Meet the InnoVentures Judges
Katie Kurfurst

March 10, 2019

What’s a competition without judges?

InnoVentures is the culmination of a three-month training program and competition where contestants hone their five-minute pitch with the help of Judges and Business Coaches teaching them the best techniques in public speaking and presenting. Even better, if they make it to finals, they go home with cash and prizes to grow their businesses.

Judges have seen InnoVentures contestants’ pitches evolve over the past few months. They’ve heard 30 entrepreneurs share their strategies to achieve their goals and grow their microenterprises. Judges score each pitch in five areas: innovation, entrepreneurship, feasibility, presentation, and community demand. Our volunteer judges provide constructive, specific feedback to each entrepreneur after their pitch to help make them more compelling.

Join us March 28th at the Columbia City Theater to see the culmination of their and our entrepreneurs’ hard work.

Thank you, InnoVentures Judges, for your time and dedication.

Our Judges bring a variety of backgrounds and experiences to their positions. This year we’ve brought together six Judges that are local business owners, leaders, and advocates.

Roz Edison

Co-Founder & COO of Marination

Roz is the co-founder and COO of Marination. Often called the Director of Many Things, Roz makes sure that the operations of Marination run smoothly across all locations. She’s known for making a spreadsheet for just about everything. Roz, who grew up in Athens, Greece, has an undergraduate degree in French and Masters degrees in both business and education. Prior to Marination, she served in Peace Corps Romania, worked in public education in Boston, and advised at the University of Washington. Roz loves data, street food and gadgets.

What do you think makes this competition unique?  

The intense coaching and mentoring offered to the entrepreneurs is a unique and a powerful investment and a “nod of confidence” in these aspiring business owners. Also, the diversity of the business owners who are being coached is greater than I have seen in other programs.

Pedro Gómez

Director of Small Business Development, City of Seattle

Pedro Gómez is the Director of Small Business Development at the City of Seattle. He leads a team of small business experts responsible for supporting small businesses in Seattle. Previously, Pedro served as the Boards and Commissions Manager for the Mayor of Seattle. He is the founder of the Washington Latinx Voters Alliance, a nonprofit that seeks to unleash the electoral power of the Latinx community and is co-owner of Hola Seattle, the only tour company that offers tours of the Seattle region in Spanish and Portuguese.

Why did you decide to be a Judge?

Ventures is a great organization that makes a difference in the lives of entrepreneurs every day. Through my work, I have the opportunity to meet some of the business owners that benefit from the programs Ventures has to offer. So many of them have such inspiring stories, so when I was asked to participate, there was no way I could say no the opportunity to participate in such a cool event.

Ximena Juarez

Owner of Dalior Aesthetics & InnoVentures 2017 Finalist

Ximena Juarez is the proud owner of Dalior Aesthetics, a spa located in Bellevue, WA. She is a Licensed Esthetician, specializing in the use of technology to reverse the signs of aging. Ximena has been in the industry for seven years and is an ambitious entrepreneur who seeks opportunities of growth everywhere she goes. Prior to her endeavor in serving people to reach their best selves, she served four years in the United States Navy. Juarez is originally from Bogota, Colombia. Ximena is a passionate business owner and a new Mom who loves to enjoy life to the fullest.

Why should people attend InnoVentures on March 28th?

Everyone should attend this event! To support the community, to support minorities, to support fellow entrepreneurs and really to embrace and motivate themselves to go after their dreams. This is also a great opportunity to learn more about Ventures and the programs they offer to help small businesses.

Fitsum Misgano

Owner of Fitsum-ism, Ventures’ Board Member, & 2017 InnoVentures Winner

Fitsum first became a Venture’s entrepreneur in July of 2016. Ventures’ courses and workshops have been essential to starting and growing her wedding coordination business, Fitsum-ISM Weddings. Fitsum is also a Ventures Board Member and was the Winner of our very first InnoVentures in 2017.

What do you think makes this competition unique?

When I think of pitch competition, I picture pitches for bigger start-ups. It has been amazing to see small businesses in our community pitch their ideas. It’s a nice change of pace.

Ilona Lohrey

Director of Membership, Outreach & Engagement, GSBA

Ilona Lohrey immigrated to Seattle, WA from Munich, Germany. She studied Business at the Ludwig-Maximilian-University in Munich and proceeded to work in the financial sector for 13 years, lastly as a Business Banking Manager in Seattle downtown. Ilona comes from a family of hard-working entrepreneurs and has a passion for small business owners and hearing their stories. Her love for the nonprofit world and entrepreneurs has brought her to GSBA where she is the Director of Membership, Outreach & Engagement and enjoys working with small business owners. In her free time, Ilona loves going on adventures with her wife, Susan and their Vizsla, Jax, cooking German food and watching documentaries.

What inspired you to volunteer?

I was a Judge for InnoVentures last year. I enjoyed it so much that I would love to continue this role for years to come. I enjoy hearing how micro and small businesses started their business from an idea and learn about their passion and what propels them. Being an entrepreneur takes guts, a dream and perseverance.

Matt Hill

Investing Manager, Laird Norton

Joining Laird Norton Company in 2015, Matt Hill is an Investment Manager working on a variety of assignments, including acquisitions, debt and equity financings, long-term strategic planning and portfolio monitoring. Prior to joining Laird Norton Company, Matt was a Senior Associate in the Valuation Services Group at Grant Thornton, LLP. At Grant Thornton, he conducted valuations for business enterprises, business interests, financial securities and intellectual property across various industry segments.

Matt, also known as ‘Tex’ around the office, was raised in Houston, Texas. He enjoys the occasional workout, playing golf and exploring Seattle with his wife Stephanie and their dog, Otis. Matt received his BBA in finance from Baylor University and is an MBA candidate at the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business.  He is a member of Seattle’s Association for Corporate Growth, on its Y20 Program Committee, and a board fellow at Evergreen Business Capital.

Why should people attend InnoVentures on March 28th?

InnoVentures is just a fun event. It’s not only a chance to support Venture’s overall mission, but a great opportunity to meet like-minded members of the community. Some of these entrepreneurs are taking a lot risk, and putting an immense amount of effort into something they’re passionate about. As a community, we should be there to support these achievements and encourage more entrepreneurs to think big through the Ventures program.