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Speaker Series


 2020 - 2021 Academic Year 
Innovation & Entrepreneurship Speakers 

Duran Lawson
Zaxby's Franchisee
Oct. 13, 2020

Two friends and college teammates at The Citadel – one a quarterback and one that has been a 2-time Pro Bowler as a NFL receiver and kick returner, playing currently for the Buffalo Bills and in the past for the New York Jets, Detroit Lions, Atlanta Falcons, Arizona Cardinals and for the Washington Football Team, where I covered him.

An idea that came after a round of golf, simply because the two were hungry. One business with plans of a major expansion during a global pandemic. 

Welcome to the wild ride that Andre Roberts and Duran Lawson have been on for the last 15 years or so. 

Click here to read the entire Sports Illustrated article

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Duran Lawson2

Stuart Williams
Founder and CEO of Impact Economics
Sept. 17, 2020

Stuart co-founded and became President & CEO of The Strategic Research Institute (SRI) which he built into one of the world's leading business-to-business conference companies. In 1993, Stuart co-created the global platform of "Making A Profit While Making A Difference" for which he was awarded a Trademark. Today, more commonly known as "Profit and Purpose." 

After using the Leadership and Management strategy of Profit and Purpose to create almost $1Billion in realized shareholder value from the companies he started and sold, and or worked with, Stuart has spent the past 12 years designing a new form of inclusive capitalism and economics that clearly upholds his thesis that modern business leaders are now the most important people in the room when it comes to building a sustainable future. He calls his design “Impact Economics”, and it empowers everyone to participate in and personally benefit from the creation of a sustainable future.

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 2019 - 2020 Academic Year
Innovation & Entrepreneurship Speakers 

Jesse Pierpoint
Founder and CEO of Jesse Pierpoint Fine Art
Feb. 20, 2020

Combining his graphic design and fine arts background, Jesse integrates a mix of typography, expressive brushstrokes, patterns and collaged media into his work to create depth, texture and movement.

Jesse started a branding and design company within two years of graduating from college and was teaching college-level design two years after that. From 2010 until 2018, he served as Creative Director at Seven2, a digital agency in Spokane overseeing projects for companies like Amazon, AT&T, Disney, Pokemon and more. Years of live painting for non-profit and corporate events and a past that involved college-level athletics gave him the idea for a friendly competition between artists. In 2011, he launched the Seven2 DrawOff, a series of live art battles that support local charities.

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Jeff Plotner
Founder and CEO of Brackish Bowties
Jan. 30, 2020

Jeff Plotner, along with co-founder Ben Ross, has an operation that honors artisan techniques, distinctive style and the spirit of the South--making their creations available to others who won't settle for ordinary accessories. Brackish is redefining tradition while creating memorable yet personal pieces for the modern man's closet. In their Charleston production base, they have fine-tuned their process and expanded designs in order to make a lasting impact on the wardrobes of many with one-of-a-kind works of art.

Every tie is handcrafted locally in South Carolina by a team of artisans and production assistants. And because every single feather is hand-selected, no 2 Brackish bow ties are exactly alike. Every tie is a sustainable work of art. We have put painstaking effort into our products and pride ourselves on genuine, intricate detail not found in mass production.

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William Beach, Ph.D.
Commissioner for the Bureau of Labor Statistics
Nov. 21, 2019

William W. Beach became the 15th Commissioner of Labor Statistics on March 28, 2019. Before joining BLS, Dr. Beach was vice president for policy research at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University from February 2016 to March 2019. Before that, he served as the Chief Economist for the Senate Budget Committee, Republican Staff, from 2013 through early 2016. Among his other professional positions, he was the Lazof Family Fellow in Economics at the Heritage Foundation and founder and director of the Foundation’s Center for Data Analysis. Prior to joining Heritage in 1995, Dr. Beach served as a senior economist in the corporate headquarters of Sprint United, Inc., in Kansas City and, from 1991, as the president of the Institute for Humane Studies at George Mason University.

