Our Team

Our Network of more than 100 staff and consultants spans across generations, regions and backgrounds. We are energetic, diverse and fully committed to the success of our clients. Get to know our leadership staff or visit our location page to view more about our staff who range from current or former business owners to practicing attorneys, angel investors, procurement experts, former bankers, marketers, web designers, CPAs, student interns and more.

We speak: Arabic, Armenian, Cantonese, Chieu Chow, Italian, Japanese, Farsi, French, German, Gujarati, Hindi, Korean, Mandarin, Marathi, Russian, Spanish, Urdu, and Vietnamese

CSUF SBDC Leadership

CSUF SBDC Consultants and Staff

ManalRicha

Manal Richa

Director, CSUF SBDC and SBDC Global Trade Center

Areas of Expertise

  • Startup Assistance
  • Marketing
  • Retail
  • Software
  • Financial Projections and Micro Loans

Languages

  • Arabic
  • French 

Experience
Manal owns her own business and understands the challenges that small businesses face.  At the SBDC her focus has been on guiding entrepreneurs in launching and starting new businesses and helping established business owners take their companies to the next level. She is very knowledgeable of the digital world, e-commerce, SEO, and social media.

Ace Tarakchian - ace 1

Ace Tarakchian

Business Consultant

Areas of Expertise

  • Business Planning and Formation
  • Finance
  • Government Contracting
  • Franchising
  • Healthcare 

Languages

  • Armenian

Experience
Ace has been consulting for over 9 years. He has experience in healthcare, education, bioengineering, entertainment & media, wholesale, franchises, and nonprofits. Ace has consulted private SMEs throughout the U.S., Canada, South America, UK, and UAE. He currently manages a tech business accelerator in Los Angeles and is the recipient of the SBDC Network Star Award 2020.

The best advice I have ever been given is: 
Sometimes the one thing you need for growth is the one thing you are most afraid to do; without action, an idea is just a dream.

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Alain Chu

Business Consultant

Areas of Expertise

  • Restaurant Operation
  • Debt Relief
  • Mas90 and Quicken Accounting Software
  • Payroll

Languages

  • Mandarin
  • Cantonese

Experience
Alain started his own import company with his brand and products. He also started a distribution company that services 150-200 accounts per day. Along with that, he owns and operates Benihana-style Japanese Restaurants. 

The best advice I have ever been given is: 
People do not know everything, no harm to ask for help.

Alexa Pidwell (1)

Alexa Pidwell

Program Coordinator

Areas of Expertise

  • Dining industry
  • Retail industry
  • Graphic design


Experience
Alexa is a Cal State Fullerton alumna and was raised in an entrepreneurial household, exposed to business since she was young. Although her background is in customer service and hospitality, Alexa admires the many challenges small businesses face and conquer. As a program coordinator, Alexa enjoys helping her team in their efforts to support and strengthen small businesses.

Alice Cherng

Business Consultant

Areas of Expertise

  • Accounting
  • Restaurants
  • Operations
  • Startup 

Languages

  • Mandarin Chinese

Experience
Alice is a practicing CPA with extensive experience in hospitality accounting and operations. After working in public accounting and corporate finance, Alice worked at restaurants and loved the uniqueness of the restaurant business. Seeing the tremendous value that she can bring to local eateries and stores, she merged her accounting and restaurant knowledge and started an accounting firm with the commitment to help restaurants grow with transparency and in-depth analysis of their finances.

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Angela Polito

Business Consultant

Areas of Expertise

  • Personnel & Management
  • Conflict Resolution & Group Dynamics
  • Social Media
  • Branding & Marketing
  • Retail & Operations

Languages

  • English
  • Spanish

Experience
Angela is a retail and specialty service business owner and trained organizational psychologist who has been involved in entrepreneurial small business ownership and operations for the last ten years. Specializing in management and personnel operations, social media marketing, branding, and retail, she is driven to help small businesses inclusively operate and adapt to the ever-changing consumer and business world.

Make an Appointment!

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Anna-Lena Gruendler

Business Consultant

Areas of Expertise

  • Management
  • Processes
  • Franchising

Languages

  • English
  • German

Experience
Anna-Lena holds a master’s degree in business as well as education. She currently owns a mathematics learning center. She took over the franchise location in July 2021 and reached breakeven within a few months of operating the business. She has been profitable ever since, and she loves passing on her knowledge of successfully running a business to others.

Make an Appointment!

Chris Ponzillo

Business Consultant

Areas of Expertise

  • Digital Marketing
  • Branding
  • eCommerce Development and Strategy


Experience

Chris is an award-winning marketing executive, product management specialist, and business owner with over 20 years of experience transforming innovative product and service concepts into successful, profitable, high-volume brands. He has demonstrated passion for pursuing excellence in every aspect of business including design, development, launch, omnichannel marketing, leveraging of social media, and optimization of new technology.

The best advice I have ever been given is:
“In order to succeed you have to dare to fail.”

Make an Appointment!

FrankPlasso-min

Frank Plasso

Business Consultant

Areas of Expertise

  • Amazon
  • Online Sales
  • Branding
  • Product Development
  • Wholesale and Distribution


Experience

Frank specializes in branding and online sales. He has owned, operated, licensed, and managed over 30 retail and online stores over the years. His experience with Amazon, retail, wholesale, and distribution allows him to help clients with branding and developing an effective sales strategy.

The best advice I have ever been given is:
Stay the course

Greg Bell

Business Consultant

Areas of Expertise

  • Food Purchasing
  • ServSafe
  • Customer Service
  • Quickbooks
  • Costing and Pricing 


Experience

Working alongside his two partners, Greg became the first operating franchisee of Blaze Pizza in Irvine. After retiring from being a Blaze Pizza franchisee, he restarted his catering company which led him to join the SBDC as a consultant in 2017. The opportunity to impart his experiences and advise others in starting their food-based business is a rewarding extension to his career in food. Greg is now the lead consultant for the SBDC EATS program and helps clients with restaurant development, operations, labor, and profit management. 

