Meet The Team
Founder & CEO
Cathy Sarky - She/Her
Cathy is a Lebanese American born in Cincinnati, OH to two American Lebanese parents. In the late 1990’s, stigma and discrimination were a huge concern when Cathy came out as bisexual. She never felt comfortable or safe to be her best, most authentic self. This drove her dedication as a devoted advocate in the fight for LGBTQ+ equality at the local, state, national and international level for more than 30+ years.
Cathy joined the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Steering Committee, an organization that is committed to achieve fundamental fairness and equality across the globe. She co-chaired the HRC Gala for three consecutive years, providing education, growing attendance by helping to bridge the gap with women and increased fund-raising efforts.
With three decades of experience in marketing research, Cathy is a seasoned expert in the field of consumer insights. Throughout her personal and professional life, diversity and inclusivity has always been a priority, enabling her to assist companies and brands in creating campaigns that resonate with customers. Cathy currently owns a boutique market research firm in Cincinnati and is committed to ensuring that respondent data is diverse and reflective of her clients brands. It’s more important now more than ever to make sure a brands’ campaign resonates with everyone being a huge driver of business success and innovation.
Co-Founder/ Brand Design & Organizational Growth
Vanessa Melendez - She/Her
Vanessa Melendez, a Puerto Rican-American born in the U.S. and raised in Puerto Rico to biracial parents, also realized she was LGBTQIA+ in the 5th grade. She never felt she fit into any prescribed norm and began to find the empowerment and joy of establishing your own drumbeat. Vanessa has a deep love for the human spirit and has dedicated most of her personal and professional life to using her powers for good and advocating for others. Her professional career spans 12 years in the Non Profit sector advocating for at- risk youth, 15 years - currently in the Corporate Sector with Procter & Gamble leading Brand Design & Innovation and 8 years in Entrepreneurship helping to launch a variety of startups including co-founder for ChicOut with Cathy Sarky, Mempodera a social empowerment nonprofit in Brazil with Olympic athlete Aline Silva, and most recently has joined InTandem DAO to translate her expertise in the Web 3 Blockchain space to help underrepresented and minority entrepreneurs.
Vanessa brings the power of Brand & Design to help entities scale their platforms with a purpose and change the world.
Community Engagement & Social Justice Director
Renee Hevia - She/Her
Part of the LGBTQ+ community, Renee is Spanish American born in Canton, Ohio to a Spanish father and Chekoslovak mother. She realized she was not like other kids in the 5th grade and by 8th grade knew she had to hide who she really was. Nevertheless, Renee was a passionate soul and determined to live life authentically. After graduating from UC with a teaching and Spanish literature degree, she helped other LGBTQ+ youth in schools where she taught by being an advisor for GSTA clubs. As an out lesbian teacher and high school administrator, Students had a role model in some of the most challenging times of their lives. She ran for Cincinnati Public School Board in 2017 on a platform of community engagement and social, racial and disability justice. After that loss, she joined GLSEN Greater Cincinnati to lead their Leadership student team, then became Chair of the organization. She is also the Cincinnait Democratic Executive Precinct representative for Ward 4b.
Renee is enthusiastic and passionate about continuing to create authentic, inclusive and fun spaces for the LGBTQAI+ community. This is an opportunity to grow, advocate and learn together in these most challenging times while serving her local community. Her goal is to grow ChicOut into a local, national and global advocacy organization.