Emcee and Program Director
Poh Lin Khoo, CEO of Khoo Consulting
Poh Lin Khoo founded Khoo Consulting in 2020 with 20+ years professional marketing, communications and community engagement experiences to help organizations step into diverse spaces and better communicate with our multicultural populations.
Skilled at developing customized strategies, Khoo Consulting integrates deep-level diversity practices and lived-experiences to connect services and resources to our multicultural population.
Khoo Consulting also helps small businesses position their brands with unique value propositions. We educate clients so they are in full control of their decisions and collaborate with them to move those decisions to action.
A multi-lingual immigrant and self-funded first-generation college student, Poh Lin also coaches organizations to identify and eliminate structural barriers and create an equitable and inclusive culture that fosters authencity and productivity. Learn more at https://khooconsulting.com.
Khoo Consulting LLC is a federal and state certified minority woman-owned small business.
Jin Chen, Executive Director, Chinese American Chamber of Commerce – MN
A native of Fujian, China, Jin Chen moved to the US in 1991 and started his first job working at a restaurant in New Jersey. After working his way up from entry-level positions in the restaurant industry, he moved to Minnesota in 1996 and opened his first restaurant in Minneapolis in 1998. Over the next 9 years, he went on to open a total of 9 Chinese and Japanese restaurants and learned the ins and outs of the industry. While running his businesses, he became intimately familiar with what it takes to open a restaurant, including renovation and design, financing, construction codes, and business licenses.
In 2008, he used that knowledge to start a commercial renovation and remodeling company specializing in restaurants, retail, and service locations. After 14 years in the business, he has counted approximately 300 Minnesota businesses as his clients. If you’ve been to a Chinese or Japanese restaurant in the greater Twin Cities area, there’s a good chance you’ve seen his work. In 2021, Jin became one of the founding partners of Asia Mall, the first premier pan-Asian shopping center in the Twin Cities. Featuring Asian-themed architecture and décor, it will be home to over 20 food, retail, and service tenants providing a one-stop shopping and dining experience for all.
In addition to being a leader in the Minnesota AAPI business community, Jin is also the executive director of the Chinese American Chamber of Commerce – MN, a nonprofit organization that provides training and resources to Chinese- and AAPI-owned small businesses.
John B. Yang, Board Chair, Hmong American Chamber of Commerce – MN
John B. Yang is the owner and CEO of Vizion SEO LLC. Founded in 2011 and headquartered in Minnesota, his company provides digital marketing and website services. John’s extensive digital marketing experience includes working with small businesses and corporate Fortune 500 companies locally and globally. John is also serving in the US Air Force reserve.
- A Better Business Bureau Accredited Company, Vizion digital marketing services include: Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
- Pay Per Click (PPC) Google Paid Search and Display Advertisement
- Social Media Marketing with Paid Ads
- Google Analytics and Tag Manager
- Conversion Tracking, Sales Conversion, Event Tracking, A/B Testing
- Programmatic Advertising
- Integrated Media Buying and Management
- Traditional Marketing and Media
- Website Video Production
- Website Development and Design
- Website E-commerce
Award, Volunteer, and Certification
- Board Chair for the Hmong American Chamber of Commerce – Minnesota
- Board member of the Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce
- Advisory Committee for the Bloomington Minnesota Business Development Center
- Hennepin Workforce Leadership Council
- Honorary Board for the National Lao-Hmong Memorial Foundation
- Certified life coach, master reiki healer, meditation and mindfulness coach, and Air Force Resiliency assistant trainer
Brian McDonald, District Director, Small Business Administration (SBA)
Brian McDonald is the District Director for the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Minnesota District Office. Under his leadership, McDonald’s team facilitates SBA-backed loans, advocates and trains small businesses for federal government contracting opportunities, and works to improve entrepreneurial development to strengthen business growth across all 87 Minnesota counties.
Before joining the Minnesota District Office, Brian worked in Washington, D.C. for the U.S. SBA Headquarters Office of Entrepreneurial Development and for the U.S. Treasury CDFI Fund. Prior to federal service, Brian worked in private banking. Originally from Upstate N.Y., Brian went to Syracuse University for undergrad and Georgetown University for his Master’s degree, and resides in Minneapolis with his wife and two children.
Dr. Bruce Corrie, Professor of Economics, Concordia University
Dr. Bruce Corrie is an economist whose life’s work focuses on creating pathways to empowerment and wealth building for people with little access to power and resources. He developed a comprehensive framework for economic empowerment called the Policy Mandala. He offered data to illustrate the powerful role of the ALANA (African Latino Asian and Native American) people in a $1.4 trillion ethnic economy in Minnesota.
