Meet the team.
Megan Bacigalupi, Legal Program Manager, Bay Area
Megan is an attorney who has spent most of her career in local government. Prior to joining Start Small Think Big, Megan served as Chief of Staff and Deputy Commissioner for Intergovernmental Affairs to the New York City Business Integrity Commission. In this role, she developed a strategic plan and managed the policy portfolio for the agency, served as chief advisor to the commissioner and was the primary liaison to City Hall and other government entities. Megan also served as the Director of Federal Legislative Affairs at the NYC Department of Education. Prior to her work at the NYC DOE, Megan worked as an attorney for Mayor Bloomberg’s Criminal Justice Coordinator on a variety of issues including guns, violent crime, identity theft, and human trafficking. While at the Mayor’s office, she also co-designed and developed the New Business Acceleration Team, an initiative that simplified the government process and procedures for new businesses. Megan earned her BA in Political Science and Public Policy from UCLA and a JD from UC Hastings College of the Law.
Heather Bowen, Northwestern Pritzker School of Law Legal Fellow, New York City
Heather Bowen earned a B.A. in Government & World Affairs, a B.A. in Music with a concentration on classical piano, and a minor in Criminology from The University of Tampa. In addition, she earned her JD from Northwestern Pritzker School of Law in Chicago, Illinois. During her time at Northwestern, Heather worked as an Assistant Program Director for Just The Beginning – A Pipeline Organization, inspiring young underserved and minority students in middle school, high school and college, with the goal of increasing diversity in the legal profession and the judiciary. She worked around the country with judges, lawyers, and middle and high school students on legal reasoning, case analysis, writing, negotiation, and oral argument exercises. Heather also served for two years on the Associates Board – Development and Marketing Committee of the Legal Prep Charter Academy, which strives to increase diversity in the legal profession by providing a legal-themed curriculum to Black and Hispanic students, subsequently allowing them an opportunity to succeed at four-year colleges and beyond.
Elizabeth Bradford, Legal Program Director
Elizabeth has spent most of her legal career in public interest-oriented and government positions, including several years with the New York State Attorney General’s office, enforcing the state’s consumer protection laws. Most recently as the General Counsel of the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, a state-run facility, Elizabeth advised the Center’s management on a broad range of business and employment law issues. Elizabeth also worked to promote the state’s economic development goals and helped to develop and expand the Center’s MWBE procurement program. Elizabeth began her legal career as a law clerk for a federal district court judge and subsequently worked as an associate for Davis Polk & Wardwell. She holds a BA from Yale College and received her law degree from Harvard University.
Kristin Brauth, Financial Program Director
Kristin has ten years of work experience in Financial Services. Prior to joining Start Small Think Big, Kristin worked at Citigroup for seven years. Kristin worked in Corporate Banking and also Risk Management covering corporate clients in the Consumer and Healthcare sectors. After that, Kristin worked in Citi’s CAO office of Risk Management preparing risk materials for the Board of Directors and working on governance initiatives. Kristin has also worked at the Federal Agricultural Mortgage Corporation as an underwriter of agricultural real estate loans. Kristin has volunteered with Accion’s Microconsulting Program and has been a financial literacy volunteer with High Water Women. Kristin obtained a B.S. in Animal Science from Cornell University and an MBA from NYU Stern.
Christine Coakley, Impact Assessment Director
After graduating with a BA magna cum laude in Economics from Trinity College, Dublin, Christine spent two years working throughout Latin America in both the nonprofit and social enterprise sectors, where she coordinated extensive market and academic research in the areas of community and youth development, and conservation. Prior to joining Start Small, Christine was engaged in a large quantitative research project gathering and analyzing data from Thompson-Reuters and Bloomberg’s Environmental, Social, and Governance databases, to operationalize, measure, and evaluate the social and environmental performance impact of the social initiatives of for-profit firms in the food industry. Christine has an MSc. summa cum laude in Social Entrepreneurship from Trinity College, Dublin.
Kevin Cussen, Salesforce Administrator
Kevin has worked with technology in various forms for the last decade, from supporting Namibian entrepreneurs as an ICT volunteer during his Peace Corps service to leading large scale Salesforce implementations with hundreds of thousands of records, dozens of users, and a large and distributed implementation team. He has worked in the private, public, and non-profit sector on three continents. Kevin is passionate about the mission of Start Small Think Big partially because of his own background in entrepreneurship where he has at various times been an independent consultant, the co-founder of an educational start-up in Namibia, and the co-founder and CEO of a biogas service company. Kevin holds a B.S. in Computer Science from the University of Texas and an MBA with a focus on Global Business from the University of Washington. He is a certified Agile consultant and holds several Salesforce certifications.
