Andrew Cherng – Co-CEO & C0-Chairman Panda Express

Andrew Cherng, CEO and Chairman Panda Express

Andrew Cherng is Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Panda Express. He and his wife Peggy started the business a few years out of graduate school and have since grown it to nearly 2400 locations; mostly privately held and not franchised. Uncle Andrew, as I know him, was an investor in my company, snacki, in the early 2000s and I learned a lot about management and operations from him as he mentored me through that exciting chapter of my career. He’s always had a deep passion for people whether guests or employees.  


What strikes me about Panda is that they’re known for cultivating talent from within. They care for their teams and train people in all aspects of the business. We talk about how his hiring philosophy has changed over the years.  Andrew truly believes that people who develop good work habits can take that with them everywhere.

I just KNOW you’re going to learn so much from Andrew. He started in the kitchen and now delights us with fresh, delicious food, as well as fantastic leadership and management insights on this episode of MENTOR dna

About Andrew Cherng

As Co-Founder, Co-Chair and Co-CEO, Andrew Cherng is the visionary behind Panda Restaurant Group. His business insights have propelled Panda to become the world leader in Asian dining experiences, while his passion for continuous learning inspires a culture where associates are dedicated to developing their full potential.

Andrew’s business acumen has been recognized by Forbes magazine, the Los Angeles Business Journal and the Asia Society of Southern California. He was conferred an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters by California State Polytechnic University, Pomona and is a member of the International Advisory Board for the William F. Harrah College of Hospitality at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Under Andrew’s leadership, Panda Restaurant Group was named one of America’s best employers by Forbes and ranked the number one Asian quick-service concept by QSR. Additionally, he along with Panda Restaurant Group Co-Chairman and Co-CEO Peggy Cherng, have been inducted into the National Restaurant Association’s Hall of Fame and named Carnegie Corporation’s Great Immigrants.

Andrew earned a Bachelor of Science in mathematics from Baker University and Master of Applied Mathematics from the University of Missouri.

Jane Mosbacher Morris – Founder & CEO To the Market

Jane Mosbacher Morris - 2022 To the Market

Growing up, I was a tomboy through and through and spent more time with guys than girls. It wasn’t until college that I truly appreciated the importance of having a support group of women. Cut to 25 years later when I finally felt comfortable attending an all-women’s conference, where I met Jane Mosbacher Morris, author of Buy the Change You Want to See. Her story painted a picture of a young girl destined to be an entrepreneur.

Though the entrepreneurship seeds were sown, through elementary and middle school, Jane really aspired to be a professional actress.  Her story as an entrepreneur continues after 9/11 during Jane’s high school years, stirring a strong passion to help others. It led her to study at Georgetown, landing an internship at the U.S. State Dept and turning that into a full time gig during her senior year. Working in Counterterrorism eventually led to Jane to find her true passion of empowering women around the world to have dignified work.

She’s since started To the Market, a digital supply chain management tool for ethically and sustainably sourced goods, matching retailers with makers around the world.   

Jane is an inspirational young leader and you’re going to love our conversation on MENTOR dna. 

Jane Mosbacher Morris - To the Market CEO
To the Market Supply Chain Management Ethical and Sustainable
To the Market Supply Chain Management Ethical and Sustainable

About Jane Mosbacher Morris

Jane Mosbacher Morris is Founder and CEO of TO THE MARKET, a company that connects businesses and consumers to ethically made products from around the world. Clients include Bloomingdale’s, Dillards, and Target; and investors include Techstars and Farfetch.

Jane previously served as the Director of Humanitarian Action for the McCain Institute for International Leadership and currently serves on the Institute’s Human Trafficking Advisory Council. Prior to joining the Institute, she worked in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Counterterrorism and in the Secretary’s Office of Global Women’s Issues. Jane is a member of VF Corporation’s Advisory Council on Responsible Sourcing (owner of Van’s, Timberland, Wrangler, The North Face, and others). She is also a term member at the Council on Foreign Relations and a member of the CARE Board of Directors.

She is the author of Penguin Random House/Tarcher Perigee book, Buy the Change You Want to See: Use Your Purchasing Power to Make the World a Better Place (January 29, 2019). The book has been featured on platforms ranging from CNN, Bloomberg, and Forbes to Marie Claire. The book was a Target Non-Fiction Best-Seller, a #1 Consumer Guide on Amazon, and a #1 New Business Ethics Release on Amazon.

