Eventbrite - Giant Steps 2014

Event Date

October 9, 2015
Minneapolis Convention Center
1301 2nd Ave South
Minneapolis, MN 55403

Google Hangout: Connecting with Global Creatives Link


Media Sponsors

Giant Steps 2015


2014 Speakers

Some of the amazing people you'll hear at Giant Steps this year. 

To celebrate our 5th anniversary, we've included some speakers from the past four Giant Steps in this year's roster.

Please keep checking back, as more speakers will be added!

Alissa Paris

Alissa Paris, a performance artist, facilitator, choreographer, and youth advocate hailing from the West Bank of Minneapolis, recognizes the power inherent in the intersections of dance, theater, music, film and visual art. Since 2007 she has performed with Epitome-No Question, a dance company that synthesizes hip-hop styles made popular in the New Jack Swing Era with West African dance. A self-proclaimed “Fly Girl”, she frequently performs as a singer and dancer locally alongside other Twin Cities talents, while also working, for the ninth year, as a guest artist & hip-hop dance instructor in the Minneapolis Public School & Park System. Alissa feels passionate about utilizing performance art as a platform to engage the minds of young people by working with them to find their own creative voices. In 2012 she co-created a unique curriculum for the artist hub, Face Forward, called “Let’s Talk”. This dialogue invited interns & local artists working across the spectrum to come together weekly, pushing on social justice topics in an interactive small group setting. In the winter of 2013 she joined actress, playwright & poet Shá Cage in “N.I.G.G.E.R”, a look at ten characters featuring a dance solo by Paris. Each performance commenced in an open dialogue with the audience as an experimental examination of the impact the word has on the community. Presently, she finds peace bringing joy to any artistic process that inspires healing & gaining clarity on what healing does, or can, look like in our day to day lives.

Amanda Leaveck

Amanda Leaveck is founder and Executive Director for Face Forward, a nonprofit that fosters a socially aware artist community in the Twin Cities. She is also founder and Artistic Director of Energy Dance Collective, a group of dancers that explore human experience through a wide variety of movement styles and dance genres. Amanda wields over five years of experience cultivating her craft as a dancer, choreographer and community organizer to promote social change through the arts. She channels her experience and education from participating in several programs, including Zenon Dance Studio’s Zone scholarship program and the Pedagogies of Art for Social Change at Penumbra Theater into the greater community.  Her success is demonstrated in the planning, promoting and hosting of over twenty-five shows during her young career. She has also been stage manager for three consecutive years at Project Earth Music Festival and Summerset Camping and Music Festival.  One recent notable achievement came when commissioning Dreamtime for the internationally acclaimed musician, Hope Medford (of Medicine for the People), which has been viewed by over 5,000 people. Previously, in January 2013, Amanda and other prominent female Twin Cities artists co-curated SHEbeats, an all-female multidisciplinary performing arts event at the Fine Line Music Café. In April 2013, Amanda’s values-driven leadership earned her a seat among the Minneapolis Global Shapers, the local chapter of the World Economic Forum’s community of young entrepreneurs creating a more prosperous, inclusive society. In addition to her activism and community engagement, Amanda is dedicated to promoting healthy, balanced, and holistic lifestyles. She teaches hot yoga at Corepower and through her own yoga practice has become an impassioned advocate of personal wellness and inner healing throughout her work.


