The Plexus Mission

To provide proactive business development for the LGBT business community and allies.

Plexus is an affiliate of the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce



Board Member Bios

Michelle Tomallo
Co-Founder | President
FIT Technologies
Plexus Board President

Michelle Tomallo is President of FIT Technologies, a full service Managed IT Services firm headquartered in downtown Cleveland. FIT’s 70 employees support clients throughout Ohio and in other locations nationwide. FIT is certified by WBENC as a female-owned enterprise and by the NGLCC as an LGBT-BE.

She has over 20 years of senior-level management with an emphasis on start-up operations, training, business development, and change management. Prior to co-founding FIT in 1999, Michelle worked as a strategic development consultant for non-profits, was Vice President of New Life Hospice, and marketing director for healthcare facilities.

Michelle joined the Plexus board in 2010, serving in the roles of Events Chair, Membership Chair and now as the Board President. She speaks regionally and nationally on entrepreneurship, business certification and supplier diversity. Michelle was involved for four years with Gay Games 2014 as a board member and community liaison. In addition, Michelle supports HRC, Equality Ohio, and other advocacy groups along with being actively involved in GCP, Commission on Economic Inclusion, OhTec, and other business groups. She is on the board of Engage! Cleveland and is a member of Leadership Cleveland 2017 class.

She fancies herself a cheerleader for Cleveland, eager to be involved in the on-going transformation of the city by participating in many arts and culture events, sponsoring local organizations and being an ambassador for where she lives and works (Warehouse District and Playhouse Square). Michelle incorporates her commitment to fitness by being a champion of workplace wellbeing. She is a runner and cyclist, and participant in dozens of charitable races.

Leslie Bednar
Real Estate Agent, Howard Hanna
Engagement Consultant, LLBednar Consulting, LLC

Known for her quick wit and loud laugh, Leslie Bednar brings a lot of energy and a giant sense of humor to all her endeavors. Leslie is intensely interested in all things not boring and enjoys assisting others, including clients and customers, achieve meaningful goals.

After more than 25 years of organization management and nonprofit development work in Geauga County, Ms. Bednar moved her marketing and communication skills to Cleveland in 2014. Today, she creates and carries out strategy-based projects focused on building clients' audiences of partners, members, customers, or attendees.

Recently, she became a licensed real estate agent focused on helping her clients achieve their home dreams. She lists and sells residential property in the tri-county area of Cuyahoga, Geauga and Lake.

In her free time, Leslie enjoys doing jigsaw puzzles, riding motorcycle during the short North Coast summers, speaking publically, and playing with words through writing and games.

Isaac Bendele
Senior Marketing Manager
BrandMuscle, Inc.

Isaac has a diverse background in paid media strategy while communicating for regional and national brands. A Cleveland transplant, he has been with BrandMuscle for two years helping franchisees plan and place personalized local marketing efforts.

He has supported leading educational and children’s publishers Zaner-Bloser, and Highlights for Children, managing online, direct-mail, and agency channels. A lover of local content and engagement, Isaac founded and sold a regional publishing company, expanding the storyline of LGBT individuals in central Ohio.

He holds a degree in Music Education and a Master’s in Business Administration in Marketing Management. He lives in downtown Cleveland with his partner, Erik, and dog, Ira.

Gina Dalessandro
The Dalessandro Group

The Dalessandro Group is Gina Dalessandro’s third small business venture in the Northeast Ohio region. A graduate of John Carroll University’s Boler School of Business with a Marketing degree, Gina has spent more than 30 years successfully developing relationships with many of the city’s major players. Her focus on relationship building contributed to one of her previous ventures growing from zero to $1.5 million in less than five years.

Gina has the unique ability to focus on the big picture while taking small manageable steps and focusing on the individual needs of her clients. In one of her previous positions at the American Diabetes Association, she took on all aspects of the events she planned from securing major sponsorships to handpicking favors for the tables.

From non-profits to national marketing companies, Dalessandro has worked extensively in the digital printing, data solutions and advertising industries. When she’s not punching the clock, Gina dedicates much of her time to volunteering, mentoring and networking. Gina presently serves on the boards of John Carroll University’s Akron/Canton Alumni Chapter as Chair, Executive Leadership Committee for Hattie Larlham and Plexus Chamber of Commerce. She has served as a COSE Ambassador for over seven years and is a member of the Cleveland Civic Leadership Institute. Previously, she served as past Vice Chair of the Ohio Minority Supplier Development Council, Vice Chair of Minority Business Enterprise Input Committee, Advisory Board member for Women in Networking and is a past Chairperson of the Cleveland Community Leadership Board for the American Diabetes Association where she has been involved for over 15 years. Previously, she served as President of Toastmasters International's Valley View chapter and achieved her Competent Communicator certificate.

