Our Team

  • Aisha Ahrens
    Associate Director, Access to Capital
    • Aisha Ahrens

      Associate Director, Access to Capital

      Aisha Ahrens is the Associate Director for the Access to Capital group at the Women’s Business Development Center. She works with business owners to help them prepare and understand their financial statements and seek funding to achieve their financial goals. Aisha works with internal and external partners to help entrepreneurs access the capital needed to help their businesses grow. Aisha also heads the WBDC’s CannaBiz Program, helping support social equity applicants prepare to enter the cannabis industry with resources and technical assistance.

      A banking industry veteran of 17 years, Aisha has experience working with all different businesses whether in the ideation, start-up, or established phase, often helping with financial solutions to transition from one phase to the next. Aisha credits her success in working with small businesses with not just her mentors and expertise in banking but also with her own experience in growing up in a family full of small business owners.

      Aisha earned her Bachelors of Business Administration in Marketing and Bachelors of Arts in Philosophy from Loyola University Chicago.


      Phone: 312.853.3477 x. 260

  • Nicole Aleman
    Client Services and Support Assistant
    • Nicole Aleman

      Client Services and Support Assistant

      Nicole Aleman is the Client Services and Support Assistant at the WBDC. Nicole supports the company at a high level helping to ensure that connections with clients are performed smoothly and everyone is assisted with grace and compassion.

      Nicole has years of experience in supportive administrative, customer service, and file and data handling roles and has an organized and efficient outlook to her work. She continues to evolve professionally by going to school to further her education.

      Nicole is a Chicago native born from a family that lives to help others. Outside of the WBDC you can find her attending school or spending time with her family either at musical events or fundraisers for various different organizations.


      Phone: 312.853.3477 ex. 100

  • Sarah Arnold
    Regional Director, WBDC -Twin Cities
    • Sarah Arnold

      Regional Director, WBDC -Twin Cities

      Sarah Arnold is the Regional Director of the Women’s Business Center at the WBDC’s Twin Cities satellite office (WBDC-Twin Cities). The WBDC-Twin Cities satellite office serves WBEs in Minnesota, Western Wisconsin, South Dakota and North Dakota. Sarah’s team provides WBE certification services, access to procurement opportunities with our corporate partners, and assistance in building capacity and sustaining profitable growth.

      Sarah has most recently been a business consultant supporting small business owners in the Twin Cities. She previously held leadership roles at Target Corporation and has extensive experience creating and operationalizing corporate strategies, as well as broad expertise in financial planning, P&L management, product design & development, global sourcing and business process optimization.

      Sarah holds a B.A. from Miami University, Oxford, Ohio.


      Phone: 612.224.9547

  • Blanca Berthier
    Managing Director, Entrepreneurial Services Division I
    • Blanca Berthier

      Managing Director, Entrepreneurial Services Division I

      Blanca Berthier is the Managing Director, Entrepreneurial Services Division I. Blanca brings over 20 years of experience in business development, marketing, international trade consulting, non for profit management and client relations. She is committed to using her skills to help clients start and grow their businesses through the resources and services the SBDC and WBDC offer.

      Blanca holds a B.A. of International Relations from US International University, Mexico City and a MA in Philosophy from De Paul University.


      Phone: (773) 521-5387

  • Gabriella Bomben
    Access to Capital, Program Associate
    • Gabriella Bomben

      Access to Capital, Program Associate

      Gabriella Bomben is the Program Associate for the Access to Capital and Direct Lending department. Prior to this role, Gabriella has worked with a variety of non-profit organizations in marketing, project management, as well as business administration.

      One of the prominent challenges businesses and entrepreneurs face is how to attain Access to Capital. Our Direct Lending department aims to enhance financial literacy, break down the barriers and implement programming and funding that aids entrepreneurs to sustain and grow their business.

      Gabriella holds a B.A. from Lake Forest College where she studied Art History and Business.


