Neil W. Sweeny, AFOI

Title: President

Company: Commercial Aquatics Service and Support (CASS-TN, Inc.)

Education: Bachelor’s Degree in Biology, Westfield State University, Westfield, MA (1992)

Career History: President, Commercial Aquatics Service and Support (CASS-TN, Inc.) (2022-Present); Vice President, Duffield Aquatics, Inc., Anderson, SC (1996-2022)

Neil W. Sweeny, President at Commercial Aquatics Service and Support (CASS-TN, Inc.), has been recognized as a Marquis Emerging Leader for their contributions and achievements in the field of pool services.

For Mr. Sweeny, it’s always been about pools. When he was 8 years old, his mother worked at a pool store and would let him clean people’s pools in the neighborhood. When his family moved from North Carolina to Massachusetts in his early teens, he started building above-ground pools and servicing them, which financed his college education. After earning a bachelor’s degree in biology from Westfield State University in 1992, he worked in the pool chemicals division of the world’s largest aquarium manufacturing research center, located in Connecticut. The job eventually took him to Tennessee, where he joined Duffield Aquatics, Inc.

Between 1996 and 2022, he worked with commercial pools at Duffield and eventually advanced to the role of vice president. Since 2022, he has utilized her leadership skills as the founder and president of Commercial Aquatics Service and Support (CASS-TN, Inc.), a high-quality aquatic facility service provider—from water parks to Olympic-sized pools—through which he and his dedicated staff implement a strong commitment to excellence and customer satisfaction. He has been proud of taking a leap of faith and establishing his business, producing remarkable numbers. In addition, he acquired a construction company in 2023 that builds commercial pools nationwide.

Looking toward the future, Mr. Sweeny aims to keep the company growing and make enough money to eventually purchase a beach house and relax. He plans to officially retire in 10 years.


Alihan Hanoglu

Title: Owner

Company: Liberty Chick ‘n’ Fish

Location: Pittsburgh, PA

Education: Bachelor’s Degree, Marmara University (1997)

Career History: Owner, Liberty Chick ‘n’ Fish (2022-Present); Owner, Alihan’s Coffee and Breakfast (2022-Present); Owner, Rizeli Logistics (2020-Present); Owner, Alihan’s Mediterranean Cuisine (2013-Present); Owner, Giovanni’s Catering Business (2009-Present); Owner, Giovanni’s Pizza and Pasta (2007-Present)

Alihan Hanoglu, Owner at Libert Chick ‘n’ Fish, has been recognized as a Marquis Emerging Leader for their contributions and achievements in the fields of business and food services.

An accomplished restauranteur and the owner of six companies in the United States, Mr. Hanoglu’s success is marked by hard work, self-motivation, perseverance, and inspiration from his parents. Originally from Turkey, he gravitated from a young age to the food business as his parents, Hafize and Ziya, owned and operated their own restaurant. Although it was always a dream of his to follow in their footsteps, he worked for many years as an instructor at a sports academy in his home country. But in 2003, equipped with a bachelor’s degree from Marmara University, he relocated to the United States to make his mark as a business owner. Despite not speaking English upon his arrival, he was highly motivated and quickly obtained a job as a pizza delivery driver.

Just four years later, in 2007, Mr. Hanoglu advanced from driver to owner of an Italian eatery, Giovanni’s Pizza and Pasta, which he still operates to this day. Since then, he has opened Giovanni’s Catering Business in 2009, Alihan’s Mediterranean Cuisine in 2013, and Rizeli Logistics in 2020—a trucking company and freight hauling business based out of his home city of Pittsburgh. In 2022, he added Alihan’s Coffee and Breakfast and Liberty Chick ‘n’ Fish to his successful slate of establishments. Among the numerous items on the menu at Liberty Chick ‘n’ Fish, which also offers catering, are fried shrimp with cocktail sauce, chicken tenders, breaded or battered wings, burgers, nachos, and sandwiches. A major factor in his continued excellence in his industry has been his ability to build a loyal clientele, determination to provide quality food and service, strong interpersonal skills, and the desire to always do his job right—which consists of him working 17 hours a day. In addition to his primary endeavors, he’s also a member of ASKON USA (Anatolian Businessman Association).

