Colleen Kazemi

Colleen Kazemi

Executive Director


Having been in Denver since third grade, and a Denver East High School and CU Boulder graduate, Colleen feels the urgency to quickly find additional ways for our SVP community to partner with other like-minded organizations and individuals to find innovative ways to have an impact. 

Her additional professional background includes being the co-founder of Pure Cultures, a probiotics animal health product innovator. She’s deeply rooted and actively engaged in the Denver/Boulder investor and entrepreneurial startup community. She is an investor in MergeLane, a fund that discovers, accelerates and invests in high-potential, women-led startups. She is an adjunct faculty member at Deming Center for Entrepreneurship at the CU Leeds School of Business, and is passionate about supporting public education and have served as co-chair of the Denver Public School (DPS) Bond Oversight committee, DPS Tech Advisory Committee, and East High Collaborative School Committee.

Tes Cohen

Tes Cohen

Director of Partner Engagement and Community Impact


Tes moved to Denver in early 2020 after growing up around the northeast and spending the last nine years living in New York City. She is thrilled to support her new community through SVP Denver. An active volunteer beginning in middle school, Tes loves bringing people together in service of making the world a better place. She brings cross-sector experience as a Peace Corps volunteer in Costa Rica and leading programming at several nonprofits.

She spent the last five years in corporate philanthropy at the Gap corporate foundation, leading a program that provides career readiness training and jobs to teens and young adults from low-income communities in partnership with youth-serving nonprofits. Tes has her undergraduate degree in psychology and Hispanic studies from Connecticut College and a masters in public administration from New York University. 

Outside of work, you can find her rock climbing, teaching yoga, biking and exploring the latest exhibit at the Denver Art Museum. You might ask her about biking 3,125 miles across the U.S. or volunteering with migrants at our border in El Paso, Texas last year. 


Sara Bayless

Board Chair

Sara is the director of human development at the OMNI Institute, a non-profit social science consulting firm in Denver. At OMNI, Sara uses research and evaluation methods to help organizations and initiatives understand the impact their programs have on their communities—she’s passionate about making data meaningful and actionable. Prior to OMNI, Sara was a postdoctoral research fellow at Arizona State University. She holds a BA in Psychology from Tufts University, and an MA and PhD in Applied Developmental Psychology from Fordham University. Sara joined SVP Denver in 2016 and joined the Board of Directors in April 2019.

Merrill Stillwell

Merrill is a managing partner at Blue Mountain Investments, a boutique real-estate development firm with operations in Denver and the Vail Valley.  Prior to that role, he was a financial analyst with Denver Investments. He joined SVP Denver in 2015 and has served on the the Board ever since. He is the liaison for SVP with Denver Active 20-30, a Denver-based volunteer foundation which raises over $1 million each year for at-risk children in the Denver community. He attended Claremont McKenna College where he majored in government and economics and has a CFA certification. Fluent in Spanish, for the past eight years he has served as a coach for Argentina’s national lacrosse team.

Jim Goebelbecker


Jim is an entrepreneur, executive, and Certified Presence-Based executive coach who actively collaborates to build relationships with key stakeholders to help meet organization objectives and improve individual leadership skills. Jim has experience practicing the skill and art of leadership as an entrepreneur and in the non-profit sector most recently as the CEO of Denver Kids. Jim earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in business management from St. Bonaventure University, a MBA from Seattle Pacific University, and a Master of Arts and Ph.D. degree in Human and Organizational Systems from Fielding Graduate University. 

Justin Folkestad

Justin was the Vice President of Finance at Rocky Mountain Water Works, an excavation, utility construction and oilfield service company, servicing Northern Colorado and Southern Wyoming.  Justin has a passion for developing new products and technologies and enjoys working at the fault lines where business disciplines collide. He finds that these cracks between provide interesting challenges and are ripe grounds for improvement. Justin did his undergraduate work at Colorado State University, and received his MBA from the University of Colorado at Boulder. Having joined SVP in July 2013 with his wife, Ashley, Justin has provided invaluable assistance to many SVP Denver Investees, as well as, working with SVP Denver staff on strategic mapping and processes. He currently oversees SVP’s capacity building engagements with nonprofit investees.

Mark Newhouse

Mark has built his highly successful career delivering breakthrough products and businesses that have generated more than $2 billion in revenue in the telecommunications, consumer electronics, and cleantech markets. Mark came to Denver from Shanghai where he was a senior vice president of Corning Incorporated. Since coming to Colorado, Mark has been investing in and advising a variety of startup companies. He was on the board of Bioptigen (acquired by Danaher in 2016) and is currently on the board of SWIR Vision Systems. Since 2017 he has been the external general partner of the Innosphere Fund. Mark is also focusing on developing new sources of capital for non-profits. He has made a number of impact investments in non-profits and was a Founding Circle Sponsor of Colorado Impact Days, and currently serves on the Board of Directors of Denver Social Venture Partners and Colorado Pledge 1%.

Linda Peotter

Linda has been an entrepreneur and business leader for more than 30 years. She served as president of Metal Trading Corporation, a privately held nonferrous scrap metal trading company, which she co-founded in 1995. Her prior experience includes positions at ACX Technologies, AT&T and Eldorado Building Company. Linda’s philanthropic pursuits include fulfilling board of director positions at the Alzheimer’s Association, CU Leeds Business School, Colorado Succeeds and SVP Denver. She holds a B.S. in Business Administration from the University of Illinois, Urbana/Champaign.

Elycia Cook

Elycia is the President & CEO of Friends First, a non-profit that serves students and their parents and communities by educating and mentoring teens to make positive life choices and develop healthy relationships. She has fifteen years of experience working with positive youth development programs. In 1989, she received a scholarship to the Japan Center for Michigan Universities studying Japanese language, culture, and business. She has lived and worked in Japan for more than eight years, is fluent in the language and has spent time in 12 countries for business and leisure. Elycia received her BA (cum laude) in business administration and marketing from Wayne State University