Speaker Series

Start-up Entrepreneur Speaker Series. Formal presentations by one or more experts. Attendees are encouraged to ask questions and discuss the subject matter. Open to all, including faculty, researchers, and alumni. 


Start-Up Speaker Series: T-Shirts, Beer, and Bikinis - What do they have in common?

March 4, 2019 | 5:00pm - 7:00 pm | Training Room at the UNHI ECenter | 1,000 Visa Stamp Credits

Join us for our Start-Up Speakers Series featuring:

Mark Lane '90, Owner and Operator of Coed Sportswear, Inc.
Dane Neilsen '08, Co-Founder and Head Brewer at Liars Bench Beer Co.
Emily Stearns, Founder of The Drift Collective

Moderated by Jerry Howard, Co-Founder and Principal at Strategy First Partners

Learn what motivated the founders of these companies to create amazing products that connect with customers. Hear about their journeys from "just an idea" to launching their companies, and all the surprising twists and turns along the way. Understand how they have more in common with each other than you might think!


Mark Lane '90, Owner and Operator for Coed Sportswear (History Major and MBA from UNH)

         Mark Lane is a New Hampshire native and proud graduate of the University of New Hampshire, class of 1990. He graduated with a Bachelors degree in History and earned his MBA at the Whittemore School of Business (now the Peter T. Paul College of Business and Economics). He has owned and operated Coed Sportswear, Inc. since graduating from UNH. Coed Sportswear is an apparel wholesaler, focusing on full package apparel distribution for large brands and retail. Coed's primary focus is sourcing apparel and artwork creation, supporting the goals and visions of major brands.

Mark and his wife, Anne, have three children: Abby, a 2018 graduate of UNH; Eric, a sophomore at Holy Cross; and Emma, a freshman in high school.


Dane Neilsen, Co-Founder and Head Brewer at Liars Bench Beer Co.



Dane Nielsen is a Co-Founder and the Head Brewer at Liars Bench Beer Company in Portsmouth, NH. Dane first fell in love with the city of Portsmouth during his time at the University of New Hampshire, where he graduated in 2008.

After school, Dane had the itch to explore something beyond the borders of New England and ended up in San Francisco, CA. It was there, in the historic Haight-Ashbury district that Dane began his professional brewing career. He started with Magnolia Brewing at their brewpub and then was off to Trumer Brauerei in Berkeley, where he spent two years learning the art of making pilsner and then back to Magnolia as Lead Brewer.

The desire to start something of his own, as well as a timely phone call from his UNH roommate and now business partner, brought him back to Portsmouth. The beginnings of Liars Bench quickly grew to something real and the doors opened in May 2016. Liars Bench has grown steadily through the first three years of operation and Dane is continuing to reach new standards for himself and the beer Liars Bench produces.


Emily Stearns, Founder of The Drift Collective


Emily Stearns graduated from Colorado College in 2015 with a degree in Mathematics. After moving back home to the east coast, she decided to start her own business in order to help save up for grad school. She learned how to sew and began making and selling bikinis. This was the beginning of The Drift Collective. Combining her passion for sustainability and doing things differently, Emily hoped to create a company that could provide people access to one-of-a-kind, affordable clothing & swimwear made in a sustainable way. 



Jerry Howard, Co-founder and Principal at Strategy First Partners










Jerry Howard has more than 30 years of experience as a marketing practitioner, business leader, and strategist to Fortune 500 corporations and leading organizations in the US and internationally.

As Principal and co-founder of Strategy First, Jerry has led client engagements with market leading companies in technology, financial services, higher education, industrial markets, and consumer goods. At Coca-Cola, Jerry was World-wide Director for Brand Coca-Cola. He and his team created the brand positioning, global communications, marketing plan best practices and emerging market strategies. During his tenure, the world's most valuable brand delivered record revenue and earnings each year.

Previously, Jerry operated consumer products businesses for Proctor & Gamble in the USA, Australia, and Japan, combining his operational expertise with strategic leadership roles in Asia-Pacific. While in Japan, Jerry led P&G's Beauty Care business, which included several of the company's most profitable brands.

Jerry holds a Master of Business Administration and Bachelor of Science in Engineering degrees from Cornell University. He is also a member of the University of New Hampshire Entrepreneurship Center Advisory Task Force.