Although he’s extremely proud of all he’s achieved since immigrating to a completely new country, Mr. Hanoglu’s aspirations haven’t slowed down. In the next five years, he says his goal is to start a company that involves importing and exporting—which would bring about the connection of his two homes, Turkey and the United States. Mr. Hanoglu is married and has a son.

Marianne Naess

Title: Chief Executive Officer

Company: Katahdin Salmon

Education: MPA in Public Administration and Planning, University of Oregon (1995); MA in International Studies, University of Oregon (1995); BA in Communications, California Lutheran University (1991)

Career History: Chief Executive Officer, Katahdin Salmon, Maine (2023-Present); Managing Partner, Xcelerate Aqua, Portland, ME (2022-2023); Executive Vice President Commercial, Nordic Aquafarms, Portland, ME (2018-2022); Executive Vice President Commercial, Norsk Medisinaldepot AS, Oslo Area, Norway (2011-2018); Senior Vice President, Aker Solutions (2007-2010); Vice President, Mesta (2003-2006); Manager, Ernst & Young (2000-2003); Senior Manager, Ernst & Young (2000-2003); Manager, Arthur Andersen (2000-2003); Consultant, Agenda (1997-2000)

Marianne Naess, Chief Executive Officer at Katahdin Salmon, has been recognized as a Marquis Emerging Leader for their contributions and achievements in the field of business.

With more than two decades of professional experience to her name, Ms. Naess, along with her husband, recently formed Katahdin Salmon, a Millinocket, Maine-based organization that produces quality Atlantic salmon in large indoor tanks through fully renewably hydropower to be sold in local stores in the United States—making it the “greenest medium-scale RAS aquaculture operation” in the United States. As chief executive officer, she utilizes her expertise in general management and building similar environmentally-friendly businesses as Xcelerate Aqua, where she served as managing partner, and Nordic Aquafarms, where she was executive vice president of commercial, between 2018 and 2023 in her leadership. Prior to these responsibilities, she was active as the executive vice president of commercial at Norsk Medisinaldepot AS from 2011 to 2018; a senior vice president at Asker Solutions from 2007 to 2010; the vice president at Mesta from 2003 to 2006; and both a senior manager and manager at Ernst & Young between 2000 and 2003. She launched her illustrious career as a consultant at Agenda in 1997.

Attributing her success to being goal-oriented and never giving up, Ms. Naess considers her most notable achievements to be working full-time in an exciting career encompassing various areas and being part of one of the most valuable projects in the industry while raising her three children. A Fulbright scholar, she prepared for her professional journey by earning a Bachelor of Arts in communications from California Lutheran University in 1991 and a Master of Public Administration from the University of Oregon in 1995.

In the future, Ms. Naess hopes to continue building up the business by developing a team to deliver high-quality fish on schedule. Additionally, she wants to ensure that they’re building the best company for themselves and their investors.


Fish Farming Expert

Katahdin Salmon

Victor C. Velez

Title: Chief Executive Officer, Founder

Company: Hobby Art International (HAI) Supply

Location: Carmichael, CA

Education: Associate Degree in Business, Management, Marketing, and Related Support Services, American River College (2010); Small Business Solutions, Business, Winterstein Adult Centre (2004)

Career History: Chief Executive Officer, Founder, Hobby Art International (HAI) Supply (2016-Present); Customer Service Relationship Manager, SPS Wholesale Inc. (2016); Warehouse Supervisor, Customer Service, Tonic Studios USA Inc. (2015-2016); Customer Service Manager, Kuretake ZIG Corporation, Sacramento, CA (2013-2015); Customer Service Representative, Intelliquote Insurance Services, El Dorado Hills, CA (2011-2013); Commissions Auditor & Disbursements, Cost-U-Less Insurance, Rancho Cordova (2010); Accounts Payable Manager, InterBev Products, Inc., Carmichael, CA (2005-2009)

Victor C. Velez, Chief Executive Officer and Founder at Hobby Art International (HAI) Supply, has been recognized as a Marquis Emerging Leader for their contributions and achievements in the field of business.

An independent businessman and entrepreneur with nearly 20 years of professional experience, Mr. Velez has excelled as the chief executive officer and founder of Hobby Art International Supply—a successful provider of arts and crafts, embellishments, paper goods, and stationaries for the paper crafting industry, including greeting cards—since 2016. In this role, he curates new products, always ensures the best quality possible, trains his employees, and takes great pride in collaborating with numerous small businesses and independent companies.