In 2020, Fortune Magazine named Jane one of the 25 World’s Greatest Leaders because of her response to COVID-19. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Foreign Service from Georgetown University and an MBA from Columbia Business School. She is married to fellow entrepreneur Nate Morris of Kentucky.

Meesh Pierce – advisor, board member, podcaster

meesh pierce MENTOR dna podcast host

Welp, here it is. An episode where I get interviewed on my own show. Weird. Uncomfortable. Awkward. Yes, all of those things!

BUT, I was able to convince Wharton Professor Pete Fader to interview me! We chat about how I landed my first internship in the music industry, my transition into tech, and the crazy and bold things I’ve said to colleagues and bosses.

Leadership podcasts allow seasoned execs to share their stories and I hope you enjoy my journey. 

About Meesh Pierce

Meesh Pierce is a former tech executive who started her career in entertainment during the heyday of grunge rock. Her early days at Disney and Sony Music introduced her to the corporate world and importance of connectedness.

She worked long hours answering phones, faxing Winnie the Pooh and Lion King toy concepts to China, and sneaking into hole-in-the-wall concerts until the wee hours. During the early internet days, Meesh bet that tech was going to materially change the entertainment world, so she headed back to Philly for her 2nd stint at Wharton.

As a freshly-minted business school grad, she stepped into product management gigs for the likes of NBC, Sony Digital Entertainment, and Ticketmaster.

A risk taker, Meesh started an early dot com custom merch company, snacki, in the late 90s. A few years later, she took an opportunity to learn commercial and residential real estate development from a seasoned investor.

She spent 15 years as a hired gun consultant  stepping into difficult 1-2 year projects; those that needed someone adept at strategy, product and marketing, and comfortable navigating across divisions and up to the c-suite and board. As an independent consultant, she’s worked with Epson, Mercedes (AutoGravity), Fandango (NBC), and Amor Boutique Hotel amongst others.

Meesh now serves on boards, as advisor to several organizations, and mentor to many. She loves using her experience to make connections between people and ideas.

Meesh is equally left and right-brained. She drives an F-150 to support her furniture painting habits as there’s rarely an abandoned roadside furniture piece she doesn’t stop to investigate. She started documenting her furniture painting techniques at and learned a great deal about SEO through her personal journey as a blogger.

She’s also an avid gardener and has built her own hydroponics greenhouse with a fully-functioning set-up for tomato and lettuce farming.

Meesh loves people and mentoring. She has many mentees stretching across all walks of life; from Broadway stars, to growth-minded entrepreneurs, to people in career or life transitions.   

Pete Fader – Wharton Marketing Professor

wharton professor pete fader

I’ve always had a proclivity for marketing and curiosity for patterns. When I met marketing Professor Pete Fader, I didn’t realize what a big impact he would have on my career. At 26, he was one of the youngest professors at the Wharton School, and 10 years later had become one of the school’s favorites – teaching undergrad, MBA, and pHd students. 

His research first focused on consumer products, but then shifted into the music and entertainment industry where he served as an expert testifying on behalf of Napster in the late 90s. 

As a professor, he engages his students to really think about customers in a way that most people don’t – NOT every customer is the same. Some are far more profitable than others. So how do you lead your organization to truly understand and focus on customer centricity? Pete collaborated with some of his pHd students to help companies do just that.

With two successful data-driven businesses under his belt and 35 years at the finest business school in the world, we have much to learn from this humble leader who likely will never forget your phone number.

If you find numbers interesting, I highly recommend checking out Pete’s super duper old school site:


Apteryx from BC Comics

About Professor Pete Fader

Peter S. Fader’s expertise centers around the analysis of behavioral data to understand and forecast customer shopping/purchasing activities.

He works with firms from a wide range of industries, such as telecommunications, financial services, gaming/entertainment, retailing, and pharmaceuticals. Managerial applications focus on topics such as customer relationship management, lifetime value of the customer, and sales forecasting for new products. Much of his research highlights the consistent (but often surprising) behavioral patterns that exist across these industries and other seemingly different domains.

