Sarita Connelly

Sarita ConnellyCOO

Sarita Connelly is the COO of the Veteran Business Project, a 501c3 Veteran Service Organization with the mission of ‘Getting Veterans into Business’. Through its vHarmonyTM process, the Veteran Business Project matches sellers of established businesses to veterans and other military-connected entrepreneurs looking to own their own business, thus, reducing the immediate risk of failure commonly seen with establishing a startup company and changing the wealth outlook of our veteran community.

The spouse of a United States Marine (Ret.) and the mother of two elementary aged military/veteran children, Sarita Connelly is well versed in the challenges facing military families. She comes to the Veteran Business Project with both 20yrs of service in private wealth, global asset management and capital markets; and 25yrs in non-profit executive management / board oversight.

In her work in the private sector, she began her career with ABN AMRO Bank, advising: community bank Presidents and CFOs on fixed income and CRA investments; and CIOs of US branches of foreign banks on fixed income investments and asset swaps to provide protection on interest rate liabilities. She received her Private Wealth Management training from UBS and moved to Merrill Lynch Global Private Client, until she left due to the PCS of her spouse to a duty station in the Mid-Atlantic.

At BMO Financial Group, as a VP Sales/Trader, Sarita managed a portfolio of 400mm in fixed income assets for HNW / UHNW clients. She served as VP, Private Bank Distribution with global equity, fixed income, emerging and frontier market portfolio managers to launch their strategies into US private wealth advisor portfolios in the US; and provided investment solutions to public institutions – including state and local municipalities, school districts and hospital systems; endowment and foundations; bank portfolios, insurance companies and investment advisors as a VP Institutional Sales for BMO Capital Markets. She additionally served as a Senior Vice President and Municipal Banking Relationship Manager for Drexel Hamilton, a Disabled Veteran Owned Broker/Dealer.

Sarita began her work as a DEI advocate, facilitator, and consultant through her work at BMO Financial Group, where she served on the founding leadership team as Vice Chair and then Chair of BMO Financial Group’s Veteran’s Employee Resource Group. This work centered around employee engagement, community affairs, veteran/Reserve/Guard employee advocacy and veteran employment best practices. She additionally served on their US / Toronto Private Client Group Diversity Council, where the work focused on advancing women in leadership. Most recently, she served on the Loyola University Department of Fine and Performing Arts Faculty DEI Task Force focusing on Racial Equity practices in higher ed teaching and curriculum; and is the Co-Chair of the Chicago Dancers United DEI Advisory Council. She is the owner of SS Connelly Consulting, LLC.

A dedicated MSO/VSO advocate and volunteer in the non-profit sector, Sarita began her Board service 25 years ago. She is a former Interim COO and Chief Growth Officer of Bunker Labs; Chicago Chapter Director of Blue Star Families; and Board of Directors Member of the USO of Illinois and Volunteers of America Illinois. Sarita has served on the command level Family Readiness Office (FRO) Teams of USMC Air Group, Squadron, and Civil Affairs Group commands both as a volunteer and content contributor on topics of employment, personal development, community outreach, and health & fitness.

Sarita is currently serving as the President of the Board of Directors of the Oak Park Area Arts Council and the Chair of OPAAC’s grant funding committee; Board Member of the Chicago Dance History Project and Chicago Dancers United; Advisory Board Member of Blue Star Families Chicago Chapter and the Roosevelt University Chicago College of the Performing Arts; and one of the founding members of the University of Chicago Office of Military Affiliated Communities Family Readiness Team.

A retired professional dancer, Sarita finds life balance by remaining active in the Chicago Dance Community as a coach; choreographer for professional dance companies and pre-professional training programs; and as an Adjunct Faculty member of Loyola University Chicago Department of Fine and Performing Arts and guest speaker at the LUC Quinlan School of Business Executive Leadership Hub.