LEADING BY CONTEXT KEYNOTE WORKSHOP | Rayona Sharpnack, Founder & CEO, Institute For Women's Leadership

Rayona Sharpnack is the founder and CEO of the Institute for Women's Leadership, an organization renowned since 1991 for its groundbreaking initiatives in leadership and organizational effectiveness. Drawing from highly successful careers in education, professional sports, and business, Sharpnack is an inspirational teacher, coach and mentor to senior executives across industries. She is also co-founder of GenderAllies, an alliance of inclusion professionals committed to full gender partnership.

Sharpnack's clients include Fortune 500 companies, government agencies, universities and nonprofits, including Pfizer, Gap Inc., Hertz, Cardinal Health, Teva Pharmaceuticals, Microsoft, Proctor & Gamble, Hewlett-Packard and World Pulse. Her masterful approach takes complex theoretical concepts and distills them into memorable and easily grasped learning. More than 20,000 women and men – from mid-level managers to C-suite executives – have relied on her and the Institute for Women's Leadership to coach them to achieve breakthrough results both at work and in their personal lives.

Her pioneering work has earned her numerous awards and appointment as Chairwoman of Leadership Development on the Women's Leadership Board of Harvard's Kennedy School of Government.

Sharpnack has presented her outstanding achievements in advancing women leaders and building high-performance organizations to prestigious institutions and associations such as:

  • Harvard University
  • Stanford Business School
  • U.C. Berkeley's Hass School of Business
  • State of the World Forum
  • Canadian Federal Government
  • Australian Federal Government
  • Leadership America
  • Professional and Business Women of California

National publications, including Fast Company and The New York Times, have showcased herleadership model. The core of Sharpnack's success is a methodology she calls Leading by Context.

This paradigm-shifting approach is detailed in her book Trade Up: 5 Steps
for Redesigning Your Leadership & Life from the Inside Out.
Sharpnack is also a contributing author to the books Enlightened Power: How Women Are Transforming the Practice of Leadership and Goddess Shift: Women Leading for a Change, which counts Michelle Obama, Suze Orman and Oprah Winfrey among its contributors.

FROM IDEA TO SCALE + MC & ORGANIZER | Jen Gurecki, Coalition Snow & Zawadisha


Jen Gurecki is the founder Zawadisha, a social enterprise based in Kenya that provides distribution and financing solutions for rural women to access renewable energy and water products. #investinwomen

She also is the co-founder and CEO of Coalition Snow, the world's first company specializing in skis and snowboards designed by women, for women. Simply stated, we make women's skis and boards that don't suck. #sisterhoodofshred

Jen has a Master's degree from Prescott College and has taught Social Entrepreneurship at NYU. In her spare time, she's working on a discussion guide for the upcoming book The Unfinished Social Entrepreneur and is planning a 68-day cycling trip across the African continent. #getshitdone


Lauren Klein owns Girlmade and the Girl Empire conference in Reno, Nevada, USA. holds a Bachelors of Arts from Michigan State University in Social Science with an International Studies and Latin America certificate. She is a leadership coach with a specialization in social business, communities and change management with experience as a strategic member of corporate leadership teams. Skilled in grooming impactful leaders in today's fast-paced business environment. Background in breaking down cultural and communication silos while designing process improvements and driving policy decisions. Experienced in designing engaging communities, mentoring community managers and leaders, leadership coaching, external speaking, presenting and facilitating. A strong professional foundation with over 20 years of business experience with Fortune 500 and international corporations.

Lauren was one of two hundred national nominees invited to the White House South By South Lawn (SXSL) event on October 3rd, 2016. Additionally, she won the 2016 NCET Technology Advocate - Ecosystem Award and 2016 Inspiration Award from the Girl Scouts of Sierra Nevada Women of Leadership Award. She was an invited speaker to the Global Women in STEM Conference, Dubai and contributed a chapter to the book: #DearFemaleFounder which published in 2016. In 2015 she was the Nevada Governor’s Conference on Business Pitch Competition Emcee. In terms of speaking engagements, she was the keynote for Microsoft Reno DigiGirlz 2015 and has been an invited speaker to organizations such as ABWA Reno-Tahoe Express, UNR Student Delta Chi organization and will be speaking at the Change Makers 2017 program in Reno. Additionally, she evaluates and judges business plan competitions such as UNR Sontag, the Governors Cup and Space Apps Challenge from 2016-2017.