Launching his career as an accounts payable manager at InterBev Products Inc. from 2005 to 2009, Mr. Velez went on to serve as a commission auditor at Cost-U-Less Insurance in 2010 and a customer service representative for Intelliquote Insurance Services from 2011 to 2013. At this time, he answered an ad for a job opening at Kuretake ZIG Corporation, a manufacturer of fine arts materials, and while working there as a customer service manager from 2013 to 2015, he gathered inspiration from the company’s founder to provide quality products to showcase his dedication to his craft. He subsequently further developed his expertise by serving as a warehouse supervisor and a customer service representative at Tonic Studios USA Inc. from 2015 to 2016, and then as a customer service relationship manager at SPS Wholesale Inc. in 2016 before founding Hobby Art International Supply.

Raised in the United States by parents from Mexico, Mr. Velez began wielding his entrepreneurial skills as early as the sixth grade, helping his father make his first business card and encouraging him to start a business around card-making. People ultimately became interested in it and would ask his father to make business cards for them. He completed coursework in small business solutions at Winterstein Adult Centre in 2004 and earned an associate degree in business, management, marketing, and related support services from American River College in 2010. His entrepreneurial spirit carries on within his current business; while he considers himself a “solopreneur,” he believes that family is essential for growth and advice. His mother has been helping him greatly in his business, and he can always rely on his father to be supportive, as well as the comfort of his cat, Lucy.

In the future, Mr. Velez hopes to expand his business and have his own building displaying all their art products and embellishments. He would love to be an authority figure when it comes to helping other businesses.

Hai Supply


Gary Steyn

Title: Business Strategy Manager

Company: Fujifilm Canada Inc.

Location: Oakville, Ontario, Canada

Education: Diploma in Marketing Management, Varsity College, South Africa (2013); Diploma, High School

Career History: Business Strategy Manager, Fujifilm Canada Inc., Mississauga, Ontario, Canada (2023-Present); Co-Founder, First Seed Capital, Ontario, Canada (2023-Present); Chief Strategist, SteynStorm Consulting, Oakville, Ontario, Canada (2022-2023); Business Development Manager, Fujifilm Canada Inc., Mississauga, Ontario, Canada (2020-2022); Business Development Manager, The Central Group, Ontario, Canada (2018-2020); Digital Sales Manager, Muscat Media Group, Muscat Governorate, Oman (2017-2018)

Gary Steyn, Business Strategy Manager at Fujifilm Canada Inc., has been recognized as a Marquis Emerging Leader for their contributions in the field of business.

Having accrued over two decades of professional experience, with expertise in business strategic growth and development and consulting, Mr. Steyn has excelled as a business strategist and entrepreneur—starting and growing six businesses across numerous industries and continents. He has been active as the business strategy manager at Fujifilm Canada Inc. and co-founder at First Seed Capital since 2023. At Fujifilm, his responsibilities include developing and implementing the photofinishing division’s overall strategic plan, analyzing business performance, and providing insights and recommendations to senior management. Meanwhile, at First Seed Capital, he and his co-founder have strived to help entrepreneurs build themselves in a new country; even if they have the skills, he noted, they might not have access to capital, banking history, and local references. Through First Seed Capital, they provide local programs that help practical business starters such as laundromats and wellness and beauty parlors.

In addition, Mr. Steyn serves as the chief strategist and consultant at Steyn Storm—through which he dedicates himself to two to three clients, whom he consults for e-commerce and online retail businesses, and helps expand and partner with global brands. He predominantly focuses on strategic business development plans concerning the growth of companies. He started at Fujifilm as a business development manager from 2020 to 2022; served in this same capacity at The Central Group from 2018 to 2020, where he achieved $1 million in sales in his first year, for which he was recognized with the Sales Achievement Award; was a digital sales manager at Muscat Media Group from 2017 to 2018; and was active as the communications director at Focus on the Family from 2014 to 2017. Before these appointments, he led as the chief executive officer at Live The Dream Point of Purchase from 2007 to 2014 and the national sales executive at Lonehill Trading from 2004 to 2006. He launched his career as the publisher of the Millennium Today Newspaper in his native country South Africa in 1998, distributing thousands of copies of it—followed by a role as the managing director of his own coffee shop.

