Nicole Giordano (she/her)
Founder, StartUp FASHION
Summit Presentations:
Developing a Business Owner Mindset
How Much Does It Cost to Launch a Fashion Business
Getting Organized and Managing Your Time for a Successful Launch
Everything you Need to Know About Fabric Sourcing

Hey, I’m Nicole. I’m the founder of StartUp FASHION, a community and resource helping aspiring independent fashion brand owners to launch and grow their businesses.

I began this business over 12 years ago and have helped thousands of brands to launch their fashion products into the world using our proven, step-by-step blueprint.  I focus on teaching fashion business mindset and launch strategy to brand owners who have entrepreneurial dreams and the determination to bring them to life.

A professional encourager, I believe that the only way to be truly successful is to build a business around the life you want to live.


Nichole Simms (she/her)
Founder, Creative Visual Solutions
Presentation: 4 Keys to Having a Successful Online Fashion Brand

Nichole is the founder of Creative Visual Solutions, a Sales Coaching company that shows Small to Medium Retail and Product-based business owners how to improve brand positioning, increase sales, and attract customers through proven Merchandising, Marketing and Sales strategies.

She has 35+ years of Retail Management, Marketing, Sales, and Visual Merchandising experience. She has a BA of Science in Retail degree from Purdue University. Milwaukee, WI is her hometown and now resides in Paramount, CA.

Throughout her career, she has had the privilege of driving results and collaborating with some of the country's best retailers such as The Gap, Ann Taylor, Forever 21, Nike, UA, and The North Face.

She has been featured in top Retail publications such as Bling Retail Blog, Entrepreneur, and Wholesale Central Blog. Now, at Creative Visual Solutions, Nichole helps Independent Retail Owners and Fashion Brands through all stages of their business. From start-up, growth, expansion, and special projects, Nichole uses proven insider secrets and retail techniques used by larger brands to help her clients achieve overall success.

Kristen Anderson (she/her)
Presentation: Creating Your Purpose-Driven Fashion Brand

Kristen has been designing apparel for over 12 years and has built a strong reputation for her innovative products, technical and fit expertise, and deep understanding of the end user. Her wide-ranging design skills have been sought out by powerhouse brands and fast-growing start-ups such as Adore Me, Sheertex, Knickey, Lane Bryant, and Victoria's Secret. Kristen currently runs KRSTN NDRSN LLC, an intimate + swimwear design studio started in 2019, designing and developing garments for DTC start-ups, VC-funded brands, and independent labels.

As the founder and CEO of iteration, an apparel brand started by Kristen, she aims to leverage her intimate knowledge of apparel design, fit, and functionality to create better-made, more sustainable garments from conception to customer. Her extensive industry experience in intimates has allowed her to identify critical gaps in the market and opportunities to introduce innovative solutions. Kristen is passionate about sustainable fashion, thoughtfully engineered design, and constantly improving and enhancing the entire customer experience. She believes there is an opportunity to do better for the customer, the planet, and the factories.

Kristen was the first designer hired at Adore Me, where she contributed to a team that increased sales from $5 million in 2013 to nearly $84 million by 2016. During Kristen's tenure at Adore Me, it was the fastest-growing lingerie start-up in the United States. From 2016 to 2019, Kristen was the lead swimwear designer at SwimUSA. Kristen's career started in 2010 at Bennett & Company, where she worked on the Lane Bryant, Victoria's Secret, and Hanes brands. She earned her BS degree studying Design and Merchandising at Framingham State University, where she graduated with honors. She won the Young Alumni Achievement Award from FSU in 2016 and was accepted into the Project Entrepreneur program by UBS and Rent the Runway in 2018.

Hatice Tekin (she/her)
Creative director & Owner, Ana Dyla
Presentation: How to Develop Your Fashion Business Plan

Hatice is a lawyer turned entrepreneur, the owner of a sustainable jewellery business as well as a consultant in fashion business and manufacturing.

She launched her jewellery brand Ana Dyla in 2015 in Turkey and now works with emerging jewellery designers who want to create sustainable, ethical brands while also making sure they are building successful, profitable businesses.

