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MELISSA DAWN SIMKINS

THE FIRST LADY OF PERSONAL BRANDING

For nearly two decades, Melissa Dawn Simkins has blended human insight with brand-building innovation, to be coined, “The First Lady of Personal Branding.” She is more than a trusted advisor to Fortune 100’s, C-Suite executives and influencers, but she is the personal brand leadership pioneer, redefining and reinventing the leadership development category to harvest the potential of people to lead the future.

Melissa founded Velvet Suite® in 2006, as a leadership innovative firm focused on building future-ready leaders. The She-Suite is the female-focused initiative of Velvet Suite, addressing the persistent pipeline gap for all women and women of color in particular with a proven method to unleash hidden potential.

“Because of the intense volumes of responsibilities both at work and home, working women have little time to develop a roadmap for their own success. So we created The She-Suite Method to help her craft a personal brand around mission, vision and purpose across the various stages of her life to thrive both personally and professionally.”

Today, her understanding of human potential and personal branding make her a highly-sought after keynote speaker on leadership innovation and C-Suite advisor. She is a former contributor to Inc.com and a frequent guest on news and business media, including CNN, HLN, CNBC, Essence, Black Enterprise and more. Melissa is the author of Brand Me. Make Your Mark: The Ultimate Playbook for Personal Branding.

Melissa’s career is replete with notable firsts. The first African American female advisory board member for the World Brand Congress in Mumbai. In partnership with the NFL, Velvet Suite created the NFL Player Brand University, the first personal brand development academy in professional sports. She has served on the Board as Trustees of her alma mater, Otterbein University and currently serves on the Board of Directors for The SHRM Foundation (Society for Human Resource Management).

Melissa holds her Bachelor of Arts in Public Relations and Business from Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio and a Masters of Science in Integrated Marketing Communications from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois.

Melissa loves people, a good laugh and working out. She is a devoted wife and mother of four sons. Melissa and her husband and purpose-partner, Will Simkins reside in Northern, Virginia.

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President & CEO, Velvet Suite 

Founder, The She-Suite

C-Suite Advisor

Keynote Speaker

Kait Eggers

Strategic Growth and Communications Coordinator

Kait is Velvet Suite’s Strategic Growth and Communications Coordinator, and has been with the team now since Spring of 2020. She is responsible for coordinating integrated communications across the organizations and manages content strategy for growth and engagement with various stakeholders. She provides guidance and support for communications that support the growth mission of the organization.

Before joining the Velvet Suite team, Kait worked for a smaller online start-up for several years, also handling communications, editorial processes, and growth initiatives. She has enjoyed working remotely since 2016, when she and her husband relocated overseas to live in Israel for two years.

Kait has a B.A. in English from Bradley University, and an M.S. in Sports Business Management from the University of Northern Colorado. She is passionate about writing and being able to communicate and connect well from behind screens, a skill she implements daily across her job role with both clients as well as the She-Suite Community.

In her free time, Kait enjoys staying active through CrossFit, running, and hiking with her husband and two huskies in the DMV region.

Zeenaz Ali

Administrator

Zeenaz provides Velvet Suite’s administrative support. In her role, she is responsible for various calendars, administrative tasks, data management, and serves as a liaison between internal and external clients and contacts.

She has fifteen years of legal, administrative and customer service related experience.

Krisztina G. Little

Client Success Associate

Krisztina is Velvet Suite’s Client Success Associate. She is a growth focused team member who supports clients and members throughout the life cycle to grow engagement and sustain loyalty.

Krisztina’s career path includes leadership positions in the hospitality industry hotel segment, customer service and account management in distribution. Throughout her journey she has travelled the world, collaborated and worked with people from different cultures. She has a proven track record of building cohesive teams and life-long relationships which resulted in business growth.

She is a proud native Hungarian, Wife and Mother of two Sons.In her free time she loves to travel. Her hobbies are photography, art and interior design.

Mary Kate Murray

Sales Administrator

Mary Kate Murray is Velvet Suite’s Partnership Administrator. She is responsible for the care and tending of our Customer Relationship Management System, and supports partnership initiatives. Mary Kate brings over 25 years of experience in the world of customer enablement and customer success in a variety of capacities having to do with learning and development. Most recently she served as a Customer Success Manager in the software industry. Additionally she has deep experience in learning management system implementation management, eLearning development, and instructor-led training development and delivery. Mary Kate earned a B.A. in Psychology from St. Mary’s College of Maryland and is completing a Masters in Counseling Psychology from California Southern University. She lives in Columbia Maryland with her husband, daughter, and border collie who could really benefit from having a whole herd of sheep.

