Press Release
June 25, 2024

Innovation DuPage Welcomes Strategic Business Advisor and Entrepreneur in Residence

Innovation DuPage
Innovation DuPage

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Innovation DuPage (ID) is pleased to announce Mike Varon as its Strategic Business Advisor and Melissa Villanueva as its new Entrepreneur in Residence.

Mike Varon, Strategic Business Advisor

For the past nine months, Mike Varon has supported Innovation DuPage entrepreneurs and small businesses, providing resources and advisement as they grow.   Varon came to ID following a 31-year career as an executive leader supporting small and large businesses in their drive to achieve growth and success.  As a strategic advisor at Aerotek, he guides organizations in building successful businesses and strong team cultures.  He is an advisor, investor, and executive leader, helping companies exceed their expectations through vision, values, people and purpose.

“We are fortunate to have someone with Mike’s experience and skill on our team,” said Dan Facchini, Managing Director of Innovation DuPage.  “Mike has connected with our member companies, helping them deal with many of the challenges they are facing as they look to grow their businesses.  His real-world experience is an important asset to ID and our members.”

“I’m here to help, “said Varon.  “This role allows me to draw on my business knowledge and experience in order to assist entrepreneurs in building their businesses, and I find that incredibly satisfying.”  

Varon is a graduate of Northern Illinois University with a Bachelor of Science in Economics.

Melissa Villanueva, Entrepreneur in Residence

Melissa Villaneuva, CEO and founder of Brewpoint Coffee, succeeds Joe Barron as Entrepreneur In Residence at ID. (Barron, owner and CEO of Gray Matter Games, was also ID’s first member company.  He became ID’s first entrepreneur in residence, and served a two-year term, finishing in 2023.)

Villanueva is a visionary entrepreneur and the driving force behind Brewpoint Coffee, a company renowned for its commitment to community, inclusivity and sustainable growth.  With nearly a decade of experience in the coffee industry, she has transformed a small coffee shop into a multi-million-dollar business ecosystem.  Her journey at Brewpoint began with a simple yet powerful vision: to create spaces that are more than just coffee shops, but community hubs fostering connections and thriving local economies.  Her approach to business is grounded in her belief in the transformative power of community-centric spaces.  Featured in Entrepreneur Magazine for her initiatives supporting business owners of color, Villanueva is recognized not just as a successful businesswoman, but also as a community leader and advocate for inclusive entrepreneurship.  She is a graduate of ID’s Owner to CEO Business Accelerator program, and has been a member of ID for the past two years.

“We are excited to have Melissa as our next entrepreneur in residence,” said Facchini.  “She is passionate about sharing her knowledge and experiences, frequently engaging in public speaking and mentorship roles, and inspiring others in the entrepreneurial community.  Her story is one of resilience, innovation, and an unwavering commitment to building businesses that make a difference in the community.”

“I am honored to assume the role of entrepreneur in residence at ID,” said Villanueva. “As I embarked on my journey to become a successful entrepreneur, ID played an important part in the successful growth of Brewpoint.  Now, I have an opportunity to share much of what I’ve learned throughout my journey with others who are facing similar challenges.”

Villanueva received her undergraduate degree from Wheaton College and has studied at the University of Chicago, and is active in various entrepreneurship program initiatives.  

About Innovation DuPage

Innovation DuPage (ID) is a nonprofit venture that unites startup founders and small business owners with the people, resources and programs that support their growth.  Members collaborate across an extensive network of enterprise, academic, economic development and research partners. Through its four primary development programs, ID supports the startup community, enhances regional prosperity, attracts world-class talent and drives sustainable economic growth.  

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