We are a consortium of leading businesswomen in the Washington, DC region, deploying capital to empower the next generation of female entrepreneurs changing the world.
Civil Rights Activist
Motivating Facts Behind Our Mission
Less than 6% of those making investment decisions at venture capital firms are women.
Only 3% of venture capital dollars go to companies with female CEOs.
For profitable firms, a move from no female leaders to 30% representation is associated with a 15% increase in net revenue.
(Peterson Institute for International Economics)
Founder and Chair, Halcyon
Dr. Sachiko Kuno is the founder and visionary creative behind Halcyon and its mission to catalyze and nurture emerging creatives striving for a better world. Driven by Dr. Kuno’s vision, Halcyon’s family of innovative programs, including the acclaimed Halcyon Incubator, is growing rapidly to include Halcyon Stage, a pioneering creatives series of performances and conversations; Halcyon Arts Lab, a residency based studio arts program; and Halcyon Dialogue, a series of high-level discussions among global experts focusing on major topics including implications of robots for global society and social impact-based sciences.
Dr. Kuno also serves as CEO of S&R Foundation, an organization she co-founded in 2000 to support talented individuals with great potential and high aspirations in the arts, sciences and social entrepreneurship, especially those who are furthering international cultural collaboration.
Dr. Kuno was co-founder and the founding CEO of Sucampo Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (NASDAQ: SCMP) until she stepped down in 2012. She is also a founding member of the Greater Washington Partnership, a group of civic-minded business leaders committed to improving the greater Washington region.
Dr. Kuno currently serves on the boards of numerous organizations, including the Johns Hopkins Medicine Board of Directors, The Maureen and Mike Mansfield Foundation Board of Directors, and THIS for Diplomats at Meridian International Center’s Advisory Board.
Dr. Kuno has received a number of awards over the years, including the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award for the Greater Washington Area in the Life Sciences Category (2007), and recognition as one of the 25 “Women Who Mean Business” by The Washington Business Journal (2009). She has also been named in the Forbes Magazine’s Top 50 America’s Richest Self Made Women (2015) and the World’s 100 Most Powerful Women by Forbes Japan (2015). Most recently, Dr. Kuno was awarded Stateswoman of the Year 2016 by the Harvard Business School of Japan and received the AVON Awards to Women 2016.
Dr. Kuno is a graduate of Kyoto University, where she received her Ph.D. in bioengineering chemistry.
CEO, Salamander Hotels and Resorts
Sheila C. Johnson is an entrepreneur and philanthropist whose accomplishments span the arenas of hospitality, sports, TV/film, the arts, education, women’s empowerment and community development.
As Founder and CEO of Salamander Hotels & Resorts, Johnson oversees a growing portfolio of luxury properties. The equestrian-inspired Salamander Resort & Spa opened in 2013 and has since been recognized by Condé Nast Traveler as one of the Top 10 Resorts in the South and by Travel + Leisure as one of the World’s Greatest Hotels. The Henderson, a Salamander Beach & Spa Resort, is currently under development in Destin, Florida, and is due to open in late 2016.
As Vice Chairman of Monumental Sports & Entertainment, Johnson is the only African-American woman to have ownership in three professional sports teams: the NBA’s Washington Wizards, the NHL’s Washington Capitals, and the WNBA’s Washington Mystics, for which she serves as President and Managing Partner. She also serves on the Executive Committee of the United States Golf Association.
Johnson is a partner in ProJet Aviation, a comprehensive aviation service company specializing in aviation consulting, aircraft acquisitions, management, and charter services. She is also a partner in Mistral, the makers of fine bath, body and home products; and in November 2012 launched her own collection of luxury scarves, inspired by her travels around the world and manufactured in Italy. In 2013, in recognition of her entrepreneurial success, she was invited to serve as a judge for Ernst & Young’s World Entrepreneur of the Year Award – the only judge on the international panel to represent the United States.
