Korey Richardson LLP
SBAC Co-Founder & President
Elliot Richardson is the Co-Founder and President of the Small Business Advocacy Council, an organization laser-focused on advocating for the small business community. The SBAC is dedicated to passing legislation and moving policy initiatives that will help small and local businesses thrive. The SBAC works with numerous partners to provide the small business community a unified and strong voice to advocate on policies that impact the economy.
Elliot is a partner at the law firm Korey Richardson, LLP. Elliot has also served as the Board Chair for Kids Above All, an organization focused on protecting, healing and educating children and families so they can build better lives. Elliot remains on the Board of Directors. Elliot also formally served on the board of Youth Conservation Corp., Youth Communications and the YMCA Alliance Board. Additionally, Elliot formerly served on the Editorial Board of the Chicago Bar Association and on the Executive Committee of the Young Lawyers Section of the CBA.
Elliot received his law degree from the University of Dayton and received the University of Dayton School of Law Pro Bono Publico Service Award. Elliot graduated from Bradley University with a degree in sociology and criminal justice, with a minor in history.
Retired President & CEO of Mark Shale
Chief Executive Officer
Scott Baskin retired as President and CEO of Mark Shale in 2011. Mark Shale was Chicago’s largest independent clothing retailer with stores in Chicago, Atlanta, Dallas, Kansas City, and St. Louis. Prior to his business career, Scott served as Chief Legislative Assistant to the late Congressman Abner Mikva.
In addition to his professional experience, Scott is an engaged community leader. He is a board member of Uptown United, an economic development organization serving Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood. He was an elected member of the Northside College Prep High School Local Council and chair of its finance committee, and past treasurer of the Center for Law and Social Work. He is a graduate of Vassar College and Northwestern University School of Law.
Newsweb Radio Company
As the Political Director of WCPT AM/FM, Melissa connects candidates and PACS to a Progressive platform that catapults their brand recognition. She serves on the Executive Board of the Small Business Advocacy Council and is the chair of the Membership Committee where she connects business owners and helps them build a referral network. Melissa also serves as the Vice-Chair of the Kenneth Young Center Board of Directors.
First American Bank
Board Vice President
Larry Minutillo is a Vice President and Bank Manager at First American Bank in the Loop. He has over 22 years of banking experience in both personal and commercial banking services, and is passionate about ensuring that clients benefit from a rewarding and outstanding banking experience. Larry is also the former Chairman of the Elk Grove Chamber of Commerce.
Greene Forensic Accounting Solutions LLP
Jim is a Certified Fraud Examiner and founding member of Greene Forensic Accounting Solutions LLP, a public accounting firm with offices in the Chicago and Las Vegas areas. Jim has over 18 years of experience consulting on litigation matters and both internal and external fraud examinations for real estate, manufacturing, hospitality, gaming, construction, retail, and non-profit entities. He serves on multiple SBAC committees and is also President of the Greater Chicago Chapter of the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners.
Steven Banke is a partner with the Parent company of Ntiva, Inc, a privately held Nationwide Managed IT Services organization, and has served as an executive in the IT market for over 25 years. Steve is a life-long resident of the Chicago area, and has been married to his wife Cheryl for over 30 years.
After graduating from Lewis University, Danielle began her career in the insurance industry at Principal Financial Group. Her 25+ years of experience in the industry and knowledge of insurance products has been a key asset to the company.
Danielle manages the agency’s daily operations and acts in a key sales role. She currently leads a team of 12 employees dedicated to providing quality customer service and products for individual and group clients.
Danielle also dedicates her time and efforts to industry organizations, such as the National Association of Health Underwriters, and for many years, has been a Board Member of the local chapter, the DuPage Association of Health Underwriters (DAHU). Danielle has been involved in the organization of both a business expo and golf outing over the years for DAHU. She is also involved with the Small Business Advocacy Council, sitting on their Board of Directors as well as their Executive Board.
In 2018, Danielle received the honor of winning the Influential Women in Business award from the Daily Herald.
