Meet Our Speakers


Mervant Vera

America's Got Talent "Rapping Magician"

Mervant Vera, also known as the “Rapping Magician,” is a truly unique and talented artist who has been captivating audiences with his one-of-a-kind performances for years. Born and raised in Philadelphia, Mervant developed an early love for music and magic, combining these two passions to create a genre-defying style of entertainment.

Mervant Has Made Appearances on , Americas got talent Where he received “4000 Yeses” from Simon Cowell , and was called the “Magical hip hop version of Tony Robbins by Howie Mandel”.

Breakout Session Speakers

Volori Collins Thornton


Volori Thornton is originally from Philadelphia, Pa she migrated to SC in 1997 with her husband of 30+ years and her beloved daughter. She is a multi-talented creative thinker, motivational speaker, workshop facilitator, and corporate trainer who has been in business for over 20 years in various industries. Her passion is to help people find their true purpose by looking past their perceived boundaries.

Volori has spoken to thousands of women. Her company's purpose is to develop managers into leaders and develop employees into team players so they can better understand each other's differences and discover their common goals: to reflect the winning image they desire.

Our team accomplishes this by offering customized soft skills training, coaching, and personal development workshops. We work with all levels of individuals and organizations from re-entry citizens, to at-risk youth, to non-profit, and for-profit professionals.

Our program will empower your organization with advanced leadership tools to grow bottom-line performance results.

Sam Yankelevitch


Sam Yankelevitch is a former global operations executive, turned author, trainer, and international speaker. Based on his work with teams across the globe, he shows how to improve communication, solve problems and embrace diversity in order to succeed in the increasing complexity of the 21st century.  

His experience comes from working in the automotive, industrial equipment, aerospace and other key sectors for over 35 years.

After having written five business books leveraging Lean thinking to improve communication, Sam decided it was time to share his insights on the importance of learning from trial and error, at work and in life. With this in mind, he recently published An Interview with Failure, his first fiction book.

Sam is a recognized Linkedin Learning instructor. Over 400,000 learners have watched his courses on international project management, problem solving and improving communication. Programs aimed at improving leadership skills to achieve high-performance.

He still insists he’s too old to grow up, too young to stop learning and delighted to give back.

Join Sam on Linkedin to start a conversation.

Ashlye Wilkerson

Dr. Ashley V.

Dr. Ashlye V. Wilkerson is a community leader and advocate who fully embodies the spirit of excellence. Dr. Ashlye has a background in early childhood education and child psychology and formerly taught kindergarten and first-grade students. She also used her expertise as an adjunct professor in the College
of Education as well as in Women's Leadership Studies. Dr. Ashlye began her leadership trajectory as a Vice President of her middle school student body. As a high school student, she was elected as a South Carolina state Vice President for the student led organization DECA. She was a regional oratorical winner, a chapter officer for Future Business Leaders of America, elected as the Superintendent of Education for Palmetto Girls State, named a WLTX Student of the Week, and other service involvement and honors. She continued this passion to serve as she matriculated in her college institutions by serving as a university ambassador, resident assistant and campus queen at Winthrop University. She served as a graduate resident assistant and pep squad advisor at Hampton University. She served as a co-instructor and research assistant at the University of
South Carolina. Dr. Ashlye is lauded for her impact on education and literacy and was honored with a South Carolina Senate Resolution as well as an SC House of Representatives Resolution for her work with children's literature. Dr. Ashlye has four published titles: Tori Finds Shapes All Around, Tori Finds Colors All Around, Tori Explores South Carolina, and Tori Visits the Farm: Counting 1-10. Her books we adopted by Richland County School District One, City of Columbia's Together We Can Read Initiative and former SC Governor
Nikki Hailey for her literacy platform across the state.
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Layton Chaney is a thought leader and pioneer in the customer experience and DEI spaces. For over two decades, They have successfully grown and scaled companies while ensuring customers stay at the heart of the business and the focus of every step of the Customer Journey. As the founder and Chief Experience Officer of their consulting firm, BetterGrowth, They have coached start-up founders, Fortune 50-500 companies, and C-level executives on how to leverage the voice of the customer to increase their brand awareness and ROI. They are also a fierce advocate for diversity in tech and have helped companies build their diversity, equity, and inclusion framework, recruiting practices, and training programs for underrepresented populations, especially within the LGBTQIA community.

Chef Maria Kemp

Chef Maria

Maria Kemp is an award-winning French-trained Pastry Chef specializing in DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) baking demonstrations, virtual and on-site baking experiences, speaking engagements, and continuing education. Maria is a 2007 graduate of Chicago’s prestigious French Pastry School’s L’Art de la Patisserie program.

