Meet Our Team

Innovators in Environmental, Social, Economic, and Technology-Based Solutions

Leaders and Founders

Raymond (Ray) Menard

Chief Executive Officer, Founder

Ray, founder, and CEO of Spades, brings worldwide C-suite leadership experience across multiple industries, countries, and cultures. He casts the climate change mitigation company’s mission and vision, leads the development of breakthrough solutions to plant trees at massive scale, and oversees all facets of the business.

Ray explains his story: “I asked myself, ‘Since trees are the most direct and least expensive way to address climate change, why isn’t anyone planting them at scale?’ Big scale – tens of billions every year! That is needed, but unfortunately, only a handful of growers plant over one million per year.

 

“ I gathered a team to identify the obstacles. Solving them became our company roadmap. 

 

“In short, afforestation needs to be investable to scale. Reliable outcomes require reliable tree survival. From the outset, we knew survival was complex, involving environmental, economic, and social challenges. Now we are breaking through the challenges to get trees planted at scale, something we desperately need.”

Ray Menard

Chief Executive Officer, Founder

Ray is an international social entrepreneur, impact investor, inventor, and business model innovator. Based on his experience across diverse industries, cultures, and economies, he helps stakeholders see challenges as opportunities, then he inspirationally builds resolve by retelling the company’s mission and showing how it can be established and quickly scaled. He has led multiple startups, new divisions and products, turnarounds, M&As, and fundraising rounds. He holds more than 20 patents in multiple fields.

His broad experience, from high tech industries to agricultural development in Africa, has shown his comfort listening to villagers in remote parts of Africa, inspiring crowds, working with boards, working across cultures, and creating strong teams.

Ray spent eight years in hundreds of African villages across four countries launching agribusinesses. He successfully engaged dozens of tribes, adapting to cultures, working models, and business impediments. His blended finance model addressed rural value chains. In five years and three countries, Ray started a USA-based equity fund, a debt fund, a nonprofit, and a holding company.

New finance models developed by Ray have unleashed investment in developing nations. This includes blended capital and impact investments such as four rounds linking non-profits, for-profit operations, and funds, and setting performance measurements linking to impact. The current round is $150 million. Ray has also implemented several Public-Private Partnerships (PPP), completing engagements with a dozen different NGOs, both local and international, including USAID.

An expert in remote monitoring, tracking, and accounting, Ray addressed a key gap in regreening by designing the first monitoring solution. It integrates seven technologies in SaaS apps to track regreening across stages of tree growth from planting to 50 years.

A notable accomplishment of Ray’s was leading the logistics and security for all debris hauling at the NYC World Trade Center recovery effort. He satisfied 20 agencies to activate solutions in three weeks, remove 40 accountants, reduce cleanup cost and time by 75%, and save the city and nation billions of dollars.

Ray frequently reminds the team, “Businesses do not succeed because they have a good idea; they succeed because they solve problems.” Always eager to tackle challenges, Ray personally hand-built his family’s geodesic dome house. His Great Dane is always by his side.

 

Linkedin bio

Robin Chance

Vice President of Marketing and Communications, Co-Founder

Robin is responsible for planning, developing, and implementing global marketing strategies, marketing communications, branding, and public relations activities that drive demand and growth.

Robin’s reason for joining Spades: In addition to destroying habitats and homelands, deforestation can lead to food insecurity, job loss, and extreme poverty. Climate change also poses a threat to lives and livelihoods. Increasing forests and agroforestry can help mitigate the crisis.”

Robin Chance

Vice President of Marketing and Communications, Co-Founder

Robin is the head of marketing and communications at Spades. She is instrumental in helping our company develop and launch its business and brand. Collaborating with the rest of the leadership team, Robin designs and implements strategies to reach multinational target audiences to build awareness about our mission, projects, and capabilities. She is also engaged in evolving the organizational strategy and culture.

Robin has over 20 years of experience leading global marketing, communications, and business development departments for companies like Fish & Richardson, Korn Ferry, and what is now Willis Towers Watson. One of her strengths is the ability to create high-performing teams and build productive departments from the ground up, which she previously accomplished at four large global firms and at startups. Robin has managed dozens of FTEs across geographies and cultures, overseen budgets in excess of $30M, and driven change and innovation programs to improve efficiency, spur profitable revenue growth, and enhance brand equity.