In addition to his various roles and responsibilities at Wharton, Professor Fader co-founded a predictive analytics firm (Zodiac) in 2015, which was sold to Nike in 2018.  He then co-founded (and continues to run) Theta Equity Partners to commercialize his more recent work on “customer-based corporate valuation.”

Fader is the author of Customer Centricity: Focus on the Right Customers for Strategic Advantage and coauthor with Sarah E. Toms of the book The Customer Centricity Playbook. He has been quoted or featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Economist, The Washington Post, and on NPR, among other media. In 2017, Professor Fader was named by Advertising Age as one of its inaugural “25 Marketing Technology Trailblazers,” and was the only academic on the list.

Courtney Reed, Broadway Lead Actress

Courtney Reed headshot 2021 square

I met Courtney through our mutual friend and her former Aladdin Broadway cast mate, Rodney Ingram. Courtney’s a gem inside and out, truly exuding a calm and friendly confidence that’s welcoming and warm. 

It’s hard not to like Courtney with all that charm, but what I’ve come to really love about her is that she’s a strong business woman with spot-on sensibilities about marketing and finding moments that resonate with her audience and fans. 

I look forward to watching her next chapter unfold as she lives her bucket list dreams of playing Satine in Moulin Rouge’s US tour AND touring the world with Disney Princess the Concert. Amazing!!! 

Courtney Reed
Courtney Reed, Adam Jacobs,and James Monroe Iglehart Aladdin on Broadway
Courtney Reed and Adam Jacobs, Aladdin on Broadway
Courtney Reed and Adam Jacobs, Aladdin on Broadway
Courtney Reed and Adam Jacobs, Aladdin on Broadway
Courtney Reed Jasmine in Aladdin on Broadway
Courtney Reed Satine in Moulin Rouge
Courtney Reed In the Heights
Courtney Reed In the Heights
Courtney Reed Satine in Moulin Rouge
Courtney Reed Broadway Actress
Courtney Reed Cambodian Rock Band
Courtney Reed Cambodian Rock Band
Courtney Reed Cambodian Rock Band
Courtney Reed Mamma Mia

About Courtney Reed

Courtney Reed was last seen in Lauren Yee’s award-winning play Cambodian Rock Band at The Signature Theatre. She had the honor of originating the role of ‘Princess Jasmine’ in Disney’s smash hit, Aladdin on Broadway, directed by Casey Nicholaw for which she received a Grammy nomination, a role she reprised for 4 months in London’s West End production. Prior to Aladdin, she had the privilege of being a part of the closing company of the Tony Award Winning musical In the Heights written by Lin Manuel Miranda, in which she played ‘Carla,’ understudying ‘Nina’ and ‘Vanessa.’ She made her Broadway debut in Mama Mia! just a few months after graduating from the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University.

Over the past several years, she has appeared on such television shows as: Liza On Demand, Search Party, The Affair, Law & Order: SVU, White Collar, NYC 22, and CSI: NY, and her favorite, web series Submissions Only.

In 2018, Courtney debuted her first solo concert Confessions of a Broadway Princess at Feinstein’s/54 Below in New York City. She is also the founder of her all-female-run company Gagged Chokers, which has received praise in such magazines as People, People’s Style Watch, Teen Vogue, Cosmopolitan, Allure, Refinery 29, More, and Yahoo.

Since 2018, Courtney has partnered with other Broadway royalty to develop and produce what is now called Disney Princess the Concert. The show recently launched its world premiere in Saudi Arabia and plans to kick off the US tour in 2022. 

Simultaneously, Courtney will also star as Satine in the US touring company of multi-Tony winning Moulin Rouge

Twitter/Instagram/Snapchat: @RhodesReed @GaggedChokers

Braxton Woodham, Founder & President, Unfinished Labs

Braxton Woodham, Founder & President Unfinished Labs

Braxton and I started our tech careers together at USWeb/CKS, a web agency that serviced big entertainment brands like NBC, Sony Music, and so many more. In those days, teams were hand-coding websites. There weren’t any content management tools; just brute force.

Those were the early internet days and after I successfully migrated my entire team from NYC back to LA, I left to start my own consumer products company, snacki. Braxton and my paths have crossed several times since, working on projects at Sony Music Digital Ventures, Warner Home Video and Fandango.

