Our Team

Our mission is to provide services and programs that support and accelerate women’s business ownership and strengthen their impact on the economy. Our team is here to help!

  • Makeba Butler
    Associate Director, Veteran Programs
    • Makeba Butler

      Associate Director, Veteran Programs

      Dr. Makeba Butler is the Associate Director, Veteran Programs. In this role, she works with veterans, active military, reserve, guard, and military spouses in providing them education, information, and resources to operate as a successful business owner.

      An educator by design, Dr. Makeba believes that education is the key to empowerment and the application of education brings success. An Air Force veteran, she combined her military training and educational experience with the love she had for business and successfully launched an educational services company where she managed 30 tutor consultants and generated $150,000 in part-time revenue within the first 4 years. She has also provided business consulting to start-up and existing businesses in the educational sector for many years. Dr. Makeba strongly believes in building genuine and connective relationships and undoubtedly ties the art of successful business to doing so.

      Dr. Makeba earned her Ed.D in Transformational Leadership from Concordia University-Portland, her M.S. in Educational Leadership from Arkansas State University, and her B.A. in Business Administration from Columbia College-Missouri.


      Phone: (312) 853-3477 x 200

  • 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

  • Ann DeAngelo
    Associate Director, WBE Certification/KC
    • Ann DeAngelo

      Associate Director, WBE Certification/KC

      Ann M. DeAngelo is the Associate Director of the WBDC’s Kansas City satellite office. Ann serves to help fulfill our corporate and public sector procurement needs by matchmaking our brilliant women-owned companies with those needs to help deliver the best quality products and services, fueling our local Kansas City community. Ann specializes in Women Business Enterprise (WBE) certification services for the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council, (WBENC). Ann delivers certification programs and services to enhance the sustainability and growth of our WBEs and helps deliver bottom-line growth across various industries. Ann is even more driven by recent rankings revealing the state of Missouri as #7 in the country for women-owned businesses.

      After 13 years in law, Ann was drawn to Think Big Partners, where she worked with founders and visionaries and community pioneers, trailblazers, and entrepreneurs in various stages of business development as an associate partner. Ann is a graduate of the Women’s Employment Network which led her to her ideal service work supporting women owned businesses and the Kansas City community as a whole.

      Ann holds a B.A. in Criminal Justice Administration and Communications from the University of Central Missouri. She also earned a Juris Doctor from Washburn University.


      Phone: (913) 333-3920

  • Carolina Diaz
    Associate Director, Access to Capital
    • Carolina Diaz

      Associate Director, Access to Capital

      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

  • Ayo Falusi
    Board Liaison & Executive Coordinator
    • Ayo Falusi

      Board Liaison & Executive Coordinator

      Ayo Falusi works closely with the Board of Directors and the President & CEO on strategic priorities as the Board Liaison and Executive Coordinator. Ayo is passionate about helping visionary leaders and entrepreneurs achieve sustainable success.

      Ayo has a rich background that includes accomplishments in financial services, manufacturing operations, management consulting, and entrepreneurship. She has worked as a corporate business line manager as well as a consultant in a variety of industries with companies such as Amoco Corporation (now British Petroleum), A.T. Kearney Management Consultants, American Express, and Ameriprise Financial. She has served on the Board of the University of Chicago Women’s Business Group and the Board of Women in Technology International.

      Ayo is a graduate of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business where she earned her M.B.A. in Finance and the University of Lagos where she earned her bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering.


      Phone: 312 853 3477 x 460

  • Natasha Fedorova
    Program Director, WBDC Minneapolis
    • Natasha Fedorova

      Program Director, WBDC Minneapolis

      Natasha Fedorova is the Program Director for the WBDC's Minneapolis satellite office. Natasha believes women and children are the fundamental basis of our civilization, which drives her work to advance women. She also recognizes the importance of strategic partnerships, and works collaboratively with advocacy organizations in the business community to support entrepreneurs.

      Natasha was honored as the Women in Business Champion of the Year by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Minnesota District Office in 2011 and was selected to be a member of the (Real) Power 50 of Minnesota Business magazine in 2017.

      Natasha holds a Master’s in Nonprofit Administration and an M.B.A. degree from Metropolitan State University in Minneapolis, Minnesota.


