to all our team members
Davis Wright Tremaine LLP
Don is a strategic legal advisor and corporate counsel to emerging growth and middle-market Food & Beverage, Food Tech, and Ag Tech innovators and investors. His clients are based in the major U.S. food hubs, including the Bay Area, Boulder, Brooklyn, Austin and Los Angeles. His law firm, Davis Wright Tremaine LLP (DWT), has one of the largest food & beverage practices in the United States, with over 40 attorneys serving food venture entrepreneurs, emerging brands, larger food companies, and the private equity firms that invest in them, at every level of the food chain from “Farm to Label”. Don is a Founding Faculty Member and member of the Advisory Board of the Food Business School at the Culinary Institute of America (Napa Valley). He currently serves as the Vice-Chair of the board of Directors of KCETLink TV, the public television station in LA, and is a member of the Board of Directors of the American Technion Society – San Francisco Chapter.
Board Member participating in the CEO Council and mentoring. Zach is a 15 year veteran of the Natural Product Industry. He is the Founder and CEO of Navitas Organics, the leading and pioneering superfood snack and ingredient brand. After 15 years at the helm of Navitas he continues to be active in all aspects of the company including sales, marketing, finance and sourcing. Building a “team first” corporate culture is important to Zach, Navitas launched a company wellness program in 2013 and he can often be found in the onsite fitness center with his coworkers. He is excited to share his experience and network with the Naturally Bay Area community. Zach lives in Marin County with his wife, two sons and two dogs.
The Intertwine Group
Elliot Begoun is the Founder of The Intertwine Group, a practice focused on helping emerging food and beverage brands grow becoming scalable and investment-ready. He positions CPG brands to raise capital, build velocity, gain distribution, win share of stomach, and drive revenue. Catch him atin his role as a mentor and find his articles in publications such as the , , and
Morgan Stanley Private Wealth Management
The Burbank Hafeli Schiller Group at Morgan Stanley Private Wealth Management has focused on helping food, beverage and consumer products entrepreneurs prepare for success and manage their financial lives for over 25 years. Mike Burbank’s family co-founded Bristol Farms, which was acquired by Albertsons in 2004, and Mike experienced the challenges of growing a business, coordinating tax and estate planning advice, and diversifying after an liquidity event first hand. Today the Burbank Hafeli Schiller Group specializes in financial planning and the management of permanent capital for the founders of food, beverage, and consumer products companies and private equity and investment banking firms, manages over $1.7 billion, and has been recognized by the Financial Times as one of the Top 400 Advisors in the United States every year from 2013 to 2017. Mike is currently President the Board of Directors of Seacology, an international conservation organization that focuses on preserving island ecosystems and cultures around the world, www.seacology.org, and is a member of the Association for Corporate Growth, The Family Firm Institute, and the San Francisco Estate Planning Council. Mike lives in San Francisco, California with his wife, Cindy, and has three children.
Aspect Consumer Partners
Rodney Clark is Founder and Managing Partner at Aspect Consumer Partners, a boutique M&A, strategic and corporate finance advisory firm based in San Francisco, California. Rodney is passionate about providing companies and entrepreneurs with the right advice to help them grow and succeed, and has spent the past 20 years focused on advising companies in healthy, active and sustainable living. His experience includes a wide variety of strategic and financial advisory assignments including, buy- and sell-side mergers and acquisitions, public offerings and private placements and Rodney has completed over $67 billion in M&A and financing transactions across a number of key industries. Rodney lives with his wife and two children in Marin County, and in his spare time he enjoys trail running, yoga and surfing.
Encore Consumer Capital
Robert co-founded Encore Consumer Capital in 2005. He is Chairman of Encore portfolio companies Ancient Harvest and California Splendor, and a director of butter LONDON, LORAC and Navitas. Robert was the Chairman of former Encore portfolio companies Aidells Sausage Company, Caterina Foods, Isopure, PhillySwirl and tarte and was a director at Atlantic Aqua Farms and Thanasi. Prior to Encore, Robert was a partner at Swander Pace Capital, a private equity firm focused on investments in the consumer products industry. Robert previously was the Director of New Business Development at Foster Farms, where his responsibilities included the general management of Foster’s $75MM Prepared Foods Division and corporate development. Robert began his professional career in the consumer products industry in 1991 as a consultant at Swander Pace & Company, where over time he became a Principal. He advised consumer products companies and private equity firms on matters of corporate strategy, mergers and acquisitions and competitive assessment. Robert received a BS and an MS in Industrial Engineering from Stanford University. Robert is a native Californian and currently resides in Marin County with his wife and their three children. He is actively involved in his children’s schools and sports teams and enjoys water sports and exploring the outdoors with his family. Robert is a member of the Leadership Council of the Positive Coaching Alliance, a national non-profit developing “Better Athletes, Better People” by working to provide youth and high school athletes a positive, character-building youth sports experience.