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 William Beach Official BLS photo

Faithe Dillman
Founder and CEO of Marbaloo Marketing
Oct. 21, 2019

Faithe Dillman is an entertainment industry leader who has built her career on hard work and global expertise.  Whether gaining knowledge of the music business in her early college years or traveling internationally alongside successful recording artists, Faithe approaches her career with integrity and passion.Faithe was offered her first full-time position as at Geffen Records as an executive studio assistant to Ron Fair, who at the time was serving as the Chairman of Geffen Records and has produced artists such as Christina Aguilera, The Black Eyed Peas, Fergie, Pussycat Dolls, and Mary J. Blige. She traveled to over 50 countries with internationally recognized artists like Lady Gaga, All American Rejects, 50 Cent, and Limp Bizkit, specializing in working with imprint labels such as Justin Timberlake’s Tennman Records, Akon’s KonLive, Timbaland’s Mosley Music Group and Pharrell’s StarTrak. Her experience led her to leave Los Angeles and form her own Marketing group in Nashville Tennessee known as Marbaloo.

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Eric Dorre 
Head of Equities for SIX Swiss Stock Exchange
Sept. 19, 2019

As Head of Equities for SIX Swiss Stock Exchange, Eric is the lead executive responsible for Swiss Equities secondary markets and its participants. Eric led client management, product management and pricing for the Exchange, and works directly with clients and external partners (often banks) to conceive new functionality for the high throughput, fully automated electronic order books of the Exchange. As Head of Equities for SIX Swiss Stock Exchange, Eric is the lead executive responsible for Swiss Equities secondary markets and its participants. Eric led client management, product management and pricing for the Exchange, and works directly with clients and external partners (often banks) to conceive new functionality for the high throughput, fully automated electronic order books of the Exchange.

Eric also served as General Manager at Applied Minds, Inc., a research and development company creating a range of new products, services and spin-offs in software, electronics, biotechnology and mechanical design. Eric guided projects, business development efforts, and ensured leadership contributed directly to a quadrupling of firm-wide profitability.

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 2018 - 2019 Academic Year
Innovation & Entrepreneurship Speakers 

Tom Davin
CO-CEO of Black Rifle Coffee Company
March 28. 2019

Tom Davin is a former Marine Corps infantry officer who has spent 25 years as a senior executive, investor or board member of fast-growing, category-defining brands including Taco Bell, Panda Express, Oakley, Zumiez and 5.11 Tactical. Jim Loehr, sports psychologist and NY Times bestselling author of The Power of Full Engagement, says, “Tom has a very unique combination of strengths: Special Forces background, strong values, a relentless spirit of adventure, a warrior’s perspective on taking on tough projects, and confidence that things can be done.”

In January, Davin joined Black Rifle Coffee Company to partner with founder and US Army Special Forces veteran Evan Hafer to accelerate the company’s pursuit of its mission to become the most mission-focused Direct-to-Consumer subscription coffee company in the world, while giving back to military and veteran communities. Davin joined 5.11 Tactical as Chairman in 2010 and became Chief Executive Officer in 2011. He transitioned into an advisor role in September 2018 and continues as a major shareholder.

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Riley Csernica
Owner of Csernica Consulting & CO-Founder of Tarian Orthotics
Feb. 21, 2019

Riley Csernica is the owner of Csernica Consulting, LLC and specializes in marketing operations consulting for healthcare and technology firms. Csernica additionally served as Adjunct Professor of Entrepreneurial Studies at the College of Charleston, where she taught New Venture Planning.

Csernica is also the Co-Founder of Tarian Orthotics, a start-up that commercialized a shoulder brace she co-invented as a bioengineering undergraduate. She has also assumed roles in marketing and sales operations for Soteria, a Charleston-based cybersecurity firm. Passionate about inspiring and cultivating the next generation of entrepreneurs, Csernica actively serves as a public speaker and volunteer advisor for college students who manage business or have a general interest in entrepreneurship.

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 Riley Headshot

Matthew Holguin
Owner and Founder of Working to Give
Feb. 8, 2019

Matthew Holguin is the Founder and CEO of Working to Give, who defines the success of business by how much it gives and not how much it makes.

Matt is passionate. He is relentless, inspiring, scatterbrain and consumes too much protein powder. Matt is a humble leader and is the biggest lover of people you will ever meet. He is family-loving a serial entrepreneur and has never met a stranger in his life.

