BIPOC Business Owners Panel

April 28 - 12:00PM - 1:00PM
Online, join from anywhere
Cost: Free to attend

Join us for a virtual panel discussion and Q & A with BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) alumni business owners. Learn from four BIPOC Badgers in different industries about the unique challenges and successes they experienced when starting their businesses, and get candid advice specific to the BIPOC experience. This panel will be moderated by Beny Pérez-Reyes ’09.

This is a casual lunch and learn in which attendees will remain off camera and ask questions via live chat.

Featured Speakers:

Alexis Avila MS’02 — owner of Prepped and Polished Tutoring and Test Preparation

Lisa Harris ’97 — author, speaker, and CEO/founder of Lisa Harris & Company

Reena Vokoun ’98 — founder and CEO of Passion Fit

Ja’Mel Ashely Ware ’11 — founder of the cultural event production company Intellectual Ratchet

RSVP by 11 a.m. CDT on April 28. Registration is required to access this free virtual event.

Schedule and speakers subject to change.

Questions? Email Pasha Thao ’16 or call 608-590-5265.


Beny Pérez-Reyes ’09 is the principal of the finance consultancy firm, Clover Phoenix Capital. In his role, Pérez-Reyes aspires to offer clients an open, honest, and transparent understanding of how to strategically grow their businesses and leverage the appropriate financial tools to do so. His professional background has been forged in banking and economic development for more than 10 years. Born and raised in Milwaukee with Puerto Rican parents, Pérez-Reyes graduated from UW–Madison in 2009, where he studied Latin American, Caribbean, and Iberian studies and Spanish. He’s a fervent believer in equity and inclusion as it pertains to entrepreneurship and career development. He believes that mentorship and access are key components to the recipe of life, and he works diligently to live that creed every day by “lifting as he climbs.” His experiences in life have taught him the importance of building and fostering thriving relationships. He aspires to become a transformative leader that humbly serves his community. In addition to his professional endeavors, Pérez-Reyes values his faith, health, continuous learning, sports, and family. He is a proud father of an amazing six-year-old son, Julian, who has been the driving force around his advocacy for autism awareness.


Alexis Avila MS’02 is the owner of Prepped and Polished Tutoring and Test Preparation, which he founded in 1999. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 2002 with a master’s degree in counseling psychology. Prior to launching his company, he worked as an adolescent counselor for runaway and homeless teens at Bridge over Troubled Waters in Boston. He also worked for one year as a guidance intern at Madison Memorial High School. In 2010, he was a finalist for Big Brother of the Year with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Massachusetts.

Lisa Harris ’97 is an author, a speaker, and the CEO/founder of Lisa Harris & Company — a personal development business that connects, guides, and transforms women’s lives through storytelling. She spent more than 18 years in executive leadership roles working for many Fortune 500 companies and nationally recognized brands, building successful marketing strategies and executing profitable multi-million-dollar businesses. In 2016, she published her book, Unveiled Beauty: Handwritten Stories from a Poetic Heart. That same year, she founded Lisa Harris & Company. The Unveiled Beauty courses use storytelling elements and narrative therapy principles to help women unveil their stories and reclaim their power. Harris is in her fifth year producing Unveiled Beauty events, including coaching and speaking.

Reena Vokoun ’98 is the founder and CEO of Passion Fit, launched in 2014. She is an author, TEDx speaker, media spokesperson, certified wellness expert, personal and professional development coach and consultant, content creator, and marketer. She graduated with a bachelors degree in marketing and management from UW–Madison in 1998 and earned a master’s degree in advertising and communications from Boston University in 2006. She spent years in marketing, sales, and business development leadership roles for Google, Yahoo, Reebok, CNET, GE, and Grokker. Vokoun is a proud wife, mom, and first-generation Indian American who lives in California with her family.

Ja’Mel Ashely Ware ’11 is an actor, entrepreneur, public speaker, and founder of the cultural event production company Intellectual Ratchet. In 2017, the Urban Community Arts Network (UCAN) awarded him the Spotlight Award for his community contributions and developments. In 2018, the Madison Black Chamber of Commerce named him Young Entrepreneur of the Year. In 2019, he was named on POZ Magazine’s POZ list of 100 advocates in the HIV field. In 2020, THRIVE SS rewarded him for his innovative approach in restoring Project Innovate. Ashely Ware centers himself through his faith in God and uplifts his peers through personal prayer and motivation. He has achieved educational and personal success by following the motto: “#LiveLifeIR, Live Life Whole. Be your complete self, and live life fully.” His 2021 motto is “Stay the course!”