Leadership Team

Aken Tong - Founder & President

Born and raised in South Sudan, Aken Tong has a vast experiences working in the field of Governance and Management starting with the United Nations in his native region of the Sudans where he was an administrator for over three years.

He left the UN's job to resume his studies in a Pan African Leadership School in South Africa and later came to the United States on an academic tour where is pursuing engineering degree. While in the US, he has been involved in exciting research discoveries which are primarily geared towards solving the third world’s numerous challenges.

Mr. Tong is passionate about social entrepreneurship and leadership. He is now running couple other successful businesses on the continent.

Bul Bul - Program Manager

Bul Bul is a native of South Sudan. Bul, over a decade, has worked with various organizations in South Sudan where his skills on community mobilization and leadership strategy featured prominently among the communities he worked with.

Bul first began as a youth secretary in his home county and rose to becoming a relief field monitor for the South Sudan Relief commission. Given his impactful work with the communities, he, together with his peers, opened a peace market where rivaling communities, the Dinka Malual, Rizegat and Misseriya could peacefully coexist.

With a track record in helping his community, Bul was elected Member of Parliament representing his constituency he has worked so hard and long to help. He was later elected as the Assembly chief Whip within the enlarged administrative states in South Sudan. Bul is now working as a Commissioner of State Revenue Authority for Aweil East State.

He is an African Graduate University with a diploma in International Relations and Diplomatic Studies.

Board of Directors

Justin Recla - President

Justin Recla has 14 years experience and advanced training with the US Army and government defense contractors abroad. He is a subject matter expert in tactical questioning, surveillance, counter espionage, threat and vulnerability assessments, and investigative techniques.

He developed standards for these specialties while working for the US Army. He is an educator in concepts of effective communication and has taught hundreds of future federal agents how to conduct interviews and report on investigative functions.

Justin brings his skills from the military sector and delivers them the boardroom to help business owners protect their two most valuable assets: Time & Money.

Randy Harmon - Vice President

Global Agricultural Consumer Products professional in processing, food safety, supply chain, operations, marketing, sales, packaging and both direct and indirect sales. Success is driven by working with cross functional teams, using multiple channels of distribution in reaching multiple channels of global trade.

Experience includes Starbucks Corporate in opening Mexico, Central America and Pacific Rim, and at Costco Corporate with Anderson Daymon in the sourcing of Agricultural products for Kirkland Signature branded products.

Over the past ten years within my own company and working with SunOpta, Cherry Central Co-Op, Superior Foods, Peterson Farms, Morgan Farms, Eco-Pack Greenbox, Revolution Tea, Starbuck’s, Walmart in sourcing, product development, supply chain and distribution expansion to global markets.

I enjoy working from the seed of the farmer to the table of consumers at all points of the globe.

Alan Knobloch - Fundraising

Alan worked in the non-profit sector for 30 years. He was, until recently a Senior Associate Director of Development at The Nature Conservancy Arizona. Prior to this, Alan served as Principal Gifts Officer at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Barrow Neurological Institute, Director of Gift Planning for Phoenix Children’s Hospital Foundation and held the same position with Valley of the Sun United Way in Phoenix, Arizona.

He also has experience as a consultant serving in a Partnership role with The Balser Group, a full service organizational development and fundraising consulting firm. In my first development role, He went on to spend 12 years with the American Cancer Society as Director of Planned Giving and Director of Development for Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico. Alan is a Certified Fund Raising Executive from the Association of Fund Raising Professionals and earned a diploma from the National Planned Giving Institute from the College of William and Mary.

He has served as the President of the Greater Arizona Planned Giving Roundtable in Phoenix and as a member of the Board of Directors of the Central Arizona Estate Planning Council. His other service include Greater Arizona and San Diego chapters of the Association of Fundraising Professionals and received the Greater Arizona Chapter’s President’s Award in 2012.

John Schaumburg - Secretary

John Schaumburg is a recently retired pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). He has served 4 congregations during his 45 years since ordination in 1972. Two of the congregations were in Arizona, two in California.

