2023 Presenters and Guest Speakers


Chris Cavanaugh Asheville NC

Chris Cavanaugh

Founder, Magellan Strategy Group
Full Bio

Prior to founding Magellan Strategy Group, Chris served as vice president of marketing for The Biltmore Company in Asheville, NC, the owner of Biltmore Estate, America’s largest home. For nearly 10 years he guided the company’s marketing planning, strategy, and execution. During his tenure, Biltmore doubled its annual revenue and became the most visited historic house attraction in the U.S. Cavanaugh also directed marketing for the Inn on Biltmore Estate, a four-star hotel on the property, and the Biltmore Estate Winery, the most visited winery in the nation.

Chris was appointed by the Governor of North Carolina to the state’s travel and tourism board in 2003 and reappointed in 2010. He is past chairman of that board, and also past chairman of the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority (overseeing the work of the Asheville CVB) and Blue Ridge Mountain Host, a regional marketing association. Chris received the 2014 Southeast Tourism Society Shining Example Award  and in 2015, the Travel Industry Association of North Carolina presented him with the Tourism Excellence Award for an Individual for outstanding contributions to the development of the travel industry in the state.

Justin Belleme Asheville

Justin Belleme

Director of Strategy, JB Media Group and Co-Founder, JB Media Institute
Full Bio

A serial entrepreneur, Justin founded his first business, AshevilleNow.com an online magazine about the Asheville area for visitors in 2003. He continued to work in tourism marketing, holding interim positions in online marketing with the Asheville Convention & Visitors Bureau and the City of Asheville in 2010 before launching the Internet marketing agency JB Media Group in 2011. As Director of Strategy, Justin oversees the strategic direction for projects in SEO, online advertising, social media, event marketing, email, and public relations for clients ranging from the Eastern Band of The Cherokee Indians to the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area, Holistic Holiday at Sea and the Social Capital Markets conference.  He and Sarah Benoit have also provided strategic consulting and training for Harrah’s Cherokee Casino.

In 2012, Justin saw a need for training for marketing professionals and business owners in Internet marketing from industry professionals. He teamed up with Sarah Benoit to found the JB Media Institute shortly after that and under his vision and leadership, the program has trained more than 200 students in its first three years. Justin is also a frequent presenter on the more technical elements of Internet marketing including Google advertising for businesses and non-profits, SEO, and social media advertising. The recipient of the 2014 Entrepreneur of the Year Award from the Asheville Chamber of Commerce, Justin is a strong advocate for entrepreneurship, He has served on the Board of Directors of the Asheville Chamber of Commerce since 2015 and is a previous Board Chair for the NC Stage Company.

In early 2019 Justin led the acquisition of RomanticAsheville.com, the most visited travel and vacation planning website for the Asheville area with over 5.5 million site visits in the last year. 

Sarah Benoit Asheville NC

Sarah Benoit

Co-Founder and Lead Trainer, JB Media Institute
Full Bio

As the Lead Instructor for the JB Media Institute, Sarah leverages her 13 years of experience as an online marketing, SEO, and social media strategist to create training content that get results. She is dedicated to making the field of Internet marketing accessible and understandable to business and marketing professionals with timely, relevant, and engaging classes and seminars. Her Internet marketing experience includes work in the travel and tourism field for websites such as visitcherokeenc.com, the visitor site for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and BlueRidgeHeritage.com, the official site for the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area.

In 2013, she co-founded the JB Media Institute, an Internet marketing training program with Justin Belleme. Last year, Sarah was instrumental in adapting the original curriculum offered in Asheville three times each year to an online program accessible to students from around the world. She now teaches sessions in both the in-person and online Institute programs and oversees continuous curriculum updates to keep up with the ever changing world of Internet marketing. Sarah has presented to groups local and national. She was inducted into Asheville’s Forty under 40 in 2013. A graduate of Leadership Asheville, Sarah is dedicated to supporting and enhancing the local community.

John Hornsby Asheville

Guest Speaker – John Hornsby

Creative Director of Hornsby Creative & Co-founder of Connection Kits
Full Bio

John Hornsby is the Founder and Creative Director of Hornsby Creative. John is also a founding executive board member of AIGA Asheville, part of the organizing committee for CreativeMornings Asheville, the lead organizer of Freelance Business Week Asheville, and co-organizer of an annual creative retreat in Spain. 

