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Chicago entrepreneurs support DECA's Innovations and Entrepreneurship Conference


Generous entrepreneurs, many from Chicago, will speak at DECA's third annual Innovations and Entrepreneurship Conference held November 8-10 in Chicago. More than 330 DECA members and advisors will attend the three-day conference that culminates with a pitch competition supporting Global Entrepreneurship Week.

Eric Acevedo, Founder of True Herban Clothing

 Eric Acevedo is the entrepreneur behind the socially and environmentally conscious clothing brand True Herban Clothing. After graduating with degrees in marketing and sociology from DePaul University in 2008 and extensive internship experience with the Walgreens Corporation, Acevedo held various positions in merchandising and e-commerce marketing with the Walgreens. In September 2012, Eric left the comfort of a steady paycheck to pursue his passion for social entrepreneurship and create something that would have a tangible and lasting effect on our people and planet.


True Herban Clothing is a socially and environmentally conscious clothing brand committed to a cleaner environment, American jobs and a better society. True Herban creates T-shirts and accessories using organic and sustainable materials that have minimal impact on the environment and in doing so employs American workers whose efforts drive our economy forward. The business seeks to bring about positive change in the community by using profits to feed hungry people on the streets of Chicago. True Herban bring fashion, sustainability and social responsibility together in one natural brand experience.


Robert Brown, CEO and Co-Founder of BitBend

 With more than 20 years in the financial technology space, Rob is taking his knowledge and expertise from the markets and applying them to his other passion: travel. BitBend is a return to the entrepreneurial space for Rob. Having spent his career moving between startups, global public companies and Wall Street firms, this latest entrepreneurial endeavor is an 1871 based company that is about to launch in Chicago. Robert holds a BSc in Computer Science from the University of Western Ontario and an MBA from London Business School.

About BitBend

BitBend is revolutionizing how consumers plan and book their travel. For as little as $5, BitBend allows you hold, or "Bend" your flight for days, or even weeks while you finalize your travel plans, eliminating the need for hasty commitments. Find a low fare, Bend your flight, figure out your travel plans, and then if you choose to, go ahead and book your ticket. Let your friends know about your Bend immediately via Facebook or Twitter so that they can join you. With no obligation to purchase the flight, travel planning has never been more stress free.


Kirk Hamsher, American Management Association

 Kirk Hamsher has 30 years of experience in learning and development, including several years as a secondary school teacher. He worked with Abbott Laboratories from 1986 to 2006, focused in human development and internal consulting, and served in several divisions as well as the corporate learning group. Kirk is now the owner of KJSH Training & Consulting, offering consulting services, coaching and a menu of customized courses. The course menu includes programs such as team building, team meetings, productive relationships, conflict management, negotiation, influencing, effective communication, motivation, leadership, innovation, presentation skills, productivity, and goal achievement. He is an adjunct instructor for American Management Association; College of Lake County; Joliet Junior College; Better Speakers, Better Writers, Better Results; and Global Corporate College. Kirk is also a facilitator for Corporate Event Interactive, a firm that conducts theme-based team building and entertainment events.

About American Management Association

American Management Association created Operation Enterprise to help high school and college students prepare for the real world by introducing them to essential skills necessary to succeed in business.


Malachi Leopold, President and Executive Producer, Left Brain/Right Brain Productions, LLC

 After working for seven years in finance, investments, private equity and venture capital, Chicago-based social entrepreneur Malachi Leopold founded Left Brain/Right Brain Productions, a full-service creative agency with a mission to make a better world. Through Left Brain/Right Brain, Leopold has produced and directed films, original series, and videos from Chicago to the Congo, Gaza City to Amsterdam. Recent projects include "22 Years From Home," a documentary which qualified for the 2010 Academy Awards; the "Trep Life" original series (distributed by Inc Magazine), which offers audiences a unique, 360-degree view of what it takes to succeed as an en-"trep"-reneur; and videos created in partnership with organizations such as the New York Stock Exchange, Social Venture Network and the Entrepreneurs' Organization. Leopold's central driving tenant is that entrepreneurs can change the world.
About Left Brain/Right Brain Productions, LLC

Left Brain/Right Brain Productions is a full-service video production company driven to enact positive social change. It offers what no traditional commercial production company can offer – while fulfilling any need for video content, it turns its customers into partners to enact positive social changes. The more successful our customers and we become, the bigger and more sustainable our impact is. It is more than philanthropy – it is social entrepreneurship and it is embedded and embodied in the day-to-day work of Left Brain/Right Brain Productions.


About TrepLife

Trep Life is an original series offering audiences a unique, 360-degree view of what
it takes to succeed as an entrepreneur (“trep”). Individual episodes feature an individual trep or trep team, and are comprised of 3 short segments entitled “The Grind,” “The Hustle,” and “The Payoff.”


