Our Team

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Brett Ammundsen
Trustee

Brett has worked on the board of the MicroDreams New Zealand Trust since its establishment in 2006. He was born in Samoa and spent much of his childhood in Polynesia and Melanesia – especially the Cook Islands and Solomon Islands – creating an enduring sense of belonging to and respect for the diverse cultures and people of the South Pacific. His interest in microfinance developed later, after traveling through rural, impoverished parts of Africa, where he was impressed by the enterprising spirit of many people despite their limited access to resources.

Brett holds BA degrees in History and Science and a PhD in Chemistry and Physics from Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. He has spent most of his professional life in New Zealand’s entrepreneurial ecosystem in the technology sector, most recently as CEO of Biomatters, a genomics software company that is now part of the global life sciences software enterprise Insightful Science. He lives a little north of Auckland, New Zealand, with wife Robyn and children.

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Greg Casagrande
Founder and Managing Director

Greg is the Founder and Managing Director of MicroDreams, as well SPBD Microfinance Network and Transformative Ventures LLC, a microfinance advisory company.  He also serves as the Executive Chairman of WaterHealth International, a leading provider of affordable, clean drinking water to thousands of rural villages across India and West Africa.

Greg has served as a director on several impact-industry boards including: the International Association of Microfinance Investors (of NY), Microfinance Pasifika (of Fiji), Planet Finance (of Paris), and Plebys (of Irvine, CA) a “Base of the Pyramid” investment fund.

Greg was named “Person of the Year” in the Pacific Island nation of Samoa for his work in empowering poor families in that country, and he was honored to be a UN Global Advisor for the Year of Microfinance. Greg was awarded the “Singapore Global Social Entrepreneur” Prize and the first-ever “Colgate Impact Award” by his alma mater Colgate University.

Greg is also a hi-tech pioneer in New Zealand where he co-founded the Ice Angels, an angel investment group, and served as the founding chairman of Biomatters from inception (2003) through the acquisition by Insightful Science in 2019. He also serves as the chairman of English-to-Go, an English as a Second Language learning solutions provider, and as a director of Cumulo9 Limited, which offers cutting-edge digital marketing solutions.

Prior to these ventures, Greg recorded significant achievements with Ford Motor Company, Mazda Motor Company and Coopers and Lybrand.  He led teams in the U.S., Japan and Europe, and while with Mazda was honored to be the youngest-ever Buchou (Division General Manager) of any major Japanese corporation.

Greg has an MBA from Kellogg, an MS from NYU Stern, a BA from Colgate University and is a CPA.  To learn more about Greg and his work, see https://gregorycasagrande.com/.

 
 
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Bill Cisneros
Director

Bill is a strong believer in the power of microfinance to impact poverty successfully.  He and his wife, Bettina, have been committed supporters of MicroDreams for 15 years.

Bill has 30 years of institutional alternative investment experience.  He is currently President of Primary Wave IP Investment Management, a leading manager focused on investing in music intellectual property.  For the prior eight years, Bill was a Senior Managing Director and Investment Committee Member at GTIS Partners (GTIS), a private equity real estate manager.  At GTIS, he was responsible for capital formation and macroeconomic research, and he moved the firm from $500 million of capital under management to over $3 billion.  Bill helped GTIS identify, validate and focus on two compelling macro investment opportunities – Brazil and U.S. Residential Post-Crisis – and convert both strategies into market-leading franchises.  Prior to GTIS, Bill spent eight years developing and raising capital for alternative investment strategies, and he spent the initial 12 years of his career investing in emerging markets across Latin America, Southeast Asia and Eastern Europe.

Bill received his B.A. with Honors in Economics from Colgate University in 1985 and continued his education at the London School of Economics, where he received a Diploma in Economics and an M.Sc. in Finance. He later received an M.A. in Politics from New York University, and in 1995 he became a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA).

Bill served a three-year term as a member of the Board of Trustees of the Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill, NY.

 
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Polly Kelekis
Chief Executive Officer

As Chief Executive Officer, Polly is charged with further developing the organization and growing its resource base with the ultimate goal of empowering poor micro entrepreneurs by providing them with meaningful economic opportunity so they can work their way permanently out of poverty. Polly is responsible for the day-to-day operations of MicroDreams, including new business development, stakeholder relationship management, marketing, outreach and fundraising.

Polly brings more than 24 years of both corporate and non-profit experience to MicroDreams, including 15 years in the microfinance industry. Her work in microfinance has taken her to diverse markets, including Tanzania, Honduras, Haiti, Armenia and the South Pacific (Samoa, Tonga, Fiji, the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu).  Prior to MicroDreams, Polly worked at FINCA International and consulted for the Financial Inclusion Practice Area (FIPA) of the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF). In 2003-04, she managed the Volunteer Team for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece. Previously, Polly held posts at Accenture and Booz Allen Hamilton and also worked at the Office of Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), and the Corporate Executive Board. Polly has an MBA from The Wharton School of Business, an MA in International Economics and International Relations from the School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) of The Johns Hopkins University, and a BA from Yale University.