Johnson has long been a powerful influence in the entertainment industry, starting with her work as founding partner of Black Entertainment Television. She has served as executive producer of four documentary films, including Kicking It, which premiered at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival; A Powerful Noise, which premiered at the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival; She Is the Matador; and The Other City, a critically acclaimed portrayal of the HIV/AIDS crisis in Washington, DC, which premiered at the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival. She also helped finance the Screen Actors Guild nominated feature film The Butler, directed by Lee Daniels and distributed by Harvey Weinstein.
A fervent supporter of education and the arts, she serves on the Board of Governors of Parsons The New School for Design in New York, and is a member of the Leadership Council at Harvard Kennedy School’s Center for Public Leadership (CPL). She is also a board member of the Jackie Robinson Foundation, as well as founder and chair of the Middleburg Film Festival, a celebration of independent film that opened to sell-out crowds in October 2013.
Johnson has served as a member of Accordia Global Health Foundation’s International Council, rallying support for the foundation’s efforts to overcome the burden of infectious diseases in Africa. In recognition of her humanitarian efforts, she was honored with the Eleanor Roosevelt Val-Kill Medal in 2012.
An accomplished violinist, Johnson received a B.A. in music from the University of Illinois, as well as honorary degrees from numerous other institutions. She lives in Middleburg, VA, is married to the Honorable William T. Newman, Jr., and has two children.
Executive Director, Bernstein Family Foundation
Ami Aronson, an entrepreneurial thought-leader in responsive philanthropy, is the Executive Director of the Bernstein Family Foundation. Granddaughter of Leo M. Bernstein, Aronson oversees the foundation’s governance, grant making and communications.
Because of her forward-thinking approach and management skills, Aronson has taken the historic foundation into the 21st century through strategic planning and dynamic community engagement. Her passion for exploring different points of view and her understanding of strategic alliances makes her an ally for her organization with the greater community.
Engaging in ongoing critical dialogue with community leaders in the Foundation’s three focus areas – Jewish Causes, American Democracy, and Arts & Culture – Aronson helps solve problems for collective benefit and impact. She combines a private sector mindset with a non-profit understanding that allows her to creatively bring innovative ideas to every organization.
Prior to joining the Foundation in 2008, Aronson was involved with global public health issues including women’s health, adolescent health, HIV/AIDS, substance abuse, violence prevention and nutrition education. With over 18 years of experience in designing, implementing and evaluating social marketing programs, Aronson leads with compassion and extensive knowledge. Her international experience in Africa, Asia and the Middle East influences her work.
Aronson received her graduate degree in International Public Health from Hebrew University in Jerusalem and undergraduate degree in Medical Anthropology from University of California, Santa Cruz. She resides in Washington, DC with her husband and young children.
Founder & Managing Director, Inspire Capital, LLC
Patrice King Brickman is the Founder and Managing Director of Inspire Capital, LLC, a venture capital firm that focuses on transitioning not for profit entities into sustainable business models with social impact.
Brickman has served on several nonprofit boards both locally and nationally. While her primary passion has been centered on poverty and homelessness, as she has worked most intimately with that population, she has also been involved with the arts and education. She currently serves on the boards of CharityWorks, Ascend at the Aspen Institute, Wolf Trap, Upward Bound Foundation, Lever Fund and the McLean School, where she chairs the development committee and is leading a capital campaign.
Brickman is an investor in Venture Philanthropy Partners (VPP) and has served on the boards of the National Center for Children and Families, the Washington Area Women’s Foundation, Imagination Stage and the Upward Bound Foundation.
She lives in Potomac, MD with her husband, Scott, and their four children: Anna (20), Leah (18), Kenna (14) and Lane (12).
Debbie Driesman has lived in the Washington, DC area for the past three decades, having grown up in Ontario, Canada.
She worked as a computer engineer in NASA's communication division at Goddard Space Flight Center until she retired in 1999 to oversee the construction of a home. She and her husband, Frank Islam, have since built another new home in Potomac, MD. Driesman has been involved in the Potomac Area Neighbors Club since 2002, and she is the Vice President of the Frank Islam and Debbie Driesman Foundation.
