We have the best mentors in the world. Just saying.


Deeply committed to the success of each start-up founder they work with, it’s not a role they (or we) take lightly. They have been there, done that and will ask tough questions (sometimes making you squirm), while at the same time providing guidance and words of encouragement.


In keeping with the mountain climbing analogy, our mentors fall into three categories of engagement: Lead Climbers/Belayers, Trek Guides and our TAG Team. Visit our list of mentors to learn about all the different areas of expertise we’ve got covered.




Looking for dedicated leadership and fierce encouragement? Look no further. Our Lead Climbers are ready to take you from where you are, to where you truly desire to be in your business. Assigned to a single company, they offer growth and development through industry connections, personalized strategies and will act as a soundboard for your business. They’re here to help you map out the path to success, avoid unnecessary pitfalls, and cheer you on as you accomplish greatness.

With experience and expertise in everything from Aerospace to Apparel our 30+ Lead Climbers are ready to help your business develop and grow.  


Michael B. Baughan

Michael Baughan has extensive experience in the aerospace and manufacturing industries. He was a founding partner of Osprey Capital, Chairman of Noranco Inc, and served as President and COO of B/E Aerospace, Inc; the company was turned into a $5 billion global industry leader during his time there. He earned a B.A. in economics from the University of Virginia and an MBA from Harvard Business School. He’s wicked smaht.


Cindy Bay-Wall

Cindy Bay-Wall spent twenty-five years growing her career and expertise in Management, Operations, Training and People Development. Cindy began as a Manager Trainee with McDonald’s Corporation in 1981 and From 2003-2006 she was Vice President of Operations, Training and Franchising in the Great Southern Region. Born and raised in Missouri, Cindy’s career lead her all around the United States eventually moving to Winston-Salem when she joined Krispy Kreme in 2008 as Senior Vice President of Company Shops. In 2011, she took on the additional responsibility for North American Franchise Operations and Real Estate. Cindy retired from Krispy Kreme in 2016 and we like to think that mentoring with Winston Starts is the frosting on the doughnut of her retirement!

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Robert Boles

Robert Boles’ familiarity with technology, network, and business services speaks to his standing as an accomplished operational executive. He was the CEO for Hostway Corporation, Senior Vice President at Cognizant Technology Solutions, COO of Pegasus Solutions, President of AimNet Solutions, and spent 18 years with IBM Global Services. Bob has a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and Management from the University of Scranton, where it’s rumored he served as Assistant (to the) Regional Manager at a local paper company.

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Greg Campana

Greg Campana holds a rich background in marketing communications with over thirty years of advertising, marketing, and branding experience. He has worked with advertising agencies including Della Femina, Ogilvy & Mather, McKinney, and Mullen, while also having spent time marketing for Walt Disney World, Phone Tree, and Wray Ward. Greg studied at Purdue University where he earned his BA degree in Mass Communications, and it shows. His communication skills are totally BA.


Dan Cohen

Dan Cohen excels as an educator in the fields of entrepreneurial theory and practice. Beginning his career by co-founding AquaGuard Waterproofing Corporation, Dan has since taught undergraduate and graduate courses in entrepreneurship, business strategy, and start-up strategy at Cornell and Wake Forest University. He received a PhD in Management and Entrepreneurship as well as a DM in Management from Case Western Reserve University, and an MBA from Johns Hopkins University. In 2015 Forbes ranked Cornell as the #4 Most Entrepreneurial University pretty much because of him.

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Tony DiBianca

Tony DiBianca is an accomplished developer, holding multiple patents, who is passionate about entrepreneurship. He worked for Xerox and DuPont-Xerox Imaging before founding PhoneTree at age thirty, which led to his assistance in the creation of both SchoolMessenger and CallPointe. Tony’s degrees from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute include Acoustics, Robotics, and Management. And he’s in a band. It’s okay, he’s cooler than us too.


Dennis Hatchell

Dennis G. Hatchell, currently serving on the Board of Weis Markets, has a long history in the food industry. He was the CEO of the Pantry, COO of Alex Lee Inc, and also served as President for them, Merchants Distributors Inc, Institution Food House, and Lowe’s Foods. Dennis graduated from the University of Colorado before launching his career with Western Grocers and as Chairman of the Wake Forest Undergrad Business School. He hands down has the best snack drawer you’ll ever find.

