Mark Thomann brings more than 15 years of experience valuing, structuring, and consummating complex financial transactions involving trademarks/brands and other assets.
Mark has established himself as a leading transactional IP expert, currently serving as both Chief Executive Officer of River West Brands and Dormitus Brand, companies that acquire, redevelop, and monetizes iconic dormant brands. In his capacity as CEO of River West Brands, he led the process that resulted in a strategic investment from Omnicom Group (NYSE: OMC), a $14B holding company comprised of marketing firms. Mark also recently served as both Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of FarmedHere, one of the world’s largest indoor farms, during which time he successfully restructured and capitalized the Company. Mark is currently a member of several boards of directors of early-stage companies.
Mark is a frequent speaker on indoor farming and monetizing brand/trademark related assets. He has addressed mass media audiences including NBC’s Today Show, Chicago Tribune, The Economist, Chicago Public Radio, The NY Times, Crain’s Business Chicago, LA Times, BBC Radio, WGN Radio, and the Financial Times.
Mark received a B.A. from the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts. He lives in Chicago with his wife and three children.
Michael Kaplan is an experienced business and transactions professional. Michael started as an attorney working for national law firms such as Mayer Brown, and was employed on the business side for over 12 years at JLL (formally Jones Lang LaSalle), specializing in transaction management, team building and innovation. Michael is also a founding member of the Urban Physic Garden, a 501(C)(3) organization dedicated to educating the public on the healing power of plants and food as medicine.
Michael earned a B.A. from the University of Michigan (1985) and a J.D. from the Northwestern Pritzker School of Law (1990).
Originally from New York, Michael has lived in Chicago for the past 25 years. He currently resides in the Hyde Park area of Chicago with his wife and two teenage sons.
Margot Shapiro began her career in the investment banking division of Goldman Sachs & Co. She then spent five years analyzing and executing leveraged buyouts and venture capital deals for the private equity firm E.S. Jacobs & Co., which consisted of 30 portfolio companies totaling $6 billion in revenues. Margot invested in and served on the boards of a wide range of industries including biotechnology, education, manufacturing and restaurants.
Margot then joined the $100M education division of the Washington Post Company, Kaplan Test Prep, as Director of Business Development. She created their KapPerks loyalty program and launched the Books division, and she helped architect the acquisition strategy that led to Kaplan outgrowing the Washington Post in total revenues.
While raising her children in suburban Detroit, Margot helped launch the Wolverine Venture Fund at University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business and actively served on its founding advisory board for six years. After a move to California, she founded LMN Ventures with two partners. The seed capital fund invests in women-led businesses in the Consumer, Life Science, Clean Tech and Education sectors. The fund has had two exits in the Better-For-You Foods CPG sector.
Margot holds a B.S. in Applied Earth Science and an M.S. in Petroleum Geology from Stanford University, and an MBA from Harvard Business School. She is married, lives in Laguna Beach, has three amazing children, and likes to golf and travel.
Steve Gaither is the founder of JB Chicago, an integrated marketing agency whose clients include DMI, Tetra Pak, and Hershey’s. A mentor at the Good Food Business Accelerator, ICNC and The Hatchery, his relationships with the financial sector led him to start Windy City Troublemakers, an early-stage food brands group in Chicago. Steve is also a partner at Windy City Food Brands, a food advisory and investment group, where he and his fellow CPG experts provide the operational know-how and go-to market strategies that help brands accelerate their growth.
Steve graduated from Ball State University (1994) with a degree in Architecture and Planning. He resides in Munster, Indiana with his wife and three children.
Shaun O’Brien is the founder of Access Strategies, a consumer goods brokerage firm that acts as the sales and marketing arm for multiple brands. With over fifteen years in the consumer goods brokerage space, he has worked with brands in every aisle of the store in multiple trade channels: Jack Links, Lindt, Nestle Foodservice, Tyson, Gonnella Bread, Spectrum Brands, Chiquita, and Organic Valley to name a few. He specializes in developing price structure, trade marketing, and go-to-market strategy.
Shaun earned a B.S. in Management from Northern Illinois University and an Executive MBA from the University of Notre Dame. He resides in Homer Glen, IL with his wife and two daughters.
Mayuri Baheti is currently a first-year full-time MBA student at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.
Prior to Booth, Mayuri spent almost 4 years at Microsoft as an Enterprise Solutions Consultant for Manufacturing and Retail clients across the US. She was able to take what she learned back to her family business, Yash Technologies, an IT services company headquartered in India. There, she spent 3 months rotating through each major department of the company to understand how they operate and then assisted C-Suite through the due diligence process of two acquisitions in London and Dubai. Now, Mayuri is pursuing her MBA to transition her career to Entrepreneurship. Growing up with a Father who is a bootstrapped entrepreneur, her love for startups and innovation has been instilled in her since she was young, and she is passionate about helping people like him build and grow their ideas.
Mayuri holds a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting and Finance from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. She currently lives in Chicago and in her free time you can find her running along Lake Michigan, attempting to whip up something delicious in the kitchen, or crossing off things on her numerous bucket lists including new restaurants, new experiences, and new countries!