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

Areas of Expertise

  • Start-up Assistance
  • Marketing
  • Retail
  • Software
  • Financial Projections and Micro Loans

 

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.

 

The best advice I have ever been given is:

Surround yourself with people who lift you up, personally and in your career.

 

Languages

Arabic, French 


MikeHill (1)

Michael Hill

Director

Areas of Expertise

  • Financial Analysis
  • Business and Sales Strategy
  • Equity Capital
  • Brand Development
  • Prototype Design 

 

Experience

Michael is a 25-year entrepreneur and angel investor. As an entrepreneur, he created, launched, and exited two software companies and one professional service firm serving the dental industry. As an angel investor, he has worked alongside startup entrepreneurs to build operational and development teams, raise capital, and execute sales plans.

 

The best advice I have ever been given is:

Customer before concept.

Ace Tarakchian - ace 1

Ace Tarakchian

Business Consultant

Areas of Expertise

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


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.

 

Languages

Armenian

 

Make an Appointment!

 

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Alain Chu

Business Consultant

Areas of Expertise

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

 

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.

 

 

Languages

Mandarin, Cantonese

 

Make an Appointment!

 

AshaVasant-min

Asha Vasant

Business Consultant

Areas of Expertise

  • Franchising
  • Technology Enablement
  • Retail Operations
  • Web Development/User Interface (UI/UX) Design
  • Direct and Referral Marketing

 

Experience

With over 21 years of professional experience, Asha brings a diverse background to SBDC clients. She has expanded a multi-unit beauty franchise from zero to over 500% sales growth in 10 years. She is the go-to for understanding ‘everyday’ operation details to stay afloat:  inventory control, cost reduction,  and customer retention/marketing for a brick & mortar/retail environment. Her goal is to have small businesses embrace technology and enable them for growth and modern efficiency.

 

The best advice I have ever been given is:

If you want a 9to5 job then being in business is not for you. There is no 8-hour workday. Small business is about perseverance. You will conquer many storms along the way. Don’t look back. You are on your way to making things better for yourself and your team.

 

Languages

Spanish, Hindi, Urdu, Gujarati

 

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!

 

Christopher Terry

Business Consultant

Areas of Expertise

  • Sales Strategies
  • Account Management
  • Operations
  • Customer Service
  • Manufacturing

 

Experience

Christopher has many years of experience working for small and large companies. Additionally, he has his own startup business selling into diverse industries, completed acquisition as a business owner, and had two successful product launches.  He has an MBA from Chapman University & Marketing Strategies Certification from Cornell University. 

 

The best advice I have ever been given is:

There are no problems in the world, only opportunities

 

Make an Appointment!

 
 

Danielle Chase

Business Consultant

Areas of Expertise

  • Quality Assurance
  • Menu Development
  • New Store Openings
  • HR Management/Regulatory Compliance
  • Financial and P&L Management

 

Experience

Danielle has over 30 years of food & beverage, retail, and athletic/sports operations experience. She holds expertise in building sustainable and impactful operating systems to support growth objectives, strategic sales planning, customer service, and marketing. Danielle has helped open hundreds of successful restaurants, bakeries, coffee cafes, retail storefronts, catering and event production companies, and sports operations.

 

The best advice I have ever been given is:

Take care of your people and they will take care of you.

 

Make an Appointment!

 

Darshan Gajiwala

Business Consultant

Areas of Expertise

  • Digital Marketing and eCommerce
  • Customer Acquisition and Retention
  • P&L Management & Budgeting
  • Global Market Expansion
  • Financial and Web Traffic Forecasting


Experience

Dashan is an experienced digital marketer with over 15 years of success. He has led marketing programs for startups, small, medium, and large multi-channel e-commerce companies. He has worked to help companies with fashion apparel, fine jewelry, electronic accessories, promotional products, and other consumer goods.

The best advice I have ever been given is:
No problem is big. Break down the problem into small bits and it won’t be as big or hard to solve. 

Languages

Hindi, Marathi, and Gujarati

 

Make an Appointment!

 

 

DavidFriedman-min

David Friedman

Business Consultant

Areas of Expertise

  • Marketing & Sales
  • Strategic & Product Planning
  • Operations
  • Technology 
  • Management

     

Experience

David is a former tech executive with a couple of engineering degrees and an MBA in Econometrics. He has been a small business consultant for about 10 years and has experience working in smaller technology and service companies. 

 

The best advice I have ever been given is: 

Focus and PODFU (plan, organize, delegate and follow-up).

 

Make an Appointment!

 

Elena Shampaner

Business Consultant

Areas of Expertise

  • Operational Planning and Audits
  • Retail Operations
  • Food and Beverage Operations
  • Hospitality Management


Experience

Spending over 20 years of her professional career working in the hospitality industry, Elena Shampaner, Ph.D., oversaw a variety of growth initiatives within the hotel, retail, and food and beverage segments. She worked cross-functionally throughout the companies to analyze the marketplace and shape business strategies to capture profitable revenue growth. She held various business development and operational roles at Las Vegas-based hospitality organizations and continues to partner with small business owners to assess improvement opportunities and grow their businesses. Elena holds a Ph.D. and a Master of Science in Hospitality Administration from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and currently teaches hospitality courses at the University of California, Irvine Continuing Education.

