Innovation Portal is a nonprofit incubator and innovation hub accelerating startup growth in Southwest Alabama and the central Gulf Coast.
Innovation Portal provides a growth-focused space and community for entrepreneurs, innovators, and creatives to work and connect. In addition to amazing workspace, we provide targeted programming to encourage successful launch, development, and scaling of local ventures.
We are building a diverse, inclusive, and dynamic startup ecosystem and value our strategic partnerships with community organizations and leaders. We design services, programs, and activities to build community and support founders and their successful advancement through the startup lifecycle.
We’re a small, impact-driven team hell-bent on cultivating economic development, diversity, and health in our region.
Michelle has been a startup cheerleader for over 15 years. Originally from Mobile, AL she earned her Bachelor of Science in Business Management with a major in Marketing from the University of South Alabama (South). Soon after graduating from South, she moved to Colorado where she earned a Master of Business Administration from the University of Colorado at Denver (CU Denver) and spent nearly 15 years supporting entrepreneurs and early-stage startups. Michelle started supporting entrepreneurs in her role as Program Manager at the entrepreneurship center at CU Denver. In addition to the administrative, operational, and financial functions of this role, she coordinated the program’s curriculum, incubator, student-lead venture capital fund, and business plan competition. She then became the Executive Director of Peak Startup, a non-profit dedicated to building the startup ecosystem in Southern Colorado and supporting high-growth startup ventures through events, education, and mentoring. While at Peak Startup, Michelle was responsible for coordinating notable events such as Startup Week, Startup Weekend, and Pitch Night, developed a series of investor pitch preparation programs, and was called upon as the pitch expert in the region. Michelle also served as a Program and Operational Specialist to help develop Colorado Springs’ 1st tech accelerator program: Exponential Impact. Throughout her career, Michelle has provided mentoring, coaching, and support to 1,000s of early-stage founders.
Michelle’s role as the Executive Director of Innovation Portal allows her to utilize all of her experience in program development, resource curating and connecting, non-profit management, and startup community building to fulfill her passion of fostering economic vitality in her hometown.
She holds the following positions to support the greater innovation and entrepreneurial community:
Jessica serves as the Program Coordinator here at Innovation Portal. Her role within the organization includes overseeing program development and startup consulting. Between connecting with Portal’s network of mentors, founder relations, and community partners, she’s fueling up on a lavender latte and covering our walls with sticky notes prepping for our next program and community partnership.
Jessica has over 20 years experience in varying fields including administration, event planning, and non-profit + business development. Outside of 358 STL, you can find her rocking her small business and coordinating your next big event– be it wedding or corporate fundraiser. Everyone needs a Jes in their life.
Jessica is passionate about growing the Gulf Coast community and is involved with several local organizations that do just that. This includes serving on the Executive Board of Directors for the Eastern Shore Chamber of Commerce, The Spanish Fort Education Enrichment Foundation and The Greek Fest Charity Gala Agape Board. She is also an active supporter of various organizations such as Victory Health Partners and Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce. Her hope and efforts for the Mobile area is sustained economic growth and a place that her kids will be proud to call home.
Haley Darby serves as the Marketing Manager at Innovation Portal with years of experience in varying fields. Her successful experience includes being a serial entrepreneur, digital media manager, SEO and ad campaign specialist, and graphic designer. Haley thrives off her photography work and regularly mentors creatives in photography business development, client management, and wedding industry focused photography. She is a strong believer in the power of positive thinking in the workplace, and regularly works to create a community environment where everyone can flourish. Haley enjoys traveling with her husband, cultivating community at their church, and savoring the best third-wave coffee in town.
Haley has dedicated her focus to understanding who our local startup founders are and how she can help be a resource to them. She welcomes members to explore, grow, and deepen their connection to other like-minded people in the greater Mobile area.
Sally is the Community Coordinator for the Portal team. She is a Tennessee native, with strong ties to Mobile and Baldwin Counties, Birmingham, and north Florida, growing up with family in Loxley and Pensacola and spending many seasons in the Gulf Coast waters. After living in five states and two countries within a six-year period, she and her husband and new-ish baby girl (and two pups) are finally settled in Gulf Shores. Sally says, “I have learned to never say never, so I feel very strongly that I will kick, scream, and fight if made to leave Lower Alabama. My politics do not always align, but I feel a magnetic connection to the people and environment here. I see the potential and want to be a part of real, meaningful growth in our region.” Sally has a Master’s degree in Industrial-Organizational Psychology from Valdosta State University (GA), and received her Bachelor’s degree from Spring Hill College in Mobile, AL (Go Badgers!). She has nine years of professional experience within industries such as Financial Services, Retail, Healthcare, Higher Education, and Agriculture. Sally has designed and managed initiatives and projects pertaining to organizational change, training and organizational development, and software implementations via the application of stakeholder analysis and engagement, communication planning, knowledge transfer, and performance appraisal. Outside of the office, she enjoys painting and creating art with mixed media, experimenting in the kitchen with family recipes, porch sitting at sunset, making her daughter laugh and watching her learn, and the occasional game of volleyball.