As a senior marketing and business development executive at the intersection of media, content, events and partnerships at such media companies as: Viacom/ Paramount, Disney, Sony Pictures Entertainment, NBCUniversal, Madison Square Garden Entertainment and representing various digital out-of-home networks, a few years ago he was recruited and relocated to Washington, D.C. from NYC to transform and reimagine the B2B events based global speakers bureau business. There he forged a greater alignment and emphasis on integrated marketing, sales, partnerships and new business models with a strategic and philosophical shift into the business of storytelling, audience experiences, data and content. Serving corporations, national trade associations, professional societies and non-profits he and his team successfully brought to market innovative client solutions that directly generated revenue growth, created unique customer experiences, forged emotional connections with audiences and amplified the power of storytelling across multiple platforms.
Currently, as a Principal/ Founder at his independent consulting firm, Mitchell Partnership Alliances he advises organizations on the operational, strategic and communications alignment across integrated channels including content, platform, audience and revenue generating partnerships driving successful business outcomes for such clients as: PwC, National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), USO, American University, GlobalMeet, Kaltura, The Source for Learning and several B2B information services companies.
Brian Riffle, a seasoned retail executive, brings two decades of expertise in store and fixture design to the table. As the current head of merchandise presentation at Big Lots, he excels in leveraging analytics to boost productivity and enrich customer shopping experiences. His passion lies in harmonizing aesthetic appeal with business strategies while adapting to evolving consumer behaviors. Brian's enthusiasm for retail is fueled by this dynamic balance. A fervent advocate for leadership development, he is committed to nurturing future retail leaders through training, mentorship, and sharing wisdom gleaned from past mentors.
As the CEO and Founder of OpenEye Global, Bryan has redefined the landscape of interactive and visual media, elevating OpenEye into an esteemed experience design agency.
With expertise in digital strategy and experience design, Bryan has directed the creation of groundbreaking experiences for renowned brands such as Merlin Entertainment, Unilever, Honeywell, Santander, Kravet, and Hershey.
Meszaros actively serves as a board member for the Digital Signage Federation and the Shop! Association, having previously held the role of Board President for SEGD (Society for Experiential Graphic Design).
Leadership experience with retailers, brands and suppliers, assisting them in creating the opportunities to enhance their customers experiences. Helping clients to see their stores, brands and companies as their customers see them. Experienced in offering creative solutions that drive for innovation and brand awareness. A brand ambassador with a relentless focus on four key elements of customer satisfaction and profitability; product, design, presentation and people. I am proud to be a past recipient of the highly sought after Markopoulos Award; a hall of fame distinction for contributions to the retail design and visual merchandising fields.
Ezra Doty is a Co-Founder & serves as Chief Executive Officer at Quorum (Media and Information Services). Before founding Quorum Ezra was CEO and co-founder of Think Realtime, a DSP focused on automated real time bid price optimization and dynamic creative engine, which was acquired by Dealer.com (Cox Automotive), where he continued as General Manager of advertising sales, operations, and product development. Involved in the media industry's digital transformation since day one, previous roles include: SVP at Universal Music Group and co-creator of Vevo.com; creator of the EverydayHealth.com audience network; creator of Jumpstart Automotive's audience targeting network while at Revenue Science, the industry's first audience targeting platform; leading innovation around the earliest forms of rich media and advertising technology at CNN Turner Broadcasting, launching a small business focused "Yellow Pages" ad product for Knight Ridder, powered by Zip2, while at Philadelphia News Inc. in 1997.
As SVP of Strategy & Experience Design, Jody leads the team in inspiring, guiding and shaping the customer experience. Working across a variety of brands, she helps bring forth meaningful and actionable customer & business insights. She has worked on brands within all industries including retail, consumer goods, food service, and health & wellness. She has a passion for uncovering motivations and translating findings into strategic brand building initiatives.
Her 20+ years of experience spans the globe and industries as she's worked for agencies, retailers and in corporate brand management roles. She holds an MBA from Fordham University.
Joe Baer is the Co-Founder, Creative Director, and CEO of ZenGenius, Inc., a global visual merchandising and event design agency celebrating its 25th year. Headquartered in Columbus, Ohio, Joe brings over three decades of mastery in innovative leadership and creative direction to the visual merchandising and special events industries. He has extensive knowledge of the customer journey and is a seasoned public speaker who has traveled around the world to inspire and educate others through the art of visual merchandising and experience design. Additionally, Joe has contributed his retail know-how to multiple publications, authored The Art of Visual Merchandising: Short North, and created the Iron Merchant Challenge, a popular interactive retail design competition held annually at the International Retail Design Conference.
Joe's passion for the industry is evident in his roles as Vice President of the PAVE Global leadership board, Advisory Board for the Master Retail Studies program at Columbus College of Art and Design, and the VMSD Editorial Advisory Board.
John McCauley is currently SVP Media for Velocity Managed Services Inc's Digital Signage and Media division. The division provides digital signage infrastructure for retailers and venues, as well as operating a media network within 28k retailers/venues with 60k screens across Grocery Stores, C-Stores, Gas Pumps, Cinemas, Shopping Centers, Bars and Hotels.