Ananya Chatterjea

A choreographer who envisions her work in the field of dance as a "call to action" with a particular focus on women artists of color, Ananya Chatterjea is the Artistic Director of Ananya Dance Theatre. She is the proud recipient of a 2012 Mcknight Choreography Fellowship and a 2011 Guggenheim Choreography Fellowship. Previously, she was featured as an “Artist of the Year” in City Pages (2001), named a “Changemaker” by the Minnesota Women’s Press (2005), and voted "Best Choreographer" by City Pages (2007). Recent engagements include performances at performances and master classes at the Harare International Festival for the Arts, Zimbabwe; dance talks at University of Rome and Kunsthistoriches Institut, Florence; and a performance at the Indian Council of Cultural Relations, Kolkata, India (2013); Festivale Danca Indiana de America de Sul in Campinas, Brazil; Indigenous Contemporary Dance Festival at National Hispanic Cultural Center, Albuquerque; and Norwegian Theater Academy, Oslo (2012); and an artist residency and perforamnces at New Waves Institute in Trinidad (2011). Her most recent work, Moreechika was remarked upon as  “all powerful…Chatterjea's choreography also leaves room for brutal beauty and vulnerability” (Star Tribune, 9/9/12).  Ananya’s book, Butting out! Reading cultural politics in the work of Chandralekha and Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, was published by Wesleyan University Press in 2004. Other essays have been published in the anthologies Worlding Dance (2009), Critical Transnational Feminist Praxis (2010), andCelebrating India: Dance and Performance, (2010). Ananya is also Professor in the Department of Theater Arts and Dance at the University of Minnesota, and Director of the Dance Program there.

Ben Morrison

Ben Morrison is CEO and Co-Founder of Handsome Cycles. The Minnesota native spent his youth working in bike shops and most of his twenties working in advertising. He is in charge of all product development and marketing for the Minneapolis based bicycle company. Under Morrison’s direction Handsome has won numerous awards for their marketing materials, operated its own award winning retail store and steadily grown its product offerings and dealer base.

Beth Franklin

Beth is an accountant & tax-elf at Fox Tax in Northeast Minneapolis.  Beth discovered her love for taxes after volunteering for Prepare & Prosper (formally AccountAbility Minnesota) which offers free tax preparation to low income individuals and families in college.  Since graduating in 2009, Beth has earned her CPA and MBT and has worked with nonprofit organizations.  She's been with Fox Tax for three years (plus a tax season working as an intern back in the day).  Beth races track bicycles at the NSC Velodrome and also spends a lot of time outside, drinking beer, riding bikes and researching for upcoming travel!

Carl Atiya Swanson

Carl Atiya Swanson is the Director of Movement Building at Springboard for the Arts, an economic and community development organization run by and for artists. In that role, he works on Creative Exchange, a national platform for storytelling and sharing resources bringing artists and communities together. Swanson previously worked at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and is the founder of Crown & Sparrow, a boutique communications consulting firm specializing in work with artists. He is a theatermaker with local theater company Savage Umbrella. Swanson holds a BA in Studio Art from the University of Southern California and is an MBA candidate at the University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business. His favorite Muppet is Animal.

Chaka Mkali

Chaka Mkali, aka. I Self Devine, is a well known musician and MC, who’s music has been an integral part of the Atlanta and Twin Cities underground hip-hop scene for over a decade. He has released 10 socially conscious albums that have uplifted the spirit, and sustained the movement through a successful solo career and noteworthy musical collaborations, as a member of the groups: Micranots, Semi Official, and Dynospectrum.

Chaka Mkali is also recognized as graffiti artist, muralist, and the director of organizing and community building at Hope Community. He is seen as one of the crucial figures linked to the revitalization of graffiti art in the Twin Cities. His skills developed on the alley way walls of Los Angeles, Minneapolis and Atlanta have created a foundation for community projects like the Power of Vision Mural Program: a program where youth learn about neighborhood transformation, beautification, and dispelling the negative myths centered around graffiti and urbanization. The murals served as a medium for youth to build a greater sense of power and ownership in the community, expressed through self-advocacy, and self-actualization. Other community projects spearheaded by Mkali include: SPEAC (Sustainable Progress through Engaging Active Citizens), Articulating our Voices Now, and the Art of MC’ing. For more information on Hope community, and the profound transformation that is taking place via community engagement and the arts, please go to http://www.hope-community.org.

Chris Cloud

Chris Cloud is a Culture Maker™ with a passion for connecting people and ideas. He makes art, zines, dance parties, tumblrs, music videos and the list really does go on. Find out more about Chris at chriscloud.com.

