North Coast SBDCEureka and Crescent City California

Our Team

Leila Roberts


Leila has served as Director of the North Coast Small Business Development Center since August 2016. In this three year span the Center has grown consulting services 15%, training clients 450%, and its operating budget by 137%. Clients are reporting 7.3% more access to financing, 236% more successful start-ups, and 214% more employees hired and retained.

Leila brought to SBDC lessons learned from a 20-year career growing strong community institutions—from Philadelphia to D.C., Vermont to Bangladesh. In twelve years with the global arm of United Way, Leila guided local business and community leaders in 45 countries who wanted to start up homegrown community service organizations. Right out of college, she ran a small town Planned Parenthood clinic. Before coming to Humboldt to settle with her family, she consulted with small business and nonprofit clients across California on strategic marketing, public relations, sales, and fundraising. 

She serves on College of the Redwoods Entrepreneurship Advisory Board and Humboldt State University's College of Professional Studies Advisory Board, as well as both Humboldt's and Del Norte/Crescent City's Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) working groups.

She has a master’s degree in the management of sustainable development. Leila is the daughter and granddaughter of immigrants from England and Morocco. She lives in Eureka with her husband John Richmond, Publisher of the Times-Standard newspaper, and their pointy-eared dog Benny. 

Leila believes thriving small independent businesses are the heart of our economy and the key to our prosperity. 

Heather Kelley

Center Manager

Heather is the Finance & Operations Manager of the North Coast Small Business Development Center. She has been with the center since December 2020.

Heather has worked in the nonprofit sector for more than 12 years, with St Joseph Hospital as well as smaller local enterprises. She co-owns a small family woodworking business and so understands personally how small businesses keep our community and families thriving. She has a Bachelor degree in Health Care Management and brings years of operational and team-building acumen to North Coast SBDC. 

As a lifelong Humboldt County resident, Heather is committed to serving and empowering our community. She enjoys her memberships with Rotary and Soroptomist as a way of building relationships and having opportunities to serve. She also serves on the Redwood Memorial Hospital Foundation Board.

In her spare time, Heather spends time with her husband and three children appreciating the beauty of the outdoors in the North Coast and entertaining friends at home.

Melanie Barnett

Business Advisor

Melanie Barnett has spent her career assisting small businesses and the owners and employees that create them, and believes in an integrative approach to business management. She has expertise in the specialty food industry, nation-wide food distribution, small and large scale event planning, group facilitation, program and curriculum development, financial projections, COGS analyzation, organizational development, marketing, and employee management. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Management and a Master's of Psychology. She has a consulting firm in Humboldt County that specializes in business plan development and execution, and she is also an Associate Marriage and Family Therapist (AMFT) and life coach that works with entrepreneurs, artists, and individuals. 

Kurt Barthel


Kurt will be providing regular advice and counsel on workplace issues and labor regulations for both the public and private sector employers. He has developed presentations for employers on the current Industrial Welfare Commission Orders, Labor Code Compliance, and proper classification of employees. In addition, Kurt regularly conducts independent internal investigations for employers, and advises on the proper methods to establish compliance with the current Labor regulations.

Kurt is currently an active member of the Eureka Rotary Club in Eureka, was Vice-Chairman and Chairman of the Saint Bernard's Catholic Schools Board of Directors, a Board member of the Northcoast Employers Advisory Council, and Regional VP for the California employers Advisory Council

Kurt has been a frequent speaker on employment Law topics before numerous employer groups on the Northcoast. Kurt graduated from the Pacific Lutheran University School of Business Administration in 1971, receiving a Bachelor of Business Administration. Kurt graduated from Long Beach City College with an Associate of Arts Degree in 1969. Kurt also attended Lincoln Law School in San Jose for two years in 1978 and 1979

Kurt has gained experience working in retail management for a large Southern California Department Store chain, in law enforcement, and as a sole proprietor, prior to his employment with the State of California. During his time with the State of California, Department of Industrial Relations, Division of Labor Standards Enforcement; Kurt has worked as a Special Investigator, Senior Special Investigator, and Deputy Labor Commissioner for the Division of Labor Standard Enforcement in the city of San Jose, Oakland, Napa, and Eureka for 30years before retiring. During this time, he worked in the enforcement, adjudication, and administration of the California Labor Laws, Industrial Welfare Commission Orders, and Discrimination Statutes under the California Labor Code. 

