The Food Connector
Tfc Icon Team

Our Team

We are a personable team of diverse and dedicated, food service professionals who love what we do!  We have years of experience in the food service industry and an entrepreneurial mindset that serves up compelling marketing programs.  We put our clients first, developing long-term relationships and effective, strategic, marketing programs. 

Betsy Earle BwBetsy Earle

Betsy Earle

Trade Shows
Brooks NguyenBrooks Nguyen

Brooks Nguyen

Operations and Finance
Ed BwEd Zimmerman

Edward Zimmerman

Looking Forward
Greg PannierGreg Pannier

Greg Pannier

Vision Implementation
Hannah FeldmanHannah

Hannah Feldman

Creative Content
JamesJames Ferraro

James Ferraro

Create and Launch
Jeff SlaterJeff Slater

Jeffrey Slater

Marketing Sage
Joe DeBilioJoe Debilio Team Image

Joe DeBilio

Build and Grow
Kim MarquardtKim Bio Photo

Kim Marquardt

Visual Direction
Kristen AginKristen Agin Dec

Kristen Agin

Marketing Innovator
Leonard SbroccoLeonard Sbrocco

Leonard Sbrocco

Marketing Creativity
Lexi ProkopiusLexi Prokopius

Lexi Prokopius

Content Creation
Lloyd OshiroLloyd Oshiro

Lloyd Oshiro

Authentic Partnerships
Matt FryMatt Fry

Matt Fry

Project Alignment
Michele Elster BwMichele Elster

Michelle Elster

Research Expert
NancyNancy Tejeda

Nancy Tejeda

Engagement
Noah Alper BwNoah Alper

Noah Alper

Wisdom
Ron RichardsonRon Richardson[1]

Ron Richardson

Website Development
Ryan MilaniRyan Milani

Ryan Milani

Data Junkie
Seri McclendonSeri Mcclendon

Seri McClendon

Sustainability Expert
Stefen MuellerStefen Color

Stefan Mueller

Production Support
Tom Van SchoorTom

Thomas Van Schoor

Marketing Associate

Person Name

Title

Betsy Earle is one of only twenty Diamond-level Certified Trade Show Marketers (CTSM) through the EXHIBITOR program, an outreach program by Northern Illinois University. She’s been managing trade show programs, with expertise in the foodservice industry, since 2006, and been in the event marketing arena since 2000. She has been teaching with EXHIBITOR Magazine since 2012 and is a columnist for EXHIBITOR Magazine, writing the monthly Exhibiting 101 column since the beginning of 2019.

Betsy works with The Food Connector to manage their clients’ food shows and trade events. Her unique skill to blend proven event processes with innovation for the rapidly changing food industry, makes her invaluable.

Betsy holds her MBA in Marketing & Statistics from the University of Miami and has her Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and her Bachelor of Art in Spanish from the University of Rhode Island. She also has her Certificate of Entrepreneurship from Babson College and her Certificate in Residential Interior Design from the University of Central Florida.

Betsy Earle

Trade Shows

Betsy Earle is one of only twenty Diamond-level Certified Trade Show Marketers (CTSM) through the EXHIBITOR program, an outreach program by Northern Illinois University. She’s been managing trade show programs, with expertise in the foodservice industry, since 2006, and been in the event marketing arena since 2000. She has been teaching with EXHIBITOR Magazine since 2012 and is a columnist for EXHIBITOR Magazine, writing the monthly Exhibiting 101 column since the beginning of 2019.

Betsy works with The Food Connector to manage their clients’ food shows and trade events. Her unique skill to blend proven event processes with innovation for the rapidly changing food industry, makes her invaluable.

Betsy holds her MBA in Marketing & Statistics from the University of Miami and has her Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and her Bachelor of Art in Spanish from the University of Rhode Island. She also has her Certificate of Entrepreneurship from Babson College and her Certificate in Residential Interior Design from the University of Central Florida.

Brooks Nguyen

Operations and Finance

Brooks Nguyen is a business development expert with more than 20 years of experience in the food industry. She specializes in defining operation goals and creates strategic plans to achieve them. Her passion is maximizing profit and supporting management.

