Holly McIlwain is the founder and chief cheerleader of the Brave Women Project. She is the author of “For She Who Leads: Practical Wisdom from a Woman Who Serves” and leads the Talent Development platform at Winner Partners. She is a subject-matter expert in the usage of behavior assessments as part of coaching and development plans, in addition to talent acquisition engagements. As a Gallup Certified Strengths Coach, working with individuals and organizations to build a better world and sustainable business solutions is her passion. What’s not exciting about that? This enthusiasm comes with Holly into each coaching session, team workshop, search opportunity, and speaking engagement. It carries right over into the Brave Women Project. Nothing excites Holly more than inspiring women to do brave things.
Developing leaders who change lives is Holly’s passion and professional purpose. She has studied and written about topics such as: Leadership and Mission, Bravery in Business, and Managing Human Relationships. As a recognized subject matter expert, Holly has spoken at numerous conferences and on Sirius XM Radio. She holds an advanced degree in Organizational Leadership from Robert Morris University, and is certified as a DISC Behavior Analyst and a Driving Forces Behavior Analyst.
After studying with Pittsburgh Leadership Foundation, she invested her time and professionalism in the Pittsburgh region, consistently seeking ways to challenge leaders to become fully engaged in transformation. In 2020 she served as Pittsburgh Leadership Foundation Faculty and became a DDI Certified Facilitator. Holly is an expert in the value of dynamic onboarding as part of the foundation for fully engaged employees and served as the Human Resources Business Partner for Talent Management at Robert Morris University prior to returning to her alma mater as Director of HR Services for Franciscan University.
Holly invests herself to expand the reach of those organizations she serves and has a long record of engagement in the region. Holly functioned as a lead consultant in Organizational Management and Leadership Development for one of the largest non-profits in the world and spent 15 years in the non-profit sector. Recruiting and developing the talent pool for the non-profit sector soon led her to engage as a full-time consultant, and director of leadership development and talent acquisition for a local firm.
Holly has worked with and served on the Boards of Directors for foundations and non-profits, and continues to be a frequent speaker and trainer on topics of leadership and living at Universities, Churches, Conferences, and Workshops. She and her husband, Kevin, are raising two young boys and residing in the greater Pittsburgh, PA area.
When we think about women doing brave things, Morgan Null demonstrates bravery as a second year law student at the Duquesne School of Law, in Pittsburgh! Morgan graduated in May 2021 from The George Washington University, double majoring in Communication and Organizational Science. Her time in Washington, DC gave her the opportunity to intern with many companies in PR, like Keybridge Communications, as well as in legislation on Capitol Hill. She comes to the Brave Women Project with the tenacity of a law student who lived in Washington, DC during the start of the coronavirus!
We love Morgan because she uses her strong communication skills to make an impact and do brave things. She has been working with Holly for many years and helped to get BWP off of the ground, from the beginning. One of those original brave women creating a space for women to do brave things.
Morgan's creative insights, willingness to learn anything, and positive attitude endears her to us. Morgan loves to workout, golf, spend time with friends and family, and pretend she knows what she’s doing when assigned any BWP task. She loves being back in Pittsburgh as an "adult" now, even though she grew up here, getting to know restaurants and fun places around the city.
chair of the board
Mary Richter has a great appreciation for the link between community and bravery—growing up with Italian immigrant parents, Mary witnessed firsthand how the gathering of a community (usually around a great meal) bolsters bravery. As Mary recognized her talents, she pursued a degree in Accounting from Duquesne University, became a Certified Public Accountant, and is now a tax shareholder with a 25 year history of serving tax clients.
Professionally, Mary has worked in both public accounting and private industry and has a diverse tax background. Her experience in federal, state and international tax and business issues has provided dedicated client service to multinational manufacturing and service entities in all phases of the business cycle, from start-up to exit strategy. Mary's experience includes domestic and international tax planning, tax credits, accounting for income taxes and specific transaction planning and implementation for both public and private companies. Daily, as a tax shareholder at Schneider Downs, Mary focuses on helping clients with international tax issues and opportunities.
Mary earned her degree in accounting at Duquesne University, and in addition to her professional leadership, has many ties to the local and global community in serving as Chair for PrimeGlobal International Tax Group (North America), as Board Member for Magee-Women’s Research Institute & Foundation and Western Pennsylvania District Export Council (DEC), and as past Board Chair for ACHIEVA and Co-founder of Western PA Global Business Forum. She serves on the Executive Team for United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania Women’s Leadership Council and is a member of the American and Pennsylvania Institutes of Certified Public Accountants. We are so very grateful for Mary’s experiences as she joins the Board for Brave Women Project. She’s also been involved in mentoring for both women and men and is involved with her firm’s women’s leadership initiative.