Collin Sekajugo


Born in Masaka, Uganda, Collin Sekajugo, following artistic study tours to over 15 countries around the world, returned to Rwanda in early 2007 with a mission to “USE ART TO CHANGE LIVES.”

Over the last 5 years, these words have become more than a credo for the self-taught artist, who dedicated himself to founding and directing Ivuka Arts. An ambitious arts organization, Ivuka is committed to building community through the arts by providing promising young artists the skills, platform, and exposure through which they may blossom as Rwanda’s next generation of cultural entrepreneurs and ambassadors.

D.A. Bullock

D.A. Bullock has been an award winning and leading cinematographer, writer and director for over 15 years.
In 2003, his diligence and commitment to excellence was rewarded with the opportunity to write and direct his feature film debut - "dark ". This film was the inaugural project of the State of Illinois' - "Lights, Camera, Illinois" program. The film was a selection of The Toronto International Film Festival, The Chicago International Film Festival, The American Black Film Festival, Winner/Best Film 2003 Urbanworld Film Festival and The Houston International Film Festival where it won Best First Feature.

Utilizing an extensive repertoire of creative and visual styles, D.A Bullock has continued to impact the media
landscape as a voice to be reckoned with. Bullock’s stories represent the voiceless, those surviving on the margins of society.

In 2011 Bullock founded BULLY CREATIVE SHOP in Minneapolis, MN. 

Currently, his cinematographer's eye is on display in the critically-acclaimed, "VANISHING PEARLS"; the story of the black oysterman of Point a la Hache, Louisiana, and their trials and tribulations after the BP oil disaster. Bullock was also named a 2014 McKnight Foundation / IFP Minnesota Media Arts Fellow.

Damen Johnson

Damen A. Johnson is a Co-Founder and Master barber at Grooming House barbershop in saint paul MN. He is currently working on the groomed for greatness project. It is a program designed to educate young men on the importance of personal grooming and appearance and the impact it has on the way you are perceived as well as how it can positively or negatively effect your opportunities in life. He is also the Co-founder and chief creative officer of Peerparazzi a mobil application that turns other users of the application into your own personal photographer.

Dana Nelson

As Executive Director and Cheerleader in Chief of GiveMN, Dana’s goal is to shatter old-school funding models—using digital tools and creative thinking to link more givers with more causes than ever before. She imagines organizations raising money without making anyone peddle chocolate bars or serving rubber chicken dinners! Dana oversees GiveMN’s strategy, partnerships, operations and fashion sense. When she dons her green GiveMN track suit and downs a 20-ounce Americano, she has become an unstoppable force for growing giving in Minnesota. Dana has a bachelor’s degree in Spanish from Washington University. Her résumé includes productive stints at Target, Minneapolis Public Schools and Sun Country Airlines. She volunteers at Emerson Spanish Immersion Learning Center, Venture Academy and Pillsbury House.

Davis Senseman

Davis, the founder of Davis Law Office, has practiced exclusively in the areas of business and intellectual property law for over 9 years, consulting with clients on a wide variety of entity formation, general business, succession planning, trademark and copyright issues. When forming Davis Law Office, it was Davis' goal to banish the phrase "that's the way it's always been" from her vocabulary. With a dedication to innovation and creativity, Davis has implemented transparent pricing, flat fee options, and flexible packages so clients can budget for their legal expenses. In addition to these pricing innovations, Davis also favors a collaborative approach, perhaps most obvious in her choice to office from the CoCo co-working floor of the Minneapolis Grain Exchange.