Following her passion for food, Brooks moved to California to study pastry at the Culinary Institute of America in St. Helena, CA. The combination of food and people was irresistible and a career path in the food industry was set. Her work experience includes restaurants, bakeries, distribution sales, manufacturer sales, and consulting start up food companies. Brooks’ passion for sales, sweets, and food manufacturing led her to start Dragonfly Cakes, a mail-order cake company. At Dragonfly Cakes she developed partnerships with national distributors, e-commerce companies, and drop-ship partners. After 12 years she sold the business, and the cakes live on in Washington state.

When not working, Brooks spends her free time with her husband, two teenage children, and two dogs. She loves to travel, read, sit at the beach, and share delicious food with friends.

Edward Zimmerman

Looking Forward

Edward began his foodservice career in 1974. He spent four years in restaurant operations and management. Edward then worked in the retail deli/bakery business, where he set up and managed in-store operations for a 14-store chain. He had a 13-year career in the wholesale bakery industry and then did consulting work for foodservice distributors and manufacturers for 5 years.

In 1996, Edward helped to begin a foodservice marketing group that became the largest pizzeria distribution network in the United States. Edward has possibly sold, marketed, and tasted more pizza than anyone in the United States over the last 20 years. A dynamic speaker, Edward captures audiences with a mixture of fun, facts and personal challenges for improvement. A well-known and respected sales trainer, he has developed several programs for food sales representatives designed to increase sales and improve customer relationships.

Born and raised in Baltimore, Md., Edward’s career in the food industry spans more than 40 years. He holds a B.S. in Economics and an M.S. in Administrative Management and enjoys the outdoors, hiking, reading, playing the bass guitar and volunteering on behalf of organizations that feed the hungry.

Greg Pannier

Vision Implementation

With 30 years of experience in the food industry, Greg bring several facets of the trade to The Food Connector team including merchandising and supply chain management experience with foodservice distributors and produce companies. On the sales and marketing side, Greg worked at several innovative cheese and dairy producers over the years and was involved with both commodity market items and value-added product development projects.

Before joining The Food Connector, Greg worked with Cookietree Bakeries, a leading cookie and brownie producer. He developed unique solutions for several regional, national, and international clients and focused on customer service with a quick-to-market mentality.

Greg understands that the manufacturer, the distributor, and the customer are all part of one team. He brings new, creative, and collaborative aspects of product development and marketing to his practice each day.

In his free time, Greg plays golf, enjoys dinner parties with good food, wine, and friends, and working on the family cabin with his wife, Tricia. They raised two college graduates, but still have a feisty Puggle named Jake at home who keeps them busy.

Hannah Feldman

Creative Content

Hannah Feldman joined The Food Connector in February 2020 as a marketing intern. She worked in a part-time position for a year and a half, beginning as a Marketing Associate before moving up to her current position as Production Manager.

Hannah graduated from Dominican University of California with a BA in Marketing and Management as well as most recently obtained her MBA. In her current role, she manages several client portfolios, helping to drive lead generation and online growth. Hannah has a passion for leadership, collaboration, and learning new things.

Hannah currently lives in Marin County and has a big passion for horses. She has competed nationally since she was 8 years old, attributing to her hard work, dedication, and responsibilities. Hannah also enjoys trying new foods, reading, and watching sports.

James Ferraro

Create and Launch

James manages creative, editorial, marketing, and interactive production to help clients compete, grow, and succeed. He has run digital agency, marketing, internet production, and editorial groups at startup, publicly traded, and global companies in Silicon Valley and New York. James has served as an executive, marketing lead, editor and interactive producer for B2B, B2G, and B2C companies. They include roles at Agrellus, Prologis, Technical Communities/TestMart, Scient, Icon Media Lab, and his own production company. His communications foundation started with senior editorial roles at Hearst Magazines/Town & Country, Avenue Magazine, and as a staff news reporter for Gannett Newspapers.

James holds bachelor’s degrees in Economics and History from Rutgers University. He has served on the Young Donors Board at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and Lobby Gallery Associates Board at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. James now lives with his family in coastal San Diego County, California. His interests include competitive tennis and sailing, fly fishing, classic/sports cars, and volunteer work with his church.

Jeffrey Slater

Marketing Sage

From 1975-1989, Jeff and his wife built a successful wholesale bakery, Rachel’s Brownies. They sold through convenience stores, specialty stores, grocery, retail, and food service. In 1989, they successfully exited selling to GoodMark Foods, who hired him into a senior leadership role in marketing and their executive team. GoodMark Foods was sold in 2003 to ConAgra Foods, a 29-billion-dollar house of brands.

