Our educators


Marcia Ward

Marcia is a clinical psychologist, mindfulness-based-breathwork practitioner, dog chaser, book reader, and woods walker. After spending 20 years building a large, busy psychological practice in Toledo and raising her two children with her husband, she up and relocated her life and her practice to Petoskey in a downsized kind of way.

Through her own practice and in working with others, Marcia has become increasingly aware of the vital importance of self-care and self-growth in both personal and professional life. She is eager to share mindfulness-based strategies with women in business who may find it challenging to “balance” life. (spoiler alert: there really isn’t a “perfect balance”.) it’s all about flexibility, openness, humor, self-care, and building on one’s strengths.


Emily Meier

Emily is an editor and writer, and all around incredible girl boss! She loves helping other people bring their ideas and businesses to life with a creative angle and a strong voice. Emily has worked as a college professor, editorial assistant to award winning authors, feature writer, news editor, and social media professional. Emily will be working with you at the content creation roundtable. She and her dog, Wally, split their time between Harbor Springs and Charleston, SC.


Laura Beck

Laura is the founder of LottoLove, the first ever scratch-off card with a social mission. LottoLove brings charitable giving to everyday gifting. Making a positive impact on people’s lives by providing a better way to gift that empowers people in need and inspires communities to do good in a fun and exciting way is LottoLove’s mission. It has been featured on the Today Show and Ellen and included in national publications such as Woman’s Day, Real Simple and RedBook. Prior to founding LottoLove, Laura started a boutique design shop, Tiny Rebels, that specialized in building brand strategies and brand identities for companies large and small in various industries. Laura was born and raised in Petoskey, MI, graduated from the University of Michigan and Chicago Portfolio School and now lives in Brooklyn, NY.


Dianne Litzenburger

Dianne moved to northern Michigan right out of college for a summer internship as “Fun & Sun” editor for a weekly newspaper…and never left. She holds a Journalism Degree from Michigan State University and a Master’s in Business Administration. We’re lucky to have Dianne as an educator leading our roundtable sessions on traditional media with her diverse background as a hospital director of marketing and public relations, a director of communications for an intermediate school district, and owner of a strategic communications firm. Through her varied roles, one thing has remained constant: her love to help women improve their communication skills.

Dianne has been on both sides of the notepad and microphone-from asking questions to answering them – she knows how traditional media works.

When Dianne isn’t working with her clients to help them with their marketing, PR, and communications, she’s playing tennis, hiking, gardening and enjoying life in Harbor Springs with her husband Boo.


Jennifer Shorter is a third-generation Lake Street retailer, and comes from a family tree full of entrepreneurs. After high school, she started bleeding maize and blue and moved to Ann Arbor, where she graduated from the University of Michigan Ross School of Business in 1996 with a BBA. She concentrated in marketing and entrepreneurial management. Jennifer now run four retail stores, a crew of 32 people, and is passionate about servant leadership and positive business. She believes that taking great care of her team members means they can deliver exceptional customer service to her guests. Jennifer’s husband is a Spartan, so her home is divided! She lives in Petoskey with her husband, 17 year-old daughter, and a very opinionated dog, The Chuck.


Steph Castelein

Steph is a blogger, traveler, and slow life live-er. Founder of the Each Day Slow blog and a Northern Michigan transplant, she and her husband run a high-end production company producing photos and videos for clients in Michigan. Steph is leading the roundtable on phone photography + videography and will share ways to create content that tells your brand story. If you're a fan of the outdoors or chasing a girl boss sized dream, you two will get along just fine!


Kelley Grant

Kelley Grant, owner of Pinning Partners is a Social media specialist, Pinterest guru, food blogger and brownie expert. This mom of three (and one of the way) might say y’all a few times because she’s from Texas and knows a thing or two about Mexican food. Kelley will share with you how to pin with a strategy that will increase your website traffic for more sales and leads.


Robin Bennett

Robin Bennett, owner and operator of the Sunglass Shoppe and Unique Optics in downtown Petoskey, Charlevoix, and Traverse City. Robin started her business with a small store in Charlevoix back in 1989 and has expanded, creating a loyal following of customers. Robin has a background in marketing and loves to think outside of the box.


Kendall Rayburn

Originally launched as a means of sharing her craft projects, Kendall’s namesake blog has since evolved into her passionate full-time occupation: A place to pour her heart into content across the lifestyle spectrum (see: plus-size fashion, family-friendly travel and activities, home decor, recipes and more). It has also become a powerful vehicle for sharing her struggles with endometriosis—all with the token contagious positivity that’s garnered her devoted following. We dare you not to fall in love with the happy, hectic world of Kendall Rayburn.


