MIIM Speakers

Keynote Speaker

Kris MathisKris Mathis

Kris Mathis is a Grand Rapids native who has evolved from humble beginnings to becoming a world-renowned motivational speaker, business coach, author, and award-winning serial entrepreneur and philanthropist. Kris is considered by many to be one of the top business leaders and Keynote speakers of his generation. The international organization Partners Worldwide who has a focus on ending poverty through business named Kris as one the Top 9 business coaches in the world. Arbor Circle, a West Michigan-based mental health agency also named Kris as their 2021 Honoree for his commitment to helping others who are fighting life’s challenges.

Kris has been featured in countless major publications sharing his thoughts and celebrating his accomplishments. Publications including, The New York Weekly, Business Insider Africa, Success Magazine, and many more! As one of the most in-demand speakers today, Kris is most notably known for delivering a straight from-the-heart passionate message that has motivated and inspired audiences all over the world.

In his message titled, “The Mindset of an Entrepreneur,” Kris will pull back the curtain and show you how to successfully grow your mindset and your business. He will share some of his success principles and how they align with the journey that most of us are on.

Kris has traveled a road that many of you are familiar with. He has overcome numerous trials on his journey for success, including a poverty stricken past, the absence of his father, and a rare facial paralysis that nearly ended his career. The principles that Kris delivers will help you discover your true purpose, how to take control of your life, and how to step into your growth and prosper for the win!


JASelfie.jpgJerry Adams

Jerry Adams has been selling local food in West Michigan for twenty five years. Now owner of FarmLink, Mr Adams created a way for farmers to more easily get their goods to market. Based on a weekly cycle, farmers list and price their available product on the FarmLink website. After watching their sales online over the course of the weekend, they harvest and package Monday for a Tuesday morning delivery to FarmLink. FarmLink then distributes throughout West Michigan Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday. FarmLink charges the farmer 8%, corporate customers 5% and households 10%. Flat rate delivery fees are based on distance from FarmLink. Mr Adams also created West Michigan Co-Op, a not-for-profit, in 1999. WMCO-OP was one of the first online food hubs. 


Dan Andaloro Photo.jpgDan Andaloro

Dan Andaloro is the General Manager for TI Spices / AMAC Specialty Foods in Clinton Township, Michigan, overseeing buying, the sales staff, and key account calls.  Dan has over 35 years’ of experience in the CPG Industry, working for a global direct manufacturer, national food broker, and his current role with a Michigan-based distributor.



Paul BuscemiPaul Buscemi

Paul Buscemi works as a Chief Executive Officer at Carmela Foods, which is a Grocery Retail company with over 60 employees; and founded in 1991. Paul is a graduate of Michigan State University.





Brad CocklinBrad Cocklin

After graduating from Michigan State in 2012, Brad moved to NYC working for Starwood Hotels. Two years later, he relocated to Chicago to dive into the commercial insurance industry. Building a team and living the fast life in Chicago; there was still something missing. Brad had the idea of jumping into the CPG world utilizing a third-generation family snack recipe his Grandma, Cuddy, made growing up. After sharing this with his Co-founder (and wife) Katie, they decided to go all in by quitting the corporate insurance world at the same time, liquidating the 401k, moving back to Michigan and selling Brad's car. Fast forward 5 years later - we self-manufacture our 6 flavor varieties of snacks in our 14,000 sq ft facility in Troy, Michigan with the help of a dedicated team. Our delicious treats can be found in over 3,000 retailers across the country! 


Rob ConnorRob Connor

Rob Connor is a Category Manager for SpartanNash (NASDAQ: SPTN), a Fortune 400 food solutions company that operates two complementary business segments in food wholesale and grocery retail. He focuses on local and regional vendor category management and merchandising for retail and the company’s Hispanic retail business segment. Rob also coordinates local event sponsorships and advertising for the Hispanic retail locations.