This data was used by both ALANA people in changing unjust structures such as in the construction of new legislative districts in Minnesota as well as policy makers to change their perspectives on the community from deficits to assets (www.empoweringstrategies.org). With others in the community, he pioneered an economic development strategy rooted in the cultural assets of people, called, Cultural Destinations (www.culturaldestinations.org). His views have appeared in local, national, and international media and publications. As Professor of Economics at Concordia University he offered students a multidimensional framework to analyze economic issues and served as a evaluator and mentor to academic institutions in India, China, Mongolia, and the US. He loves to travel and has visited over 25 countries in six continents.
Anjuli Mishra Cameron, M.S. (she/her), Research Director | Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans
Anjuli Cameron serves as Research Director at the Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans, an executive branch agency of state government. In her capacity at the Council, Ms. Cameron leads original research and policy advocacy work to inform the legislature and governor’s office about the economic, social, legal, and health status of Asians and Pacific Islanders residing in Minnesota. Prior to her work at the Council, Ms. Cameron conducted medical and public health research at the University of Minnesota and the University of Chicago. She has also worked with community-based organizations in Minnesota on advancing health equity, and co-founded Minnesota’s first South Asian free health clinic. Ms. Cameron holds a bachelor’s degree in neuroscience from Carleton College and a master’s degree in biomedical sciences from the Rosalind Franklin University of Medical Sciences.
Maribel Reigstad, Economic Development Specialist
Maribel joined SBA in 1994. In 2003 she transferred to the Minnesota District Office from upstate New York and brought with her a deep knowledge on SBA programs and services. Fluent in Spanish, Maribel runs entrepreneurial classes in two languages and assists with government contracting program management and outreach.
Cali Torell, Account Manager/Lead Writer, Goff Public
A business reporter turned communications pro, Cali understands nuanced and complicated subjects with ease and distills them into concise and compelling messages. As Goff Public’s lead writer, Cali is responsible for maintaining the quality of our written work, adhering to client standards, and elevating projects through creative and captivating copy.
Cali was trained as a professional journalist and spent the early part of her career covering higher education, real estate development, transit and urban planning for publications in North Dakota and Minnesota. Prior to joining Goff Public, she managed media relations, internal communications and social media for a Fortune 500 real estate company.
Sheena Yap Chen - Keynote speaker, coach, podcaster, consultant, and author on building self-confidence
Sheena Yap Chan is a keynote speaker, coach, podcaster, consultant, and author on building self-confidence. She currently inspires women through her award-winning podcast called The Tao of Self Confidence where she interviews Asian women about their inner journey to self-confidence. Her mission is to help Asian Women boost their confidence to live their authentic selves, help Asian Women create a voice in the world, and create a stronger representation for Asian women.
Sheena has been featured on MindValley, slice.ca, NBC, Manila Times and more. She is also the TOP 100 Filipinos to follow on LinkedIn for inspiration and learning in 2021. She is also the co-author of the international bestselling book Asian Women Who Boss Up.
Elizabeth Yang, Monetization Strategist & Sales Mindset Coach, Better With Company
Elizabeth Yang is an online monetization strategist and sales mindset expert helping service entrepreneurs grow online with consistent revenue in repeatable marketing and social sales systems with their teams. She’s the CEO of Better With Company, a high-touch business coaching and consulting agency. She specializes in high ticket sales and lead generation, high performance, leadership, and talent optimization. She has 10 years of experience in innovation and product marketing with Fortune 10 companies.
Elizabeth champions diversity with inclusive selling to maximize visibility and impact that converts. Happy sales start with the human connection to becoming the first choice for your ideal customers, nurturing and closing faster. She’s also the founder of Hmong Women Take on the World, a Global Online Leadership Summit that brings hundreds together to globally celebrate women and girls across 8 countries.
She enjoys helping clients become better leaders building winning teams and achieving organic sales growth with better customer experiences and communities. She’s trained in Neuro-Linguistics Programming (NLP), Tiny Habits, Gallup’s Builder Profile 10 Talents, and Predictive Index.
She lives in Minneapolis and enjoys reading, music, traveling, and hula hooping. Hearty laughs are what’s most incredible in her life and network. Connect at ElizabethYang.biz/BusinessCard
Matthew Lessard, Executive Leader
Mr. Lessard is an executive leader and entrepreneur with over 20 years of investment development, financial oversight, product market development, private equity, and international business experience. Matthew Lessard is an executive leader and entrepreneur with over 20 years of investment development, financial oversight, product market development, private equity, and international business experience.