Before joining Spades, Robin steered end-to-end business development and marketing operations for the largest practice group at Fish & Richardson, an AmLaw-ranked law firm with clients in more than 80 countries. Previously, Robin led the global Corporate Marketing and Communications department of Korn Ferry’s leadership and talent management business unit. Earlier, Robin served on Watson Watson’s (now Willis Towers Watson) global marketing leadership team and drove field marketing across North America. Robin also provides PR, marketing, and communication services to big global tech companies, including Thomson Reuters, and small entrepreneurially oriented ones. While on the Board of an international adoption agency, Robin traveled to Sierra Leone following the Ebola crisis to assess agency operations at their Care Centre in Freetown. While in-country, her team provided humanitarian aid to remote villages and slums affected by the virus. Her heart still travels to Africa.

A continuous learner, Robin regularly pursues studies in multiple disciplines. Robin and her husband of nearly 30 years are blessed with three adult children. She is a woman of faith, ran a nonprofit for a number of years, and is engaged in several nonprofit agencies focused on children and social impact issues. She enjoys traveling, hiking, fishing, antiquing, and a glass of good iced coffee (with ample sweetener and cream). Don’t be surprised if you see her in a gravel pit or on the side of a country road; she’s a rockhound always in search of agates.

Linkedin bio

Joy Hazucha

Joy Hazucha, Ph.D.

Chief People and Culture Officer, Co-Founder

Joy leads people and culture development to allow Spades people, partners, and communities to grow and thrive, across cultures and geographies. This includes ensuring positive social impact by defining and monitoring people and community standards for all of our projects.

Joy’s story of what brought her to Spades: “I believe that Spades’ ambitious plans to rapidly scale the planting of trees, in conjunction with many partners, requires building a transformative and agile culture. This includes a strong grounding in values, and daily learning and development for every person in the organization, from the field worker to the board chair. I have always appreciated recreation among trees, as well as the food they produce, but, through my work with Spades, I have come to better understand the dangers of losing them and the multiple benefits, to the Earth, communities, and individuals, of propagating them.”

Joy Hazucha, Ph.D.

Chief People and Culture Officer, Co-Founder

Joy leads people and culture development to allow Spades people, partners, and communities to grow and thrive, across cultures and geographies. This includes ensuring positive social impact by defining and monitoring people and community standards for all our projects.

Joy has lived and led businesses in five countries across three continents, with teams of 100+ people from a dozen countries, including startups, and fast growth organically and through acquisition. While in Tanzania, she worked with small farmers and entrepreneurs, supporting their income generation and food security with appropriate technology, including solar food preservers/dehydrators.

To better align people with business strategy, Joy applies scientific principles and analytics and coaches individuals. In the course of her career, she helped a longtime employer grow into a premier global Human Resource firm by leading the expansion into other countries and integrating the diversity of cultures within global principles. Joy has supported the development and succession planning of C-suite executives at many of the world’s top global corporations.

As a prominent subject matter expert and author, Joy has led applied research on leadership across cultures, women in leadership, leadership development, and the impact of programs across countries including the Middle East. She has published research on global leadership, succession, women in leadership, and leadership development through experiences. Joy also serves on the board of an organization that develops social entrepreneurs in challenging areas of the world.

Joy’s formal education includes undergraduate majors in psychology and Biblical studies, and a doctorate in industrial and organizational psychology. More recently, she has attended workshops and taken courses in impact measurement and management for SDGs, underutilized crops, agroforestry, and how to integrate people with employability challenges back into the workforce.

She speaks fluent French, conversational Spanish, and some German. Her husband and four children enjoy the richness of cross-cultural interactions based on their life experiences. A little-known fact about Joy is that she went to school with Albert II, the Sovereign Prince of Monaco and head of the Princely House of Grimaldi. She enjoys most outdoor activities, along with discovering new foods. She plays the cello in her church orchestra, and she and her husband support marriage enrichment, and especially couples going through crises in their relationship.

