Women of Innovation
[ August 3, 2022 by Emma Barnhouse 0 Comments ]

Sarah-Allen Preston

Afloat founder Sarah-Allen Preston has always been a celebrator of relationships. As a professional event planner, she knew how important it is to celebrate your tribe and have fun doing it, too. But what happens when life takes crazy turns and often what is left by the wayside is the time spent celebrating and supporting the people you love? 

afloat was created after two deeply personal experiences – a son’s open-heart surgery and divorce – left Sarah-Allen wanting to show gratitude and thanks to her community but not having the time to do it. She realized that there was no solution that existed to help her support those going through hard times like she did AND celebrate the happy ones, too. 

So, she created it. And gifting became afloat’s love language. 

afloat is a gifting marketplace created to celebrate the people and businesses you love with the ease and convenience you crave. It’s a place where people can go to show someone you care, and it makes you feel good. At your fingertips, you can give gifts, support local businesses, and reinforce relationships. Better yet, afloat uses technology to make these things easy and enjoyable, and then everyone reaps the real-life reward of doing good and feeling good. 

afloat is a space to celebrate the most important and valuable part of life — relationships and connection — in a joyful and fun way. We’re on a mission to become the happiest space in the digital world, by connecting to the relationships that exist in real life. 

Community NavigatorWomen of Innovation
[ August 3, 2022 by Emma Barnhouse 0 Comments ]

Danica Hershberger

Nikka is a purpose-inspired leader and operational strategist who thrives on elevating businesses, professionals, and entrepreneurs to new levels of performance, vision, and mission.  

Proven track record of building customer centric organizations, collaborative and nimble cultures, implementing operational and systemic growth initiatives.  Innovative in approach and thought, Nikka excels in moving highly conceptual ideas into executable and thriving initiatives. 

Professionally, Nikka is currently the Managing Director at Dallas College Bill J Priest Institute.  Her main project is bringing an accessible, future-focused, and technologically advanced Innovation Hub to the DFW Community that drives long-term economic success for the area.  The Innovation Hub will serve as a central point for small businesses, workforce, corporations, and higher education to collaborate and engage.  She is also involved in sustainability initiatives at the college and creating sustainable, renewable, and agricultural programs and labs as part of the Innovation Hub offering.

Prior, Nikka worked with entrepreneurs and small business owners, as a Business Strategist and Consultant, helping them from ideation to realization, launching one company and moving another into development. She was the Director of Operations at Republic Elite, a countertop and cabinet Multifamily Construction company (post-merger) and Chief Business Officer of Elite Surface Innovations (pre-merger).  There she created, implemented, and managed the operating infrastructure for the start-up company, and helped the company grow from start-up to $8M in revenue in 4 years, and supported the company through merger and acquisition.  She was instrumental in developing a culture focused on project profitability, quality installation, and customer service.  She gained a solid foundation in consulting and business engagement while working with Arthur Andersen Business Consulting in New York City.

She has an MBA from Wake Forest University.  She was an active member of Junior League of Dallas, Toastmasters International, and all things fun!  She is also a Master Practitioner of Neuro Linguistic Programming and has been blessed to journey with sacred teachers. 

Community Engagement

  • Speaker – Guest on Local & Thriving Podcast, 2020
  • Speaker – GridNEXT 2019
  • Panelist – Alternative Funding Resources at The Capital Factory, 2019

Women of Innovation
[ August 3, 2022 by Emma Barnhouse 0 Comments ]

Anne Chow

I believe that ideas, invention and innovation thrive at the intersection of technology and people. Fortunately, most of my career has been spent expanding and enhancing this intersection, leading diverse teams across product management, strategy and planning, direct and indirect sales, customer care and operations, and marketing.

Nothing is more rewarding than developing and sustaining meaningful relationships – with clients, partners, colleagues, friends, and communities. These relationships can be greatly enriched by leveraging technology with creative solutions to establish and deepen our connections.

Each day, I have the opportunity to work with people on a local, national, and global basis. Together, we strive to drive the positive change that builds and transforms business across numerous industries all around the world. Through these varied experiences, I have learned that greatness can be sparked in many ways – and have made it my purpose to discover, foster, and enable this greatness in people, teams, and organizations.

Views expressed are my own.

KeynoteWomen of Innovation
[ July 26, 2022 by Emma Barnhouse 0 Comments ]

Anne Chow

I believe that ideas, invention and innovation thrive at the intersection of technology and people. Fortunately, most of my career has been spent expanding and enhancing this intersection, leading diverse teams across product management, strategy and planning, direct and indirect sales, customer care and operations, and marketing.

Nothing is more rewarding than developing and sustaining meaningful relationships – with clients, partners, colleagues, friends, and communities. These relationships can be greatly enriched by leveraging technology with creative solutions to establish and deepen our connections.

Each day, I have the opportunity to work with people on a local, national, and global basis. Together, we strive to drive the positive change that builds and transforms business across numerous industries all around the world. Through these varied experiences, I have learned that greatness can be sparked in many ways – and have made it my purpose to discover, foster, and enable this greatness in people, teams, and organizations.