      Phone: 13128533477

  • Tasha Brown
    Director, ScaleUp & Facilitator
    • Tasha Brown

      Director, ScaleUp & Facilitator

      Tasha Brown – Director, ScaleUp & Facilitator. Tasha is also an accomplished entrepreneur and brings a level of passion and dedication to her work as a business advisor and the Director of ScaleUp. She brings to the role more than 8 years’ experience working for the City of Chicago, experience working in academia, and working with non-profit organizations. Tasha previously served as the Associate Director of the Illinois SBDC at the WBDC South Suburbs where she conducted one-on-one advising sessions, facilitated trainings, and provided resources to help entrepreneurs start or grow their business. Tasha is devoted to the success of your business and will work hard to help you ScaleUp.

      Tasha is an experienced entrepreneur and brings a level of passion and dedication to her work as a business advisor in the south suburban office. She holds a bachelor of arts in human resource development, a master of divinity, and a doctor of ministry in pastoral and spiritual care.


      Phone: 312.853.3477 ex. 320

  • Colette Buscemi
    Director, Women’s Innovation Network
    • Colette Buscemi

      Director, Women’s Innovation Network

      Colette brings nearly two decades of experience working to strengthen industry ecosystems and communities through international trade development, workforce and educational programs and innovation-based initiatives. She has significant experience in working with membership-based industry and non-profit associations and government sponsored programs that are focused on improving U.S. manufacturing through technology advancements and workforce initiatives. Colette is a patent holder, having been awarded a patent in 2005 for a consumer goods product. She has extensive experience in developing, designing, launching and managing programs.

      Currently Colette oversees the Women’s Innovation Network at the Women’s Business Development Center, a place for women-owned companies to innovate and create strategic partnerships with innovative corporations. Colette has served in various positions involving innovation and manufacturing throughout her career contributing to the work of IPC Education Foundation, UI LABS/Digital Manufacturing Design & Innovation Institute (DMDII), UK Trade and Investment, and Alliance for Illinois Manufacturing.

      Colette received a Bachelor of Arts in English with a Minor in Journalism from Montclair State University, New Jersey and is a proud mom to three adult sons and a teenage stepdaughter. She lives in Bucktown with her husband Roibin and labradoodle dog Friday. She loves spending time with her family, cooking, hiking, nature excursions, travel, reading and yoga.


      Phone: 312.590.4800

  • Minerva Calatayud
    Associate Director of Entrepreneurial Services in Aurora
    • Minerva Calatayud

      Associate Director of Entrepreneurial Services in Aurora

      Minerva Calatayud is an Associate Director of Entrepreneurial Services in Aurora. She provides one-on-one advice to women entrepreneurs that want to start or grow their business in English and Spanish. She also imparts training and educational programs.

      Minerva has many years of experience developing international strategies that enable companies to expand and grow their markets. She has many years of experience in the food and beverage industry. She is an experienced entrepreneur with a passion for helping people grow and find their full potential.
      .
      Minerva holds a bachelor's in Food Engineering from the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, an M.B.A..from the Instituto Tecnologico de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey, Mexico. She is also an experienced entrepreneur and an Executive Master in International Business from St Louis University in St Louis Missouri


      Phone: 312.853.3477 x270

  • Freida Curry
    Managing Director, PTAC & Veteran Assistance Services
    • Freida Curry

      Managing Director, PTAC & Veteran Assistance Services

      Freida Curry is the Managing Director, Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) and Veterans Business Assistance Services. As PTAC Director she works with firms that are interested in doing business with local and federal government agencies. She also works with the InventIllinois team to assist researchers and entrepreneurs in accessing government technology grants. The Veterans programs, Veterans Business Outreach Center (VBOC) and Women’s Vetrepreneurship Program (WVP) provide counseling and training to new and established Veteran owned business in three states – Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota.

