marketing organization at Coyote that drove innovation and significant revenue growth in a short period of time.

Before joining Coyote, Navta held a number of operations, marketing and communications, and strategy positions as a four-time entrepreneur from 2000 to 2011. Her experience includes content marketing and product development during industry-shifting times for major brands as Discovery, National Geographic, Pearson, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and also marketing and communications strategy for a variety of startups in the tech and mobile fields. Navta is on the board of DePaul University's Coleman Entrepreneurship Center.

  • Shelley Rosen

    Shelley Rosen
    Founder, Luxe Bloom

    “A lifetime of breaking barriers for new generations is now before us and the timing is perfect with a focus on the unique style of women entrepreneurs. As a founding board member, I hope to help make the business dreams of many young women come to fruition.”


  • Robin Ross

    Robin Ross
    Executive Director, Doctoroff Business Leadership Program | University of Chicago Law School

    “I believe the institute's multi-pronged and integrative approach provides much-needed research, resources and training and will empower women to tap into the capital and confidence they need to build remarkable and sustainable businesses.”



Robin Ross is the executive director for the University of Chicago Law School Doctoroff Business Leadership Program and a certified executive and leadership coach. In both of these roles, Ross helps the next generation of resilient and remarkable leaders thrive in today’s increasingly complex and rapidly changing business environment. Ross's mindfulness-based coaching leverages the latest research in the fields of social and cognitive neuroscience to help clients “lead with the brain in mind” and empower them to make better decisions, lead with agility, optimize personal and team performance, and foster innovation and collaboration. She has coached founders, executives and high-potentials at organizations of all shapes and sizes — from Fortune 100 companies to social enterprise start-ups in Africa.

Ross brings more than 30 years of experience as a senior executive in the financial services industry to her coaching practice. From 2005 through 2011, she served as managing director of Interest Rate Products for CME Group, with P&L responsibility for the world’s largest and most diverse interest rate derivatives franchise. Prior to joining CME Group, Ross recruited, developed and led sales teams for Cantor Fitzgerald & Company, JP Morgan and Credit Suisse First Boston. In 2007, Ross was named one of 25 Women to Watch by Crain’s Chicago Business and Distinguished Woman Investment Professional of the Year by Women Investment Professionals.

In her spare time, Ross is passionate about supporting organizations and endeavors that help women flourish, both personally and professionally. She is past president of the Board of Directors for Deborah’s Place, the largest provider of supportive housing for women in Chicago and serves as a strategic advisor to Global Mamas, a nonprofit that helps African women create sustainable incomes through fair trade. Ross is also a member of The Committee of 200, an invitation-only women's business leadership organization that sponsors outreach and networking programs that support women in business.

Ross holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. She has received certification as a Professional Certified Coach by the International Coach Federation, in the use of Hogan Development Assessments, and in the Foundations of NeuroLeadership. She is currently a teacher in training for the Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute, the mindfulness-based emotional intelligence training developed at Google.

  • Genevieve Thiers

    Genevieve Thiers



Genevieve Thiers is a disruptor, entrepreneur, speaker and investor that lives in the Chicago area. Her first company,, is the first U.S. company to take caregiving services online. now has millions of users and locations in the UK and Canada.

Thiers was recognized by President Bush at the White House as the Small Business Administration Young Entrepreneur Champion of the Year for 2006, and her companies have won more than 18 major awards, including the CEC Momentum Award, the WBDC Rising Start Award, a CNN Young Heroes feature, the UPS Out of the Box Award, the INC 500 list, and more.

She has been featured in the press for her work, by the TODAY show, Ellen, the View, MSNBC, the CBS Early Show, CNN, Live & Style, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Redbook, Parents, Parenting, Marie Clare, TIME, Better Homes and Gardens, Working Mother and more. She's lectured or spoken at TEDGlobal, Cusp, Amex, Groupon, Enova, Inland, the CEO Conference, the Heartland Conference, Microsoft, Harvard Business School, University of Chicago and for hundreds of other entrepreneurial groups around the country. She is the author of the book "Love at First Sit," and frequently writes for various tech publications in the Chicago area.

Theirs has mentored hundreds of entrepreneurs throughout her career. She serves on the advisory board of the Coleman Entrepreneurship Center. Theirs also teaches classes at 1871 and is a frequent mentor and teacher within the space. She is also an investor in TechStars and the Firestarter fund, and in several female-run new tech startups that target women and lesser-known industries.

  • Alyssa Westring

    Alyssa Westring
    Associate Professor of Management & Entrepreneurship | Driehaus College of Business

    "For over a decade, I have been researching, coaching and consulting on women’s careers. By bridging research and education, I hope to help the institute develop and implement innovative, evidence-based approaches that amplify the impact of women in entrepreneurship."



Alyssa Westring, Ph.D., is an organizational psychologist and associate professor of management at DePaul University. She teaches in both the MBA and undergraduate programs and received DePaul’s 2017 Excellence in Teaching Award. Her research, coaching  and consulting are focused on gender equity and work-life balance. She regularly writes and speaks to a wide variety of academic and professional audiences about creating organizational cultures conducive to women’s careers and work-life balance, combining cutting-edge research with a practical approach to initiating change. She is also director of research at Total Leadership.