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Hal Eason

Hal Eason is a serial entrepreneur and investor whose ventures have included biotech startups, software companies, and a rental real estate business. He has a passion for coaching and developing entrepreneurs and emerging leaders. He holds an M.B.A. with High Distinction from Harvard Business School, a Master of Divinity degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and a B.A. from Vanderbilt University. Hal currently serves on the executive teams of Foenestra Corporation, a technology spin-out company from Wake Forest University, and Vertigo Media Inc., a Charlotte-based mobile app company.


Brent Hilleary

Brent Hilleary has held executive leadership positions in start-ups, turn-arounds, and international companies. His experience in strategy, marketing, supply chains, and finance have led him to his current position as the COO at Royce Too. Brent graduated from Davidson College with a degree in Economics, obtained a Masters Certificate in Business Analytics from Michigan State University, and holds an MBA from Harvard Business School. Like for real, he never puts it down.

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Peter Kramer

Peter Kramer has built his career in medical manufacturing, investment banking, and healthcare information technology. He is the founder of three companies, one of which, Providigm, he currently serves in the positions of President and COO. Peter is a graduate of Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a BS degree in Chemistry. Just be warned, he has a lot of bad chemistry jokes. He says all the good ones Argon.


Trinity Manning

Trinity Manning is an accomplished programmer, mentor, and entrepreneur. While currently working as CEO of his cofound company, OnceLogix, Trinity started his career by creating the award winning in one night. His degrees in Communications and Business were received from Wake Forest University in 2002. If the Matrix was real, he’d be the Architect.

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Bruce Maxwell

Bruce Maxwell’s passion for turning ideas into businesses, and specialty in venture finance, makes his history in entrepreneurship no surprise. His success in starting his first company, Positive Communications, led him to start a consulting practice that has now helped organize and fund over ninety companies. He received a BA from Swarthmore College and an MBA from Stanford University. Not too shabby for a first company.


Red Maxwell

Red Maxwell, the CMO for Bigfoot Biomedical. Bigfoot designs, develops, and operates a software and medical device ecosystem for insulin-therapy.Prior to Bigfoot, Red served as Chief Marketing Officer of AvidXchange and helped grow the Charlotte based FinTech to “unicorn” status. Red has also filled the Chief Marketing Officer role for the SilkRoad Equity family of companies in the HRTech and Public Safety sectors.He lectures at the Wake Forest University School of Business and serves on its Charlotte Executive Board. Red was a contributing author to The Wall Street Journal Business Bestseller, The Big Moo.

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DR. John McConnell

Dr. John McConnell’s string of accomplishments in the medical field, such as receiving the Barringer Medal and Fuller Award, make him a valuable resource in the fields of research, education, and consulting. He is currently the Executive Director of Wake Forest Healthcare Ventures, after previously serving as the CEO of Wake Forest Medical Center and Executive Vice President for Health System Affairs at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. Dr. McConnell’s experience has led to his publishing of more than 100 peer-reviewed articles and ten books. Pretty imPRESSive, don’t ya think?

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Mike Mitchell

Mike Mitchell holds over twenty five years of experience in the enterprise technology industry as a product and operations executive, services leader, management consultant, and entrepreneur. In recent years, he has been advising software developers on innovation, product management, and operations strategy. Prior to that, Mike served as COO and Head of Product for MissionMode, and received his Bachelor’s in Computer Science and Engineering from MIT. It takes a lot of skill to make MIT the ps statement of your bio!


Natalie Jensen-Noll

Natalie Jensen-Noll is a retired business owner, a current mentor and board member for Winston Starts, and a board member of the Crosby Scholars. Prior to her company’s sale in 2016, she was an owner and COO of, the largest open access repository of scholarly research in the social sciences and humanities. She was formerly a Principal with Mercer Management Consulting where she advised Fortune 500 companies in a variety of industries. Natalie holds a BA in economics from Swarthmore College and an MBA from Harvard University.

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J. Brice O’Brien

J. Brice O’Brien started his career at R.J. Reynolds as a marketing assistant, later landing roles as the Executive VP of Consumer Marketing, Executive VP of Public Affairs, and Chief Communications Officer. Throughout his executive roles at the company, he revitalized the market share growth, transformed product innovation, designed cutting edge marketing plans, led Mergers and Acquisitions integrations, and created a high-performing company culture. He earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration from The Citadel and a Masters of Business Administration from Wake Forest University. We’re a little scared to show him our business plan too.