Desdamona is a 5 time MN Music Award winning lyricist who is influenced greatly by Hip Hop culture. Working with both rap styles and spoken word approaches she defies genres with the music and vocal tapestries she creates. Des works with local and regional communities and sees art as an agent of change. She has worked in prisons, schools, and community centers with all ages and backgrounds. She has received 2 MN State Arts Board Artist Initiative Grants and the Verve Grant for projects involving providing opportunities for artists to be seen and heard and for her own personal artistic endeavors. She currently helps with the Soul Sounds Open Mic led by Tish Jones at Golden Thyme Coffee in St. Paul and co-leads a Spoken Word Group at PCYC Arts & Tech HS in Minneapolis. To reach Desdamona: desdamona4@aol.com


Hassane Dennaoui


Hassane Dennaoui (aka Big Hass) is a young Saudi citizen working in the media industry as a Regional Media Manager in a local digital media company – He is the founder of Re-Volt, an online radio blog, since October 2009. (www.revoltradio.blogspot.com). He recently launched Re-Volt Magazine (A Monthly Source of real hip hop culture) to expand his work even further. (http://issuu.com/bighass/docs/revolt_magazine_issue05) & promote Hip-Hop & Arab Culture to the world.

Re-Volt came together as a result of numerous questions in mind about mainstream music, its effect on the youth and how it was lacking cause, awareness and intellect. The Internet being the strongest and main means of communication nowadays, a blog was an ideal vessel to transmit this ideology. His main emphasis was to follow/support the Arabic Hip Hop movement and fight for the balance.

After much determination & hard work, he managed to launch Saudi's First FM  Hip Hop Radio Show on newly opened local station (MIX-FM). The show “Laish Hip-Hop?” (meaning: “Why Hip-Hop?”) airs on a weekly basis & it showcases local & Arab Hip Hop artists that dont usually get FM/TV exposure. The Aim of the show is to talk about the true essence of Hip Hop , also to support & play local Arab Artists that dont get the shot to be on the FM/TV Rotation. I believe that Hip Hop is a voice of the voiceless tool. It is a great culture and I want to show that to our listeners.

James Garrett Jr. 

James artistically deploys technology and green design principles to articulate an evolving comprehension of the 21st century city. He was born on the Caribbean Island of St. Thomas and spent his formative years in St. Paul, Minnesota where he developed an early interest in the workings of cities—especially the buildings, people, and interstitial spaces that compose them.

As a visual artist and published writer—trained as an architect—he expresses the urban condition through the lenses of art and design. His work employs diverse media (aerosol, ink, critical text, digital collage, physical sketching and material modeling) to explore complex theoretical topics from a unique, ethno-experiential perspective. James is a registered architect in Minnesota and New York. He holds an A.B. Degree in Architecture from the College of Environmental Design at University of California (Berkeley, CA) and an M’Arch degree from Parsons School of Design (New York City, NY). He is currently the President of the California Alumni Association (MN Chapter) and serves on the Metropolitan Council Livable Communities and Transit Oriented Development Advisory Committees. In 2002, he founded 4RM+ULA (FORM + Urban Landscape Articulation), a full-service architecture firm focused on Transit Design, Transit-Oriented-Development, and urban infill redevelopment projects.

Jason Noer

J-Sun is a teacher and community leader in the Twin Cities; a competitor and an academic, recipient of the 2013 Sage Award for Outstanding Performance and consultant for The Annual Groundbreaker Battle. His Bachelors of Arts degree,The B-Boy Movement within Hip Hop Culture, focused on the types of knowledge produced by the dance and what the productions meant to the rest of the world. J-Sun's current graduate work examines the way race, class, age, etc., engage with issues of power on the dancing body. He instructs traditional movement with historical moments as a veteran practitioner of breaking and toprocking.

Joan Vorderbruggen 

Artist and organizer Joan Vorderbruggen envisions possibilities for the most dejected spaces, transforming vacant storefronts into showcases of MN based creativity.  In 2012, she developed and implemented the multiple award winning project, “Artists in Storefronts”, pairing more than 150 artists from 5 to 80 years old to create exhibits of original work in vacant and under-utilized commercial storefronts. In addition to creating a temporary, pop-up urban walking gallery, her project commissioned six permanent murals, hosted dozens of community events, tours, festivals, and over 50 live performances in alternative spaces. In just eight months of participation, eight properties with a combined vacancy of more than 20 years acquired short-and long-term lease agreements. She currently serves as the Cultural District Arts Coordinator for Hennepin Theatre Trust activating the downtown Minneapolis Cultural District with the project Made Here.