      Phone: (612) 259-6584

  • Nisha Floyd
    Manager, ScaleUp Aurora
    • Nisha Floyd

      Manager, ScaleUp Aurora

      Nisha Floyd is the ScaleUp Manager at the WBDC. She implements an intensive 12-week program that supports high-potential entrepreneurs in growing their businesses, increasing sales, creating jobs, and fostering economic growth. The program is being implemented throughout the Illinois region. In addition, Nisha is helping develop the WBDC satellite office in Aurora.

      Before joining the WBDC team Nisha spent over 11 years at the Alliance for Illinois Manufacturing/NORBIC. In addition, Nisha was the Director of the Small Business Development Center: which assists start-up companies write business plans, explain SBA financing programs, and be an overall resource to the client. Nisha has strong relationships with small to mid-size manufacturers in the Chicagoland area.

      Nisha's past work experience includes evaluating economic data for the Illinois Department of Employment Security. She was also a manufacturing representative for a home décor company and a Business Development Manager for Invest Northern Ireland, an international economic development agency.

      Nisha holds a B.S. in Business from Purdue University.


      Phone: (312) 853-3477 x 490

  • Bridget Foster
    Associate Director, Certification Services
    • Bridget Foster

      Associate Director, Certification Services

      Bridget Foster is an Associate 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

  • Denise Franta
    Director of Access to Capital
    • Denise Franta

      Director of Access to Capital

      Denise Franta is the Director of Access to Capital where she works with entrepreneurs, guiding them to grow their financial standing.

      Denise enjoys seeing people realize their dreams. She has a diverse background in business and economic development. Starting her career in retail banking where she consistently exceeded sales targets and turned around poorly performing branches, she then spent the last nine years running the Small Business Development Centers at ICNC and UIC. In these roles she revitalized ICNC’s dormant revolving loan fund, directed a workforce training program for single women entering the medical field, organized and added international trade capacity. At UIC she organized and judged business competitions, launched and taught a new, graduate entrepreneurship program for military veterans, and acted as a partner resource for faculty and students commercializing technologies, including SBIR, seed and angel funding placements. She improved the connection between local entrepreneurs and the College of Business Administration through graduate student consulting services and co-launched Black Tech Scholars, a business and technology training program for undergraduate students wanting to enter the tech workforce. Her latest achievement was researching and writing a strategic plan for the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity on how to modernize the Small Business Development Center program in the State of Illinois where she was honored with an outstanding achievement award by Deputy Governor, Leslie Munger.

      Denise holds a Bachelor of Science in Marketing and a Master’s in Educational Psychology-Measurement, Evaluation Statistics and Assessment from UIC.


      Phone: (312) 853-3477 x. 560

  • 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 Dir, Established Business Services/Dir, IL SBDC at WBDC
    • Karen Goldner

      Managing Dir, Established Business Services/Dir, IL SBDC at WBDC

      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

  • Kelly Hinman
    Associate Director, Certification Services
    • Kelly Hinman

      Associate Director, Certification Services

      Kelly Hinman is the Associate Director, Certification Services who works with women owned businesses to help them become WBENC-Certified Women's Business Enterprises (WBEs)
      Kelly believes that WBENC certification is a wonderful marketing tool to helps businesses grow their capacity.

      Kelly has had the wonderful opportunity over the past 9 years to work with a variety of women business owners in an assortment of industries. She loves that her job allows her to constantly learn about new trends in business and what goes into a running a successful company. She has seen firsthand how this certification can open new doors and grow businesses to new levels.

      Kelly holds a B.A. in American Sign Language – English interpretation from Columbia College of Chicago.



      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

  • Tia Juarez
    Associate Director, WBC Aurora
    • Tia Juarez

      Associate Director, WBC Aurora

      Tiana Juarez is the Associate Director at the WBDC's Aurora satellite office. Tia brings her clients at WBDC more than ten years of business administration, project management, and business development training
      experience.

      In 2014, she was nominated for Verizon Wireless’s Nueva Estrella Latina award for emerging Latina business leaders. She has collaborated with not-for-profit organizations such as Instituto del Progreso Latino, Mujeres Latinas en Accion, Inspire By Love and S.T.A.R.S. As a Latina, Tia is passionate and actively involved in empowering women and the Latino community and is currently a part of the IVY Chicago chapter, an entrepreneurial and thought-leader collaborative focused on building and empowering communities.

      Tia holds a B.A. in Business Leadership & Marketing from DePaul University.