Though her resume in the industry is extensive, it’s Gina’s passion for making connections and building relationships that are the keys to her success.

Raland S. Hatchett
Managing Consultant
R&H Professional Services

Raland S. Hatchett is the Executive Director of the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Summit, Medina, and Stark counties, Inc. an affiliate of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America the nation’s largest donor-and volunteer-supported mentoring network. In this position, Hatchett leads a team of youth development specialist serving 361 children who are matched with an adult volunteer in the community and site based programs for children age 6-18. Hatchett is focused on helping the organization meet it strategic initiatives’ of increasing brand awareness, service delivery and quality in its core programs, financial sustainability, and board development. Hatchett passion for mentoring and working with youth, coupled with his experience, energy, and business relationship will bold well for the agency.

Hatchett previously served as the Executive Director of the MBDA Business Center (Minority Business Development Agency) in Cleveland, Ohio. In this position, he led a team of business experts who provided minority entrepreneurs with strategic business consulting services designed to assist with access to contracts, capital and new markets (domestic and international). Driven by his commitment to minority business growth and development his team efforts over a five-year period helped businesses gain $101M in contacts/procurement awards, obtain $21M in capital and created 900+ jobs in the region. The business center was awarded the Century Club Award for outstanding business performance by the U.S. Department of Commerce/MBDA in 2015.

A Cleveland native, Hatchett earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from the University of Phoenix and his MBA in finance from Case Western Reserve University — Weatherhead School of Management. He has served on several boards and advisory councils most notably, Weatherhead Alumni Advisory Council (Class of 2016), and Black Professional Association Charitable Foundation, and is a member of the Leadership Cleveland Class of 2016.

Luz Pellot
Business Systems Analyst

Luz Pellot is a skilled software consultant with more than 20 years of software and hardware experience.

She has been with Xerox Corporation for more than 20 years where she currently holds the position of Business Systems Analyst. Luz is as subject matter expert for ReqDirect Plus Core products. In her role, she provides software support to a wide of array clients spread across the globe. These clients represent diverse industries including healthcare, financial institutions, retail, insurance, and manufacturing.

Luz is responsible for managing, implementing, and training ReqDirect Plus Core new installations. She works closely with the Development team as a liaison between the client and the software developer, managing product performance issues and proposed enhancements from beginning to end. Luz also works alongside the IT team in assisting them with the hosted environment. Luz takes pride knowing that her client's needs are addressed to satisfaction with little to no downtime.

Luz is co-founder of WH2 (Women's Happy Hour), a women's social network group, est. 2010. The WH2 LGBT social group meets at various establishments in greater Cleveland and Akron areas. She is the Board Secretary for Graffiti HeArt. Graffiti HeArt focuses on promoting urban graffiti and street art in positive ways by showcasing urban artists and art through commissioned projects on various approved canvases. Their purpose is to revitalize Urban communities as well as fund educational scholarships for the underserved youth and aspiring artists. In addition, she is Chair of the Cleveland Human Rights Campaign - Diversity & Inclusion committee. She was also co-Chair of the North Coast Men's Chorus (NCMC) Outreach Committee. Most recently, Luz was asked to serve on a committee tasked to help select the new building for the LGBT Center of Greater Cleveland. She proudly served as co-Chair of the Parties and Special Events committees for Gay Games 9 (GG9) in 2014 and subsequently is serving on the Gay Games 9 Legacy committee. She routinely provides support to PFLAG (Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays). Luz enjoys tennis, kayaking, exercising daily, and traveling around the world.

Luz is a graduate of Kent State University (B.A. in Business Administration).

David Phillips
Energetic Awakenings

David Phillips is the President of Energetic Awakenings which is a certified LGBT owned business. Energetic Awakenings is a coaching and consulting firm that focuses on personal transformation and organizational development for businesses and non-profits.

David works with individuals clients to achieve personal transformation through body based psychotherapy & energy work. The two main modalities employed are Core Energetics & Reiki. David also consults with businesses on projects that deliver sustainable and measurable results to the bottom line. Areas of specialty include: customer service delivery systems, CRM implementations, business process definitions, supplier diversity, and training & development.