Jobie Bakama


I’m an energetic go-getter who lives, breathes and oozes ideas. I’ve worn many different hats in the media industry over the last 15 years and I bring to the table an incredible amount of work and life experience. My assignments have included assisting film director John Woo and working as a production assistant on the hit sitcom “Friends.”  I’ve produced and written 4 internationally syndicated radio shows, executive produced an award winning TV pilot, created and executive produced several television shows, and directed and or produced a few award winning music videos.

Julia Nekessa Opoti

Julia Nekessa Opoti is a communication and media practitioner working to create voice channels for some of Minnesota's most pressing political issues. Her work in media promotes the articulation by grassroots voices of often unheard perspectives on minority and immigrant life in Minnesota, particularly the Twin Cities.

Her work explores such subjects as class, migration, education, sexuality, identity and belonging from the immigrant and diaspora perspectives.

She currently produces and hosts "Reflections of New Minnesotans" a talk show on AM 950. Her past work includes stints in video production, and work in media as a publisher, editor and writer.

Kenneth Kunkle

Through his work as an attorney, Ken helps creative professionals pursue their professional and creative goals, by assisting them in managing, acquiring, and commercializing their intellectual property rights.  Ken’s practice includes drafting and reviewing contracts, copyright and trademark opinions and registrations, employment issues, and all other general business matters.  Over the years, he has represented a wide variety of creative professionals, including writers, musicians, designers, Internet content providers, graphic artists, commercial photographers, software programmers, and many others who use their creativity as a part of their business plan.  Originally from Wichita Kansas, Ken lives in St. Paul with his wife, daughter, dog, and cat.  He can be reached at 612-414-3113, his website – www.KunkleLaw.com, or on Twitter - @Kunkle_Law.

Kevin Beacham

Kevin Beacham is a respected underground Hip Hop educator, writer, DJ and most importantly, fan. He discovered and fell in love with Hip Hop in early 1980 and has continued on a path every since to not only be active in the Culture, but to continually learn more and share that knowledge and his experiences. Thru out this journey he has been a MC, Breakdancer, Producer, Artist Manager, DJ, Promoter, and more. He’s worked at Rhymesayers/Fifth Element for over 11 years holding various management positions in the realms of marketing and retail. He’s been active as a radio show host since 1995, staring on WNUR in Chicago with Time Travel and later transitioning to The Current in the Twin Cities, first with Redefinition Radio and most recently with H2 Radio with co-host Siddiq Sayers (Rhymesayers CEO). Kevin has also spent the last 15+ years being active as a guest speaker and teacher at various schools (covering Elementary thru High School), colleges, community centers, industry events, music/entrepreneurial conferences, etc… He has also taught his Hip Hop Essentials class at The Institute of Production and Recording since 2006. His primary focus and passions these days are two of his most ambitious projects to date- “Microphone Mathematics” and “Redefine: Hip Hop”. Microphone Mathematics is an ongoing freelance column that he’s been writing since 1994 that analyzes Hip Hop lyrics. It is also the title for his upcoming debut book that takes a detailed and critical look at the evolution of rhyme writing thru out Hip Hop’s history. Redefine: Hip Hop is a massive research project aiming to amass the most diverse and expansive database on Hip Hop history.

Levi Weinhagen

Levi Weinhagen is a comedy writer, performer, theater producer, podcast creator, editor, arts journalist and social media obsessive. He’s co-founder of Comedy Suitcase, which produces original live shows, such as Harty Boys and the Limping Platypus, Smothers Brothers Grimm and The Gentlemen’s Pratfall Club. Levi co-created the improvised Saturday Morning Submarine Adventure show, that invites people as young as 3 years old to try their hand at stand-up comedy. The Pratfalls of Parenting, Levi’s podcast which features interviews with artists who are also parents, was named “Best of the Twin Cities” by Minnesota Monthly. Levi was named a 2012 City Pages Artist of the Year.