White Road Investments
Deven is both the director of Finance at Clif Bar and Company and managing partner of White Road Investments. He has worked at Clif Bar for 14 years where he has held multiple roles focused primarily in finance and operations. Seven years ago, the founders of Clif Bar asked him and his partners to start White Road Investments, a venture fund focused on investing in healthy active lifestyle companies in the food and outdoor industries. His passions include biking, mountain running, skiing, stand up paddling, travel and the great food found in the Bay Area. He lives with his wife and two children in Marin County, California. Fun Fact: When not at work you can find him deep on trails of Mount Tamalpais running amongst the redwoods.
Lara Jackle Dickinson is Executive Director and Co-Founder of OSC2 (One Step Closer to an Organic Sustainable Community), a group of CEOs working together toward regenerative food and agriculture solutions. In this capacity, she co-founded and launched the Compostable Packaging Collaborative, the Climate Collaborative and Climate Day for the Natural Foods industry. She also runs Pluot Consulting where she deploys her 20 plus years of natural foods experience to work on executive level marketing, sales, and strategic planning with some of the most mission driven food companies in the world. Lara was the CEO of LightFull Foods, VP Marketing & Retail sales at Numi Organic Tea, and VP of Marketing at the Balance Bar Company before it’s acquisition by a major CPG company. Lara received an MBA from Cornell, a BS in Finance from the University of Southern California and completed graduate work at Oxford. She lives in Piedmont, CA with her husband, three young children and 8 chickens.
Arif Fazal is Founder & Managing Director of Blueberry Ventures, an investment fund focused on food & beverage that he launched in June 2015. Arif invests in and works with emerging and innovative food & beverage companies led by inspiring entrepreneurs and management teams and collaborates closely alongside similarly focused co-investors. Prior to launching Blueberry Ventures, Arif led Arif Advisors where he rolled up his sleeves with consumer branded growth companies and investors in the space, helping companies drive growth and investors realize opportunity. Prior to that, Arif held general management, strategy & business development executive roles within Fortune 50 grocer Safeway Inc. and Fortune 500 lifestyle brand Williams-Sonoma Inc. Arif holds a MBA from Stanford University and a BA from UC Berkeley and lives in beautiful Marin county where he spends his free time with his family enjoying food (of course!), sports and the outdoors.
Carolyn Stark’s passion is focused on giving back to her community by promoting economic growth through her leadership in trade associations, higher education, and in public private partnerships. She has led four different trade associations and economic development initiatives and participated as a director on a variety of community and nonprofit boards. In these roles, her primary responsibility has been to create enabling factors that promote the economic prosperity and quality of life of the region. Ms. Stark was the founding executive director of the Sonoma County BEST initiative, an economic development program created in 2011 as a public-private partnership. Under Ms. Stark’s leadership, BEST actively engaged business, education, and government leaders in the formation of Sonoma County’s post-recession economy. The North Bay Food Industry Group, aka “FIG” was formed in 2012 as an initiative of BEST to support the growth of the specialty food and beverage industry in the region. Now an independent non-profit, FIG has brought together companies, entrepreneurs and industry supporters to work together to make the North Bay the epicenter for the specialty food and beverage industry on the West Coast. Fun fact: Carolyn delights in back country horseback riding and participates regularly in long distance endurance races throughout the West.
New Hope Network
Carlotta Mast is the senior vice president of content and insights for Informa’s Global Health & Nutrition Network, which includes the New Hope Network in Boulder, Co. She is also the current board president for Naturally Boulder and sits on the boards of the Climate Collaborative, whose mission is to leverage the power of the natural products industry to reverse global warming, and of the Supplement Online Wellness Library (OWL), an industry-wide, self-regulatory initiative designed to create a rich and more complete picture of the dietary supplement marketplace for regulators, retailers and industry. Carlotta is a frequent speaker at natural products industry events and conferences and has been interviewed about natural products trends and market performance by The New York Times, NPR, ABC News, Business Week and numerous other media outlets. In 2013, Carlotta co-founded a paleo snack company called Wholly Bites, which hit the market well before Whole Foods Market and other retailers began adding paleo sections to their stores. Wholly Bites was sold in 2016 and is now marketed under the Thrive Tribe brand.
