Austin’s 2019 ChangeMakers

Paul O'BrienAdvocacy, EngagementLeave a Comment

So, I took a holiday break, as I hope you did, and during that time, what more wonderful surprise could one ask for than finding that their partner, one of our founders, is being recognized, among some incredible Austin leaders, as a “ChangeMaker” of 2019.

December 21st saw the announcement by the Austin Young Chamber of 12 finalists for the ChangeMaker award in Austin, TX.   And as I’m sure you well know, with the substantial amount of change going on in and immigration to Austin, these 12, regardless of the winners chosen, are are the forefront of some of the most amazing work being done in the future of our economy at large.  With the Austin/San Antonio metropolitan area the largest growing metro in the United States, knowing the change makers throughout Texas, where companies and thousands of professionals are relocating, is a critical path to our collective success.

If I might, I wanted to take a minute to share my gratitude for MediaTech Ventures’ John Zozzaro while exploring the other finalists and making it a little easier for you to get to know, and connect, with each of them…

The Austin Young Chamber

The Austin Young Chamber focuses on equipping members typically between 21 and 40 years old, with the skills, experiences, and connections they need to be successful leaders and influencers in Austin, both today and in the future.

Past winners of the ChangeMaker award include AU40 Mentor of the Year Heather McKissick, Councilmember Greg Casar, President and CEO of Austin Community Foundation Mike Nellis, Founder of GiveRealty Laurie Loew, halfHelen founder and CEO Chelsea Elliott, social justice advocate Sam Killermann, Truth Be Told Executive Director Katie Ford, songwriter and entrepreneur Casey McPherson, and Owner of Pediatric Healthcare Connection Laura Maniccia.

Before the list, let me note that not only am I personally excited to see so many great leaders whom I’ve had a chance to get to know; but that our work in Austin, because of Austin, in media, is evident in the great many people in this list who are working in film, publishing, music, public relations, and other forms of media. Look for it 😉

The 12 Finalists of 2019

John Zozzaro

John Zozzaro is a founder of MediaTech Ventures and founder and director of our media incubator Collective.

Zozzaro is a professional musician turned serial entrepreneur, with over a decade of marketing experience and as a professional musician.

Originally from Chicago, IL, he was a founder and the singer/songwriter and played guitar for the band Train Company, which ran from 2008 until 2015 with Mark Alletag – Sax, Mike DeWitte – Bass, Rob Lejman – Drums, and Sam Wyatt – Keys. NPR noted of the group, “After the first listen to their latest full-length release The Remains of an Effort, it’s clear that Train Company is more than a blues band. The group crafts a diverse multi-layered sound with discernible traces of jazz, pop, and even orchestral arrangements, while effortlessly switching between anthemic rock vocals and airy indie rock introspection.”

In 2015, he started Aim & Amplify, with Jeff Sodikoff, former VP of Marketing & Promotion at Sony, a brand, entertainment & cause, marketing agency, with an unparalleled passion for pushing boundaries while driving revenue. He serves as a mentor and teacher with Tileyard Education, a division of Tileyard Studios, and at Impact Hub.

Courtney Bailey

Courtney is Director of Issues & Engagement at Leadership Austin where she supports collaboration with communities through leadership, meaningful engagement, strategic planning, and wellness.

A study of Political Science and Community Development at Howard University, she has worked with the Economic Policy Institute, AmeriCorp, Latino Healthcare Forum, The Alliance for African American Health, Dell Medical School, and now, in Leadership Austin.

Lewis Conway, Jr.

Lewis Conway Jr., is a serial entrepreneur, with almost two decades of experience in the broadcast and music industry, real-life, in-the-trenches experience as a sought after speaker and lecturer, author of three books, mentor and criminal justice organizer, his strategic vision is radically different.

Lewis has built a cachet of servant-leadership through several campaigns in municipal and state political theaters. On July 23, 2018, Conway filed to become the first formerly incarcerated person in Texas to have their name on an electoral ballot. On November 6, 2018, he garnered 11% of vote, ultimately losing his first bid for political office.

Lisa Graham

Lisa is the owner and founder of Notley, a catalyst for social innovation unlocking opportunities with today’s impact organizations and changing communities.

Their mission is to scale and support businesses, nonprofits, individuals, and programs making positive change in the world. Everything they do is motivated by social innovation and entrepreneurial activity. Through educational events, programs and initiatives, Notley is creating a national social innovation ecosystem where innovative approaches give rise to more purposeful and profitable outcomes. Notley is effecting change at the systemic level – not just nonprofit-by-nonprofit or cause-by-cause, but as an ecosystem. Notley was founded in 2015 by Dan Graham, founder of BuildASign.com, and his wife, Lisa as a way to leverage their own business and investing success.

Naji H. Kelley

Naji H. Kelley is the Founder and CEO of BLNDED Media. With co-founders Jonathan Hackworth and Alexis Davis, Kelley’s work provides a voice for underrepresented entrepreneurs in tech and highlight organizations that support diversity, in order to build a more inclusive startup ecosystem.  By providing valuable tools and resources, and sharing inspirational success stories, BLNDED is cultivating a supportive community for diverse entrepreneurs and individuals who can contribute to their knowledge and success

Naji has served a Logistics Specialist in the U.S. Navy since 2012 and is a graduate of Cuyahoga Community College.

Kate Lincoln-Goldfinch

Kate Lincoln-Goldfinch is owner of Lincoln-Goldfinch Law, with offices in Austin and Waco. Upon graduating from the University of Texas for college and law school, she received an Equal Justice Works Fellowship in 2008, completed at American Gateways. Her project served the families detained at the Hutto Detention Center.