Stephen D. Ball
Fifth Third Bank
Stephen is Senior Vice President Market Executive, Business Banking at Fifth Third Bank. He is responsible for products, goals, marketing, training, promotional initiatives, management, and production for all retail banking that pertains to businesses. Stephen has spent his over twenty years of banking experience focused on the small business market. Along with his staff , Stephen helps businesses with lending and cash management solutions while providing sound analysis of their financials.
Stephen is an experienced public speaker and published author. He has presented at Kent School of Law and various chambers of commerce and networking group events.
“Businesses should focus on business.” Or at least that is the core belief of Victor Miceli. Pulse Technology services include print and network management, allowing companies to focus on running their business and less on technical issues that arise. With this core mission, Victor has allowed his customers to ease their frustration with office devices and focus more on their own productivity.
As the former Vice President at Pulse Technology, Victor is perceptive to industry changes. He knows what companies need to thrive in an ever-advancing technological world. In one year alone, he grossed over 1.5 million in revenue and helped double the size of the information technology department at Pulse. He recognizes the impact of IT issues on business efficiency and the urgent need for resolution that should have happened five minutes ago.
Victor is a member of many networking groups all over the Northwest suburbs of Chicago, including Lawyers Connecting, Northbrook Chamber of Commerce, Business Executive Association, SBAC, and Interactive Healthcare.
Board of Directors
Upon graduation from the University of Wisconsin, Mike began his career on the CBOT floor as a local in wheats and bonds. It was here, in the fast-paced world of the open outcry pits, where he learned the business from the bottom up and developed a passion for the markets.
What he gained from the CBOT floor was instrumental to his career path. He worked his way through the financial industry, covering options trading, capital raising, founding companies and merging platforms, each time accumulating more information, ranging from sales to business development. Currently, Mike is the Managing Director of Regiment Alpha, a venture capital fund that invests in Seed and Series A FinTech startups, Chairman of Regiment LLC, and Co-Founder of the Small Business Advocacy Council and a member of advisory boards of several companies
Pinpoint Precision Engineering
Michael Bempah is a millennial entrepreneur striving to be a change agent in his community. Mr. Bempah is the President of Pinpoint Precision Engineering, a civil engineering design and construction management firm. He grew up on the southside of Chicago and attended Lindblom College Prep High School. After high school, Mr. Bempah continued his education at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale where he received a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering with a minor in Math. He is a multi-state licensed Professional Engineer who is experienced in both, governmental and private sectors. During his professional career, Mr. Bempah noticed the disparities in educational and economic opportunities within his community. Pinpoint Precision Engineering became the answer. With this firm, Mr. Bempah has been able to create jobs and offer access to historically marginalized groups. Mr Bempah serves in numerous mentorship roles throughout Chicago’s most underserved communities. Additionally, he is a founding member and President of Building Strong Millennials, a not for profit organization dedicated to educating the community in business, wealth, and civic engagement. He is also the author of the financial literacy and stock trading book; Can We Be Honest About Money!
Pinpoint Precision Engineering is a quality driven engineering firm leveraging its professional experience and innovation to ensure a smooth process for advancing infrastructure projects. Our team is diverse, and has a tremendous amount of experience in transportation, construction management, project management, and utility design.
Mr Bempah has a passion for community development. He is committed to building up under-served communities by way of organizing, teaching, and creating opportunities. His goal is to utilize his professional, educational, and life experiences to ensure a brighter future for the next generation.
Rachel Axelrod is the founder of Axelrod Consulting, an event production firm that works with organizations to create dynamic, memorable conferences and intellectual events.
An inspiring leader with sharp attention to detail, Rachel is known for her ability to solve problems quickly, execute efficiently, and motivate those around her. Before realizing her true passion lies in bringing people and ideas together, she graduated cum laude from Loyola University Chicago School of Law and became a litigation partner at one of Chicago’s top law firms.
In 2017, she co-founded TEDxChicago, an independently organized and TED-licensed event. Rachel managed all aspects of the event production for the 400+ person conference for the following three years. Extremely well-received by attendees and known for its incredible speaker line up, the conference became a key Chicago event and is one of the city’s most anticipated annual experiences.
