Mentors


Tom Borg

Tom is founder and president of Tom Borg Consulting, LLC. Since 1996 he has worked with CEOs, presidents and their leadership teams in over 1300 companies and organizations He works with his clients at the intersection of leadership, communication and culture. He does this through his consulting, mentoring, coaching, strategic work sessions, workshops, training and his assessment instruments.


Pierce Fitzpatrick

Pierce is a 2018 graduate of EMU's MBA program. He started his career with the outdoor retailer, Recreational Equipment Inc (REI), then interned in Reykjavik, Iceland for the outdoor camping retailer, Fjallakofinn. During his MBA program, he founded backpacking and expedition garment company High Route Gear and in 2019 helped German wearable tech company, ProGlove, enter the US market. Pierce is currently co-founder of No Dirty Earth, an environmentally sustainable product incubator, with products receiving international recognition from Fast Company Magazine as a 2021 World Changing Idea. He is also co-founder of the Portage-based company, Blu Technology, creating off-grid water treatment systems for vehicle-based adventures.


Paul Henchey

Consultant to healthcare software companies with expertise in strategic product marketing, software product management, content marketing, software design and strategic product planning. Deep experience with healthcare analytics and business intelligence technologies. Management experience in both Fortune 20 companies and small start-ups. Successful track record in helping companies of all sizes launch new software products and grow new revenue streams. Paul is currently the President of New Enterprise Forum, an Ann Arbor-based non-profit organization whose vision is to link entrepreneurs with management expertise, joint venture partners, business services, capital, and other critical resources.


Gary Hessenaur

Gary Hessenaur, President and owner of Hessenaur Associates, C.P.A., P.C.. The firm provides a full range of accounting, tax, consulting and part time CFO services. The firm focuses on small to mid-size businesses with a specialty in start ups and technology businesses. Start up business clients have been funded through owner funds, grants, angel and VC investors. Gary is board member and business coach for the New Enterprise Forum, helps counsel businesses through various other business organizations and regular speaker at SPARK business start up programs. He is very well networked in the startup and financing community.


David Maas

David Maas is recognized as a brand smart marketing leader and a street smart general manager with his 20-plus years at the J. Walter Thompson advertising agency and five years at Federal-Mogul Motorparts. Presently, teaching as a mentor and learning as an intern, he is helping to position, build and grow early-stage businesses for rapid scale-up and equity financing in the startup communities around Detroit and Ann Arbor. David has won eight EFFIE Awards in recognition of business-building ideas that work in the marketplace and a team that works together. He has been an EFFIE judge and EFFIE moderator for both Round One and Final Round judging.


Bill McPherson

William McPherson is the Managing Director of McPherson Commercial Capital, LLC which he formed in June of 2002, in order to provide funding solutions, business planning and financial structuring assistance to a variety of businesses and investors in commercial real estate. He has assisted in arranging funding for start-ups, growth needs, restructuring situations and acquisitions of businesses. He also assists and advises in finding commercial mortgage financing for both owner occupied and investment properties. McPherson has held a variety of positions in which he managed & developed business in the areas of equipment finance and leasing, real estate mortgage and sale leaseback financing and the funding of acquisitions and growth thru loans based upon the cash flow value of the business being acquired.

He is a graduate of the University of Michigan holding both BBA and MBA degrees. He is a member of the Michigan Business Brokers Association, the National Association of Equipment Lease Brokers and an associate member of the Michigan Commercial Board of Realtors. He is President and a director of the New Enterprise Forum, and actively participates on its coaching teams.


Joseph (Joe) Morrison

Joseph Morrison is an attorney at Bodman Law.  Morrison represents high-growth companies in an outside general counsel capacity. He focuses on emerging companies that leverage technology to build their business and brand. He also represents venture capital firms and high net worth individuals that invest in high-growth companies. His business and technology background gives him the ability to deftly advise ambitious entrepreneurs facing legal and business challenges. 

Before joining Bodman, Joe worked for Accenture as an information technology consultant in Washington, D.C. He also served as corporate counsel and consulting manager for a Michigan-based IT startup, where he helped scale the company to 50+ employees and $3 million in revenue.