Braxton has always  impressed me with his intellectual curiosity; always pushing the boundaries of what’s possible and why things are the way they are. He’s a naturally-gifted leader, effortlessly sitting at the center of a Venn diagram of business, tech, and philosophy. 

His passion for learning and trying new things without fear of failure is inspiring. He knows that one must fail to get to the next better idea. He’s had several successful and less-than-successful outings. And the work he’s now leading at Unfinished Labs is so clearly the culmination of all of his past work. It’s his life calling to build an open source platform so that people can control their own networks and their own data. How about that!? He believes that a global town hall shouldn’t be owned by any one person, company, platform or government. 

This is one of the most important ideas in this particular state of our world’s affairs and his work has massive geo-political implications. I encourage you to tune in to this fantastic episode as he shares his story of how he’s gotten to this point, and where he plans to go.

To learn more about Unfinished’s work, I encourage you to drop into their 2-day conference Sept 23-24, 2021 at The Shed in NYC.

Unfinished Labs’ Conference 2021 Details >>

About Braxton Woodham

Braxton Woodham, President of Unfinished Labs, formerly served as the Chief Technology and Product Officer at Fandango and was co-founder, President, and Chief Technology Officer at Sun Basket, where he continues to serve as a board member. Braxton also was co-founder and Executive Chairman at, a software company providing a platform and applications for systematic digital asset trading and co-founded Tap11, a real-time media analytics platform which was acquired by AVOS Systems in 2011.

Earlier, he was the CTO of InfoSpace’s mobile division where he was responsible for the infrastructure that serviced approximately three quarters of all mobile web traffic in North America. Braxton joined InfoSpace through the acquisition of Moviso, where he led the development of the V4 Digital Media Platform, which scaled by more than 100 times to generate over $1.5 billion in revenue across US, European and Australian mobile carriers.  Prior to joining Moviso / InfoSpace, Braxton served as Executive Director of Technology at Sony Music Digital Media Ventures, where he focused on new Internet initiatives including Keyhole, which was acquired by Google and relaunched as Google Earth.

Notably, Braxton served as Lead Propulsion Engineer for two Atlas missions and was a Captain in the United States Air Force. He holds a Bachelor of Engineering degree from Vanderbilt University.

Sumter Pendergrast, Founder Sidecar Doughnuts

Sumter Pendergrast, Founder Sidecar Doughnuts

I met Sumter on my honeymoon….b/c my husband invited him. That’s right! We invited friends to our honeymoon, which was a surf trip in Fiji. Why not?! Life’s too short to spend your honeymoon with complete strangers, right? 

Immediately, I knew that Sumter was my kind of person. He’s incredibly creative, loves music, and is a risk taker. At the time, Sumter was running a high-end t-shirt brand called EFCI. He sold into Fred Segal, Nordstrom, and those types of retailers. After 10 years, direct-to-consumer business models hadn’t yet taken hold, and despite huge margins, he realized that bootstrapping a clothing brand wasn’t sustainable. 

One afternoon, after he was a newlywed with a baby on the way, he sat in our family room playing guitar, and told us about his idea for a gourmet doughnut shop. Playing the older sibling role, we cautioned him against it…and boy were we wrong! Tune in to hear all about how Sumter took his passion for design and turned it into a high-successful and difficult-to-replicate business model! 

About Sumter Pendergrast

Sumter is a self-professed serial entrepreneur whose first passion is design. He spent 10 years in the fashion industry launching two brands. Then in 2012 he opted for a change of scenery. Inspired by the idea of re-inventing an American staple – the doughnut shop- he ventured into the food and beverage space where he took his knowledge of brand building and design and created Sidecar Doughnuts and Coffee

Sumter is the Founder and CEO of Sidecar Doughnuts and Coffee. Sidecar was launched in April of 2012 in Costa Mesa, CA. Currently Sidecar has six locations in Southern California (OC, LA, and SD) and is currently in construction on its 7th location, which is set to open January 2022.

