Chicago Conference : Speakers

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Sharon Melnick, Ph.D, CEO
Horizon Point, Inc.; Author, "Success Under Stress"


Sharon Melnick, Ph.D. is a leading authority on the psychology of success and on stress resilience. Her practical tools are informed by 10 years of research at Harvard Medical School and field tested by over 10,000 training participants. Her methods show women professionals how to get past their blocks to action so they can focus and earn more instead of spinning their wheels, getting distracted, or procrastinating. An internationally sought after speaker, her presentations receive highest ratings and multiple repeat invites from organizations such as Procter and Gamble, Novartis, MetLife, GE, Merck, Moody’s, Coldwell Banker and others. She regularly serves as an expert for leading conference hosts such as American Management Association, Working Mother, Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association (winner Best Conference Workshop, 2013), CEO Clubs, Small Biz Summits, Women Presidents Organization, Women in Cable and Telecommunications, Women in the Boardroom, and numerous associations.

Dr. Melnick is the author of the acclaimed book Success under Stress: Powerful Tools for Staying Calm, Confident, and Productive when the Pressure’s On. She has the spirit of a teacher and loves having contributed her advice to, Fox News, Business Insider, AOL Stylelist, the Huffington Post, CBS Radio, Natural Health Magazine,, AmexOPEN, Smart Brief for Entrepreneurs. She works to increase women’s empowerment as a Global Ambassador for the UN Women-endorsed SmartWoman Project. Discover more at

Noeleen McGrath, President
McGrath Communications


Noeleen McGrath leads McGrath Communications. The award-winning television news journalist, media trainer and video producer started out her career in TV news in 1990. McGrath was just a junior in college when she started producing stories for network news giant, CNN. After three years at CNN’s Chicago bureau, Noeleen moved in front of the camera as an anchor/reporter. McGrath received many reporting awards during her career, including a prestigious National Edward R. Murrow for Best Feature.

In 2002 Noeleen left TV news and began to focus on corporate communications, specifically media training and presentation skills training. Three years later, she founded McGrath Communications. Noeleen tailors media training, spokesperson coaching and presentation skills training programs to fit an individual’s needs and style. She has coached people from a variety of backgrounds: corporate executives, professional athletes, authors, attorneys, doctors, sales executives, politicians, school officials, beauty and fitness experts and mining industry spokespeople.

The greatest compliment Noeleen ever received from a client:

“While other media trainers I've worked with have left their students with a list of “do's and don'ts” to worry about, Noeleen left them with the two things they really need: new skills and the confidence to use them.”

Pernille Spiers-Lopez, Global Director


Pernille Spiers-Lopez is a Global Director and serves on both corporate and non-profit boards. She serves currently on the board of Meijer Corporation, Michigan and COOP DK, Copenhagen, Save The Children International, London UK and Save The Children US

Pernille was with IKEA for 21 years. Among several top executive positions, Pernille held the position as CEO & President for IKEA North America and was a member of The Executive Management Team of the IKEA Group for 10 years. Pernille decided to leave IKEA July 1, 2011 after 2 1/2 years of commuting between Chicago and Europe.

During her tenure as President of IKEA North America (2001-2009), Pernille lead the fastest expansion ever within IKEA. IKEA grew from a small ‘niche’ retailer with 23 stores to a ‘major player’ with 50 stores. She brought with her a wealth of experience in home furnishings retail, human resources and leadership. This experience was grounded in and enhanced by her commitment to the IKEA culture and values that are at the heart of the company and its success.

Most recently Pernille Spiers-Lopez was the Global HR Manager for the IKEA Group and its 135,000 employees. With her extensive business experience, she had developed and implemented a new business focused HR Strategy empowering the organization, it’s leaders and co-workers to grow business and people together. It is through this humanistic way of doing business that Pernille had brought to IKEA perhaps her greatest asset: the ambition to foster an environment of growth, inclusion, balance and empowerment – while doing good business.

A native of Denmark with a Masters in Journalism, Pernille Spiers-Lopez has lived in the United States for 30 years. Prior to joining IKEA, Pernille was an entrepreneur with a Scandinavian design business and she held several leadership positions for different retail companies in Florida and California.

