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.
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
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.
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.
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 Founder 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.
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.
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.
Carol Spindler O’Hara
Carol is the Managing Partner of BPM’s North Bay Practice. In addition, Carol is the Consumer Products and Wine Industry Leader for BPM. She spends 90% of her time serving clients, including wine, food and craft beverage industry related companies.
Carol brings more than 25 years of experience delivering services to a wide spectrum of industries, including agricultural, wine and vineyard land, manufacturing and consumer products. Prior to joining BPM, Carol spent 18 years, seven as a partner, with KPMG in San Francisco and London. Her responsibilities included overseeing services to Wells Fargo & Co.
Carol O’Hara holds an active CPA license in California.
Lisa Curtis is the Founder & CEO of Kuli Kuli, the leading brand pioneering the superfood moringa in the US market. Moringa is a leafy green more nutritious than kale that provides anti-inflammatory benefits rivaling those of turmeric. Kuli Kuli’s bars, powder and shots are with moringa sourced directly from women’s cooperatives and small family farmers around the world. Lisa has grown Kuli Kuli from a Peace Corps dream into a multi-million dollar social enterprise that sells delicious moringa products in over 7,000 stores. Lisa and Kuli Kuli have been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes and hundreds of other publications. Prior to Kuli Kuli, Lisa served as the Communications Director at Mosaic where she managed a team of six to grow the company from zero to over $5M invested in solar. Previously, Lisa wrote political briefings for President Obama in the White House, served as a United Nations Environment Programme Youth Advisor and worked at an impact investment firm in India. She is a regular contributor to Forbes and, in her youth, was recognized as Forbes 30 Under 30.
Dan Kurzrock is the co-founder and “Chief Grain Officer” of ReGrained. ReGrained is an ingredient company and packaged foods innovator that rescues and upcycles of high-protein high-fiber grain generated by the brewing industry into SuperGrain+ flour. SuperGrain+ is versatile ingredient that produces delicious, nutritious, and highly functional foods from savory to sweet applications. Dan created ReGrained out of his hobby for homebrewing beer, where he first discovered that so-called “spent” grain could be given a delicious second life as food. He is now obsessed with better aligning the food we eat with the planet we love through Edible Upcycling.
WHITE ROAD INVESTMENTS / CLIF BAR & COMPANY
Jenn is both a principal at White Road Investments, a venture capital firm, and a manager of corporate development at Clif Bar & Company. Founded by the co-founders of Clif Bar, White Road invests in and partners with mission-driven entrepreneurs building sustainable ventures in the natural/organic food and beverage, and outdoor industries. Prior to these roles, she was a management consultant working with foundations and non-profits on environmental grant-making strategies and start-up operations, and an investment banker at JPMorgan. A graduate of UC Berkeley, she lives in San Francisco with her husband and young son, and together, they are always planning their next international adventure or local Bay Area hike.
FORTIS SOLUTIONS GROUP
As an Account Executive with Fortis Solutions Group, Laurie is passionate about supporting her customers in identifying optimal packaging solutions for their products. She has clients in the food, beverage, personal care, nutraceutical, and cannabis industries.
Having previously worked as a Nutrition Specialist with Abbott, supporting the Pediatric Hospitals in the Bay Area, it became incredibly clear to Laurie how important nutrition is to development of our brains and bodies. Being vested in understanding the science behind how nutrition impacts our health and well-being logically lead her to the natural products space.
Laurie has a MS in Industrial and Organization Behavior from San Jose State University. She lives in Aptos with her family and three dogs. Want to see her smile? Ask her about tennis, her Airstream, or fly fishing.
HEFFERNAN INSURANCE BROKERS
Pete Picetti is a 32 year insurance veteran. Pete specializes in supply chain risk management through a consultative approach. Pete holds a Bachelors degree in Psychology from Dominican University and is a Certified Insurance Counselor through the National Alliance, he’s a partner at Heffernan Insurance Brokers and manages their CPG/Food Practice. Pete and his team have helped a variety of CPG products from Cosmetics to Pet Food. He’s an expert on building Product Recall and Global Supply Chain Risk Analysis Platforms.
Mary Tarczynski has 25+ years of experience leading cross-functional teams to build equity and drive sales for CPG brands including Coca-Cola, Kraft, Clorox and Campbell’s. She left corporate marketing to spend four years in emerging ad tech; then in 2016 co-founded Parabolic, a shopper marketing agency offering “ideas with trajectory” – integrated strategies, concepts and activations to help established and emerging natural brands sell in and sell through at retail.
Mary is an advocate for diversity in leadership and serves as Co-Chair for the Network of Executive Women Northern California Region and as an Executive in Residence at Plug & Play Tech Center, advising consumer brands and ad tech startups.
She and her husband live in Rockridge (Oakland) and are the parents of a Brown University graduate, UCLA student and high school senior. When not working, volunteering or traveling for fun, Mary can be found running or hiking on Bay Area trails.
CIRCLEUP GROWTH PARTNERSAditi is a partner at CircleUp Growth Partners, a data-driven venture fund focused exclusively on early-stage consumer. She serves on the board of Pop & Bottle (a plant-based beverage company) and is an observer on the boards of Nutpods (plant-based creamer) and Peach (a direct selling athleisure business). Previously, Aditi was the Director of New Products/Incubator at La Colombe Coffee, where she led the R&D and pilot production teams in an effort to rapidly launch new products across the company’s four channels (CPG, retail cafes, food service/hospitality, and eCommerce). Before La Colombe, Aditi worked at Blue Apron in Operations and was an investor at Stripes Group, focused on technology and consumer products. Aditi started her career at Morgan Stanley, first in investment banking and then was one of the first hires at Morgan Stanley Expansion Capital, a consumer and tech growth equity fund. Aditi has an MBA from Harvard Business School and a dual degree in Biomedical Engineering and Economics from Brown University.