BEING YIN | Melinda Choy, Elevate Wellness Center

Melinda Choy is a practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine and CEO of Elevate Wellness & Acupuncture Center in South Lake Tahoe. Melinda has been a practitioner for over 12 years with a passion for bringing natural medicine and health and healing to the community. She shares her vision in her development of Elevate Wellness Center, a multi-disciplinary holistic family medicine center, where the community can access the talent of various holistic health providers ranging from midwifery to neuro-muscular therapy. Elevate was created to help empower patients through education and lifestyle modification and specific therapies to enhance the power of the body to heal itself and promote balance. Melinda has spent over 15 years in the natural medicine field and is excited to be involved in the ever-evolving system of health care and medicine. She is actively creating a platform for holistic health providers to be more accessible and available to the public.


Ashley is the rare combination of big ideas and big action. With an innate ability to see the larger picture and connect seemingly unrelated dots, Ashley has advised dozens of small businesses from startup into growth. She believes strongly in community and is a powerhouse in her hometown of Reno, organizing meetups and events like Reno Maker Faire and Startup Weekend Reno. She is the founder and former CEO of Girlmade, an accelerator program for women to encourage a new, positive narrative that girls can run their own startups. Ashley combined all of her natural talents as a super-connector, problem-solver and music lover to push back on the “starving artist” myth with Parlor. Ashley graduated from Columbia University and is a member of Nevada Lieutenant Governor Mark Hutchison’s Northern Nevada Entrepreneurship Task Force (EFT). Her value-driven philosophy guides her in helping startups to bring policy issues to the forefront that will make a positive impact to our daily lives as citizens.

(RE) DEFINING FAILURE: RUMBLE, RISE, REPEAT | Amber Barnes, Chief Learning Officer, StartHuman

Amber is founder and Chief Learning Officer of StartHuman, a leadership development practice on a mission to re-humanize the workplace. She has over a decade of experience as a leadership coach, trainer, and consultant.  Although Amber has worked with leaders at Intuit, Adobe, Microsoft, and MetLife she now focuses mostly on small to mid-sized organizations.

By helping leaders become more conscious in their approach and impact, she’s committed to making the workplace better for human beings. Supporting with research and overwhelming evidence, Amber advocates that businesses thrive when people thrive.

Before starting her company in 2011, Amber was a trainer, coach, and consultant at Wells Fargo. Prior to that she managed a Wells Fargo branch and was head of HR, operations, and marketing for a chain of funeral homes.

Amber received her bachelors in Education and a master’s degree in Organization Development. In addition to being a certified coach, she’s certified to deliver leadership training from the Ken Blanchard Companies as well as Brené Brown’s Daring Way and Rising Strong methodologies.

A native Nevadan, Amber is passionate about serving the community. She’s the founder and President of the Conscious Capitalism Northern Nevada Chapter.

In her free time, Amber enjoys outdoor adventures, reading, trail running, and yoga. She lives in Reno with her husband, Jason, and their dogs, Guinness and Finn. 

BREAKING DOWN BIAS | Vanessa Vancour, Editor, Noticiero Móvil

Vanessa is a former TV anchor with a passion for community-based storytelling. She loves journalism, culture, and believes in living an integrated life.

Since 2015, Vanessa has been building the first bilingual, Spanish-English newsroom for journalism students at the University of Nevada, Reno, an innovative program made possible by the Online News Association Challenge Fund for Innovation in Journalism Education.

Prior to working in higher education, Vanessa worked as a digital strategist for renown brands including Autodesk, Newport Beach & Co., Tahoe South, Wildfire by Google and more.

Earlier this year, Vanessa delivered a TEDx University of Nevada, Reno talk on challenging our assumptions, offering simple tactics to overcome our own bias.

