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Staff Profiles

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Julie Messing, Executive Director, Entrepreneur Initiatives

Julie Messing is the Executive Director for Entrepreneurship Initiatives at Kent State University. She developed and led the implementation of the entrepreneurship program. The program consists of two minors, a major, a living-learning community, speakers’ series, Entrepreneurship Extravaganza and an entrepreneurial lab. She works closely with the business community to bring opportunities to the classroom as well as support entrepreneurial development in Northeast Ohio. She is the recipient of the Paul L Pfeiffer Creative Teaching Award and the Non-Tenure Track Teaching Award. Both awards recognize faculty for excellence in teaching. She has taught entrepreneurship courses at the undergraduate and graduate levels.


Ms. Messing is President of her own consulting organization, Transitions Advisory Group, Inc. and active with the Junior League, serves as a Trustee for The Akron Area YMCA, The Toni Turchi Foundation and is a founding director and Previous President of The Entrepreneurship Education Consortium (EEC). She is also a member of the United States Association of Small Business and Entrepreneurship (USASBE) where she presented as a finalist for the Innovative Pedagogy Award in 2009 and the winner in 2010. She is also co-author of “Constructing an Innovation Model of Entrepreneurship Education Through Regional Collaboration”, published in Journal of Entrepreneurial Education, Spring 2009.

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Kate Harmon, Associate Director

As BLP Associate Director, Kate is responsible for the daily operations of the office including serving as the primary Venture Advisor. She has accomplished some pretty cool things in her career. And failed miserably at some other stuff. If you are particularly nosey, you can check out her LinkedIn bio.






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Stacey Banks-Houston, Venture Advisor

Stacey Banks-Houston, entrepreneur, author, speaker, trainer, business consultant and coach is founder of SBH Enterprises. “Push Your Passion” is what she articulates to her clients. She advises them to “Stop waiting for the right time because you will forever be waiting for the right time”. Stacey presents her passion in a way that is powerful, motivating and energizes business owners to position themselves for the next level.

Stacey has been an entrepreneur for nearly 20 years. She is owner Business Builders Unlimited LLC, a shared office space and business support service center and RSVP Consultants, a consulting firm that provides consulting and coaching to small business owners.

Winner of the 2010 Small Business Administration (SBA) Minority Small Business Champion Award, Stacey is committed to assisting the small business owner. She served for 6 years as Director of the Cuyahoga Small Business Development Center since its inception in 2004 and was recognized as the top performing SBDC in the state of Ohio in 2007. Stacey also works as a venture advisor for Kent State University’s Blackstone Launchpad which assists students, faculty, staff and alumni develop their business idea.

Stacey’s mission is to propel people into their passion. She does this by helping clients awaken their passion and drive it to completion. Her hope is to give others the tools and resources needed to fulfill their vision. Her newly released book, The Passion Plan…Journaling Your Business from Passion to Position to Profit is a working journal that allows the reader to take their passion from dream to idea to a profitable business. Stacey received her MBA Degree in Marketing from Cleveland State University and is looking forward to pursuing her Doctoral degree. Stacey is active in the community with various boards and organizations. She is currently a board officer of Senior Outreach Services LLC and board member of Faith Community United Credit Union, treasurer of Jack and Jill of America, Cleveland Chapter, a graduate of the 2002 President’s Council Emerging Entrepreneurs and 2004 Cleveland Bridge Builders.

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Zach Mikrut, Senior Marketing Manager

Zach is responsible for awareness of LaunchPad across Kent State’s campus network. He handles the development and execution of Blackstone LaunchPad events including workshops, luncheons, meet-ups, and webinars. Zach also manages the social media at LaunchPad and will occasionally post a cool Vine video. Zach is a graduate of Kent State’s Managerial Marketing and Entrepreneurship programs. He has professional experience in sales, marketing and consulting small businesses.