Pernille recently published her first book in Denmark about personal leadership and taking responsibility for our own life and success. “ Don’t make it the most important thing in your life to find the right job, make it the most important job to find the right life”. Her book will be published in US October 7th.

She and her husband, a school administrator, live in Long Beach, California. They have two adult kids in Los Angeles.

Sue Malone
Founder, Strategies for Small Business


Sue Malone is the founder of Strategies For Small Business. Her sole mission for the last five years has been to help people obtain access to capital to start or expand their businesses. In doing so, one of her specialties has been small business start-up loans. And she has done so exceptionally well. She is the undisputed, number one SBA loan provider for the Community Express Loan Program in the nation. As of April 2008, she is responsible for closing over 20,000 of these much needed loans.

She is a grassroots provider of these loans, serving all communities across the United States. As one of the busiest women in America, she is on the road constantly, dispensing a plethora of capital through innumerable loan workshops to: organizations, groups, churches, associations, chambers of commerce, non-profits, colleges, franchises, and entrepreneurial organizations. She is proud, along with other banks, to work directly with the SBA, as well as SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives), Womenís Business Centers, and SBA Small Business Development Centers (SBDCís).

An inspirational speaker, she has been highlighted in countless speaking engagements, as well as in newspaper articles, magazines, television, radio, conventions, and CNN. Together with her numerous awards and with the assistance of the lenders she has partnered with, she has been responsible for their achieving the #1 SBA lender status in West Virginia, South Carolina, Louisiana, Tennessee, Hawaii, North Carolina, and in the top five lenders category in other districts.

Sue Malone has a degree in accounting and an MBA in finance. As such, she brings not only the requisite education and expertise, but the proven commitment to care deeply for the success of this Nationís small businesses.

Connie L. Lindsey, Executive Vice President
Northern Trust


Connie L. Lindsey is Executive Vice President and Head of Corporate Social Responsibility and Global Diversity & Inclusion at Northern Trust, Chicago. She is responsible for the design and implementation of the global Corporate Social Responsibility and Global Diversity and Inclusion strategy for Northern Trust and the development of goals, policies, and programs appropriate to the brand and business unit strategies. In addition, Ms. Lindsey provides oversight and leadership to the firm’s response to environmental matters as well as social issues, within the marketplace, workplace, and the community.

Prior to becoming the Head of CSR, Ms. Lindsey led the client servicing teams in the Public Entities and Institutions segment in the Corporate & Institutional Services business, serving public fund and not-for-profit clients. Over the course of her 20-year Northern Trust career, she has held a number of leadership roles, including Deputy Business Head in Operations and Technology, Group Head in Northern Trust’s Wealth Management business, Director of Enterprise Relationship Management, and Manager in Treasury Management Consulting and Product Management and holds the Certified Treasury Professional designation.

Ms. Lindsey is the immediate Past National Board President of Girl Scouts of the USA. She joined the Girl Scouts board in 2005 and was elected National Board President, the highest-ranking volunteer of this 3.4 million-member organization, in 2008 for a three-year term. She was re-elected to the role of National Board President at the 2011 convention for another three-year term. In this role she provided guidance in three vital areas—policy, fund-raising, and leadership. She was an integral part of the Girl Scout transformation, committed to building and sustaining membership growth and ensuring girls receive a premier leadership development experience.

Ms. Lindsey is a founding member of the Advisory Board of the Center for Green Schools, a member of the Economic Club of Chicago, Executive Leadership Council, Executives' Club of Chicago, Friends of Prentice Women’s Board member at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, a Leadership Circle Member for Vision 2020, a Board Member and Fellow of Leadership Greater Chicago, a Director of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, and a member of the Board of Governors of the Metropolitan Club of Chicago.

Ms. Lindsey attended the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where she majored in finance and has completed the Harvard Business School Executive Education Corporate Social Responsibility program. She is a public and motivational speaker on topics of diversity and inclusion, corporate responsibility, leadership, and personal and professional empowerment.

