Kevin Willer President & CEO
President & CEO
Kevin is the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center. The CEC works with high-potential entrepreneurs to build the next generation of high growth companies in the Chicago area. He works across the entrepreneurial eco-system with startups, investors, government, and industry organizations to accelerate the pace of innovation and rate of success for local entrepreneurs. The CEC will also be managing, operating and programming 1871, a new startup co-working center for 400 entrepreneurs located at The Merchandise Mart.
Previously, Kevin co-founded the Google Chicago office in late 2000. In his over 10 years with Google, Kevin helped grow this office to more than 400 professionals. He led the Telecom Industry practice where his teams managed the Google marketing partnerships with several of the largest telecommunications corporations including AT&T, Sprint, and Motorola. In his additional Head of Office role, Kevin led the civic development efforts for Google’s Chicago office. Before Google, Kevin held business development positions at CMGI, an early internet incubator, and USRobotics, the pioneer in modem technology.
Kevin is actively involved in several civic and charitable organizations. He was recently named to Crain’s 2011 “40 Under 40” list. He is a Director of The Economic Club of Chicago and is a Trustee of his alma mater, Loyola Academy, as well as a Regent at Loyola University in Chicago. He is a member of the 2010 Class of Emerging Leaders at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and was named to Governor Quinn’s Illinois Innovation Council. He serves on the boards of Children’s Memorial Hospital, WHITIA, World Sport Chicago, Urban Students Empowered, the Illinois Technology Association, the Joffrey Ballet, and the Chicago Architecture Foundation.
Kevin earned his MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business where he serves on the Advisory Board for the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship. He has a Bachelor’s degree from Boston College and studied at the London School of Economics. Kevin, his wife Victoria, and their children, Jacqueline, Max and Lizzie, reside in Chicago.
Kristin Barrett Vice President
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As a vice president at the CEC, Kristin helps to manage programming and operations at 1871.
Prior to the CEC, Kristin ran operations for Excelerate Labs, a top-ranked technology startup accelerator, helping build educational programming and mentorship as well as ensuring the program ran smoothly. Kristin also worked with startups and early-stage investments through Hyde Park Angels.
Kristin started in entrepreneurship while working on new ventures and corporate strategy for Redbox. She identified potential new businesses, built business plans and supported fledgling businesses through their pilots. She has also worked in management consulting with A.T. Kearney, touching a variety of industries including pharmacy, logistics, and agricultural goods.
Kristin earned an MBA with Honors at University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business and her undergraduate degree in journalism and economics from Northwestern University. In her free time, Kristin is working on her fluency in Spanish and can often be found with her nose in a book.
Kristi Dula Events Coordinator
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Kristi Dula is the Event Coordinator for the Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center (CEC). In this role, she is the main contact for events and responsible for coordinating and executing all events held at 1871.
Kristi started with the CEC in May of 2012 as an Operations Coordinator, where she managed day-to-day functions of the facility.
Prior to the CEC, Kristi was a Senior Sales Manager for Officebroker.com in Dallas, TX as well as a Client Account Director for Carr Workplaces in Irvine, CA.
Kristi graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science in Psychology from Texas A&M University.
Mike Huffstetler VP of Development
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As the VP of Development, Mike manages partnerships and fundraising for both the CEC and 1871, including The Momentum Awards Dinner - the CEC's annual fundraiser.
After several years in Washington D.C. working in politics and political consulting, Mike made the move to Boston for an opportunity to get involved with an early-stage digital tech startup called FreeCause that focused on custom loyalty solutions. The company quickly expanded from a converted apartment loft space in Boston's leather district to a team of 60 in downtown Boston. Leading the Business Development efforts for three years, the company was eventually acquired by international e-commerce powerhouse Rakuten.
While in Boston, Mike co-founded the Boston Winter Ball Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to empowering young Bostonians to support their local community. In just a few years, the Boston Winter Ball Foundation raised over a half a million dollars for Boston-area causes. The BWB Foundation also hosts one of the most successful and anticipated charity banquets on the Boston calendar, drawing in guests from all over the country for The Boston Winter Ball.
In 2012, after a move to Chicago, Mike began work for the Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center. Combining his experience with non-profits and a digital technology startup, he now devotes his efforts to fundraising and partnerships for the CEC and 1871.
Mike is a graduate of Boston College.
Melissa Lederer Chief Marketing Officer
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Melissa Lederer is a marketing consultant and currently serves as the CEC’s Chief Marketing Officer. In this role, Melissa is responsible for defining and supporting the organization’s strategic marketing and brand initiatives to build awareness and value in the Chicago start-up community. She is also responsible for the PR and communications for both the CEC and its flagship project, the technology center for digital startups, 1871.
A seasoned marketing and communications professional with nearly 20 years of broad experience in both agency and corporate settings, Melissa has served a variety of digital and traditional businesses of all sizes, and has a passion for working with high-growth startups to help them build their brand foundation.
Prior to starting her Marketing consultancy in 2008, Melissa was the SVP of Marketing for Q Interactive (formerly CoolSavings) where she oversaw all marketing, communications and creative functions and served on the company’s Senior Leadership Team. Before Q Interactive, Melissa served as a Vice President at S&S Public Relations.
Melissa is involved in a number of charitable organizations and currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Lynn Sage Cancer Research Foundation. She is a graduate of The University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Caity Moran Director of Strategic Projects
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Caity Moran is the Director of Strategic Projects for the Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center (CEC).
In this role, Caity oversees strategic projects and partnerships geared towards continually improving the 1871 experience for members and partners. Additionally, she manages the websites, social media and newsletters for CEC and 1871.
Caity is also on the board of Entrepreneurs Eve, an annual New Year's Eve charity event celebrating entrepreneurship. Prior to the CEC, Caity was a marketing intern at internet and VOIP start-ups as well as a sales associate at various retail stores.
Caity graduated cum laude from DePaul University with a bachelor's degree in Business Marketing and a minor in E-Commerce Technology.
Una Pipic Chief Operating Officer
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In her role as the COO, Una makes sure that 1871 daily operations run smoothly and effectively, and that 1871 is a strong launchpad for amazing content, ideas exchanges and relationship building.