Over the course of his accomplished career, Mr. Steyn considers the highlight to be writing his book, “The True Love Story: True Life Story of Gary Steyn,” which was published in 2019 and details his adverse, tumultuous, and at times tragic upbringing in South Africa and his eventual path toward finding his faith. The book inspired numerous people and led to him being a guest on the show “100 Huntley Street.” In addition, he has written numerous articles and has been interviewed across television and radio. Outside of his primary endeavors, he is an ordained pastor and was also active as the national director of the South African branch of Hellenic Ministries, a Christian organization through which he took groups of people to Greece and explained the group’s cause. He’s currently working on two projects, an initiative called Courage to Spot Losing the Ones We Love, which focuses on the courage of people who continue living after a loss, and a screenplay about artificial intelligence.

Looking toward the future, Mr. Steyn strives to have a global business. So far, he has managed to start businesses on two continents, Africa and North America, and he now plans to have an international company. He’s working with First Seed Capital on different initiatives and will hopefully be able to have more locations in the near future.




Ravi Palaniappan, PhD

Ravi Palaniappan, PhD

Title: 1) Chief Executive Officer 2) Managing Director

Company: 1) Ultra Green Corporation 2) Ultra Metals and Minerals

Location: GA/USA

Education: Doctor of Philosophy, Earned in India (2000); Master’s Degree, Earned in India (1994); Bachelor’s Degree, Earned in India (1990)

Career History: Chief Executive Officer, Ultra Green Corporation (2021-Present); Managing Director, Ultra Metals and Minerals (2020-Present); Director, Vivarium

Ravi Palaniappan, PhD, Chief Executive Officer at Ultra Green Corporation and Managing Director at Ultra Metals and Minerals, has been recognized as a Marquis Emerging Leader for their contributions and achievements in the field of environmental services.

Always persistent and hardworking, Dr. Palaniappan has dedicated his developing career to helping others improve their lives. Wielding a strong science background, particularly in biology, he began his professional path in his home country of India, where he served as a research assistant at the Central Leather Research Institute from 1996 to 2000 and subsequently provided vaccines to people and launched and ran several businesses in the region. In 2004, he began teaching as an associate professor within the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences at Mercer University College of Pharmacy, spending 16 years shaping young minds on pharmaceutical biotechnology and drug delivery systems. Over the course of his time in academia, he produced nine doctoral students, earned a Research Scientist Award in 2016, and has been affiliated with such organizations as the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists, Controlled Release Society, American Society for Microbiology, Society for Mucosal Immunology, American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy, and American Association for Cancer Research.

Passionate about the environment and an expert in solar power generation, Dr. Palaniappan has led as the CEO of Ultra Green Corporation, a technology-based organization focused on green energy and investing, building, and operating these projects worldwide. Since 2021, he has held this position, overseeing the company’s general and solar investment operations and relations in the United States. He was instrumental in negotiating, signing, and implementing a Power Purchase agreement of a $200 million energy supply project with the Zambian government—which he considers his most notable professional achievement. In addition, he is currently developing a power supply tariff with the Malawai government. Additionally, he has served as the managing director of Ultra Metals and Minerals—an India-based copper manufacturing company in India with a head office in the United States—since 2020.

Outside of his primary positions, Dr. Palaniappan holds two patents and three degrees and was integral in attaining accreditations for some Indian languages in the United States. Married with two children, he enjoys playing tennis and baseball and participating in community service in his spare time—he was even named Volunteer of the Year by the Global Community in 2014. Looking ahead to the future, Dr. Palaniappan’s mission is to transform Ultra Green from a private limited to a public limited company, and believes in the idea that “a single man can make a difference.”

Ultra Green Corporation


Vanessa N. Roers

NAME: Vanessa N. Roers

Title: Owner

Company: Miel

Location: Duluth, MN

Education: Coursework, Lake Superior College (2022-Present)

Career History: Owner, Miel (2022-Present)

Vanessa N. Roers, owner and Chief Financial Officer at Miel, has been recognized as a Marquis Emerging Leader for their contributions and achievements in the field of business.