 

Kristine Nash-Wong

Director of Entrepreneurial Services – SPARK East


Anne Partington

Anne is the Commercialization Director for the Michigan Translational Research & Commercialization (MTRAC Innovation Hub for Advanced Transportation) Program. A veteran of the automotive industry, Anne comes to U-M Innovation Partnerships with more than twenty years of global leadership experience at FCA (Stellantis) and General Motors across purchasing, program management, and product development engineering as well as a deep bench in corporate training experience in purchasing strategy, culture building, and transformational leadership.

Most recently, Anne was a director of Entrepreneurial Services, managing director of the SPARK East innovation center and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion lead for the regional economic development organization Ann Arbor SPARK. Anne worked with public/private sector partners and companies to promote inclusive economic opportunity while mentoring high tech companies to scale and commercialize in her role as an entrepreneurial services and DEI leader.

Anne earned her BS in Mechanical Engineering from U-M, followed by an MS from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Anne is also trained in diversity and inclusion and is a certified professional innovator. 


Charlie Penner

Charlie has been the Regional Director of the Michigan Small Business Development Center – Greater Washtenaw Region since 2002. In that capacity he has directly counseled, or overseen the counseling of, thousands of local small businesses. He has developed and presented numerous small business training sessions and participated in many varied entrepreneurship support activities. Charlie has also taught a variety of small business and entrepreneurship classes at EMU, WCC and U-M.

Charlie currently serves on the Ann Arbor Ypsilanti Regional Chamber of Commerce Board, and he previously served on Boards for Washtenaw County Workforce Development, the Annual Collaboration for Entrepreneurship (ACE) and Think Local First of Washtenaw County. Prior to joining the MI-SBDC, Charlie was the Director of Consulting Services at Nonprofit Enterprise at Work. In addition, he was a Senior Consultant with Plante Moran and held several management positions with the Gartner Group. Charlie holds an MPPM from the Yale School of Management and a BA from Hampshire College.


 

Alain Piette

Mr. Piette is the MI-SBTDC Technology Team manager. In his most recent assignment, Alain was president of an advanced manufacturing company. The company was a technology spinout from a large automotive supplier. Alain has also worked in Europe, Southern Africa, Central and South America for international corporations such as DuPont, Sherwin Williams and Kongsberg Automotive. He has also been involved with turn-around, startup and M&A activities. Alain brings his extensive experience in organizational development, manufacturing, R&D, market development, technology transfer and international expansion to the team.

Mr. Piette is also an avid farmer. He is passionate about agronomy and entrepreneurship in the agricultural field. He has taken a very visible position at the Michigan State University Agricultural Incubators and evaluates agricultural translational research projects which can be supported by MTRAC which is funded by the State of Michigan. He is also involved with AcreAGTech, an emerging independent business accelerator in the State of Michigan by providing strategic reflection and leadership guidance.

Alain earned and BSBA and MBA from Wayne State University.


Marlo Rencher

Dr. Marlo Rencher is an entrepreneur, anthropologist, and educator with over two decades of experience in startup and small business development. Currently, she is TechTown Detroit’s director of technology-based programs. She is a co-founder at Commune Angels, an inclusive network of angel investors. She is the founder of Tech Founders Academy, which helps Black and Brown women reinvent themselves as Tech Founders. She has also founded or co-founded three other tech startups. She previously served as vice president of innovation, entrepreneurship, and diversity at Cleary University. She also served as the faculty chair of the entrepreneurship department at the business-focused university.
 
Dr. Rencher earned an undergraduate degree in marketing from Michigan State University, an MBA from the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan, and a PhD in business and organizational anthropology from Wayne State University. She frequently speaks on technology entrepreneurship and inclusion and has been a presenter at TedxDetroit, Princeton University, and SXSW. She is the co-author of Hard Reset: Framing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion as the New Normal.


Linda Smith

A 1991 EMU accounting grad, Linda Smith has 35 plus years of personal entrepreneurial experience in farming, real estate and life science ventures.  
Linda co-founded Michigan Innovation Headquarters with her husband in 2015. Serial entrepreneurs, they launched MI-HQ, a collaborative business incubator accelerator campus which has grown to 170,000 sq. ft. of flex office, wet lab and manufacturing space as a start up venture. 
 