John’s superpowers are seeing connections and empathetic leadership. Hornsby is known for his unique approach to applying strategy-driven design to branded experiences. Through both decades as a performing musician and consistent business networking, John has grown from being an introvert,  too afraid to pick up the phone to order a pizza, to a top-performing salesperson, speaker, and team leader. 

Throughout his over 25-year career, he has served in leadership for various creative companies. John prides himself on being a bit of an outsider not having taken the traditional higher ed pathway. He has rarely held a traditional job, always finding his way into unique situations. These have included running a DIY performance space, playing in bands, running the art and design departments for a major special events company, a campaign marketing gig of driving an RV around the country with his wife, and 20 years of managing signs and graphics companies in roles ranging from production grunt to art director, to general management and sales. 

He has focused heavily on experiential and environmental design, especially as it relates to custom architectural signage and events. He has collaborated on projects with clients ranging from small local businesses to big brands like Kimberly Clark, Cooper Hewitt, and the AIGA National Design Conference.

In 2020 when everything went virtual, he and his wife Anila Launched Connection Kits, a service to discover, design, and deliver branded event toolkits so that hosts could drive joyful engagement while increasing connections and conversions.

He loves getting lost on the trails around his home by the Great Smoky Mountains with his family and dog.

How to Get in Touch 


Connect with Hornsby Creative

Stay Up to Date with Connection Kits


Aisha Adams speaker, teacher, strategist

Guest Speaker – Aisha Adams

Founder of Equity Over Everything and CEO of Aisha Adams Media
Full Bio

Aisha Adams is an influencer with a heart for community economic development who champions social change advocates, thought leaders, and courageous disruptors. She is the founder and program developer for the Lenoir-Rhyne Equity & Diversity Institute (LREDI). Aisha is the CEO of Aisha Adams Media LLC and partner organization Equity Over Everything, which advances also advances equity. 

Aisha is widely recognized for her contributions towards cultivating spaces of diversity, equity, and inclusion and for her impact on the entrepreneurial ecosystem. In 2020, she received both The Tzedeck Impact Award, The Martin Luther King Award, WomanUP Women Entrepreneur Best in Business Award, and the Jane Renfroe Award. 

Aisha’s other ventures include a daytime-style talk show that addresses “hot button” issues in Asheville, Nappy Thoughts, a personal blog followed by thousands of people on social media, and The Entrepreneurial Accelerator, a business bootcamp that ties fledgling businesses to community resources. Aisha earned her bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and her Master of Science degree in Adult Education from Capella University. 

Connect with Aisha and EOE

Equity Over Everything
(828) 275-9650 

Peter Frisa JB Media

Guest Speaker – Peter Frisa

Senior Paid Search & Programmatic Advertising Strategist, JB Media Group
Full Bio

A New York native, Peter joined JB Media Group in early 2015 to manage online advertising projects including Google Grants, brand awareness, and shopping campaigns. Peter’s attention to detail and love of data make him particularly adept at keyword research, conversion tracking, and reporting.

He previously worked in Digital Ad Operations for Carat USA, a multi-national agency with industry accolades from Ad Age, Media Post, Ad Week, and RECMA. Peter’s background also includes serving as co-director of Rising Commons, a cooperative housing development dedicated to community, residential resiliency, and ecological entrepreneurship. With his unique experience, he brings many useful skills to efficiently start, evaluate, and analyze a comprehensive digital advertising campaign.

Peter holds a BA in Film and Video from SUNY Binghamton and a Master’s Degree in TESL from Hofstra University, along with Google AdWords certifications in search, mobile, display, video, and shopping.

Guest Speaker – Jake Kennon

Data Analyst, JB Media Group
Full Bio

Jake graduated from the University of Georgia with a degree in Advertising and began his career in digital marketing as a content creator and copywriter. Once he discovered his love of parsing piles of data to find the key points that tell a story, Jake shifted his career to focus on data analysis and reporting. There is always a story in data, and Jake loves to puzzle it out.