Mary Richter has been a champion for Brave Women Project since the very beginning, and brings so much more than deep experience and knowledge from her industry—she brings her seemingly boundless energy, passionate commitment to providing opportunities and a model for professional women to demonstrate bravery, love of dogs and NHL hockey and unmatched expertise in Italian cooking!
Kelli A. Komondor is a Visibility Strategist and the CEO at K2 Creative, LLC. Her focus is helping entrepreneurs, authors, coaches, speakers, and small businesses expand their reach with sensible and strategic visibility, marketing, and branding solutions.
What’s so brave about Kelli, you ask?
In December 2019 she was diagnosed with type II diabetes.
Once the tears dried and the pantry and refrigerator were restocked, she told anyone who would listen that they were about to witness The Year of Kelli – slated for 2020. Although not the year she envisioned, she stayed the course, and by June K2 Creative was a genuine business with real clients. In November, after a particularly emotional coaching session with a dear friend, she decided to share her life-long struggle with Imposter Syndrome with the world. She gathered twenty fearless females and created the Amazon bestselling anthology Twenty Won: 21 Female Entrepreneurs Share Their Stories of Resilience During a Global Crisis. Her chapter, “From Imposter to Inspiration” details how the “gifted, popular girl” - who should’ve been a no-brainer four-year collegiate - dropped out of community college and took a more scenic route to a professional career. She has had the pleasure of taking Twenty Won beyond the bookshelf, speaking on the book and on Imposter Syndrome to hundreds through conferences, workshops, podcasts, and livestream presentations.
She has been interviewed on outlets across the nation - and globally!
In addition to being a founding member and serving on BWP’s board,
Kelli is a member of Women’s Business Network (WBN) where she is on the marketing committee and is her chapter’s secretary.
Kelli is a “walker” (Much slower than a runner!) logging about 1,500 miles a year.
In her free time, you’ll find her listening to 1990’s and early 2000’s alternative rock, entertaining friends and family, drinking wine, and cheering on the Steelers.
She lives in the little borough of Port Vue with her husband Rob and their Yorkie Poo Mia. Their smart and compassionate kids, Cameron and Kayla, both live less than three miles from mum and dad and are continual proof that there are still good, caring people in this world. Kelli is a lover of love, writing, and food… and a hater of hate, chaos, and stemless wine glasses.
Kayla Komondor is a PhD student at the University of Pittsburgh in the Department of Biological Sciences studying Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology. Kayla’s bravery is shown by reaching well outside of her comfort zone as a first-generation college student. Her currently NIH funded PhD research focuses on different aspects of fertilization. While at Pitt, Kayla has served on the Biological Sciences Graduate Student Organization as the Social Chair, the Department Retreat Planning Committee, and as a peer and rotation student mentor to new and incoming graduate students.
Kayla graduated Summa Cum Laude from Robert Morris University with a Bachelor of Science in Biology and a minor in Chemistry. While at RMU she completed her internship at the Gastrointestinal Mucosal Laboratory, formerly known as the McGowan Lab, at Magee-Womens Research Institute and Foundation. Kayla was also a STEM Outreach Ambassador at RMU where she promoted scientific literacy and encouraged students to take interest in STEM-related career paths within school districts around Pittsburgh. She was also a member of the Alpha Chi Honor Society, Beta Beta Beta Honors Biology Society, Alpha Epsilon Delta Pre-Medicine Honors Society, and served as President of the Biology Club. She was awarded the Dean’s Excellence Award, the Dean’s Scholar Award, and the Renaissance Award – awarded to students who completed all parts of the Student Engagement Transcript – Arts, Culture, & Creativity, Professional Experience, Transcultural/Global Experiences, Leadership, Undergraduate Research, and Service.
Her volunteer efforts outside of her educational volunteering include committee member of Cindy’s Memorial Bark Park and past work with Fund it Forward and The Pink Pamper.
On track to earn her PhD in 2024, Kayla’s future plans include continued research in reproduction and women’s health in relation to fertility.
When Kayla is not doing research, she loves to spend time with her friends, family and her dog, Maggie. You can find her attending trivia, listening to all genres of music, reading, working out, listening to true crime podcasts, and watching the latest Marvel movie or show.
As part of the Brave Women Project, Kayla is hoping to encourage growth and empowerment and to push other women to step outside their comfort zone.