Jeff remained as their EVP of snack marketing. He managed the marketing for a $400MM snack portfolio, including Slim Jim® and David’s® Sunflower Seeds that eventually merged into a $1B new snack division along with Orville Redenbacher and Act II Popcorn.

Jeff was VP of Marketing for Cheerwine, a 100-year-old family-owned, regional soft drink brand selling primarily through Pepsi’s distribution network and other food service channels. He was an advisor to Noble, a grower of tangerine juice and other ready-to-drink specialty juice drinks.

Jeff worked in the wine industry and led the global marketing for the private equity portfolio company Nomacorc®, now called Vinventions®. They own several brands, including the leading synthetic wine-closure (cork) company closing billions of wine bottles. Through innovative B2B marketing strategies, in-depth trade research, and conference marketing, he helped raise global brand awareness of new and disruptive brands. In this capacity, he worked with wineries, retailers, distributors, wholesalers, and DTC brands.

He advises B2B startups, portfolio companies, various food, beverage, healthcare, consumer electronics, technology, non-profits, toys, and transportation.

Jeff has extensive experience advising startups to billion-dollar companies in different food industry channels. He recently completed an assignment with The Wall Street Journal’s CMO Network.

Jeff graduated from The University of Pennsylvania with a B.A. and M.A. in Communications from The Annenberg School.

Joe DeBilio

Build and Grow

For more than two decades, Joe DeBilio has delivered results for food operations, warehousing, and distribution companies. DeBilio has helped clients nationwide, both large and small, improve profits and EBITDA, reduce operations and finance costs, maximize sales management, undertake mergers and acquisitions, right-size headcount and introduce labor incentives, and recruit management. He brings real world experience to every project, working ten years as president of a food distributor that served multiple states, where under his leadership annual sales tripled to $36M which included rapid growth in street, multi-unit, and chain account revenue.

With his broad experience and deep knowledge, clients have relied on DeBilio to optimize systems and facilities, develop contracts and financial agreements, and create marketing and revenue programs. He has won the National Distributor of the Year Award and held board positions at a national food distribution buying group and federal credit union. DeBilio is the founder and serves on the board of the children’s medical research charity 3for99.

Kim Marquardt

Visual Direction

Kim brings more than 30 years of graphic design experience to The Food Connector team. Since 2015, she has been responsible for designing promotions, sell sheets, web sites and trade show booths. Currently she oversees visual branding, ensuring that our clients’ marketing materials effectively communicate the brand and message. She understands that design isn’t just about looking good — it must consistently deliver the message.

She began her career as a production assistant for a statewide association, producing a monthly magazine and promotional materials. She then spent 10 years at a public affairs / public relations agency where she was responsible for website design and development. In 2003 she became a freelance designer, developing print collateral, logos and web sites for a wide range of businesses, associations and public relations agencies.

Kim graduated from California State University Sacramento with a master’s degree in English. She lives on the Northern California coast with her husband and two dogs, and occasionally sneaks away from her computer to enjoy the ocean and the redwoods.

Kristen Agin

Marketing Innovator

Kristen is a Global Marketing Leader with extensive experience building and strengthening both large, well-known brands, and smaller, entrepreneurial products. She is a spirited public speaker, motivator, team-obsessed leader, and known for her contagious enthusiasm. She uses her highly positive, energetic outlook, and 25 years of brand marketing and advertising experience to help companies achieve their goals.

Some of Kristen’s accomplishments include: Leading the innovation, product positioning, design and marketing strategies for brands such as Dunkin Brands Inc., Baskin Robbins, Mattel, AT&T Wireless, Macy’s, and for smaller, innovative start-ups. She has developed key partnerships with well-known players in the industry (Netflix, DecoPac, Build-a-Bear, Sony Entertainment) to build brand relevance, reach new demographics, extend share of voice, and to increase revenue. She has driven retail and indirect and B2B marketing strategies in highly competitive markets.

Kristen loves to travel and is fluent in conversational German. When not working, she loves hiking, spending days at the ocean, wine tasting, cooking, adventuring with her husband and two boys and lovable Labrador named Bodhi!

Leonard Sbrocco

Marketing Creativity

Leonard has over 30 years of experience working for multiple media outlets in the San Francisco Bay Area, including as a Publisher, Ad Director, and Online Manager at various newspapers. His last position was the Director of Business Development at the San Francisco Chronicle, where he was responsible for creating and managing new products, generating $20 million in ad sales in three years.

