Meet the InnoVentures Judges
Katie Kurfurst

March 11, 2018

InnoVentures is the culmination of a three-month incubation program that helps connect our business owners to the community. Contestants access new markets through brand exposure and networking opportunities and gain valuable training by working with volunteer Business Coaches on their business plans and public speaking. Our entrepreneurs benefit enormously from practicing these skills at InnoVentures, and they get to do so with a chance to win cash prizes to help grow their businesses.

Judges have seen InnoVentures contestants’ pitches evolve over the past few months. They’ve heard 22 entrepreneurs share their strategies to achieve their goals and grow their businesses. Each pitch is scored on five areas: innovation, entrepreneurship, feasibility, presentation, and community demand. Our volunteer judges provide constructive, specific feedback to each entrepreneur after their pitch. InnoVentures judges are coaches too – they give advice on how to make pitches more compelling. Thank you, InnoVentures judges, for your time and dedication.

Join us March 26th at Lagunitas Brewing to see the culmination of all of their and our entrepreneurs’ work.

Stacey Krynsky

Stacey Krynsky is a 13-year banker with a career focus on small business and nonprofit work. She is passionate about the community, participating on four nonprofit boards in the community that benefit Washington residents.

Why are you volunteering?
“I am volunteering at InnoVentures because local small business is where it all starts, and I want to give back.”

Why are you excited for the final event?
“I am excited about the final event because participating in the growth and development of a business is one of the most exciting things about this job.”

Ronny Mendieta

Ronny Mendieta joined Ventures’ Board in August 2017. He is also part of the Finance Committee and has coached several Ventures Business Basics courses. He is passionate about having a greater impact on Ventures by influencing the organization’s direction and growth through long-term thinking with a focus on client needs. Ronny joined Amazon.com in 2010 and is currently a Product Manager at Amazon Video.

Why are you volunteering?
“I love to see Ventures business owners succeed and I’m passionate about helping them get to the next level.”

Why are you excited for the final event?
“The final event is the best platform to see Ventures’ multiple efforts to empower business owners to achieve their dreams.”

Rachel Marshall

Rachel Marshall is the founder of the wildly popular ginger beer company that is also her namesake, Rachel’s Ginger Beer. The inspiration was derived from her time spent in Europe, where ginger beer was a staple in most bars. Learn more about why Rachel’s volunteering in her guest post.

Why are you volunteering?
“I’m volunteering because for me, mentorship has been more useful than anything I learned in a classroom.” 

Why are you excited for the final event?
“The final event is the culmination of hours of hard work and preparation.  I can’t wait to see what everyone has to present.”

Fitsum Misgano

Fitsum Misgano is originally from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and has lived in Seattle since moving to the US over 15 years ago. She is a client of Ventures, currently on the Board of Directors and the winner of InnoVentures 2017. She is also the owner of Fitsum-ISM Event Management, where she provides day-of wedding coordination services to DIY couples.

Why are you volunteering?
“I want to hear and learn about local small/micro business owners’ journeys, status and goals.”

Why are you excited for the final event?
“It’s the most nerve-wracking yet most rewarding to be up on a stage in front of 200 people. It’s exciting to see how pitches will evolve since the application process.”

Ilona Lohrey

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 downtown Seattle. 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.

Why are you volunteering?
“My reason for volunteering for InnoVentures is to support local small business owners.”

Why are you excited for the final event?
“I cannot wait to see entrepreneurs present their business ideas and innovations and change their lives and the lives of those around them.”

Adam Hitch

Adam Hitch has extensive experience working for small, medium, and large companies in marketing, sales, operations, and finances. He is a believer in entrepreneurship and the power of small business and is passionate about bringing his skills to new business owners. He is currently the Senior Marketing Manager at “A Place for Mom,” the nation’s largest senior living referral information service providing resources and personalized assistance in finding senior care and housing. 

Can you guess who our surprise celebrity Guest Judge is?

Hint
They spoke at our Ventures Marketplace launch event in December.

Hint
They grew up in the Pacific Northwest. They are third-generation Mexican-American and are the daughter of educators and social justice activists.

Hint
Ventures works with low-income entrepreneurs to break the cycle of poverty and that is why they are judging InnoVentures on March 26!