Identifying the Elephant in the Room is an award-winning seminar series that tackles controversial topics that lack clear communication strategies and which need space to elevate voices that are not typically heard on the subject matter. The goal of the series is not to solve universal problems. Rather, the goal is to engage in informed conversations around contentious topics in order to learn better ways to approach, respond and communicate from the experiences of others. When people come into conflict, channels of communication must be opened to provide information necessary to understand each other and find solutions.

Sandy Almendarez

Session 1

Sandy Almendarez, Vice President Content at Informa, has nearly 20 years of experience in developing and executing compelling, relevant content for targeted markets. She leads the content team for Informa Market’s SupplySide, serving the healthy, sustainable, conscientious consumer packaged goods industry. Her leadership spans community, editorial, content marketing and conference programming for the health and nutrition industry. Almendarez is an advocate for diversity and inclusion of women, people of color and LBGTQ+ individuals in business.

Karen Howard

Session 1

Karen Howard, CEO/Executive Director of Organic & Natural Health Association is a visionary and results-focused leader who spent more than 30 years working with Congress, state legislatures and healthcare organizations to develop innovative healthcare policy and programs. An advocate at heart, she has worked to strategically advance the mission and vision of organizations through effective advocacy and strong collaboration including the National Animal Supplement Council, the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians and the Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Schools.

Danielle Masterson

Session 1

Danielle Masterson, Deputy Editor of NutraIngredients-USA, joined the team in 2019 after making the leap from broadcast news. She is the host of “NutraCast,” an award-winning podcast that takes a deep dive into nutraceuticals and “NutraWomen Wednesday,” a weekly show that highlights the women behind the wellness. A Detroit native, Masterson received her journalism degree from Michigan State University.

Rick Polito

Session 1

Rick Polito, Editor-In-Chief of Nutrition Business Journal, writes about the trends, deals and developments in the natural nutrition industry, looking for the little companies coming up and the big money coming in. An award-winning journalist, Polito knows that facts and figures never give the complete context and that the story of this industry has always been about people.

Crystal Webber

Session 1

Crystal Webber is a Registered Dietitian, Food Biochemist and Founder/CEO of Niche Nutrition LLC. With more than 20 years of experience in the natural products industry, she loves supporting ingredient manufacturers and retail brands of all sizes in the creation of finished products. Webber is a JEDI advisory council member, holds multiple board positions for CPG companies in the natural products industry, and is Vice President of the Board for the Naturally Proud Network.

Lisa Davis

Session 2

Lisa Davis, MPH has two decades of experience as a health educator and broadcaster and holds a master’s degree in Public Health. Known as the creator and host of “It's Your Health” radio show and “Talk Healthy Today,” she is currently producing and hosting the “Health Power” and “DOG-EARED” podcasts. Davis is the author of, “Clean Eating, Dirty Sex: Sensual Superfoods and Aphrodisiac Practices for Ultimate Sexual Health,” and has a passion for helping people live their healthiest life.

James B. LaValle

Session 2

James B. LaValle, R.Ph., CCN, is a clinical pharmacist, author, board certified clinical nutritionist and naturopathic doctor with more than 35 years of clinical experience in metabolic and integrative medicine. He serves as the academic co-chair for the American Academy of Anti Aging Medicine and is an appointed faculty member and course educator for the Integrative Medicine postgraduate program at George Washington University School of health sciences. LaValle has authored more than 20 books including, “Cracking the Metabolic Code.”

Sandra Lee

Session 2

Sandra Lee is CEO of NJ Labs, a nationally recognized provider and advocate for quality in chemistry and microbiology testing that serves the pharmaceutical, nutraceutical, dietary supplement, cosmetic and cannabis/CBD industries. Lee holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry from the University of Michigan. As a scientist and one of the few female CEOs in the analytical testing industry, she has a passion for chemistry and how it influences multiple aspects of our daily lives.

Dr. Keri Marshall

Session 2

Dr. Keri Marshall is an Epidemiologist and Naturopathic Doctor with more than two decades of experience in the natural products industry and clinical practice and more than three decades experience in health and human research. She received her Naturopathic Medical Degree (ND) degree from the National University of Natural Medicine in Portland, Oregon. Marshall is the author of, "User's Guide to Protein and Amino Acids” and serves on several advisory and editorial boards for peer-reviewed medical journals and health advocacy groups.