Now, Rachel leverages her legal expertise and people management experience to produce conferences and other interactive experiences that prompt meaningful discussion and inspire action.
Law Office of Marc N. Blumenthal
Recognized in Illinois Super Lawyers for 2007 and 2012-2021. He concentrates in franchise and trademark law, and also practices, copyright, business, cannabis, leasing and entertainment law. Marc has been practicing law and advising clients since August 1981. He specializes in franchise and trademark law and also practices corporate, leasing and copyright/entertainment law. Marc serves as an expert witness and consultant in franchise law. He divides his practice between litigation, transactional and disclosure work and is also active with other not-for-profit organizations.
Noel is the Vice President of Web and Mobile Development at Rise Interactive, a Chicago-based digital marketing agency that specializes in digital media and analytics, helping marketing leaders make smarter investment decisions for their brands.
Noel began his career as an entrepreneur starting his first company in the late 1990s and has since worked across a broad range of industries. In addition to being an entrepreneur, Noel has helped legacy companies innovate to stay relevant. At Follett Higher Education Group he developed their first e-commerce platform, now a top e-commerce site along with The American Press Institute-where his charge as the Director of Digital Transformation was to advise and guide senior leadership from media companies such as The Tribune, The Washington Post and Gannett to move from print to digital.
Noel is passionate about socially responsible business and continues to advise companies across multiple sectors identifying and operationalizing opportunities in order to maintain market relevance and develop new business channels.
Hershman Cohen LLC
Leslee has been a principal at Hershman Cohen LLC since 2010. The firm specializes in helping its clients who are raising private funds or compensating service providers with equity in order to grow their businesses, start new enterprises or purchase real estate. Ms. Cohen is a specialist with respect to venture capital and private equity transactions as well as friends and family offerings.
Since 2007, Leslee has served on the leadership team of the Coalition of Women’s Initiatives in Law. She also runs venture pitch sessions through the Small Business Advisory Council. In 2017, she was named one of the Top 10 Lawyers in the State of Illinois by Super Lawyer and, in 2016, was granted an Entrepreneurial Excellence Award for Service to Entrepreneurs by the Daily Herald Business Ledger.
Prior to founding Hershman Cohen, Leslee practiced at a Wall Street corporate and securities law boutique, representing primarily publicly traded companies, then led the securities department at a mid-sized law firm in Chicago for 13 years. Leslee graduated from the University of Michigan in 1989 and from New York University School of Law in 1992.
Shawn is a United States Army veteran and an accomplished healthcare professional with nine years of experience in sales, leadership, account management, service, and operations. He is the Regional Director for Emmi Solutions, a healthcare technology company that delivers superior patient engagement and education. His passion to serve extends into the community where he is on the auxiliary board for ChildServ and Embarc as well as an adviser at Bunker Labs.
Goldman & Ehrlich
Arthur Ehrlich, Partner in Goldman & Ehrlich, has over 30 years of legal experience in employment law representing private and government employees, and small business employers in the Chicago area in Employment Law; Discrimination; ADA, Sexual Harassment; Wrongful Termination; FMLA; Whistleblowing; Negotiating Employment and Severance Agreements.
He was admitted to practice in the State of Illinois in 1984, and is admitted to practice before U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois Trial Bar; U.S. Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit; U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit; United States Court of Federal Claims. Arthur is rated as “AV Preeminent” by Martindale-Hubbell, the highest possible rating in legal ability and ethic.
Manuel “Manny” Flores is the President & CEO of SomerCor, a non-profit development company certified by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) to originate SBA 504 loans in Illinois. Founded in 1992, SomerCor holds a portfolio in excess of $481 million, comprised of more than 925 loans, and is one of the largest SBA lenders in the Chicago area, consistently ranking in the top 15 Certified Development Companies (CDC’s) nationwide.
Manny has a unique professional background that includes work in government and the private sector. Manny served in the Chicago City Council from 2003-2010 where he distinguished himself for his work in economic development. In 2010, Manny joined Illinois Governor Pat Quinn’s cabinet; he served as Acting Chairman of the Illinois Commerce Commission (2010-2011) charged with regulating investor-owned utilities and as Director and Acting Secretary (2011-2015) of the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) charged with regulating state-chartered depository institutions and consumer finance companies and professionals. Prior to joining GMC, Manny was a partner at the law firm of Arnstein & Lehr (2015-2017), successfully representing banks and start-up fintech clients on regulatory and compliance matters.