Deidra Freeman

Director, Programs and Engagement

Deidra Freeman is a results-driven servant leader who has spent her career advocating for individuals to achieve their fullest potential. As the Director of Programs and Engagement, she focuses on leading program operation and execution across Velvet Suite’s portfolio of business-critical programs. Deidra has delivered programs and events across multiple continents that bring the career interests of women to the forefront. She has served as Senior Director of Programs for AnitaB.org, where she led the production of several Hopperx1 global events, the programming, and the content for the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing; the world’s largest gathering for women technologists. Deidra’s 10-year technology foundation began as an Engineering Project Manager for Motorola. She transitioned to spend 15 years as an Educator and Instructional Administrator for Chicago Public Schools. She holds 2 master’s degrees and multiple licenses in the education field, and a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from Northwestern University. She is a wife and mother of two beautiful daughters, and is a certified group fitness instructor who enjoys making jewelry in her spare time.

Amy Whiteman

Director, Operations and Value Creation

Amy is Velvet Suite’s Director, Operations and Value Creation and is responsible for process alignment across the organization and building a strategic operations model to support the expansion of our product portfolio.

Amy is an operations management strategist with over 25 years of experience streamlining operations to fuel growth at organizations. She is a career problem solver and results-driven leader. Before joining Velvet Suite and The She-Suite Team, Amy worked with entrepreneurs, and as an entrepreneur herself, repositioned small companies for increased profitability through process efficiency.

Prior to that, Amy spent 8 years at CEB (now Gartner) as a Senior Director in the Finance & Operations Practice where she advised C-Suite executives in audit and risk management, operations, supply chain and quality management. Earlier in her career Amy worked for Shell Oil in various roles from account management and distribution operations to strategy and portfolio management.
Amy holds an M.B.A from Northwestern’s Kellogg Graduate School of Management and a B.S. in Logistics and Operations from Penn State University.

Amy loves sports and being outdoors, reading and volunteering in her community. She enjoys spending her free time with her husband and three kids.

Jennifer Martin

Partnership Coordinator

Jennifer is Velvet Suite’s Partnership Coordinator and is responsible for cultivating, developing and providing the “Velvet Touch” to clients across our expanding product portfolio. Jennifer is an accomplished Marketing/Business Development and Public Relations professional. With over 20 years of experience, Jennifer’s expertise ranges from client relationship with industry-leading advertising organizations, being a collaborative leader with a demonstrated record of managing diverse teams to complete complex projects – to major community outreach and fundraising events. Before joining Velvet Suite and The She-Suite Team, Jennifer worked to develop new clients for non-profits/corporations while fundraising for local community organizations. Prior to that, she spent several years at USA Today, where she earned the President’s Circle award for implementing and overseeing the Best Sale of the Year. Jennifer began her career in the corporate world at AMS (now CGI) where she spearheaded and produced their first advertising campaign. Jennifer holds a B.S. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology with a minor in Marketing/Communications. Jennifer loves to decorate, entertain family and friends, travel, volunteer at her girl’s school, and dancing! She enjoys spending time with her husband, 3 daughters – and of course, their mini-goldendoodle, Snickers.

Melissa Dawn Simkins

Founder & CEO

For nearly two decades, Melissa Dawn Simkins has blended human insight with brand-building innovation, to be coined, “The First Lady of Personal Branding.” She is more than a trusted advisor to Fortune 100’s, C-Suite executives and influencers, but she is the personal brand leadership pioneer, redefining and reinventing the leadership development category to harvest the potential of people to lead the future.

Determined to unleash leadership at all levels, Simkins founded Velvet Suite® (www.velvetsuite.com). Since its inception in 2006, Velvet Suite has delivered breakthrough business results for an array of leading companies, celebrities, industries and brands by rethinking leadership from the inside out.

The company launched a sister platform committed to bridging the systemic gap for retention and advancement of working women through The She-Suite, a leadership and lifestyle innovation platform for career-driven, high-potential women that work for large enterprises who want to discover purpose and a proven path to accelerate their careers and live a life they love. This platform is built upon The She-Suite ® Method, a novel approach to partner with women in a safe community to meet her at every stage of her career journey from launch, lead and legacy. She-Suite is a leadership and lifestyle innovation platform for career driven, high potential women working for large enterprises designed to address the corporate blind spot most well-intentioned companies miss around talent development. Through this platform, The She-Suite platform has supported more than 30,000 women leaders across industry to discover proven path to accelerate their careers and live a life they love.

Today, her understanding of human potential and personal branding make her a highly-sought after leadership advisor, keynote speaker, a contributor to Inc.com and a frequent guest on news and business media, including CNN, CNBC, HLN, Essence, Black Enterprise and more. Melissa is the best-selling author of Brand Me. Make Your Mark: The Ultimate Playbook for Personal Branding (Xlibris Publishing).

Melissa is the wife to William Alfred Simkins III. Her highest ambition remains to be a faithful wife and a present mommy. She is the proud wife of William Alfred Simkins III and mommy to Kingston and loving bonus mom to Amari, Kevin and Shunn.