Since 2008, he has provided marketing expertise to more than 35 companies as a partner at Big Cat Advertising, where he specializes in generating leads through creative, targeted and cost-effective promotional campaigns. Since joining The Food Connector in 2012, Leonard has helped build the foodservice client base by utilizing his experience in advertising, publishing and customer service. Besides handling the marketing programs for key clients, he has also planned and overseen a number of events and site tours for large groups.

Since co-founding one of the first golf websites on the internet in 1995, Leonard relishes the challenge of creating content for new sites. He has been involved in hundreds of website developments and enjoys combining his marketing and publishing skills to tell engaging stories for clients.

Leonard still enjoys golf and is an avid handball player and hiker. He is a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point and served six years as a U.S. Army officer.

Lexi Prokopius

Content Creation

My name is Lexi Prokopius, and I’m a student at Baldwin Wallace University from Cleveland, Ohio. I’m looking forward to graduating in August of 2023 with a major in graphic design and a minor in business. Besides school and the Food Connector, I am starting a new high school men’s volleyball program at my old high school. Additionally, I coach a girls traveling volleyball team at the club where I used to play volleyball. I am most passionate about graphic design and coaching. I enjoy playing volleyball, drawing, being with family and friends, and cuddling with my dog when I’m not coaching, studying, or working.

As a new member at The Food Connector I hope to contribute a creative viewpoint to our clients websites and social media, and collaborate with the team to create the best outcomes or designs for our clients marketing platforms.

Lloyd Oshiro

Authentic Partnerships

Lloyd has over 25 years of experience in the foodservice industry and brings a deep understanding of how manufacturers and distributors can stand out and grow sales. Lloyd ran a family-owned bakery supply distributor for 15 years and has had a successful career in sales and sales management with a national foodservice distributor and several manufacturers supplying the pizza industry. Lloyd is a dynamic speaker and effective sales trainer who excels at showing how to sell on value, not price.

Lloyd is passionate about the food industry and the creativity of chefs and bakers. His career has allowed him to create lifelong friendships with artisans that are constantly innovating and delighting their customers.

Born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii Lloyd is a graduate of UC Santa Cruz (Go Banana Slugs!) and enjoys playing Pickleball, mountain biking and road cycling, and horseback riding.

Matt Fry

Project Alignment

Since 2018, Matt has executed marketing programs for food distributors, manufacturers, and commodity boards, crafting captivating copy for foodservice websites and managing the development of email campaigns, digital newsletters, social media content, and print sales collateral. Matt excels at managing client editorial calendars to spotlight key products and industry trends, driving targeted traffic to dynamic landing pages. He’s also adept at developing innovative promotions for lead generation and revenue growth.

His academic achievements include a Summa Cum Laude Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration and dual Master’s Degrees in Business Administration and Business Analytics from Dominican University of California, all while competing as a Division 2 collegiate golfer. He is proficient in WordPress, Constant Contact, Mailchimp, and a variety of social media management platforms.

In his free time, Matt enjoys watching college football, wine tasting, and running.

Michelle Elster

Research Expert

Michelle is an authority in both quantitative and qualitative research methods. Her extensive experience in marketing, new product development, and strategic communications makes her perspective unique and sought by many companies and organizations.

As a leader in the field of research, Michelle has served with distinction on various professional boards, including Board member, Marketing Research Institute International; Chairman Emeritus, American Marketing Association Foundation; Chairman, American Marketing Association, National; President, American Marketing Association, Chicago Chapter; and Member, U.S. Census Bureau Scientific Advisory Council.

Michelle has a BA in Advertising and an MBA in Marketing and International Business from the University of Illinois. She is certified as a Master in Marketing Research by the Insights Association. Michelle completed her certificate in mobile marketing research from the University of Georgia through MRII. She received her qualitative training from Sharpen the Focus.

Nancy Tejeda

Engagement

Nancy Tejeda, a recent graduate from Dominican University of California with a BA in Business Administration, joined The Food Connector in 2021. As a Marketing Associate, her responsibilities include managing multiple social media accounts with intent to drive website traffic and updating client websites with routine content to drive SEO optimization.