Views expressed are my own.

Women of Innovation
[ July 14, 2022 by Emma Barnhouse 0 Comments ]

LaGina R. Harris

LaGina R Harris is an entrepreneur who focuses on social impact. LaRae Infinity strives to challenge the norm and support growth for women and the communities they are working in. She is also the founder of The Us Space, intentional innovation spaces for women of color, women-led businesses, & women-centric organizations to thrive.

LaGina is an accomplished event planner, visual artist, and a rising media personality. Her professional experiences include organizational consulting, training, facilitation, curriculum writing, and student retention. LaGina is the creator of the LaRae Infinity “Let’s Talk” podcast series and the host of the Stomping Ground with LaGina Rae radio show. “LaGina Rae” is often found moderating panels, hosting events, and interviewing people at award shows for organizations that are creating opportunities for social change.

LaGina recently completed the gBETA Houston Accelerator Spr 2022 cohort as the founder of The Us Space, where she focused on increasing membership, developing platforms, and utilizing her ecosystem to scale the business. Furthermore, she also won the Savage X Fenty Game Changer Duo Award in December 2021 for The Us Space’s first Member Powered Program, Melanin Minds Mental Health Conference, in partnership with a member business, all from the momentum gained from winning the Spr 2021 Houston Area Urban League Pitch Competition. Her philanthropic endeavors are paramount to LaGina. Currently, she serves as an Advisory Council Member for Choose To Do Inc., an Advisory Board Member for Lift Collective, and one of the organizers of Share The Mic Now Texas.

  • gBETA Houston Spring Accelerator: Cohort 2022
  • Black Girl Venture (BGV) Spring Fellowship: Change Agent Cohort 2022
  • Indeed SMB Luminary Fellowship: 2022
  • Savage x Fenty Gamechanger Duo Dec 2022
  • Lift Collective: Advisory Board Member (WOC Entrepreneur Initiative) Oct 2021 – Present
  • Choose To Do, Inc.: Advisory Council July 2021 – Present
  • Nerdy Girl Success: Board of Directors – Volunteer Co-Chair Jan 2021 – present
  • Whole Planet Foundation: Engagement Committee 2019 – 2021
  • IFundWomen of Color Crowdfunding Accelerator Program 2021
  • Graduate of Houston University SURE Program 2021
  • Graduate of HCC Business Plan Competition 2021
  • Graduate of HAUL Small Business University 2021; Competition Winner (tied) 2021
  • Summer 2021 Cohort Inaugural Supermajority Education Fund’s Majority Leaders

Women of Innovation
[ July 14, 2022 by Emma Barnhouse 0 Comments ]

Heather Gregory

Heather Gregory is an ecosystem builder, place maker, community organizer, and entrepreneur based in Denton, TX. Heather has served as the Director of Stoke Coworking since January 2017 and as owner since 2020 making use of her multifaceted background in entrepreneurship, nonprofit management, operations, event planning, and program development. In her time at Stoke, she has launched programs and events that help entrepreneurs connect with the people, knowledge, and resources they need to move their business forward. Prior to working at Stoke, she was the Director of SCRAP Denton, project manager at a full-service marketing agency, and the creator and owner of a food truck in Portland, Oregon. 

Women of Innovation
[ July 14, 2022 by Emma Barnhouse 0 Comments ]

Bessy Martinez

Bessy Martinez is the founder of Austin Latinas Unidas, a Latina driven community based out of Austin, TX. Through curated events, Bessy’s mission is to provide a space where ALL Latinas in Austin and surrounding cities can feel empowered, motivated and build unity through their culture. Bessy also started The Latina Group, a small PR & Marketing agency that supports LatinX small businesses and brands. She works with individuals and organizations to amplify their story through marketing and public relations so they can make an influential impact in their community.

Born in San Salvador, El Salvador her strong roots are her motivation to help others find and elevate their own voice. 

If she’s not connecting and building up her community, you can find her spending time with her veteran husband, two teen boys and Bandit her fur baby. She’s been featured in local articles and looks forward to spreading positivity through community and connections. 

Women of Innovation
[ July 14, 2022 by Emma Barnhouse 0 Comments ]

Christina Olivarez

Christina Olivarez is a two-time award-winning social media strategist and TEDx Speaker. She is the Founder & CEO of Christina SBG, LLC, also known as The Social Butterfly Gal and Co-founder of Hustle + Socialize.

After failed attempts to break into the TV News Industry, Christina realized something, hardly anyone in the San Antonio community was strategically using social media for business. After a final NO during an interview at a TV station, Christina decided to take her career matters and destiny into her own hands. She knew there wasn’t a “dream job” because it hadn’t been created yet. She had to build it. Christina spent the next year building out her personal brand & the foundations of her social media strategy business, which is now known as, Christina SBG, LLC.