Linkedin bio

Bill Keneally, CPA

Co-Founder and Advisor

Bill counsels Spades on finance and information technology matters to support the achievement of its environmental, social, financial, and other objectives.

Bill’s fit with Spades: “Like my Spades colleagues, I have been blessed with a broad international business experience that has provided me an appreciation of the diversity of cultures, vocations, and talents. Together, these will be tremendous resources to driving the accomplishment of the Spades mission. Closer to home, when first sharing with my adult daughter my new role she responded, as she did at special times as a child, “Great, Dad!” This confirmed to me that I was in the right organization both personally and professionally.”

Bill Keneally, CPA

Co-Founder and Advisor

Bill is an accomplished finance executive with significant and diverse international management and operating experience across various industries, geographies, and business models. He is Flutterwave’s Chief Accounting Officer and an advisor to Spades.

Bill’s strengths include strategy, acquisitions, divestitures, valuations, analysis, restructuring, IPO, financial and operating systems, taxation, treasury, corporate finance, and accounting. He is also recognized for his organization, leadership, and communication skills. In addition, he is effective at building and leading highly motivated and results-oriented finance teams that partner with all parts of an organization to maximize its success. He likens his leadership style to that of a basketball point guard, which requires an agreement of and focus upon the overall general objective and link to the specific play/project to be run, advanced planning, a defined role, and the significant involvement of each team member and constant communication and commitment to the mission.

Bill graduated from Notre Dame University with a Bachelor of Business Administration, Accounting concentration and spent a decade in public accounting with Anderson before moving to senior corporate finance roles within the travel, hospitality, technology, energy, and consumer products industries.

Outside the office, Bill supports a mission-based educational organization that coaches teachers on how to make the most of their classroom and other technology. He also serves in his community weekly through his Catholic parish by providing youth and family faith formation leadership and serving meals to homeless adults. Bill has been blessed to be married for over thirty years and is the father of five children. His first grandchild arrived in October 2021.

Linkedin bio

Ralph Mitloehner, Ph.D.

Ecofit™ Inventor, Co-Founder

Ralph helps Spades to define our standards about which species are best suited to build biodiversity and habitat in each local ecosystem.

Which native tree species are available? Which species fit the planting site’s soil, climate, and ecosystem? These questions move Ralph since his forest science and ecology career began three decades ago. Why Spades? Ralph says that “early diagnoses of our out-of-balance world are evident, however the progress remained slow. I trust Spades to make the difference: work task in focus and connect craftmanship with scientific progress to greatly increase the speed of restoring trees and ecosystems.

Ralph Mitloehner, Ph.D.

Ecofit™ Inventor, Co-Founder

Dr. Ralph Mitloehner is an international leader in environmental forestry. He is also the inventor of Ecofit, breakthrough biotechnology that focuses on quantifying a narrow set of chemical indicators revealing a tree’s capacity to succeed under various abiotic conditions. As a scientist and co-founder at Spades, Ralph helps to define standards about which species are best suited to build biodiversity and habitats in each local ecosystem.

Ralph studied Forestry Sciences of the Temperate Zones at the University of Goettingen. His research on complex natural forest ecosystems has been conducted in Africa, Asia, Oceania, and South America, with a focus on tree responses to sites both in dry and moist climates. His areas of research and expertise include strategies and planning tools for protected area and buffer zone management; post-mining reclamation; forest landscape restoration; site adaptation of local tree species; ecology and management of tropical dry and moist forests; silvicultural techniques; forest, landscape, and habitat restoration; and forest management planning.

Ralph received a commemorative medal for the “invaluable contributions to the Cause of Agriculture and Rural Development of the S.R. of Viet Nam.”

Jeffrey (Jeff) F. Peters

Chief Development Officer, Board Chair, Co-Founder

Jeff, Chief Development Officer and Chair of its Board of Directors joined Spades to apply his deep investment experience and his passion for conservation to positively affect change for environmental, economic, and social impact initiatives.

“I am a firm believer that only through blending for-profit and non-profit approaches do we have a chance to solve environmental problems such as climate change. Spades has this belief at its core and has a deep, highly experienced team to make that vision a reality.”

