College of Business > About > Centers & Institutes > Women in Entrepreneurship Institute > Founding Advisory Board

Founding Advisory Board

​The Women in Entrepreneurship Institute was founded in 2018 through the leadership and generosity of 40 women entrepreneurs and business leaders.


  • Valarie King Bailey

    Valarie King Bailey

    Founder & CEO, OnShore Technology Group

    "Today's challenging environments impact women in unprecedented ways. The pandemic has awakened many potential women business owners to realize that they can take charge of their own futures. As a women business owner myself, I have experienced firsthand how the power of business ownership can impact your future. WEI is groundbreaking in its approach to mentoring women to achieve their highest business potential."

Committee Members

  • Patricia Aluisi

    Patricia Aluisi

    EVP & Chief Operating Officer, MB Real Estate

    "Resources like the Women in Entrepreneurship Institute, established by women for women, are so important because the fight for full gender equality must start with empowerment. Despite women constituting more leadership roles than ever before, we are still vastly underrepresented at the highest level, particularly in business ownership. I’m proud to be part of a group of influencers who can assist other women at all levels of their careers and serve as an example of how far we can climb with the right support."

  • Barbara Best

    Barbara Best

    Co-Founder, Capital Strategies Investment Group

    "My work and life in general is focused on supporting the personal, professional and financial success of women and to help all women live more empowered and fulfilled lives. I am excited and committed to offering resources and support to help WEI’s women entrepreneurs thrive."

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    Kemery Bloom

    Founder, Grit LLC
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    Penny Brown

    Board Member, Women in Entrepreneurship Institute
  • Colleen Egan

    Colleen Egan

    President & CEO, Illinois Science and Technology Coalition

    "The institute represents the mission of my life's work for diversity, equity and investing in the economic empowerment of women. I am a strong believer in endless opportunities and the power of YES for myself and those around me, but the entrepreneurial journey is not an easy one. Having access to information, opportunity, a business network, funding and a lifelong resource supports that journey — its the foundation of success. I am so proud to be a part of this impactful journey.."

  • 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 so that our legacy shines on future female leaders in our wake."

  • Laura Gale

    Laura Gale

    President, Crossmedia451, Inc.

    "I have long been interested in seeing women build businesses and become leaders. My experience taught me that the best thing a woman can do is become her own boss, and own or start a business. I regularly coach and mentor women in business, and seeing women become successful is very important to me and, in my opinion, to the business landscape in general."

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    Anne Gehring

    Founding Partner, Stanton Blackwell
  • Raquel Graham Crayton

    Raquel Graham Crayton

    Founder & CEO, Roq Innovation

    "I am excited to be a part of the institute because the world of entrepreneurship can be a very tough place to navigate. It can be very lonely and since women are under-represented in this area for a myriad of reasons, I am honored to contribute to creating a vehicle where women can learn and thrive. Entrepreneurship is often lonely, especially in the beginning as a business finds its way. The institute will provide a place where resources, advice, dedication and passion will be available in constant and consistent supply."

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    Joan Hannant

    Founder & CEO, The Soma Institute
  • Jill Hebert

    Jill Hebert

    Founder & CEO, Matrex Exhibits

    "Woman have an effective leadership style, creating healthier business environments and better returns. Then why are we only 3 percent of the Fortune 500 CEO’s and only 5 percent of the executives? The answer is this: women generally exercise caution and need to fully understand their position and have confidence before stepping forward. Therefore women need mentorship and role models more so than men and we at the institute are here to provide it."

  • Kate Kimmerle

    Kate Kimmerle

    President & 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."

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    Laura Milani

    Founder, IN2 Products
  • Valerie O'Donnell

    Valerie O'Donnell

    Founder & CEO, Progressive Industries

    "Serving on the Women in Entrepreneurship committee is a blessing — this is my chance to honor, encourage, mentor and challenge young women in a space that is slowly creeping open. I can offer time, resources, experience, and present my scars of proof of the journey with an honest dialog of shared experiences — hopefully, they can be more prepared than I was."

  • Kristi Piehl

    Kristi Piehl

    Founder & CEO, Media Minefield

    "Before I started a company, I was a TV news reporter trained to ask questions. This one still has me stumped: why aren't women-owned businesses growing at the same rate as those launched by men? This organization is a chance for us to own our messaging as female executives, understand the data and rewrite the story for future female business leaders."

  • Diana Rodriguez-Zaba

    Diana Rodriguez-Zaba

    Partner, ServiceMaster Restoration by Zaba

    "I believe that it is necessary to close the gender gap in male-dominated industries. By leaving women out, we are excluding a generation of innovators and problem solvers who will change the world. There is nothing that women cannot achieve given the opportunity to compete. When women succeed they bring other women with them."

  • Robin Ross

    Robin Ross

    Executive & Leadership Coach, OptimizeU Leadership Coaching LLC

    "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. I am thrilled to be a part of this ground-breaking initiative and looking forward to moving the needle for women entrepreneurs."

  • Genevieve Thiers

    Genevieve Thiers

    Founder & Tech Trainer, RUN the Series

    "My whole life has been building teams around women, first around handling kids and now around handling politics and gaining power. This initiative is right up my alley!"

  • Donna Van Eekeren

    Donna Van Eekeren

    Founder and CEO, Springboard Arts Chicago
  • Tracey Wik

    Tracey Wik

    Founder, Love Sunday Nights

    "I am committed to transforming the world of work for my daughter, who is 11. I have been the beneficiary of opportunities created by women who came before me and who have shattered the glass ceiling or fallen off the glass cliff. Being part of WEI is my way of creating a different future for all women in the workplace globally. I could not be more excited to be a part of such an extraordinary platform."