The BALSA Foundation Team

The BALSA Foundation is an organization of volunteers.  As the philanthropic arm of The BALSA Group, many of our members are its alumni.  We are entrepreneurs, scientists, community leaders, and young professionals working to make St. Louis a better place.  Learn more about our members:




Mike Bynum is the Executive Director of the BALSA Foundation and a graduate student in the Full Time MBA Program at Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis. Mike hails from Bettendorf, Iowa having received a liberal arts degree from The University of Iowa and went on to work in the U.S. military in the Infantry and Intelligence branches. As a newcomer to the St. Louis area, Mike strives to continue serving in a local capacity by helping members of the community enter the business ecosystem through entrepreneurship.

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joseph pulikkottil, FINANCE DIRECTOR


Joseph is the Finance Director at the BALSA Foundation and an MBA candidate at Washington University in St. Louis. He is from India and has worked extensively in Asia. Prior to his MBA, he worked in Investment Banking and private banking at Citi Asia. Later he invested in a family business and incubated a fintech startup, ventures he exited after successful stake sale.

As a member of investment committee at Citi India, he was responsible for executing investment mandates for high net worth investors and family offices by seeking active investment opportunities in emerging markets focused on small and mid-cap strategies. His responsibilities included investment research, due diligence, deal origination’s, and relationship management.

In St. Louis he is associated with BALSA group, Cultivation capital and SixThirty. His motivation to drive the financial operations at BALSA derives from his passion to encourage and foster financial independence in under served communities through entrepreneurship.

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Jeffrey morgan, Technology DIRECTOR


Jeffrey is the Technology Director of the BALSA Foundation and Systems Administrator at the Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis. Before his move to Washington University in St. Louis, Jeffrey worked for St. Louis Community College in Technology and Education Support Services and also worked part-time as a Continuing Education Instructor.  Jeffrey graduated from Southern Illinois University of Edwardsville with a degree in Computer Management Information Systems in 2015. After receiving his degree, Jeffrey decided to continue in higher learning and is currently a graduate student in the MBA Program at the Olin Business School. Jeffrey has always had a strong connection to the midwest and wants help build a better community.

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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. 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.

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Monique is the Communications Director of the BALSA Foundation and an Individual Relationship Manager at United Way of Greater St. Louis where she specializes in fundraising and event management.  Monique is personally responsible for raising 12.4 million dollars out of United Way of Greater St. Louis’s 76-million-dollar campaign goal for 2018.  She hails from Baltimore, MD and has received her degree in Communications from the Rockhurst University. Monique has served as mentor in the Metro Leadership League where she mentored high school and middle school girls in the inner city of St. Louis.  Her passion for youth development and economic prosperity drive her to serve first time entrepreneurs in the Greater St. Louis area.

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Board of Directors

The BALSA Foundation is managed by the Officers and the Board of Directors.

  • Mike Bynum, President

  • Matt Wyczalkowski, Secretary

  • Matt Lodes, Treasurer

  • Maxim Schillebeeckx

  • Tom Cohen

  • Sriram Devanathan

  • Reyka Jayasinghe

  • Mark Katerberg

  • Gabriella Ramirez-Arellano

  • Aziz Traore

  • Ademola Kassim

Advisory Committee

The role of the advisory committee is to serve as champions for The BALSA Foundation, connect the Foundation with leaders in the community, and provide their perspective and support in making strategic decisions.

  • Betsy Cohen, Executive Director, St. Louis Mosaic Project

  • Aimee Dunne, Senior VP National Programs, Prosper Institute

  • Jason Hall, General Counsel, St. Louis Regional Chamber

  • Marlon Lee, Account Executive, Mediplex Healthcare Professionals

  • Lisa McLaughlin, Managing Member, Muhm & Reilly

  • Neelu Panth, Development Director, Better Family Life

  • Cara Spencer, St. Louis City Alderman, 20th Ward

  • Sara Stock, Founding Member, Khazaeli Wyrsch Stock

  • Cheryl Watkins-Moore, Director, Bioscience & Entrepreneurial Inclusion, BioSTL

  • Jeffrey Whitford, Head of Corporate Responsibility, Merck - MilliporeSigma

Idea Supporters

Idea Supporters are individuals with significant business or entrepreneurial experience who read and give feedback on business ideas.  Their time and expertise are the backbone of our Idea Support program.

  • Anil Cashikar

  • Hao Xu

  • Yinzi Liu

  • Diego Abente

  • Aimee Dunne

  • Lydia-Ann Harris

  • Trevor C. Thompson

  • J.R. Johnson

  • Mark Denk

  • Marilyn Green

  • Erica Majumder

  • Julius B. Anthony

  • Kathleen Cook