Speakers – 2018

Steve Dennis photo

Steve Dennis, President & Founder, SageBerry Consulting

Steve is a strategic advisor and leading thought-leader on retail strategy and innovation. As President of SageBerry Consulting he works with retail, luxury and social impact brands to create and execute remarkable growth strategies. As a keynote speaker and consultant, he has shared his perspective on what it takes to win in today’s challenging retail environment on five continents. Steve is also a retail contributor for Forbes and was recently named as one of the top 20 retail influencers worldwide.

Prior to founding SageBerry, Steve was Senior Vice President, Strategy and Multichannel Marketing for the Neiman Marcus Group. Earlier in his career, he served in senior leadership positions with Sears, including Chief Strategy Officer, VP, Multichannel Integration and VP/General Manager of an operating division that he profitably grew to nearly $1billion in annual sales.

Steve received his BA in Economics from Tufts University and an MBA from the  Harvard Business School.

His forthcoming book is entitled A Really Bad Time to Be Boring: Reinventing Retail in The Age of Amazon.

Laura Heller

Laura Heller, Director of External Communications, Performics

Laura Heller has been reporting on mass-market retail trends and initiatives since 1995 as a reporter for B2B magazines, business outlets and websites including Forbes and The Week. She has appeared on national TV and radio programs discussing retail trends including CNBC, ABC News Now and National Public Radio. Her blog–“The Point of Purchase”-appears on Forbes.com.

 J. Derochowski

Joe Derochowski, Executive Director, Industry Analyst, The NPD Group

Joe Derochowski is executive director and home industry analyst for The NPD Group. Joe has been following behavioral trends on a wide variety of categories for nearly 20 years. He has a unique perspective on what consumers do and why they do it, and a passion for bringing that insight to the industry to drive successful business decisions. Joe’s background in all facets of business, from creating the strategy to activating the strategy through the brand, innovation, and sales efforts, gives him the ability to connect the dots between the consumer and the marketplace. Also, with his extensive background in the food industry and exploring consumer trends, he is able to help better predict future trends for the home industry.

Previously, Joe worked closely with manufacturers, retailers, and operators in the food and beverage industry, consulting them on their path for growth, setting marketing and brand strategies, execution of tactics, and new product innovation. His creative approach also encouraged clients to reevaluate their go-to-market processes and think about their business differently. Joe has spoken at many food conferences and is quoted in leading periodicals and daily newspapers regarding how people eat, drink, and experiment with meal preparation, and their health and wellness thoughts and actions.

Joe received his undergraduate degree from GMI Engineering & Management Institute and an MBA from Michigan State University. In addition to his tenure at The NPD Group, he has experience working for General Motors Parts, AT&T, Procter & Gamble, and Nielsen. He has served on the Board of Directors of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Joe is married with two children and makes his home in Chicago, Illinois.

sue welch, edited

Sue Welch, Founder & Chief Executive Office, Bamboo Rose

Sue Welch is the founder and CEO of Bamboo Rose, a business-to-business (B2B) digital marketplace powered by trade engines that allow members of the retail ecosystem to collaboratively discover, develop and deliver great products to market. A veteran of the tech startup world with six companies to her name, Sue started her career with technology that automated international trade. In 1992 she sold her then company, Rockport Trade Systems, the first business software to run on a PC instead of a mainframe, to QRS for $100M. Now as CEO of Bamboo Rose, Welch is committed to bringing the world of product development and sourcing to par with the way consumers shop for goods with a collaborative marketplace platform that enables digital sourcing and is driven by trade engines.


Jason Goldberg, SVP Commerce, SapientRazorfish

Jason “Retailgeek” Goldberg leads the Commerce Practice at Publicis.Sapient. Jason is a 4th generation retailer, who launched his first e-commerce site for Blockbuster Entertainment in 1995. In the subsequent 20 years, he has served as a principal customer experience architect for top retailers including Best Buy, Target, and Walmart. With a focus on e-commerce and digital marketing for omni-channel retailers, he has worked with over 100 clients on the Internet Top 500 and has been responsible for billions of dollars in on-line revenues. Under his twitter feed @retailgeek he is one of the most followed e-commerce subject matter experts on the web.  He is a member of the board of directors of shop.org (the digital retail arm of the National Retail Federation). Jason has served as an expert witness in Federal Court on e-commerce, a guest lecturer on retail and e-commerce at the Kellogg School of Management for Northwestern University, hosts iTunes top e-commerce podcast called “The Jason & Scot Show”, and was voted one of retail’s top global influencers by Vend. He’s a Forbes contributor, Retailwire Brainstrust, and Path to Purchase Institute faculty. In 2017, he was inducted into the National Retail Federation “The List” of people shaping the future of retail.