After that fellowship and during the federal hiatus from family detention, Kate entered private immigration practice. The firm offers family-based immigration and removal defense, including humanitarian cases such as asylum, U Visa, and VAWA. In 2010, she was awarded the Contribution to Minority Community Award from the Travis County Women Lawyers Association and in 2017 the same organization honored Kate as Pro Bono Attorney of the Year. In 2018, Grassroots Leadership awarded her the Leadership in Advocacy Award. In 2018, the Austin Bar Association awarded her the Excellence in Pro Bono award and she was selected as a Rising Star by Super Lawyers Magazine in 2017 and 2018.

Travis Penfield

The financial industry has been in need of a major revolution for quite some time now; this is where Travis Penfield comes in.  Believing that somewhere along the way, the deep care for another person and their finances was replaced by greed and inflated egos, today’s advisors are typically thrown into a career with one of the lowest retention rates in the United States due primarily to being isolated and abandoned as they begin their practices.

In 2015, Travis started 49 Financial to change the financial industry for the better through our advisors’ fierce loyalty, unquestioned integrity, selfless teamwork, abundant gratitude, and deep conviction. They are catalysts to bring the focus back to people.

Karen Ranus

Karen Ranus is a Mental Health Leader & Advocate with twenty plus years of non-profit experience including volunteer and operations management, public relations, marketing, event coordination and community outreach as well as program and curriculum development.

She was a study of journalism and public relations at the University of Texas and since 2013 has served as the Executive Director of NAMI Austin; responsible for the successful leadership and management of the organization according to the strategic direction set by the NAMI Austin Board of Directors.

Geronimo Rodriguez

Geronimo serves as Chief Advocacy Officer at Seton Healthcare Family and Providence Healthcare Network.  He works to focus the mission of healthcare provide for the special concerns of the poor and the vulnerable.

Geronimo Rodriquez is called to be an advocate for a compassionate and just society with our words and actions and he is interested in increasing civic engagement, inclusion, implementing workforce development best practices and evidence based research which supports the Human Care strategy of Seton and Providence Healthcare.

Nathan Ryan

For over a decade, Nathan Ryan has been developing forward-thinking, people-focused leadership, business, and creative skills. His self-education began when he dropped out of college to accept a job at The Walt Disney Company, and continued when he founded Proxart, a non-profit organization and publication with a mission to create and support artistic communities around the world.

Those leadership roles––in strategy, marketing, entrepreneurship, technology, and design thinking––prepared him to assume an advisory role for Emmy-winning culinary media company, Life & Thyme. Shortly after, Nathan was a co-founder of internationally-recognized digital agency, Toi, where he developed relationships with clients from startups like Genee and Set For Service—both of whom went on to be acquired—to major corporations like Verizon and Red Bull.

There, the new realities of freelance culture came into focus for him, inspiring Toi’s partnership with WeWork to host roundtable and speaking events around the country. Discussions focused on the future of the Creative Class intended to share solutions for a more equitable future––for freelancers, agencies, and other businesses that work with contract labor.

In 2017 he co-founded Blue Sky Partners and Nathan’s involvement in community and policy initiatives includes service on the board of directors for Friends of Austin Neighborhoods, focused on affordable housing and neighborhood representation; the board of advisors for Whatever It Takes, a high school entrepreneurship organization; and the events and fundraising committee of the Texas Civil Rights Project.

Ellen Smoak

Ellen Smoak has shared the stage with Marci Shimoff who was featured in the hit movie the Secret. Marci calls Ellen a “true change agent.”

She has been featured on ABC, NBC, Yahoo, and FOX, and her work has reached over 10 million women around the world. Her #1 bestselling book, Breakups Are A Bitch, But Getting Over It Doesn’t Have To Be! was called, “a brilliant path to rebuild your life,” by Dr. John Gray, the author of Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus.

Top Thought Leaders consult Ellen to help them land their books ?on ?the New York Times bestseller list, including Katherine Woodward Thomas, the author of Conscious Uncoupling.

Ellen is the Founder & CEO of The Society of Women Entrepreneurs — Austin’s largest community of female businesses owners. The Society of WE helps women make their business dreams come true by offering events, mentorship, masterminds, workshops, trainings, and an ongoing “Sisterhood of Support.”  Ellen believes in the power of true sisterhood, and its ability to change the world.

Cristina Tzintzún Ramírez

Cristina Tzintzún is a leading civil rights leader. She was named “Hero of the New South” by Southern Living Magazine and her work has been featured on NPR, Vogue, The New York Times, MTV, USA Today, Univision, MSNBCs Up Late with Alec Baldwin, among others. She is also a JM Kaplin Innovation Prize winner and a Roddenberry award winner.

Cristina is the founder and Executive Director of Jolt — a Texas-wide organization that lifts up the voice, vote and issues impacting Latinos. Founded in 2016, Jolt seeks to win the nearly 11 million Latinos living in Texas the power and respect they deserve. Jolt’s work has reached tens of millions of Americans, mobilized thousands to action and built the leadership of young Latinos across Texas.

Cristina began her social justice career when she co-founded Workers Defense Project (WDP), a workers’ rights organization with the mission to win  better working conditions for immigrant workers in Texas. She built WDP from a small volunteer project into a statewide organization that was named “one of the most creative organization’s for immigrant workers in the country“by the The New York Times.

To 2019!

What an incredible list and deserved honor.  Here’s to the New Year for you and yours, and good luck to these finalists, to the Austin Young Chamber, and to the ChangeMakers in your community.

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