Dale M. Pollock

Dale M. Pollock was the chief film critic for Daily Variety and moved on to be the chief entertainment correspondent for the LA Times, where he won the Best Feature Writing award and was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. He joined A&M Films and later became president of the organization, going on to produce such films as The Beast, A Midnight Clear, House of Cards, and Set It Off. He started his own film company, Peak Productions, and eventually began teaching at the University of North Carolina where he won the UNC Board of Governors Award for Excellence in Teaching. He’s kind of a big deal.

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Jose Rodriguez

Jose Rodriguez currently works as the Partner in Charge & Executive Director of KPMG’s Audit Committee Institute, where his primary role is to drive long term value and enhance investor confidence. Previously, he was the COO, global audit, office managing partner for KPMG’s Global Services Center, and was a member of their U.S. and Americas Board of Directors; a role for which he was listed on NACD Directorship magazine’s top 100 most influential people in the boardroom community. Jose holds a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from the University of Miami. You didn’t even know there was a top 100 most influential people in the boardroom community, did you?


DR. Bill Satterwhite

Bill Satterwhite, JD, MD, practiced outpatient pediatrics for sixteen years, holding multiple administrative and advisory board positions, and is now a pediatrician and Chief Wellness Officer at Wake Forest Baptist Health. Prior to his medical career, Dr. Satterwhite was a lawyer with Johnston, Allison & Hord in Charlotte, NC, specializing in healthcare law and closely held corporate law. He received his bachelor’s degree in History from Davidson College, his law degree from the University of North Carolina School of Law, and his medical degree from Wake Forest University School of Medicine. And to think, we used to be impressed if someone was a doctor or a lawyer.

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DR. Jane Shen

Dr. Jane Shen’s career as a clinical researcher has led her to numerous roles focused around clinical program design and development, strategic planning, corporate operations, pharmaceutical business activities, and mitigation of operational & development risks. She worked as a Clinical Trial Leader at Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation, Senior VP of Clinical Operations at TransTech Pharma, Head of Innovation at PMG Research, and now works at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. Dr. Shen earned her Pharm.D. at the University of Southern California, completed her post-doctoral research fellowship with Rutgers University, and her clinical training at the National Cancer Institute. Don’t worry, we’ve asked her to push herself a little harder so we could write a more impressive bio.


Dan Sims

Dan Sims is the founder of DN SIMS Group, LLC and has thirty years of business experience in manufacturing, operations management, product development, engineering, and business development. He also has ten years at the President and Executive VP level of a publicly traded Aerospace company and co-founded JEKA Group, an acquisition and growth company. Dan has a BS in Industrial Engineering from NC State University. If you’re reaching for the stars, he’s your man.

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Brad Wall

Brad Wall worked for Krispy Kreme Doughnut Corporation as their Senior VP, Global Chief Supply Chain officer and was also named executive officer of the corporation. Through his work, he has gained a myriad of experience in every function and department, ranging from finance and sales to IT, global supply chain, and operations. He graduated UNC Charlotte with a BS in Electrical Engineering, MBA at Appalachian State, Masters in Accounting from Gardner Webb, and completed the Advanced Management Program from the Wharton School. Now stop thinking about doughnuts, focus, and go re-read everything after “Krispy Kreme”.


Terry Williams

Terry Williams works with Wake Forest Baptist Health with responsibilities in Strategic Planning, Network Development, Clinically Integrated Network formation, Business Health Solutions, Faith Health and Clinical Business Development. He has held various positions for medical and IT based organizations, including roles as Chief Strategy and Growth Officer, Executive VP of Organizational Transformation, and VP. Terry received a Graduate Diploma in Economics at the University of East Anglia in England and an MBA from Emory University. He’s got more connections than a server room.

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Tom S. Williams

Tom S. Williams has built his experience in the banking, consulting, restaurant, and law industries. He was the VP of Bankers Trust, founder of Williams Management, manager of Rock Creek Restaurants, and is now a certified NC Superior Court Mediator and small business consultant through Williams Mediation and Management LLC. It’s good to know people who’s skill sets revolve around money, law, and food.