Game Changers Speaker Series: Creating Change and Innovation from All Majors

In Partnership with UNH Career and Professional Success (CaPs)

Sponsored by WP Carey Foundation 

Change and innovation happen in every industry and from people with all different backgrounds. Problem solvers and critical thinkers change the game in their worlds by challenging the norms and pursuing an idea with passion. Join the ECenter and Career and Professional Success at our GAME CHANGERS speaker series, featuring individuals from all academic backgrounds with an entrepreneurial spirit and the drive to build something new.


February 12, 2018 | 5:30pm - 7:30 pm | Training Room at the UNHI ECenter | 1,000 Visa Stamp Credits

Moderator: Trudy Van Zee,  Associate Vice Provost for Career and Professional Success (CaPS)


Samara Walker '13, Founder & CEO at Lust Cosmetics (Health Management & Policy Major from UNH)

         Samara Walker is a Boston-based entrepreneur, who is determined to have a seat at the table in an otherwise male dominant industry. She sought to create a luxury brand that was exclusive but inclusive for all, while offering conscious, chic products for all skin tones. Lust Cosmetics understands inclusion and diversity while providing a variety of products for multiple skin tones. Samara is a young maven excited to dominate the beauty industry with creativity and style, while providing luxury cosmetics that are vegan, organic and natural. Samara understands the importance and essentials of designing a luxury cosmetic line that will provide colors for all shades and undertones of consumers.


Bryan Pappas, Owner at Blind Pig Barber Company (Art Major from UMass Dartmouth)

         Bryan Pappas is an entrepreneur and successful business owner. He has been a franchisee for the Planet Fitness brand for 14 years and currently owns 10 clubs in the Northeastern Florida and Southern Georgia areas. He has plans, along with his business partners, to open approximately 10-14 more locations in the same regions. In addition to his fitness clubs, Bryan along with two business partners, also started the Blind Pig Barber Company, a men’s full-service salon which focuses on the customer experience. They successfully opened the first location in Portland Maine in 2015 and have the goal to expand the business model throughout the Northeast. Prior to his current ventures, Bryan was the VP of Sales for 8 years at a local branding agency that focused on the technology industry. Prior to that he worked as a graphic designer. He graduated from UMass Dartmouth with a degree in Illustration. Bryan is happily married and has two young sons. He has lived in the Portsmouth New Hampshire area for the past 24 years.


March 5, 2018 | 5:30pm - 7:30 pm | Training Room at the UNHI ECenter | 1,000 Visa Stamp Credits

Moderator: Raina Sarvaiya, Director of Employer Relations for Career and Professional Success (CaPS)


Cynthia Wigren '96, Founder at Atlantic White Shark Conservancy (Wildlife Management Major from UNH)


Cynthia holds a BS in Wildlife Management from University of New Hampshire and MBA from Southern New Hampshire University. Cynthia spent twelve years working for online trading companies in the energy industry, with a focus on project management and strategic planning. She is an avid traveler and a scuba diver with a deep appreciation for wildlife on land and sea. Her underwater experiences with whale sharks, great hammerheads, nurse sharks, and great white sharks, inspired her to leave the corporate world and establish Atlantic White Shark Conservancy to support shark research and conservation. Cynthia also serves on the Massachusetts Ocean Advisory Commission.


Nicole Gregg, Founder at NH Film Festival (Liberal Arts Major from George Washington University)


Over the course of Gregg’s leadership of the NH Film Festival, she has successfully increased and managed a combined fiscal and in-kind budget starting with $2,000 the first year of the fest and growing to $350,000.  She was responsible for obtaining the organizations 501c3 status and has ultimately established NHFF as the premiere film event in the state as well as a major festival in New England.  Gregg has also earned NHFF a role as a prestigious festival on the international circuit by obtaining Moviemaker’s ranking as one of the Top 50 Film Festivals worldwide for the past five years running.  Gregg has expanded the festival exponentially seeing incredible growth in submissions, recruiting and securing local and national sponsors, creating community partnerships, and overall maintaining and increasing the depth and scope of the festival in terms of duration and logistics. Gregg is also responsible for working with and developing the festival’s marketing and public relations plan, selecting the final film program including spotlight screenings, and producing special events in addition to overseeing all facets of the festival from special guests, jury members and panelists, filmmaker relations, and all staff positions.