- Strategic advisor to Agro Fund One, a global investment fund which collaborates with institutions and private enterprises to establish joint ventures and investments within the ag/food sectors.
- Founder and CEO of Nelore Technologies Inc., a company that partners with investors to commercialize innovative technologies within the global agriculture supply chain.
- SBDC consultant since 2020 working with startups and business succession planning.
- Board member and Treasurer, Red Wing Ignite, a non-profit focused on entrepreneur development.
- Founding member and served on the Board of Governors of GreenSeam.
- Former President of Aglytix, ag-tech startup with proprietary IP centralized around AI software that combined university research, industry leaders and leading technology partners.
- Founding partner and former managing director of MUB Nutricao Animal, a Greenfield cattle supplementation manufacturing business located in central Brazil ($19.8M capital raise).
- Led the Business Development department of Ridley Inc., a $550M+ agribusiness company reporting to the CFO and CEO in regard to business development activities including strategic market analysis, new product development, acquisitions, and joint ventures.
- Member of a private equity team that invested over $130M in equity acquisitions leading all aspects of the deal life cycle and working with management teams on strategic business development.
- Developed joint venture opportunities in Brazil, Mexico, South Africa, and Europe. Constructed business plans, led negotiations, analyzed financial structures and developed post-deal initiatives.
- Taken leadership roles in 17 transactions with total value of over $620M. Industries include agribusiness, animal feed and nutrition, software, food processing, and precision.
J. Kou Vang, President/CEO, JB Vang
J. Kou Vang become President of JB Vang in September of 2002. He brings with a wealth of experience in Finance, Accounting and Investment. Before joining JB Vang he was Vice President of Commercial Lending and an Investment Advisor Western Bank in St. Paul, MN. While at the Bank, he managed both a commercial loan portfolio and an investment portfolio. He was heavily involved in commercial real estate lending and development/construction projects. Prior to joining the Bank, Kou was President of an Asian food importer and distributor. He has held a number of other finance/accounting positions with other organization.
Kou is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin at Madison with a degree in Economics with a focus on financial models. Along with his real estate license, Kou also holds a Series 7 license (Investment) as well as a Life/Health insurance license and has been involved in real estate since 1995.
JB Vang, is a boutique real estate development company in St. Paul, MN. We develop for our in-house portfolio as well as offer third party services such as; Development Management (DM), Owner’s Representative, Asset Management (AM) and Facilities Management (FM).
JB Vang has experiences developing the following types of projects:
- Office/Retail Centers
- Industrial Properties
- Charter Schools
- Tribal Gaming, Tribal Health Centers and Tribal Offices
- Purpose Driven Organizations
- Religious Organization
JB Vang also has experience with the following types of financing tools:
- Low Income Housing Tax Credit
- New Market Tax Credit
- Historical Tax Credit
- Revenue Bonds
- Tribal Economic Development Bonds
- Insurance, Conventional, SBA, BIA and other Loan Guarantee Programs
- Capitalized Lease
Marshall Nguyen, Vice President Brokerage | Caspian Group
Marshall Nguyen is currently a Commercial Real Estate investor and Senior Vice President at the Caspian Group specializing in the Retail Investments and Brokerage services. When he began his career in CRE in 2017 with the Caspian Group he quickly recognized a need for representation within the minority community. With this in mind, he found an untapped market to make a significant sociological difference within his community. As his experience grows, he’s been able to represent and is partners with some of the largest clients in Minnesota and in the US- specializing in developing and adaptive re-use Asian community focus Lifestyle Centers, Big Boxes, and Regional Malls across the country.
He hopes to continue to help bridge the gap between future investors from Asia to Minnesota and throughout the US. Marshall introduced the first two story Asia Mall concept to Minnesota, spearheading this project as one of many inspirations from his travels throughout Asia. Born in Vietnam, his goal is to serve the unserved and to help his clients and partners achieve their dreams.
Marshall received many awards in 2022: including CRE Broker of the Year, Redevelopment project of the Year, and People’s Choice Award at the Real Estate Journal Award Ceremony (Oscars for CRE), where there were over 1,100 attendees. He has also been inducted in Finance & Commerce’s The Power 30; listing him as one of the most influential people in Minnesota’s commercial real estate industry. As well as being featured as a Cover Story on the Minnesota Business Journal.
Ying Sa, CEO Community CPA
Ying Sa was born in Beijing, China, immigrated to Canada where she received her accounting degree, before relocating to the United States. She started Community CPA in 1998 in Des Moines, Iowa, serving businesses and individuals with tax, audit, accounting, payroll, and business consultation needs.
