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Meet Your Team

We’re a small but mighty team that thrives on experimentation, new ideas, provocative conversations and seeing new relationships unfold.


Karen Barnes VCWS
Karen Barnes, Executive Director

A Winston-Salem native, Karen’s genetically pre-programmed to be an entrepreneur and started her first business when she was five selling organic vegetables from her dad’s garden in a little red wagon. Since then, she’s been a journalist, a marketer, founder of a boutique marketing and strategy consulting firm, and founding partner in a cognitive computing startup. She’s a prolific storyteller, insight harvester, golfer and dog fanatic. She and her wife enjoy travel, food, outdoor activities and their golden retriever.


Susan Morris Venture Cafe
Susan Morris, Program Director

Susan Morris has been involved in the community in Winston-Salem for several years. Her career spans the spectrum of education, technology, marketing, the arts, and innovation. Susan has a degree in education from the University of West Florida in Pensacola. She enjoys vacationing at the Outer Banks with her RVA framily each summer. She and her husband Joe have a sweet pup named Winston.

Heather Philon, Program Coordinator
Heather Philon, Program Coordinator

Heather has been a resident of North Carolina since age nine, and has lived in Winston-Salem for six years. She loves engaging with new ideas, meeting new people, and connecting with innovative enterprises in the area. Her involvement in the community extends to work with local non-profits and advocacy for women’s issues. Heather spends her free time reading, travelling, painting, and enjoying nature. She lives in town with her husband, Logan, and their cat, Cosmo.


Hasani Mitchell, Community Manager of ACCESS Center for Equity + Success

Hasani is a Winston-Salem native who has been deeply involved in diversity and inclusion initiatives for several years and has spent nearly a decade working in minority and women business enterprise development, economic and workforce development, and operations for local city government, higher education, and national insurance companies. He knows what truly drives business and economic development across various sectors. Hasani holds both an MBA and a bachelor’s degree from Winston Salem State University. Hasani enjoys outdoor activities and spending time with his wife and three children.


Advisory Board: Jim Holmes, Bruce Maxwell, Edwin Hamlin, Algenon Cash, Angela Wilder, Allan Younger, and Bobbie Shrivastav