Jennifer DaSilva, Founder & Executive Director
Jennifer is an attorney whose professional background has been in community development. Jennifer began her career in the Bronx in the late 1990s as the Director of the East Side House Settlement Youth Leadership Program, working closely with South Bronx families and community groups, and building partnerships between East Side House and private funders, nonprofit and government institutions, and private businesses. After graduating from law school in 2001, Jennifer clerked on the District of Columbia District Court for the Honorable Gladys Kessler, and worked as a Litigation Associate at Debevoise & Plimpton in New York. Jennifer then worked for the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, where she helped to coordinate their 2008 west coast Election Protection effort by opening three national hotline call centers in California, building mobile legal field programs in Nevada and Washington, and recruiting and training 1500+ legal volunteers. Prior to founding Start Small Think Big in 2010, Jennifer worked at Angkor Microfinance Kampuchea, a licensed Cambodian Microfinance Institution in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where she helped to design a new microinsurance product for the Cambodian market. Jennifer holds a BA in Political Science from Yale University, and a JD from Cornell Law School.
Mabell Fernandez, Market Access Program Director
Ms. Fernandez has spent the past nine years working in non- and for-profit sectors, both domestically and internationally. Prior to joining Start Small, she worked at the World Economic Forum where she established, managed, and developed Strategic Partnerships with C-suite and senior executives across a portfolio of ten leading Fortune 100 companies. Before this, she spent four years working at a nonprofit organization in Boston that provides financial education and coaching to low-income families, empowering them to build savings and financial capabilities as a pathway out of poverty. She has also worked with women- and minority-owned small and medium sized businesses in Spain focusing primarily on business plan evaluations, cash projections, and financial planning. Ms. Fernandez obtained her B.A. in Economics and in International Relations with a focus on Economic Development from Boston University.
Ebony Johnson, Legal Program Coordinator, New York City
Ebony’s undergraduate experience laid the foundation for her career in the non-profit sector. While a student at Georgetown University, she helped to coordinate a mentoring program for at-potential youth. After graduating with a B.A. in English, she worked for five years as a paralegal at a non-profit law firm, The Children’s Law Center, where she assisted in the direct advocacy of children in family court litigation. Ebony obtained her Master’s Degree in public administration from the University of San Francisco and is a member of Pi Alpha Alpha Honor Society.
Yasmina Madeira, Programs Assistant, New York City
Yasmina graduated with a BA cum laude in Communication and Latin American studies from Rutgers University, New Brunswick. Prior to joining Start Small Think Big, Yasmina worked closely with the CUNY Graduate Center’s Left Forum organization, where she helped coordinate events and develop multiple media outreach techniques. She also interned for Cities of Service, a nonprofit founded by Michael Bloomberg. While at Rutgers, she was a member of the Collaborative Center for Community Based Research and Service and dedicated two years to mentor New Brunswick’s youth.
Mauna Minagar, Programs & Communications Associate, Bay Area
Mauna has several years of experience working in the non-profit and higher education sectors. Prior to joining Start Small, she worked in Program Coordination and Operations at the University of California, San Francisco. Mauna has also worked at the Behavioral Health Education & Training Academy, an organization in San Diego that provides training to Health and Human Services staff. Previous to that, she completed an internship at the International Rescue Committee’s Fresh Fund program, helping refugee populations in San Diego gain access to local, fresh produce. She also interned at the Muscular Dystrophy Association, boosting fundraising and outreach. Mauna graduated with her B.A. in Political Science from the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Kyla Moore, Equal Justice Works Legal Fellow, New York City
Kyla is an Equal Justice Works Fellow, sponsored by Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP. Kyla will develop an outreach project to bring together the innovative legal services of Start Small Think Big with under-resourced burgeoning entrepreneurs in all five boroughs. Prior to joining Start Small, Kyla spent her law school semesters working at Michigan Law’s Community Economic Development Clinic, the International Organization for Migration in Geneva, Switzerland and with the DFDL Legal & Tax Advisors: Project Finance group in Bangkok, Thailand. She hails from Detroit, MI and earned her B.A. in Politics and Africana Studies from Oberlin College and her J.D. from The University of Michigan Law.
Ryan Sommerville, Financial Program Manager, New York City
Ryan is an entrepreneur and financial professional that has built and scaled ventures in the financial services, apparel, technology, and food & beverage spaces. Over the past three years, he served as the Co-Founder & CEO of Lewis & Harris and Business Development Officer with Advisors Ahead. He has significant experience training and coaching entrepreneurs on business management, interpersonal, and technical skills. At Start Small Think Big, he is focused on applying this experience to empower small business owners in low-income communities. Ryan holds a B.S.B.A in Business Management with a concentration in Entrepreneurship from Appalachian State University.