David received his masters of Education from Cleveland State University with a focus on Adult Learning and Development. His bachelor's degree was achieved in business management from Marshall University in Huntington, WV. David has received his reiki training from the Chagrin Valley Wellness Center and University Hospitals. David has achieved advanced certification from the Institute of Core Energetics in New York City where he now serves as faculty.

David Rabinsky
Director of Social Catering
The Ritz-Carlton, Cleveland

David Rabinsky is the director of social catering at The Ritz-Carlton, Cleveland. He has been at the hotel since March of 1999. David's responsibilities include booking all social and non-profit events for all event space within The Ritz-Carlton, Cleveland and the historic Silver Grille in the Higbee building located in downtown Cleveland.

Prior to joining The Ritz-Carlton, Cleveland, David owned and operated David's Gourmet, Inc., an off-premise catering company that served the Cleveland community from 1983 until 1999.

Born in Cleveland and living in the Warehouse District, David and his guide dog, Kody, can be seen walking the city.

LaShawn Reed-Kendricks, MBA
Essentials 4 Success

LaShawn Reed-Kendricks, MBA is the President; CEO of Essentials 4 Success and Founder; Executive Director of Success Her Way. After many years of working in entrepreneurial support organizations, she decided to embrace her passion for supporting women entrepreneurs by helping them gain clarity around their work and what's keeping them from obtaining their highest level of success. As the Director of Corporate Relations for the Ohio Minority Supplier Development Council, LaShawn helps minority business owners connect with corporate purchasing and procurement departments for supplier contracting opportunities across the state.

LaShawn earned her undergraduate degree in Business Management at Indiana Wesleyan University and her Master's in Business Administration from Ursuline College. LaShawn is married to her wonderful husband Chris and they are the parents of three beautiful daughters; Dakotah, Montana and Sydni. LaShawn enjoys traveling with her family, volunteering and reading motivational books.

Jacki Schaffer
Personal Insurance Agent
Liberty Mutual Insurance

My name is Jacki Schaffer and I’m a personal insurance agent at Liberty Mutual Insurance. I have been with Liberty Mutual for 3 years and love working in the insurance industry. I married my wife Mioara Nemes in September of 2014 and we live in West Park. I have been an active member in Plexus since 2015 when I started at Liberty Mutual, and joined the membership committee in 2017. I’m very excited about bringing new business owners from the LGBT and allies communities to Plexus and helping people connect and grow their business. I am also a member of BNI (Business Networking International), SME (Sales and Marketing Executives), and am the treasurer on the board of “It’s about Us” a local nonprofit serving the aging low income LGBTQ community.

Plexus Education Foundation Board Members

John F. Garofalo
Vice President, Community Investment
Akron Community Foundation
Plexus Education Foundation Board President

John F. Garofalo has served as the vice president, community investment at Akron Community Foundation since August, 2011. He is responsible for managing the foundation's grant distribution process as well as all the affiliate fund grant distributions.

The foundation began in 1955 with a $1 million gift from the estate of B.F. Goodrich executive Edwin C. Shaw. It now has over $181 million in assets and more than 550 funds. The foundation, including donor-advised funds, has awarded over $131 million since the organization's founding.

John joined Akron Community Foundation after over 25 years of experience in the nonprofit sector that included various management and development positions. John was previously employed as the Manager, Strategic Community Initiatives and Senior Development Officer at University Hospitals in Cleveland, where he was responsible for all third party fundraising events and promotions for the entire hospital system and well as securing major gifts for the institution. He also served in various leadership roles at other nonprofit organizations including Beech Brook in Pepper Pike, United Way's in Cleveland and Canton and Big Brothers and Sisters in Akron. He began his nonprofit career right out of college with the American Red Cross in Portage County and was employed for 10 years there and at the Northern Ohio Red Cross Blood Services region in Cleveland.

John received his B.S. in community health education from Kent State University and his M. Ed. in community health management and administration also from Kent State. John also carries the prestigious Certified FundRaising Executive (CFRE) certification. He also serves on the Social Services Advisory Board in Summit County, the Board of Leadership Akron as well as Past President's Council for the Greater Cleveland Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. John is also the staff lead to the Medina County Community Fund and the Gay Community Endowment Fund of Akron Community Foundation. He also served as co-chair of the Opening Ceremonies for the Ninth Gay Games that were held in Cleveland+Akron in 2014. He has also been a volunteer juror for the Cleveland International Film Festival.

A native of Painesville, Ohio, John lives in West Akron.