Born and raised in Athens Georgia (yes that place where REM is from), Jake moved to Asheville in the summer of 2021 and is excited to be a part of the community. When he is not focused on data storytelling, Jake enjoys exploring Asheville, visiting local breweries, or waiting for an open tennis court. At home, Jake considers himself a hobbyist cook and a decent Dungeons and Dragons DM/player.

Guest Speaker – Kristin Thompson

Senior Product Education Manager, Zartico
Full Bio

With a wide range of experience in both product and education, Kristin loves to bring enthusiasm, insight, and authenticity to all she does. She has a graduate degree in Teaching and loves turning information-sharing into knowledge-building.

Her past 5 years were spent working on educational content and product development. Originally from California, Kristin lives in the Chicago area and barely survives winter. She has three kids and drinks a lot of coffee.

Guest Speaker – Barbara Karasek

CEO & Co-owner, Paradise
Full Bio

Barbara Karaek is CEO and Co-owner of Paradise, an award-winning advertising, design, and marketing team of business growth strategists on a mission to drive brands and build bottom lines. 

25 Years’ Experience:
Barbara has lived in eight countries and traveled to more than 20 while leading brand and consumer marketing, sports partnerships, entertainment, licensing, e-commerce, consumer products, and retail departments for companies such as SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, PGA TOUR, NASCAR, and the United States Olympic Committee.

Her award-winning marketing campaigns, digital platforms, and television shows have earned the likes of ADDYs, Ex Awards, Effies, Webbies, and Daytime Emmys. From shutting down Times Square for NASCAR events and branding Shamu One and Penguin One Southwest airplanes to NASDAQ bell ringing, White House visits, and meetings in the Kremlin, Barbara’s plans deliver larger-than-life results for clients and her career portfolio of business development deals nears $750M.

A Commitment to Advocacy: 
Barbara serves on the Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Committee for Destinations International and supports advocacy efforts for DEI, sustainable, regenerative, and responsible tourism practices.  Since 2018, Barbara has served as a global marketing campaign judge for the National Grocers Association, Sports Fitness Industry Association, and Web Marketing Association.

A Tampa native, Barbara has a BA from Furman University and an MA in Mass Communications from the University of South Florida and completed the Strategic Marketing Management Course at Harvard Business School.

Guest Speaker – Michelle Owens

Executive Director, Visit Hendersonville
Full Bio

Michelle Owens is a veteran tourism marketer with long-standing ties to Western North Carolina. In 2021 she was appointed as Executive Director of the Henderson County Tourism Development Authority.

Michelle brings nearly two decades of marketing and tourism experience to her new role, including six years as executive director of the Rutherford County TDA from 2009 to 2015. She also brings a passion for the region. 

Guest Speaker – Bob Peck

Owner & Operator, Mountainwater Films 
Full Bio

Bob Peck is the owner and operator of Mountainwater Films, a full-service filmmaking company that produces original video content for destination marketing organizations. Their purpose is to help move communities of Appalachia forward in today’s modern landscape.

Bob knew from the age of 15 when picking up a guitar that he was destined to enter the field of audio and production. After graduating with a degree in Multimedia Arts & Sciences from UNC-Asheville, he has spent his entire career in the media production industry, since 2000. 

With a background as an audio engineer/producer at a world-class voiceover production studio, Bob has worked with advertising and marketing agencies to produce thousands of radio and television commercials. He started a wedding filmmaking company in 2009, producing over 200 wedding films which helped develop exceptional storytelling skills.

Bob utilizes this skill set with strategic partners to tell the story of people and places in Western North Carolina and beyond. ​It’s his personal mission to create high-quality, captivating videos that make an impact in the region he’s lived his whole life and the place he calls home. 

Guest Speaker – Olivia Ward

Founder & Digital Marketing Strategist, OnWard Digital Media
Full Bio

Michelle Owens is a veteran tourism marketer with long-standing ties to Western North Carolina. In 2021 she was appointed as Executive Director of the Henderson County Tourism Development Authority.

Michelle brings nearly two decades of marketing and tourism experience to her new role, including six years as executive director of the Rutherford County TDA from 2009 to 2015. She also brings a passion for the region. 


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