2022 The Spirit & Impact of Entrepreneurship - Bell Bank


2022 The Spirit & Impact of Entrepreneurship
Wednesday, September 21
5:30 pm -8:00 pm 
Bell Bank, City Center Offices

Thank you to Bell Bank and our incredible panelists! 

We celebrated real entrepreneurship stories of grit and passion. We learned what it takes to build a business and how understanding your value and financial literacy can create growth and opportunity as a professional! 

We discussed ideas of pivoting, building connections, asking for help, being vulnerable and advocating for yourself through negotiation and asking questions. 

Special takeaways: 

  • “When people are shut out of financial opportunities it spills into our communities and it hurts everyone.” – Michelle Tran Maryns-         

  • “When you switch your mindset to identify who you are and you shift your power, you change the game.” – Bobbi Jo Lamar Brunson  

  • “If you don’t step outside yourself to get what you need, you fault yourself.” – Rebekkah Brunson-         

  • “The ability to ask for help is a muscle. It has to be learned and practiced to strengthen.” – Danielle Steer

Featuring Panelists:  

  • Rebekkah Brunson - Sweet Troo Vi, Founder and Minnesota Lynx, Assistant Coach 

  • Bobbi Jo Lamar Brunson - Sweet Troo Vi, Founder

  • Michelle Tran Maryns - WeSparkle, Founder & CEO 

  • Danielle Steer - Lunar Startups, Managing Director 

  • Katie Mattis Sarver - Bell Bank, SVP/Community Development Officer

  • Jenny Senecal - Bell Bank,  SVP/Deputy Chief Credit Officer (Moderator)

Thank you to our presenting partner, Bell Bank: 

About Bell Bank:

Bell is the largest family-and employee-owned bank in the upper Midwest, and one of the largest in the nation, with assets of more than $9 billion – thanks to our many loyal customers, whose confidence in us has led to growth and opportunity.

When Bell Bank opened its doors in 1966 with a single location in a north Fargo shopping center, our founders couldn't have dreamed of the growth the company would have. For decades, having happy employees and happy customers has been at the heart of the organization. Our values – being a family, treating our customers well and making our community a better place – are at the core of all we do. 

    About our panelists: 

    Rebekkah Brunson & Bobbi Jo Lamar Brunson

    In 2005 Rebekkah was spending her first year overseas playing basketball for Namur, Belgium. Far from her hometown of Oxon Hill, Maryland she found herself missing home and the warmth of her friends and family. One day while out enjoying the town she came across her first ever Liege waffle…Straight off the press she instantly felt the comfort a Liege waffle could bring. Fast forward 16 years, Rebekkah and wife Bobbi Jo formed Sweet Troo Vī Waffle with the intention of spreading the same kind of comfort and love that was felt that day in Namur. Sweet Troo•Vī Waffle was created by Rebekkah and Bobbi Jo Lamar Brunson as a vessel for good. Our mission is simple. Eat Deliciously. Love Freely. Not only are we creating delicious products, but spreading love, encouraging change and doing the most good within our community. At Sweet Troo Vi, we understand that the youth holds the ability to transform our world for the better, and feel it is our obligation to uplift, support and encourage them to do so. “Troo” does not only mean in truth but also “To Realize your Optimal Opportunities” (T.R.O.O). Along with focusing on our community’s youth, we find it important to highlight and collaborate with other local minority-owned small businesses within the Twin Cities

    Michelle Tran Maryns 

    Michelle Tran Maryns is Founder & CEO at We Sparkle Co. [wesparkle.co], a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) social enterprise building a stronger + more inclusive economy by equipping underestimated entrepreneurs with the AI-powered tools they need to succeed now + into the future. She is also a 2022 Global Good Fund Fellow and a 2021 Bush Fellow.

    Prior to starting We Sparkle, Michelle was the Chief of Strategic Initiatives at Meda, a community development financial institution (CDFI) named by the U.S. Department of Commerce as the top minority business development agency in the country for 4 years in a row.

    Before Meda, she worked on her first AI project as the Associate Director of Digital Strategy & Innovation at the American Academy of Neurology, advised corporations like Google and Target on their digital strategy as a consultant at WORKSHOP and Rêve Consulting, assisted immigrant communities as the Community Relations Specialist at the U.S. Department of Justice, and managed Travel.State.Gov [travel.state.gov] as a Foreign Service Officer at the U.S. Department of State. She earned a Master in Public Policy from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and Bachelor of Arts from the University of Kansas.

    Danielle Steer 

    As the managing director of Lunar Startups, Danielle is dedicated to helping problem solvers achieve their dreams and is acutely passionate about making the world a more equitable place to thrive, for all. Leveraging her origins as an over-scheduled student-athlete, she brings an intense amount of energy, a team-first mentality, and a broad range of program design experience to Lunar Startups. Danielle has also long been active in the social impact investment space, having convened and facilitated some of the first impact investing ecosystem gatherings in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area.

    After getting her Masters in Public Administration from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, Danielle worked in international development, focusing on social entrepreneurship as a mechanism for creating community wealth in rural Peru. When she moved to Minnesota, Danielle served as the founding staff of Impact Hub Minneapolis St. Paul for three years, building a community of social entrepreneurs and change-makers. In her role, she was also on the founding committee of Forge North, a coalition of programs, organizations, and individuals dedicated to cultivating a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem in MSP. 

    As a generalist, her experience and expertise span a wide range of specialties including human-centered design, evaluation, facilitation, program design, community building, marketing, partnership development, and digital media design, all driven by a bias towards collaboration. 

    Jenny Senecal 

    In my role at Bell, I am consistently in communication with various business line managers. My position requires expertise not only in commercial lending, but also our industry’s ever-changing legislative and regulatory climate.

    What I love at Bell is how we work as a team and collaborate as a group. Our long-term approach really helps the credit department and our lenders align our views. I love joining lenders on calls to meet our commercial customers and prospective customers. Communication is so much stronger when we know each other as people and not just our businesses.

    Over the past 25+ years in banking, I’ve held many roles. I started my career as a financial and accounting manager for a commercial finance company, where I developed my passion for commercial real estate (CRE) financing. It was a great advantage so early in my career to gain insight into the financial accounting of a company in the financial services sector. I developed an affinity for specialty niche lending, which fuels my love of learning. That desire to explore various angles of finance also helped me dive into a lead role in acquisition-related credit due diligence. Plus, I gained expertise by taking a leading role in winding down a CRE portfolio during the Great Recession.

    Throughout my diverse career in the financial services industry, one common thread is that I have always loved a good challenge. Digging into a complicated transaction is like a mystery waiting to be solved. When I can team with our commercial lenders and find a solution to properly manage risk on complicated transactions, I come alive. My colleagues say I provide value in structuring those transactions.

    I’ve been honored to be named among the Top Women in Finance by Finance & Commerce in 2013, and I received the Women in Business award from Minneapolis-St. Paul Business Journal in 2018.

    Originally from Woodbury, Minn., I earned a bachelor’s degree in finance and economics from Winona State University and an MBA from the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota.

    I live in Apple Valley, Minn., with my husband, Jason, and our 2 sons and daughter. Away from work, I love travel, adventure and the outdoors. Hiking, kayaking, horseback riding (my personal favorite), and skiing – both water and snow – are some of our family favorites. For me, anything involving mountains or water offers breathtaking rejuvenation. I also have an interest in personal health and wellness. I enjoy fitness challenges, like the Tough Mudder, and I find working out to be another great way to recharge.