Lenese Calleea (she/her)
Product Development & Production Director, LC Apparel
Presentation: Inventory Planning For Your First Production Run

Lenese Calleea, known to the world as the Fashion Fairy Godmother, is on a journey…

Despite being 30 years young, Lenese Calleea has accumulated 2 decades of expertise in design, garment construction, and apparel production. Earning a BFA in Fashion Design. Lenese has evolved from a young skilled seamstress and adolescent entrepreneur to a designer, apparel industry expert, consultant, and budding Creative mogul. Lenese started her own brand entitled Calleea Vatein creating Jackets, Jumpsuits & Jammers for the creative entrepreneur’s lifestyle. Her pieces are strategically designed to embody Classic, Color and Confidence.

Lenese relocated to New York in 2014, to pursue a Master’s in Fashion Management & Merchandising. Lenese is the creator and curator of BlackNFashion Podcast, a medium dedicated to the growth & enhancement of Black designers, merchandisers, stylists & their subsequent entrepreneurship.

Lenese is the CEO of LC Apparel Consulting and Founder of The Black Girlz Designer Club Nonprofit. She lends her knowledge to the next generation of designers via her services, courses, and mentorship packages. Her mantra: Bringing Dreams to LIFE. In 2020 Lenese was able to scale her business to $700K in revenue and went from independently in her home to a commercial space with 10 employees in 7 months.

Lenese also hosts New York Garment District tours, workshops, and master classes. She continues to be a resource to designers at varying degrees of the journey. Lenese is an advocate for education, unity, and inclusion for Black Creatives, in fashion. She has completed product development and production for over 200 emerging brands.

Connie Bourgeois (she/her)
CEO & Founder, Conjetta Designs
Presentation: Top Tips for Designing Your First Collection

Connie Bourgeois founded Conjetta Designs with the belief that investing in young talent is crucial for the next generation of designers to succeed and prosper.

By sharing her extensive knowledge of design, development, sourcing, logistics, merchandising, and brand building, with both her team and her clients, Connie fosters an industry of collaboration, innovation and growth.

Corrine Brothers (she/her)
Creative Director, RuleDD
Presentation: What New Brands Need to Know about Working with Production Partners

Corinne is the founder and owner of Rule Design & Development.

She started Rule DD in 2018 as a design consultant and pattern-drafter, and has since grown the company to offer full-package design, development, and production services to designer brands across the US.

Corinne loves working with clients, hearing their ideas and helping bring their vision to life, and collaborating the Rule DD team.

She teaches pattern-drafting at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising (FIDM) in downtown Los Angeles. Outside of Rule DD, Corrine has designed for independent film, devised theater and dance, wearable art installations, and slow-fashion brands.

Nicole Mitchell (she/her)
Private Label Manufacturer , Urbane Private Label
Presentation: Understanding the Private Label Process

Nicole "Cole" Mitchell is the founder of Urbane Luggage and Urbane Private Label. She is the first Black-woman-owned hemp bag and apparel manufacturer brand in the United States.

Maria Batres (she/her)
Fashion Production Manager
Presentation: Understanding the Development Process from Idea to Finished Sample

Hey! I'm Maria Batres, a Fashion Designer and Production Manager with Business and Technical Experience.

I've been working for +8 years in the industry for successful brands, helping them to boost their potential and showing all the tricks and secrets of the fashion industry. I believe in long-last relationships and in the power of a good leadership. I work with factories in Europe, USA and China producing high end quality garments for casual, street and active European and American brands.

I have a technical background and a keen eye for detail to let my clients know the tricks to boost their brand's potential. From design to tech packs, quality check and calendar build out, I am a passionate team-builder.

And last but not least, I love transparency and sharing.

Nicole Higgins (she/her)
Retail Business Consultant, The Buyer And Retail Coach™
Presentation: Essentials of Preparing Your Business for Wholesale

Nicole has worked as a buyer for over 18 years for retailers such as Primark, M&S and Debenhams both in the UK and globally and now uses her expertise and knowledge to help entrepreneurs and corporates increase bottom-line sales & profits.

She established her own business The Buyer And Retail Coach™ to help give businesses the confidence and knowledge to bring products to market and to scale their business.

Her expertise covers many areas from product development to sourcing, strategy and wholesale.

Nicole wanted to share her experience to help others avoid the pitfalls in business and have a smoother path to success.

Jacinta Gandy (she/her)
CEO & Creative Director
Presentation: Developing Your Brand Story

I'm a multi-passionate brand strategist, designer, digital marketer and business coach. My Brand Confidence process has helped hundreds of fashion, beauty, wellness, and lifestyle brands like yourself increase their impact, attract high-ticket clients, and grow the business of their dreams with ease.