Wielding a strong work ethic, innovative ideas, and a determination to carry on her mother’s legacy, Ms. Roers has excelled since 2022 as the owner, Chief Financial Officer, and wholesale and productions manager at Miel, LLC—a beloved company that has provided all-natural honey and beeswax-based products since 2010. Based in Duluth, Minnesota, Miel was started by her father, Mark, the company’s beekeeper known as “The Honey Guy,” and co-run by her mother, Sharilyn, “The Queen Bee,” who developed the recipes for their many available beeswax products, including lip balm, lotions, and soaps. Ms. Roers joined the business in 2020, focusing on the production side of things, and inherited the business and marketing operations after her mother’s passing in January 2022.

Since taking up new responsibilities at Miel, Ms. Roers has showcased expertise in bookkeeping, accounting, social media, and the beeswax products her mother handled. Among these products, she is most proud of the company’s lotion and lip balm, which utilizes all-natural ingredients and has a long-term goal of transitioning from fragrance to essential oils. The company’s products—from honey to lotion and lip balm to honeycomb and plastic squeeze bottles to honey sticks and bags, gift baskets, and more– are sold in stores throughout the state of Minnesota and across the globe since launching its online shop. She is also currently attending Lake Superior College as a full-time student in pursuit of a degree in accounting and bookkeeping as a way of supporting her administrative duties at the company. She has been featured in Voyage Minnesota Magazine.

Before joining the family business, Ms. Roers was a stay-at-home mother to her three children, Evelyn, Axel, and Odin—all of whom now enjoy “checking the bees” with their grandfather. Her husband, Keith, also lends a hand with honey production since retiring from the Navy in 2022.  When she isn’t working at Miel, she enjoys running marathons, reading, and gardening.

Michele L. Sullivan

Title: Founder, Owner

Company: ML Sullivan LLC

Education: MBA in Business, Bradley University (1989); Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration and Management, Bradley University (1987)

Career History: Founder, ML Sullivan LLC (2019-Present); Owner, ML Sullivan LLC (2019-Present); President, Caterpillar Foundation, Caterpillar, Peoria, IL (2011-2018); Director of Corporate Social Innovation, Caterpillar, Peoria, IL (2011-2018); Manager, Parts Authorizations and Product Supportability, Caterpillar, Peoria, IL (2007-2011); Informational Technology Analyst, Caterpillar, Peoria, IL (1988-2002); Senior Analyst, Caterpillar, Peoria, IL (1988-2002); Sales Support Consultant, Caterpillar, Peoria, IL (1988-2002); IBM

Michele L. Sullivan, Founder and Owner at ML Sullivan LLC, has been recognized as a Marquis Emerging Leader for their contributions and achievements in the field of business.

A renowned global leader, adviser, philanthropist, motivational speaker, author, and expert in the areas of business strategy, finance, and social impact, Ms. Sullivan has dedicated her career to making significant, positive changes in society by prioritizing the human side of business over profits—through partnerships between public, private, and nonprofit entities. Since 2019, she has excelled as the founder and owner of ML Sullivan LLC, through which she advises small- to large-scale businesses and shares her insights on stage at such major events as TED, SXSW, and Global Citizen Festival, among others. She also sits on the board of directors of ONE, a campaigning and advocacy organization whose mission is to end extreme poverty and preventable disease.

Ms. Sullivan previously found success for 30 years at Caterpillar—a corporate leader in sustainable progress since 1925—advancing in positions from sales support consultant, senior analyst, and informational technology analyst to parts authorizations and product supportability manager to president and director of corporate social innovation between 1988 and 2018. As the first female president from 2011 to 2018, she steered Caterpillar in a more forward-thinking direction by creating and implementing a collaborative impact platform called Together.Stronger, as well as ToGetHerStronger, helping to develop the first women’s entrepreneur center in Africa, and continually striving to address global poverty through investments in advocacy. She considers her most notable achievement at the company to be creating a video that impacted 50 million people with their investments and making a significant change for the foundation.