      Freida believes that learning is a lifelong, continuous, and stimulating process and that it is particularly fulfilling when done in partnership with others. In 2017, the PTAC team at WBDC assisted clients in winning $40 million in local and federal contracts, creating and retaining 200 jobs, and expanding their knowledge and capacity on government contracts by providing 23 content-rich workshops and events. She also lead the team that assisted WBDC in being awarded the federal government’s SBIR (Small Business Innovation Research) grant, which was used to launch the InventIllinois program.

      Freida is certified with the Association of Procurement Technical Assistance Center, which reflects her knowledge and expertise working with firms competing in the government space. In September 2017 she received the For Woman & Diversity (FWD) award for her work as a leader in providing counseling, training and coaching to assist women-owned, Veteran-owned and small businesses in achieving growth and success.

      Freida holds a Master’s degree from Northwestern University, and a Bachelor’s degree from Northern Illinois University.


      Phone: (312) 853-3477 x 530

  • Carolina Diaz
    Financial Operations Controller
    • Carolina Diaz

      Financial Operations Controller

      Carolina Diaz Martinez is the Financial Operations Controller who works with staff and partners to manage financial operations and employee benefits. Carolina has assisted the WBDC in growing the reporting capabilities and provides analytical skills to the team.

      Carolina holds a B.A. in Fashion Marketing and Management from the Illinois Institute of Art-Chicago.



      Phone: (312) 853-3477 x 430

  • Emilia DiMenco
    President & Chief Executive Officer
    • Emilia DiMenco

      President & Chief Executive Officer

      Emilia DiMenco is the President and CEO of the WBDC, spending her time working directly with the WBDC team, Board members, partners and clients to ensure the organization is supporting and accelerating business development and growth for those they serve while advocating for women and all diverse business owners across the Midwest.

      Emilia believes that granting women and minority business owners, who are often underserved and under-represented – a seat at the table in the conversations that matter most to them is critical to bringing the WBDC’s mission to life. When we as individuals and entrepreneurs work together and support one another, we create a better business environment for generations to come.

      Emilia is immersed in the Chicago business community and is a member of the Economic Club, The Chicago Network, Federation of Women Contractors, City Club of Chicago and Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce. In 2015, she was selected as a member of the Chicago Tribune's "The Blue Network," featuring more than 100 of Chicago's most compelling innovators and entrepreneurs. Most recently she made the Crain’s Chicago Business “Who’s Who” list and received the 2017 ATHENA Leadership Award, awarded to exemplary leaders who achieve excellence in their business or professions, have served the community in a meaningful way, and actively assisted women to achieve their full potential. Nationally, she is a leader in Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP), helping the organization develop policies on access to capital for women-owned businesses.

      Emilia holds a B.S. and an M.B.A. degree in finance from DePaul University.


      Phone: (312) 853-3477 x 220

  • Bridget Foster
    Director, Certification Services
    • Bridget Foster

      Director, Certification Services

      Bridget Foster is a Director, Certification Services who works with women owned businesses to help them become WBENC-Certified Women’s Business Enterprises (WBEs).

      Bridget believes that WBENC certification is an invaluable marketing tool for expanding a company’s visibility with procurement decision-makers. She enjoys working with a variety of women business owners in an assortment of industries. She has had the wonderful opportunity to see firsthand how certification can make a difference and open doors for businesses. Meeting with the women business owners is the best part of her job.

      Bridget holds a B.S. in business from the University of Illinois.


      Phone: (312) 853-3477 x 590

  • Ellenie Girma
    Associate Director, Information Technology
    • Ellenie Girma

      Associate Director, Information Technology

      Ellenie Girma is the Associate Director of IT and Graphic Designer who handles the day to day technological needs of the WBDC. She also works closely with the marketing team to promote WBDC’s mission and vision and manages website which is the Center’s major marketing tool.

      Ellenie has over a decade of IT experience designing and repairing network infrastructure and brings with her a knack for troubleshooting. She’s contributed her knowledge to the continued development of an innovative environment throughout the Center and satellite offices. Ellenie believes the WBDC needs to be abreast with the fast growing technology and she has been instrumental in helping the Center to continuously grow and be on the cutting edge of service offerings.