Prior to starting Social Circle, I spent over a decade working at several of NYC's top media agencies. Today, I use my unique background and skillset to help small businesses implement the same branding and marketing strategies that many big brands use.

Charmaine Mischel (she/her)
Fashion Brand Strategist
Presentation: Creating Your Pre-Sales Launch Strategy

Fashion Designer & Consultant, Charmaine Mischel is paving the way for early-stage fashion entrepreneurs to make their mark.

At CM Design Agency in NY, it is her mission to lift the veil on the traditionally secretive fashion industry so that BIPOC designers and more can confidently brand and launch their MVC (Minimum Viable Collection) using a "keep-it-lean" launch, pre-selling strategy to fund production.

She brings decades of domestic and international industry expertise to the table, guiding designers step by step along their journey with core insights, strategies, and best practices.

Brianna Rojao (she/her)
Social Media Manager/Marketer
Presentation: Creating Your Pre-Launch Content Strategy

The internet is a vast place, and it can be hard to stick out from the crowd.

At Socially Bri media we know it can be difficult to set yourself apart, that's why we're so big on authenticity and strategy.

We focus on the obtainable, not the unrealistic goals.

Keira Kotler (she/her)
Founder and CEO, Everviolet
Fireside Chat

Keira Kotler is the Founder and CEO of Everviolet – a brand that is changing the adaptive intimate apparel world, creating elegant and functional lingerie for the special needs of women as they navigate life. From cancer to pregnancy, menopause to disability, skin sensitivities to surgery, her mission is to help women renew a sense of self and femininity following change, enabling them to feel comfortable and confident through all life experiences.

A Boston native, Keira relocated to San Francisco in 1999, where she worked as a Brand Director for retail clients in the home design and beauty industries. Leading brands from concept to execution, she managed strategy to design, production to advertising, seamlessly bringing bricks and mortar business into the e-commerce space. Keira is also an esteemed artist whose paintings and photographs are represented in galleries throughout the US and collected internationally. She received a BA with Honors from Columbia University and a MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute.

Ashleigh Becker (she/her)
Executive Director, Sela Design
Fireside Chat

Ashleigh Becker is the founder of Sela Designs, a non-profit jewelry company that donates 100% of profit to care for orphans, end human trafficking and show mercy to those in need.

A mom of 4, wife and avid pour over coffee drinker, Ashleigh is passionate about teaching other women how to change the world right where they are and using their influence for good.

When she’s not designing a new collection, Ashleigh loves traveling, spending time with her family and leading worship in her community.

Stephanie Manganelli (she/her)
CEO, Stowaway Collection
Fireside Chat

Stephanie Manganelli is part of the mother-daughter duo that founded Stowaway Collection Maternity. After searching for on-trend, figure flattering maternity options for her pregnancy, they left disappointed by the quality and offering in traditional maternity retail and vowed to change it. Together Stephanie & her mother, Debbie created a collection that celebrates the pregnant bump rather than hiding it beneath a tent. All pieces are made to be worn desk to dinner and manufactured in the USA.

Stephanie’s career began in fashion, when she landed a position in Nine West’s Executive Training Program out of college. After working in sourcing and production and realizing it lacked the creativity in which she craved, she moved to a creative marketing role under the Jones New York brand. There, she learned the ins and outs of the fashion industry from photoshoots and runway shows to non-profit work and this is when she fell in love with fashion. She perfected her styling skills by learning how to dress real women with real bodies. This important skill is how she’s been able to design for the pregnant body so well. Stephanie continued her career in marketing with the Swatch Group and eventually moved into food and wellness marketing with Organic Avenue before starting Stowaway Collection Maternity.

Stephanie currently lives and works in Northern, NJ with her husband and two kids.

Belma McCaffrey (she/her)
Career and Leadership Coach, Founder of Work Bigger
Presentation: "Get Into the Flow" Live Meditation

Belma McCaffrey is a Career and Leadership Coach and the Founder of Work Bigger, a career coaching company for dissatisfied high-achievers who want to find their purpose.

Work Bigger helps individuals connect to their mission and step into their purpose and full potential. Work Bigger also supports multi-million dollar brands in luxury retail and media.

Belma's work has been featured in Forbes, Fortune, Thrive, and other media platforms. Belma is also a refugee, a mom, and prior to Work Bigger, she spent 10+ years working in media and strategy roles at companies like the Associated Press and Conde Nast.

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