Levi has written educational theater for the Science Museum of Minnesota and articles for online publications such as Minnesota Playlist and Pollen. In 2013-2014, he worked on the start-up of Twin Cities Public Television’s ReWire initiative—helping to design engagement strategies for new, more diverse audiences in the world of public media. He’s been volunteering as an artist teaching playwriting and theater making to young people as part of the Chicago Avenue Project since 2010.

He is currently the Artist in Residence for the Walker Art Center’s Education and Community Programs department. He tweets as @ThatLevi

Laura Holway

Laura Holway plays matchmaker between great people and smart ideas, and builds projects that encourage connection and help artists make and share their best work. She wears a variety of hats, from dance maker and director to arts programmer, writer and business coach. Recent projects include coordinating Open Field at the Walker Art Center, curating the living room dance series Small Art, and touring a series of dances around Twin Cities homes to encourage connection and community during a long, hard winter. Laura writes about dance for online magazine Minnesota Playlist and helps steer dancemn, the Twin Cities dance newsletter and website. She co-owns and runs McGinley Motion with her husband, video maker Ben McGinley, which supports the work of artists and creative entrepreneurs through video promotion and consulting. You can find Laura’s writing on all of these things at lauraholway.com, and her enthusiastic proclamations on twitter @laurabalaurah.

Mark Fox

Mark Fox is an Enrolled Agent who has been preparing tax returns and giving advice to artists since 1999. He and Alyssa started Fox Tax in 2004 with a focus on helping artists and creative entrepreneurs navigate the ever-increasingly complicated world of tax and finance. Since then, they published The Creative Tax Planner: A Guide for Artists & Musicians, opened an art gallery in their new office space in 2006, added an amazing staff and grew the business to over 4,000 clients. He somehow managed to also travel the world eating great food, meeting amazing friends, collecting the most interesting clients and generally have a really good time doing it all (sans a few weeks in the March-April time-frame each year).

Maurice Blanks

Maurice Blanks is Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer of Blu Dot. Prior to Blu Dot, Maurice practiced architecture in Chicago, most recently in his own firm, Maurice Blanks Architects. He has an MArch from the University of Illinois at Chicago and a BA from Williams College. Maurice serves on the Board of Trustees of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and on the Advisory Board of The College of Design at the University of Minnesota.

Blu Dot was founded in 1997 by Maurice Blanks, John Christakos and Charlie Lazor with the goal of producing well-designed modern home furnishings. Blu Dot brand products are sold through independent retailers across the US, directly through www.bludot.com and through the company’s own retail stores in New York,  Los Angeles, San Francisco and Austin. Blu Dot product designs have received numerous awards, including the 2003 ICFF Editor’s Award for furniture, the 2010 ICFF Editor’s Award for Best Body of Work and numerous Good Design awards from the Chicago Athenaeum. In 2002 Blu Dot was a finalist in the Cooper Hewitt National Design Awards, and the founders were honored at a reception at the White House. Blu Dot’s work has been exhibited at numerous museums, including MoMA, the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum, the Walker Art Center, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, the Carnegie Museum of Art and the Centre Pompidou in Paris. 

Nancy Lyons

Nancy works at the intersection of technology, community, and people. Nancy supports clients and teams by fostering a collaborative, idea-driven culture that nurtures creativity and brainpower. She has been locally and nationally recognized for her role as owner and CEO of Clockwork. She's co-author of Interactive Project Management: Pixels, People, and Process (New Riders, 2012), serves as the Vice Chair on the National Board of Directors at The Family Equality Council, is on the Board of Trustees at Minnesota Public Radio, and is a Project Skyway Captain and mentor at Project Skyway. Under Nancy’s leadership, Clockwork has received more than 14 “Best Workplace" awards. Clockwork has also won the Psychologically Healthy Workplace, Best Women Owned Business, and Bicycle Friendly Business awards. Independently, Nancy received the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal Diversity in Business award and was a finalist for Minnesota Business Magazine’s Community Impact award.