Ms. Lindsey has been profiled on national television on PBS’ 30GoodMinutes and ABC’s Heart and Soul. She has been recognized for her leadership professionally and in the community by the Chicago United’s Business Leaders of Color Award, YWCA Outstanding Leader Award in Community Leadership, National Diversity Council’s Most Powerful and Influential Women Award, Women’s Bar Association of Illinois-Advocacy Award, Ebony Magazine’s 2009 Power 150, Alpha Kappa Alpha Women Changing the World Award, Life Directions-Guiding Light Award, and the Chicago Defender Women of Excellence Award. In 2011 Ms. Lindsey was honored with the Spirit of Achievement award by Loretto Hospital Foundation. She was the first woman to receive the award in its eight year history. The recognition established the Connie L. Lindsey, Cancer Resource Center at Loretto Hospital in Chicago. She is an Inroads, Inc. Alumna and has been inducted into the Inroads Alumni Hall of Fame.

Kimberly McCullough, Director, External Affairs


As Director of External Affairs for AT&T Illinois she plans, organizes and directs efforts in various communities within the city of Chicago on behalf of the company. She is responsible for establishing relationships with community and civic leaders, elected officials and other key stakeholders. As one of AT&T’s ambassadors, she coordinates programs that promote good corporate citizenship and enhances community good will through active participation in meaningful initiatives. Kimberly is also the company’s liaison to local government - specifically working with officials in both Cook County and City of Chicago government.

Formerly, she was the Director of Business and Workforce Diversity for the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, the owner and operator of McCormick Place and Navy Pier, the nation’s largest convention center and Illinois’ number one tourist attraction. She directed the day-to-day operations of the Authority’s diversity initiatives, which included acting as an internal advocate for the inclusion of minorities and women in business contracting and employment. As a member of the senior management team, she established programs and policies that had a direct impact on the economic inclusion of diverse people. With Ms. McCullough at the helm of its diversity initiatives, the Authority met and exceeded expectations including on the recent $882 million state of the art expansion of the new McCormick Place West Building, which at the time was one of the largest public works projects in the country. As a result of her work, the Authority was honored by several associations and organizations such as the Federation of Women Contractors, the Chicago Minority Business Opportunity Council, the U. S. Small Business Administration, as well as the African American Contractors Association.

Prior to this position, she held progressively responsible positions within state and local government, including managing state-wide regulatory initiatives, human resource functions and assisting in the management of social service programs, as well as advocating before state and local government on various public policy initiatives.

Currently, Ms. McCullough is President of the Board of Young Women’s Leadership Charter School, and serves on the Board of Directors of the Business Leadership Council, Back of the Yards Neighborhood Council, Calumet Area Industrial Commission, Austin Chamber of Commerce, Near South Planning Board, South Central Community Services and the Chicago State University Foundation Board. Previously, Ms. McCullough Chaired the Diversity Action Committee, an inter-governmental alliance dedicated to the growth and development of the minority and women owned business community.

Kimberly is a life long resident of the Chicagoland area and volunteers for various community intitiatives.

Linda McGill Boasmond, President
Cedar Concepts Corporation


Linda McGill Boasmond is owner and president of Chicago-based Cedar Concepts Corporation. CCC processes raw materials for use in a wide variety of personal-care, household, industrial, and agricultural products marketed under many brand names familiar to both consumers and businesses. Her customers include Proctor & Gamble, Colgate Palmolive, Citgo Petroleum and Boeing. She runs the country’s first and only African American, woman-owned chemical manufacturing plant. Just completed the process of constructing the first ground-up chemical manufacturing facility within the City of Chicago in over fifty(50) years.

Linda’s first professional position was as a chemist in quality control for the construction division of a prestigious global chemical corporation. Four years later, she joined an international manufacturer of chemical and petroleum products. Superiors took notice when she used her own time to study and write procedures for ISO 9000, a new quality program from Europe. She progressed through a succession of positions, including managing production of a $100M, 80-employee union plant and conducting corporate-wide process-improvement analysis and implementation.

In 1998, Linda left the corporate environment for the relatively small Cedar Concepts. She soon became Operations Manager and a partner. Several years following, she acquired the company from one of the surviving founders in 2004, thus becoming the sole owner of an International Standards Organization Enterprise that manufactures surfactants, lubricants and chemical intermediates.