Kantha Shelke

Session 2

Kantha Shelke, Ph.D., CFS, IFT Fellow, is a Senior Lecturer at Johns Hopkins University and Founder and Principal at Corvus Blue LLC, a food science and research firm that expedites the development and commercialization of new food products and technologies. Shelke serves on the Faculty Advisory Board for Food and Agriculture at McGill University in Montreal and on the Board of Trustees of the Sonoran University of Health Sciences in Tempe, Arizona.

Aleksandra Crapanzano

Session 3

Aleksandra Crapanzano is a food columnist for The Wall Street Journal, recipient of the James Beard M.F.K. Fisher Award for Distinguished Writing, and author of, “The London Cookbook,” “Eat. Cook. L.A.,” and “Gâteau: The Surprising Simplicity of French Cakes,” winner of two Gourmand Awards in France. She holds a M.F.A. in Film Directing from NYU, where she has taught advanced screenwriting, is a graduate of Harvard and currently serves on the board of Naturally New York.

Mariam Elghani

Session 3

Mariam Elghani is founder of Mariam's Garlic Sauce, a line of keto, sugar-free, vegan Levantine garlic sauces inspired by her grandmother's recipe. At age 15, she worked at her parents' Mediterranean kitchen where customers would rave about her grandmother’s garlic sauce. This inspired her to share a part of her family's food history with others, leading her to become a natural products CPG entrepreneur after graduating California State University-Sacramento. Mariam’s Garlic Sauce is currently offered in 100+ Bay Area grocery stores.

Tauri Laws-Phillips

Session 3

Tauri Laws-Phillips, partner at Andreessen Horowitz, focused on the Talent x Opportunity Initiative (TxO), to identify entrepreneurs who have talent, drive, and ideas to build great culturally relevant businesses, but lack typical resources. She has 10+ years experience in CPG and has worked on multiple beauty start-ups, served as an equity mentor and as a program director for the SKU Accelerator. Laws-Phillips is co-owner of ColdTowne Theater in Austin, where she is a frequent comedy performer, writer and diversity facilitator.

Ross Perkins

Session 3

Ross Perkins is the former COO/Co-Owner of Mason Dixie Foods, a leader in natural frozen food with products in more than 6,000 stores and hotels nationwide. In this role, he led the operations team, demand and supply chain, logistics and fulfillment, and systems and data management. Perkins has authored more than 500 articles on restaurant trends and food and beverage regulatory in publications, including Eater and Thrillist. His love of entrepreneurship came after working with entrepreneurs as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Malawi.

Heather K. Terry

Session 3

Heather K. Terry is Founder/CEO of GoodSam Foods, PBC and Partner at BeyondBrands. She’s the mastermind behind the expansion of many popular clean beauty and wellness brands and an advisor and angel investor to many up-and-coming wellness products. Terry is passionate about direct trade and regenerative agriculture. Her work at GoodSam is an example of what it means to empower farmers and create alliances that support the quality of our soil and keep farms thriving for generations to come.

Claudia A. Lewis

Session 4

Claudia A. Lewis, partner and co-chair of the FDA Group at Venable LLP, in Washington, D.C., counsels on matters involving FDA regulation, labeling, marketing of foods, OTC drugs, medical devices, and other products. She has prepared and presented constitutional and administrative law cases before federal agencies including the FDA, FTC and DOJ. Lewis frequently speaks on the legal and regulatory state of the sector. She received her J.D. from American University, Washington College of Law, is admitted to the Connecticut Bar, and practices before Federal agencies

David Spungen

Session 4

David Spungen is Partner and Wealth Advisor at CI RegentAtlantic Private Wealth and has developed an expertise in the food and beverage industry by working with restaurateurs, CPG and food tech entrepreneurs. He also founded Break the Mold, a network community for women in the food and beverage industry. Spungen currently serves on the advisory boards of Blanket, Simply Good Jars, and Snuk, and is a mentor in Beyond SKU, a CPG accelerator, and a founding partner and board member at Naturally New York

Debra Short

Session 4

Debra Short, is Executive Director of SENPA, a non-profit trade association of retailers, manufacturers, distributors, brokers, educators, practitioners and service providers dedicated to protecting and advancing the natural products industry. With nearly 50 years experience in natural products starting out in the retail sector at her family's business, Short has served in presidential and executive positions for National Nutritional Foods Association (NNFA) Southwest Region and Natural Products Association (NPA). In 2011, she was awarded the NPA Industry Champion Award.

