2023 Families in Business Conference Schedule




2022 Families in Business Conference Schedule

From Founders to Family 

Thursday, October 27

12:30 pm – 1:30 pm

Statler Hotel, Yale/Princeton

Registration and networking
1:30 pm – 2:00 pm

Statler Hotel, Amphitheater

Opening comments and welcome message

Daniel G. Van Der Vliet, John and Dyan Smith Executive Director of Family Business

2:00 pm – 3:00 pm

Statler Hotel,

Panel I – Let’s Transform This

The journey from entrepreneur to a family business is wrought with challenges, but also many rewards. “Family businesses are just entrepreneurs who have succeeded,” says Amy Cosper, Editor in Chief for Family Business Magazine. Our distinguished panel of Cornell alumni will explore their respective journeys from founders to successors to transformers, and the role that family and business have played throughout.

3:15 pm – 4:15 pm

Statler Hotel,

Panel II – Current Research in Family Business

The Smith Family Business Initiative is dedicated to expanding the knowledge base in family business. The Smith Family Business Initiative has funded specifically seven new research studies in family enterprise, reaching many corners of the globe and spanning many industries.

5:30 pm – 7:00 pm

Statler Hotel, Carrier Ballroom

“A Taste of Family Business” – Welcome Reception

The Smith Family Business Initiative is proud to again offer our Taste of Family Business reception at the 2022 Families in Business Conference. Join us as we celebrate the many diverse family businesses and their products, be they wine, beverage, or food.

7:00 pm – 9:00 pm

Statler Hotel,
Carrier Ballroom

A fireside chat with our featured guest: Christina Keller MBA ‘07, CEO, Cascade Engineering

Moderated by Mark Milstein, Faculty Director, Cornell Center for Global Sustainable Enterprise  

Christina Keller MBA ‘07 joined Cascade Engineering in 2009, and during that time has also served as President of the Cascade Business Team and President of CK Technologies, which is a former business unit of Cascade, that specialized in thermoplastic solutions for the North American commercial truck market.

Today, Christina Keller is CEO of Cascade Engineering Family of Companies, succeeding her father, Fred Keller ’66. Cascade Engineering is based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and is a global manufacturing company with a diversity of strategic markets, including transportation, environmental services, material handling, and polymer compounding. Ms. Keller is also President of Noble Polymers, a custom compounder of plastic pellets and a valued partner in the circular economy.

In 2016, Keller was recognized as a rising star by Plastics News Magazine, and in 2017 was ranked as one of West Michigan’s 40 under 40. She received the Equity Champion Award in 2022 for her effort in bringing greater health equity to all Grand Rapid’s residents and has delivered multiple TEDx talks on entrepreneurship and sustainable business.

Keller holds an MBA from Cornell University, with a BA from Boston College. She also has a certification in economics from American University and a certificate of achievement as a Lean Six Sigma Black belt from Villanova University.

Community involvement is a mainstay of Keller’s leadership. She is the Chair of the Diversity and Talent Summit for the Grand Rapids Chamber, serves on the board of the Grand Rapids Economics Club, served as the chair and on the board of the GR Community Foundation, is a board member of Independent Bank, a member of Talent 2025, and is an annual guest lecturer with the University of Michigan Ross School of Business. Keller lives in West Michigan with her husband and two children.

Friday, October 28

7:30 am – 8:30 am

Beebe Lake

MindTravel Silent Meditation Lake walk

Leave the ordinary and experience a Mind Travel Silent Meditation Lake walk with Murray Hidary. Join Murray on a guided meditative walk around Beebe Lake. This music-driven experience is a new way to practice walking meditation while fostering a greater connection to the world around us, to each other, and to yourself.

8:00 am – 9:00 am

Statler Hotel,

Networking and breakfast
9:00 am – 10:00 am

Statler Hotel,

Friday kick-off: “We Need to Talk” – Exploring the Many Facets of Wealth with Jennifer Risher 

Facilitated by Blair Trippe, Managing Partner, Continuity Family Business Consulting 

For many families, and especially families in business, conversations about wealth rarely happen. Jennifer Risher is on a mission to change that dynamic. In her book, “We Need to Talk: A Memoir About Wealth,” Jennifer shares her story and explores the impact of wealth on identity, relationships, and sense of place in the world. By validating the emotional complexities of money, Jennifer hopes to help others with wealth connect with one another and ultimately move out of any sense of guilt, shame, or a desire to keep wealth hidden and into a sense of purpose and action.

In response to COVID, Jennifer and her husband co-founded #HalfMyDAF to inspire more giving. She has also been investing with Black women fund managers and partnering with organizations to create a more equitable society. Jennifer and her husband, David live in San Francisco where David is CEO of Worldreader, a nonprofit he cofounded with the mission to create a world where everyone is a reader. Jennifer is a member of Women Donors Network and Solidaire. She enjoys travel, tennis, and spending time with her two twenty-something daughters who are both living and working in New York City.

10:15 am – 11:15 am

Statler Hotel,

Panel III – First Gen, Founders, and Family

Moderated by Zachary Shulman ‘87, JD ’90, Director, Entrepreneurship at Cornell

Join three Cornell first-generation entrepreneurs as they share their experience as founders, the role family has played in their journey, and where they hope the journey ahead might take them.

11:30 am – 12:30 pm

Statler Hotel,

Panel IV –  A Conversational Guide for Non-Binary Families

Moderator: Erin Kelly, Assistant Director, Smith Family Business Initiative

Many Americans realize that cultural variations exist in the United States. One such cultural difference exists between the straight world and the LGBTQ universe, mostly because society for centuries discriminated against non-straight people, even imposing the death penalty in some cases. When family members come out or identify as LGBTQ, this can often lead to conflict, resentment, or cut-off. Rifts caused can create emotional damage that often has business impacts as well. For families to flourish, all voices must be heard. Families that accept LGBTQ family members may discover a surprising source of strength, love, and resilience.

12:30 pm – 1:30 pm

Statler Hotel,

Lunch and networking
1:30 pm – 2:30 pm

Statler Hotel,

From Family to Founder to Philanthropy, with Murray Hidary

Murray’s journey began in his own family’s business. Deciding that was not the path for him, Murray took his purpose-driven approach which garnered him considerable business success, including EarthWeb’s groundbreaking IPO in 1998, which was the third largest single-day share gain in NASDAQ history at the time, and the growth and sale of several more companies including career site Dice and expert network Vista Research.

Murray Hidary is a multi-disciplinary, creative visionary and tech pioneer who started his first company at 22 years old, after studying Music and Composition at NYU. Murray’s success as an early Internet entrepreneur, starting in 1994, sprung from his innate sense that creating networks and platforms for connection amongst people could both elevate productivity and consciousness.

In bringing MindTravel to the Cornell audience, Murray will help create the space to explore the many themes of the 2022 Families in Business Conference, family, founders, creativity, and wealth in its many facets.