      Ellenie holds a BA in Foreign Languages and Literature and is a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE) and Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP).



      Phone: (312) 853-3477 x 540

  • Karen Goldner
    Managing Director, Established Business Services
    • Karen Goldner

      Managing Director, Established Business Services

      Karen Goldner is the Managing Director of Established Business Services and works with small and medium-sized businesses to help them grow. Her role includes leadership of the WBDC’s Small Business Development Center in Illinois, and WBDC’s WBENC certification program in nine states.

      Karen believes that entrepreneurs are amazing, powerful people who change the world and is honored to have the opportunity to support them. For twenty years, Karen has worked with, in, and for small businesses ranging from information technology to aerospace manufacturing to professional services. In addition to consulting, her experience includes managing early stage investments for private and public investors, small business lending, and operating small manufacturing companies.

      She is a certified Community Development Finance Professional from the National Development Council. In 2017, Karen and her team at the Women’s Business Development Center received the Illinois Small Business Development Center Excellence and Innovation Award from the U.S. Small Business Administration.

      Karen holds an M.P.A. from Indiana University and a B.A. in political science from the University of Nebraska.


      Phone: (312) 853-3477 x 410

  • Meghan Hill
    Associate Director, Certification
    • Meghan Hill

      Associate Director, Certification



      Phone: 312.853.3477 x 110

  • Cynthia Johnson
    Director, Established Business Program
    • Cynthia Johnson

      Director, Established Business Program

      Cynthia J. Johnson is Director of Established Business Services at the Women’s Business Development Center (WBDC). In this role she leads the programs for established business owners that are designed to increase contract opportunities for certified women-owned businesses with WBDC corporate partners.

      Cynthia’s specific area of focus includes planning and delivering relevant programs and procurement events with WBDC corporate partners to help women-owned businesses build capacity and sustain profitable growth. She is passionate about utilizing her expertise to accelerate the growth of diverse businesses.

      Cynthia has extensive entrepreneurial experience as founder and CEO of a business that she managed for 30 years. He clients included Fortune 500 companies, higher education institutions and health care facilities. Over the course of her career, she fulfilled executive leadership positions with a number of non-profit organizations. Having served for many years on the board of directors at the WBDC, she joined the staff 2009.

      Cynthia holds a B.A. from Purdue University. She has taken MBA courses at North Park University Axelson Center for Non-Profit Management and Business Management professional development courses at Northwestern University.


      Phone: (312) 853-3477 x 280

  • Jessie Leonard
    Associate Director, WBE Certification/Milwaukee
    • Jessie Leonard

      Associate Director, WBE Certification/Milwaukee

      Jessie Leonard is the Associate Director of WBE Certification for the WBDC’s Milwaukee satellite office. She brings over 17 years of experience as a diversity practitioner, and it is committed to using her skills to create access and opportunities for everyone. Jessie has over 20 years in administrative and human resources management in both the private and non-profit sectors.

      Jessie held the position of Supplier Diversity Manager at Harley-Davidson Motor Company, and was responsible for both corporate community involvement and supplier diversity strategies and integration. She is the former Executive Director of America’s Black Holocaust Museum (ABHM) located in Milwaukee, WI, where she helped develop programs and exhibits that were both globally and nationally recognized for their historical accounts.

      Jessie has obtained certifications in Project Management, Human Resource Management & the Law, and the National Minority Supplier Development Council Supplier Diversity certificate. Additionally, Jessie as lent her support and experience as Board Member for The Business Council, Committee Member for the Women Development Business Center, Secretary for the Automotive Industry Group, and United Way Fund Raising Committee. All of which demonstrates her passion for inclusion and continuous growth in the Supplier Diversity arena.

      Jessie holds a B.A. in Communications with a minor in Business Management from Aleverno College.