Jennifer Deegan

Jenny will be teaching the Startup 101 roundable and answering all your business legal questions! She graduated from the James Madison College at Michigan State University in 1992. She graduated from University of Detroit, Mercy School of law in 1996 and was admitted to the practice of law later that year. She is also admitted to practice in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan. She practices at Stroup Meengs and lives in Harbor Springs with her husband, three kids, and yellow lab, Tipper.


After teaching elementary school in Detroit for several years, Jessilynn traded students for customers when she started working at McLean and Eakin in 2003. Since then, she and her husband Matt have purchased the business, and had a little girl. She has served on Petoskey's Downtown Management Board, the Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association Board, and the Petoskey Montessori Children's House Board. She has served on several educational panels within the bookselling community on topics ranging from email newsletters to gift buying to small business expansion proposals. Throughout her time at the bookstore, she has held just about every role there is other than bookkeeper.


Erin Bemis

Erin is a national speaker, trainer and consultant. Focused on communications, digital marketing and operational success, the clients of Bemis Consulting are primarily Associations, Chambers of Commerce and large corporations. Here’s a little bit about her journey to today:

Her passion for small business stems from being raised surrounded by entrepreneurs.  Post college, she entered the nonprofit sector, eventually becoming CEO of a successful Chamber of Commerce and earning consecutive titles of Michigan Chamber of Commerce of the Year.  Next, she became top of the team as a Regional Development Director for Constant Contact, an email marketing company, and is currently a National Speaker for Google’s Grow with Google team.

Having educated tens of thousands of attendees, combined with over 20 years’ experience working for and with small businesses, nonprofits and associations, she has seen it all: the good, the bad, and the unmentionables too.  She holds degrees in Marketing and Business Administration, along with a minor in French that she has never used.  


Kalin Sheick

Kalin Sheick is an award winning floral designer and creative entrepreneur that focuses on event floral design & leading groups through workshops that encourage people to fall in love with flowers. Together with her husband they own Sweetwater Lavender Farm where groups are encouraged to leave behind the rat race and reconnect with nature. Kalin speaks to multiple groups a year about business ownership and the boundaries, self awareness & marketing skills we all need to succeed. Kalin lives in Petoskey with her family.

When she's not flowering Kalin can be found in the kitchen, spending time with her family & firmly believing that popcorn + red wine is a balanced meal.

Kalin is leading our roundtable session on Money Mindset and joining our lunchtime panel for a conversation on creating a dedicated client/customer!


Brittany MCNeil

Brittany and her husband, John, own North Perk Coffee and Lake Charlevoix Coffee Company. She will be on the lunchtime panel all about how to create a dedicated client/customer!

Brittany left her job teaching high school English in 2013 to open North Perk Coffee after watching her partner John (now husband) tackle small business with his own brick and mortar. Since then they've grown from one shop to three with locations in Petoskey, East Jordan, and Boyne City, and in late 2016 the duo create Lake Charlevoix Coffee Co, a full time roasting arm of their business to accompany and serve their own shops which has now grown into an independently thriving business on its own.

Brittany's interest in thriving communities and helping others on their journey to finding success as a small business owner is one of the best parts of being at the helm of an established small business. She consults directly with other coffee shops throughout Michigan as well as with other business startups outside of the day to day service industry. She sits on the Downtown Management Board in Petoskey and is involved with the Go Grant Foundation and Hestia.

Sommer Poquette

In 1996, Sommer bet her dad $100 she’d graduate college and become a teacher. She won the bet and took it one step further getting a master’s degree in early childhood education. Luckily, the bet didn’t hinge on Sommer having to teach a certain number of years! Seven years, and two degrees later, Sommer took the leap into online world and started blogging, working with large and small brands, and then teaching others how they can use social media marketing for their businesses.

Her passion for teaching, marketing, and entrepreneurship made the perfect recipe for starting Keep it Real Social (a social media marketing company) and co-founding the 818 Conference. It’s been under a year since starting her new business and leaving her full-time job as the marketing manager for Fresh Baby and she couldn’t be happier. Though Keep it Real Social is new… it’s not a new business to Sommer, she’s been consulting and helping businesses use social since 2007 and she only sees her company expanding.

When Sommer isn’t running her company to help other businesses use social media marketing effectively, she’s enjoying northern Michigan with her husband, two children (15 and 12), and Great Dane. (If you follow her on social, you’ll see way too many pictures of Maggie her Dane.)

We are just getting started here! We have so many incredible educators to introduce to you, so stay tuned for more!