Maria relocated to Lake Norman, North Carolina in 2017, becoming the first and only artisan pop-up bakery specializing in handcrafted gourmet desserts. She holds small/minority-owned business certifications from the City of Charlotte, Mecklenburg County, NC Department of Transportation, Historically Underutilized Businesses (HUB), and Carolinas-Virginia Minority Supplier Development Council (CVMSDC).

Her DEI baking demonstrations/experiences have reconnected teams at Lowe’s Home Improvement, American Tire Distributors (ATD), CVMSDC, IDEO-U, AmeriHealth Caritas, Flagstar Bank, and Kimberly-Clark.

Maria has received awards from the City of Charlotte, a website redesign courtesy of Marcus Lemonis, and an ATD scholarship. She has been featured on the NBC TODAY show and in live TV cooking demos, radio segments, podcasts, small business seminars, and digital/print magazines. She was a speaker at the 2022 National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC) conference.

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Brian Williams is a sales and presentation expert. He is the founder and CEO of Perspectivity - a communications firm specializing in sales messages. He discovered that many tech companies were struggling to become successful in spite of their incredible products and people. Brian founded his communications firm and now helps companies such as AT&T, Nike, Citi, and Amazon, improve their sales pitch and overall communication to get ahead of competitors. Brian has a degree in Computer Science from Texas A&M, has many years working at tech companies in Silicon Valley and in 13 other countries. He has always had a passion and interest in communication and presenting – having also been a semi-finalist in the Toastmasters World Champion of Public Speaking By combining the two worlds of communication and technology, Brian created something unique and useful to many engineers or technology professionals.

“Mrs. McClendon was my 8th grade teacher who “forced” me to do the I have a dream speech by Dr. King.  This is when I found my love for speaking and inspiring others.  While in corporate America I was asked to help solve a global sales problem although I had little sales experience.  I was fascinated by the difficulty of the journey, and the results I was able to achieve using my process, and soon fell in love with sales and helping others.” 

Brian is married with 4 kids (3 currently in college at the same time!) and enjoys playing Basketball, Health/Fitness, Nature Photography, Prison/Street Ministry

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Marco Rios is a passionate entrepreneur, and Bilingual Business Consultant dedicated to empowering fellow Hispanics and Latinos to navigate the challenges of growing a business in a foreign land. With over 12 years of experience in diverse industries and a deep understanding of the challenges the Hispanic community faces, Marco is committed to providing strategic guidance and support to help business owners thrive.

Marco is from Puebla, Mexico and moved from Cancun to SC in 2021 with his wife. Marco holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of the Americas Puebla (UDLAP) and two master's degrees: one in Management and Marketing from Universidad Popular Autonoma del Estado de Puebla (UPAEP) and other in International Issues from Oklahoma State University (OSU).


Currently serving as the Hispanic Business Consultant at the South Carolina Small Business Development Center (SCSBDC), Marco offers invaluable consultancy services to help businesses overcome their goals. He empowers business owners with strategic marketing, sales growth, negotiation strategies, financial projections, and more. His mission is to provide tailored guidance that addresses the unique cultural hurdles Hispanic entrepreneurs face, helping them thrive in unfamiliar business landscapes.

Recognizing the significance of cultural shock, Marco uses his expertise to bridge the gap between aspirations and reality. His commitment is evident through his work at the SCSBDC and his video podcast, "Enfócate con Marco Rios," where he shares invaluable insights and actionable strategies and tips to empower the Hispanic and Latino community.

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Dawn Brolin is The Designated Motivator for Accounting Professionals and the CEO of Powerful Accounting, Inc.

For more than two decades, Dawn has been a well-known and respected educator and motivator for her clients, other accounting professionals and technology solution providers. She is known for innovative collaborations within the accounting profession including with her technology ecosystem partners which are included in her Team Brolin Starting Lineup.

Dawn is a member of the Intuit Tax Council, the ADP Advisory Board, and the Avalara QuickBooks Advisory Board. She has also received many designations and recognitions throughout her career including the most recent “The 2022 Top Presenters Awards“ by as well as Insightful Accountant’s 2020 Top Niche Practice ProAdvisor: Forensics” and one of  Accounting Today’s “2018, 2019, 2020, and 2021 Top 100 Most Influential People in Accounting.”

As an in-demand thought leader, speaker, and the author of The Designated Motivator and The Designated Motivator for Accounting Professionals, Dawn believes that motivation and strategic planning is not a one-time event, it is a critical part of being able to achieve the success you want for yourself and your team.

Dawn has appeared on many top-rated news programs and is consistently recognized with awards of distinction in the accounting profession. She has delivered hundreds of webinars and keynote speeches and works with many technology solution providers to help them better understand how to create and market their solutions. She is also a Designated Motivator to her peers and the collegiate softball team she is the assistant coach of at Eastern Connecticut State University