      Phone: (630) 896-3735

  • Yana Lentz
    Certification Specialist - Minnesota
    • Yana Lentz

      Certification Specialist - Minnesota

      Yana Lentz is a Certification Specialist at the WBDC’s Minneapolis satellite office. She helps women business owners obtain their WBE certification by managing their applications and assisting them throughout the process. She provides guidance to clients as they take important steps that will impact the success of their business. Yana is passionate and excited to see her client’s businesses change and grow after obtaining their certification. It gives her joy and inspiration to be part of their journey.

      Yana previously facilitated micro-finance training sessions in India and has a passion to support women entrepreneurs all around the world. In addition to her experience with economic development projects, Yana has had experience working in a Workforce Development program in the nonprofit sector.

      Yana holds a M.A. in International Development from Eastern University in Wayne, Pennsylvania.


      Phone: (612) 259-6571

  • 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
    Certification Specialist
    • Griselda Llerenas

      Certification Specialist

      Griselda Llerenas is a Certification Specialist 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

  • Janice Lopez
    Managing Director, Entrepreneurial Services and Director, WBC Chicago
    • Janice Lopez

      Managing Director, Entrepreneurial Services and Director, WBC Chicago

      Janice Lopez is the Managing Director of Entrepreneurial Services and Director of the Women’s Business Center in Chicago. She works with both start-up and established women business owners, with an emphasis on the underserved communities and minorities, to not only launch their business but to help them create a solid foundation to grow and become sustainable.

      For over two decades, Janice has been working with entrepreneurs and she believes that in order for our communities to thrive we must support our small businesses it goes beyond shopping local. We must provide them with the necessary tools and resources for them to become successful. With the right support, we are not just impacting the business owner, we are impacting their employees, families, and communities.

      Janice is fluent in both English and Spanish and is originally from Chicago. She received a B.S. in Finance from Northeastern Illinois University.


      Phone: (312) 853-3477 x 140

  • 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
    Associate Director, WBC
    • Lisandra Martinez

      Associate Director, WBC

      Lisandra Martinez is the Associate 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

  • Maura Mitchell
    Director, Entrepreneurial Services
    • Maura Mitchell

      Director, Entrepreneurial Services

      Maura Mitchell is the 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 of ScaleUp
    • Lindsay Mueller

      Managing Director of ScaleUp

      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

  • Jaemie Neely
    Director, PTAC
    • Jaemie Neely

      Director, PTAC

      Jaemie L. Neely is responsible for creating and executing the strategy of the Illinois PTAC and WBDC. This involves keeping current with industry trends and best practices, advising, community outreach, procurement marketing and other technical assistance services. Jaemie works with businesses to assist them with building financial capacity, planning for strategic growth, and developing skills and capabilities for sustainability and profitability as it all relates to private and public contracting.

      Jaemie is committed to economic and community development; improving the well-being of communities by creating and retaining jobs, increase business presence and revenues, supporting and growing incomes and tax base.

      Jaemie's extensive financial background includes treasury management, business development, financial analysis, and business financial risk analysis. She has been a trusted advisor to many businesses and organizations by providing market knowledge, aligned resources and external contacts of centers of influences.

      Jaemie earned her B.S. in Business Administration and Finance from Alabama State University.


      Phone: (312) 853-3477 x 260

  • 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

  • Jason Rebello
    Director, InventIllinois Program
    • Jason Rebello

      Director, InventIllinois Program

      Jason Rebello is the Director, for the Invent Illinois program with the mission to increase access for women, minority, and veteran owned businesses entrepreneurs to the $2.5 billion government grant fund.

      The Invent Illinois program is a new opportunity for researchers, innovators, and technology entrepreneurs with a passion for high-science to bring their product from concept to pilot to marketplace with the support of the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program.

      Jason loves that his job allows him to work with innovators on emerging technology and supporting companies with technology looking to solve the nation’s top challenges.

      Jason holds a M.B.A. in Strategy and Entrepreneurship from the University of Illinois at Chicago.


      Phone: (312) 853-3477 x 660

  • Nathalie Rosado
    Associate Director, Development
    • Nathalie Rosado

      Associate Director, Development

      Nathalie Rosado is the Associate Director of Development. In this role, she assists with program design and strategy, develops proposals for funding, and drives fundraising campaigns that promote the impact of the WBDC’s programs and services.