Heather Wainer

Session 4

Heather Wainer is Owner, Publisher and Vice President of Media at WholeFoods Magazine, a family-owned, woman-led publishing and full-service natural products media company. Wainer grew up in the natural products industry watching her father publish WholeFoods Magazine until she joined the company and has since been instrumental in the growth of WholeFoods Magazine, its website, naturalproductfinder and its joint venture with Industry Transparency Center, in the development and execution of “Naturally Informed” virtual conferences.

Suzanne Shelton

Session 4

Suzanne Shelton is Founder and Managing Partner at The Shelton Group, a public relations and marketing firm working exclusively in the natural products industry since 1990. She has served on the boards of Citizens For Health and the Natural Products Foundation and is currently an AHPA Communications Committee Chair and PR Chair with Women in Nutraceuticals (WIN), an organization advocating for gender parity. Shelton came to the natural product industry after her first career in the music business.

Harper Hall

Session 5

Harper Hall, Global Flavor Applications and Technical Service Lead at Ingredion, supports Ingredion’s DEI initiatives such as self-ID, access and policy creation. In addition to volunteering with Informa’s JEDI Content Creation Advisory Council and Naturally Proud Network’s board of directors, Harper assists Garden State Equality, New Jersey’s largest LGBTQ+ advocacy organization. Harper holds a bachelor of professional studies in baking and pastry arts management from The Culinary Institute of America and a bachelor of science in Culinology® from Southwest Minnesota State University.

Heather Granato

Session 5

Heather Granato, Vice President of Partnerships and Sustainability for the Food EMEA division of Informa, is a 30-year natural products veteran, frequent presenter and published author on industry trends. Based in London, she leads efforts related to partnerships and broader sustainability initiatives for Vitafoods. She is founding president of Women In Nutraceuticals (WIN) and serves on the board of Organic & Natural Health Association. Granato graduated magna cum laude from the University of Richmond, Virginia, with a bachelor’s degree in journalism.

Nana Pfeifer

Session 5

Nana Pfeifer, co-founded Homescape Pets in 2018 with her husband Marcus after their first dog became ill and she couldn’t find natural, affordable supplements. Homescape Pets creates dietary supplements and treats to address common health issues dogs and cats face including anxiety, pain, joint issues, and dental disease. She has been featured in Modern Dog Magazine, BuzzFeed, Austin Business Journal and New York Magazine for their award-winning supplements that have helped thousands of dogs and cats live healthier and happier lives.

Rena Cohen-First

Session 5

Rena Cohen-First is Vice President of Sales for Cepham, the global leader in Ayurvedic botanicals. She has 25 years experience working with leading multinational brands in the food, beverage, and supplement industries and invaluable behind-the-scenes market knowledge. She completed her MBA at The New York Institute of Technology (NYIT) and served in The United States Army as a linguist. Cohen-First is also a female empowerment author and blogger in the natural product industry.

Michel Modjeski

Session 5

Michael Modjeski, Chief Commercial Officer, leads the global commercial activities to more than 40 countries for Wakunaga of America, a family-owned U.S. company founded in 1972. With several decades of experience in natural products and CPG, he has traveled extensively around the world, gaining exposure and appreciation for diverse cultures. His professional experiences in sales, marketing, operations, finance, analytics and executive leadership equips him to take-on the business challenges of today, as well as those of the future.

Mark Alyn

Session 6

Mark Alyn is Host of Late Night Health Radio, a show dedicated to health and wellness. In his career, he has interviewed more than 30,000 politicians, business leaders, celebrities and healthcare professionals. Alyn made a name for himself as a television host, reporter and anchor, and is a sought-after public speaker, known for his ability to inspire and entertain audiences. A master of his craft, Alyn always brings a unique perspective, a great sense of humor and a strong sense of empathy.

Amy Summers

Session 6

Amy Summers, Founder and President of Pitch Publicity®, has decades of experience working with major clients in the natural products industry to increase national publicity exposure across all mass media outlets, while developing key strategic communication strategies. In 2020, she launched INICIVOX® to help individuals improve a wide-range of soft skills centered on the complexity of communications. She is a board member and founding partner of Naturally New York and was awarded Best Diversity and Inclusion Campaign from PR News for producing the virtual seminar series, “Identifying The Elephant In The Room: Critical Communication Strategies in the Face of Racism.”