At 80 companies and growing, MI-HQ fosters Life sciences, Alternative Energy, Medical Device, Waste to Energy, Corporate Development and Micro Electronics together in a community environment.   MI-HQ was awarded Ann Arbor Spark Project of the Year in 2020. Over 25 years working with early stage companies has provided Linda with a unique insight into what makes a successful start up. She enjoys helping other entrepreneurs succeed. 


Dan Stewart

Dan Stewart is a Detroit-based business development professional specializing in relationship building using a personal face-to-face approach, currently working as a Relationship Manager at Automation Alley. Prior to that, Dan ran a staffing firm as the Senior VP Operations. Having spent decades working in automotive engineering and manufacturing operations, Dan understands the
values that drive successful business development. He writes a frivolous blog, publishes a weekly newsletter, has numerous articles published in trade journals including SIA - The Staffing Stream, and has authored and published “Managing The MSP” - a book centered on the proposition of building successful relationships with Managed Service Providers in the contingent labor space. In addition to his extensive business development acumen, Dan is an accomplished public speaker.  Dan holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Northwood University in Midland, MI.


Chao Sun

Chao’s financial expertise will be counted on to support CapStone Holdings, Inc. and its affiliates and subsidiaries with setting strategic goals, directing operational activities for continued growth, evaluating investment opportunities and risk analysis, as well as portfolio management. Chao will also have responsibilities for entrepreneurial initiatives in Southeast Michigan, including developing strategic partnerships and alliances with local innovation hubs, universities, and venture groups.

Prior to joining CapStone, Chao was an organizational development consultant at Sensei Change Associates and the co-founder and chief financial officer of The Back Office Studio, a co-working space in Ypsilanti. As a first-generation immigrant, he came to the United States from China for his master’s degree in Human Resources Management and Organizational Development in 2010. A graduate of Eastern Michigan University, Chao is a part-time lecturer at the College of Business and gives back to the community through being the board member of the Neighborhood Theater Group and other efforts.


Stefan Sysko

Stefan Sysko is an entrepreneur with a diverse background and 20+ years of experience, much of which has been spent advising small business owners on developing strategy and on executing at a high level. His career includes broad experience in strategic marketing planning, market development, new product and business development, and training.

Sysko has been a consultant, advisor and mentor to dozens of start-ups and hundreds of small businesses. He advises startups, emerging, and turnaround companies with launch, growth, and rebuilding strategies. He helps founders discover and effectively tell their story, develop their value proposition, identify and avoid – or tear down – roadblocks, and turn their ideas into focused, viable business plans.  Through a strategic partnership with metro Detroit-based Poco Labs, Sysko helps companies with concept development, consumer research and product design. He is a board member, past-president, and coach at New Enterprise Forum.

Sysko holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from Wayne State University and an MBA from Eastern Michigan University.


Scott Taylor

Scott offers an in-the-trenches business, technical, and entrepreneurial background to our SBDC Tech Team. Most recently, as one of two founders of Soloshot Inc, he served as president while the company scaled from an idea conceived on the beach to a global brand with two product line generations, worldwide distribution, in-house production, in-house sales/marketing/R&D teams, and multiple issued patents. Scott holds a master’s degree in chemical engineering and a bachelor’s degree in naval architecture and marine engineering, both from the University of Michigan.


Wendy Thomas

Wendy Thomas is the Southeast Region Director for the Michigan Small Business Development Center which services Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb Counties. Her extensive and rewarding career, spanning over 20 years, has led her to incredible professional growth opportunities.

Wendy has received recognition for Outstanding Volunteer for the CEED Detroit Loan Program, Michigan Small Business Center of Excellence and Innovation Award, and SBA Small Business Consultant of the Year. Wendy is also certified as a Small Business Consultant and a Small Business Administration Export Trade Specialist.

Wendy holds a Bachelor of Arts in Communications from Michigan State University, Master of Business Administration with a specialization in Entrepreneurship, and a Master of Science in Integrated
Marketing Communications from Eastern Michigan University. Wendy is a member of the Beta Gamma Sigma and Phi Kappa Phi Honor Societies. She also complimented her academic achievements with studying business practices abroad in Asia and Europe including China, England and France.