Driesman serves on the Board of Directors of the National Symphony Orchestra, Honorary Board of the S&R Foundation, Board of Trustees of the Montgomery County Public Schools Educational Foundation, Board of Trustees of the Shakespeare Theater Company, Board of Arena Stage, Board of Directors of Washington Performing Arts, Board of the Montgomery County Police Foundation, and Board of Montgomery Community Media. She and her husband are members of the Kennedy Center International Committee on the Arts, the Abraham Lincoln National Council at Ford’s Theater, and the Wilson Center National Cabinet.
Owner & CEO, Carl M. Freeman Companies
Michelle DiFebo Freeman is the owner and CEO of the Carl M. Freeman Companies, a real estate company established in 1947 which specializes in land acquisition, land planning, development and redevelopment, and the management of award-winning, amenity-rich residential communities, neighborhood shopping centers and commercial properties. Freeman Companies also owns and operates three golf courses including Bayside, an 18-hole, award-winning Jack Nicklaus Signature Course in Fenwick Island, DE.
Freeman is also President and Chairman of the Carl M. Freeman Foundation, which has been giving grants to organizations where her employees live, work and play since 1947. She is the founding Chair of the Joshua M. Freeman Foundation, which honors her late husband Joshua Freeman by providing arts and arts education to create opportunities to elevate the human spirit. She was the visionary of the Foundation’s first program: The Freeman Stage at Bayside.
A founding member of Venture Philanthropy Partners, Freeman serves on the board of Landon School in Bethesda and on the Georgetown University Entrepreneurship Advisory Group. She has also chaired AfterDark@THEARC in southeast D.C. for several years, and annually participates in the Covenant House Executive Sleep Out. Freeman received the 2014 Irene and Abe Pollin Humanitarian Award on behalf of the Carl M. Freeman Foundation, Coastal Style Magazine’s Business Woman of the Year for 2015 and 2016, as well as numerous other awards for her business and philanthropic leadership.
Freeman is active in Young Presidents Organization, the Urban Land Institute and the International Council of Shopping Centers. In 2013, Elle magazine named Freeman one of the 10 Most Influential Women in Washington, DC. She has continued to work with Elle magazine in 2016 as part of its ELLE Agenda forum to communicate current women’s issues and initiatives.
Freeman has three children: Nicholas, Benjamin and Juliana Freeman.
Gazelle Hashemian is the founder of BlueFlower, a wellness company, and BlueJuniper, a technology Firm. Prior to her current endeavors, she led a technology firm, Paragon Technology Group, which she founded with her husband. Under Hashemian’s leadership, and through the execution of the company’s growth, Paragon grew organically to over $41M in 2011 serving the public and private sector’s management consulting and technology services. The company was twice selected to the Inc. magazine 5000 list in 2010 and 2011. Prior to Paragon, Hashemian was a Director of IT at Broadband Office, CIO of Picus, Director of IT at Teligent, and held other management and engineering positions at MCI metro, and Hughes Network Systems.
Along with her industry recognitions, Hashemian has also been an active member of the community. She is currently the chair of the National Advisory Council of the GWU School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and has cofounded project Turquoise, a peer-to-peer campaign to help displaced families with a focus on tragedy in Syria. Hashemian holds a master’s in telecommunications from the George Washington University and a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from George Mason University.
Founder & President, Cloverleaf-Solutions
Gail MacKinnon is a skilled government affairs and business strategist, with over 20 years in the telecommunications industry. Most recently, she served as Executive Vice President and Chief Government Relations Officer for Time Warner Cable. She previously worked in various capacities for Time Warner Inc., NCTA-The Internet & Television Association, Viacom Inc., CBS Entertainment, Turner Broadcasting and Tele-Communications Inc. MacKinnon began her professional career on Capitol Hill, working nine years for former Congressman Jack Fields (R-TX).