Craig M. Muckle

Session 6

Craig M. Muckle is Senior Director of Communications for the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), a leading trade association for the dietary supplement and functional food industry. He is a recipient of the Washington Business Journal Minority Business Leader Award and Safeway’s Community Hero Award. Muckle’s communications career began at ESPN, BET, then Rite Aid, Safeway and the Archdiocese of Washington. He also served as an adjunct professor at Howard University teaching undergraduate courses focused on public relations writing and campaign planning and execution.

Mehgan Styke

Session 6

Mehgan Styke is Founder of The B2B Builder, LLC, a women-led consulting firm that guides businesses toward progressive growth through refined strategies and focused tactics. She has 15+ years of experience in food, beverage, and dietary supplements, successfully building new business and leading cross-functional teams across multiple organizations. Mehgan also serves as a Senior Director of Sales at Kerry Ingredients and member of Women In Nutraceuticals.

Ryan Honeyman

Session 6

Ryan Honeyman is Partner/Worker-Owner at LIFT Economy and coauthor of "The B Corp Handbook: How to Use Business as a Force for Good," and "The Next Economy MBA: Redesigning Business for the Benefit of All Life." He has also helped more than 80 companies including Patagonia, Allbirds, and Ben & Jerry’s, become Certified B Corporations. His passion is to work with men, and primarily white men, to promote inclusive leadership, racial justice, equity, compassion and joy in the workplace.

Session One: Trade Media/Associations

Moderator: Rick Polito

Mentor Panelists: Karen Howard, Sandy Almendarez, Danielle Masterson, Crystal Webber

Session Two: Healthcare/Nutrition/Science

Moderator: Lisa Davis, MPH

Mentor Panelists: Sandra Lee, James LaValle, R.Ph., CCN, Kantha Shelke, Ph.D., Keri Marshall, ND

Session Three: Food/Beverage/Beauty

Moderator: Aleksandra Crapanzano

Mentor Panelists: Mariam Elghani, Tauri Laws-Phillips, Ross Perkins, Heather Terry

Session Four: Legal/Finance/Marketing/Retail

Moderator: Heather Wainer

Mentor Panelists: Claudia Lewis, Suzanne Shelton, David Spungen, Debra Short

Session Five: Supplements/Ingredients/Pet

Moderator: Heather Granato

Mentor Panelists: Nana Pfeifer, Harper Hall, Rena Cohen-First, Michel Modjeski

Session Six: Activation/Ideation Session

Moderator: Mark Alyn & Amy Summers

Activator Panelists: Craig M. Muckle, Mehgan Styke, Ryan Honeyman, Karen Howard

Session One: Trade Media/Associations
Hank Shultz, Senior Editor, Natural Products Insider
Katrina Tolentino, Executive Director, Naturally Network
Craig M. Muckle, Sr. Dir. Communications, CRN

Session Two: Healthcare/Nutrition/Science
Elan Sudberg, CEO, Alkemist Labs
Salma Fathalla, Sr. Dir. Quality & Regulatory, Bonafide Health
Gabriel Paulino, Co-founder/CPO, renegade.bio

Session Three: Food/Beverage/Beauty
Eric Schnell, Co-founder, BeyondBrands & Beyond SKU
Jasmine Dickens, COO/Operations Manager, Misha's Kind Foods
Miguel Leal, Co-founder/CEO, SOMOS Foods

Session Four: Legal/Finance/Marketing/Retail
Alan Lewis, VP Advocacy/Governmental Affairs, Natural Grocers
Denise Lambertson, Founder/Chairwoman, LMS
Ryan Honeyman, Partner/Owner, LIFT Economy

Session Five: Supplements/Ingredients/Pet
Tyshawn Bryant, CEO, Green Regimen
Lillian Cartwright, Board Member, Naturally New York
Thomas Aarts, Founder/Managing Director, Nutrition Business Advisors

Session Six: Speed Networking Event at SupplySide East
Amy Summers, Founder/President, INICIVOX® & Pitch Publicity®
Crystal Webber, Founder/CEO, Niche Nutrition
Danielle Masterson, Editor/Host, NutraIngredients-USA
Kantha Shelke, Ph.D., Founder/Principal, Corvus Blue
Heather Wainer, Publisher/VP of Media, WholeFoods Magazine
Karen Howard, CEO/Executive Director, Organic & Natural Health Association


Redbook: The Results of a 1976 Survey of Women About Sexual Harassment At Work Remain Virtually Unchanged In 2017

The New York Times: Nancy Pelosi, Liberated and Loving It

CNN: Opinion: The right-wing approach to ‘parents’ rights’ puts kids at risk

The New York Times: Defining Nonbinary Work Wear

Guernica: Men Explain Things to Me

The New York Times: What Exactly Is ‘Locker-Room Talk’? Let an Expert Explain

Independent: What’s driving internalized misogyny in the workplace?

