Our Story

In 2014 Marianne Halvorsen, a native of Norway, founded Growthsource Academy in New York City.

As a successful insurance broker in New York City, Marianne had strived her entire career to overcome the “Law of Jante.” A common belief in Scandinavian countries, the “Law of Jante” states you should not think you are someone special. In New York, Marianne found communities with powerful women who provided her guidance. She discovered a new sense of worth and confidence that she wanted to share with other women.

Marianne created Growthsource Academy as a platform to provide professional women with a powerful source of growth so they can break through their limiting beliefs and find success.

We do this through a series of signature programs and platforms that generate knowledge and new relationships. Our unique approach focuses on cultivating the mindset it takes to be successful by developing one’s clarity, confidence and commitment to one’s goals and dreams.

Board of Directors

Marianne Halvorsen

Founder of Growthsource Academy, Founder of Kontaktsource and Senior Vice President at Aon

With extensive experience in global risk management insurance solutions, Marianne has held many key client relationship roles during her career. Since leaving Norway in 1999, she pursued an international career. After completing BA at Washington State University, following two masters in business and marketing in Australia, she joined a Global insurance brokerage firm in New York City. To provide additional value to clients and the Private Equity community, she founded KONTAKTSOURCE, a unique forum to support private equity deal flow and origination. Marianne has a passion for helping other women achieve career success, and founded the Growthsource Academy, a not-for-profit organization, to help New York City women achieve independence through entrepreneurship. Growthsource Academy now supports women with workshops, mentoring and coaching worldwide. Prior to the inception of the Grwothsource Academy, she also founded the Risk Leadership Development Program for Young Women at St. John’s University.

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Mario Vitale

VP of Operations

Mario has 40+ years of experience in various leadership positions across a broad spectrum of the Insurance industry, most recently as CEO of Vitality Risk, LLC – providing consulting services to the Insurance Industry and Private Equity Investors. Prior to this role, Mario was CEO of Aspen’s Global Insurance operations – and a member of the Aspen Group Executive Committee.

Prior to joining Aspen in 2011 Mario served as CEO of Global Corporate, Zurich Financial Services responsible for all of Zurich’s corporate business in North America in addition to Latin America, Europe, Asia Pacific and the Middle East. He was also a member of the Zurich Group Management Board.

Prior to joining Zurich, Mario spent six years with the global broker, Willis Group Holdings, including four as CEO of Willis North America. Appointed chairman of the global large account practice in October of 2002 overseeing the broker’s efforts with the Fortune 1000, the private equivalents and companies with sales upward of $1 billion. Also a member of Willis’ Group Executive Committee and Office of the Chairman, Willis Canada Board of Directors and Willis Reinsurance Board.

Mario is currently a member of the Board of Directors at Broad Street Partners and Publicly Traded WNS. WNS (Holdings) Limited, is a leading provider of global Business Process Management (BPM) services. Mario is also on Board of Trustees of St. John’s University School of Risk Management. Mario’s former board roles include Chairman of the board of the Blue Marble micro-insurance company, member of the Board of Directors of AICPCU, member of the Board of the American Insurance Association (A.I.A.), member of the Board of Boys Hope Girls Hope New York (BHGH) and Board of Directors of the Council of Insurance Agents & Brokers.

Recognized by the Chinese American Insurance Association as their 2009 Honoree of the Year for leadership in the insurance industry as well as the recipient of the 2010 BHGH Vision of Hope award.

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Joe Holman

VP of Finance

Joseph Holman joined Apex Fund Services in 2018 as a Managing Director. His focus is to manage relationships with global allocators and institutional investors. He is also responsible for overseeing the RFP/DDQ process by working closely with investor operational due diligence groups. Mr. Holman has over 25 years of experience in the financial services arena, with a particular emphasis on fund administration and business development.

Prior to Apex, Mr. Holman founded Columbus Avenue Consulting in 2004 which was acquired by Orangefield Group in 2012 to create Orangefield Columbus, where he was appointed Chief Executive Officer. In 2015 Vistra Group acquired Orangefield Columbus where he stayed on until early 2018.

