Mentors and Presenters
The National Down Syndrome Entrepreneur Academy would not be possible without the help of our mentors and presenters. Local business executives and community leaders from throughout Central Florida have volunteered their time and expertise to mentor and present to our Self-Advocate CEO’s and their Sidekicks. A huge thank you to our 2018-2019 mentors and presenters. You can check them out below!
Dr. Rollan Roberts
Dr. Rollan Roberts is an internationally-renowned, best-selling author, CEO, media personality, and former CEO of the Hoverboard company - the single, hottest, global consumer product of 2015. He has a Doctorate degree in Global Business and Entrepreneurship, founded the CEO Entrepreneur Cruise, and is the host of iHeartRadio’s only national business call-in show, Courageous!
Jim Atkinson is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Progressive Abilities Support Services (PASS). In June 2011, he set out to build a customized supported employment service that would allow individuals to create and reach a loftier set of goals - the job seekers would be in charge and would get to craft their own job-finding process with a coach there to assist and advise them every step of the way.
Julie Kleffel is Seacoast Bank's EVP, Community Banking Executive. As a fourth generation Central Florida native Ms. Kleffel has strong ties in the community. Most notably, she has been honored as 2017’s Business Executive of the Year by the Orlando Business Journal in their Women Who Mean Business Awards and has also received the Barbara Roper Advocacy Award from the Central Florida YMCA.
Mr. Jeremy Sisson, MBA is the Chief Executive Officer of Evan James & Associates, which is an award-winning, full-service, commercial real estate brokerage headquartered in Central Florida. He’s also a principle partner in the upcoming 1.1 billion dollar, LEED certified, Vertical Medical City project in Downtown Orlando. He was recently featured in the June 2018 issue of the Orlando Family Magazine as a 2018 Man of the Year.
Anissa King is the President & CEO of the Ms./Mrs. Corporate America Competition; a unique platform that honors professional women that work in the corporate domain or manage their own business. Ms. King has 15+ years’ experience in Public Relations, Marketing, & Event Management. Ten years ago, she started a non-profit organization called Camp David Community Center which is a safe haven for at-risk youth to learn, grow, and play.
Lisa Manzi is the founder of Inner Artist, an online platform that helps people create their own customized artwork and find their Inner Artist. Lisa worked 20 years as an Interior Designer at Elizabeth Roland Designs which she also founded. After a successful career helping clients design homes and commercial projects, Lisa now has built a website that enables people to design their own artwork and accessories for their personal and business spaces.
At 30, Kevin opened Trend Kitchen in Indian Harbour Beach, Florida. Kevin sold Trend after 2 years for a profit in 2015. Currently, Kevin works for Penn Mutual as a Financial Advisor, where he has been awarded Platinum Pace Setter and the President’s Scholarship. He also founded Trust Financial and Property Group, and is the Managing Partner at the Viera, Florida based firm. Kevin has also been working on a cryptocurrency startup.
David has a background in IT, as he worked for a few different companies and proceeded to start his own Software Training company as a partner of Dell. In 2015, David started SANDBONI with his father. SANDBONI shaved ice carts were designed with an ECO-friendly “GO-Anywhere” concept for serving customers. What makes SANDBONI so unique is that it is a completely self-contained motorized vending cart, so there is no pushing or pulling!
Charles G. Pennant, II is Area Sales Manager for D.R. Horton Polk County. He has 23 years of sales, customer care, marketing and management experience. Charles holds a degree in Political Science. He is a licensed Real Estate Broker, Certified Speaker/Trainer and lover of all things Central Florida. For the past 4 years, Charles has been speaking and training Real Estate Professionals on how to grow their business with New Home Sales.
Patrice is the founder of Something Fishy, which specializes in fresh seafood cooked to order that’s grilled, seared or fried, and served in a variety of selections from delicious fish tacos to decadent crab cakes. The ever-evolving menu, crafted by self-taught, skilled Chef and Owner Terence Phillips, features starters, salads, build-your-own fishy bowls and classic seafood entrees with fresh flavors and innovation served straight from “Chef T’s” kitchen.
Cori Palka opened Downtown Divas in 2002 as part of a lifelong dream to own her own boutique. Her goal was to help empower all women to feel beautiful and confident. With this dream-like vision, sparkly-pink personality, and her ability to push the limits of fashion and beauty, she paved the foundation for Downtown Divas. Fifteen years later, Cori has turned Downtown Divas into a place where women can become the best version of themselves.
Adriana is the founder and COO of JA Interpreting Services, which provides interpretation services and advocacy to the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. Adriana oversees all aspects of the company including procurement, budget planning, communications, events, contract negotiations, financials, rebranding, interpreter recruitment, organization, etc. Adriana is also a CODA (Child of Deaf Adult) and speaks three languages fluently.
Program Director, Mentor
A 2016 UCF "30 under 30" Alumni award winner, Ryan Rapolti is a businessman and philanthropist. Ryan is currently the President of the international telecom and voice service company, Magic Telecom, which has offices in the USA, UK, and Philippines. In addition to telecommunications, Ryan also has helped create multiple businesses in the areas of real estate, property management, and business consulting. Ryan's true passion is giving back to the community and he is involved in several non-profit organizations. Diverse, multi-industry business and entrepreneurial experiences have allowed Ryan to establish a track record of strong strategic leadership, execution, team building and individual accomplishment.
Vanessa Zabala serves as the Director of Impact Development for the Orlando Economic Partnership, leading the organization’s internal intrapreneurship initiatives and deploying innovation capacity programs to external stakeholders. Vanessa has worked with business and micro-financing in Ghana, economic development in Chile, and private equity investment in D.C., among other projects. Vanessa continues her involvement in the academic community as an adjunct professor at the University of Central Florida teaching social entrepreneurship. She is trilingual, speaking Spanish, English, and conversational French.
Keal is currently the Chief Marketing Officer of thumbprint. Before joining thumbprint, Keal was the President & Founder of Loba Creative, where he built a full-service marketing agency that focused on technology and the client experience. He has helped more than twenty organizations brand, re-brand and/or develop their marketing strategies. Prior to starting the branding agency, Blache has held other leadership roles as the Director of Enterprise Marketing and Branding at Insurance Office of America (IOA) and Assistant Director of Marketing for UCF Athletics.
Andrea began a new chapter of her career when she was appointed President/CEO of the Harvey and Carol Massey Foundation. She also took on the role of Sr. Vice President for Community Relations for Massey Services, Inc, the nation’s fifth largest pest prevention company. She has over 20 years of marketing, advertising and public relations experience with clients from varying industries. Andrea is a fervent advocate for educational advancement and the arts. She is a 2011 winner of the Woman of Distinction award presented by Girl Scouts of Citrus Council, and was also a 2012 nominee for the Orlando Business Journal’s Women to Watch award.