The BALSA Foundation held its annual elections on September 18th 2017, and elected officers and directors who are passionate about helping first-time entrepreneurs in the St. Louis region start their businesses. In its three years of existence, more than 700 for first-time entrepreneurs have taken advantage of programs put together by the BALSA Foundation. More specifically, 57 BALSA Grant finalists have received over $55,000 in cash grants, over $90,000 in professional services, and countless hours of personalized mentorship and assistance. Many of the former officers will play a role in the Board of Directors and remain engaged. The new leadership team, made up entirely of part-time volunteers, will work tirelessly to implement programs geared towards entrepreneurs in communities that need it the most.
The new officers are: Arpan Majumder (Finance Director); Mark Katerberg (Technology Director); Gabriela Ramirez-Arellano (Business Director) and Aziz Traore (Executive Director).
“I am proud and excited to be a part of this organization because of the work it does at the grass-root level” says Aziz Traore the new Executive Director. “Entrepreneurship can be a powerful weapon in improving the economy, prosperity and overall well-being of an entire region. But for that to happen for everyone especially those in under-resourced communities, it is crucial to lower barriers to entry in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. The previous leadership team has done a tremendous job in realizing this vision and we hope to deliver on that mission.”
AZIZ TRAORE, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
Aziz is the Executive Director of the BALSA Foundation and a Senior Scientist at MilliporeSigma working on the development of tissue chips to study drug safety and toxicity. Born and raised in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, Aziz moved to the United States to pursue his education in Engineering in 2005. He received both his Bachelors and Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from Virginia Tech before moving to Washington University in St. Louis for his postdoctoral studies in Biomedical Engineering. Aziz believes in the power of entrepreneurship and the positive impact entrepreneurs can have on the economic growth and prosperity of an entire region. He is a strong proponent of increased access and participation in the St. Louis entrepreneurial ecosystem by lowering barriers to entry. He also serves in Board of Directors of the Balsa Foundation.
ARPAN MAJUMDER, FINANCE DIRECTOR
Arpan is the Finance Director of the BALSA Foundation, and a graduate business student in the Olin Business School at the Washington University in St. Louis. Born and raised in Kolkata, India, Arpan graduated as a mechanical engineer and went on to work in management and business development roles in major multi-national corporations. Arpan's love for the city of St. Louis brought him to be associated with the East St. Louis Initiative (ESLI), a student run body that aids individual entrepreneurs from the underserved community of East St. Louis. His association with the BALSA Foundation began with the successful completion of ESLI's merger with BALSA. Arpan's motivation for driving financial operations at BALSA stems from a belief that stability and predictability of operations will move the BALSA Foundation towards its goal of providing every individual with equal opportunities to succeed.
MARK KATERBERG, TECHNOLOGY DIRECTOR
Mark is the Technology Director of the BALSA Foundation and a software developer at Slalom Consulting where he specialized in front-end web development. He is a transplant from Grand Rapids, Michigan and has received his degree in Economics from the University of Minnesota. Working to help shape a city that encourages its citizens to grow their skills regardless of institutional setbacks is a passion for Mark. He supports STL Women Techmakers, the STL Techies Project, and other St Louis organizations that work for social change.
GABRIELA RAMÍREZ-ARELLANO, BUSINESS DIRECTOR
A native of Guanajuato, México, Gabriela Ramírez-Arellano has spent the last few years helping entrepreneurs and small businesses expand and gain access to capital and opportunities for growth. She earned a bachelor of science in Marketing from the University of Missouri-Columbia and an MBA from Lindenwood University. After graduation she moved to Michigan, where she raised her family and found her voice for helping the community build economic strength through financial literacy, entrepreneurship and education. With over two decades of nonprofit experience, Gabriela has specialized in assisting organizations develop strategic plans to reach their marketing and outreach goals. Now back in St. Louis, she continues to help small business owners as the business counselor at the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and was recently named by the St Louis Business Journal one of the top 100 people to know to succeed in business. Gabriela and her husband own Don Emiliano's Restaurante Mexicano in O'Fallon, MO and she is active on the board of the Balsa Foundation, The University of Missouri Extension and recently joined the board of Fontbonne University.