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Michelle Kelly
Director

Michelle is the Senior Director of Growth at a New York-based consulting firm whose mission is to help businesses thrive in a digital world. Her focus is looking for ways to enable business growth through business intelligence and improving operations, platforms and process. Prior to that, she was the Global Head of Digital and Marketing Operations for the company. Michelle has over 15 years of experience managing large scale change and helping companies grow.

Michelle was born in Australia with the majority of her upbringing spent in small farming communities and a sheep station in outback South Australia. While she’ll always be a country girl at heart, Michelle has lived in five different countries and now calls New York City home.

Michelle is most inspired by the successes MicroDreams has had in helping women build generational wealth, and removing barriers to entrepreneurship and community leadership for all women. She earned her Bachelor of Liberal Arts, Extension Studies from Harvard University.

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Duncan Ledwith
Trustee

Duncan brings a wealth of professional and international experience and passion for our microfinance work, helping MicroDreams and our implementing partner, South Pacific Business Development (SPBD), reach thousands of poor women.

Duncan has spent time on the ground with MicroDreams’ partners SPBD in Fiji and in Tonga, learning the sector and company’s ambitions, and has worked with SPBD Tonga in their partnering strategy with local telcos to enable SIM-SIM payments, lowering the risk of mass cash handling. He also serves on the Board of SPBD Vanuatu.

Duncan launched his professional career in the information technology field and worked in companies of all sizes – from start-ups to large companies, including Microsoft where he spent 15 years specialising in developing and executing strategy for new businesses in many regions, including APAC, SE Asia, USA, and Europe, where he was Director of Windows Mobile., until he left to take his family to NZ in 2005. He has also launched and funded many start-ups in Europe, US, Asia and Australasia.

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Kristen O’Grady
Director

Kristen believes in microfinance as a way to change the world by empowering women to take their destiny in their own hands. She has been passionately volunteering for MicroDreams since 2010 and has been on the Board since 2017.

Kristen is COO and Head of Product for a sustainable investing firm that seeks to align investor personal values and financial goals. She has more than a decade of experience as a product developer at large financial institutions. Most recently, she was an Executive Director in JPMorgan Private Bank. Prior to that she was a Director at BlackRock, designing and launching investment funds for U.S. Wealth Advisory clients.

Kristen earned an MBA focused on Finance, Marketing and Entrepreneurship from Drexel University. She received a BS in Finance, magna cum laude, from Loyola University Maryland. Additionally, she completed a semester at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia.

On the leadership teams of corporate women’s networks, Kristen has created programming and opportunities for women to develop both professionally and personally. She believes in the “Shine Theory” of women helping each other to succeed. Most of all, Kristen is a proud mother of a young daughter, and is hoping to help make the future bright for her and everyone else.

 
 
 
 
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Mark Talbot
Trustee

 

Based in Auckland, New Zealand, Mark is an experienced, virtual CFO and Board Advisor. Originally from the UK, Mark relocated to New Zealand in 1999 following six years in Bermuda where he was working in the offshore investment fund industry, travelling extensively, scuba-diving and generally enjoying island life. In New Zealand, Mark has spent the majority of his time working with start-up/high-growth companies involved in a range of industries, including technology, fashion and hospitality.

In 2006 Mark and his wife Claire traveled to Samoa to see the operations of MicroDreams’ partner, SPBD Samoa. They found it both humbling and inspiring to visit several villages and witness firsthand what the project means to the women involved and the significant impact on their day-to-day lives.

Mark has three children. In addition to working full-time and serving as a Trustee of the MicroDreams Foundation NZ, Mark is a trustee of Big Buddy, a New Zealand not-for-profit providing mentors to fatherless boys.

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F. Chapman Taylor
Director

Chapman is a partner with Capital International Investors, Inc. a global investment management firm that is part of the Capital Group of Companies.  He spent two years in Samoa with the U.S. Peace Corps after finishing his undergraduate degree.  “That experience helped me think about the bottom of the pyramid, not the top of the pyramid, where most people focus.”

In addition to working full-time and serving as a trustee of MicroDreams, Chapman serves on the boards of OneSky, For Love of Children (focused on at-risk children in Washington DC), and Karya Salemba Empat (an Indonesian scholarship fund). He also serves on the National Peace Corps Association’s Advisory Council.

Chapman has an MBA from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, and he holds a BS in physics and theology from Tulane University.  Chapman is married to Grace Boey Taylor, and they live in Washington, DC with their three children.

 
 

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Jim Young
Director

Jim has been a board member of MicroDreams since 2002. He works as an investment professional at MidWest Invest, and he was previously VP at West Family Investments, a private family office. Jim also worked at Goldman Sachs for 19 years – in Equity Research for 3 years in New York City and in Institutional Equities Sales for 16 years in Chicago.

Jim is a graduate of Princeton University with a degree in Economics, and he received his MBA from the Kellogg School of Management. He also completed the CFA program.

Jim lives in Evanston, IL with his wife, Karen, and children, Stephanie, Henry and Katie. Karen is an active and enthusiastic supporter of MicroDreams. Jim and his family are committed to microfinance and its basic premise of helping people help themselves. Additionally, Jim is committed to providing educational opportunities for all kids with a keen focus in the Zero to 5 age groups.