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Keynote Speaker Cynthia KayCynthiaKay web

Cynthia Kay founded Cynthia Kay and Company media production after working in broadcasting. As a professional broadcaster, she was honored with awards from United Press International, the Associated Press and numerous regional and local broadcast awards. A graduate of Michigan State University, Kay holds a Masters in Communications from Western Michigan University. She is the Past Board Chair of the Small Business Association of Michigan (SBAM), Chairs the SBAM Political Action Committees and serves on the Executive Board of the National Small Business Association (NSBA). Cynthia and the company have been honored to receive many awards. She has been named One of West Michigan’s 50 Most Influential Women 5 times, most recently in 2014. CK & CO produces high-quality communications that are used on the national and international scene and uses its experience to “think with and for” clients. The Company serves an active client base of over 130 businesses and organizations from the Fortune Global 100 to small business. Cynthia’s book Small Business for Big Thinkers: Unconventional Strategies to Connect With and Win Big Business was published by Career Press is available on Amazon. She blogs for CEO Magazine and also has her own blog a She has written a number of articles for the Washington Post, has been featured in Time Magazine and on NPR.

Nora AbousteitNoraAbousteit web

Nora Abousteit is a “rare leader who can pull together technology, publishing, and fashion, and inspire people” (Fast Company). Nora is the founder and CEO of Kollabora and the Kollaborator Network, which reach more than 1 million skilled crafters monthly. Every day makers come to Kollabora to share, learn, collaborate, and shop, with a focus on DIY fashion and home decoration. Nora is a member of the board of the Craft and Hobby Association, a mentor at Highway1 (a hardware incubator), and she is on the panel of experts to steer Cornell Tech’s new Masters of Science program in Connective Media. She is part of the founding team of the DLD (Digital Life Design) conference, which remains Europe’s most important annual consumer media and technology meeting. Nora published two sewing books with Potter Craft/Random House. She grew up in Germany, lives in New York City, and holds a degree in Middle East Studies, Political Science, and Philosophy from the American University in Cairo.

Tara GentileTaraGentile web

Tara Gentile empowers passion-driven entrepreneurs to find the profit in producing the work of their true spirits. She is the author of the digital guide The Art of Earning: Because Making Money Should Be Beautiful. To find out more and read her musings on building the New Economy with you at the center, visit her blog at

Matthew HudsonMatthewHudson web

Matthew Hudson, PhD, started as a part-time sales associate in Sears in 1983. Through his 26 years in retail, Matt has managed a store with himself and a part-timer working bell to bell 7 days a week (we’ve all been there), opened more than 200 stores, been a Director of Stores for a 3,000-employee, $700M chain, served as COO of a 17-store, $70M chain, and even owned his own 4-store chain in Fort Worth, Texas. He has won many awards for his retail efforts through the years. As President and GM of Rick Segel & Associates, Matt has focused on helping small, emergent companies make the leap from entrepreneurialism to true corporations. His clients included Dell (where he was the lead retail strategy consultant), New Balance, Life Fitness, Hyatt Regency, Disney, Golf Galaxy, RadioShack, and many more. He has written four books, including The Retail Sales Bible and Signs Sell, co-authored with Rick Segel.

Debi Ward KennedyDebKennedy web

With a focus on visual merchandising, retail store design, and seasonal decorating, designer and writer Debi Ward Kennedy has been contributing to seminars and publications in the retail/wholesale and lifestyle/home decor industries since 2002. Her visual styling and store design work has won awards for some of her many independent business clients, which include retailers in the wine, antique/vintage, fashion, home decor, gift, and art markets. Deb has been an active retail stylist and designer for over 35 years, and is currently a Visual Merchandising Specialist for the Walt Disney Company at the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California. She also continues to provide freelance retail design services to independent artisans and businesses across the country, assisting them in creating successful visual impact in their stores. Visit for Deb's design blog, videos, articles, and more about her services.

Cathy WagnerCathyWagner web

With more than 26 years of experience in retail as both an owner and a consultant, Cathy has the unique position of having worked on both sides of the counter. She began with one store and experienced fabulous success—despite having no retail experience at all. She has seen firsthand the tremendous benefits that the strategic planning and inventory management processes bring to a business. It is what helped her to grow to 3 stores grossing in excess of 2.5 million dollars after almost declaring bankruptcy. She sold her stores in order to be able to help other retailers implement these processes, uncover hidden opportunities and create business growth. Cathy knows how to help retailers see more profit and develop more cash flow. In fact, each of her clients has been more profitable for each of the last 4 years consecutively.

Janna Starkjanna stark

Janna Stark is the west coast trend consultant for Promostyl, a prominent Paris based trend-forecasting agency. Working with major fashion brands as well as other consumer categories she works with companies to forecast future trend directions in color, fabric and silhouette. With a background in womenswear design, she has a particular passion for the fashion industry. She also co-owns The Cool School Los Angeles; an LA based art school and focuses on teaching and programming craft based workshops for all ages.