The firm has grown to include branches in Coralville, Iowa, and Bloomington, Minnesota. Ying was appointed to the National Taxpayer Advocacy Panel, an Advisory Committee at the federal level to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in 2019, is a published author of her first book covering the essentials of a startup business called Appointment with Ying at 8am, and has recently been recognized by Accounting Today as one of their 2021 Managing Partner Elite.
Alevtina Zhaivoronok, The Office of Equity in Procurement, Minnesota
Alevtina Zhaivoronok is originally from Turkmenistan. She came to the US in 1999 and lived in several states before moving to Twin Cities in 2003, after graduating from Western Illinois University with a Master’s in Recreation Administration. She started working for the State of MN in 2016 with Public Utilities Commission, then worked for Minnesota Revenue in Collection Division, and started the new fun job as Vendor Specialist with Admin in February.
Mark Cooper, Minnesota Procurement Technical Assistance Center
Celine Chieu (she/her/hers), Digital Marketing Strategist, Institute for Advancing Health Value, Western Governors University
Céline is a passionate story teller and enjoys working in the digital marketing space. Her skillset consists of developing social media strategies, leading marketing campaigns/email campaigns, and graphic design. Céline currently works at Western Governors University (WGU) as a Digital Marketing Strategist, where she is strengthening the organization’s brand awareness, membership recruiting and business development practices. Before working at WGU, she’s worked at Georgetown University and Ohio State University. Céline has managed multiple platforms such as, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram for various brands. Outside of the digital media world, Céline practices yoga and hopes to one day teach yoga and medication to her peers.
Vivek Pandit, Co-Founder, Pedul
Vivek Pandit graduated from Brown University in 2020 and is now the co-founder and VP of partnerships at PeduL. As a recent graduate himself, he is passionate about cultivating the next generation of changemakers and entrepreneurs.
Earlier this year, he co-founded We Are Gen Z VC, a fund that helps coach and invest in extraordinary Gen Z founders. He is also the founder and host of the “501 Hustle” podcast, where he has interviewed over 50 Gen Z startup founders, politicians, authors, and influencers. Additional accomplishments include being the award-winning author of We Are Generation Z and giving a TEDx speech that highlights Gen Z’s soft power with social entrepreneurship initiatives.
Steve Thao, CEO, Creative Results
Creative Results, a real estate brokerage with a corporate in MN and two branch offices in Wisconsin that provides residential and commercial real estate services, small business sales services and investing. With 143 entrepreneurial licensed agents including corporate staff, in 2021 alone, Steven’s team closed a little over $206 million in sales volume. In addition to Creative Results, Steven Thao holds a MN General Contractor’s license and have been renovating since 2005. Steven obtained a Master’s Degree in Entrepreneurship through Jones International University and a Bachelors of Arts in Computer Graphics.
He has a passion for making a difference in others on a personal and community level which drives him to contribute to the community by sponsoring community events, programs, artists and creating events such as Joys For Toys, Fall Festival and Spring Cleaning. His passion also drives him to help individual entrepreneurs and smaller businesses scale up through internal trainings or simple networking to share information that could make a difference.
Liam Cher Yang, Founder, President and CEO of NorthStar Health
Young people are the future of this nation and our community. Liam founded NorthStar Health, a healthcare social enterprise startup, in 2020 to bring local aspiring young leaders to serve their communities while achieving their goals professionally and personally. He believes young professionals and leaders are often left out of the table when it comes to decision making and opportunities because they are often seen as undisciplined and inexperienced. Now of course, this only applies to certain individuals – case by case. Today in 2022, NorthStar Health consists of about 20 practitioners, 20 interpreters (care coordinators), 4-5 contracted licensed providers, and a small administrative team. They provide behavioral health services as well as community support services that often are not enough with the resources available already. They also have a food shelf, changing the way Food Shelves are traditionally to become more culturally competent and representative of the communities that live here in the Twin-Cities. Not only this, NorthStar Health’s international foundation, NorthStar International Foundation, hopes to develop vibrant communities abroad by also empowering local leaders to serve. Today, NorthStar International Foundation is in Thailand and hoping to expand to other SE Asian countries and potentially, Africa. Liam believes if we can empower local, grassroots young leaders, we will not only be building a stronger community, but the future of our community, state, and nation. NorthStar Health is a startup, and there are lots of changes and ideas that will be needed and to come to grow NorthStar Health, but above all, Liam appreciates and want to recognize that NorthStar Health is not about him, but the many leaders who are in it today for the long rewarding journey ahead of them working as a team and professionals to make a difference here and abroad.