In addition to wielding impact through her business leadership, Ms. Sullivan motivates people as a public speaker, most notably by giving a TED Talk at TEDWomen 2016. In her talk, titled “Asking for help is a strength, not a weakness,” she spoke about the difficult challenges she has faced as someone born with a rare form of dwarfism, the power of accepting others, and how she found her success against the odds. She has lent her expertise and experience to numerous speaking engagements, even being the first non-engineer keynote speaker at an event for the Society of Women Engineers. In 2020, she authored the book, “Looking Up: How a Different Perspective Turns Obstacles into Advantages,” delving further into her life and success story. Outside of her main endeavors, she has been involved with the Local Initiatives Support Corporation and Community Workshop and Training Center, Inc., and supports numerous animal rights organizations, Little People of America, and the Boys & Girls Club of America. Ms. Sullivan has been listed as one of the 50 Most Powerful Women in Philanthropy by Inside Philanthropy and earned a Centurion Medal for her achievements.

Attributing her success to her parents and spiritualism, Ms. Sullivan holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration and management and a Master of Business Administration from Bradley University. Looking toward the future, she intends to continue focusing on the work she’s been doing. Her motto in life is, “Keep looking up because the view is great.”


TED Talk

Sikiru Alagbada

Title: Former Co-Chair

Company: LAUNCH: The University of California’s Startup Accelerator

Location: San Francisco, CA

Education: Pursuing MBA, University of California, Berkeley, Haas School of Business (2023); BS in Economics, Baylor University (2014)

Career History: Co-Chair, LAUNCH: The University of California’s Startup Accelerator (2022-2023); Senior Data Engineer, JPMorgan Chase & Co., (2019-2022); Senior Data Engineer, General Motors, (2017-2020); Data Engineer, General Motors, (2015-2017); IT Consultant, CGI, (2014-2015); Consultant, Egencia, an Expedia company, (2012-2014)

Sikiru “SK” Alagbada, Co-chair at LAUNCH: The University of California’s Startup Accelerator, has been recognized as a Marquis Emerging Leader for their contributions and achievements in the field of technology and venture capitalism.

Attributing his success to grit, resilience, and support from his family and friends, Mr. Alagbada has been building an accomplished career as a data engineer, an MBA student, and a Season 3 cast member on the Emmy-award nominated Netflix show, “Love is Blind.” Born and raised in Lagos, Nigeria, he moved to the United States in 2009 and settled in Texas, where he attended Baylor University for his undergraduate studies. He is currently a second-year MBA candidate at the University of California at Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, where he is focused on technology, entrepreneurship, and venture capital. He will be graduating in May 2023.

Since 2022, the scholarship recipient from the National Black MBA Association has excelled as co-chair of strategy and partnerships at UC LAUNCH, Berkeley’s in-house accelerator program for promising startups within the university’s ecosystem. Utilizing his skills as a data engineer and problem solver, he has been able to pilot projects off the ground and into fruition, as well as gain a strong grasp of the business of technology, by engaging and developing relationships with investors and raising funds for various startups. As a leader, Mr. Alagbada has been especially proud of his ability to raise the number of diverse founders accepted into the program by 40 percent.

Prior to his enrollment and active work at UC Berkeley, Mr. Alagbada launched his career at General Motors in Austin, Texas, where he worked at General Motors in Austin, Texas, working as a data engineer. In 2019, he then joined JPMorgan Chase & Co. as a senior data engineer, building enterprise data pipelines and back-end infrastructure with a data footprint covering about 55% of all U.S. households. He previously worked as an IT consultant at CGI from 2014 to 2015 and as a consultant for Egencia from 2012 to 2014. In addition to his primary areas of expertise, he has acquired a residential mortgage loan originator license from the Nationwide Multistate Licensing System & Registry and a Texas Real Estate Salesperson License from the Texas Real Estate Commission from 2012 to 2015.

Mr. Alagbada has spoken about tech and startups at such conferences as AFROTECH, Berkeley Fintech Summit, LAUNCH Demo Day, AFRICON, and the Berkeley Africa Business Forum. He has been featured in more than 25 media publications, including Business Insider, The San Francisco Standard, and The Daily Californian. This year, he was inducted into the Who’s Who in America 2023 list.

Before moving to the United States in 2009, Mr. Alagbada, a member of the Yoruba tribe in Nigeria, was an international exchange student in Poland and lived all across Europe for many years. He ultimately earned a Bachelor of Science in economics from Baylor University in 2014. Still connected to his home country, he served as the president of UC Berkeley’s Africa Business Club, which works to develop business relationships between tech companies in Africa to capital, mentorship, and general resources in Silicon Valley. Outside of his academic and professional pursuits, Mr. Alagbada made a name for himself worldwide as a cast member of Season 3 of “Love is Blind,” a popular Netflix dating reality show, which hit the streaming service in late 2022.