Pete Rhodes

Pete Rhodes is the founder and CEO of the Urban Mass Media Group, a multimedia and marketing company specializing in cultural specific programing, communications, entertainment, outreach and education to urban markets since 1980.

UMG is the parent company of Black Music America Cable Networks. Launched in 1984 establishing Minnesota’s first and only African American owned 24-hour local cable network. "Black Music America” Chanel 937 is distributed by Comcast to over 500,000 subscribers.

Mr. Rhodes is the founder of the annual Minnesota Black Music Awards. Launched in 1982 the MBMA has recognized over 50 music performers and professionals. It is considered the upper-Midwest premier stage for Black music artist recognition, industry panels and super-star perfomances in R&B, Hip Hop, Jazz, Gospel and Blues. Nearly 10,000 patrons have attended the Minnesota Black Music Awards programs since it’s launch in 1982.

Mr. Rhodes is currently the Executive Producer and host of WCCO TV Urban Perspectives a weekly public affairs TV show. Mr Rhodes has provided his talents to social and civic organizations as a Minneapolis Arts and Charter Commissioner, “The Monitors” African American Men's group and mentor with Big Brothers Big Sisters Twin Cities.

The recipient of numerous awards including the NAACP/St.Paul Chapter Entrepreneur of the year, Minnesota Music Connie Hector Award and Minnesota Martin Luther King Jr. Arts Awards. Pete Rhodes along with his wife and business partner Kimberly Bedl-Rhodes mission has been to educate and spotlight African American culture, history and showcase its continuous contributions locally and worldwide.

Sarah White

Sarah White is an eclectic singer, emcee and musician and has played both nationally and internationally, best known in Minneapolis for her previous involvement with Black Blondie and Traditional Methods. While her passion to grow and break molds keeps her sound ever-changing, her love of art keeps it classic. Sarah has independently released 2 solo albums, her voice is featured on record label releases from the Midwest to Tokyo and she won Scion’s Best Electronic Vocalist Competition in 2009.White currently fronts her new band, Shiro Dame, known for its "neon soul" sound. Debuting in 2013, their sound is ever-changing, undefined, electric medicine to music heads seeking new aural experiences.

 Shiro Dame is comprised of Sarah White on vocals, Rico Simon Mendez on guitar, synths, & beats, Blayr Alexander on drums, Dameun Strange on keytar and Ry Dill on bass.

Sarah is also a mother, a photographer and a creative with a Minneapolis-based event production company.

Shanan Custer

Shanan Custer is an actor, writer, director, improviser, and educator based in the Twin Cities and has joked that sometimes she does all of these things at the same time.  A veteran of the Brave New Workshop in Minneapolis, Shanan has more recently directed at Theatre in the Round (Love, Loss and What I Wore and The Underpants) and appeared at the 2014 Minnesota Fringe Festival (in American Assassins; or You Can’t Handle the Booth and From Here to Maternity, which she also co-wrote).  Other original works include Mick Sterling’s At Christmas, which will play for its 5th year during this holiday season and 2 Sugars, Room for Cream, which was honored in 2013 with an Ivey Award for Ensemble Acting.  When she’s not onstage, Shanan is a Teaching Artist at the Guthrie Theatre and History Theatre and is an adjunct at the University of St. Thomas.  Shanan also improvises with the Theater of Public Policy at HUGE Theater or wherever else they will let her perform.

Sherwood Herndon

Sherwood Herndon is an adept entrepreneur who was an early stage investor and executive board member of software company Advanced Technology Systems of Illinois, book publisher Noble Press, music recording label Arise Entertainment and NFL sports agency American Stars.