PITCH COMPETITION JUDGE | Danielle Rees, Co-Founder Coalition Snow

Danielle Rees is the Co-Founder of Coalition Snow, the only ski and snowboard company by women, for women. (They design skis and snowboards that don't suck.)  Two decades before women were trending in the outdoors, Danielle put her Stanford undergraduate degree to use as a ski and snowboard instructor, whitewater raft guide, and Outward Bound Instructor.


Her parents breathed a sigh of relief when she went back to school to pursue a master’s in public health from UC Berkeley. She worked in health care for 7 years at Planned Parenthood where she derived much joy in securing government funding to expand access to reproductive health services and comprehensive sexuality education during the Bush Administration.


Before starting her company in 2014, she honed many of her business skills as the Executive Director for Girls on the Run-Sierras where she expanded operations from Tahoe to Reno. In her volunteer role as Board Chair she led the executive leadership transition at Adventure Risk Challenge.


An avid skier, mountain biker, and stand up paddleboarder she recently moved from Tahoe to midtown Reno with her husband Zach and dog Chico. 





PITCH COMPETITION JUDGE | Michelle Czarka, Creator & Proprietor, Pantry Products

Michelle M. Czarka is the creator and proprietor of Pantry Products, a Reno-based modern apothecary handcrafting 100% all-natural skin-, body- and personal care products. In 2015, following a lifetime of creating and crafting and 20 years in corporate Marketing and Communications, Michelle, a self-titled accidental entrepreneur, accidentally founded Pantry Products after a night of crafting products for friends and family. The wellness brand sprouted to life as a healthy alternative to the chemical-filled products found in today's global marketplace. Employing clean, simple, and easy-to-pronounce items (most of which can be found in your kitchen pantry), Michelle and her team concoct, blend, package and sell over 80 products in their retail location in downtown Reno as well as10 stockists in the Reno/Tahoe area and Las Vegas. Michelle also serves as a wellness educator both through her retail outlets as well as workshops hosted in and around Reno. Michelle, a proud Detroit, MI. native and a proud Reno resident, moved out to Lake Tahoe in 2005 and she has spent the last 12 years building upon her love for arts, entertainment, culture, and recreation. She shares her teeny home in Reno's West of Wells district with a white ball of fluff named Lou and a neurotic cat who sometimes answers to Emma. 

PITCH COMPETITION JUDGE | Jamie Orr, Ph.D., Founder & CEO of Tahoe Mountain Lab

Dr. Jamie Orr is a successful entrepreneur, physicist, and educator with expertise across a wide range of technical fields. She is passionate about helping young companies and students alike to thrive and discover their potential. She is founder & CEO of Tahoe Mountain Lab, South Lake Tahoe's first coworking space and innovation hub and provides workforce development expertise for the California Community Colleges as a regional director for the Energy, Construction, & Utilities sectors, which includes one of the coolest job titles out there, “Deputy Sector Navigator.” Passionate about nature and science from an early age, she received her BS in physics from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. Jamie then went on to obtain a M.S. in experimental condensed matter physics studying the fabrication and characterization of magnetic nanostructures followed by a Ph.D. in theoretical physics from UC Davis focusing upon protein folding models associated with amyloid diseases.

PITCH COMPETITION JUDGE | Karol Hines, ED Entrepreneurs Assembly

Karol Hines is the Executive Director of Entrepreneurs Assembly. Prior to becoming the ED of EA, Karol spent 5 years volunteering and supporting the development and growth of the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Northern Nevada. In addition to being a volunteer mentor with EA, she was board member of both NCET (Nevada Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology) and EN (Entrepreneurship Nevada); was the Director of Program Support at the Cube @ Midtown; curated the Reno/Tahoe Startup Digest; participated as a preliminary judge in several Sontag Business Plan competitions and as a final judge for the Governors Cup Business Plan competition. Karol was also a pitch competition judge last year at the inaugural WACM Summit.

Karol’s professional career, spanning over thirty years in New York and Silicon Valley, included executive management and technical leadership positions in several startup companies. Most notable was 16 years (as first employee) in leadership roles with Ross Systems, which began as a professional services firm and pivoted twice to become a timesharing services, the precursor of the cloud, and SaaS company and finally a software product company delivering ERP solutions to Fortune 1000 companies. Chat with Karol at khines(at)ea-global.org.