His final call was to the ELCA and the Grand Canyon Synod (GCS). John served as the Director for Evangelical Mission (DEM) in the GCS. This position supports existing congregations that are in need of renewal and the establishment of new congregations.

Through out his ministry John has been an advocate for the World Hunger Appeal (WHA) of the ELCA. Twice he served as the synodical chair for the WHA. As pastor of Lutheran congregations in both Flagstaff and Mesa, he helped to create the Flagstaff Family Food Center: Food Bank and Kitchen and established a First Evangelical Lutheran Church Food Pantry in Mesa. Both actively serve hundreds of residents who are in need of food support for their families.

In retirement, John teaches Fly Tying and Fly Fishing to Veterans with disabilities in a national program called Healing Water Fly Fishing Project. He is looking forward to participating with Seeding Mercy to bring hope and justice to the people of South Sudan through this incredible adventure and opportunity to make a real difference in people’s lives.

John in married to Chris and will celebrate their 50th anniversary in August 2018. They have one daughter, Amy, who is an elementary school teacher. Ethan is their 16 year old grandson, a High School sophomore.

Committee Heads

Brion Crum - Head of Business Development

For over a dozen years, Brion Crum has been advising early stage, high growth potential companies involved in manufacturing, software, IT, clean tech, nanotechnology, biotechnology, renewable energy and non-profit endeavors.

One of these high growth companies is Caliber: The Wealth Development Company. Brion is the Director of Strategic Relationships where his primarily role is to drive revenue and profitability to all business units and increase shareholder value for their investors. Caliber supports the local business community by hosting Caliber Summit events that provide speakers on topics of interest to business owners, entrepreneurs and investors. We also have a crowd-funding portal that will be used to raise capital for Arizona businesses and projects.

Caliber’s flagship investment vehicle has produced a 28.3% gain to our clients in 2013 and 19% gain in 2014. Through diligent acquisitions and superior management we are targeting a 20%+ internal rate of return in this investment and similar in others. Caliber is developing and strengthening relationships with our clients, strategic partners, investors, economic developers, community based organizations and non-profits. We will be launching an equity crowd-funding portal, www.venturelocalist.com in Q3 2015 which will allow greater access to a portfolio of income producing real estate to main street investors so they can invest locally.

Brion serves as President of the Leadership council for Playworks Arizona whose mission is to improve the health and well-being of children by increasing opportunities for physical activity and safe, meaningful play. In the Greater Phoenix area, Playworks partners with corporations, foundations and individuals who share their commitment and passion to improve education and children’s well being.

Brion has been a member of Phoenix Green Chamber of Commerce, Valley Partnership, and Arizona Technology Council which allow him to leverage these resources on efforts that will make Arizona a better place to live and do business.

Advisory Board

Elizabeth A. Winter

Elizabeth A. Winter, ESQ. has been involved in the practice of law since 1975. She has training and experience in civil law, divorce mediation, and arbitration. Her professional membership includes the State Bar of Arizona. Prior professional memberships include the Maricopa County Bar Association, Alternative Dispute Resolution Committee Past Chair; Arizona Dispute Resolution Association, Past President; Maricopa Alternative Dispute Resolution Association, Past President; Practitioner Member of the Association For Conflict Resolution; and Maricopa County Association of Family Mediators, Past President.

Elizabeth was recognized in the publication Outstanding Young Women of America for two consecutive years and was quoted on her definition of “success” in the publication Who’s Who of American Women.

“SUCCESS lies within the attainment of sought after inner treasures. It is not measured by such external means as position, power, prestige or prosperity.”

Josh Tickell

Josh Tickell is a Sundance Award Winning film director, bestselling author and thought leader in the fields of health, climate and alternative energy. In 1997, Josh’s vividly painted “Veggie Van” made headlines across the United States as it picked up used frying oil and turned it into fuel. His subsequent movie, FUEL, went to theaters globally and was shown in the White House.

He is author of the forthcoming book KISS THE GROUND (KissTheGroundBook.com). Along with his co-directing partner and wife, Rebecca Harrell Tickell, as well as Executive Producer Leonardo DiCaprio and the Kiss the Ground nonprofit team, he is the co-director and producer of the upcoming documentary also titled KISS THE GROUND.