Rob brings over 30 years of experience in Grocery Retail including 10 years of store management & multi-location supervision experience and over 10 years of category management experience. Rob was recognized as Store Manager of the Year at Nash Finch in 2003 and oversaw the operation and merchandising of several groups of stores. He joined the company in 2005 as a Store Manager and later moved into Category Management.

Rob currently serves as a Sport Committee Member and Tournament Director for the Elkhorn Athletic Association (EAA) youth sports organization. Previously, Rob served as a Board Member at large for the Elkhorn Soccer Club before merging with EAA.  He currently resides in Omaha, NE with his family.  In their free time, he and his family enjoy soccer, football, fishing and staying active outdoors.


Jody DaenzerJody Daenzer

Jody Daenzer has over 25 years of experience in the Retail Industry with roles in Store Leadership, Human Resources, Merchandising, and most recently as Local/Natural/Multicultural Specialist for the Kroger Company of Michigan. She was raised on a family farm in Frankenmuth, MI and graduated from Michigan State University with a degree in Agri-Business and Food Systems Economics & Management. Jody has a passion for people and has worked with agricultural communities, both here and abroad, building infrastructure for sustainable growth. For the past 23 years, she has been working with International Students at Oakland University and serves on the board of Directors for International Oasis.


Shirley Decker Prescott.jpgShirley Decker Prescott

Shirley Decker Prescott has over 50 years in retail with 13 years as an owner of her family’s retail meat store, Mert’s Specialty Meats. She learned what she knows from Walt Goff (Goff Foods) and Stan Levandowski (L&L Foods). The positions she held over the years include Store Director, Assistant Store Director, IT Director, Accounting Dept., GM Coordinator and Cashier. All of these positions, Walt and Stan made Mert’s Specialty Meats possible because of the experience they gave Shirley and her family.



Paul Gabriel

Co-Founder and CEO of Browndog, an innovative restaurant and ice cream brand with 3 locations across Michigan. Paul has over 15 years in the ice cream and food service industry and is driven to deliver exceptional food products and services that exceed customer expectations. 



Aaron JacksonAaron W. Jackson

Aaron brings 14 years of experience in community and economic development, providing resources that give financial freedom and allow individuals to take ownership of their lives. Currently, he serves as the Director of the Michigan Good Food Fund. This statewide loan fund supports food and farm businesses with financing and food industry technical assistance to increase healthy food access, create jobs, integrate environmental practices, and support local sourcing.

Aaron Jackson's early career began with the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights, where he investigated complaints of discrimination and desegregated schools in the Deep South. His goal was to become a civil rights attorney. Still, that experience changed his focus to what he believed was his generation's new civil rights issue: economic justice or silver rights. Aaron's passion for helping others understand the language of money has led to over a decade working with partners across Michigan to advocate for and spark economic opportunities in communities.  

Before joining Fair Food Network, Jackson was the Program Manager for the Detroit Neighborhood Entrepreneurs Project at the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor, where he led a national model for year-round university-based small business support. The collaboration brought together small businesses with faculty-supervised student teams to provide a learning experience for students and solve business challenges. Before his impact at the University of Michigan, Aaron began his first statewide role as a Small Business Consultant for Michigan Rehabilitation Services (MRS), providing business assistance to disabled adults with a passion for entrepreneurship. In addition to his work with adults through MRS, Aaron implemented the first entrepreneurial curriculum for disabled high school students in Oakland County, allowing them to transition into self-employment after matriculation through secondary school.

Outside of Aaron's full-time roles, his dedication to providing resources to his community to create financial freedom has included:

  • His work at the Center for Community-Based Enterprise building worker cooperatives to support a living wage economy.
  • Teaching essential entrepreneurship at ProsperUS Detroit.
  • Curating master classes on financial and business models at Build Institute.

Finally, Aaron is an entrepreneur himself. He is the founder and principal consultant of The CorpVantage, offering professional development and customer service training through his self-designed etiquette curriculum to increase interpersonal skills for advancement in school and the workforce.