MacKinnon is Vice Chair of the Board of Directors of Women in Cable Telecommunications (WICT), and also serves on the Board of Directors of the Polaris Project and the Shakespeare Theatre Company.
MacKinnon graduated from Georgetown University in 1985 with a B.S.B.A in marketing, and earned Stanford School of Business certificates in executive leadership in March 2013, 2015 and 2016. She resides in Washington, DC with her husband and two daughters.
Jodie W. McLean is Chief Executive Officer of EDENS, one of the nation’s leading private owners, operators and developers of retail real estate. With a more than 20-year tenure at EDENS, she has established herself as a key player in the company’s growth and expansion to its current marketplace leadership, capitalized by blue chip investors and assets valued at $6 billion.
McLean is responsible for EDENS’ strategy to move the portfolio to major urban centers, creating a portfolio of assets that are the center of community life. She was named Chief Investment Officer in 1997, President in 2002 and CEO in 2015. Overall, she has been responsible for the development, redevelopment, acquisition and disposition of more than $12 billion in retail assets.
McLean passionately believes that retail should evolve beyond a shopping experience, and advocates for connectivity to the communities surrounding the company’s retail centers. To ensure this, each EDENS development is crafted to serve as an authentic gathering place, including a unique merchandising mix and welcoming design elements, fostering a sense of engagement with its neighbors.
A native of Chicago, IL, McLean holds a B.S. in finance and management from the Moore School of Business, University of South Carolina and a degree from South Carolina Honors College. McLean is a trustee of both the International Council of Shopping Centers and the Urban Land Institute. She serves on the Pension Real Estate Association board, the Real Estate Round Table board, as well as boards of several other institutions and charities. McLean is a member of the Liberty Fellowship (Aspen Institute) Class of 2009.
Executive Vice President of Global Public Policy, Time Warner
Carol A. Melton is Executive Vice President of Global Public Policy for Time Warner, a leading media and entertainment company that creates, packages and delivers high-quality film and television content worldwide on a multi-platform basis. She oversees the company’s policy-related activities through offices in Washington, New York, London, Brussels, Hong Kong and Buenos Aires. Melton works across the company’s operating divisions of HBO, Turner and Warner Bros. Entertainment, engaging on various business, regulatory and technology matters as well as digital strategies. Melton previously served as Viacom’s EVP of Government Relations for its then combined operations with CBS, including Paramount, MTV Networks, Showtime and Simon & Schuster. She has also served as Legal Advisor to the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission; Assistant General Counsel for the National Cable Television Association; and as an associate with the law firm now named Hogan Lovells.
Melton is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and serves on the boards of the Economic Club of Washington, D.C. and of the Phillips Collection. Washingtonian magazine has repeatedly named Melton among the 100 Most Powerful Women in Washington. She holds a J.D. from the Washington College of Law at American University; an M.A. in communications from the University of Florida; and a B.A. from Wake Forest University. Flagler College has awarded her an Honorary Doctor of Laws.
Founder & President, 100WomenStrong
Karen G. Schaufeld is a philanthropist, author, entrepreneur and lawyer. She is the Founder and President of 100WomenStrong, a granting organization that strategically invests in nonprofits and programs that enrich the lives of Loudoun County, Virginia, residents. Schaufeld also co-founded All Ages Read Together (AART), a school readiness program for low-income preschool-aged children. In addition, she also helped found NEW Customer Services Companies, Inc., the nation’s largest administrator of consumer product warranties, now part of NEW Asurion, Inc., where she served as General Counsel.
Schaufeld is currently CEO and Co-Founder of Altor Locks, which has created the world’s lightest, strongest bike lock. She is an advocate for the growth of renewable energy in Virginia and a more secure and stable grid through distributed energy. To spread awareness about Virginia energy policy she founded PoweredbyFacts.com, and is actively involved in the passage of renewable energy bills.