Looking ahead to the future, Mr. Alagbada sees himself succeeding professionally, acquiring a company, becoming a CEO, and giving back to his community. Outside of work, he enjoys cooking, interior design, soccer, and spending time with his family.

Meet SK


Deidra Smith

NAME: Deidra Smith

Title: Chief Executive Officer, Founder, Employment Specialist

Company: MDee Beauty, HR Office Solutions Inc., HROS Inc.

Location: Dover, DE

Career History: CEO and Founder, Mdee Beauty (2020-Present);

CEO and Founder, Process Serving (2009-Present);

CEO and Founder/Employment Specialist, HR Office Solutions Inc. (2009-Present);

Outside marketing for various companies such as AT&T, Bronner Bros., etc.

MDee Beauty

Deidra Smith, Chief Executive Officer and Founder at MDee Beauty, Process Serving, and HR Office Solutions, Inc., has been recognized as a Marquis Emerging Leader for their contributions and achievements in the fields of business and cosmetics.

Growing up in Philadelphia with two hardworking parents who instilled in her a strong worth ethic and drive, Ms. Smith strived from a young age to find success by paving her own professional path. While starting out in the early 2000s, she took on work-from-home jobs in an effort to retain her independence. Despite working on her own, she predominantly served to help people find work, utilizing her natural skills in talking to and dealing with people, and it was then that she realized it was something she did extremely well. By 2003, she took a job as an account manager, a role she was able to do remotely, and subsequently worked in outside marketing for numerous companies, including AT&T, Bronner Bros., and Dr. Miracle. Upon entering the corporate field, she became inspired to open and operate her own company.

Since 2009, Ms. Smith has been active as the Chief Executive Officer, founder, employment specialist, employments counselor, and a non-attorney representative for the disabled at HR Office Solutions, Inc., which provides process serving and courier services for a wide range of specific organizations, as well as the government, such as the Social Security Administration. Additionally, HR Office Solutions contracts each company under her leadership to help disabled individuals find jobs and then monitor them. Also in 2009, she founded Process Serving, a company that serves legal paperwork, which is still in operation to this day, and began serving as the Chief Executive Officer and founder at HROS Inc., an organization that serves subpoenas and other legal documents. She also acts as a business coach—helping others to open their own companies—life coach, and employment coach.

Stepping outside of her main areas of focus in 2020, Ms. Smith, motivated by her lifelong passion for skincare and its products, began researching and ultimately developed a formula for lipsticks, matte liquid lipsticks, lip stains, and lip glosses that fit her needs—as well as the needs of those who, like her, found their once-favorite products to no longer do the trick. She started MDee Beauty, a company that uses “paraben-free ingredients” such as vitamin E, Sea butter, and avocado oil and serves to “improve the condition” of users’ lips. “We want you to be confident that your look can last all day,” Ms. Smith said in an interview with Black EOE Journal. “Our product is built on healthiness, vibrant colors, and sustainability. It is our goal to keep you looking good all day.” In addition, Ms. Smith has strived to establish a work environment that prioritizes diversity, equity, and inclusion when it comes to listening to the ideas of others; as a Black woman, she says she has had plenty of experiences being overlooked in the workforce. “I’ve been made to think that my ideas and what I had to say didn’t matter…Everyone’s voice needs and should be heard, especially in the workforce on your team…As the employer, I know that I don’t know everything, that’s why I surround myself with motivated, opinionated, and diversity in thought.” Over the course of its two-year existence so far, MDee Beauty has found much success, of which she is incredibly proud.

Outside of her primary endeavors, she volunteers 70 hours a month with religious organizations, frequently donates to help homeless women get the care and help that they need, and is a devoted member of the Women’s Chamber of Commerce. Looking toward the future, Ms. Smith shows no signs of resting in her entrepreneurship—in the next five to 10 years, she wants to be able to start a chain of storefronts. When she isn’t working, she enjoys walking, traveling, spending time with friends, and going out to eat.