Keynote Speaker Biographies

Monday Luncheon Keynote Speaker

Maria Contreras-Sweet

Contreras-Sweet is a successful entrepreneur, business executive, and state cabinet official. Throughout her career in the public and private sector, she has been a champion of diversity, access to capital and equal opportunity for all Americans.

Prior to her arrival in Washington, Contreras-Sweet founded ProAmérica Bank, the first Latino-formed commercial bank in California in more than 35 years. As the bank’s executive chairwoman, she focused on providing access to capital and counseling to small- and mid-size businesses in Los Angeles. She previously started Fortius Holdings, LLC, a venture capital firm that invested in small businesses.

Contreras-Sweet was the first Latina to hold a state cabinet post in California. As Secretary of Business, Transportation and Housing Agency, she managed 13 departments, including Caltrans, the California Highway Patrol, the Department of Motor Vehicles and the Department of Financial Institutions. She managed a $14 billion budget and a workforce of more than 42,000 employees during her five-year tenure. She led in the creation of the state’s Department of Managed Health Care and its Office of Patient Advocate and in the implementation of a $2.1 billion housing bond that stimulated the state’s economy. During California’s energy crisis, she chaired the finance committee of the state’s electrical power grid, CA-ISO, helping to stabilize the state’s volatile energy market.

Contreras-Sweet entered the private sector as the director of public affairs for Westinghouse’s 7-Up / RC Bottling Company. She rose to vice president and later became an equity partner in the company.

Contreras-Sweet was a founding director of The California Endowment, a multi-billion dollar philanthropic health foundation. She was appointed by the United States Senate to serve on the Federal Glass Ceiling Commission, created to help break down barriers between women and the executive suite. In 1989, Contreras-Sweet founded Hispanas Organized for Political Equality (HOPE), a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy organization dedicated to encouraging Latinas to engage more fully in the democratic process.

Born in Guadalajara, Mexico, Contreras-Sweet is a first-generation immigrant who came to America at age 5 with her mother and five siblings. She is married to Ray Sweet, and they have three children and a granddaughter.

Tuesday Luncheon Keynote Speaker

Esteban Escobar, CEO & Executive Producer
5:00 Films & Media

About Esteban:
One day, like most toddlers, Esteban started asking ‘why?’, but unlike most toddlers, he never stopped. Thirty-some years (and four daughters of his own) later, his obsession with learning new things and challenging the status quo has led to vast and varied experiences; which has led to a unique life with a unique perspective; which has led to discoveries, inventions, innovations and revelations; which has led to him building a thriving video marketing business for mission-driven organizations; which has led to him standing on a stage sharing his discoveries with you.

About 5:00 Films & Media:
Founded in 2004 as a boutique video production company, 5:00 Films & Media has grown into a full-service video marketing agency that partners with mission-based organizations to help them connect their mission with their audience. They have delivered hundreds of successful projects across five continents and 40 US States, winning more than 60 awards along the way, including the 2011 “Best of Show” film selection at the International Davey Awards.