Mike McGee, Co-Founder of The Starter League

 Before The Starter League, Mike's greatest claim to fame was that his High School mascot was a pretzel. He went to Northwestern for four years where he spent two years being a student and two years in student government - miraculously becoming student body president his senior year. In Spring 2011, Mike decided to turn down Obama for America (his first real job offer) to co-found The Starter League, a beginner web development and web design school in Chicago.

About The Starter League

The Starter League creates the best on-site learning environment for people who want to learn how to build web applications. The program takes people from knowing little to nothing about software development to being able to build a web application in three months. While providing top-notch instruction and mentorship from the best developers Chicago has to offer, The Starter League also empowers students through a network of Chicago’s best entrepreneurs, investors, and companies to help people make their ideas real on the web.


Jill Salzman, Founder of The Founding Moms

 Jill Salzman is currently growing her third entrepreneurial venture, The Founding Moms, the world’s first and only kid-friendly collective of monthly meetups for mom entrepreneurs. A graduate of Brown University and law school after that, she started Paperwork Media LLC, a music management firm and her first entrepreneurial venture. (Her parents still wonder why she opted for the music business over the seductive and alluring career of a bankruptcy attorney.) She went on to create The Bumble Brand, LLC, to sell Bumble Bells, audible anklewear for the newest of human beings, and she sold it in 2011. Having built two successful companies, she launched The Founding Moms to connect mom entrepreneurs around the globe with one another.

About The Founding Moms

The Founding Moms® is a real, live and local monthly meeting where mom entrepreneurs can exchange, connect and learn from one another. Incredible women living right in your backyard meet up to swap start-up stories, interact with renowned business experts, and build personal and professional connections within the ever-growing network of mom-owned businesses.


Michael Samson, Co-Founder of crowdSPRING

 Mike Samson is the co-founder of crowdSPRING and resides firmly at the bottom of the company’s ping-pong totem pole. An enthusiastic entrepreneur and active speaker, Mike is a leading voice on crowdsourcing, industry disruption, startups, and small business issues and writes a regular column on the crowdSPRING blog (ranked in the AdAge Power 100 Marketing Blogs). Prior to starting crowdSPRING, Samson was an Emmy Award® nominated producer and production manager with more than 20 years of experience as a senior manager in the film and television production industry. He has worked on dozens of feature film and television projects including "Wall Street," "Bull Durham," "Steven King's The Stand" (Miniseries), and "Men in Black II." In prime-time dramatic television, he supervised on TV series such as "New York Undercover" and "Third Watch." Mike has received numerous honors individually and as a team member, including an Emmy Award nomination, DGA awards, and a George Foster Peabody Award. He is a member of the Directors Guild of America and the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. Samson has a BA in Mass Media from the University of Illinois and a MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg Graduate School of Management.

About crowdSPRING

crowdSPRING is an online marketplace for custom logo design, web design, graphic design, industrial design and writing services. Entrepreneurs and small businesses simply post what they need, when they need it and how much they want to pay. Once posted, over 100,000 creatives from 200 countries around the world submit an average of 110 options for the buyer to choose from until they find “the one.”


Bailye and Brynne Stansberry, Co-Founders of TwoAlity, LLC and Two Bootleggers, LLC.

 It’s true that great ideas can be born by participating in DECA. Just ask Bailye and Brynne Stansberry, two former DECA members from Moberly, Mo. They enrolled in an advanced marketing class in high school, joined DECA and are now entrepreneurs. At the suggestion of their DECA advisor Sonda Stuart, the Stansberry twin sisters participated in DECA’s Competitive Events Program and invented Bootleggers, an innovative, transparent boot design that allows its users to switch the visual design of the boot with interchangeable liners. Liners are available in different colors and patterns.

About TwoAlity LLC and Two Bootleggers LLC

The Stansberry sisters formed their own company, TwoAlity, LLC, in 2011 and have continued to develop their concept and product by attending entrepreneurship workshops and seminars. Just two months ago, the sisters finally located a manufacturer in the United States to produce the boots, and they hope to start shipping them in February 2013.

Jennifer Thomas, Founder of travel720

 Jennifer Thomas is the founder of travel720, a social funding website that helps students travel by putting more money in their pockets. An entrepreneur at heart, she comes from a diverse professional background, spanning from architecture to finance. From her own struggle to afford travel while in college, Jennifer created travel720 to help students take an active role in raising money towards their trip, earn their experience and create a memorable journey with family and friends.

About travel720

travel720 can take you from shoestring to Beijing! travel720 works with students and travelers to help them save and raise money for an upcoming trip. Create your personal fundraising page and learn how you can make travel possible.


design & development: Fathom Creative, Inc. (fathomcreative.com), Maribel Costa, Anthony D. Paul (anthonydpaul), Brent Maxwell, Efrat Levush, Shelli Silverstein, Byron Hughey