Jason Hodell, CEO Skullcandy

Jason Hodell, CEO Skullcandy

Jason was one of the few married business school friends I had in Philly. I admired how he and his wife worked together through all the moves and changes a young Army family experiences. Jason and I shared a love for beach volleyball and found ourselves playing on an indoor team stacked with former collegiate players. Other teams would show up to tourneys wearing Goldman Sachs-sponsored unis while we’d roll in on an RV, sleep in the parking lot, and show up to the games squeezed into our high school and college jerseys. Life’s too short to take yourself too seriously…and we never did. But we always won which was never as important as having fun.

Jason’s leadership on and off the court has always left an impression on me. After business school, he worked on Wall St. and demonstrated a work ethic I’d never seen…ever. He was a beast putting in the hours to prove that he could make the transition as an Army Ranger into the corporate world. And he did. 

We have too many stories to share in this episode, but I know you’ll gain some important insights from our chat!

Jason Hodell is the CEO of Skullcandy, the original youth audio lifestyle brand based in
Park City, Utah. In 2020, Skullcandy was #2 to Apple in total headphones/earphones
sold in North America, and the leader in units and total dollars sold at < $100 MSRPs.
Skullcandy is globally distributed in over ninety countries with offices in Park City,
Vancouver, Shenzhen, and London. Prior to this role, he was the CFO/COO of
Skullcandy and helped lead the company through its public company life (Nasdaq:
SKUL) and the subsequent 2016 “take-private” transaction with Mill Road Capital.

Prior to joining Skullcandy, Jason was the CFO of Shopzilla/Bizrate, the largest family of
comparison shopping engines (CSEs) in global Internet retailing, the CFO / COO of
Move Networks, an IPTV technology pioneer acquired by EchoStar Corporation in 2010
to create SlingTV, and, earlier in his career, Jason was the Senior Director of Business
Operations at Digex (Nasdaq: DIGX), a cloud-computing and data center pioneer
acquired by MCI (now Verizon Business) in 2003 for ~$230m in firm value.
Prior to Digex, Jason was in the Technology Investment Banking group of JPMorgan,
focused on communications technology mergers and acquisitions and initial public
offerings. He later served as portfolio manager at Plainview Capital for five years,
ranked multiple times by BNY Mellon among the top 10 performing domestic small-cap-
value equity funds.
Jason received his B.S. in Economics (Mathematical) from the United States Military
Academy at West Point and then served for five years as an Infantry Officer in the U.S.
Army. Jason earned his MBA in Finance from the Wharton School, University of


Dan Smith, ALT-CMO and JimmyCase on MENTOR dna

I wasn’t totally prepared for what I was about to walk into…..mission control at the Playboy Studios with hundreds of TV screens on display! But I kept my cool and kept listening to how TV production works. Those were the early days when I’d just met Dan Smith, then VP Production for Playboy. What I love about Dan is that he’s a risk-taker, open-minded, non-judgmental, and always willing to listen and provide feedback on ideas.

We’ve since collaborated on numerous projects for the Wharton Club of Southern California, where he created a highly-successful Media & Entertainment networking group, and now runs Marketing Mondays. He now helps clients with branding and digital conversion rates through his company, ALT-CMO.

Dan loves to learn and leveraged his experiences at Playboy to truly learn global commerce distribution and digital marketing. This experience has served him well in a direct-to-consumer venture to sell JIMMYCASE, a phone case wallet using just-in-time manufacturing in California that’s distributed worldwide. He tinkered in his garage for 6 months perfecting JIMMYCASE’s design and now is finalizing an innovative yet simple pour-over coffee offering.  

MENTORdna with Meesh Pierce

About Dan Smith


Dan Smith started his career in the mailroom at a talent agency. From there, he worked for famed Academy-, Emmy- and Golden Globe Award-winning  Edgar Scherick. It was during a meeting with Ed and famed Samuel Goldwyn where Dan got his big chance to become VP Development and Production at American Gladiators.

He then moved on to Fox Family Channel which sold to Disney/ABC. Dan transitioned from family programming to adult programming at Playboy, where he rose the ranks to General Manager, Home Entertainment. As the adult programming market was starting to wane, Dan took the opportunity to hone his skills while running the home entertainment business, learning global manufacturing,  distribution, and digital marketing. 

Dan has parlayed his digital marketing expertise into a very scrappy and successful phone accessories business called JIMMYCASE, is about to launch a coffee-related product and is also CEO of ALT-CMO, a marketing consultancy focused on digital marketing and branding.