      Phone: (414) 395-4564

  • Griselda Llerenas
    Associate Director, Certification Services
    • Griselda Llerenas

      Associate Director, Certification Services

      Griselda Llerenas is Associate Director of Certification Services who supports women business owners through the certification process in order to provide them with a nationally recognized tool to market their business. Griselda believes that the growth of women owned businesses and other diverse businesses are key to economic growth.

      Griselda has worked in the non-profit sector with experience in project coordination, social enterprise operations, and fundraising. She has also completed a program in executive fund development.

      Griselda holds a B.A. in Political Science and English from DePaul University.


      Phone: (312) 853-3477 x 160

  • Grace Lopez
    Executive Assistant & Board Liaison
    • Grace Lopez

      Executive Assistant & Board Liaison

      Grace López is the Executive Assistant to the President and CEO and Board Liaison at the WBDC. Grace supports the President and CEO at a high level helping to ensure that day to day and long-term goals are met, in addition to supporting WBDC Board members and coordinating Board and Committee meetings.

      Grace has over 8 years of experience in supportive administrative roles and enjoys creating a positive and joyful environment for her colleagues. She continues to evolve professionally by developing creative solutions to challenges.

      Grace is a Chicago native with a passion for advocacy. Outside of the WBDC you can find her at a family yoga class, visiting the latest mural, or attending community-focused events.


      Phone: 312.853.3477 x 150

  • Georgia Marsh
    Chief Development Officer
    • Georgia Marsh

      Chief Development Officer

      In June 2012, Georgia Marsh assumed the responsibilities of Chief Development Officer for the WBDC. She was previously a development consultant at the organization and is currently president of GKM Solutions, a small advisory and consulting business specializing in business modernization, organizational and business development and privacy and information protection services.

      Prior to starting her own business Georgia spent a short time as a director in KPMG’s Privacy and Information Protection Services Practice. However, most of her distinguished career was spent in public sector executive positions at the state and federal government levels. In the State of Illinois, Georgia served as the Supervisor of Currency Exchanges, Administrator of Unclaimed Property, Director of Accounting Revenue for the Secretary of State, and Associate Director of the Department of Revenue. As a technology innovator, she was the lead architect for numerous major technology initiatives aimed at making government more accountable and accessible to businesses. She worked on these initiatives collaboratively with the U.S. Small Business Administration. It was this work that led to Georgia being recruited by the Federal Government’s General Service Administration to be the Executive in Charge of a Presidential Initiative focused on facilitating secure online transactions between businesses and the federal government.

      Georgia is a nationally recognized leader in driving adoption of emerging technologies for the modernization of government. She has won many awards and honors for her pioneering work and has been an invited speaker on government modernization and online information protection at various national/international forums, conferences, panels and workshops.


      Phone: (312) 853-3477 x 210

  • Lisandra Martinez
    Director, Women’s Business Center
    • Lisandra Martinez

      Director, Women’s Business Center

      Lisandra Martinez is the Director of the Women’s Business Center. She works with entrepreneurs providing business counseling in English and Spanish in addition to coordinating the Latina Entrepreneurial Accelerated Development (LEAD) program for established Latina business owners and the Early Childhood Education Entrepreneurial program for established and aspiring childcare providers.

      Lisandra joined the WBDC after a successful career in business banking where she consistently earned Top Performer awards and was promoted twice in three years to Small Business Relationship Manager before transitioning to non-profit.

      Lisandra holds a Juris Doctor from the University of Illinois and a B.A. from George Washington University.


      Phone: (312) 853-3477 x 500

  • Aisha McBurrows
    Director, Entrepreneurial Services, Aurora
    • Aisha McBurrows

      Director, Entrepreneurial Services, Aurora

      Aisha has a B.S. in Business Management from Bradley University and an M.B.A with a concentration in Finance, from Keller Graduate School of Management. She began her career in the Banking/ Finance arena and continued to move up in the ranks throughout her 17 years in the industry. The insight gained during those many years of helping people on the corporate banking/ finance level inspired her to branch out to become an Independent Financial Professional. What she discovered and truly believes is that through education, individuals & businesses can create financial freedom for themselves and even leave a legacy for the generations to come.