Jeffrey (Jeff) F. Peters

Chief Development Officer, Board Chair, Co-Founder

Jeff works closely with Spades’ executive leadership team and Board to facilitate short and long-term strategic plans and ensure that fund development is executed in alignment with Spades’ values, vision, and mission. His 30-year career, focused in the investment industry, included senior-level global leadership positions at two top international asset management companies, Colombia Threadneedle Investments and Putnam Investments. Prior to these roles, Jeff was a partner at McKinsey & Company, co-leading their investment practice.

Building on this experience and his lifelong passion for conservation, Jeff co-founded Canande Capital in 2018. The start-up for-profit conservation business raises institutional and High Net Worth funds for sustainable forestry and agriculture projects in Latin America, combining conservation and generation of returns for investors. He completed an initial raise of $10M  for a 50,000-acre project in Ecuador.  One other project was completed in Guatemala. He is now consulting a property management company.

While a Managing Director and Head of Global Institutional Business at Columbia Threadneedle Investments, Jeff managed global business with $230B in institutional assets under management for the investment arm of Ameriprise Financial, generating $250M in revenue and $110M in direct profit in the USA and overseas. He managed sales, consultant relations, client service and product, marketing, and support teams numbering nearly 200 people based on five continents.

At Putnam Investments, Jeff managed the non-USA business for a global $200B asset management firm.  As a member of the Executive Board, reporting to the Chief Executive, Jeff managed an organization of 75 in six countries with $160M in revenues and the highest profit margins at Putnam.

Throughout his career, Jeff has applied his professional experiences to roles at a variety of conservation NGOs, serving as Treasurer, Finance and Investment Committee member, and board member. He currently serves on the board of the American Bird Conservancy and Manomet Center for Sustainability and is an emeritus Board member of MassAudubon. Jeff is an avid international bird watcher and has birded in 50 countries. He also enjoys tennis, skiing, hiking, professional sports, and his two adult children.

Jeff received a BA in economics from Princeton University and an MBA from Harvard Business School, both with high honors.

LinkedIn bio

Frank Williams, J.D.

Vice President of Strategic Partnerships and Legal

Frank leads Spades’ legal department and strategic partnerships for global afforestation business plans, investment, and other areas.

Frank and his wife June have three children. A transformative experience brought change to his life and career trajectory. Frank and June spent two years, early in their marriage, in the Central Plateau of Haiti building and teaching in a secondary school.  Then, about five years into Frank’s journey as a public finance attorney with a global law firm, Frank and June realized that Haiti had ruined them in the most wonderful way.  With a background in accounting and law, Frank joined World Vision International (WVI), a child-focused development and humanitarian nonprofit. They served with WVI in DR Congo, South Africa, Kenya, and Haiti, and also in various parts of the United States.

While serving as WVI’s U.N. Representative in New York, Frank engaged with the U.N. diplomatic community and participated in the shaping of the Sustainable Development Goals.  Frank learned how “drawing bigger circles” through strategic partnerships enables greater impact and enduring outcomes for good.

Frank Williams, J.D.

Vice President of Strategic Partnerships and Legal

Frank is an international leadership and organizational innovation executive and attorney with more than 20 years of experience in nonprofit leadership roles. He has led individuals, teams, and organizations, integrating legal, accounting, publishing, and global nonprofit expertise to deliver better outcomes. He drives and advises Spades on business, investment, and strategic partnerships for worldwide afforestation and climate resilience.

His specialties include designing and leading strategic initiatives for large and small enterprises at global, regional, and local levels.

Frank’s accomplishments include conceptualizing and designing a sustainable energy engagement platform adopted by the World Evangelical Alliance, a 600,000,000-member entity. He directed the New York office of World Vision International (WVI) and represented its interests to the U.N. and related multilateral entities, diplomatic missions, corporations, foundations, major donors, and peer organizations. He also furthered WVI’s commitment to Sustainable Development Goals with a particular focus on the most vulnerable.

