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Meet the Team

Theo Ferguson Vital SystemsTheodosia Hamilton Ferguson, Founder

In 2009, Theo founded Vital Systems as a sole proprietorship, which grew and became one of the earliest California Flexible Purpose Corporations, incorporated on January 17th, 2013. She also serves as a member of the Vital Systems Executive Team.

Vital Systems supports people aligning their values, passion and money to source food locally and grow regenerative economies. In this arena, Theo is a founding member of Slow Money. She facilitated the formation of the local chapter for Slow Money Northern California. She is an active member of the SOIL Network (Slow Opportunities for Investing Locally), an activity affiliated with Slow Money NoCal. Theo focuses on community benefit investing in food and farming infrastructure.

Vital Systems evolved from the non-profit Sustainable Ventures, which Theo founded and for which she served as Executive Director. Sustainable Ventures catalyzed values-based purchasing decisions by elevating true cost pricing and true cost accounting resulting in integrated information about environmental, social, governance, and financial sustainability. During this time, Theo coined the phrase, "integrated bottom line."

In the private sector as a sole proprietor, Theo launched an export management consultancy, Export Profiles, representing renewable energy and resource management products and services to South and South East Asia and the People's Republic of China. She has also incorporated and served as Executive Director for three other non-profit organizations working in energy, arts, and sciences. During the course of her career, Theo has held positions in the public sector as well, including the City of Nuremberg, the California State Government, and the National Science Foundation.

ann valliant cropped

 

Ann Valliant, Director of Operations and Finance

Ann Valliant has been working with Theodosia Hamilton Ferguson since 2006. She currently serves as finance manager for Vital Systems. She also serves as a member of the Vital Systems Executive Team and Treasurer of the Board.

Born in 1945 into a white Southern family of small farmers/ranchers and skilled trades entrepreneurs, Ann was trained from birth to continually evaluate the intended and unintended consequences of the way things are done. Black women's clarity in the Southern civil rights movement inspired her to deeply engage in feminist and class analysis and activism. Thanks to the women's liberation movement, by the late '60s she understood the connections between her father's liver failure from herbicide poisoning, the benefits and costs (and to whom) of assigning subservience to groups of people and the inescapable necessity and power of inspiring change in one mind, one heart, at a time. In the mid-'80s, Ann recognized that computers would revolutionize business; they remain her favorite tool and toy. Since then she has consulted with small businesses in a variety of industries, implementing software for operations, helping their staff change their practices and upgrade their skills.

She came out as a lesbian, had a baby in 1981 by donor insemination, became a disciple of Gurumayi (Swami Chidvalasananda) and continues to plant trees and put in gardens everyplace she can get her hands into dirt. Her constant question: what is served by believing this thought?

Loren Valliant CFO Vital Systems

 

Loren Valliant, CFO 

Loren serves as Chief Financial Officer for Vital Systems, leads the Local Investor Support Services team for impact investors and provides oversight of the financial management and bookkeeping services delivered to our Business Services for Entrepreneurs clients.

Born in the Bay Area, Loren's first passion was for psychology. Training to be a therapist, he worked to provide tools to help people with the difficulties that they could not address alone. While working as a bookkeeper to get through college, Loren found that bookkeeping satisfied that same need, helping entrepreneurs keep the administration of their business working smoothly. After running his own bookkeeping and administrative management consultancy for the past 6 years, Loren joined the Vital Systems staff in 2014 to manage the financial well-being of the company and provide his skills to their clients.

Vince Trotter Good Food WebVince Trotter, Head of Business & Community Development

At Vital Systems, Vince leverages his experience as a farmer and advocate to map the sustainable food community, engaging stakeholders and inviting collaboration as well as contributing to the vision for the Good Food Web.

Vince Trotter started his professional life as an English teacher, evolving later into a trainer and facilitator for Kaiser Permanente where he helped to develop collaborative workgroups and redefine workplace relationships. After a few more twists and turns, he eventually (and quite unexpectedly) felt the pull of his agricultural roots and found himself deep in farming and food system advocacy. After several years working on organic farms in the Sierra foothills and coastal California, he has found a “sweet spot” at the intersection of education, agriculture and activism - helping producers and consumers join together to tackle the complexity of growing food and feeding community. And while he works toward a better food system for all, Vince is working alongside his wife to raise their son and teach him the importance of growing food sustainably, raising livestock ethically and eating well with those you love.

akshay-araboluAkshay Arabolu, Product Manager for Vital Systems Business Services for Entrepreneurs

Akshay is a Product Manager at Vital Systems. He is responsible for the development of the Business Services for Entrepreneurs with a particular focus on preparing entrepreneurs who are beginning to seek capital, giving them the documents and written planning they need.