Doug Young

Doug Young is a serial entrepreneur and Angel investor, specializing in the design, development, and application of disruptive technologies. His technology companies were all acquired by the Fortune 100/500 companies such as 3M Corporation, MCI Telecommunications, Salem Communications, Landmark Media Group and Cox Communications. He was an Entrepreneur of the Year Finalist in 1995, was selected to The Triad’s Most Influential People, and made The Business Journal’s “Fast 50” lists. Go read that again… “his companies were all acquired”.


Rick Chilton

Rick Chilton holds the executive position of Vice President and Chief Information Security Officer at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina. Rick is an accomplished executive that builds responsive organizations that enhance customer experience while building process and technology that secures the enterprise. His extensive background offers C-level roles in enterprise information security, vulnerability assessment, risk management, security architecture, security engineering, infrastructure & operations, business continuity & disaster recovery, service management, and program delivery.



Alyson Francisco is a professor of management and entrepreneurship and director of the Salem Academy and College Center for Women in Entrepreneurship Business where she fulfills her passion for advancing and empowering women. She has more than twenty-five years experience in industry holding executive level positions in finance and customer operations. She is a graduate of NC State University and holds an MBA from Duke University. She has served as a board member and startup mentor for the Center for Creative Economy for more than five years, and is an active member of the Triad’s Entrepreneurial Ecosystem. She was recently recognized by the Triad Business Journal as a 2019 Outstanding Woman in Business.


John Balestrieri

Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Vavel Game Studio Inc., John has over twenty years of Technology Management, Gaming, Advertising and Entertainment Experience. John was the former Worldwide CTO of Ogilvy, one of the largest and most prestigious advertising agencies in the world. He is currently an active board member of two publicly traded companies as well as an advisor to a number of international gaming and media companies around the globe.


Dave Mills

Mr. Mills has served as Primo Water Corporation’s Chief Financial Officer since January 2018. From July 2011 to December 2017, Mr. Mills served as the Vice President of Finance and Treasurer, and served as the Controller from November 2009 until June 2011. Dave is responsible for providing strategic financial leadership for the Company and plays a critical role in ensuring the Company’s strategy creates shareholder value. Mr. Mills is responsible for investor relations, corporate finance, treasury, financial reporting and risk management.


Will Johnson

Mr. Johnson is responsible for deal origination and portfolio monitoring with 8-10 companies in his portfolio for Salem Investment Partners, a $170MM SBA-licensed investment fund focused on providing mezzanine debt to the lower-middle market across the eastern US. Prior to working at Salem, Will led investments for Rocky Point Ventures in Austin, TX. Will has a passion for investing in private companies including seed stage through leveraged buyouts as well as private equity and VC funds.


joy dai

Joy’s diverse experience and extensive skills made her a “Swiss army knife” for business. Joy garnered 20 years of cross-functional experience in CPG and healthcare industries. She held various leadership responsibilities in sales and marketing, eCommerce, web development, supply chain management, project management, strategic planning, international business development, foreign direct investment, and M&A. Joy also established an extensive customer portfolio including top national retailers and healthcare companies. This unique makeup of experience developed Joy’s specialty from forming effective strategy to implementing operational plans. Joy previously served as Senior Vice President of Sales and Retail Strategy at Amoena GmbH, a German medical device company. Prior to Amoena, Joy held various roles in Sales and Supply Chain at Hanesbrands. Joy holds a BA in Business from Salem College and an MBA from Wake Forest University.


Learn how our mentors are shaping start-ups right in your backyard.


Learn how Winston Starts helped Jeanna Carr grow her business from start-up to scale-up.




They’re specially trained in subject-specific knowledge. Our Trek Guides are here to assist your vertical ascent and growth! Whether it be developing financial proformas, coding software or your brand marketing strategy (and many other specialty skills), these Trek Guides provide our founders with world-class expertise. They are passionate about working hand in hand with start-up teams on the journey to scale-up and success!

Our trek guides are mentors whose deep skills are available for multiple companies as needed. 


Jen Brown

Pitch Polish and Public Speaking Coach

Jen Oleniczak Brown is the Founder of The Engaging Educator (EE), a women-owned and operated company dedicated to helping people find their unapologetic, authentic and best voice, communication style and self through improv-based education. EE is based out of NYC, LA, SF and Winston Salem, NC, where Jen started Fearless Winston Salem, a collaborative collective and social space for and by women, in 2018. Jen has worked as an educator at The Guggenheim Museum, performed improv Off-Broadway and was a trade show model for a Japanese trade organization. A firm believer in the idea that "Yes, And" can change the world – so firm it’s tattooed on her arm, Jen's personal mission is to empower as many women as possible to stop playing small and know their incredible supernova powers.