He navigated through extraordinary and challenging circumstances as Haiti experienced a major earthquake in Jan. 2010 (the largest humanitarian disaster to affect one country in modern history). He was immersed in a disaster situation involving a national crisis, partially destroyed headquarters, loss of staff’s families/homes, and personal emergency searching for family members among ruins of a collapsed apartment complex. Frank acted as an advocate and leader to WVI’s national office staff and programs while receiving earthquake response teams and WVI’s leaders worldwide. He also championed a new vision for “Haiti 2.0” to emerge from humanitarian disaster and advocated for the people of Haiti in national and international meetings.

Frank earned his J.D. from the University of Virginia School of Law and a B.S. Business Administration and Accounting – Washington & Lee University. He is affiliated with Children of Character (board chair for nonprofit working in 20+ countries in Africa with 24,000+ volunteers); and Regent University School of Law (board of visitors 2015-18). He speaks English, French (basic), Haitian Creole (basic).

LinkedIn bio

Staff and Advisors

Katie Fernholz

Katie Fernholz

Forestry and Environment Advisor

Katie leads the development of the standards to increase the success of planting projects and will serve as a basis for transparency via ongoing audits. These will include ecosystem health, biodiversity, and positive community impacts.

Katie’s story: “I have spent my career working to care for the land, build strong communities and economies. Spades is an opportunity for me to use my forestry expertise in partnership with my sincere desire to apply my knowledge and experience to support sustainability. I believe in the power of trees to deliver environmental, social, and economic benefits. I know that if we can embrace our relationship with the planet through the collective action of planting and caring for billions of trees, the possibilities for the future are endless.”

Katie Fernholz

Forestry and Environment Advisor

Katie leads Environment and Planning at Spades, working with experts and consortium partners to develop standards that will help improve tree survival and ecosystem health. She is President/CEO of Dovetail Partners, a non-profit environmental think-tank based in Minneapolis. She is a dynamic and compelling expert in addressing environmental and sustainability issues. A forester by training, Katie has worked on development and forest management issues in a range of roles. She currently serves on the Minnesota Forest Resources Council, chairs the Sustainable Forestry Initiative Forest Management Task Group, and chairs the board of the American Forest Foundation.

She brings a unique combination of both a broad understanding of the complex interconnection between society and the environment and the experience of her own personal journey from a family organic farm to forestry school to being a leader and international expert on the responsible management of natural resources. Katie shares her knowledge and experience and engages others in developing a clear understanding of natural systems within a historical context and an exploration of their own land ethic – the relationship each of us has with our environment and the personal values that define it. Her passion for the complexity and beauty of natural ecosystems blends with a pragmatic recognition of the challenges and choices that we are faced with, as well as the tools – heart and mind – that must be united if we are to move forward.

Linkedin bio

Don Keysser, DBA, CM&AA

Investment Banking Advisor

Don, an investment banker, serves as a financial adviser to Spades and assists it in raising capital.

An avid outdoorsman since childhood, Don has a long history of involvement in environmental affairs, serving on the State Board for the Sierra Club and serving on the Sierra Club’s National Finance Committee. Previously, he worked with Ray Menard on an economic development project in Tanzania, which aimed to spur local entrepreneurship and financial independence.

Don Keysser, DBA, CM&AA

Investment Banking Advisor

As Managing Principal of Hannover Consulting, Don provides business financial consulting services, including M&A transactions, financial analysis, capital raising, and international expansion, focusing mostly on small-medium size businesses in technology. He previously worked as Managing Director at Dain Rauscher and as a Senior Vice President and Principal at Miller & Schroeder Financial.

Don is also a Professor of Finance at Saint Mary’s University and a Senior Lecturer at the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota. He teaches graduate courses in Capital Markets, Global Finance, Financial Institutions, Corporate Finance, International Finance, Financial Modeling, and Government Finance. He holds a MAPA in Urban Economic Development and an MBA in Finance from the University of Minnesota, as well as a Doctorate in International Business. Don is a published author and frequently speaks at conferences.

He is on the Board of Directors of the German-American Chamber of Commerce, the Isthmus Foundation (stem cell research), Enova Illumination (medical devices), and Moto-I (the only sake brewery in North America). Don worked as an intelligence analyst during his military service. Don is the father of two stunningly handsome sons, one of whom is about to have his first grandchild.

