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OUR TEAM

Tuni Schartner, Executive Director

tuni.schartner@vencaf.org

Tuni Schartner is the Executive Director of Venture Cafe & District Hall Providence, leading the Rhode Island team in creating an inclusive, strong, supportive and accessible innovation community.  She is passionately committed to working with, and connecting, innovative people with engaged growth mindsets. Tuni studied English and Psychology at the University of Rhode Island and continues her education in business, innovation, digital marketing, SEO, social psychology, leadership and management best practices, as well as planning and economics. She co-founded The Hive RI, Southern RI’s first coworking space, and continues to run the community based economic development initiative at the Mill at Lafayette.  She served as the inaugural director of Innovate Newport, and is a founding mentor and board member of VMS of RI (Venture Mentoring Service), as well as serves on Congressman Langevin’s Strengthening RI Advisory Committee. She is a perennial, passionate, and sometimes outspoken, proponent of economic development in RI.

Tuni has been honored as the Rhode Island Small Business Journal’s 2016 Entrepreneurial Women to Watch ‘Community Champion’ award recipient and Providence Business News Women in Business Awards Honoree 2018.

Jordan Elster, Events & Operations Associate

jordan.elster@vencaf.org

Jordan Elster is the Events and Operations Associate of Venture Café Providence. His role is to support staff with event and meeting sales efforts, event logistics and operations, and to establish relationships with aligned stakeholders, partners, and innovation hubs. Jordan previously worked for Innovate Newport after receiving his Bachelor’s from Salve Regina University. He looks forward to seeing Rhode Island’s entrepreneurial ecosystem continue to grow.

Amy Erickson, Events & Operations Manager

Amy Erickson, Events & Operations Manager

amy.erickson@vencaf.org

Amy Erickson is the Events & Operations Manager of Venture Café Providence managing both the monthly conference nights and bar operations. Amy previously worked in non-profit fundraising, managing events that netted $50,000-100,000 as Events Manager for Providence Children’s Museum and Development Director of The Bridge Center. She holds a master’s from Central Washington University and a bachelor’s from the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Amy strongly believes in the power of relationship building and that forging connections between people will change the world for the better.

Avi Mallinger, Sr. Program Manager

Avi Mallinger, Senior Program Manager

avi.mallinger@vencaf.org

Avishai Mallinger is the Senior Program Manager of Venture Cafe Providence. He is passionate about civic innovation, food systems, design, and social entrepreneurship. Previously he was the General Manager for a Providence-based food-business incubator. His career has spanned several sectors, including roles supporting after school education for the Boys and Girls Club, a producer for Sirius XM Radio, and as a fine-dining chef for nearly a decade. He believes that embracing civic design while harnessing the creativity of innovation and small business communities is the key to sustainable and inclusive economic development. He holds a BA and MBA from Brandeis University.

Sydney Manning, Marketing Coordinator

Sydney Manning, Marketing Coordinator

sydney.manning@vencaf.org

Sydney Manning is the Marketing Coordinator for District Hall and Venture Café Providence. She holds an undergraduate degree in Marketing Communications from Emerson College and a graduate degree in Gastronomy from Boston University. When she isn’t working she enjoys writing creative nonfiction and music, blogging, and reading cookbooks.

Kajsa Whitney, Meetings & Events Sales Manager

kajsa.whitney@vencaf.org

Kajsa Whitney is the Meetings & Events Sales Manager of District Hall Providence, managing the bookings for the private space rentals. You will often find her engaging with clients and touring the space. Kajsa is a Rhode Island native and has recently returned home from California, where she was the Director of Events for a non-profit organization, planning and executing their various meetings and conferences. Kajsa holds two bachelor’s degrees from Rollins College. She looks forward to reconnecting with the local community and being a part of the continued growth and development of the city of Providence and Rhode Island.

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