Prior to Gregg’s work on the NH Film Festival, she graduated from the George Washington University in 1997 and studied art history and photography at Parsons School of design in Paris during a semester abroad.  She then began her career in independent film in the casting department at the critically acclaimed Shooting Gallery film production company in NYC. Her first feature film credit, You Can Count on Me directed by Kenneth Lonergan went on to receive two Academy Award nominations.  Other film credits in casting include Julie Johnson starring Courtney Love and Lili Taylor, and 3AM  starring Danny Glover and Michelle Rodriguez.   Gregg relocated to Portsmouth, NH in 2001 and began working at the Portsmouth Chamber of Commerce as the Events Manager. Her roles there included securing all sponsorship and coordinating all production of monthly networking events, galas, and major fundraisers and overseeing an annual budget of $100,000.  Her love of independent film and knowledge of events and community lead her to discover her dream job of running an international Film Festival right in her own backyard, Portsmouth, NH while also finding time to raise a family. 

Gregg served as a Commissioner for the State Film and Television office from 2004-2007 and was named a “Remarkable Woman of the Arts” by NH Magazine in 2008.  She is currently on the Corporator board for The Provident Bank and has served as a panelist and juror at various film events for the Filmmakers Collaborative in Boston. 



April 23, 2018 | 5:30pm - 7:30 pm | Training Room at the UNHI ECenter | 1,000 Visa Stamp Credits

Moderator: Tyler Wentworth, Director of Marketing, Communication & Engagement at Career and Professional Success


Chris Webb, Co-Founder at Newburyport Brewing Company (Psychology Major & Counseling M.Ed. from UNH)


Chris spent twenty years in the corporate world until 2012 when he followed his passion and co-founded the Newburyport Brewing Company.   Founded on 3 brand promises: Making World Class Beer, integrating the beautiful city of Newburyport and live music, Newburyport Brewing was one of the top 10 fastest growing in their first year and are now a top 200 brewery in the country.


Todd Baker, Founder & President at Baker Properties (Business & Political Science Major from UNH)


Todd Baker has been an entrepreneur since his teens and focused on commercial real estate opportunities since 2001. Since starting his career as a financier with GE Capital and SG Cowen in Manhattan, Todd has acquired more than a dozen businesses and properties valued in excess of $100MM and managed properties valued in excess of $200MM.  His company, Baker Properties, owns and manages shopping centers, apartments, office and industrial buildings, Hampton Airfield and the Hampton Airfield Flight School and Maintenance businesses.

Todd earned his undergraduate degree in Business and Political Science from the University of New Hampshire and an MBA from Cornell University. He lives with his wife and daughters in New Castle, New Hampshire, where Todd is active in the community and a member of several advisory boards.  Todd is an avid weekend athlete and an instrument-rated pilot.


John C. Bowen, Co-Founder & Managing Partner at MediaBridge Capital Advisors LLC (Mechanical Engineering Major from UNH)


With a focus on technology for close to 30 years, John has worked through several technology lifecycles, serving as an equity research analyst and investment banker for the last 15 years.

His career began in 1983 in Information Technology sales, and through 1995 represented all aspects of IT solutions including hardware, software, and professional services for Sybase, McDonnell Douglas, and Digital Equipment Corporation.  In these positions, John gained a deep exposure to technology and ongoing convergence trends, licensing and pricing strategies.

As an equity research analyst for First Albany Corporation (FAC), John published research and recommended public companies to institutional investors in enterprise software, communications hardware and software, and digital media markets.  In the early 2000’s, John was a recognized research analyst in the formative years of digital media.  Through FAC’s joint venture with META Group (acquired by Gartner Group), John published weekly research that provided a liaison between information technology end users and institutional investors.  John’s research coverage universe included companies such as Cisco Systems, SAP AG, Adobe Systems, Macromedia, Open Text, Siebel Systems, PeopleSoft, RSA Security, Check Point Systems, Symantec, 3Com, and Ascend Communications.

Since 2001, John has served as an investment banker and strategic advisor.  He co-founded MediaBridge Capital Advisors in 2012 with his partner Ethan Jacks.  John’s transactions cover a broad spectrum of the media technology industry including broadcast, audio, enterprise communications, Pro/AV and retail markets.  John has led several acquisitions by companies that include Google, Harman International, Barco, Sony Corporation, Audiotonix and Grass Valley.  Recent transactions include the acquisition of Solid State Logic by Audiotonix, SVSi by Harman International, the C$21 million sale of Montreal-based visual communications pioneer X2O Media to Barco NV, the $25 million sale of U.K.-based broadcast automation and channel-in-a-box leader Pebble Beach Systems to Vislink plc, and the $137 million acquisition of video codec vendor On2 Technologies to Google.

John holds a B.S. degree in Mechanical Engineering, with a focus on Digital Systems from University of New Hampshire. He also holds an MBA with a concentration in finance from Babson College