Paul Matker, CEO, Thanx Media

Over 20 years of high tech selling and management experience within several large software and consulting firms, including; Click Commerce, United Messaging, PLATINUM technology, inc., Computer Associates, Sprint Paranet, ROC Commerce, Blosm and Hawk Search. Helped build Endeca Technologies into a $100 million business. While at Endeca, secured deals with companies like Hallmark, Sigma Aldrich, Cabela’s, and Walgreens. Helped Endeca establish themselves as an enterprise level solution provider. Throughout career, has secured strategic revenue from clients like: Tenneco, Union Pacific Railroad, Nissan, and Motorola. Sold technology solutions in the financial and retail industry and has a strong heritage of closing business. Enjoyed being part of and helping build start-up companies like Blosm, Hawk Search, Paranet and Endeca as it really helped Paul experience many aspects of what it takes to grow a successful company.

Ryan DeChance

Ryan DeChance, Director of Discovery The Grommet

Ryan DeChance, Director of Discovery at The Grommet, identifies unique and innovative products across 16 consumer categories for a partnership on The Grommet’s web platform. He sources, pitches, merchandises, negotiates and sets the stage for each Maker and product to have the best possible chance of success. His personal favorites are everyday items that have been thoughtfully re-designed and improved to solve a problem.


Deborah Shearer, Founder, Table + Dine

Deborah Shearer is the founder and creative mind behind Table + Dine, a lifestyle tabletop and styling studio filling the creative needs of brands in the home, tabletop and housewares markets around the world. With over two decades of experience in creative and editorial production, Deborah combines her background in retail, marketing and merchandising with a strong, unique eye for connecting people to products.

Bridget & Casey, The DIY Playbook

Bridget & Casey, The DIY Playbook

Casey Finn and Bridget Matkovich are the two self-proclaimed do-it-yourself rookies behind the popular home decor blog, The DIY Playbook. The best friends and Chicago natives coach their readers through the often intimidating world of home décor and home improvement, and their site has received millions of pageviews since it began in 2013. By posting detailed tutorials daily, Bridget & Casey prove to their readers that home improvement does not have to be intimidating. Plus, their relatable approach makes these DIY projects attainable and fun!

In addition to authoring a successful blog, Bridget is a high school special education teacher, while Casey is an Emmy-award winning broadcast journalist and former television producer. Bridget holds a bachelor’s degree in Secondary Education from Eastern Illinois University and two master’s degrees in Curriculum and Instruction and School Leadership and Administration. Casey holds a degree in Film, Television, and Theatre from the University of Notre Dame.


Lauren Kelp, Founder, Studio Alcott

Lauren Kelp is the founder of Studio Alcott, a Chicago-based boutique content creation agency for digital, print, and editorial publications. After a decade of blogging partnerships through LaurenKelp.com with ELLE, Martha Stewart, Starbucks, Nike, Kendall-Jackson…and many others, Lauren utilizes her first-hand digital influencer knowledge to help brands build stronger content and better campaigns. 

Peter Giannetti, Editor-in-Chief, HomeWorld Business

Peter Giannetti is Editor-in-Chief of HomeWorld Business, the leading business-to-business title covering the U.S. retail housewares market. Mr. Giannetti has reported on the housewares business for 27 years. He writes a keynote column in HomeWorld Business, and he is a frequent speaker on housewares news and trends at conferences, trade shows and industry events. He is interviewed frequently by consumer media for his views on industry developments and trends. Mr. Giannetti travels extensively in the U.S., Europe and Asia to visit manufacturers, retailers and trade fairs. Mr. Giannetti also oversees editorial operations for HomeWorld Business’ sister publication, Gourmet Insider, covering the independent gourmet housewares channel.