      Today, Aisha works diligently with the Women’s Business Development Center and provides business development services, one-on-one business counseling and business resources to nascent, emerging and established women entrepreneurs. She wants to ensure that they grow a sustainable business that creates jobs and fuels economic growth.

      Call or email Aisha to find out how she can help you reach your dreams of having a sustainable and profitable business today.


      Phone: 630.256.4642

  • Bill McNamara
    Director of the International Trade Center of the Illinois SBDC at WBDC
    • Bill McNamara

      Director of the International Trade Center of the Illinois SBDC at WBDC

      As Director of the International Trade Center of the Illinois SBDC at the Women’s Business Development Center, Bill McNamara brings over 30 years of international business development and sales management experience to his role. Bill has acquired a wealth of knowledge while working at a senior level in companies such as Federal Signal Corporation, Minuteman International and Conbraco Industries. Bill’s main responsibility was building their international businesses.

      His strength and focus are in developing and managing sales channels on a global basis. This has entailed living on 4 continents with travel to all world regions and over 65 countries.

      Bill’s experience brings a strategic orientation and involvement across a wide range of industries, and a perspective that considers financial, logistic, compliance, political and cultural factors. This provides a uniquely broad perspective to address international business issues.

      He is a long-time member of the International Trade Association of Greater Chicago, a former Illinois District Export Council appointee, an advisor to SME’s at the Chicago Regional Growth Council’s Export Tech Program and has been a speaker and mentor on international business topics at various local universities and associations.

      Born and raised in Chicago, Bill attended Northwestern University majoring in Economics and Communications Studies. He earned his MBA overseas at ESCP, a French grande ecole in Paris.


      Phone: 312.853.3477. x. 310

  • Maura Mitchell
    Managing Director, Entrepreneurial Services
    • Maura Mitchell

      Managing Director, Entrepreneurial Services

      Maura Mitchell is the Managing Director of Entrepreneurial Services at the Women’s Business Development Center.  She has a passion for partnering with entrepreneurs to develop their business plans and raise capital in order to profitably grow their companies.  

      With a long history of helping small businesses and nonprofits with strategy, legal, and financial issues, Maura provides insight on what it takes for small businesses to thrive in today’s evolving environment.  She has successfully helped others define their dreams and create pathways to success.  

      Maura has immersed herself in public interest nonprofit work, collaborating on pro bono financial strategy projects for Taproot Foundation and pro bono legal projects for Pro Bono Network.  In addition, Maura was an Extern for the Honorable Joan Lefkow in the Northern District of Illinois federal court.  Maura received the Dean’s Certificate of Service Award from DePaul University College of Law for her efforts in public service.  

      Maura holds a B.A. in Mathematics from Saint Mary’s College, an M.B.A. from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, and a J.D. from DePaul University College of Law.


      Phone: (312) 853-3477 x 130

  • Lindsay Mueller
    Managing Director, Program Innovations
    • Lindsay Mueller

      Managing Director, Program Innovations

      Lindsay is the Managing Director of ScaleUp, an intensive multi-week program that helps entrepreneurs grow their business, increase sales, create jobs, and foster economic growth. Lindsay loves the ability small businesses have to change their communities when given the tools to grow and the opportunities to voice their opinions.She has seen the power of a small business owner’s voice in government, having previously worked for both the City of Chicago as well as President Obama’s White House. In her role at WBDC, she seeks to cultivate deep relationships between civic leaders, established small businesses and community members to create an equitable economy.

      Lindsay holds a B.A. in Non-Profit Management from Indiana University, and a B.A. in American Sign Language Interpreting from Columbia College.


      Phone: (312) 853-3477 x 490

  • Briavael O'Reilly
    Data & Internal Operations Manager
    • Briavael O'Reilly

      Data & Internal Operations Manager

      Briavael O’Reilly is the Data & Internal Operations Manager who works with staff, clients and other stakeholders to capture information on who the WBDC serves and the impact we make in the community, taking numbers and turning them into stories. She also supports the day to day operation of the center. Bri believes that robust data is the secret to telling a good story, and that you can never have too many folders.