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David Webster
Director of Sales of Samsung NeuroLogica
Nov. 9, 2018

David Webster is an executive and Strategic Leader with an established record and true passion for defining vision and guiding early-stage companies to dynamic global expansion, growth, and acquisition. Demonstrated success in taking startups from concept through scale-up to worldwide operations and success in the highly competitive medical device and life sciences space.

Highly successful in building international distributor and US channels to deliver dynamic growth and industry-leading performance. Leverages reliable instincts and abilities to quickly sum up business needs, create order from chaos, formulate strategy, and execute on-plan to achieve rapid growth.

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Ian Blair
Founder and CEO of BuildFire
Oct. 12, 2018

Ian started BuildFire in college, 5 years later we’re 25 employees and power thousands of apps in the app store. Blair has been responsible for all the growth, customer acquisition and marketing at BuildFire. He’s raised $3mm thus far and are one of the leaders in this industry.

BuildFire is a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) Platform that enables businesses to rapidly build mobile apps, save costs, reduce risk, and create engagement with their audience. No coding skills are required. Our intuitive system powers thousands of apps and helps hundreds of businesses build mobile apps every day.

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 Ian Blairssm

  2017 - 2018 Academic Year
Innovation & Entrepreneurship Speakers 

Sallie Halsey
Brand Ambassador for BotKeeper
April 5, 2018

Sallie began her career in real estate at Carriage Properties where she was the recipient of the Rookie and Director's Circle Awards. She has since taken a position with a Fin-Tech startup based out of Boston called botkeeper. In her role as a Brand Ambassador she is responsible for building brand awareness throughout the Southeast and establishing both herself and botkeeper as a community resource in the accounting space.

She is currently involved with the Harbor Entrepreneur Center's Accelerator (Cohort 9), as well as, community organizations like 1 Million Cups, which help entrepreneurs and startups refine their business models and pitches. Sallie is a fifth generation Charlestonian. She is a graduate of the College of Charleston with degrees in Psychology and Art History. Her father Richard is a 1973 graduate of The Citadel.

Grace Eleyae
Founder & CEO of Grace Eleyae (Satin Lined Caps-SLAPS)
March 20, 2018

SLAPS was born in 2012 after a trip to Africa where Grace noticed her hair was directly exposed to harsh conditions, like that of the Kenyan heat and the constant bouncing against a headrest that was sucking the moisture out of hair. When she returned home to the States 3 weeks later, the entire middle section of her hair had broken off. Satin Lined Caps was the solution to this problem.

These versatile, stylish caps were designed to combine style, comfort and functionality. The satin lining keeps the hair moisturized, protected, and even tangle-free when resting. With the help of a few well-targeted Facebook ads, the popularity of SLAPS exploded in 2016 and the fans have nothing but great things to say.

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Robert Wood
Chief Security Officer of SourceClear
Nov. 17, 2017

Robert Wood is a security technologist, strategic advisor, and speaker. He currently leads the security efforts as Chief Security Officer at SourceClear, helping empower the open-source software community to create more secure software along with the many organizations that rely on it daily. Previously Robert led the security and compliance initiative at a healthcare company, helping to protect the personal information of tens of millions of Americans.

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Bethany Lerch 
Former Military Advisor to Coalition Troops in Kabul, Afghanistan
Oct. 23, 2017

Bethany Lerch is a former military advisor at NATO HQ in Kabul, Afghanistan. As a military advisor, she facilitated coalition trips to and financial support of a Kabul based orphanage. While there, she regularly trained multinational audiences on gender integration, resource management, Afghan culture, and functionally based security force assistance.

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James Phelan
CFO of the Ratkovich Real Estate Company
Sept. 29, 2017

James Phelan is the CFO of the Ratkovich Company, a Los Angeles based real estate development company that engages in both new developments and imaginative reuse of existing buildings. The company focuses on the acquisition of mixed use properties where it can develop a combination of office, industrial, retail, residential, and hotel uses.

The firm has completed or has under development, nearly 18 million square feet of commercial space in Los Angeles County including 18 buildings, eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.

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