2022 Presenters and Guest Speakers
Founder, Magellan Strategy Group
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.
Director of Strategy, JB Media Group and Co-Founder, JB Media Institute
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.
Co-Founder and Lead Trainer, JB Media Institute
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.
Guest Speaker – John Hornsby
Creative Director of Hornsby Creative & Co-founder of Connection Kits
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
Guest Speaker – Aisha Adams
Founder of Equity Over Everything and CEO of Aisha Adams Media
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
Guest Speaker – David Huff
A native of Maine, David is an avid hiker, mountain biker, and photographer based in Asheville, North Carolina. He’s an active member of the Carolina Mountain Club, responsible for maintaining a 2.5-mile section of the Appalachian Trail, and serves on the board of advisors for the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation.
David holds a master’s degree in education and human development from The George Washington University as well as a master’s in mythology and depth psychology from Pacifica Graduate Institute. With a desire to marry observation with experiential learning, he received his training in outdoor leadership from the North Carolina Outward Bound School. As a Leave No Trace Master Educator, he promotes best practices for sustainably enjoying the outdoors. He is also an Eagle Scout and former Scoutmaster.
When not traveling, David makes the most of his home in Asheville, where he soaks up the region’s natural beauty and vibrant culinary and arts scenes.
Guest Speaker – Whitney Smith
Director of Content, Explore Asheville
Whitney Smith is the director of content at Explore Asheville Convention & Visitors Bureau, where she leads the organization’s owned content strategy, including web, social, photography, videography and email. Prior to joining Explore Asheville, she served for five years as the marketing manager for The North Carolina Arboretum, one of Asheville’s leading attractions. Outside of work, she enjoys spending time with her family, hiking, trying new restaurants and swimming in the Green River.
Guest Speaker – Peter Frisa
Senior Paid Search & Programmatic Advertising Strategist, JB Media Group
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
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 – Mandy Gardner
Senior Content Strategist and Brand Journalist, JB Media Group
Mandy Gardner is passionate about crafting story-driven digital content that informs, inspires, and helps people. Her content strategies are informed by the fundamentals of storytelling and by today’s best practices for search engine optimization and content marketing. She brings her experience as a Moth StorySLAM winning storyteller into her role as Senior Content Writer and Brand Journalist for JB Media Group, where she has served clients in industries ranging from social enterprise and impact investing to events, tourism, healthcare, and law.
Mandy has written blogs, magazine articles, and SEO-driven landing pages and content strategies for clients including SOCAP, B Lab, The GIIN, and The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. From interviews to original research-based pieces, to thought leadership and ghostwriting, Mandy has experience with a wide variety of formats and styles. As Brand Journalist for numerous impact sector clients, Mandy has interviewed innovators and movement leaders from the worlds of social innovation and impact investing.
For fun, Mandy teaches workshops on the craft of storytelling and creative writing. She is also an avid hiker who backpacked the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to New Jersey.
Guest Speaker – Joao Barbosa
Vice President of Customer Experience, Renaissance Learning
Joao is Vice President of Customer Experience at Renaissance Learning, one of the largest companies serving K12 students in the country. He received his Bachelor’s of Arts at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst where he focused his studies on the law’s disproportionate impact on society’s socioeconomically disadvantaged population.
It was there that he realized education’s power to change the trajectory of someone’s life. Joao served as department head and lead teacher at a career and technical education high school. Teaching computer information systems, web design, and web development. Completely revamping the program’s curriculum for the modern age and writing competencies for the Massachusetts Department of Education. He went on to lead two digital product design/UX teams as a Director before joining Renaissance Learning.
Joao is passionate about exposing under-resourced student and adult populations to the possibilities of a career as a creative technologist. Frequently teaching courses at continuing education schools and community centers.
Media Panelist – Matt Mittan
Founder and Broadcaster, Biz Radio Asheville and Buzz Radio Asheville
Matt is a long-time broadcaster, writer, and serial entrepreneur based out of Asheville, NC. His current businesses include two radio stations (Biz Radio Asheville & Buzz Radio Asheville), an Outdoor Experiences Business (Serenity Outdoors Guide Service), and an Outdoors-themed Travel Platform (Matt & Michele Outdoors) with his Partner Michele Scheve (who also owns Slice of Life Comedy).
He has been a newspaper Publisher and Editor and hosted a couple different TV shows. Matt has also served in leadership positions in various regional Non-Profit Organizations such as the Executive Board of the Red Cross of WNC, 3 Terms as President of ArtSpace Charter School, and more.
Matt moved to Asheville in 1996, after serving 8 years in the US Air Force, has 3 children, and welcomed his first Grandchild in November of 2021. You can learn more about each of his businesses at MattMittan.com
Media Panelist – Biran Nemitz
News Director, WLOS/My40 -m Asheville’s ABC/My Network Affiliate
Brian Nemitz is the News Director at WLOS/My40, the ABC/My Network affiliate in Asheville, NC. He joined the station in 2014 as Assistant News Director and was promoted to the top chair in 2018.
Before Asheville, he worked as executive producer for the NBC-owned station in Miami, Florida, and at WEAR in Pensacola. He has also produced in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and Eau Claire, Wisconsin.
WLOS is the news leader in Western North Carolina, airing 6 hours of news each weekday and reaching millions through its digital platforms each month. WLOS has a long history of award-winning journalism focused on both holding those in power accountable and also highlighting all the good this community has to offer.
Media Panelist – Laura Hackett
Senior City Editor, AVLtoday
Laura is based in Asheville, NC and has written for AVLtoday since March 2021. Before joining 6AM City, she wrote for Mountain Xpress and created content for the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce (the 2019 National Chamber of the Year).
In her free time, she loves exploring her city by bike, testing out new restaurants, and hanging out with her dog Iroh at the park.