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United Way announces speakers for inaugural innovation summit

February 7, 2018


United Way of Northeast Florida is thrilled to host its inaugural Upstream Innovation Summit.  Check out the list of this year’s incredible speakers.


Kristin Keen, Founder and President of Rethreaded

Kristin lived and worked for five years in Kolkata, India where she encountered the life-stealing effects of the area’s sex trade on a daily basis. She helped co-found a business, with Sarah Lance, that could offer these women a safe haven. Today, Sari Bari is a thriving business that employs more than 120 people in Kolkota who create handmade blankets and other products from traditional fabrics. Upon her return to Jacksonville, Kristin felt called to fight the sex trade on a local level, and Rethreaded was born. Beginning by forming relationships with women on the street and making prison visits, she knew the biggest need was for a safe, supportive work environment where these women could earn money while learning a skill and experiencing continued healing through community. In 2015, Kristin was awarded the “40 under 40” up and coming business leaders in Jacksonville and was chosen as one of Girls Inc. “Women of Vision” awards. In 2016, Kristin Keen was recognized by the Florida Retailer Federation as Outstanding Retail Leader of the Year.  When she’s not at Rethreaded, Kristin is usually biking, doing yoga, or swimming in the ocean at sunrise.


Iris Simmons, Founder and CEO of Genési Group Inc.

Iris Simmons facilitates dialogue with businesses in development strategies that expose areas of benefit, not readily identified through traditional models in philanthropy, corporate social responsibility, community engagement and brand awareness. By using these innovative approaches, Iris brings to the light significant benefits that add overwhelming value to the bottom line of nonprofits and for-profit businesses alike. This in turn has made her a respected and credible voice in philanthropy and in the business community. She is a strong advocate of entrepreneurial businesses and serves on the Association of Professional Fundraisers (AFP) international committee, the AFP board on the First Coast Chapter and other various local boards. Iris demonstrates visionary approaches and is a strong advocate and cultivator of inclusive collaborative partnerships in philanthropy and targeted engagement.  She is a bold dynamic strategist and speaker with a unique energetic passion that is infectious.

Breakout session: Emerging Social Entrepreneurs = Strategy + Passion


Donna Orender, CEO of Orender Unlimited and Founder ofGeneration W.

She has been recognized as one of the top 10 Most Powerful Women in Sports and one of Newsweek’s 100 most Influential people in sports. A former professional athlete, her inside knowledge of the game enabled her to proudly serve as the President of the WNBA, for 6 years, reenergizing the business and leaving the league well positioned for growth. Previously she spent 17 years at the PGA TOUR, where she led global production, programming, digital and brand in the Office of the Commissioner.

Currently the CEO of Orender Unlimited, Donna utilizes her expansive experience in guiding both established and new companies in leveraging successful growth and brand strategies across a myriad of industries, with a focus on sports, digital, entertainment and diversity. She is currently leading the launch of a new educational technology company focused on helping kids get in to college called, GETTING INTO COLLEGE.

Breakout Session: MAGIC happens if you LET IT



Kathryn Thomas, Executive Director of Yoga 4 Change and CEO of ANAMAR Environmental Consulting Inc.

After being medically separated from the United States Navy in which she served as a Naval Aviator, Kathryn Thomas began studying to become a Yoga teacher through the Yoga School of Kailua. Upon moving to Jacksonville, Florida, she witnessed the need for mental, emotional, and physical healing in her new community and started Yoga 4 Change to fill this void. Kathryn has training in multiple disciplines including Power Yoga, Chair Yoga, Hatha Yoga, and Yoga Nidra. She is a 500 E-RYT as well as a Certified Baptiste Teacher. Kathryn formerly sat on the board of the Yoga Service Council, where she served as the project manager and contributed to two of the Best Practice Book Series: Yoga with Veterans, and Yoga in the Criminal Justice System. In her new role as the CEO of ANAMAR, Kathryn is focusing on the business development of the company, while taking the administrative duties off the shoulders of the technical staff. She started this role late in 2017, and is excited to expand the companies reach in the coming year. Kathryn resides in Florida with her husband, daughter and their 2 Labrador Retrievers.

Breakout session: Don’t Just Sit There: Breathe


To learn more and register for the Upstream Innovation Summit visit unitedwaynefl.org/event/upstream-innovation-summit.