Born and raised in the Bay Area, Nancy has a passion for travel and adventure. When not working, she loves wine tasting and spending time with family and friends.

Noah Alper

Wisdom

Noah is a consultant specializing in entrepreneurial strategy, and executive coaching. He is the author of Business Mensch–Timeless Wisdom for Today’s Entrepreneur.  His experience includes concept creation, branding,marketing, retailing, and sales management.

A serial entrepreneur, Noah Alper is the founder of six ventures, including two mega-successful food businesses—the West Coast Noah’s New York Bagels chain and Bread & Circus, once the Northeast’s largest natural foods chain and now part of Whole Foods Market. Six and a half years after founding Noah’s New York Bagels, he sold the business for $100 million. At that time, it was the largest kosher retailer in the United States.

Noah has been a guest speaker at Google, the E2 Detroit Entrepreneur’s Conference, the “EO” Entrepreneur Organization, the League of Women Voters and many national and local business and community groups. He has been a guest lecturer at the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley, the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, the University of Wisconsin School of Business,UC Davis School of Management, Babson College, and a student advisor at the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University.

He graduated from the University of Wisconsin with a BA in Economics, and grew up in Brookline, Massachusetts. He currently lives in Berkeley, California.

Ron Richardson

Website Development

A UC Berkeley engineering grad working over 20 years in Silicon Valley. Ron has had many rolls starting as a printed circuit board test engineering manager and working up to manufacturing program management for many companies, including Sun Microsystems. He has moved on from Silicon Valley and for the past ten years has rekindled his passion for software design and development. Ron now brings his software and managerial skills to website design and development to the food industry.

Now with years of website development, Ron specializes in WordPress theme development, hosting setup and security, site analytics, SEO, and all facets and tools to bring a customer’s website vision to life.

Ron loves to discuss website development, to mentor, and to teach WordPress, and when time and weather allows, is an avid golfer.

Ryan Milani

Data Junkie

Ryan’s professional career for the past twelve years has revolved around digital marketing, website development, and digital advertising. He has served clients from diverse industry verticals, in nearly all facets of online marketing; with a focus in B2B. His expertise covers SEO (search engine optimization), analytics (measurement & analysis), UX (user experience) conversion tracking (analytics to measure success rates), and website development.

Seri McClendon

Sustainability Expert

An industry veteran with over 22 years of marketing experience, Seri McClendon founded Clean Agency in 2002 from her passion for environmental policy and science. She married both disciplines—communications and global sustainability—into an integrated agency serving the consumer products business sector. As a partner with The Food Connector, Seri’s expertise in the intricate relationship between commerce and the environment equips her to guide clients in resource conservation and profit enhancement through innovative business practices. Clean’s client portfolio boasts industry leaders in food and sustainable food packaging such as Nestle USA, Dreyer’s, and Orora Packaging Solutions.

Seri holds a master’s degree in geography with a specialized focus on industrial ecology, complemented by a bachelor’s in marketing. Additionally, Seri’s involvement in the USC Center for Sustainable Cities advisory board has resulted in innovative solutions that enhance the natural environment, economic vitality, and social equity of cities worldwide.

Stefan Mueller

Production Support

Stefan Mueller joined The Food Connector in September 2022 as a Marketing Associate. He is currently a graduate student at Dominican University of California, working towards an MSBA. He recently graduated from Dominican with a BA in Business Administration.  He is also part of Dominican’s cross country and track team.
 
Some of Stefan’s responsibilities at The Food Connector include supporting the production team with editing and content creation, assisting website design and content updates, and engaging in database management.
 
Stefan is originally from Seattle, WA but moved to the Bay Area to attend Dominican University.  Stefan likes to watch TV and movies, listen to music, read, and hang out with friends and family in his spare time.

Thomas Van Schoor

Marketing Associate

Thomas has recently joined The Food Connector in January 2024 as a Marketing Associate. He graduated from Dominican University with his BA in Business Administration and is currently pursuing a Master’s Degree in Business Analytics at his alma mater while playing for the Men’s Soccer Team. 

Originally from Torrance in Southern California, Thomas moved to the Marin Area for school. Besides playing soccer he loves cooking, listening to music, photography, and wandering through his local farmers market. 

Some responsibilities that Thomas takes care of are supporting the production team with editing and content creation, assisting with website design, database management, and content updates. 

Let's Talk

Contact Us
Quote Bottom
Skip to content