Aaron remains active in his professional community through membership and leadership roles - e.g., Advisory Board of the Oakland County Revolving Loan Fund, planning committee member for the National Microloan Conference, co-chair of the New Economy Initiative/Neighborhood Business Initiative, and member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated. Aaron's education includes a Bachelor of Science in International Business, a Master of Business Administration in International Business, and a Jurist Doctor in Law.


Tim KainuTim Kainu

Tim Kainu is a veteran in the specialty market industry. Tim has spent his entire career with Westborn Market and now leads a large team of managers and associates in a highly creative, fast paced, merchandising driven organization. His responsibilities include but not limited to, new item selection, margin review, product performance reviews, vendor relations, visuals standards, customer service standards and many financial performance key milestones. Tim started at Westborn Market back in 2002 and has held many positions along the way. He understands all aspects of retail operations which has enhanced his focus and impact on the specialty grocery and dairy categories. Under his watchful eye, these categories have blossomed and sales have exceed 18 million in 2020. He is an asset in daily operations and is a key director helping guide the company into the future.


Emily MayhewDr. Emily Mayhew

Emily Mayhew is a sensory scientist and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition at MSU. Sensory scientists conduct research with human subjects to measure the sensory characteristics (appearance, aroma, taste, texture) and consumer liking of products. Dr. Mayhew’s passion is in unraveling how food chemistry shapes flavor and texture, and using this understanding to make foods more healthy, sustainable, and delicious. Recent projects have focused on improving blueberry and strawberry flavor, producing bean-based flours with less off-flavors, and measuring the role of honey aroma in enhancing food sweetness. Dr. Mayhew will discuss the basics of flavor perception, common sensory test methods, and practical ways for entrepreneurs to incorporate sensory science into their businesses.


Chris MonetteChris Monette

• Love the outdoors! Skiing in winter, and camping in summer!
• Been a foodie since a young age, spending time with my grandmother learning to cook since age 5.
• Married 20+ Years.
• 2 Children ages 12& 16 (Tyler & Erin)
• 2002 Oakland University – Bachelor’s Degree Human Resources

25 year career in the Food industry
• 1990- 1999 Various restaurant positions held.
• 2000 - 2009 Pic-A-Deli Café & Catering (Owner/Operator)
• 2010 - 2015 Retail Management (Deli/Bakery Dept Mgr, Store Director) Various Organizations, Busch’s, Meijer, Independent Stores.
• 2015 - 2020 Lipari Foods – Category Product Manager – Deli
• 2020 – 2023 Lipari Foods – VP Deli Division
• 2023 – Present Lipari Foods – VP Deli & Food Service Division


Rodney ParkkonenRodney Parkkonen

Rodney Parkkonen serves as small business consultant on the Small Business Services team at the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC). In his role, Rodney leads programming designed to help second-stage entrepreneurs gain access to strategic information and participate in valuable retreats and roundtables. Additionally, Rodney’s role includes working on the MEDC’s Industry 4.0 initiative and helping grow and align the state’s small business support ecosystem. Before joining the Small Business Services team, Rodney worked on teams devoted to securing new business growth, job creation and investment in the State of Michigan.

Prior to joining the MEDC, Rodney’s career included working with small businesses in various industries and capacities for nearly 20 years. It was these experiences that gave context to the importance small businesses play in their community and the impact they can have on local, regional, and state economies. Rodney’s volunteer experience includes coaching middle school and high school sports and serving as a hospice volunteer.

Born in Marquette, Michigan, Rodney earned from Northern Michigan University his bachelor's degree in public relations and master's degree in human performance Improvement. He is a certified Economic Development Finance Professional from the National Development Council and is nearing completion of his Entrepreneurship Development Professional from the International Economic Development Council. He lives in DeWitt, Michigan with his wife, son, and dog. 