She has been the proud recipient of several honorable awards of mention, a sought after speaker and profiled in several publications:

  • IL DCEO Women’s Business Owners Symposium - 2014
  • Womenetics POW! Award Honoree - 2014
  • Featured in Chicago Sun Times The Minority Report, January, 2014
  • Appeared on WCIU Uniquely Chicago - 2014
  • Profiled in Chicago Sun-Times – The Grid - 2013
  • Dr. M. L. King Jr. Boys & Girls Club Award - 2013
  • Received Enterprising Woman of the Year Award - 2012
  • Featured under “Powerful CEO’s” article in MEA Magazine
  • Selected as one of the “Business Leaders of Color” by Chicago United
  • Received WBDC 2008 Entrepreneurial Woman of the Year “Rising Star” Award.
  • Speaker on The National Urban League’s 2009 conference business panel
  • Crain’s Small Business Forum featured her as a speaker for its “Women Business Owners Tell All” and “Manufacturer’s” forum
  • Profiled by Black Enterprise Magazine’s nationally televised “Business Report”
  • Harry Porterfield’s “Someone You Should Know” ABC/7 Chicago News segment
  • Profiled on NBC/5 Chicago, Art Norman’s Business segment

Linda is a member of the WBENC (WBDC Chapter), NMSDC (CMBDC Chapter) ASQ (Association Society for Quality), Alliance for Illinois Manufacturers (Board Member) and Illinois Manufacturers’ Association(Board Member). Committed to community involvement and social responsibility through programs such as “Girls 4 Science” in which she is the Board Chair, “Chicago Sinfonietta” (Board Member) and Museum of Science & Industry’s “Science Chicago”.

Today, Linda has guided Cedar Concepts to nearly 40 employees and ships more than 60 million pounds of product annually, worldwide to many Fortune 500 companies.

Ava Youngblood, CEO
Youngblood Executive Search, Inc.


Ava D. Youngblood, Chief Executive Officer of Youngblood Executive Services, possesses over 25 years of corporate, recruiting and leadership development experience.  In 2002 Youngblood founded Youngblood Executive Search, Inc. (YES), a retained executive search firm which helps clients identify, recruit, develop, and retain wisdom-driven, innovative leaders.  YES conducts searches for senior executives and board members, and differentiates itself by presenting to clients a highly qualified, inclusive, and diverse slate of candidates with demonstrated leadership skills. YES is a Heidrick & Struggles Inclusion Network member firm.

In 2011, Youngblood founded Youngblood Executive Services (YES).   Youngblood Executive Services benefits corporations interested in accelerating the development of their multicultural executives by providing services that will enhance the executives’ development and retention. Youngblood Executive Services provides access to resources in executive and communication coaching, image and wardrobe consultation, fitness and nutrition support, organizational development and wealth management guidance.

Prior to her executive search career, Youngblood spent nineteen years in the global energy/petrochemical industry with BP (Amoco) in various roles with increasing levels of responsibility ranging from research and development, operations planning & logistics, quality management, sales and marketing, executive development, strategic planning and competitive intelligence.

In addition to an active professional career, Youngblood is involved in the community. She is currently a member of the advisory council for Northwestern University’s McCormick School of Engineering, the advisory council for Northwestern’s Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, and a member of Northwestern’s Council of One Hundred. She was formerly a Northwestern University trustee, president of the Northwestern Alumni Association, and president of Northwestern’s Women’s Board.  For her many years of distinguished service to Northwestern, Youngblood was awarded Northwestern’s Alumni Service Award in 2009.

Youngblood also serves on the boards of Herzing Educational System, Herzing Educational Foundation, Communities in Schools of Chicago (CISC), Communities in Schools’ national board, Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, and the Booth School of Business’ Black Alumni Association at the University of Chicago.  Her professional organizational memberships include The Marathon Club, The Economic Club of Chicago, and The Fortnightly of Chicago.  In addition to being a frequent guest speaker, Youngblood has been featured in the book Mothers Lead Best, and in numerous magazines including Business Week, Forbes, Working Woman and Information Technology.

Youngblood earned a BS in Chemical Engineering at Northwestern University, and an MBA at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business.  She and her husband, Haj Gueye of HAJ Designs, live in Chicago. They have five children.