Throughout Christina’s entrepreneurial journey, her reach & clientele has expanded nationwide. Christina has had the honor of winning prestigious awards in the social media strategy & tactics categories, working 1-1 with entrepreneurs, training thousands of executive leaders nationwide through her signature training series, and leading social media for one of the largest cultural festivals in the nation. In 2020, during a global pandemic, she had the privilege of presenting a TEDx talk called, “Reimagining The Way We Use Social Media.”

In addition to the work that Christina does with SBG, she co-founded a women’s entrepreneurship conference & community called Hustle + Socialize. Through continuing business education, opening doors to our professional networks, and facilitating leadership training, H+S creates a brave space for women to build the credibility, skills, network, and confidence to thrive as business leaders.

Hustle + Socialize brings women in business together at our annual summit, conference, and educational programming and events throughout the year. H+S is a home base for women at all levels of business ownership. Our community is made up of business beginners, business owners, and business builders.

While passionate about social media & women in business, I’m also very passionate about community organizing, mentoring youth, & civic engagement. She serve on the board for New Leaders Council – San Antoniois the Advisory Board Director for Latinitas San Antonio & serves as a Board Advisor for The Board Room Project’s “Youth on Boards” initiative.

When she’s not behind a laptop or working with clients, you can find her exploring San Antonio with my husband Pete! We love to travel, drink coffee at local coffee shops, go wine tasting, and explore what life has to offer!

Women of Innovation
[ July 14, 2022 by Emma Barnhouse 0 Comments ]

Jasmin Brand

Jasmin Brand is an award-winning marketer and serial entrepreneur who’s built a solid reputation as an out-of-the-box innovator and expert at the business of strategic collaboration and partnerships. 

In 2022, Jasmin was named Director of Innovation for the Frisco Economic Development Corporation. In this newly created role, she is responsible for fostering growth of Frisco, Texas’ existing innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem and working with the City of Frisco’s Chief Innovation Officer on establishing Frisco as a major national hub for venture capitalists and regional innovation initiatives and events. 

In 2009, Jasmin was bitten by the entrepreneurial bug and launched her first company – a creative agency (known today as The Start) that specialized in producing culturally rich content and experiential events. In 2017, she got her official introduction to the North Texas startup scene with an opportunity to lead one of the region’s first platforms created for the startup community. In 2019, she founded Her Texas, a tech-driven, statewide platform that provides female founders in Texas with access to community, capital and professional development.  

In 2021, she was accepted into Babson College’s Black Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership (BWEL) program, a competitive accelerator that provides Black women entrepreneurs the opportunity to engage with an inspiring community and a rigorous, experiential process that catalyzes innovative thinking and enables them to successfully scale and transform businesses. 

An alumna of Leadership Dallas, she currently serves on the Board of Directors for Per Scholas, a nonprofit that provides tuition-free technology training to unemployed or underemployed adults for careers as IT professionals. In 2021, Jasmin was named to the Executive Board of her alma mater, Southern Methodist University’s Dedman College. 

She is a previous recipient of the Minority Business Leader of the Year Award presented by the Dallas Business Journal and was the first ever recipient of the Young Professional Leadership ATHENA Award presented by the Dallas Regional Chamber and KPMG. 

Women of Innovation
[ July 14, 2022 by Emma Barnhouse 0 Comments ]

Tashara Parker

Tashara Parker is an Emmy award-winning journalist at ABC News in Dallas, Texas covering transportation as well as diversity and inclusivity-focused stories. Featured as one of WFAA’s preeminent voices, the Daybreak anchor brings experience, vibrancy and authenticity — capturing the attention of viewers in an engaging and informative way, all the while creating loyalty and social impact. 

Coined as a “community-focused storyteller”, Tashara is the go-to source for highlighting organizations and individuals who have historically been underrepresented and misrepresented in mainstream media. As a dedicated visionary and one of Dallas’ most influential voices, Tashara utilizes her platform to volunteer hundreds of hours to many organizations, including the Boys and Girls Clubs of America and her sorority, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Incorporated. 

In October 2020, Tashara sparked a global conversation following backlash for a natural bun hairstyle she wore on-air. Praised by viewers, her response achieved virality, igniting a national discussion surrounding natural hair discrimination, and evolving organically with the launch of her “Bun Ministry” movement — a rapidly budding space to celebrate, educate and empower individuals on the journey and love for all things natural hair. 

In the spirit of innovation, her acclaimed original series “Rooted” for the ABC network affiliate WFAA, was met with rave reviews for tenaciously tackling the taboo topic of Black hair and professionalism within the workplace. In amplifying this message, Tashara was quickly catapulted as one of the many universal thought leaders tapped for commentary and dialogue on the ever-evolving subject.  

With a dedicated following both on and off the air, the journalist is described by viewers as “someone who truly cares about people and this community”, recently earning her the honor of “Best Broadcast Journalist” by the Dallas Weekly. With this powerful mantra lighting her path, Tashara continues to carve her slate within the industry as not only a journalist, but also as a social innovator — bringing both DFW and the best in community storytelling to the forefront.