Manny is very passionate about community engagement and advancing economic development and entrepreneurship. In addition to his service to the SBAC, he serves on the boards of ChildServ, Dominican University, Environmental Law and Policy Center, and the Cook County Economic Development Advisory Committee.
Coaching Financial Concepts
John Gotschall is President and Owner of Coaching Financial Concepts and Coaching Insurance. Known locally and on the radio as “Coach Johnny G”, John has been a leader in financial services for Small Businesses for over 20 years. From group health to business insurance, 401K’s to executive benefits, Coaching Financial helps small businesses find the best coverage for their needs. Individuals and families are served through Coaching Insurance for home, auto, pet, wedding, and umbrella insurance policies.
The SBAC has benefited from John’s leadership since its inception – John has been on the board since 2015 and involved with the SBAC since 2011. His passion to serve extends into the community where he is on the board of ChildServ and also has served on the Golf Committee for the Kenneth Young Center.
Open One Solutions, Inc.
Robert Harney is President & Founder of Open One Solutions, Inc. Robert’s vision has evolved into an enterprise grade “One Solution” to provide VoIP services for small to midsize businesses, educational & local institutions. We take you out of the telecommunications business so you can concentrate on what you do best… managing YOUR business.
Robert has collected a team of local talent who are experts in their field. Together they become the superpower that supports your vision of success. The Harney family is dedicated to seeing American business thrive & believes in supporting the local community. The family is involved with local charities as well as invests in other local business concerns. Robert is also on the board of a technology start-up. Robert has served on the Board of the SBAC since 2017 as well as one of the SBAC’s Premier Advocates.
Mastercraft Marble & Granite
Ken has owned Mastercraft Marble & Granite since 1987. His company specializes in the design, fabrication, and installation of granite and marble kitchen/bathroom counter-tops, tub decks, wet bars, and outdoor granite counter-tops. They also repair cracked and chipped natural stone. Ken currently serves as the Co-Chair of the Small Business Advocacy Council North Shore Chapter.
ICI Staffing and E&M Strategic Development
Mark is a bit of a serial entrepreneur. As President of ICI Staffing, he builds support level teams for Insurance, Financial, and Legal professionals. By having a narrow focus, long term relationships are created that facilitates real value for our clients. As founder and owner of E&M Strategic Development, he leads primarily hospitality development to underserved markets. By creating real win-win scenarios with local governments, valuable projects are created in often overlooked areas. Prior to these ventures, he has had part in the founding of 5 separate businesses, managed their operations, and executed successful exits. This has been accomplished by following traditional business strategies mixed with creativity and a common-sense approach.
Mark is originally from a farm in Nebraska, raised his family in Peoria, IL, and relocated to Chicago in 2012. He graduated from Nebraska Wesleyan University in 1988, Bradley University MBA in 2005, and Teaching Certificate from North Park University in 2012. His involvement in the SBAC began in 2016 where he is actively engaged in bringing a voice to small business. The SBAC brings a unique voice to owners who are often busy to focus on policies or regulations that impact their operations. It is an honor to be part of an organization that helps to fill that void.
The Office Connection
Ronnie is a Principal at The Office Connection and started the Chicago office in 2002. The Office Connection is one of the nation’s largest providers of office and facility supplies, contract furniture and company branded items. Ronnie is an active board member for WPPA Youth Baseball, involved in JUF and the MSU alumni club. You can frequently catch Ronnie on the baseball diamond or football field coaching his two boys.
VP of Marketing and Business Development, Steadfast
Tim started his tech career in 1999 as a wide-eyed marketing manager for Applied Systems, an insurance software company, having just moved to the Chicago area from Iowa with two undergraduate degrees in Marketing and Graphic Design and half of an MBA degree completed from the University of Iowa.
