Speakers

Jess Ekstrom

Jess Ekstrom
CEO/Founder
Headbands of Hope

Jess is the founder and CEO of Headbands of Hope, a company she started as a junior in college in 2012. For every headband sold, a headband is given to a child with cancer. The company has been featured on the TODAY Show, Vanity Fair, Seventeen, Good Morning America and more. But more importantly, they’ve donated over 350,000 headbands to every children’s hospital in the United States and 15 countries. Jess is also a professional speaker and has a book coming out with Harper Collins in November 2019. She’s also the founder of Mic Drop Workshop, an online course with the mission of empowering more women to share their message as a speaker. She lives in Raleigh, NC with her husband and standard poodle, Ollie.

Session Title: Channeling Grit to Greatness

If you could do anything during your lifetime, what would it be? What actions are you taking today to get you there? Many of us imagine a list of goals we want to achieve, but sometimes they don’t get put into motion. Jess says there are two things that stand between us and our lifetime bucket list: the courage to try and the belief that we can. In this inspiring keynote, Jess Ekstrom challenges you to build your bucket list with a personal plan and timeline for making it happen. She captivates the audience by incorporating personal stories from when she was young and auditioned for the show All That, to when she went to college and started a million-dollar business from her dorm room. Jess explains in detail how to move forward with our passions, even when we have moments of uncertainty or are afraid to fail. An honest, humorous and inspiring tale of taking a leap, going for it and learning that failures are not opposite of success, they’re part of success!


Risha Grant

Risha Grant
CEO/Founder
Risha Grant LLC

Risha Grant is diversity personified. From her race, gender and lifestyle choices, to being a young, small business owner and tackling economic issues, every area of her life intersects diversity. She is the founder & CEO of Risha Grant LLC, an award-winning diversity consulting and communications firm, and she created DiversityConneX.com, a highly successful online recruitment tool to connect diverse professionals with careers, internships, and non-profit and corporate board positions.

As an international speaker, Risha has worked with governors, NBA teams, mayors, CEO’s of Fortune 500 companies and other business and community leaders to reduce bias and further the understanding of Diversity & Inclusion. Through her interactive keynotes and deep-dive training sessions, Risha teaches and empowers attendees with D&I tools to increase their bottom line and permission to get rid of their BS.

Session Title: Permission: Granted to Get Rid of Your BS and Promote Inclusion

Whether implicit or conscious, bias is the number one threat to humanity and any company’s or person’s success. If your goal is to create cohesiveness within your organization, increase revenue, be innovative and/or elevate your reputation – the bias in your workforce, your community and yourself is a roadblock. You know the problem. Permission: Granted is your answer. Join keynote speaker, Risha Grant as she discusses Diversity and Inclusion through the lens of humanity using terms like BS or Bias Synapse as a way to explain our brain’s involvement in the processing and validation of bias. Gain insight as to how your biases originate, how to express them and gain applicable tools to get over them, however screwed up they may be. Although a difficult topic, learn to easily understand the concept, without feeling bored or judged. By doing so, you become more aware, learning to create a culture and environment that is welcoming to all!


Amber Rae
Speaker & Author
Amber Rae LLC

Called a “real-life Wonder Woman” by media, Amber Rae is a writer, visual artist, and speaker who encourages emotional wellness and personal growth. She is the author of the bestselling book, Choose Wonder Over Worry: Move Beyond Fear and Doubt to Unlock Your Full Potential. Her writing blends raw, personal storytelling with actionable aha! moments and has reached more than 20 million people in 195 countries. Her public art has spread to more than 20 countries, and she has been featured in publications such as The New York Times, NY Mag, TODAY, Inc., Bustle, SELF, Fast Company, Forbes and Entrepreneur.

Fortune called her “a Millennial Motivator” and Mind Body Green called her “The Brené Brown of Wonder.” She speaks frequently about wellness and emotional vulnerability for organizations such as Kate Spade, TED, Ogilvy, and WPP. Previously, Amber started a publishing company with Seth Godin and Amazon, and developed marketing campaigns for brands like Apple and Dove. She lives in Brooklyn, NY (and around the world) with her soon-to-be-husband, Farhad.

Session Title: Choose Wonder Over Worry: Move Beyond Fear and Doubt to Unlock Your Full Potential

Wonder is what we’re born with. Worry is what we learn. Now is the time to return to wonder. Why do we listen to the voice inside our head that tells us we’re not good enough, smart enough, or talented enough? Why do we hold back from speaking up or playing big? How can we move beyond the fear and doubt that prevents us from creating a life that reflects who we truly are? Join us as bestselling author, speaker, and artist Amber Rae urges us to “choose wonder” as we embrace discomfort and re-frame the way we relate to our inner emotional world. In this session, we’ll unpack the five myths that stifle our growth, learn strategies for decoding difficult emotions like anxiety, impostor syndrome, fear and envy, and discover how to cultivate courage, curiosity, and compassion so we can realize our true potential in life and work.


Janet Sperstad

Janet Sperstad, CMP
Program Director
Madison College

Janet Sperstad’s professional history reflects her lifelong vocation: driving excellence in meeting and event management execution and education. She has dedicated her career to defining the competencies and career pathways that articulate meeting planning as a design discipline – separate and distinct from hospitality – requiring skills in the social sciences, executive leadership, and the cognitive sciences.

Her contributions are global in scope and rooted in over 25 years as a meeting professional and executive leader in the corporate and non-profit sectors. Janet has been employed by a Fortune 500 global company, a statewide association, and owned a professional event management firm.

Janet currently leads Madison College’s Meeting and Event Management Associate degree program, which she founded in 2002. This award-winning program is recognized for its stringent requirements that faculty demonstrate direct meeting planning experience and credentials; the program currently offers the greatest number of meeting and event management credits in the United States and has served as a model for other programs at colleges and universities in North America and Europe.

Session Title: Unlocking the DNA Code of Leadership

Men and women’s brains are nearly identical, yet science proves we think and process information differently. Do male leaders have a different leadership DNA? Is there an ideal hormone profile for being a great leader?  In this session attendees will explore the answers to these questions and how our neurochemical and biological processing shapes who we are and how we lead.  Unlock your leadership DNA to unleash your ultimate potential.

Panel Discussion

Getting Real: Offline Talks for Online Leadership

Moderator: Janet Sperstad, CMP
Panelists: Jess Ekstrom, Risha Grant and Amber Rae

Unplugged. Unboxed. Unscripted. Have more questions of your own? Want to dive deeper on a specific topic? Join our keynotes, as they share their stories and experiences in an open and sincere way. Taking on additional audience questions, this session peels back the layers and offers a moment to get real and authentic with our keynotes!