Prior to Founding NorthStar Health, Liam came from the private equity/investment industry. He spent a few years working at Joseon Capital Group and growing its intern-led investment group from a team of 4 to 150 interns. After leading the investment division, Liam went on to grow the management consulting division in the East and SE Asian emerging markets. His strength is in private equity and venture capital, mergers and acquisitions, and startups. A few months later, Joseon Capital Group merged with an emerging financial group in SE Asia. By the time that he left, Liam grew Joseon Capital Group’s initial investment portfolio of $300,000 to about $100,000,000 of active investments and accounts.
In his free time, he likes to read business case studies, history, and philosophical books. He enjoys playing chess and Chinese Go, and volunteers in the community proactively. He serves on the board of young professionals at YouthLink in Minneapolis and other boards abroad. Liam is the oldest of 5, son of refugees, and first person in his family to attend college.
Chang Wang, Senior Partner, Kingsfield Law
Chang Wang is a partner at Kingsfield Law Office. He is licensed to practice law in New York, the District of Columbia, Minnesota, and federal courts. He specializes in business law and immigration law. Wang is an elected member of the prestigious American Law Institute (ALI).
In 2018, Chief Justice Lorie Gildea of the Minnesota Supreme Court appointed Wang as a member of the Minnesota State Board of Continuing Legal Education. In 2020, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz and Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan appointed Wang to the Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans to represent 43,000 Chinese Minnesotans. Wang holds adjunct and visiting professorships at law schools and business schools in the U.S., China, Austria, Australia, Italy, Switzerland, and Brazil. Wang has published seven books and numerous essays on law and Asian Americans.
Wang received the “Diversity and Inclusion Award” from Minnesota Lawyer; the “Diversity in Business Award” from Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal; “Asian Pacific Leadership Award – Outstanding Contribution Award” from Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans, the State of Minnesota; and “China 100 Distinguished Chinese Alumni Award” from the University of Minnesota.
Michelle Kwan, Owner, Keefer Court Bakery & Cafe
Michelle Kwan is the second generation owner of Keefer Court Bakery & Cafe. Her parents Sunny and Paulina Kwan started the Hong Kong style bakery and restaurant back in 1983. Graduating from the University of Minnesota in 2008 with a Bachelors of Individualized Studies she moved to China to teach English for 4 years. In 2018, she took over her family business and has made great strides with expanding their clientele through social media and offering vegan and gluten free options. Today the business continues to grow with a vast diversity of customers.
Dennis OuYang, VP of Sales, SYSCO Asian Foods
Dennis Ouyang graduated from the University of Minnesota with an Economics degree. Upon graduation, Dennis worked as a Business Analyst at Target HQ. Dennis has worked in three other positions at SYSCO prior to his position as the VP of Sales for SYSCO Asian Foods. Dennis enjoys fishing, camping and hiking, and one of his favorite places is the Boundary Waters in Northern Minnesota.
Pat Dotter, Minnesota Procurement Technical Assistance Center
Dao Her, Founder and President of DaoTech Solutions
May Yang-Her, Business consultant and Chief Operating Officer at DaoTech
Kathleen "Katy" Sly, Outreach and Marketing Specialist, U.S. Small Business Administration, Minnesota District Office
Kathleen “Katy” Sly is an Outreach and Marketing Specialist with the U.S. Small Business Administration Minnesota District Office. Katy joined the SBA in 2019 as a Presidential Management Fellow, serving in the SBA Office of International Trade in Washington, D.C. and later joined the Minnesota District Office in January of 2020.
Katy serves as the office training coordinator, SBDC Project Officer, liaison to the SBA Microlender and Community Advantage Lenders, as well as outreach lead to the Asian and Pacific Islander communities statewide. Prior to federal service, Katy worked for the State of Minnesota’s Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans and in the international development sector in South Asia.
Lance Walter SVP, Marketing and Communications, WBD
Lance Walter has spent the past 35 years living at the intersection of marketing, advocacy and strategic communications, rising to a leadership position at each stop on his professional journey. Over the years, he has served as chief strategist and overseer of communication plans for a wide variety of projects/ businesses in in a diverse set of industries.
As the Senior Vice President of Marketing and Communications at WBD, he oversees efforts to build awareness of WBD and the SBA 504 program. One of his major roles is to help translate banker jargon to English and open up new lines of communication directly with potential customers. His efforts have helped WBD become one of the nation’s top SBA 504 lenders.
Building on that success, Lance is now also overseeing the expansion of WBD’s non-profit partnerships. As a mission driven nonprofit, WBD invested over $400,000 in the past year in organizations aligned with its mission to grow businesses, create jobs and build communities.
Learn more about Lance on LinkedIn