The best advice I have ever been given is: 
Friends buy from friends. Experience is learned.

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Hang Harper

Business Consultant

Areas of Expertise

  • Accounting
  • Tax
  • Food

Languages

  • Vietnamese

Experience
Hang has been a CPA, providing tax and business consulting for small businesses since 2004. She also has business ventures in tax and accounting services, restaurants, and healthcare. Hang is very involved with the community. She’s Director of ABAOC (Asian Business Association of Orange County), Director of VACOC (Vietnamese American Chamber of Commerce), and Treasurer for Footprints Foundation. To Hang, her best accomplishments are being able to help many of her clients from start-ups to successful businesses, develop a great net profit and buy their own commercial properties.

The best advice I have ever been given is:>
Everything is perfect!

Joe Rasic

Joe Rasic

Business Consultant

Areas of Expertise

  • Food and beverage cost control
  • Menu development
  • Menu Design
  • Purchasing
  • Inventory management
  • Labor forecast
  • Budgeting
  • Operating systems
  • In-house marketing
  • Local store marketing
  • Bookkeeping
 

Experience
Joe has been in the restaurant business for more than 35 years and has worked with a variety of concepts ranging from fast-casual to fine dining. He has a hands on approach to management and is comfortable whether it be on the kitchen line or delivering drinks to the table. As a former owner, he has an appreciation for all the challenges that restaurants can offer and he looks forward to helping other businesses overcome any obstacle.

Karie Armstrong

Business Consultant

Areas of Expertise

  • Leasing
  • Strategic Planning
  • Team Building Training
  • Financial Analysis Projections
  • Business scaling Business Starts

Languages

  • Spanish

Experience
Karie has over 25 years worth of experience in the retail industry managing and developing large malls. Prior to that, Karie was a  retailer for 6 1/2 years and ran her own consulting business. She has worked with the SBDC for 10 years and specializes in lease negotiations, site selection for retail, restaurants, and any other brick and mortar start-up or expansion.

The best advice I have ever been given is: 
Stay in your lane and always deliver excellence.

KathleenSwift

Kathleen Swift

Business Consultant

Areas of Expertise

  • Retail
  • Product Development
  • Event Operations
  • Team Management
  • Customer Service


Experience
Kathleen is an engaged and results-centric team leader. She has an exceptional record of driving revenue growth and business success through coordinating and executing multi-faceted product sales, merchandising, and business development strategies. She offers considerable experience in high-profile venue businesses, which includes several years with the Walt Disney Company.

The best advice I have ever been given is: 
Never ask someone to do something you would not do yourself.

Kyu Jin Kang

Business Consultant

Areas of Expertise

  • Food Industry
  • Project Management
  • Social Media Management
  • Graphic Design
  • Localization

Languages

  • Spanish
  • Korean
     

Experience
Kyu has been involved in the restaurant industry for the past 3 years. He started EATS89 LLC from the ground up and took care of its daily operations as Bubble & Leaf in Cypress, CA. Kyu has a background in business technical management and has previously worked in software publishing and development.

The best advice I have ever been given is:
Life is full of setbacks, what really matters is how you overcome them.

Larry Charpentier Jr.

Business Consultant

Areas of Expertise

  • Accounting and Finance
  • Management
  • Operations
  • Strategic Planning
 

Experience
Larry has extensive experience working with start-ups and companies under $15 million in revenue. His goal is to provide financial and management consulting services to ensure the entity is operating most efficiently and cost-effectively. He has owned and operated several small businesses since 2000 and is very intimate with every aspect of the business. He has worked closely with advertising, marketing, operations, accounting, finance, and business development professionals.

The best advice I have ever been given is:
Be the best where your feet are at!

Michelle Chuang

Business Consultant

Areas of Expertise

  • Brand and Digital Marketing
  • Content Strategy
  • Social Media
  • Real Estate
  • Technology

Languages

  • Mandarin
  • Cantonese
     

     

Experience
With over 23 years of marketing experience, Michelle has helped build notable brands such as Starbucks, Chevron, and Staples. During her marketing tenure, she has helped launch the green tea lineup at Starbucks and supported the establishment of go-to-market for Chevron’s Extra Mile convenience store program. Most recently, Michelle served in a marketing leadership capacity for some technology companies, where she led rebranding initiatives that elevated brand value and increased revenue shares.

The best advice I have ever been given is:
Successful marketing is about understanding your audience and delivering a solution to their needs with a tremendous amount of passion.

Natalie Murphy - Natalie Murphy

Natalie Murphy

Business Consultant

Areas of Expertise

  • Multicultural Communications
  • Crisis Management
  • Government Relations
  • Healthcare and Science

Languages

  • Spanish
  • French
  • German
  • Italian

Experience
Natalie is an accomplished marketing and international communications expert. She has worked for global multinational companies in Europe and America and is now focusing on digital marketing and technology to support small business owners and help her clients grow.

The best advice I have ever been given is: 
The best way to predict the future is to create it.

Robert Ahn - Robert Ahn

Robert Ahn

Business Consultant

Areas of Expertise

  • Sales
  • Marketing
  • Finance
  • Management

Languages

  • Korean

Experience:
Robert is a business executive with 40 years of experience leading businesses to grow revenue and profit. He has successfully helped clients leverage sales technologies, software, and CRM data to identify, analyze and act upon leads, opportunities, and sales funnels. Robert’s top priority when working with clients is to exceed expectations by being a personable communicator.

The best advice I have ever been given is:
Never give up

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