From 1990 to 2004, Mr. Holman worked with Rothstein, Kass & Company P.C. where he was appointed a Shareholder in 1998. While at RK, he helped build the fund administration and audit practice and advised clients on regulatory, operational, and tax related matters.

Mr. Holman began his career in 1986 as an accountant with Paul Scherer & Company.

Mr. Holman holds a BS in Business Administration from Clarion University and an MBA from Rutgers Business School. He also attended the MS in Taxation program at Seton Hall University. Mr. Holman is a CPA and member of the AICPA. He is recognized as an industry expert and is regularly invited to speak at conferences on topics such as alternative fund operations, valuation, and best practices.

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Cheryl Galante

VP of Strategic Partnerships

Cheryl Galante is a skilled professional with extensive experience in facilitating dynamic strategic partnerships. Her background spans multiple industries and has given her the requisite understanding of value proposition to identify prospects for new alliances, nurture relationships and facilitate participation in dynamic collaborations.

As Founder and CEO of Lloyd Production, Cheryl has had the opportunity to work with a wide range of professionals, from executives in Fortune 500 companies to entrepreneurs in the early stages of start-up companies. An entrepreneur herself, Cheryl has personal experience with the challenges women face in the marketplace and the tools and tactics they can use to succeed, particularly the invaluable tool of strategic partnerships. 

In 2011, Cheryl transitioned to a new challenge by co-founding Bleu Moon Innovations in Communication. She and her team market and facilitate physician training programs for one of the leaders in the innovative field of teaching healthcare professionals to form relationships with patients and families by communicating effectively and compassionately. In her current role of CMO, Director of Strategic Partnerships for Bleu Moon, Cheryl now uses her skills to help a diverse array of stakeholders including pharmaceutical and biotech companies, patient advocacy groups, medical professional organizations and healthcare institutions form mutually beneficial alliances to meet their needs and improve health outcomes.

Cheryl has been involved with Growthsource Academy since 2014 and has played an instrumental role in shaping its direction and growth. 

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Nicholas Bognan

VP of Development

Nicholas P. Bognon is Director of Risk Management for Omnicom Group Inc. He has established global risk financing strategies on $100M insurance spend that optimize mix of risk retention/transfer/avoidance. He is President of Omnicom captive with two dozen policies underwritten; 2nd largest captive in NY state.

In conjunction with treasury group, he has established global credit insurance policy and risk transfer program that is mandatory in 50+ countries. He is lead member of Global Benefits Group, responsible for formulating and executing overall broker and insurer strategy on international benefits. Nick manages internal and external groups that oversee the roll out of individual country Production Wrap-up insurance programs.

Prior to joining Omnicom in 2013, Nick’s employers were Flextronics International, Toys R Us, Inc., Pepsico and IBM.

Nick grew up in France and enjoys playing soccer….. he is still riding high
from the 2018 World Cup.

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James O'Neil

VP of Development

Jim currently serves as Executive Vice President of Aon Risk Services in New York.

Jim is a high energy, results oriented senior executive. He is an advisor to CEO, Board of Directors and Global managers of risk. He enjoys team building and leading groups. Jim possesses multi-faceted experience in underwriting, sales management and client development.

Jim’s experience ranges from designing risk transfer programs on a stand-alone single coverage basis to fully integrated/ blended deals. Jim has expertise working with complex companies over the years as a broker and now as an executive manager in the New York City office. Prior to working for Aon, Jim spent 9 years at Chubb & Son in various leadership roles in underwriting.

Jim holds a BSBA in Finance from Villanova University, an MBA in Finance from Hofstra University, and is a member of the Professional Liability Underwriting Society (PLUS). He has various professional accomplishments such as attaining his license as a broker in Property Casualty and Accident insurance, becoming an Associate in Risk Management (ARM) and being elected to the Board of Governors of the John Street Insurance Association.