The best advice I have ever been given is:
“Principle of 5 Ps: Proper preparation prevents poor performance”.

Languages

Russian

 

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

Make an Appointment!

GregBell

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. 

 

Make an Appointment!

 

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Hang Harper

Business Consultant

Areas of Expertise

  • Accounting
  • Tax
  • Food

 

Experience

Hang has been a CPA, providing tax and business consultant for small businesses, since 2004. She also has business ventures in tax and accounting services, restaurants, and healthcare. She is very involved with the community: 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!

 

Languages
Vietnamese

 

Make an Appointment!

 

Jenny Kim - Jenny Kim_Bio Headshot_1292021

Jenny Kim

Administrative Assistant

Areas of Expertise

  • Customer service
  • Branding 

 

Experience

Jenny got her Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and minor in Business Administration from California State University, Fullerton. She currently assists both the North and Lead Center in carrying out administrative tasks. 

 

The best advice I have ever been given is: 

Choose happiness.


Languages

Korean



Joseph Wyno Headshot (1)

Joseph Wyno

Business Consultant

Areas of Expertise

  • Planning
  • International Trade
  • Supply Chain Retail
  • Sales & Distribution
  • Financial Analysis 

 

Experience

As a former small business owner, Joseph prides himself on giving expert advice on strategy, problem-solving, and developing skills to SBDC clients. Whether a client is a startup or a seasoned business, he will spot challenges, implement solutions, and achieve goals. Joseph has worked as a business consultant in 8 countries ranging from Europe to Asia. 

 

The best advice I have ever been given is: 

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the ax.” – In other words, plan, plan more, and execute.

 

 

Languages

Japanese 

 

Make an Appointment!

 

 

Kat Armstrong - K. Armstrong SBDC-min

Karie Armstrong

Business Consultant

Areas of Expertise

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

     

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.

 

Languages

Spanish 

 

Make an Appointment!

 

 

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.

 

Make an Appointment!

 
 
Ken Douglass - Head Shot-min

Ken Douglass

Business Consultant

Areas of Expertise

  • Marketing
  • Food Industry
  • P&L Analysis
  • HR, Training, and Development
  • Site Selection 

 

Experience

Ken developed a knack for turning distressed restaurants around and regaining their sales and profitability, through team building. He has further displayed servant leadership in his development of training programs for general and regional managers. When asked he will always state that his greatest achievements have been the promotion of his people and/or teams. 

 

The best advice I have ever been given is:

Be Thankful ALWAYS.

 

Make an Appointment!


Kevin Nicusanti

Business Consultant

Areas of Expertise

  • Marketing 
  • Product Development
  • Channel Management
  • Sales and Account Planning Management
  • eCommerce
 

Experience
Kevin has 30 years of experience as a corporate marketing and sales leader in several Fortune 500 companies. He now owns and operates a branded and patented automotive parts manufacturing and eCommerce company called Vent Tabs. He is heavily engaged with Amazon, eBay, Etsy, CARiD, and his company’s website. Some of his top achievements are earning patents in 2020 and building a successful eCommerce business. 

The best advice I have ever been given is:
Sit in the consumer’s seat and understand the full set of requirements to elate the end-user. This will make most brands successful in the long term.


Make an Appointment!

 

 

Liz Muñoz - 5D326AA8-3452-459F-9C3F-37C638000960-min

Liz Muñoz

Business Consultant

Areas of Expertise

  • Financial Statement Review
  • Landlord/Tenant Negotiations
  • Loan preparation advisor

 

Experience

Liz has 30 years of experience in commercial real estate lending and asset and portfolio management. She is also a small business owner, real estate investor, and manager. She received her BA and MBA in Real Estate Finance from Cal Poly and USC.

 

The best advice I have ever been given is:

There is no substitute for hard work but accept help when offered.

 

Languages

Spanish

 

Make an Appointment!

 

Maryam Bakhshaei - maryam photo

Maryam Bakhshaei

Business Consultant

Areas of Expertise

  • Funding
  • Retail and Restaurant Industries
  • Sales
  • Customer Service
  • Lease or Purchase Agreements 

 

Experience

Since 2016, Maryam has owned a gas station and worked to change the brand, modify the business plan, and increase profit. She is going to lease the land and build a second location from the start. Along with her experience owning and operating a gas station, Maryam has experience helping a bakery shop owner start and grow her business. 

 

The best advice I have ever been given is:

Not to give up and educate yourself.

 

Languages

Farsi 

 

Make an Appointment!