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Ryan Forrest

Sales through Digital Marketing

Ryan is the Chief "Fun Guy" CFG) over at Fungi Marketing, a full-service design and marketing company in Greensboro. Ryan and the Fungi team love working with growing businesses on hyper-efficient sales and marketing programs. His decade+ experience in digital marketing has yielded millions of dollars in sales for his clients (ranging from bootstrapped start-ups to Global 100 companies). Ryan has also been a founding partner in a handful of start-ups himself including a furniture and home decor e-commerce store, outdoor subscription box business, and most recently an analytics company specializing in Tableau data visualization.


Timothy J. Gardner

Timothy J. Gardner retired as an Executive Vice President of Illinois Tool Works Inc. (ITW), a Fortune 200 diversified manufacturer of highly engineered components and industrial systems and consumables. With $14 billion in revenues, ITW is a multinational manufacturer of a diversified range of value-adding and short lead-time industrial products and equipment. The Company consists of 7 strategic operating segments in 60 countries and employs some 60,000 people. Timothy hasn’t slowed down after retirement and continues to utilize his expertise to serve as a mentor with Winston Starts and a board member for several organizations. Are you starting to see why we claim to have world-class mentorship?


Balint Gaspar

Coding and Software Development Guide

Balint Gaspar grew up in Budapest, Hungary and lived in the Triad since 2001. He is an accomplished serial entrepreneur and the current CFO of Sightsource, LLC, a “bleeding-edge” custom software development company, which he co-founded in 2009. He has a decade of corporate experience, primarily focused in the financial services industry. Upon earning his MBA from Wake Forest, he launched his first business with a group of colleagues and friends in 2004, importing and distributing winery equipment throughout North America. Other endeavors involve(d) commercial real-estate; SaaS; consulting and even working with independent publishing companies. More recently, Balint was one of the organizers of the 2018 Empower software developer course and has mentored startups in the Launch Challenge and the Creative Startups accelerators.


Bruce Maxwell

Bruce helps our cohort companies with financial proformas and projections. You can read his full profile above.


Ryan Schmaltz

AR/VR, Strategic Growth & Scaling Leadership Guide

Ryan Schmaltz is an entrepreneur, technology executive, and startup advisor From San Francisco, California and based in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. He is the founding Director of the Media and Emerging Technology Lab at University of North Carolina School of the Arts which harnesses technology for the purposes of storytelling and content creation. Ryan is also the founder of Peeks Technologies, a seed-stage startup that integrates with online clothing retailers to help shoppers find the perfect fit and discover new styles. Previously, Ryan was Executive Vice President at Blippar, a world leading augmented reality and computer vision company. Ryan was also an early leader at Uber where he led strategic initiatives for Uber’s executive leadership focused on growth, strategic partnerships, and scaling global operations. He has also held roles at Microsoft, Adobe, and Deloitte where he designed and managed intellectual property and licensing programs. Ryan holds a Bachelor of Science in Management Information Systems and Supply Chain Management from California State University, Chico and an MBA from Johns Hopkins University.

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Doug Shouse

Marketing Trek Guide

Doug has spent a career utilizing his creative skill-set in branding and marketing strategy. Whether launching new brands or repositioning those already nationally established, he facilitates growth. His experience is broad and diverse, spanning from consumer packaged goods to brands in the retail, service, and non-profit sectors. RJR Nabisco, Lowe’s Home Improvement, Hershey’s, NC Tourism, and many others have seen profitable successes through Doug’s strategic marketing leadership and passion. Yours will too when you have him by your side.


The Advisory

Group (TAG) Team

When it comes to our admission process, we make sure to have the best of the best ready to vet our applicants, to help every founder we accept grow to new heights. The TAG team meets monthly to carefully review every application and determine the level of startup maturity vis-a-vis our Basecamp, Ascent, and Summit curricula. TAG members are comprised of C-Suite level executives with an average of 30+ years of executive experience running Fortune 100 companies. Some members have even started companies themselves.


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