New Resource Bank
Gary is a member of New Resource Bank’s executive team and leads New Resource Bank’s Natural and Organic Products practice. In addition to having more than 14 years of banking experience, Gary has a commitment to socially responsible banking and impact capital. He currently serves as Board President for SFMade, was Pacific Community Venture’s 2014 ‘Advisor of the Year’, is an advisor for San Francisco Baykeeper and an advisor for Sustainable Surf. An active outdoorsman, Gary enjoys surfing the cold waters of Northern California.
Board member and Pitch Slam co-chair. Rich Grant is a co-founder and managing director of Touchdown Ventures, a firm that partners with leading corporations to manage their corporate venture capital activities. In this role, Rich works closely with several large corporations including The Kellogg Company (and their venture capital fund eighteen94 capital), and is involved in all aspects of the investment process including identifying, evaluating, executing and managing venture investments. Prior to founding Touchdown, Rich held corporate strategy, development and venture capital roles with Comcast, Sony Pictures and Lehman Brothers. A graduate of UC Santa Barbara and The Wharton School, Rich now resides in Alameda, CA with his wife Allison and two boys, Carter and Landon.
Wayne Wu is a managing director and partner at VMG. VMG works intimately with founders and leaders of branded consumer product companies, providing the resources and guidance needed to propel them to their next level of growth and value. Beyond capital, our value-added investment philosophy commits our deep experience, strategic guidance and passionate focus to help our partners accelerate growth, brand awareness and achieve their own definition of success. VMG has worked closely and successfully with brands such as Babyganics, Drunk Elephant, Humm Kombucha, Justin’s, KIND, Nature’s Bakery, Perfect Bar, Pirate’s Booty, Pretzel Crisps, Quest, Spindrift, Stone, SunBum, and Vega to name a few. The VMG team is excited to partner with the next generation of innovative, consumer product entrepreneurs, helping them to fully realize their founding vision to build iconic brands.
Board member and Founder of MISTA, a new venture funded by Givaudan, the world’s largest flavor company. MISTA, which means tasty morsel in Sanskrit, is much more than a traditional incubator. MISTA’s mission is to help startups optimize ideas, products, people and investments by connecting startups to a world class food and beverage development facility, capabilities and ecosystem located in the heart of San Francisco. Former VP of Innovation for Givaudan Flavors, Scott led efforts to define and implement the Front End Innovation program to explore what’s next for the 250 year old company.
Nutrition Capital Network
Mike Dovbish is the Executive Director and one of the founding members of Nutrition Capital Network, an investor and partnering platform for growth companies in health and wellness. (Acquired by New Hope Network, part of Informa PLC in December, 2016). Mike also provides strategic guidance to emerging sustainable health and wellness businesses and disruptive, consumer and ag tech companies assisting with strategy, capital raising, partnerships and business development.
Chris Fenster is the Founder and CEO of Propeller Industries, a leading provider of outsourced CFO and accounting services to emerging CPG, technology and services companies. Propeller currently handles over $1B in annual spending for more than 200 companies who have raised over $1.5B in capital. The firm has over 100 full-time professionals working from 6 US and 2 international offices. Current and alumni CPG clients include Krave Jerky, Sir Kensington’s, Chameleon Cold Brew and Kite Hill Foods. Consumer and tech clients include Casper, Giphy and TheSkimm. Prior to Propeller, Chris built and sold two companies in the outdoor industry and served in various CFO and operations roles for early-stage companies in consumer goods, e-commerce, food & beverage and financial services. He currently lives in Brooklyn, NY with his wife and two young sons.