Since that time, Tim has quickly moved up the ladder at different organizations. As Global Manager of Integrated Marketing at Panduit, he took an active role in leading product rollouts efforts for technologies such as Panduit’s first-ever proprietary software and hardware solution suite, which he helped to brand as SmartZone. As Director of Marketing for ServerCentral, a colocation, cloud, and disaster recovery company in Chicago, Tim was able to take on new roles, by building out their entire marketing organization and helping to bring new cloud technologies to market.
Today, Tim brings all of this experience to Steadfast, where he is responsible for marketing, brand, and sales efforts as VP of Marketing and Business Development. Attracted to Steadfast’s focus on supporting small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs), his goal is now to help transition Steadfast as a premier cloud services provider that can help companies of all size compete on a level playing field.
And yes, Tim did finally complete his MBA degree.
Carol Sente Consulting, LLC
Carol Sente, founder and principal consultant at Carol Sente Consulting, LLC, is driven by a passion to pursue continual improvement in people and organizations. With first-hand knowledge working in a diverse range of industries – including the built environment, professional services and government – she utilizes her 30 years of leadership, communication and business development talents to help companies reach their next pinnacle of success.
Known for her abilities in rainmaking, emerging leader development, process improvement and communication, she was recruited for numerous private and public board positions before being appointed as State Representative in the Illinois General Assembly during one of the most challenging decades as a public servant. During her tenure, she was committed to the philosophy of being a centrist problem solver and citizen legislator who stayed grounded in the daily realities her constituents face.
Carol is also a PDPGlobal Certified Professional able to administer behavioral assessment surveys, which she utilizes to strengthen organizations’ talent selection, teambuilding and employee growth models
Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr LLP
Jason Tremblay is a business attorney and litigator who advises companies in a wide range of industries on employment law and commercial matters. Jason’s breadth of experience as a litigator and problem solver enables him to be a trusted advisor and outside general counsel to his clients. His experience in employment matters includes counseling, negotiation and litigation on issues critical to the evolving workplace. Jason also provides his clients with an array of services including drafting and negotiating employment and independent contractor agreements, and counseling clients relating to employment and contract related issues. Beyond these services, Jason also draws on his experience to help business owners triage the issues they face and, when necessary, direct them to outside sources of assistance.
Neli Vazquez Rowland
A Safe Haven Foundation
Neli Vazquez Rowland is the President/Co-founder of A Safe Haven Foundation. A Safe Haven is a world class, unique, vertically integrated ‘eco- system’ nonprofit that is successfully rebuilding lives from poverty and homelessness. Her goal is to inspire and influence a ‘paradigm shift’ on how our Nation addresses the issues of poverty, homelessness, drug and alcohol addiction with protocols that offer an effective, efficient delivery system by connecting services and leveraging investment resources of public and private entities that have a shared responsibility and common goal of making a measurable and positive social impact to society. A Safe Haven delivery system is designed to help people in crisis achieve sustainable self-sufficiency and to achieve the ‘double bottom line’ of saving money and more importantly saving lives long-term.
Z-Marketing, Z-Marketing and Consulting
Eric is President of Z-Marketing and Consulting. Z- Marketing’s services include the negotiating and buying of all forms of advertising media that significantly increase the effectiveness of his clients’ marketing budgets.
In addition to implementing media schedules, his creative team will create ads and commercials that appear in Newspapers, Magazines, Radio, TV, Direct Mail and Digital platforms. Eric’s entrepreneurial background includes the launching of TV stations in Richmond VA and Chicago, Captivate Network, digital screens in elevators, a Cable TV Sales group for Cox Communications and Warner Communications, and a chain of retail stores called the Entertainers, in Norfolk and Va. Beach.
Z-Marketing partnered with the SBAC, the Daily Herald, and the Business Ledger to design and publish the SBAC Member Directory and Advocacy Review, which is mailed to every member and included in the Business Ledger. Eric serves on the Lake County Chapter Board and was a member of the 2015 SBAC Golf Committee.
