2020 Speakers

Reem Assil

Reem’s California, owner & chef

Reem Assil is a Palestinian-Syrian chef based in Oakland, CA. She is the owner of Reem’s California, inspired by her passion for Arab street corner bakeries and the vibrant communities that surround them. Barely a year later, Assil opened an Arab fine dining concept, Dyafa, in partnership with the Alta Restaurant Group, earning it a place on the Michelin Guide Bib Gourmand’s List in its first year.  

Reem has garnered an array of top accolades, including being named a James Beard semifinalist in the Best Chef: West in 2018 and 2019, Thrillist’s “2018 Chef of the Year,” San Francisco Magazine’s “2018 Chef of the Year,” San Francisco Chronicle’s “2017 Rising Star Chef,” and most recently, Star Chefs “Rising Star Chef 2019.” Reem’s California was also named one of Food & Wine’s “2018 Top 10 New Restaurants of the Year, ” SF Chronicle’s “2019 Top 100”, and Mercury News’ “Bay Area’s Best 50 Restaurants”. 

Before dedicating herself to a culinary career, Reem worked as a labor and community organizer at SEIU Local 1877 and East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy (EBASE).  Reem worked with Bay Area’s esteemed cooperative bakery Arizmendi Bakery & Pizzeria, Grace Street Catering, and several local chefs before launching Reem’s California. She is a graduate of the competitive food business incubator program, La Cocina, business leadership program, Centro Community Partners, and Oakland-based business accelerator program (and SVI Women partner), ICA Fund Good Jobs.


Sue Conley

Cowgirl Creamery, co-founder

Food and community follow Sue wherever she goes. Sue’s pursued a passion for feeding people her entire life. She spent much of her childhood observing her grandfather who owned a popular cafeteria in Washington D.C. called Sholl’s Colonial. After attending college in Tennessee, she took a “hippie trip” to San Francisco where she worked in some of the best kitchens in the city – including under Bambi McDonald at Hotel Obrero.

Sue later went on to open Bette’s Oceanview Diner which served delectable meals to its loyal customers for eleven remarkable years. She then moved to Point Reyes Station, CA where she met Ellen Straus, the matriarch of the Straus Family Creamery. Ellen inspired Sue to join West Marin’s growing organic farming community.

Sue and her long-time friend Peggy decided to co-found Cowgirl Creamery and make cheese. When Peggy and Sue were exploring names for their new cheese business, two women on horseback pulled up in front of their barn. Ellen Straus, who was visiting at the time, looked at Sue and Peggy and said, “We’re living in the Wild West out here.” Peggy’s response was, “Then we must be cowgirls” and the name stuck.

Two decades, dozens of awards, two creameries, four retail stores and two thousand tons of cheese later, it’s safe to say Sue has earned her 10-gallon hat. Cowgirl Creamery produces a variety of fresh, bloomy and aged cheeses using organic milk from neighboring dairies while championing the milk shed in Marin and Sonoma Counties. They are strong advocates for sustainable agriculture and artisan cheese. Their award-winning cheese is sold in 500 stores, farmers’ markets, restaurants and nationally through Whole Foods.

We’re so pleased to welcome Sue to SVI Women to share her True Confession story. Get ready for a wild ride!


2019 Speakers

Kit Crawford

Clif Bar & Company, co-owner & co-CEO

Kit, along with her husband Gary Erickson, is owner and co-CEO of Clif Bar & Company, a leading maker of nutritious and organic foods and drinks for people on the go. Kit and Gary also run Clif Family Winery in Napa Valley and venture firm White Road Investments.

Clif Bar and Company sells its trademark Clif Bars and Luna Bars in 14 countries. In 2013, Kit and Gary stepped down as co-CEOs but remain board co-chairs.

“We’re working to run a different kind of company: The kind of place we’d want to work, that makes the kind of food we’d like to eat, and that strives for a healthier, more sustainable world – the kind of world we’d like to pass on to our children. And those aren’t just words. They’re our mission statement.” – Kit Crawford


Valerie Red-Horse Mohl

Social Venture Circle, Executive Director

We are delighted to welcome Val as a True Confession speaker. Of Cherokee ancestry, Val is the Executive Director of Social Venture Circle, which builds and serves communities of informed impact investors and business leaders to make social, economic, and environmental change.

She is also the owner/founder of Red-Horse Financial Group, Inc., and has more than 30 years of in-depth experience in the financial services and investment banking industry with a unique expertise in the tribal government sector.  Val has raised and structured over $3 billion in capital for tribal nations and holds seven FINRA registrations.  She is also the owner/founder of Red-Horse Native Productions, Inc., a film and television production company primarily focused on bringing important social impact documentaries to the screen for which Val produces, writes and directs.

Val was inducted into the NAWBO (National Association of Women Business Owners) Hall of Fame in 2008.  She was recently appointed to the Board of Stanford University’s Center for the Comparative Study of Race and Ethnicity and will be teaching a Stanford course on Entrepreneurship for Race and Social Equity in 2019.  Val earned a B.A. with Cum Laude honors from UCLA, has been married to former NFL football player Curt Mohl since 1982 and the couple has three children: Courtney (Stanford ‘07), Derek (California Lutheran ‘12) and Chelsea (Stanford ‘20).


Kate Torgersen

Milk Stork, Founder and CEO

Joining SVI Bay Area for Women as one of our True Confession keynote speakers, Kate is the founder and CEO of Milk Stork, the first and only breast milk travel solution for working moms. Milk Stork was inspired by all the breastfeeding super moms who work, travel, and love their babies like crazy. The reality is that most moms are working moms. And, for moms who return to work after maternity leave, the commitment to breastfeeding comes with numerous daily challenges. As working moms, we are faced with enough tradeoffs and compromises. Providing our babies with the best possible nutrition — breast milk — shouldn’t have to be one of them.

Kate’s story of mom-led innovation and entrepreneurship has been covered in outlets such as TIME, Forbes, People, NPR’s Morning Edition, Fortune, Scary Mommy and Babble. In 2016, Kate was named one of Red Tricycle’s “Power Moms in Food”. And, in 2015, Milk Stork was recognized as one of Business Insider’s “19 Coolest New Businesses in San Francisco”.

Kate is a full time, working mom of three kids who was committed to breastfeeding all of her children for the recommended 12 months. After facing the challenging logistics of pumping for her twins during a four-day business trip, Kate created the first breast milk delivery service to lighten the load—both physically and emotionally—for hardworking, business traveling, breastfeeding moms.