CLIF Bar & Company
Michelle Ferguson is executive vice president of Food and Innovation for Clif Bar & Company, a family- and employee-owned company crafting energy food with organic and sustainable ingredients to feed and inspire adventure. Guided by the company’s five bottom lines – Sustaining our People, our Business, our Brands, our Community and the Planet – Michelle sets innovation strategy and leads new product development for all CLIF brands. Michelle draws inspiration as a foodie, an athlete and a mom to help craft trailblazing new products such as CLIF® Nut Butter Filled and CLIF® Whey Protein. Michelle joined Clif Bar & Company in 1999 as director of consumer research. In 2003, she was promoted to vice president of brand marketing, then to senior vice president in 2006. In 2009, she was promoted to executive vice president of marketing. Under her direction, Clif Bar grew to be a recognized leader in grassroots marketing programs that engage consumers and address important environmental issues. Prior to Clif Bar, Michelle directed research at Gatorade and served as managing director at M.B.L. Taiwan. Michelle holds a bachelor’s degree in international agricultural development from the University of California, Davis and a master’s in agricultural economics from Cornell University. She lives in Kensington, California, with her husband and two children.
Vanessa is the President of Cultivate Creations, a boutique marketing, strategy, and innovation consulting firm focused in driving expansive growth for emerging and established natural and organic brands. She is consummate advocate for the consumer perspective and loves smart design, breakthrough integrated marketing, and innovative ideas. Cultivate Creations has a deep appreciation for a 360 approach to everything it does, and takes the time and thought necessary to ensure that its work and ideas speak to consumers, retailers, sales organizations, trade partners, press, and internal audiences.
Vanessa is a native of California and holds an M.B.A. in Strategy and Marketing from UCLA Anderson. When Vanessa isn’t coming up with the next big thing, she can be found tending to her organic garden, experimenting in the kitchen, hiking up mountains, kickboxing, designing jewelry, and embracing her organic and natural food lifestyle.
Brett is a venture capital investor at Touchdown Ventures focused on consumer products and digital commerce, working closely with eighteen94 Capital, Kellogg’s corporate venture fund. Brett’s prior experience spans financial services to early-stage consumer facing ventures, allowing him to bring both an entrepreneur and investor perspective to the market. Originally from Philadelphia, Brett spent several years in Southern California and currently lives in San Francisco.
Encore Consumer Capital
Bill is a Managing Director at Encore Consumer Capital, a private equity firm that invests in leading consumer companies. He is a director of Ancient Harvest, Brownie Brittle, California Splendor and Navitas Organics, and was also a director at Thanasi Foods. Prior to Encore, Bill led corporate development for Nest Collective, a natural and organic consumer products company. He began his career at Swander Pace & Company (later acquired by Kurt Salmon), a strategy consulting firm servicing food, beverage, apparel, and retail clients, where he was a member of the firm’s Private Equity Practice and worked on multiple consumer transactions. After Kurt Salmon, Bill led the food and beverage practice of a boutique investment bank. Bill graduated with a BA in Public Policy from Stanford University. He currently serves on the Stanford University Athletics Board, and previously served as the Chair of the Stanford Associates Board of Governors, the Board President for Wu Yee Children’s Services (a non-profit social services agency), and was a member of the Board of Trustees of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society in San Francisco. Bill and his wife have completed multiple marathons and Ironman triathlons. They live in Marin County, CA with their twin daughters.
Akai Life, LLC
Jim Taschetta is the co-founder and CEO of Akai Life, LLC and a member of the Naturally Bay Area board. He is a 30-year CPG veteran with mix of large company and start-up experience. He started his career in brand management at Procter & Gamble. During his 10 years at P&G, including 7 overseas, Jim built a variety of brands and categories. While at Coca-Cola, Jim led a $2 billion-dollar portfolio of brands, including the Sprite, PowerAde and Minute Maid brands. As an SVP at Visa, Jim led the repositioning of the Visa brand and introduced a brand management system to the marketing function. Over the last several years he has focused on bringing his experience to helping small to medium sized companies scale. He was one of the first executives at the fin-tech start-up Yodlee, which went public in 2015. While at Bare Escentuals, he led product and marketing and helped position the company for a successful sale to cosmetics giant Shiseido. Most recently, he led the expansion of start-up Caveman Foods, helping them to become a leading provider of Paleo snacks. Jim received his MBA from Cornell University and lives with his wife and two children in Burlingame, CA.