Sherwood's business endeavors caught the attention of Wu Tang Clan’s RZA that led to Sherwood becoming a partner in the management company and the creation of Protect­Ya­Neck Productions and Wu­Tang Records. Wu­Tang’s prominence in the music industry allowed the brand to expand into fashion merchandising, comic books, animation, games and film. During this tenure, Sherwood successfully negotiated the very first "Destiny's Child" In­Demand pay­per­view concert event with former AEG­TV Chairman & CEO John Ruby.

Sherwood’s ability to recognize opportunities where existing business synergies can be cross collateralize to mitigate risk and offer substantial return on investment, has created valuable partnerships and business cooperatives in filmed entertainment and television production that include executive producing season one of the CBS franchise “Caribbean Next Top Model."

In addition to his entertainment endeavors, Sherwood is the catalyst behind the planned development of a NBA sports arena in Virginia Beach, VA. Sherwood also has plans to develop entertainment­ themed lifestyle boutique hotels with strategic partners Hilton Hotels and AEG Live.

Sherwood Herndon graduated from Westmar College with a Bachelor of Liberal Arts Degree and an Interdisciplinary Culture & Communication/Media Studies Concentration.

Teresa Fox

Teresa Fox is one half of the duo that is Glam Doll Donuts. Before entering the donut business she spent the majority of her career and education in restaurants and music business. After being inspired by donuts she and best friend, Arwyn Birch, decided to combine their personal passions for vintage fashion, music, art and food. The idea for Glam Doll Donuts was born and have since been working to become a mainstay in the Twin Cities scene.

Vikas Narula

Vikas is a "stumble-upon-trepreneur".  He spent 15 years working for two local start-ups and along the way "stumbled upon" his own business idea while completing his MBA.  He nurtured the idea as a "hobby" for a few years before quitting his job in 2009 to pursue it full time.

His hobby-turned-business-venture is called Keyhubs (www.keyhubs.com) - a Minneapolis-based management software and consulting firm, which specializes in helping organizations realize their potential by uncovering and tapping the hidden organization - the informal network of relationships that exist between employees.  Some of Keyhubs' clients include Accenture, Medtronic, Thrivent Financial, Boston Scientific and Bremer Bank.  Their work has been featured in Forbes, Upstart and Twin Cities Business magazine.
Vikas earned his MBA from Duke University and holds a degree in computer science from Maharishi University of Management.  He was listed among 100 leaders to "help you thrive" by Twin Cities Business magazine.  He is also Founder of Neighborhood Forest - a social venture dedicated to giving free trees to school children every Earth Day.

You can learn more about his journey and work at www.keyhubs.com/blog.

Yuti Shah Edward


Yuti Shah Edward is the founder of Udd Fabric Design in Mumbai. She says, "My husband and i often set out for weekend rural trips to connect with nature and our inner calling. On all our trips I always kept a small notebook where i would get inspired by the textures of nature and doodle. On one of our trips last year while sitting on a friend's farm, my husband casually told me to pursue my doodling more seriously. There it was a statement made, but soon before I could realize I had taken the plunge and quit my design job and was getting ready for my first ever art show! In 3 months, I had my first opening of the art show and since then there has been no looking back!After 2 such shows we discussed how my art could be made more accessible to a wider audience. So being a graphic designer by profession and an artist by heart it was natural to fuse the design and art skills together.”

Zahra Alijabri

Zahra is the co founder of Modesty an e-boutique for fashion forward conservative women. Prior to Modesty, Zahra co-founded MuslimBuddy, Inc., a nonprofit dedicated to accelerating social innovation within the Minnesota Muslim Community. In 2012, Zahra was awarded a Bush Foundation Fellowship for her role as Chief Operating Officer of MuslimBuddy. Zahra’s work has been featured in TechCrunch, Mashable, Refinery29, FashInvest, and the Star Tribune.

Zahra graduated from UCLA with a BA in Communications and a minor in Mathematics. In 2008 she received her Juris Doctorate from Syracuse University College of Law in New York. Zahra is licensed to practice law in the State of Minnesota and is a certified mediator.