Jen Berliner is the CEO of Medlie, a leading fresh vegetable snacking platform incubated by Sonoma Brands. She’s passionate about making convenient, truly healthy food more accessible to all.
Berliner joined Medlie (formerly ZÜPA NOMA) in late 2016 from PepsiCo, bringing strong experience in growth strategy, insights-driven innovation, and channel and customer specific marketing programs. During her time at PepsiCo, she grew Mug Root Beer, Manzanita Sol, and SoBe; commercialized multiple “better for you” Foodservice innovations, and led Shopper Marketing at top retailers for three of PepsiCo’s $1.5B+ food & beverage portfolios.
Prior to joining PepsiCo, Berliner developed integrated marketing campaigns at GMMB, a communications strategy firm in Washington, D.C. She has also consulted for Google Food, where she led qualitative research into employee eating habits and provided recommendations implemented at the corporate level to improve food choices. Berliner earned a B.A. in Political Science and French from Vanderbilt University and an MBA from the Yale School of Management.
John has nearly 17 years of investment experience, with a focus on private equity and venture capital. He has been an active investor in food and food-related businesses ranging from restaurants to CPG companies. He is currently affiliated with Altamont Capital Partners, a private equity firm focused on making investments in middle market companies. Prior to Altamont, John was a portfolio manager with Hall Capital. He was also an investment professional with Hamilton Lane and a member of the investment research group at Cambridge Associates. John is a graduate of Colby College as well as the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College. He and his wife live in San Francisco with their dog, Jane.
Andrew is Research Fellow – New Business Development Unit at the Clorox Company, where he explores new-to-Clorox business opportunities, identifies acquisition targets, and performs diligence for M&A transactions. This keeps him on his toes as he is continually assessing new markets, consumer needs, and technologies, with a focus on the Holistic Wellness, VMS and Personal Care spaces.
Other Clorox roles include Technology Partnerships COE, and R&D Lead of the Foods Emerging Brands team. He had the most fun with the latter, launching >40 foods products in the baked snacks, salad dressing, marinade, cooking sauce, salsa and meal kit categories for the Soy Vay, Nueva Cocina and Hidden Valley brands. The above is built upon a foundation of academic and government research experience: PhD Chemistry at Stanford, and pathogen detection technology researcher at Sandia National Laboratories.
Outside of work he is an explorer, foodie, DIY-enthusiast, soccer fan, and Dad.
BIG ROCK GROWTH ADVISORS
Kevin Cleary is a results-driven, people leader with a successful track record at private and public companies. His focus on vision and strategy is brought to life by successfully aligning all executional elements throughout an organization. He’s an effective team builder and inspirational leader who believes strong culture is the key ingredient to long-term success.
Currently, as Principal at Big Rock Growth Advisors LLC, he helps CEOs and companies drive and manage growth, while developing healthy cultures to ensure long-term success. Much of his advisory work is in leading organizations through the strategic planning process while also helping them create highly effective C-Suite teams.
Previously, as CEO at Clif Bar & Company, Kevin was instrumental in building Clif from a small company to the leader in the healthy snack food category. With a relentless focus on strategy, execution and culture, he built a multiple bottom line organization that won awards for green business, “Great Places to Work” and sustainable agriculture.
Pete and his wife, Maria, co-founded Soñar! Foods, and make the only organic certified grain free tortilla chips — delivering 3 grams of protein, 5 grams of fiber, and only 8 grams of net carbs, with at least 1% of annual sales going to support the Latino community. Pete brings his 20+ years of Consumer Packaged Goods experience to this venture and our board – having worked on top brands and initiatives at the Gallo Winery and on iconic food brands like Kashi, Morningstar Farms, Gardenburger, Eggo, Foster Farms Organic Fresh Chicken, Del Monte, and most recently Zola – a non-GMO and organic plant-powered hydration brand.
ASPECT CONSUMER PARTNERSIan Malone is a Director and a founding member of Aspect Consumer Partners. He has over 18 years of finance, investment banking, M&A and operational experience in consumer products, food & beverage, real estate and technology. Ian specializes in advising growing consumer products companies on mergers and acquisitions, corporate finance and other important strategic matters, with a particular emphasis on companies in the food, beverage, wine, beauty and personal care sectors.Prior to co-founding Aspect Consumer Partners, Ian was a Senior Vice President with Global Wine Partners, where he led execution on a number of M&A transactions in the wine and craft beer industries. Previously, he was a Managing Director at Premier Pacific Vineyards, one of the largest developers of premium vineyards, where he worked in corporate strategy, finance and portfolio management. Ian began his investment banking career at UBS Investment Bank advising companies in the Technology sector on M&A and corporate finance.Ian received his Bachelor of Arts from Kenyon College, and also attended Oxford University (St. Catherine’s College).
Willis Davis is a partner at the Burbank Group at Morgan Stanley Private Wealth Management, a team focused on financial planning and the management of permanent capital for the founders of food, beverage, and consumer products companies and private equity and investment banking professionals. Willis and the Burbank Group manage over $2.0 billion and have been recognized by the Financial Times as one of the Top 400 Advisory teams in the United States every year from 2013 to 2020. Willis holds the Chartered Financial Analyst designation (CFA) and graduated summa cum laude from Hampden-Sydney College. Prior to joining the Burbank Group, Willis worked for Morgan Stanley in New York and Washington DC where he advised high net worth families and institutions.
Willis enjoys running, reading and fly fishing and is actively involved with the San Francisco Riptide youth lacrosse program. Originally from Virginia, Willis currently resides in the Russian Hill neighborhood of San Francisco.