      Prior to this role, she served as the Associate Director of the Women’s Business Center at the Women’s Business Development Center, where she acted as a small business counselor and specialized in helping Spanish-speaking entrepreneurs and childcare entrepreneurs in all aspects of business development, including market research, operations, strategy, and access to capital.

      Before coming to the WBDC, Nathalie was a Program Manager at Ladder Up, a non-profit dedicated to providing free financial services for low-income families. In this position, she assisted low-income individuals and families with tax preparation services, ITIN application assistance, educational workshops, and credit counseling in order to help them achieve financial stability.

      Nathalie holds a B.A., in history from the University of Notre Dame.


      Phone: (312) 853-3477 x 580

  • Juan Saldana
    Associate Director, Small Business Development Center (LVCC)
    • Juan Saldana

      Associate Director, Small Business Development Center (LVCC)

      Juan Saldaña III is the Associate Director for the WBDCs Small Business Development Center at the Little Village Chamber of Commerce. He is a bilingual business advisor who coaches and expertly advises businesses on strategic planning for growth, technology innovation, project management and access to capital.

      Juan believes that entrepreneurs and businesses must be able to adapt quickly and be prepared to meet the demand of customers through online marketplaces (e-commerce). In addition; business owners must have a passion for continuous improvement in order to create sustainable growth.

      He has over 20 years of experience working with and leading management teams for financial, government, retail, food industry, and educational institutions throughout his career. He has also taken the role of business owner and co-founder on two separate ventures. He is a certified Scrum/Agile Master and CEST (Certified Enterprise Scrum Trainer) for software and corporate innovation teams. Juan is also a certified advisor and trainer for Growth Wheel; a software platform for entrepreneurs used by over 2800 advisors worldwide

      Juan holds a B.S. in Finance from DePaul University in Chicago.


      Phone: (773) 521-5387

  • Terrie Simmons
    Director, WBC Aurora
    • Terrie Simmons

      Director, WBC Aurora

      Terrie Simmons is the Director of the Women’s Business Center at the WBDC’s Aurora satellite office. The WBC provides business advising, workshops, access to capital, WBE certification, child care training and certification. These services are focused on the underserved and minorities who have a dream of becoming an entrepreneur.

      She worked over 26 years for a major utility company in Northern Illinois holding various leadership roles. While there she managed several departments achieving many accomplishments including best safety and performance records and was the project manager of an initiative where she saved the company over $13M annually. She has served as an adjunct business professor at the undergraduate and graduate level.

      She is the granddaughter of a small business and land owner from Pickens County Alabama. She is the first of her family to graduate from college and the first Chairwoman of the Quad County African American Chamber of Commerce. Terrie has a true passion for serving others. While working through many challenges she discovered that her true purpose and passion is helping women and minorities in their quest to achieve success. Through her leadership of various initiatives, over $100K in scholarships have been awarded to African American college students. Her work has been instrumental in developing small business owners in the counties of DuPage, Kane, Kendall and Will in Illinois.

      Terrie is a thought leader, powerful speaker and workshop facilitator. She has received a number of leadership awards and recognitions and serves on several boards and community leadership teams. She was recently recognized by Delta Sigma Theta Inc. for Community Leadership.

      Terrie has a Master’s Degree in Leadership Management and an B.A. in Organizational Management from Aurora University.


      Phone: (630) 896-3115

  • 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

  • Vanessa Valentin
    Associate Director, Marketing
    • Vanessa Valentin

      Associate Director, Marketing

      Vanessa Valentin is the Associate Director of Marketing, focused on brand strategy development and marketing communications execution. After spending over five years in marketing and communications for non-profits, including the Hispanic Alliance for Career Enhancement (HACE), her skills include integrating the latest trends in social media, client and partner management, public speaking and event planning. She also has experience working with small businesses on their marketing and communications strategies.

      During her time at HACE, Vanessa also managed student programs, launching revamped versions of the organization’s high school and university programs that focus on providing students access to mentors, career exploration, professional development and leadership opportunities.

      As the first in her family to graduate from college, Vanessa is driven by opportunities to empower women to reach their full potential. She currently serves on the Associate Board at Chicago Scholars and was recognized as a Latina Brava by Latino Magazine in 2017 for her commitment to advancing Latinas through mentorship.

      As a freelance journalist in Chicago, she focused much of her writing on education, professional development, diversity in the workforce and community events.

      Vanessa holds a B.A. in Journalism and a Certificate in Business Management from Indiana University.


      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