Kurt is the principle in Barthel & Associates Consulting, specializing in Wage and Hour Laws for California and Oregon and Human Resources Solutions for small businesses.

Allie Heemstra

Allie Jones

Business Advisor

Allie Jones is a marketing consultant and owner of Illuminated Marketing, a Humboldt-based marketing agency with a national reach. She brings her expertise in brand development, marketing strategy, and content marketing to help you, your business, and your customers thrive.

Laurie Mark

Business Advisor

Laurie's first career was in banking, and she also spent several years doing private business consulting, prior to buying The Mill Yard. She has experience with fiscal, administrative, human resources, compliance, inventory oversight and following retirement in December of 2016 she wanted to share her knowledge of business by offering assistance at the local SBDC. Laurie has thirteen years of experience in banking and private business consulting. An avid member of the Humboldt community, Laurie is on the Board of Directors of the AEDC,  and also the loan committee. She has also been involved with Humboldt CASA for the last twenty-five years.

Catherine DeSantis

Business Advisor- Marketing

Catherine DeSantis of Trinity Marketing is a Business Advisor, specializing in business issues related to marketing. She has worked in the communications field since 1980 in print media, market research and consumer goods marketing. Her advising specialties include development of sales and marketing strategy, PR, media relations, market research, identity programs, trade advertising, marketing collateral and social media.

Lorna McLeod

Lorna McLeod

Business Advisor

Lorna has offered business advice to solopreneurs, coaching, consulting and medical professionals, and artists and arts related businesses for more than 30 years. She brings extensive personal knowledge about running small businesses as well as her coaching skills to her clients here. When not working with her North Coast SBDC clients she works with business clients as a certified financial coach.

Lorna is founder of the Make Peace with Money program and movement. She is a member of a team of licensed trainers that deliver customized trainings based on time-tested success principles and powerful coaching practices to teams and organizations across the world

Her book, Make Peace with Money: Redefine Your Relationship with Money, Master Your Personal Finances, and Discover True Wealth, recently debuted on Amazon. When not advising, coaching or training, Lorna loves hiking, climbing trees, and cooking with Humboldt County’s great organic produce. She delights in contributing of her knowledge to her community.

Melinda Pedersen

Business Advisor- Human Resources

Melinda Pedersen is a Human Resources professional with over 20 years of experience.  She has worked for start-up’s, large international non-profits, and small private businesses.  Melinda enjoys helping employers create policies that reflect both legal requirements and employment culture.  Aligning with business size and industry, Melinda can create scalable HR systems and programs that protect and serve both employee and employer.

A New England native, Melinda was a Peace Corps volunteer in Senegal and upon return moved west for love. Melinda and family live in Fieldbrook and enjoy hiking the forests and beaches of beautiful Humboldt.  Staying connected to her Peace Corps roots, Melinda is the Arcata Chapter Leader of the international nonprofit, Dining for Women.

Jennifer Catsos

Business Advisor

Jenna Catsos is a local artist and owner of Pen+Pine, a Humboldt-based illustration company with a national reach. Her expertise in creative start-ups helps artists and makers understand their brand, view themselves as business owners, and turn their hobby into a profitable career. Jenna is also the organizer of the Eureka Street Art Festival, and sits on the boards of SCRAP Humboldt and the Headwaters Fund. In her spare time she loves to garden, go on neighborhood walks around Eureka, and spend quality time with her cats.

Janet DePace

Lead Business Advisor

Janet DePace is a longtime resident and entrepreneur of Humboldt County, one of the original founders of Yakima Products Inc., and has served her community as president of Arcata Economic Development Corp., and Chair of the Humboldt County Workforce Investment Board. Prior to coming to the North Coast SBDC she ran or owned several other retail and manufacturing businesses, and maintained her own consulting practice with an emphasis on artists and manufacturers.

Liz Ennis

Liz Ennis

Business Advisor- Financial Mangement

Elizabeth “Liz” Ennis is the owner of On-Call CFO, and started her SBDC tenure in 2010 applying her 40 years of accounting experience to special projects, becoming a Primary Business Advisor in 2012. She spent almost 20 years guiding scientists with financial management and reporting of their Research & Development projects (yes, it WAS rocket science!) at Rockwell International Corporation, working with DARPA, NASA, DOD, NSA and other government agencies. As a business owner in Southern California, she joined the family commercial real estate business managing all aspects of suburban office buildings, office parks, and industrial and neighborhood shopping centers including end to end accounting, day to day management and capital improvement projects.

