The BALSA Foundation held its annual elections on September 19, and elected a team of officers who bring a wealth of experience, passion, and knowledge to support our goals for the next year. Although founded only two years ago, The BALSA Foundation has already made an impact in the St. Louis entrepreneurial community. More than 500 people have taken advantage of our programs for first-time entrepreneurs, and 38 BALSA Grant finalists have received $36,000 in cash grants, over $70,000 in professional services, and countless hours of personalized mentorship and assistance. Looking ahead, the new leadership team -- all part-time volunteers -- will continue these successful programs while reaching out to communities that need and can benefit from them the most.
“I’m proud of how we’ve grown and matured as an organization, and in the year ahead we will take The BALSA Foundation to the next level,” says Matt Wyczalkowski, who was re-elected as Executive Director for a second term. “I’ve seen the life-changing impact our programs can have on entrepreneurs, particularly those from under-resourced communities, and we will work hard to share these inspiring stories. As we grow, we’re also building a strong foundation for this organization, to ensure The BALSA Foundation will be a respected presence in the community for years to come.”
MATT WYCZALKOWSKI, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
Matt is the Executive Director of The BALSA Foundation and a staff scientist at the Washington University School of Medicine, where he specializes in cancer genomics and data visualization. Born in communist Poland, Matt immigrated as a child to the US with his family and grew up in Pennsylvania. He attended Penn State University and the University of California at Berkeley before receiving his PhD in Biomedical Engineering from Washington University. With St. Louis as his home, Matt is passionate about helping make this a city where everyone has an opportunity to thrive. Matt consulted on a number of The BALSA Group projects and is the founder of SafeTGA, advocating for cyclists and pedestrians in St. Louis.
BRITTANY RIEHLMAN, OUTREACH DIRECTOR
After completing her Bachelor’s degree in New Media Design from SUNY Cortland, Brittany developed her entrepreneurship experience as a freelance graphic designer. Following a move from New York to St. Louis, she utilized those skills at a start-up boutique agency. Currently she is a graphic designer at Major Brands Premium Beverage Distributors, helping to develop their visual message. Brittany has been involved with The BALSA Foundation since January 2016, assisting with the development of events, idea support, and the Foundation's branding and identity.
THERESA O. OWUOR, PROGRAM DIRECTOR
Theresa is a postdoctoral research associate at Washington University School of Medicine in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology researching the effects of obesity on uterine cancer risk. She received her BA from Prairie View A&M University and her PhD in Molecular and Cell Biology from Washington University. She participates in the Trans-disciplinary Research on Energetics and Cancer (TREC) program, working on an interdisciplinary research team toward a common goal. As an experienced consultant with The BALSA Group she particularly enjoyed projects in technology transfer for the Office of Technology Management. As the Program Director of The BALSA Foundation, she is sharing her experience in idea development to help entrepreneurs get their ideas off the ground. Beyond the St. Louis community, she co-founded the Rehema Education Fund, which provides scholarships to Kenyan students from single-parent homes.
WYATT GUTIERREZ, FINANCE DIRECTOR
Wyatt is currently pursuing an MBA/JD joint degree at Washington University. He is thrilled to serve as the Foundation's Finance Director after becoming involved in The BALSA Foundation in May 2016. His chief goal is to keep the financial details under control so the Foundation’s operations run smoothly and efforts can be focused on assisting entrepreneurs and building and participating in the vibrant St. Louis start-up community. Outside of the Foundation, he is proud to work at the East St. Louis Initiative, a non-profit dedicated to encouraging entrepreneurship across the river.
REYKA JAYASINGHE, TECHNOLOGY DIRECTOR
Reyka is pursuing a PhD in Molecular Genetics and Genomics at Washington University. She has spent three years in leadership roles in the Young Scientist Program (YSP), a Washington University volunteer organization aimed at attracting students to scientific careers. As Director of YSP, she worked with administrators, members of the community and volunteers to develop new programming; maintained and identified new funding from granting sources; and effectively ran a completely volunteer based organization with over 100 active volunteers. Through this experience, she learned the importance of mentorship in supporting and educating young minds. She is now helping The BALSA Foundation provide resources and mentorship to first time entrepreneurs in St. Louis. As the Technology Director, she will strive to more effectively streamline the application process for the BALSA Grant and maintain a strong connection with the community through website development.