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. She has focused her career on entrepreneur support, startup facilitation, business development, and organizational improvement. She has provided mentoring and coaching to entrepreneurs of all types, in various sectors, and across multiple subjects. Most notably, she has provided investor pitch coaching to early stage startups, but has also provided other leadership, organizational structure, HR, funding, and fundamental startup support.
Originally from Mobile, Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science in Business Management with a major in Marketing from the University of South Alabama (USA). She spent most of her career in Colorado working to support entrepreneurs and early-stage startups and is now utilizing her experience to support the local economy. Michelle earned a Master of Business Administration from the University of Colorado at Denver (CU Denver). Soon after graduating, she became the Program Manager for the Bard (now Jake Jabs) Center for Entrepreneurship at CU Denver. While in this position, she helped to support Denver’s inaugural Startup Week, which is now the largest in the world. After moving to Colorado Springs, Michelle became the Executive Director of Peak Startup, an entrepreneurial hub that is cultivating the city’s startup ecosystem. Michelle also served as a Program and Operational Specialist at Exponential Impact, a 14-week accelerator for tech startups.
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 Community and 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.
New to the startup world, Haley has dedicated her focus to understanding who our local startup founders are and how she can help be a resource to them from Innovation Portal’s hub. As Portal’s building opens, she welcomes members to explore, grow, and deepen their connection to other like-minded people in the greater Mobile area.
Owner & President, Heritage Homes
Finance & Ops, Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce
Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce
University of South Alabama
Alabama Pipe Welders Academy &
Small Business Development Center,
University of Mobile
Red Square Agency