LinkedIn bio

Steven (Steve) Mantle

Head of Distribution

Steve has been in the investment management industry for over thirty years. His background includes senior management roles in large financial institutions as well as 10 years in smaller entrepreneurial firms.

He is known for his successful fundraising as well as his development of new and innovative investment products for institutional and high-net-worth investors.

With his experience in institutional fundraising, Steve can now combine this knowledge with the growing demand for environmentally and socially responsible investments to make the planet more sustainable from both the perspective of climate change and economic growth.

Steven (Steve) Mantle

Head of Distribution

Steve has been in the investment management industry for over thirty years. His background includes senior management roles in large financial institutions and ten years in smaller entrepreneurial firms.

He is known for his successful fundraising and his development of new and innovative investment products for institutional and high-net-worth investors. Steve was previously an SVP at RBC Global Asset Management, TD Waterhouse, and BMO. In addition, he was President and COO for Integra Capital, a small private firm. He helped build the firm’s assets significantly, which enabled it to successfully sell the business assets to Willis Towers Watson and LOGiQ Asset Management (later Ninepoint Partners), where he continued to lead the institutional practice.

He has also been committed to giving back to the community. As a member of several significant charitable boards, he raised funds and aided in financial asset management. Among his many roles, he served on the boards of the Duke of Edinburgh Awards, CODE (which promotes literacy efforts in developing countries with a focus on Africa), The Canadian Psychiatric Research Foundation, the United Way, and Best Buddies Canada.

When not working, Steve enjoys the outdoors and is an avid gardener. He enjoys skiing, golf, sailing, and walking the vast forest trails near his chalet in northern Quebec.

Steve holds an HBA from Western University and an MBA from Dalhousie University.

LinkedIn bio

Tony Rinaudo

Tony Rinaudo

Natural Regeneration Advisor

Tony advises Spades on FMNR (Farmer-Managed Natural Regeneration), landscape restoration, agroforestry, and climate change action. One of his publications, Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration (FMNR) Manual, published with World Vision International, is available at no cost on the United Nation’s website.

Tony’s story: Known as the “forest maker,” Tony is an award-winning Australian agronomist who has lived and worked in Africa for decades. Millions of lives and livelihoods have been improved through a technique Tony pioneered and then propagated, to work with small farmers to show them how to regrow trees from existing stumps and root systems. Farmers across at least 24 countries on multiple continents have successfully applied Tony’s straightforward management practices to regenerate and protect trees and existing local vegetation, which also helps agriculture productivity through improving drought resistance and replenishing the soil. Tony inspires regreening movements globally and is an advocate of Spades’ mission. The impact of his contributions to people and the environment have been recognized with awards from the governments of Niger and Australia, as well as the World Future Council.

Tony Rinaudo

Natural Regeneration Advisor

Tony revolutionized reforestation in Africa with Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration (FMNR). He is widely recognized for his influential contribution to heightened international awareness on the impact, efficacy, and adoption of the simple, low cost, scalable method which is now successfully applied in at least 24 countries. Where the desert was still expanding 20 years ago, farmers reforest large areas with FMNR.

Early in his career, Tony served as an agriculturalist and missionary with ‘Serving in Mission’ in the Niger Republic, overseeing long-term rural development and periodic, large-scale relief programs. Through these, he contributed to a transformation in how Nigeriens farm, and the reforesting of over seven million hectares of land, which still inspires regreening movements globally. Since joining World Vision Australia, Tony has initiated and/or overseen important land regeneration projects worldwide. Serving now as Senior Climate Action Advisor, he promotes forestry and agroforestry initiatives globally within the World Vision partnership and beyond.

For Tony’s considerable service to humanity and the environment, the government of Niger awarded him its highest honor for an expatriate, “The Order of Agriculture with Merit” (Merite Agricole du Niger). In 2018, Tony and FMNR received the prestigious “Right Livelihood Award,“ also known as the ‘Alternative Nobel Prize’, for “demonstrating on a large scale how drylands can be greened at minimal cost, improving the livelihoods of millions of people”, and the World Future Council Agroecology Award. In 2019, Tony was appointed as a Member (AM) of the Order of Australia (General Division).

LinkedIn bio

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