Our Staff

Thais Rezende is the CEO of and has 12 years of experience in the nonprofit world, with a special focus on micro-enterprise development. For 8 years she led the growth of innovative programming and organizational expansion at Women’s Initiative for Self Employment. Rezende initiated and led the agency’s successful expansion into Contra Costa and Marin Counties, as well as the Silicon Valley. As the lead developer of the successful business propulsion program “SuccessLink”, she set a new national standard for entrepreneurship support services that are now a national model. During her tenure as Program Director, Rezende focused on scalability and efficiency and as a result, the agency tripled the number of women it served. In 2009 Rezende was promoted to become the Women's Initiative Executive Director in San Francisco and Marin County and she subsequently took the same position in the East Bay.

Thais comes to BizWorld with extensive business experience, working as Public Relations Manager in her native Mexico. During this time she fostered her commitment to public services when she helped open three virtual libraries and consistently provided shelter, schooling, and coverage of basic needs to more than 300 homeless children. Rezende moved to the Bay Area, 15 years ago, and worked for the Mexican Consulate as part of The Mexican Communities Abroad Team where she helped implement and develop health, educational and business trade programs. Her background includes journalism work both in TV and print covering technology topics. She holds a B.A. in International Relations from her native Mexico and is fluent in both Spanish and Portuguese.

Carla is the COO at She is a financial services and retail marketing executive who has worked for some of the globe’s premiere finance and marketing brands, including Charles Schwab, American Express Co., PepsiCo, R.H Macy & Co, and IBM. Throughout her career, Carla has shown a steadfast commitment to creating opportunities and programs for people from all walks of life, ensuring many have access to financial stability through her work in investor education and segment market outreach.

At Charles Schwab, Carla served as Vice President of Advice and Specialized Segment Marketing. She authored and led the strategy and outreach for key, high-growth market segments. During her 9 year tenure, she also led Investor Education, Sponsorships & Events, and Branch Merchandising. For American Express, Carla served as Director of Regional Marketing where she negotiated and led strategic partner marketing programs, streamlined marketing expenditures and produced double digit volume growth.While at PepsiCo, she served as a General Manager for the Taco Bell division. There she had P & L responsibility for 42 restaurants and 1,600 employees.

She has served as a featured panelist at the Professional Business Women’s Conference, Essence Women’s Business Conference among others and has appeared as an industry expert on CNBC, KRON and NY1, and been quoted and/or profiled in USA Today, Chicago Tribune, SF Business Times, BlackEnterprise Magazine and others.

Her community work includes numerous charities. She was chair of the East Bay Regional Board at Women’s Initiative for Self Employment and  supported the organization in a board and volunteer capacity for 8 years. She is a former board member and current advisory board member of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Oakland. Carla is a graduate of Stanford (BA) and received her MBA from Harvard.

Charlene Simonian Vaca is the Operations Director with She came to in November 2012 as Executive Assistant to the CEO. Her professional background is in office administration, customer service, and sales. Charlene is responsible for the management of financials and human resources. She is also in charge of office administration, including assisting the Chief Executive Officer and Board of Directors. In addition, she assists with program distribution and customer service.

Originally from Sonora, CA, she came to the Bay Area to attend California State University East Bay. In September 2012, she graduated with a B.S. in Business Administration, with concentrations in Accounting and Marketing. Her hobbies include floral design, crafting, and scuba diving whenever she gets the chance. She loves animals, traveling, and spending time with her family and friends.

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