Prior to joining Velocity, McCauley was the EVP Chief Product Officer for Screenvision Media, a leading cinema advertising company. He worked at Screenvision for 10 years and additionally held titles of Chief Strategic Development Officer and Chief Marketing Officer. Prior to Screenvision Media, McCauley was the Principal of his own agency, Flying Tiger Enterprises, connecting brands and media companies to new technology media, content, and other emerging opportunities.
Prior to Flying Tiger, McCauley was the CMO of CBS College Sports Network, the 24-hour college sports cable channel from CBS Sports. where he was responsible for branding, media, digital programming, online marketing, and research.
McCauley also has experience within the studio and movie theater industries. He was EVP of Global Marketing Partnerships for The Weinstein Company, where he worked on film and TV properties, including Project Runway, as well as the SVP of Marketing and Business Development for Loews Cineplex Entertainment, where he led the Loew's 2003 Centennial Celebration branding and revenue efforts.
McCauley holds a bachelor's degree in Accounting from Kings College in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, and MBA from Vanderbilt's Owen School of Business.
A long retail career, that began in Finance and Distribution for the Musicland Group in 1981. Moved to Dunham’s Sports as part of an acquisition by Musicland of a small six-store local sporting goods chain. Over the years, as a private company, we have grown to well over 260 stores in 27 states. We are the Midwest’s largest sporting goods chain stretching from Wyoming to North Carolina and points south, and have not forgotten our Midwest roots.
Over the year’s I headed Merchandise Planning with responsibilities for supply chain management, forecasting and allocation algorithms. My current responsibilities as Vice President of Store and Merchandise Planning encompass; store business opportunities, store and product initiatives, space planning, display, real estate evaluation and sales enhancement. I am a member of the Real Estate Committee, involved in site selection approval.
I am currently serving as the Vice Chairman of the Detroit Metro YMCA Board of Directors, and will assume the role of Chairman in 2025. In addition, I am involved in several youth mentoring programs in the Michigan area.
With nearly 20 years of experience in sustainability, Lisa is a leading, internationally known, sustainability consultant in consumer environments, manufacturing, architecture, and supply chain. Lisa's work in sustainability started in green building design, but quickly expanded to include business strategy, marketing, supply chain, and education. Lisa owns and operates EcoScapes Sustainability Solutions, LLC which primarily focuses on tracking and reducing environmental impacts of consumer environments throughout North America, Europe and China.
Lyn Falk is founder and President of Retailworks, Inc. (1995), an award-winning design/display firm where she brings consumer behavior and environmental psychology tools to the drawing board to develop intentional designs that achieve goals. She understands how the decision-making brain works and what makes for an emotional engaging selling environment. Lighting is one of her specialties!
Lynn is the Global Practice Officer at RAZR, leading the organization's behavioral science capability and practical application to client and customer experiences. Lynn joined RAZR through RAZR's acquisition of SellCheck. He served as the Chief Product Officer there, helping SellCheck clients increase shopper conversion by optimizing their creativity - combining behavioral science, neuroscience, and marketing expertise to increase sales. Lynn and SellCheck have served over 1,600 brands.
Before SellCheck, Lynn was a Senior Director at Procter & Gamble, serving as one of the global leaders for applying behavioral science to shopping. Lynn owned the evolution of P&G's North America Innovation center, 'The I,' and was recognized by P&G as a Global Innovation Award recipient. Lynn is a recognized expert in applying behavioral science to convert shoppers to buyers. He is a guest speaker (Path to Purchase Institute, Marketing Agency Association Worldwide, Canadian Marketing Association, Northwestern University) and a Shopper Marketing Institute Faculty Member, Who's Who in Shopper Marketing, and Marketing Science Institute Trustee.
Maria Albulescu is a seasoned retail design leader with over 13 years of expertise in store planning and design. Specializing in innovative and cost-effective solutions, Maria is committed to elevating the customer experience and driving business value. Leading nationwide store planning initiatives, she utilizes her skills in strategy execution, process improvement, and cross-functional collaboration to ensure successful outcomes from concept to implementation.
Beyond her professional responsibilities, Maria is a passionate advocate for mentorship. She leads the Walgreens Mentoring Circle, a platform dedicated to fostering continuous learning and growth within the organization. Through monthly sessions, Maria provides team members with valuable opportunities for personal and professional development, emphasizing the importance of mentorship in career advancement.
Maria's leadership in the Walgreens Mentoring Circle reflects her dedication to creating connections, exchanging ideas, and developing skills to support the growth of individuals not only within the organization but also across the broader retail industry.
Rebekah Matheny is an Associate Professor of Interior Design in the Department of Design at The Ohio State University. She holds a Masters of Architecture from the University of Oregon where she also received a Technical Teaching Certificate with a concentration in Sustainable Design Strategies for Interior Architecture focused in Interior Finish Materials and Lighting Design. Additionally, she holds a Bachelor of Science in Interior Design and a Bachelor of Science in Architecture from the University of Cincinnati. As an educator she is dedicated to fostering lifelong learning for her student, professionals and herself with recently became a certified futurist through the Institute For The Future.
