Board of Directors
Nizam Ali, Ben’s Chili Bowl & Ben’s Next Door
A Washington, DC native, Nizam has been working in his family’s historic restaurant, Ben’s Chili Bowl, since he was a child. Opened in 1958 on U Street by his parents Ben and Virginia Ali, it was there that he learned some basic fundamental business principles including customer service, business and work ethics, and giving back to the community.
When Nizam was 18 years old he attended the University of Virginia, where he would later receive a B.A. in Sociology. Here, he fell in love with radio, DJ’ing on three different stations simultaneously. He also had internships at Washington’s WKYS, WHUR, and BET, which led to paid positions at the latter two stations. It was these experiences that Nizam would later call upon to both market and publicize Ben’s.
After college, Nizam spent the next year working at “The Bowl.” Looking for what he thought must be an easier career option, he began applying to law schools. Three years later, he received his J.D. from the University of Maryland School of Law; after passing the bar, he began practicing law in Maryland.
Less than a year later, after working with his family to plan and execute a 40th anniversary celebration for both Ben’s Chili Bowl and his parents, Nizam rediscovered the love that so many people had for the Chili Bowl and decided to return full-time to Ben’s. Since then, he and his brother Kamal have worked tirelessly to not only continue the legacy that his parents created, but to take Ben’s to the next level.
Over the years, Nizam has been integral in the success and growth of the Ben’s brand. He has helped open Ben’s locations at Nationals Park and FedEx Field, and looks forward to opening another in a newly acquired property on H Street. He and his family have also enjoyed success with their restaurant and bar Ben’s Next Door, a Ben’s Chili Bowl gift shop, and their online store where customers can order Ben’s favorites to be shipped to any of the 50 states.
Nizam’s other rewarding accomplishments have been the creation of a Ben’s Chili Bowl smartphone app, partnering with Cultural Tourism DC to open DC’s first neighborhood visitors center above Next Door, and co-authoring the book Ben’s Chili Bowl: 50 Years of a Washington DC Landmark. Additionally, Nizam worked hand-in hand with The George Washington University’s Gelman Library, who has now archived all of his family’s historic papers and Ben’s Chili Bowl artifacts.
Nizam currently serves on the Board of Destination DC and is a former Board member of Teaching For Change. He is married to Jyotika Vazirani, a psychiatric nurse practitioner and psychotherapist and the two have a wonderful 6-year old son named Tariq.
Andy Shallal, Busboys and Poets & Eatonville
Anas “Andy” Shallal is an artist and social entrepreneur. He was born in Iraq and moved to Washington DC with his family in 1966.
He is the founder of Busboys and Poets, a restaurant, bookstore, fair trade market and a community where racial and cultural connections are consciously uplifted. A space where art, culture and politics intentionally collide. A place to feed your body, mind and soul. Busboys and Poets is named after the great poet Langston Hughes, who was known as the busboy-poet. Since its inception Busboys and Poets has been a magnate for book talks, community gatherings, panel discussion and networking. Currently there are 3 Busboys and Poets in DC, MD and VA.
In the summer of 2009, Shallal opened Eatonville Restaurant, a southern themed restaurant with artwork, murals and food that pays homage to Zora Neale Hurston. Shallal’s businesses are B Corporations that adhere to sustainable business practices. He has received numerous awards including the Mayor’s Arts Award, the Mayor’s Environmental Award.
Shallal has founded or co-founded several http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peace_movementpeace and justice organizations and holds leadership positions in numerous others. He is the treasurer for the Institute for Policy Studies and the Chairman of Think Local First DC, a local business association. He also sits on the board of several arts and peace organizations and continues to make his hometown of Washington DC a more livable community.
He received his bachelors degree from Catholic University and has attended Howard University Medical School and The School for Conflict Analysis at George Mason.
Michel Heitstuman, Flavor Magazine & Encore Performance Consulting
Michel is an executive with more than 25 years of entrepreneurial experience across several industries. Michel is currently CEO of Encore Performance Consulting, a consulting firm focused on taking small businesses to their next level. He is also Chief Operating Officer of Flavor Magazine, a regional food and wine publication with a circulation of over 12,000. Previously he was head of Power Design & Development, an architectural design and construction company focused on residential renovations in Paris, Washington D.C., Virginia and Florida. Prior to this, Michel was CEO of On The Fly, a local organic and natural food company with seven mobile locations and five others located in gyms and museums in Washington D.C. As VP of Business Development with Upaid Systems, a worldwide mobile payment platform, Michel led the acquisition, integration, and management of two Brazilian software companies and development of a patent portfolio of over 200 patents and claims. Prior to that, Michel founded a global telecom alliance to acquire the telecommunications arm of the BBC. Michel co-founded AOL Enterprise (the B-to-B division of AOL), and as Director of Business Development was responsible for all operations. Michel founded the contracts group for the IBM Consulting Division responsible for licensing and acquisition of all non-IBM products and services provided to IBM’s customers. Michel received a B.S. in Business and a B.S.E. in Engineering from Arizona State University. He earned an MBA in Finance from George Washington University and was awarded a Fulbright scholarship.
Raj Aggarwal, Provoc
Raj has more than 20 years of experience as a graphic artist and designer. As president, he oversees Provoc’s major branding, technology, design and print campaigns with clients such as Save Darfur Coalition, Network for Good, Verizon, Earth Policy Institute, the Aspen Institute and many more. He is devoted to helping clients use their external branding and communications to revolutionize the way they do business, promote their cause and see themselves in relationship to all of their stakeholders.
Raj founded Provoc (formerly Joint Concepts) in 1999 and serves as its Principal. In 12 years time he has seen it grow from a small business-oriented marketing clearinghouse into an accomplished boutique specializing in providing a full range of services ranging from branding, identity creation to web development to online advocacy campaigns and more.
Board of Directors
Kim Weeks, Boundless Yoga
Constantine Stavropoulos, Tryst, The Diner and Open City
Aman Ayoubi, Local 16
Marullus Williams, Limbic Systems
Theresa Watts, Lettie Gooch
Gina Schaefer, A Few Cool Hardware Stores
Geoff Dawson, Bedrock Billiards, Buffalo Billiards, Rocket Bar and Mackey’s, to name a few.
Cara Pomponio, CulturalDC
DJ Saul, iStrategy Labs
Stacey Price, Think Local First DC
Chris Naoum, Listen Local First
Laura Jordan, Capital Law Firm