Prior to Vital Systems, Akshay was the founder of two startups, GetComparisons & Awessome. He built the team from the ground up, comprising of a product manager, tech lead, growth-marketer, designer, various consultants and advisors. As the founder, he was responsible for the entire product development cycle - conception, wireframing, design, development, testing and iterative releases. He was also heavily involved in customer outreach, user-acquisition and marketing efforts. The process was run on lean startup and agile methodologies stressing metrics and analytics. His main product focus was on user experience, using elegant design to make the products as intuitive as possible. 

Prior to launching his own ventures Akshay spent four years in the finance industry. He worked as a portfolio analyst in the healthcare sector performing due diligence, valuation and analysis on companies wanting to raise debt financing. He also worked as an investment banker in the technology sector where his work involved extensive financial analysis, market research and creating investment documents such as, pitch decks, executive summaries, business plans, etc.

In his spare time Akshay paints and volunteers at Point Reyes national park as much as possible. Recently, after learning how badly most food is “farmed,” he launched Lovemebutter, a small and growing monthly service that sources grass-fed meat & dairy from local farms and delivers to Bay Area residents. Akshay has a MS in Finance from George Washington University and a BS in Computer Science from Purdue University

courteny morehouseCourteny Morehouse, Operations Manager

Courteny is the Operations Manager at Vital Systems. She is a recent MBA graduate from Bainbridge Graduate Institute with a degree in Sustainable Systems and a focus on Finance in Local Living Economies. Her work is focused on shifting capital towards a more radically inclusive economy. This, combined with her experience working for small food and ag businesses led to her work with Vital Systems. In addition to working at Vital Systems, Courteny teaches issues of social justice in business management as a Teaching Fellow at Bainbridge Graduate Institute. After receiving a degree in Biology and Ethnic Studies from Mills College, Courteny has worked on a number of farms, volunteered with farm and food focused non-profits, sold Sake in Oregon and managed a winery in the Columbia Gorge of Washington state. On her days of rest, Courteny gives her time to the rabbit hole of fermentable spirits. Starting as a homemade winemaker at the ripe young age of 13 she still brews mildly delicious beers with the company of good friends. She is a proud resident of Oakland, CA.

Andrew Thorbecke Vital SystemsAndrew Thorbecke, Bookkeeper for Local Investor Support Services

Andrew is the bookkeeper for Local Investor Support Services clients. Andrew co-led the planning of semi-monthly Brown Bag Lunches at Vital Systems for associates to explore the topics of race and class power, privilege and difference, especially as they show up in Vital Systems' work. His love of systems analysis and learning new skills combined with his interest in economics, social justice, and food politics led him to Vital Systems. In his spare time, Andrew is devoted to trans and queer community building, asking difficult questions, interrogating and reconstructing masculinity, and cooking with his family and community.

mariah-gonzalez

 

Mariah Gonzalez, Marketing Assistant

Mariah is the Marketing Assistant at Vital Systems. She also co-coordinates Vital Systems' bi-monthly Brown Bag Lunch Series. Her passion for understanding the intersection of food systems, health, and socio-economic justice led her to work for Vital Systems.

After receiving her B.S. from UC Berkeley in Food Systems, Politics, and Culture, Mariah conducted theory-based research on the relationship between alternative food systems and gentrification in the Bay Area. Her interest in the connection between food systems and socio-economic displacement led her to La Cocina -- where she helped produce the San Francisco Street Food Festival. Before her stint in event production, Mariah headed up food-sourcing education and system-wide commercial kitchen management as the Food Service Coordinator for the Berkeley Student Cooperative.

When she’s away from her desk, she enjoys photography projects and learning about alternative healing methods for young people with chronic illness.

Gerardo Marin Vital Systems Paths to Heal the LakeGerardo Marin, Project Manager for Pathways to Heal the Lake

Gerardo is a community organizer and youth mentor, cultural activist, facilitator, healer and inner-resilience educator. At Vital Systems, he serves as the liaison and project manager for Pathways to Heal the Lake, in partnership with indigenous Mayan women and community organizers working to revive the Mayan cosmo vision and heal the Sacred Lake Atitlan in Guatemala. As project manager, he coordinates efforts around 22 pueblos for cultural workshops, disaster preparedness, collective healing and community resilience. In addition, the project focuses extensively on training young women to be environmental guardians. He also co-coordinates Vital Systems' bi-monthly Brown Bag Lunch Series where associates explore the topics of ace and class power, privilege and difference, especially as they show up in the work Vital Systems does.

Gerardo offers strategic planning, leadership development, and facilitation to grassroots organizations in the U.S. and abroad, providing a range of workshops in inner-resilience through expressive arts, movement, meditation, and healing ritual. He is a practitioner of healing arts based in Mexican tradition and Chinese acupressure, weaving his offerings for boosting our movements of peace, healing, power and justice. He has been recognized and supported by the San Francisco Foundation's five year Koshland Civic Unity Fellowship and the Art of Living Foundation City Leadership Corp. Gerardo graduated from Colorado State University and is based in Oakland, CA.

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