Kye Martin, Traffic Anchor


Kye Martin is the Morning Traffic Anchor on NBC 5 in Chicago. She's been waking WMAQ viewers up with commute times and transportation news since July of 2012. From 2008 to 2012, she worked as a Traffic Anchor at CLTV in Chicago, and as a fill-in Traffic Personality on the WGN Morning News in Chicago. Kye began her broadcasting career as a General Assignment Reporter at KMPH-TV in Fresno, CA. She held that same position at KTXL-TV in Sacramento, CA, before re-locating to Chicago. A Seattle native, Kye graduated Magna Cum Laude from Washington State University with a B.A. in Communications. She was voted "One of the Reasons to Watch Local News" in 2007 by the Sacramento Bee. Kye volunteers her time in Chicago with the March of Dimes, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, Chicago Canine Rescue, and Saint Jude Chicago. Kye and her husband have a rescue dog, Bo, and twin 3-year-old boys, Bodie and Tanner. She enjoys the daily challenge of balancing a job she loves, with a life full of love.

Gabrielle Boko, Executive Vice President, Marketing
Sage North America


Gabie Boko is Executive Vice President of Global Marketing at Sage, a company focused on helping small and medium businesses achieve success. As an Alaskan native, she has innovation in her blood. For more than 20 years, Gabie has been in the high tech space following her passion for innovation, doing work that drives growth and change.

She is responsible for all areas of marketing at Sage including PR, events, brand marketing, advertising, marketing research and revenue performance management. To date Gabie has delivered major strides in re-launching a more human, digital brand that relies heavily on a fully integrated web platform for commerce and content and the singular industry defining event, Sage Summit. Gabie considers it a tremendous opportunity to reinvigorate a 30 year old brand.

Throughout her career with companies such as Cognos, Outlooksoft and SAP, Gabie has built marketing organizations from the ground up, developed, and managed high performance teams focused on marketing technology across a variety of small business drivers: accounting, payments and payroll, as well as complex enterprise solutions. Gabie’s career focus on helping companies build digital forward brands includes leveraging her SMB technology industry experience in all aspects of marketing; product marketing, corporate branding and communications, demand creation and field marketing, partner development and sales.

Gabie thrives on collaboration and conversation as catalysts for growth, and actively encourages both in her current role as Executive Vice President of Global Marketing. She believes that for brands to truly succeed, they must constantly evolve while remaining true to their mission and identity.

Lindsay Gaskins, CEO
Marbles: The Brain Store


Lindsay Gaskins, CEO of Marbles: The Brain Store, has over 10 years of retail experience in retail, first as a consultant at the Boston Consulting Group and then as a corporate strategy member and buyer at Sears Holdings Corporation. At BCG, Lindsay worked with a premier direct to consumer specialty retailer and a high end fashion brand. At Sears, Lindsay worked on strategic initiatives in the toy and kids categories but spent the majority of her time in the Home area- ending her career there as the buyer for Fashion and Kids Bedding and Sheets. After Sears, Lindsay joined Sandbox Industries, a venture capital firm, where she led a team to take Marbles: The Brain Store from paper to reality with the first store in the fall of 2008. They now operate 28 stores across the country with a growing ecommerce presence and product development arm, The Brain Workshop. She holds a degree in Economics from Wesleyan University, is a certified high school teacher, and has 2 young kids (Lulu and Frances) with her wife Laura. In 2011, she was named to Crain’s Business 40 under 40 list.

Erika Napoletano, Head Redhead
RHW Media, Inc., Founder of the unstuck.LIFE


Where to begin? She’s taller than a taco but smaller than an Airstream trailer. That’s probably not important.

Have you ever felt stuck? Well, Erika gets companies and the people brave enough to lead them UNstuck and on to the business of being awesome. She solves tough branding, messaging, and marketing problems and makes it easier for brands to reach the people who love them. She’s been called a marketing dominatrix — and is perfectly okay with that.

While Forbes encourages folks to think of Erika as “a redheaded, tattooed Tina Fey with a special weakness for four letter words,” it’s not all funny business. Erika is also an award-winning, twice-published author, including The Power of Unpopular (Wiley), a current columnist for American Express OPEN Forum and former columnist for Entrepreneur Magazine, an TED-acclaimed speaker from TEDxBoulder 2012, and speaks at events all over the world on the inherent power of truth in business… or as she refers to it, the power of unpopularity. Connect with her uncensored brand at and join her raucous Facebook community. And if you dare, be the first to know when her next project for restless brands and the people who lead them launches in early 2015. Get in on that here.

NAWBO - Chicago