Alyssa Steele, Vice President, Merchandising eBay

Alyssa Steele is a seasoned leader, experienced in managing a large and diverse portfolio of categories, with a track record for executing on business profitability. She joined eBay in 2015, after nearly a decade in various merchandising and finance roles at The Home Depot. In her current role, she’s charged with driving sustained growth across Electronics, Home & Garden and Sporting Goods through managing financial and inventory levers, as well as site merchandising. Most recently, she was the merchandising lead for the eBay Americas’ largest campaigns, Spring and Holiday in 2017 – both of which delivered record highs. Alyssa holds dual M.A. degrees, one in Business Administration from Georgia State University and one in International Management from the Sorbonne.

Brian Fricano

Brian Fricano, CEO & Founder, Sustainable Supply

Brian Fricano is Chief Executive Officer and Founder of Sustainable Supply, an online B2B retailer selling more than 1 million building and maintenance products. Brian has more than 18 years’ experience in the B2B marketplace including working for W.W. Grainger and the Bradley Corp. Over the past 8 years, Brian has bootstrapped his company from a small start-up to a successful mid stage e-commerce retailer. He’s lead his team through multiple website redesigns & launches, software integrations, and the implementation of a new cloud based ERP system.

Launched in 2009, Sustainable Supply earned a top 1,000 ranking on Inc. magazine’s 5,000 fastest-growing private companies for four years in a row and in Internet Retailer’s top 1,000 ranking six years straight. Sustainable Supply was also nominated for an Internet Retailer Excellence Award in 2016 for best B2B Website.

Scott Benedict

Scott Benedict, Divisional Merchandise Manager (DMM)

Scott Benedict, DMM, Groupon Goods. Scott is an accomplished Senior Executive with more than 30 years of success spanning retail, e-commerce, consumer electronics, new system development, training, and succession planning. Leveraging extensive experience in retail business strategy, process refinement, and multichannel e-commerce, Scott is a valuable asset for a company requiring leadership to control operating costs, seize opportunities to increase operational efficiencies, or optimize profits. His broad areas of expertise include supplier performance management, retail merchandising, product marketing, inventory management, and competitive price strategy.

Throughout his executive career, Scott has held leadership positions with Walmart Global Sourcing and Procurement and Sam’s Club. He has been responsible for producing a 36% first-year improvement in associate engagement index, reducing operating expenses, and building stakeholder relationships resulting in measurable savings. An expert in data mining and analysis, Scott initiated category strategy development and enabled purchase price leveraging across markets. Additionally, he identified new areas of the business where costs could be reduced or avoided.

Scott attained his BS in Radio and Television from Arkansas State University. As a seasoned panelist and speaker, Scott has served on a judging panel for the 2017 Walton MBA Case Competition, spoke at a US Chamber of Commerce Summit, and was a moderator at the 2017 WalStreet Fireside Chat: OmniChannel – The Internet is Real. Scott is a guest lecturer at the University of Arkansas.

Julianne Will, Writer/ Editor/Social Media Consultant, Founder, Local Universe

Julianne has been published in major metropolitan daily newspapers and national magazines, as well as written print and online copy for diverse industries including wine, fitness, food, travel, retail, banking, industrial technology, real estate, commercial paint and decorating, and more. She crafts strategy, creates profiles and serves as the voice of businesses on social media platforms including Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn. Julianne also has launched a small ecommerce business retailing goods that give back.

Sonya Ruff Jarvis, Founder, eRetailer Summit, Managing Member of Jarvis Consultants, Founder / President of JC Event Group

Sonya Ruff Jarvis is Founder of the eRetailer Summit, an annual face to face event devoted exclusively to understanding the digital influence and learning to leverage the internet as a distribution channel, specifically for the home improvement marketplace. In addition, Sonya is the Managing Member of Jarvis Consultants, LLC which provides customized consulting services in strategic development, marketing & promotion. Sonya is also the Founder/President of JC Event Group, an events management company that focuses on creating, facilitating, managing and producing original events.

Sonya is a veteran to the home improvement retail market and the event management industry. During her tenor as Vice President at Reed Exhibitions, she originated a new customer approach known as TAP (Targeted Attendee Program). The TAP model identified, created and sustained top attending customer relationships as leverage to engage and optimize ROI for exhibiting customers. The program was implemented worldwide yielding increased attendance, higher exhibitor satisfaction and optimal loyalty scores. An expert in the field, Sonya has been published in numerous retail industry b-to-b publications.

Sonya earned her M.B.A. in Marketing from New York Institute of Technology and a B.A. in Communications from Hiram College. She and her husband, Scott Jarvis, a wealth investment manager, have a daughter and reside in Connecticut.