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Jennifer Torneden

VP of Marketing

Jennifer is a Senior Vice President for Aon, a global brokerage firm. Responsible for branding and growing broker distribution for Aon Affinity, a portfolio of highly profitable and diverse insurance programs. One of the largest portfolios of MGAs in the industry.

Prior to joining Aon, Jennifer served in New York and Switzerland in global, national, and regional roles for Zurich Insurance from 2000 to 2016.  In her US roles, she was a Regional Sales Director, Senior VP of Marketing and Chief of Staff for the Group CAO. From June 2000 to December 2006, while in Switzerland, Jennifer established a new global department within Group Finance and led a global accelerated close methodology in over 60 countries. Additionally, Jennifer spent two years in management consulting with Arthur Andersen.

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Heather Eisenlord

VP of Legal

Heather Eisenlord is a Partner in the New York office of RPCK Rastegar Panchal, a boutique corporate law firm that brings a deep understanding of impact investing to complex commercial transactions.  Her practice focuses on domestic and cross-border financings, many of which embed multiple bottom line objectives.

Prior to joining RPCK, Heather was the Director for Inclusive Development at the International Senior Lawyers Project (ISLP), where she developed and managed a global project portfolio—principally focused on East Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Andean region of Latin America—that used legal tools and strategies to protect marginalized communities from potential life and livelihood harms associated with land-based investment.   She also developed a program of legal projects that promoted expansion of the impact investing field and managed a broader portfolio of human rights projects, which included initiatives focused on displaced populations and statelessness.   She currently sits on the board of the Stateless Dignity Project, a non-profit organization that advocates on behalf of stateless persons, with a particular focus on Rohingya refugees.

Heather was previously a senior banking associate in the New York office of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP.  She also practiced at Arent Fox LLP, where she focused on public and real estate finance. 



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Tami Zakrie

Yeysi Ramos

Inner Edge Production Manager

Samantha Francis

Sabrina Torres

Growthsource Academy is a non-profit organization whose mission is to empower women in business to achieve their highest potential, preparing them to be 21st century leaders on the edge of innovation, creativity, and change.

Our unique approach focuses on cultivating the mindset it takes to be successful by developing one’s clarity, confidence and commitment to one’s goals and dreams.


  • Our signature programs, The Inner Edge and The Leading Edge, provide leadership tools to navigate the changing economy and grow their businesses to higher levels of success.


  • Access to experienced mentors willing to share their expertise.


  • An opportunity to network with successful entrepreneurs, senior executives and investors.
  • Learn how to mentor other women.

Building on a Track Record of Success.

  • Hosted 12 Inner Edge workshops in New York City impacting more than 200 women since 2014.
  • Introduced The Inner Edge workshop to 20 women in Oslo, Norway.
  • Held 3 different Leading Edge programs in New York City supporting over 60 women entrepreneurs over a 120 day mentoring and coaching program. Each program consisted of 20 women entrepreneurs, 20 executive coaches and 20 mentors in private equity.
  • Established partnerships with the following non-profit organizations to identify women from their communities to attend our programs on a scholarship basis: Unlocking Futures, Hearts of Gold, UNITAS, Savvy Ladies, Safe Horizons, Dress for Success.
  • Engaged Cornell Social Entrepreneur Group for feedback and suggestions for the growth and expansion of Growthsource Academy. This was done as a case study competition for feedback and thoughts about our organization’s strategy.

Expanding the Vision to Impact the World – this year and beyond!

  • Help a wider range of women transform their lives by providing them with skills to gain clarity, confidence and commitment to bring their dreams forward 

  • Introduce The Inner Edge in South Africa to help aspiring entrepreneurs identify their dreams and successfully launch a business despite challenging economic circumstances.

  • Identify and partner with countries and non profit organizations worldwide

  • Identify and strengthen partnerships with non-profit organization in NY supporting women. Granting over 100 scholarships for their women to participate in our programs.

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