Jason ParksJason Parks

Jason Parks, a 4th generation Northern Michigander, grew up enjoying the rivers, lakes, and beaches of the area. He graduated from Traverse City Central High School and attended both Albion and Northwestern Michigan Colleges. Throughout his education and beyond, Jason worked for local restaurants and retailers including multiple management positions with Schelde Enterprises. In 1998, Jason moved to Colorado and spent six years working for Whole Foods Market in Boulder, one of the top volume locations in the company. The love of freshwater and family brought Jason back to northern Michigan and the restaurant industry. He opened and led the second Traverse City location of Grand Traverse Pie Company for seven years before joining Lucky’s Market as the beer and wine manager, then grocery department manager. As grocery manager, Jason led his team in the transition to new ownership when Oryana Natural Foods Cooperative purchased Lucky’s Market Traverse City. In his current position as Category Manager, Jason is responsible for product selection, pricing, margins, promotions, and displays for the grocery and wellness departments of both Oryana locations. Jason is happily married to his wife, Kellie, and has a son in middle school (#sportsdad). They have two dogs and two cats and love the quality of life they enjoy in and around the pinky of the mitten. 


Travis Reams Headshot.jpgTravis Reams

Travis Reams is a Supplier Inclusion Manager at Midwest retailer Meijer, Inc., the Grand Rapids, Michigan based retailer that operates more than 500 supercenters, Meijer Grocery, neighborhood markets and Express locations throughout Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky and Wisconsin. He currently leads the Meijer Grow Academy where he mentors emerging local and diverse suppliers along their journey partnering with the company. Reams is also a member of the MOSIAC and Meijer Pride Team Member Resource Groups, committed to community, advocacy and education for multi-cultural and LGBTQ+ team members and allies respectively. He is a 2022 FMI Food Retail Leader Certificate recipient and served as a 2023 FMI Food Retail Leader Facilitator. Reams also serves as a committee member of the Grand Rapids Community Foundation’s Our LGBTQ Fund. Prior to joining Meijer, Reams served in various roles at Pier 1 Imports, JC Penney and Charming Charlie. 


Kathy SampleKathy Sample

Kathy co-founded Argus Farm Stop in Ann Arbor, MI with her husband Bill Brinkerhoff in 2014, with the goal of growing the focus on and size of local food economy here in Michigan.  Argus Farm Stop is a new retail model designed to grow local food availability by offering a year-round, every-day venue for farmers to sell their locally grown products.  

Argus Farm Stop is now in its ninth year, has three locations, and a robust online, delivery and CSA businesses.  The business has cumulatively returned over $20 million to local farms through their unique sales model. As an L3C, it is a new type of business; and is actively teaching other companies how to start up similar operations.  

Kathy worked over the 25 years in the chemical, medical gases and automotive industries, in marketing, strategy and business planning capacities on international projects.  She started out as a chemical sales representative, moving eventually to Vice President of BOC Gases Medical Gases. After moving to Michigan to work for GKN Automotive, she led efforts to grow their non-automotive industrial business portfolio, and subsequently to establish automotive joint ventures in China.  Deciding to pursue an entrepreneurial venture in local food systems addressed something she has been interested in all long.

Kathy has a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Michigan and a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Michigan State University.  


Milton.jpegMilt Shoup

Milton Shoup is a native of Michigan, raised on a century-old family farm in northern Michigan. This general farm background provided a strong foundation for lifelong interest in food production,  distribution and policy. After a career in state service in research and project management, Milton returned to his MSU degree background taking the produce and fresh products manager role in the re-opening of the Eastside Lansing Food Co-op (formerly East Lansing Food Co-op). Milton is currently the general manager of the co-op focusing on continuing the growth trajectory of Lansing’s newest and most diverse small neighborhood grocery.



Rebecca StephensRebecca Stephens

Rebecca has held leadership positions in retail operations for twenty years in both big box conventional and natural focused retailers, with the most recent 9 years at Fresh Thyme Market.  As a Store Director for Fresh Thyme Market for eight years, she was passionate about bringing local products into their stores to represent and support the communities they serve.  Knowing infrastructure was needed, she presented a path forward to build a robust Local Program with Fresh Thyme Market and started in her current role of Local Program Manager in 2022.  She leverages both her MBA and retail operations experience to assist local brands and store operations in building win-win-win relationships that benefit their team members, brand owners and customers.