Schaufeld currently serves as a trustee of Lehigh University and serves on the boards of Middleburg Film Festival, PeaceWorks Foundation and Venture Philanthropy Partners. She published her first children’s book, The Lollipop Tree, in 2014 and has just released her second children’s book, Larry and Bob. She holds a bachelor’s degree in English and government from Lehigh University and a J.D. from George Washington University.
Founder & Chairman of the Board, FCi Federal, Inc.
Sharon D. Virts is the Founder and Chairman of the Board of The Sharon D. Virts Foundation created to support what Virts refers to as the pillars of a thriving community: Education, Culture, Health, and Opportunity Development, particularly in economically-depressed and rural communities. The Foundation’s initial focus is on Loudoun County as it executes its multifaceted mission to reinforce cultural significance and assist in the preservation of historical sites; ignite initiatives that fuel business and economic growth; strengthen and enhance access to healthcare facilities available to the community; encourage and bolster educational institutions for economically disadvantaged students, and mentor and develop the next generation of up and coming leaders.
Virts is active in the Loudoun community serving as Chairman of the Loudoun Economic Development Commission; member of the CEO Cabinet for the Loudoun County Chamber; board member of the Dulles Corridor Rail Association; Director of Loudoun INOVA Hospital Foundation; advisor to the Board of Trustees of the Hill School in Middleburg, Virginia; and member of 100WomenStrong. She lectures nationally on leadership development and small business growth.
Virts has nearly 30 years of experience in the federal market. She founded FCi Federal (formerly FedConsulting) in 1991 and serves as Chairman of the Board. Under her direction, FCi Federal has experienced stellar growth since 2005, growing from 35 employees and $1.5 million in revenue in 2007 to nearly 5,000 employees and $157 million in revenue today.
In 2016, Virts won a SmartCEO Leadership Award which recognizes the achievements of top women business leaders in the Washington, DC metropolitan area. In 2013, she was named Ernst and Young's 2013 Entrepreneur of the Year for Greater Washington as well as received two gold Stevie Awards for Women of the Year and Female Entrepreneur of the Year in Business Services. She was recognized by the Women's Chamber of Commerce for her assistance and mentoring support of other woman-owned small businesses by receiving their prestigious Stellar Award in 2013 and their Women Contractor/Growth Master Award in 2012.
Linda Youngentob is an educator and an advocate for underserved youth in Montgomery County, MD. Her passion is to help her students get on a pathway that allows them to achieve financial independence, support their families and give back to the community.
Youngentob is a faculty member at the Montgomery College Macklin Business Institute, serves on the board of the Montgomery College Foundation and is the co-chair of the Montgomery College Capital Campaign. She is also a board member of CollegeTracks, a nonprofit organization that helps underserved youth apply to and succeed in college. Youngentob works directly with students to help them attend colleges that match their interest and skills, and has taught at-risk youth as a facilitator for Future Link in their self-advocacy seminars.
Youngentob serves on the board of Compass, a nonprofit that provides pro bono consulting to nonprofits in the D.C. region, and is a board member of the Tikkum Olam Foundation. She has also served on the executive board of Green Acres School. Additionally, she is a member of the Sharing Montgomery Committee at the Community Foundation of Montgomery County. Her past corporate work experience includes strategic planning, sales, marketing, telecommunications and information technology at TBS (now Oliver Wyman), American Management Systems, MCI and AT&T.
Youngentob is a graduate of the Leadership Montgomery Class of 1995. She earned her B.A. in systems analysis & design at Brown University and her MBA at the Harvard University Graduate School of Business.
Today, women represent only a small fraction of venture capital investors and recipients, and we believe in a future where talent and great ideas are the qualifying factors considered for funding. With our strategic approach, connections and resources, we seek to redefine the culture of investing, empower future female leaders, and achieve transformational impact.
Led by Sachiko Kuno and Sheila C. Johnson, the consortium’s members invest in a female-founded venture capital firm called Rethink Impact, which is led by D.C.-based Managing Partner Jenny Abramson and San Francisco-based Partner Heidi Patel.
Madam CJ Walker
First Female Self-made