ACLU: Worried About Getting Sued for Reporting Sexual Abuse? Here Are Some Tips.


Believing: Our Thirty-Year Journey To End Gender Violence

Tales from the Boom-Boom Room: Women vs. Wall Street

The Good Girls Revolt: How the Women of Newsweek Sued their Bosses and Changed the Workplace

Grabbed:  Poets & Writers on Sexual Assault, Empowerment & Healing

Is Rape a Crime?:  A Memoir, an Investigation, and a Manifesto

Know My Name: A Memoir

Not That Bad:   Dispatches from Rape Culture

White Feminism  

The XX Brain 


TED Talk: The urgency of intersectionality


NutraViews:Lack of Female Representation in Research—Problems & Solutions



Frequently Asked Questions

While we know we cannot solve the global problem of sexism, what we do know is that we can influence how sexism is addressed through how we communicate, which in turn can shift behaviors. As responsible communicators, we all play a huge role in how messages are positioned and received. This can help positively shape the future of the natural products industry on the topic of sexism through those who will be leading others or working in positions of influence.
The series will be virtual and accessible by online conference. The virtual platform allows for professionals to participate actively or anonymously. We recognize that individuals, no matter their career history in the industry, may be at different levels of awareness on the topic of sexism and want to create a safe environment for all to participate, observe and learn without being criticized, called out or shamed. Our virtual conference space allows for this anonymity option. Participants who attend the live sessions will be able to submit questions via the chat function for instant feedback from panelists. All sessions will be recorded and available for playback to registered attendees.
The purpose of this seminar series is not to solve sexism and we are not asking experts or scholars to come teach professionals about sexism. Rather, we want to explore how the sexes can work better together by inviting professionals, who share the common bond of working in the natural products industry, to sit around a virtual table as mentors on issues related to sexism in the workplace. We envision individuals coming from all sides of the “elephant” who can share experiences, both positive and negative, giving other professionals in the industry the courage to learn, ask questions, and seek out ways to use their voices and influence to positively change sexist inequalities in their careers.
“When we speak we are afraid our words will not be heard nor welcomed, but when we are silent we are still afraid, so it is better to speak.” - Audre Lorde

The impetus for the seminar series is to create a space where professionals can discuss topical sexism related communication issues that reflect the current business and social climate. We believe exposure to this content will help professionals at all levels develop more effective strategies and important soft skills by learning from wins and losses of other professionals working in various channels within the natural products industry. Our goal is to better equip and empower professionals in confronting and taking action against sexism through various areas of the industry that they will influence during the course of their careers.
Pleading to get rid of a “few bad apples” or asking victims to stand up to abusers to control bad behavior or telling them that their problems will be solved if they report it are not effective solutions. Many current approaches shift the responsibility for ending the problem of sexual harassment away from leaders, but as communications professionals we recognize that this doesn’t work. Ultimately, it is up to leaders of industries, governments, organizations and companies to establish a tone of respect, as this is a first step to changing culture and shifting behavior.
INICIVOX and Pitch Publicity will be leading and sponsoring this constructive educational seminar series for professionals to gain essential communication soft skills they need to address issues of sexism in their careers. As leaders and advocates in the field of public relations and communications, and having trained and mentored multiple students and professionals from around the world, we are committed to addressing the elephants in the room so that professionals at all levels are aware and confident of their sphere of influence and ability to approach, respond and communicate issues that are too sensitive or controversial to address within the confines of corporate structures.
It's scary out there. Who can you trust to talk to about these topics? This is a unique opportunity for all professionals to listen, learn and discuss issues of sexism in all aspects of the natural products industry, in a safe, non-confrontational, nonjudgmental space. It is an opportunity for voices to be lifted through thoughtful discussions and sharing of learned experiences that can help improve future environments within the workplace, trade shows and conference events. Professionals who attend the entire series will receive a certificate of completion from INICIVOX on sexism discussions and have the opportunity to hear and network with professionals from the full spectrum of the natural products industry. You are not alone. Many professionals have come face-to-face with this elephant in the room. By listening to all perspectives, we can learn positive and empowering ways to communicate and behave around each other.