InspireSF Speakers Announced!
Could your business use an infusion of inspiration? Get ready to spend an enlightening and engaging evening among San Francisco’s most successful entrepreneurs during InspireSF, the official kickoff to San Francisco Small Business Week 2019. Taking place Monday, May 6 from 5 – 9 p.m. at the City View at The Metreon, 135 4th Street 4th Floor, San Francisco, CA.
We’re excited to announce an eclectic panel of speakers. Hear their stories of grit, determination and success and get ideas for starting or scaling your own San Francisco-based business.
Rodney Fong, President & CEO of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce
A fourth generation San Franciscan, Rodney Fong has an extensive business and civic background, including serving on the San Francisco Planning Commission for eight years, with two years as President. He formerly served as President of the San Francisco Port Commission, Chair of the San Francisco Travel Association & on the boards of the San Francisco Bay Area Super Bowl 50 Host Committee, the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank, Fort Mason Center, Fisherman’s Wharf Merchant’s Association, Fisherman’s Wharf Community Benefit District, Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation, and the Bay Institute. As the president of Fong Real Estate Company, Fong oversees leasing and tenant concerns for properties including the 100,000 square foot Wax Museum Entertainment Complex building in the heart of historic Fisherman’s Wharf, as well as Broadway Apartments. He also served as a third-generation operator/owner of the world-famous Wax Museum at Fisherman’s Wharf until its sale in 2013.
Ron Benitez, Ron Benitez, Co-owner and Co-founder of ASMBLY HALL
Ron has worked in corporate retail for more than 15 years, having worked in various merchandising and product development roles for Bay Area retailers like Gap Levis, Gymboree and Pottery Barn. Ron has also worked in the Action Sports industry having held pivotal roles at Quicksilver, Oakley, Hybrid Appear and Paul Frank. Ron met his wife, Tricia, while working for Gap Inc. (now known as NewCo). Tricia held various roles at Banana Republic and also worked in the Action Sports industry. After years of ‘chasing the gigs’ between San Francisco and Orange County, the two would take their background and expertise in retail, stores, merchandising and product development, and open their own store in San Francisco, ASMBLY HALL, in November 2011. ASMBLY HALL recently celebrated the one year anniversary of their Divisadero Street store this past February. Ron and Tricia are also proud parents to four-year-old Harlow Sloane, ASMBLY HALL’s current intern and future shop keeper.
Robyn Sue Fisher, Founder and CEO of Smitten Ice Cream
An ice cream fanatic with a knack for invention, Robyn Sue Fisher founded Smitten Ice Cream in 2007 to spread joy and create the freshest, most flavorful ice cream the world had ever known. After ditching her corporate career, she began immersing herself in all things ice cream and was increasingly bothered by the modern industry’s complicated ingredients and focus on shelf-life. So, she invented her own patented machine to perfect the art of churning pure, fresh scoops to-order in about 90 seconds using liquid nitrogen and only the very best ingredients. She first put Smitten on the map when she placed her custom-built “Brrr™” machine atop a Radio Flyer wagon and started selling her churned-to-order ice cream on the streets of San Francisco to the crowds that gathered, soon building a cult-like following. From those humble beginnings came Smitten’s first shop in San Francisco’s Hayes Valley neighborhood in 2011. Now with 7 shops throughout the Bay Area and in Los Angeles, Smitten has been touted by Vogue as “The freshest, if not the best, ice cream on Earth,” and featured in a vast array of media, from Food & Wine and Forbes to Wired and TechCrunch – Smitten is setting the bar for mastery of the perfect scoop.
Jay Foster, Chef, CEO & Director of Black Rabbit Hospitality
Creates innovative businesses that revolve around hospitality and entertainment. Specialties: Creative Concepts, Seasoned Experience and Tasteful Design. His businesses include: BlueJay Cafe 2003, farmerbrown 2006, Little Skillet 2009 and Isla Vida 2018. Jay is blessed to have been founder, chef, owner and creator of San Francisco restaurants representing soul food and the Caribbean.
Heidi Gibson, Commander in Cheese, The American Grilled Cheese Kitchen
Heidi Gibson has lived in the Bay Area for over 25 years and splits her time between working in tech – where she builds software products for small businesses – and the American Grilled Cheese Kitchen. She took 5 years off her tech career to open a local restaurant chain, The American Grilled Cheese Kitchen, which she owns with her husband. Heidie has published two cookbooks and is on the board of The Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center, a local entrepreneurship non-profit, and has coached hundreds of aspiring local business owners on how to start and grow their dream business. Heidi holds a bachelor’s and a master’s in Engineering from MIT.
You won’t want to miss this evening of networking and resource building while snacking on nibbles from La Cocina and sipping on drinks provided by Bare Bottle.