Thomas Hawn, MA CDP
Facilitator and Organizational Consultant

Thomas Hawn serves as the Treasurer of Plexus Education Foundation, a 501c3 organization. He is an independent consultant providing services to organizations in the areas of diversity and cultural competency, strategic planning and organizational effectiveness.

Thomas' professional work career has included Senior Vice President at KeyBank with responsibility for: the Client Experience at Key Bank, Mass Market, Emerging Cultural Markets and the Underbanked Consumer Segments. Also, while at Key, he founded Key Bank's Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender Employee Business Networking Group. Prior to joining Key Bank in 1999, Thomas served as the Chief Financial Officer of Slavic Village Development (SVD). SVD, a member organization of Greater Cleveland Community Shares, is a Cleveland neighborhood development organization committed improving the quality of life in Slavic Village through housing, community organizing and commercial revitalization. During that time, Thomas held a variety of roles and responsibilities at Progressive Corporation from 1982 through 1994.

Thomas has been active in the non-profit sector as Board President of Broadway Area Housing Coalition, a predecessor organization of Slavic Village Development and Board President of Greater Cleveland Community Shares. Thomas also served as the Board President of the LGBT Center of Greater Cleveland. He was also a founding board member of Plexus, the Chamber of Commerce for the LGBT Community and Allies.

Steven Licciardi
Vice President, Financial Advisor and Senior Portfolio Manager
Morgan Stanley

Steven M. Licciardi is the kind of Investment Advisor who brings trust and credibility to his profession. He is genuine, thoughtful, and deeply passionate about the investment management services he provides his clients. Steve joined Morgan Stanley in 1999, after spending 10 years in private banking. As the Financial Advisor he delivers high caliber investment management and exceptional client service helping individuals and institutions implement sophisticated investment strategies. His focus is always on the client, in a format that includes a high level of integrity, professionalism and confidentiality.

Steve graduated from Baldwin Wallace University with a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration with an emphasis in finance and a minor concentration in French. He also served as Vice-President of the Baldwin Wallace Financial Management Association.

Steve is dedicated to many charitable groups and serves on the Boards of Directors of several non-profit organizations dedicated to not only the LGBT Community, but the Special Needs Community as well.

He has received the West Haven Foundation's Board Leadership Award (2008), the Ohio Provider Resource Association's Outstanding Volunteer Award (2009), and the Cuyahoga County Board of Developmental Disabilities Volunteer of the Year Award (2008) and was featured in WVIZ's "Make a Difference" documentary (2007).

Joe Matuszewski
Ernst & Young LLP

Joe Matuszewski is a partner with Ernst & Young LLP, a global leader in assurance, tax, transaction and advisory services. A Certified Public Accountant in the state of Ohio, Joe has over thirteen years of public accounting experience serving a variety of multinational clients, primarily in the diversified industrial products and consumer products industries. Joe has extensive experience leading globally integrated audits with frequent travel to meet with clients and affiliate audit teams in Europe and Asia. Joe is actively involved in reviewing annual and quarterly SEC filings and has significant experience with SEC registration statements and equity and debt offerings, including initial public offerings. Joe is the campus recruiting leader for EY’s Northeast Ohio Audit practice and executive sponsor of Unity, EY’s LGBT professional network.

Joe is a 2003 graduate of Baldwin Wallace University where he earned his Master of Business Administration in Accounting. Joe is also a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and the Ohio Society of Certified Public Accountants. Joe is dedicated to many charitable groups and has served on the Boards of Directors of several non-profit organizations dedicated to the LGBT and arts communities. Joe is currently a member of the Board of Directors of Equality Ohio Education Fund, an organization that advocates and educates to achieve fair treatment and equal opportunity for all Ohioans regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.

Joe is a resident of Medina, Ohio where he lives with his husband Nathan and daughter Addyson.

Brian Schultz
Community Outreach Manager
Foundation Center

Serving as a bridge between the nonprofit and philanthropic community, Brian conducts trainings and special programming to connect people who want to change the world to the resources they need to succeed. Brian developed and manages the popular series, Rising Tide, which highlights critical social issues and opportunities for philanthropy to accelerate social change. Brian serves as an Ohio LGBTQ Funding Ambassador on behalf of Funders for LGBTQ Issues and on the United Way of Greater Cleveland funding committee for Basic Needs.

Brian is a Cleveland native with a strong love of the city and commitment to its social sector. Prior to joining Foundation Center he spent a year in direct service as a City Year Cleveland Corps member. Brian holds a B.A. from Xavier University in international studies and has studied in Austria and France.