Being an entrepreneur comes in many forms from starting a business, initiating change in the context of a larger organization, or desiring to challenge the status quo. But the common denominator is the ability to recognize the opportunity when it presents itself and having the will to pursue it. This panel session will bring together entrepreneurial women with a wide variety of backgrounds who will share their lessons learned and their passions. Each entrepreneurial story represented on this panel will empower our conference attendees with skills and tools necessary to be change agents.


Kathy Boden Holland, President, RLJ Financial, LLC

Hillary Fisher, Owner of Dress Shop boutique and Founder of Conscious Cleaning Services

Susan Gravely, CEO of Vietri, Inc.

Lesley Stracks-Mullem, Co-Founder, Taste of Carolina Gourmet Food Tours

Whitney Wilkerson, CEO & Founder of NEXT for Women; Founding Partner of Stop Studios


Kathy Boden Holland, President, RLJ Financial, LLC – As President of RLJ Financial, Kathy Boden Holland aligns the vision and resources of RLJ and its bank partners to most effectively deliver financial tools to consumers and businesses that are currently overlooked. RLJ Financial is a minority-controlled organization, founded by legendary entrepreneur Robert L. Johnson who founded Black Entertainment Television and The RLJ Companies.

Kathy is an experienced executive and entrepreneur with a diverse background that includes leadership positions in banking, venture capital, and consulting. Most recently, Kathy was an Executive Vice President at Urban Trust Bank responsible for establishing and building the National Products division.  Kathy was a founding partner at Katalyst, LLC, a successful investment bank and consulting firm.  Kathy also held senior roles at Legg Mason Wood Walker, Deloitte Consulting, and Bluehouse Capital LLC.

Kathy received her undergraduate degree at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, where she graduated cum laude. She received her MBA from the University of North Carolina, where she was a Dean’s Scholar.

Kathy lives outside of Washington, DC with her husband and two young children.


Lesley Stracks-Mullem, Co-Founder, Taste of Carolina Gourmet Food Tours

Lesley Stracks-Mullem co-founded Taste Carolina Gourmet Food Tours in March of 2009. Taste Carolina came about in the fall of 2008 after Lesley planned an elaborate barbecue tour of North Carolina (trianglecheapeats.blogspot.com) for herself, husband, and brother-in-law.

Most of Lesley’s career has been spent planning and helping people to enjoy sports, fitness, arts, music, and culinary activities. From 2001-2006, Lesley worked for the Washington DCJCC as its athletic director and for Washington DC’s Parks and Recreation Department as the director of the Chevy Chase Community Center.

Lesley graduated with a BA in English from The College of William & Mary. There, she was a four-year member and two-time captain of the varsity golf team. She is also a 2008 MBA graduate of Kenan-Flagler Business School, where she earned concentrations in Entrepreneurship and Sustainable Enterprise and participated in the Launch the Venture program.

Lesley and her husband, Jeremy Mullem, live in Durham. They welcomed a baby boy, Ezekiel Murray, in November.


Whitney G. Wilkerson

Whitney G. Wilkerson is the Founder and CEO of NEXT for Women, a vibrant and life stage relevant community that serves as the trusted source for young women to learn, engage and succeed in their professional lives. In her role, Whitney sets the strategy and vision for the company’s live events and interactive web based tools and maintains strategic relationships with top corporations.

Prior to Next for Women, Whitney was a Founding Partner of Stop Studios, one of the most highly regarded creative firms in the Triangle specializing in corporate identity, branding, interactive and e-learning design.

Wilkerson has also worked with Condé Nast Publications, the New York City based publishers of Architectural Digest, Vogue, and Bon Appetite, as well as, the Italian fashion house, Giorgio Armani. In addition to developing and launching marketing initiatives and new product lines, she served as part of the team behind the groundbreaking Giorgio Armani exhibit at the Guggenheim Museum.

In the community Wilkerson serves on the board of the Contemporary Art Foundation, Committee of 100 for the nationally recognized North Carolina Museum of Art, and Annual Gala Committee for the Nasher Museum of Art. Because of her active role in the community, Wilkerson received the Triangle Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 Leadership Award, which honors up-and-coming leaders under the age of 40. Wilkerson received her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass.  A native of Morristown, N.J., Wilkerson resides in Durham, N.C.