CSR, RDR, CRR, CMRS, CME – President of the Midwest Division, Lexitas
Rhonda graduated from MacCormac College in 1984 with a Court Reporting Associate of Applied Science Degree. In addition to passing the State test to become a Certified Shorthand Reporter, Rhonda went on to pass every certification test leading to the highest level of certification available to court reporters, the RDR, along with passing the Certified Realtime Reporter certification. After two years of working as a freelance reporter at a Chicago firm, Rhonda started her own business, Jensen Litigation Solutions. In addition to organic growth, Rhonda also acquired three court reporting companies. In September of 2016, having just celebrated 30 years in business, Rhonda sold her company to Lexitas and is now the President of the Midwest Division of Lexitas. She continues to enjoy working closely with her clients and court reporters.
Patrice Darby Neely
Patrice is a second-generation serial entrepreneur, childcare expert, and small business advocate. As the founder and CEO of GoLogic Solutions, Patrice leads an exceptional team dedicated to building digital tools for small businesses to increase revenue opportunities and deepen customer relationships while simultaneously providing SBDCs, WBCs, and other small business support organizations with critical economic impact metrics to secure additional funding.
Recent accomplishments include the winner of the UPS Pitch Competition with Marcus Lemonis, Invest Chicago Women’s Innovation Award, Top 100 finalist for the 2017 Chicago Innovation Awards, Techstars 2020, and backed by Google. Patrice spends her free time with her growing family and operates as an EIR to the next generation of entrepreneurs at Northwestern University.
Account Manager, Google
Isaac graduated from the University of Chicago in 2019 with a Bachelor of Arts in Public Policy, with Honors, and History. Isaac currently works as an Account Manager at Google where he consults Fortune 500 advertising clients on their Google Ads strategy. Before Google, he served as a Policy Intern in the New York City Mayor’s Office, examining the 911 emergency system’s mental health response strategy. Since then, Isaac has donated his time to the Small Business Advocacy Council’s efforts to reduce Illinois job licensing employment barriers for ex-offenders, leveraging TIF reform to support entrepreneurs in underserved neighborhoods, and other efforts.
Partner, Freeborn & Peters
Anthony Zeoli is a Partner in the Corporate Practice Group and the Leader of the Emerging Industries Team. He concentrates his practice in the areas of banking and commercial finance, securities, real estate, and general corporate law.
Anthony’s commercial finance practice includes the representation of borrowers and lenders in: secured and unsecured lending transactions; corporate reorganizations and restructuring; syndicated commercial financing transactions; and loan workouts. Anthony also has a vibrant securities and general corporate practice including initial and subsequent private debt and equity offerings; mergers and acquisitions; company formation and governance; and general contract drafting and negotiation. He has particular skill in the negotiation and documentation of transactions involving the acquisition, sale, construction, development, leasing, and/or financing of real estate and has represented parties on both sides of such transactions.
Anthony is also an industry leader in the areas of crowdfunding, blockchain, securities based cryptocurrency/token offerings, peer-to-peer (P2P) lending, and Regulation A+ offerings. He also personally drafted the Illinois intrastate crowdfunding exemption, which was unanimously passed into law by the Illinois House of Representatives. Anthony was recently named to the National Law Journal's inaugural list of Cryptocurrency, Blockchain and FinTech Trailblazers.
Andrew O’Conner and co-founder, Brian Henciak, formed Team Merchant because they were both tired of the same old payment
processing industry tricks and wanted to do something different.
They were passionate about helping businesses grow and knew that a team dedicated to the same mission and values could do better by being honest and doing things the right way. Team Merchant was founded to empower merchants by helping them better analyze, design, and implement payment solutions.
Andrew has over 10 years of experience in the payments industry and is a member and strong supporter of the SBAC.
Co-Founder, Team Merchant
Andrew O’Conner and co-founder, Brian Henciak, formed Team Merchant because they were both tired of the same old payment
processing industry tricks and wanted to do something different. They were passionate about helping businesses grow and knew that a team dedicated to the same mission and values could do better by being honest and doing things the right way. Team Merchant was founded to empower merchants by helping them better analyze, design, and implement payment solutions.
Andrew has over 10 years of experience in the payments industry and is a member and strong supporter of the SBAC.
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