John W. Brady

John is an accomplished executive leader who has deftly guided North American divisions of multinational companies through the competitive consumer goods landscape while enhancing brand development, product innovation, process improvement, and operating efficiencies. With decades of executive experience, Mr. Brady has held key roles at a variety of consumer products companies including C-level positions at RECARO Child Safety, LLC, Fisher-Price, Inc., Casio, Inc., and the Fundimensions division of General Mills Inc.


Mr. Brady currently runs a consumer goods consulting firm, John W. Brady & Associates Consulting. Having earned a Bachelor of Arts degree at Wayne State University with co-majors in Journalism and Marketing, and post-graduate work in Marketing at Wayne State and Finance at University of Michigan, Mr. Brady has built a successful track record of launching and turning around promising product lines in both the mass distribution and specialty/collectibles market spaces.


Mr. Brady has been able to drive new and incremental growth by exploiting key areas of opportunity and recognizing consumer trends at their outset. With his greatest strength in strategic planning, marketing and sales management and an eye toward identifying and developing talent within an organization, Mr. Brady works with entrepreneurs, private equity owners and boards of directors to make companies more efficient, more focused, more mobile and more successful.

Dr. Laura Jana

In addition to providing more than a decade's worth of her reality-parenting advice to media outlets nationwide, including The Today Show, CNN, Good Morning America, Parents magazine, NPR, Time, People, The New York Times and USAToday, Dr. Jana serves as a media spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics, and has served on the national Executive Committee for Early Education and Child Care. Her professional efforts are primarily focused on pediatric issues that extend well beyond the four walls of a pediatric office and increasingly dedicated to addressing the earliest and most urgent needs of children – especially those living in poverty both locally, nationally, and globally.


Dr. Jana is an Omaha-based, board-certified pediatrician, health communicator, and the award-winning co-author of Heading Home with Your Newborn and Food Fights. She received her BS degree in Cellular Molecular Biology at the University of Michigan, and her MD from Case Western Reserve University, where she also completed her pediatric residency after finishing her internship at UCSF.


Having first served as a consultant to Dr. Benjamin Spock, Dr. Jana went on to co-found The Dr. Spock Company – one of the first online health sites - in the late 1990’s, and subsequently her own company - Practical Parenting Consulting. She is recognized for her efforts to promote healthy lifestyles for children and offer credible practical parenting advice to new and expectant parents.


Focused on the intersection between education, health and nutrition in childhood, Dr Jana has also been increasingly involved in children’s advocacy and driving the professionalization of and investment in early education and child care in the U.S., both through her work with ReadyNation and as a result of her 9-year ownership of Primrose School of Legacy – Nebraska’s first 200-student, AdvancEd accredited educational child care center.

Leslie Donavan

Leslie Donavan is President and CEO of the Starfish Aquatics Institute. Leslie received a degree in Journalism from the University of Wisconsin/Madison and her law degree from Northwestern University School of Law. She practiced corporate and commercial law at Schiff Hardin and at Martin, Craig, Chester & Sonnenschein. Leslie also represented United Airlines in the financing of Denver International Airport.


Leslie served as Volunteer Brand Protection Manager for the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. She is a past trustee of Northwestern University, a past President of the Northwestern Alumni Association, a past President of the NU Club of Chicago, and has served on numerous Boards and committees at the Law School. Additional volunteer activities include past appointments on the Village of Lincolnshire Plan Commission and School District 103 Foundation Board.

Caren Shalek

Caren has a diverse background in consumer products licensing and business development, having over 25 years experience directing all facets of iconic preschool and entertainment brands. She has been serving on the Board of Directors of the Toy Industry Foundation Board of Trustees since 2013.

For the past nine years Caren has piloted a wide variety of successful projects, including technology and social-media driven IP development, through her CAS Consulting company. Prior to consulting, Caren was Senior Vice President, Consumer Products at PorchLight Entertainment, a children’s and family entertainment company where she served on the Board of Directors. While at PorchLight, Caren was instrumental in the company becoming a leading manager of ancillary rights for children and family brands.

Caren spent 5 years with Mattel/Fisher-Price as Vice President Consumer Products, managing over 10,000 products and 100 licensees worldwide. She also served as Vice President of Licensing and Consumer Products and Product Development Worldwide for Sesame Workshop. It was Caren's team who first brought Tickle Me Elmo to market.

Caren holds a degree from Simmons College. She also completed the Thunderbird Global Leadership Program and the Senior Executive Mattel Global Leadership Curriculum.


Justin has spent his entire career working with branded consumer products businesses. After spending 5 years as a consumer-focused investment banker at Robert W. Baird & Co. in Chicago, Justin became Vice President of Corporate Development for RC2 Corporation (RCRC), a publicly traded infant, toy, and collectibles company with products sold under many owned and licensed brands, including The First Years, Lamaze, Thomas & Friends and John Deere. At RC2, Justin was responsible for M&A as well as other external growth initiatives, including brand licensing and joint ventures in media development and manufacturing.


During Justin’s six years at RC2, the company completed eight M&A transactions, including acquisitions of leading infant brands such as JJ Cole Collections and Boon and ultimately the sale of RC2 to TOMY, one of the world’s largest toy companies. Also while at RC2, Justin held multiple brand and product management roles, leading cross-functional teams in product design, sourcing, sales and marketing functions. After leaving RC2/TOMY in 2012, Justin partnered with the original RC2 founders to form reALTO Group to develop and invest in children’s products businesses in the US and Asia.


In 2015, Justin joined Grand Crossing Capital, a newly formed private equity group that invests family office capital in growth stage consumer products companies.  Justin currently serves as an advisor to reALTO and is also an advisor to DirecSource, a global consumer products sourcing and supply chain management company.


Justin Demes



Gene was our first mentor on our Yoee Baby journey. Before anyone else , Gene busted our chops and called us out on our planning.  He encouraged us in ways that are still proving to be valuable. Thanks Gene!


Gene has over 35 years of marketing, general management, sales, new product development and international business experience in the toys games and gift industries.


Prior to joining In-Sync LLC in 2010, Gene was President at Gund, a 100 year old American brand, owned by a private equity firm.


Gene's career includes 16 years at Mattel in various executive roles, both in the U.S. and abroad, where he focused on new busines development, profit improvement, marketing and sales effectiveness, brand management and product development.


Gene served as General Manager of Mattel Uk and Ireland, General Manager for the Toys-R-Us Customer Business Team, and VP of International Business where he developed and implemented market entry and restructuring strategies in several international markets (Japan, Eastern Europe, China and India).