Meet our CEO

Jill Johnson 


Visionary Leader, Small Business Champion, Inclusion Advocate 

Jill Johnson is a nationally-recognized thought leader and trailblazer working to foster an inclusive entrepreneurial ecosystem for people from historically excluded populations.

Jill co-founded the Institute for Entrepreneurial Leadership (IFEL) in 2002 and serves as the Chief Executive Officer for the nonprofit organization. Now in its twentieth year, IFEL leverages the power of relationship capital to create pathways to success for Black and Latinx founders, entrepreneurs and small business owners. 

Jill is a speaker on topics including: community economic development, business plan development, entrepreneurship, minority and women small business growth, and access to capital.

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Meet the IFEL Team 
...the people that make it all happen

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Jazmine’s love of art drove her to leave the traditional Cal State University life to attend an art school where she discovered her love of Fashion Marketing and Management. After working as an Area Manager, Jazmine applied her skills to benefit clients as a freelance Social Media Marketing Manager. She is also a board-certified Holistic Health Coach who runs her own online practice.

Jazmine Bighom

Program Coordinator

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Amy is the Assistant to the CEO. She has five years of experience in customer service and freelancing and is dedicated to continuous learning which includes taking virtual assistance classes to enhance her skill set. Also, she is a small business owner that runs her e-commerce business on Facebook. She loves to do cardio activities like walking, running, and biking. And she makes sure to spend quality time with her family by traveling together.

Amy Abelarde Brusas

Executive Assistant

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Makiel fell in love with marketing while pursuing his bachelor’s degree. Makiel a fencer from the Virgin Islands has worn many hats throughout his career. Including the creative director of a news company, and non-profit and for-profit companies. Multiple Dean’s List recipients from the University of The Virgin Islands, Makiel currently lives and works in North Carolina. With the goal of using his skills and experiences throughout his career to benefit others. Fun fact: In his downtime, Makiel is a ramen enthusiast and dedicated Philadelphia Eagles football fan. Go birds!

Makiel Cepeda

Digital Project Manager

Jazmine Bighom
Program Coordinator

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While attending college, Jay started his own company to get a taste of the marketing world which paved the way for his current position in community building. As a student, he was awarded the Sandra Hullet award for highest achieving student of African-American descent and he participated in a variety of athletics including boxing and track. Jay earned his master’s degree in marketing from the University of Alabama.

Jared Earl

Community Engagement Manager

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Amanda Hubbard

Volunteer Experience Manager

Amanda grew up in South Carolina and learned about inequality and justice volunteerism from an early age, serving as a young leader in her church. Her knack for the arts carried her into college as a music student, but she soon fell in love with the power of wordsmithing and ended her collegiate career with a BA in English. After graduating from Wingate University, she moved from one coast to the other, landing at McGraw-Hill Publishing Company and Viz Media. She enjoyed a varied early career, traveling the country as a military spouse, but planted roots in Greenville, SC after their time in service and found herself in a corporate leadership position. After leading a multi-million dollar team for over a dozen years, she is overjoyed and humbled to bring those skills and successes to her work with IFEL in a way that allows her to create positive change in the world and return to the volunteerism that has been central to her identity.

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Sonia is an Internal Consultant focused on Impact management.

Sonia Tze Huse

Internal Consultant

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Nikka provides administrative support to the Institute for Entrepreneurial Leadership team. As a graduate of Bachelor of Arts in Communications, Nikka has always been interested in community-building campaigns. She enjoys participating in community events that are artistic in a manner in hopes to alleviate and inspire youth. She is a video editor and videographer who aspires to be a filmmaker in the future.

Nikka Colet

Program Assistant

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While at Texas Tech University, Julia began her independent contracting career by working as a choreographer, photographer, and nanny. She quickly figured out that teaching dance and working for herself was a passion and lifestyle that she enjoyed. Julia further broadened her skills as a part-time assistant director with her alma mater and she shares her talents in delivering program efficiencies to her role with IFEL.

Julia Runne

Event Coordinator

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Lily is the Coordinator for the Volunteer Experience Program. She has an eclectic and fun work history at non-profits, worker-owned cooperatives, and as an entrepreneur before joining the IFEL team. She has run both brick-and-mortar and online businesses, selling both goods and services. Currently, she runs two businesses using her herbalist training. She spends her free time with her 12-year-old, with her menagerie of animals, and outdoors on the farm they all share.

Lily Kunning

Volunteer Experience Program Coordinator

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Lori Anne forged her first business venture as a teenager. From that time on, the labels of ‘founder,’ and ‘owner’ have always applied. Lori Anne is a natural storyteller and has an innate talent for devising angles and creating compelling communications. She started The Write Angles LLC, a public relations, marketing & event consultancy, in 2009. When not working, Lori Anne has volunteered with a variety of local, state and national boards.

Lori Anne Oliwa

Public Relations Manager

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Melanie has spent the majority of her career in corporate finance. In her last few roles with Discovery, Inc., she realized more and more that her most fulfilling days were those in which she was focused on developing talent, consulting internal clients, and helping others in any way that she could. Melanie is so grateful to have pivoted into such an inspiring community of entrepreneurs, as well as all of those that support them.

Melanie Seymour

Director, Capital Access

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Melissa graduated Cum Laude from Berkeley College, Newark, New Jersey Campus. After meeting IFEL’s CEO Jill Johnson, she discovered her passion and drive to help small businesses. Melissa enjoys playing a pivotal role in advancing entrepreneurs closer to their goals. She also brings firsthand entrepreneurial experience by running her own business, the Emish Company, in which she sells handmade Afrocentric accessories from cultural fabrics

Melissa Parker

Chief of Staff

Meet the Board

Larry Bailin

Not attending college, the odds were not necessarily in my favor. Being born and raised in Newark, I developed the resiliency to not give up. It's easy to give up when you don't have a lot of resources. If we can empower more people with the tools they need and help them to not give up, we can have a huge impact. 

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Zoe Bogan

I’m inspired by the IFEL mission to support diverse entrepreneurs and ensure that they have adequate access to successfully grow their
businesses. Unlike other organizations, I believe IFEL is committed to each entrepreneur and takes time to learn about their vision and story.

Bill Ince

Just out of college I opened a bookstore. It was a tremendous community asset, but the economics just weren't there. I made every mistake in the book, just because I didn't know what I didn't know. I think about how things might have been different if I had a resource like IFEL back then. My goal is to help others have the opportunity for success that I didn't. 

Pasquale (Pat) Nocito

When I was a banker I spent a lot of time explaining why we couldn't help people. As a member of the IFEL Community, I get to share resources that help them succeed and give them hope. It feels so much more rewarding.  

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Stephen White

Stephen A. White is active in business valuations in a variety of areas related to fair market value also has broad industry experience in wealth management by working with hundreds of client companies during his 20+ years in the investment arena.

Ed Young

As an entrepreneur from a young age, the mission resonates with me. Entrepreneurship and small business ownership enable people to chart their own course. IFEL enables people, regardless of their level of resource, to access the tool required to make the journey.