Meet the Staff
We’re a mighty team of 12. We love what we do, and who we do it with.
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 Fellow
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.
Alex Stepick, Legal Program Director
Alex Stepick, Esq. joined Start Small Think Big from private practice in April of 2018. While in private practice Alex advised start-ups and emerging businesses. In addition, Alex has served as counsel in multiple class, complex and collective actions in state and Federal courts around the country. He was a graduate fellow with the U.S. Congress’ Committee on the Judiciary, and a clerk with the United States Department of Justice. While in law school, he was an award winning member of Washington University Law’s international moot court program. He completed a post-graduate fellowship working as a Staff Attorney at the Florida International University’s Immigration & Human Rights Clinic in Miami, FL, and had previously worked with Progressive Law Group LLC-Chicago a boutique litigation firm focusing on progressive cases. (J.D., Washington University School of Law in Saint Louis, 2010; B.A., The University of Chicago, 2006). Alex is licensed to practice law in New York and Illinois.
Kristin Brauth, financial programs 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.
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.
Eliza Edge, Marketing Program Manager, New York City
Eliza’s passion for supporting small businesses stems from working within many; at age twelve she began as a caterer for a family-run, community-oriented business. Upon receiving her BS in Communications and Women and Gender Studies at the State University of New York at Oneonta, Eliza spent a year teaching English in Madrid, Spain. Eliza built upon years of event experience and worked three additional years managing and marketing festivals and conferences across New York City and Upstate New York. She is currently pursuing her MBA in Sustainability through Bard College and hopes to use the degree to create a more financially inclusive world.
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.
Ian McDermott, Financial Program Manager
Ian has dedicated his career to working towards economic empowerment for disadvantaged communities, spending several years in nonprofit Community Based Organizations predominantly providing Workforce Development and Financial Literacy programming. Ian has also organized small businesses for hiring and personnel needs, sales and customer acquisition opportunities, and worked on developing a micro-lending intermediary to provide small businesses with capital. Ian continues to utilize his professional expertise in assisting social enterprises through volunteer work as a technical assistance provider and mentor to entrepreneurs. Ian completed his undergraduate and graduate studies at the State University of New York, ultimately culminating in a MA in Community and Economic Development.
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.
Joseph Powers, Programs and Operations Associate, New York City
Along with personal experience as an entrepreneur, Joseph Powers comes to SSTB from a background in credit-finance, legal practice management, and consulting. Before his arrival, Joseph served at Venable LLP on its practice management team, which prepared financial analysis and managed long-term strategy for the firm. He has also previously held positions at several hedge funds, where he specialized in underwriting and asset management of creative fixed-income investments. In his role at Start Small, Joseph looks forward to offering his expertise to the entrepreneurs in our program, as well as to learning what barriers exist to entrepreneurship and their possible solutions. Along with his position with us, he is Founder and Managing Partner of a pop-up bookstore, The Alexandria Book Cart. Joseph graduated from Columbia in 2016 with a degree in Applied Mathematics.
Melissa Shurkin, Market Access Project Manager, New York City
Melissa has supported the entrepreneurial ambitions of small business owners since 2011. She first experienced the transformative power of entrepreneurship when working with men and women involved in the criminal justice system as they rebuilt their lives through the creation of small businesses. Melissa also worked at a technology start-up whose software and training guide small businesses at all stages of development toward their growth goals. Prior to discovering her passion for entrepreneurship, Melissa worked in the the nonprofit and public sectors in the areas of K-12 education, child welfare, health, and youth development. Melissa has a B.A. in Psychology from Washington University in St. Louis and a Masters degree in Management from The Heller Graduate School for Social Policy and Management.
Ryan Sommerville, Financial Program Director
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.