      Bri has worked for the Chicago Cubs, the US Census, and Cirque du Soleil. Bri is a trained DJ and an untrained actor/sound designer, and volunteers her time at CHIRP Radio and various non-profit theater companies.

      Bri holds a B.S. in Television/Radio Production from Ithaca College.


      Phone: (312) 853-3477 x 550

  • Veronica Ojeda
    Associate Director, Access to Capital
    • Veronica Ojeda

      Associate Director, Access to Capital

      Veronica Ojeda is the Associate Director of Access to Capital. She provides financial assistance and counseling to entrepreneurs in English and Spanish. She brings 18 years of banking experience. During her banking tenure, she worked with a wide range of clients including Consumer, Commercial and Private Banking.

      Veronica enjoys giving back to the community. She previously served as an advisor on the Maywood Social Enterprise Advisory Board. She is a former member of the Board of Directors at Maywood Fine Arts, where she also volunteered as a backstage mom for a decade. Her passion for helping the community led her transition to the non-profit world.

      Veronica holds an MBA with a concentration in Finance from Ashford University and a Project Management Certificate from Loyola University Chicago.


      Phone: 312.853.3477 ex. 200

  • Lotika Pai
    Managing Director, Access to Capital
    • Lotika Pai

      Managing Director, Access to Capital


      Lotika Pai is the Managing Director of Access to Capital at the Women’s Business Development Center. She works with both start-up and established business owners helping them with their capital goals. She understands that access to capital is critical for small business success, especially for those in underserved markets, including women, minorities, and low to moderate income communities. She manages the growth of the WBDC direct loan fund and building the organization’s capacity to interact with clients seeking access to capital, as well as leveraging partnerships with traditional and non-traditional financial institutions to better serve the business owners we work with.

      Lotika brings a diverse range of professional experiences to her role. She is a successful entrepreneur, and a former Investment Banker at Lehman Brothers and Barclays Capital. She has an undergraduate degree in Electrical & Electronics Engineering and has worked as a Management Consultant. She is also an active mentor with the Ascend 2020 Small Business Growth program run by the University of Chicago’s Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation and the University’s Office of Civic Engagement. The program helps create local support ecosystems for neighborhood-based inner-city small businesses in Chicago to help them grow and create local job opportunities.

      Lotika holds an MBA from University of Chicago Booth School of Business.


      Phone: 312.853.3477 x. 560

  • Kelli Patterson
    Associate Director, Certification/Kansas City
    • Kelli Patterson

      Associate Director, Certification/Kansas City

      Kelli Patterson is the Associate Director, Certification/Kansas City satellite office. Kelli stimulates and supports the growth of the WBENC Certification program in Kansas City Metro, Northwest Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, and Central/Western Iowa.
      Kelli brings over 9 years of project management coordination experience and a wealth of involvement with various philanthropic organizations throughout the Kansas City, Missouri
      She holds a Bachelors degree in Mass Communications and Masters of Liberal Arts with an HR emphasis both obtained at the University of Missouri – Kansas City.


      Phone: 913-971-1050 x 4150

  • Juanita Smith
    Accounting Clerk
    • Juanita Smith

      Accounting Clerk

      Juanita A. Smith is the Accounting Clerk at WBDC where she maintains all of the personnel files for the WBDC staff, processes accounts receivable and accounts payable and processes the staff’s payroll. After one week of retiring from BMO Harris Bank, as a Senior Administrative Assistant to an Executive Vice President, Juanita became a volunteer at WBDC. After two years of volunteering in the accounting department, she joined the team full time.

      Prior to that, Juanita was a volunteer at the WBDC’s Annual Women’s Entrepreneurial Conference. Her first encounter with the conference was at the 20th year celebration, when Oprah Winfrey was the keynote speaker.