With over a decade of industry experience in retail brand experience design and consumer strategy, Matheny bridges academia and design practice. She brings this expertise to her work as an educator, researcher, and consultant, integrating a developed future-oriented strategic process based on her research for sustainable brand strategy to the areas of retail, hospitality, workplace, and higher education design. Leveraging her background in Sustainable Design Strategies, Matheny's academic research investigates the sensory experience of retail and brand environments to create emotional connections between people, products, brand purpose, and physical place to forge meaningful memories and foster stronger relationships. Through redefining retail, brand experiences, and service design, Matheny is working to redesign a sustainable future. Her current project focuses on the translation of slow fashion principles into what she terms “slow retail” experience design. Additionally, she has worked with Mohawk Group for 5 years on a project called Generation Scrap. This project investigates the future of design through the values of GenZ, translating those visions into a carpet design that mitigates global waste. These projects, along with others that engage students, professionals, and stakeholders are the foundation for her developing REBEL Sustainable Futures at Ohio State, the Redefining Retail and Brand Experience Lab for the design of a more sustainable future.
Matheny has published in academic and professional journals and has presented at both academic and professional conferences around the world. Most recently she presented the papers “From Slow Fashion to Slow Retail: A methodology for designing a sustainable retail culture” and "Building a Case for Slow Retail Design" at the Design Research Society's conference in London and “From Research to Strategy: Co-Designing a Center for Entrepreneurship" at IDEC in Vancouver. Through her research CoLab with Mohawk Group She has presented “Generation Scrap: Designing with waste to transform the carpet industry” at the PLATE Conference in Berlin, NeoCon conference, ASID Conference, and exhibited a five-year retrospective exhibition at the Urban Art Space. She has also been a guest on podcasts, speaking on sustainability and youth generation's values as drivers for redefining the future of design.
Ron Thurston's life mission is to celebrate, elevate, and empower the people and the spirit of the retail industry.
Boasting over three decades of experience at the helm of retail stores and operations for some of America's top brands, including Gap, West Elm, Apple, Tory Burch, Bonobos, and Saint Laurent, Ron has developed an extensive skill set in retail strategy, management, and innovation.
In January 2024, Ron co-founded OSSY, a comprehensive retail recruiting agency platform designed to bridge the gap between retailers, candidates, and solution providers, fostering successful careers and businesses.
Ron is also the best-selling book “RETAIL PRIDE,” which champions retail professionals to embrace their often accidental careers. He is the host of the RETAIL IN AMERICA podcast and tour, a venture that saw him traveling the nation in an Airstream trailer in 2022/2023, uncovering and spotlighting the unsung success stories and remarkable individuals in retail.
Ron's contributions have set him up to be recognized as one of the most influential voices in retail and retail technology, and he lends his expertise to the Advisory Boards of several quickly growing retail tech companies, including Ometria, Reflex, Vendoor, and YOOBIC.
Samar Younes is a polymath artist, creative catalyst, and futures curator, celebrated for her intricate fusion of cultural contrasts and kaleidoscopic identities, along with her emphasis on modern Eastern representation. Guided by a profound interplay of textures, materials, and inspirations, her work poetically blurs the lines between the various vernacular aesthetic-based disciplines by exploring them through each other's lens, craft and method interconnecting themes around humanity, planet, and technology. As the force behind SAMARITUAL, an NYC-based atelier, Samar's expertise in future-oriented artistic direction delves into the convergence of art, culture, and design, orchestrating a harmonious dialogue between artificial and artisanal intelligence.
An alumna of Central Saint Martins, Samar's diverse background spans architecture, visual communication, scenography, and decades leading creative teams. Her creations often reside at the intersection of fashion and architecture, fueled by an array of influences, reshaping cultural narratives and skillfully interweaving intricate human-planet-machine dialogues that bridge history and innovation.
Samar's practice thrives on generative creativity, biomimicry, and cross-cultural dynamics, fostering imaginative storytelling, interconnectedness and visionary world-building. Her influence transcends traditional boundaries, leveraging the transformative power of art and creativity for a relentless pursuit of wellness and interconnectedness.
Tara Haase Hieminga
Tara currently leads Global Shopper Experience for Mondelēz International, responsible for the overall global strategy and implementation of point of sale display to drive maximum shopper conversion. She is focused on driving excellence across three strategic pillars: shopper conversion, sustainability and efficiency, enabling best-in-class behaviors and results for Mondelēz around the world.
Previous to this role, Tara was heading the newly established 'Elevated Shopper Experience' program; developing a strategic framework, championing custom shopper and customer research, and deploying innovative technology on in-store displays to create 'ESE' experiences that drive incremental sales and strategic retailer partnerships. Tara has previously held roles in Shopper Marketing, Digital Marketing, Design Strategy, In-Store Marketing, Brand Management, and Marketing Services for Mondelēz and other large CPG companies including Kraft and M&M Mars.