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:




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.

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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.

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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.

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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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Michael Bynum, Program Director

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Mike Bynum is the Program Director of the BALSA Foundation and a graduate business student in the 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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Ademola is the Outreach Director of the BALSA Foundation and a Research and Development Scientist at MilliporeSigma.  He was born in Nigeria and moved to the United States at a young age. Ademola graduated with his Bachelor’s in Biology from the University of Missouri. He received his Master’s in Medical Biotechnology from the University of Illinois and received his MBA from Webster University. Ademola is a firm believer in the power of providing opportunities and resources to entrepreneurs and small businesses in the St. Louis community.

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Board of Directors

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

  • Aziz Traore, President
  • Matt Lodes, Treasurer
  • Maxim Schillebeeckx, Secretary
  • Tom Cohen
  • Sriram Devanathan
  • Daniel Povinelli
  • Reyka Jayasinghe
  • Matt Wyczalkowski
  • Mark Katerberg
  • Gabriella Ramirez-Arellano
  • Arpan Majumder
  • Michael Bynum
  • 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
  • Matthew Lodes, Olneya Restoration Group
  • 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.

  • Katie Adastra
  • Matt Althage
  • Tami Bowman
  • John Brenner
  • Thomas Campbell
  • Anil Cashikar
  • Jeff Chang
  • Cynthia Cipolla
  • Tom Cohen
  • Scott Crick
  • Kyle Davis
  • Sriram Devanathan
  • Megan Epperson
  • Emel Esen
  • Jiaxi Fang
  • Ben Filas
  • Chris Fiore
  • Kimberly Franklin
  • Anton Gimmel
  • Nick Goldner
  • Lydia Harris
  • Pamela Hesker
  • Allison Hoynes-O'Connor
  • Cole Johnson
  • JR Johnson
  • Arie Krumholz
  • Jamie Kwasnieski
  • Natalie LaFranzo
  • Corey Lewis
  • Justin Lipner
  • Yinzi Liu
  • Matt Lodes
  • Corey Lohnes
  • Erica Majumder
  • Kinjal Majumder
  • Mena Morales
  • Luis Muniz
  • Andrew Mutka
  • Rei Nakamura
  • Kaitlyn Norman
  • Alina Oltean
  • Theresa Okeyo-Owuor
  • Twinkal Pansuriya
  • Shankar Parajuli
  • Tara Pham
  • Santhi Pondugula
  • Brad Postier
  • Danny Povinelli
  • Jayan Rammohan
  • Sindhuja Rao
  • David Razafsky
  • Brittany Riehlman
  • Koby Sarpong
  • Maxim Schillebeeckx
  • Wade Self
  • Shiv Shah
  • Mohit Sharma
  • Renatus Sinkeldam
  • Lester Smith
  • Tom Spudich
  • James Sorrell
  • Daniel Willingham
  • Kate Wilson
  • Matt Wyczakowski
  • Hao Xu
  • Jie Zhang
  • Mike Zhao