Robyn Rutledge’s nearly two decade-long career in finance and investing has been concentrated in the consumer industry, with focus on food, beverage, and wellness-oriented companies. Robyn is the Founder & CEO of SBG Growth, a consumer-focused investment and advisory business. Through SBG, Robyn invests directly in consumer-facing businesses, often serving on the Board of Directors and as a regular advisor to the leadership team. Robyn also currently advises investment firms, entrepreneurs and other stakeholders on the consumer market landscape. Under the SBG umbrella, Robyn has also been serving a leadership role in CALM, an innovative startup backed by the University of California, which seeks to marry best-in-class consumer engagement, healthcare and technology. Prior to launching SBG, Robyn spent close to a decade with TSG Consumer Partners, a leading investment firm, where she was a Managing Director and Partner and subsequently an Operating Partner. Prior to TSG, Robyn was a member of the investment team at Thoma Cressey (now Thoma Bravo), and prior to that, worked in M&A at Goldman Sachs in New York. Robyn was born and raised in Canada and received a Bachelor of Commerce with First Class Honors from Queen’s University in Kingston. She subsequently earned an MBA from Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business, where she was an Arjay Miller Scholar. Robyn is a passionate believer in life-long learning and is pleased to have been part of the The Food Business School’s formation team at the Culinary Institute of America.
Matthew has spent the last 25 years building disruptive consumer brands that have challenged established categories with products that are better for people and the planet. As founder of Freeli Foods, Matthew’s current mission is to make nutritious, convenient food accessible to all families. Previously, Matthew was CEO of Kite Hill where he led the company’s transformation from launch to becoming the gold standard in plant-based dairy products. He was an early employee and CMO of Impossible Foods, a company developing plant-based options to one day replace our global reliance on industrially raised meat. He came to Impossible Foods after founding Fork in the Road Foods, a leading sustainable meat company. Matthew started his career in strategy at Starbucks and managed several food brands at The Clorox Company after earning his MBA from Cornell’s Johnson School. He and his wife also founded the first of its kind public Mandarin immersion school in California, Yu Ming Charter School. Rated one of the top charter schools in California, Yu Ming teaches Mandarin to over 450 students free of tuition.
Board member and Finance Committee Co-Chair. Monika is a CPA, Partner, and Food and Beverage niche leader at Armanino LLP, the largest independent accounting and business consulting firm based in California. After graduating from college, Monika began her public accounting career with Ernst & Young, working in the entrepreneurial services group, with a focus on CPG companies. Monika has a passion for nutrition and functional food and beverages that support a healthy mind and body, in addition to cooking and golf!
Ira Haber is the COO of Navitas Organics, a mission-driven pioneer of plant-based, nutrient-dense superfoods. In this capacity, he oversees all aspects of the company’s operational, finance and administrative functions. Ira previously served as CEO of Just Desserts, a nationally distributed bakery producing natural desserts. He has also held a variety of executive positions with Kraft, Alliant Foodservice and several software companies with solutions developed for the food and beverage industry. Ira began his career with PriceWaterhouseCoopers. He lives in San Francisco and has been a Bay Area resident for nearly 20 years. He also serves on the Board of Directors of Katalina Holdings which owns the Bubbies and Cook’s Pantry brands.
Over the past 10 years, Michael Anzalone has been leading the development of mission-driven communities here in the Bay Area. Michael joined the Naturally Bay Area team earlier this year to support this growing organization which serves Northern California’s thriving natural-products community.
In addition to his work with Naturally Bay Area, Michael also serves as Program Director for One Step Closer (OSC), a strategic member organization comprised of 25 CEOs/Founders of leading cause-based natural product companies, including Dr. Bronners, Guayaki, Happy Family, Numi Tea, Nutiva, and REBBL. Prior to his work with Naturally Bay Area, Michael served as Managing Director at Mission Hub, and the Managing Director of the David Brower Center, both progressive Bay Area based social action and enterprise communities.
Partnerships & Community Development
Cynthia Maxey oversees stewardship of Naturally Bay Area’s sponsors and development of its membership community. Cynthia enjoys building organizations and supporting early-stage Founders. She is Co-Founder of Food Funded and The Bay Area Food and Beverage Investor Fair, now in its ninth year. She currently serves with Better Food Ventures, an AgTech and FoodTech focused venture capital fund. Cynthia previously served as the first hire at Bee Partners, an early stage venture capital firm, where she helped grow the firm from $7M to $50M+ in AUM.
Cynthia is an avid supporter of UC Berkeley’s startup ecosystem where she has served as an advisor to the CITRIS Foundry and Berkeley SkyDeck accelerator programs, and produced the Berkeley-Haas Food Entrepreneurship Forum and the Berkeley Entrepreneurs Expo for numerous years, and was previously coordinator for CalFounders, UC Berkeley’s entrepreneurship alumni group. Cynthia has been recognized by the Haas School of Business with a Service Award for her efforts helping students excel in entrepreneurship.