 

MichaelSawitz-min

Michael Sawitz

Business Consultant

Areas of Expertise

  • Management
  • Marketing
  • Retail


Experience

Michael Sawitz is a serial entrepreneur with several successful businesses including a national franchise. He is an Adjunct Professor at the Irvine Valley College School of Business and has also taught at CSUF. Additionally, he served as a Commissioner on the California State Bar Council on Franchise and Distribution Law.

The best advice I have ever been given is:
Fall in love with the problem, not your solution.

Make an Appointment!

Natalie Murphy - Natalie Murphy

Natalie Murphy

Business Consultant

Areas of Expertise

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

 

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.

 

Languages

Spanish, French, German, Italian

 

Make an Appointment!

 

Richard Yang - Richard Headshot-min

Richard Yang

Business Consultant

Areas of Expertise

  • Business Planning
  • Operations
  • Budgeting
  • Retail
  • Data Analysis

 

Experience

Richard spent over 20 years in the retail business which gave him a deeper understanding of the process of starting up a business. Richard also spent over 12 years in the food and beverage industries, where he did business with foods and beverage distributors, restaurants, supermarkets, and chain businesses. He had the accomplishment of hitting sales goals of at least $4,000,000 to $15,000,000.

 

Languages

Vietnamese, Chinese – Cantonese, Mandarin, Chieu Chow

 

Make an Appointment!

 

R J Teno - RJ Headshot 3-21-2018 (1)-min

RJ Teno

Business Consultant

Areas of Expertise

  • Management
  • Marketing and Sales
  • Customer Service
  • Finance
  • Operations

 

Experience

RJ has over 35 years in real estate and mortgage and has consulted for oil supply, hospitality, construction, and auto repair companies. With over 20 years C-Suite, RJ has extensive expertise in management. 

 

The best advice I have ever been given is:

It’s not how many times you get knocked down, it’s how many times you get up. Failure is a blessing.

 

Make an Appointment!

 

 

Russ Pollman

Business Consultant

Areas of Expertise

  • Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering
  • Industrial, Graphic, and Packaging Design 

 

Experience

Russ has consulted with two aerospace firms in sheet metal fabrication and quality engineering.  He has worked with start-ups on the design and patenting of consumer products. In both of these areas, Russ has achieved substantial profit gains. 

 

The best advice I have ever been given is:

Revisit when you were a kid and lost hours absorbed in an activity. 

 

Make an Appointment!

 

Sierra Caldwell - IMG_8993 (2)-min

Sierra Caldwell

Business Consultant

Areas of Expertise

  • Retail
  • Operations/Management
  • Sales & Marketing
  • eCommerce
  • Merchandising 

 

Experience

Sierra is a small business owner and the Retail Director for Catalina Island Company & Anaheim Angels. She has 18+ qualified years of combined experience in multi-unit operations, team development, P&L accountability, financial reporting, and more.

 

The best advice I have ever been given is:

Do the Work. 

 

Make an Appointment!

 

Timothy Dinan

Administrative Assistant

Areas of Expertise

  • Linux
  • Python
  • React JS
  • Adobe Photoshop,
  • Illustrator, Premiere, XD
  • HTML
  • CSS

Experience
Tim has a degree in Economics and a background in computer science. Aside from helping small businesses, Tim is interested in helping develop technology by examining the economic incentives and efficiency in converting business language to code. While Tim is not fumbling around with coding solutions for business applications he enjoys reading, playing basketball, surfing, and long walks.

The best advice I have ever been given is:
You have to have the guts to try and fail

TuckerOakley-min

Tucker Oakley

Business Consultant

Areas of Expertise

  • Finance
  • M&A
  • Equity
  • Debt

 

Experience

Tucker has experience in equity research, valuation, M&A, and FP&A roles in small to medium-sized businesses. He has run his own consultancy business, where he assisted small businesses with business valuations, potential business acquisitions, and effective financial management techniques. Additionally, he assisted start-ups with establishing operational and managerial guidelines and reporting systems in preparation for next-level management teams. Tucker is an executive with a strong background in finance including M&A integration, private equity roll-ups, start-up situations, investment analysis, and advisory capabilities.

 

The best advice I have ever been given is:

Good ideas are everywhere. If you make plans, set goals, and execute you will succeed!

 

Make an Appointment!

 

 
YesimErez

Yesim Erez

Business Consultant

Areas of Expertise

  • Marketing and Sales
  • Market Research
  • New Product Development
  • Global Distribution
  • Education Industry

 

Experience

Yesim has 30 years of brand management experience, managing brands in consumer goods, financial services, and high technology. She is experienced in the education industry as she owns education and education technology small businesses. Throughout her career, Yesim has gotten patents for new products, installed CRM systems in multiple companies, launched automotive and household brands in the US, Europe, and much more! 

 

The best advice I have ever been given is: 

Seek to work in environments that offer equal opportunity.

 

Languages

Turkish

 

Make an Appointment!

 

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