      Best known for her passion for singing Gospel music, she has sang with the "Too Hot To Handel" Jazz-Gospel Messiah Choir at the Chicago Auditorium Theatre, and Chicago’s Annual Gospel Fest held in the Millennium Park. Juanita also sings with several Gospel Choirs in the Chicago area.

      Juanita attended Kennedy King College and Chicago State University where she took business courses that included computer classes. To enhance her accounting abilities, she attended a Quickbooks Accounting course with J. Thomas Certified QuickBooks Pro Advisor.


      Phone: (312) 853-3477 x 230

  • Laurie Underwood
    Director of Marketing
    • Laurie Underwood

      Director of Marketing

      With a passion for business and graphic design, Laurie has spent the majority of her career in both marketing and entrepreneurship. With a focus on marketing programs and services for the WBDC, Laurie serves as the Director of Marketing at the Women’s Business Development Center.

      Prior to the WBDC, Laurie has held roles in marketing and business development in an array of industries such as, architecture and commercial real estate, fashion b2b and ecommerce.

      As a marketing professional with an entrepreneurial spirit, Laurie enjoys spending her free time with family in both Chicago and Detroit .


      Phone: 312.853.3477 x. 570

  • Roxanne Ward
    Chief of Staff
    • Roxanne Ward

      Chief of Staff

      Roxanne Ward is the Chief of Staff at the WBDC. Before moving into that position, she served as the center’s Director of Community Relations and Corporate Initiatives.

      Roxanne began her career as a public finance attorney. After four years as First Assistant General Counsel with the Chicago Park District, she spent 10 years at Ariel Investments as Vice President and Corporate Secretary. Roxanne next served as Project Manager for the National Minority Supplier Development Council’s restructuring of regional councils in their national network. Prior to joining the Center, Roxanne was the Institutional Governance Advisor for DeVry Inc., and represented them with the World Business Chicago Plan for Economic Growth and Jobs in the role of Co-Strategy Leader for Workforce Development.

      Well-known for her active involvement as a former board member for various entities, including the Chicago Board of Education, the Safer Foundation, and Window to the World Communications, Inc., Roxanne was appointed to the Chicago Community Development Commission by Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

      Roxanne earned her J.D. from Harvard Law School and her M.A. and B.A. in Social Service Administration from the University of Chicago, where she was awarded membership in Phi Beta Kappa. She has been admitted to the Bar Associations of the Supreme Courts of Illinois and Ohio.


      Phone: (312) 853-3477 x 120

  • Jacinta L. Witherspoon
    Associate Director, Certification Services/St. Louis
    • Jacinta L. Witherspoon

      Associate Director, Certification Services/St. Louis

      Jacinta L. Witherspoon is the Associate Director of Women Business Enterprise (WBE) Certification for the Women’s Business Development Center’s (WBDC) St. Louis satellite office. She is passionate about serving local business owners, community resources partners, corporate and government supplier diversity and procurement professionals in the St. Louis region. With every connection, Jacinta shares the importance of learning, transferring knowledge and resources which support local business owners. Jacinta specializes in WBE certification services that bring value and opportunity to our WBEs.

      Jacinta brings over 11 years of progressive experience and demonstrated success in strategic leadership, including organizational change and development, program policy, process development and implementation, community outreach and engagement. She has served as a community volunteer with several organizations, which include the Board of Directors for the Carondelet Community Betterment Federation (CCBF), member of the Economic Development and Marketing Committees, and Chairperson of Diversity and Inclusion for the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) St. Louis Chapter. Jacinta is an alum of FOCUS St. Louis’ Leadership St. Louis (LSL) program (2013-2014), St. Louis Business Diversity Initiative’s Fellow Class Cohort 9 (2014-2015) and FOCUS St. Louis’ Inaugural Class of Impact Fellows (2016).
      Jacinta holds an M.A. in Management and Leadership from Webster University, and a B.S. in Business Administration-Finance with a minor in Financial Planning from the University of Akron.


      Phone: (314) 584-6842