Since moving to Humboldt County, she has enjoyed working with small businesses owners to guide them on the road to success. She can help you start-up your business, set-up your accounting and analyze your financials, and build-up your operation. Liz is a member and avid fundraiser for the Rotary Club of Southwest Eureka, and enjoys singing, swimming, gardening, and travel.

Debbie Toste

NorCal SBDC Regional Business Services Manager

Debbie oversees new client intake interviews for the Northern California SBDC region, including the North Coast Small Business Development Center. She comes with over 20 years of local small business experience along with an International business background.

Debbie is a Humboldt State University graduate, having completed her BA in French with a minor in Spanish. She then obtained her Master’s degree in French at San Francisco State University. Debbie spent the last several years studying and working in Paris and Singapore. While living abroad, she had the opportunity to do what she loves most:  traveling, hiking and exploring different cultures.

In her free time, Debbie enjoys spending time with her family and being back home in Humboldt County. She has a great love for her community and is ready to help it flourish. 

Louise Dawson

Louise Dawson

Business Advisor

Louise Dawson is an SBDC Certified Business Advisor and Hospitality Specialist who brings to her clients over 30 years of industry experience: owning and operating bars, restaurants and retail consulting, advising, teaching, and training, Louise brings real-life experience to start-ups, with pre-opening education and organization and, to existing businesses, operational strategy and ongoing systems and training.

Louise is a small business advocate and won a congressional award for her work with small business from Nancy Pelosi.

Amy Fowler

Business Advisor - ECommerce

Amy’s experience in eCommerce sales began in 2001, and since that time she has turned an enjoyable and profitable hobby into her own small business. In addition, she has over ten years in operations and inventory management in both retail and wholesale environments.

She has combined these skills to develop multi-channel eCommerce procedures for inventory allocation, order processing and financial reconciliation. Amy enjoys working with technology and is experienced with numerous sales, inventory, shipping and financial software applications. She is also a milliner which brings the artist’s business perspective to her skill set.

Her experience helps artists and small businesses expand their exposure to relevant online sales channels, while developing the tools and best practices to streamline their operations.


Scott "Q" Marcus

Business Advisor- Sales, Marketing, Advertising, Customer service (emphasis on hard to please customers), Public speaking & presenting

After a decades-long background in media and marketing, Scott "Q" Marcus lost 70 pounds and launched his career as a "THINspirational Speaker." He now inspires organizations that are facing trying times on how to break down big barriers into small goals and move past them.

Scott is the past president of the northern California chapter of the National Speakers Association. He is a syndicated newspaper columnist, author of nine books, and the CRP (Chief Recovering Perfectionist) of, a site for people who are tired of making promises they don’t keep and are really ready to change.

Prior to his speaking and writing career, has been a DJ, talk show host, Music Director, Program Director, Operations Director and later: sales manager, station manager, and general manager of various radio and TV stations. He also served as an independent representative for an advertising agency in northern California and won two national Telly awards for TV campaigns he helped devise. He still organizes marketing campaigns and does marketing and customer service presentations across the country.

Beth Shipley

Business Advisor - Bookkeeping, Financial Analysis

Beth Shipley brings 12 years of full charge bookkeeping experience with local small businesses to her role as an SBDC bookkeeping advisor. With years of experience as an analyst, she sees the big picture and asks and answers the right questions. Beth is proficient with multiple bookkeeping software programs and is knowledgeable about inventory management. She loves using financial data to help business owners understand trends in their sales and costs so they can make informed decisions.

Mary Ann Testagrossa

Mary Ann Testagrossa

Business Advisor

Mary Ann Testagrossa began as a business advisor with SBDC in 2015.  She specializes in helping artisans build an online presence with a combination of an online store, social media marketing and blogging.  
Mary Ann is the owner of two online Etsy businesses, the oldest being her gemstone store, Adornajoy Gems, which she began in 2007.  Her knowledge of Etsy is extensive, and she keeps up to date with the ongoing changes Etsy continually makes.  From designing the brand or look of a store, to product photography and SEO specifically for Etsy, Mary Ann is an expert on all things Etsy.  

Mary Ann also has ecommerce sales experience on other online platforms such as Ebay, Artfire, Zibbet, and Big Cartel.   She has extensive knowledge of marketing on Facebook and Instagram, with proven sales directly from those platforms.

Mary Ann is also an artist.  Her website is at  She has shown her artwork locally for many years in galleries and art fairs, as well as nationally.  Before she began her online businesses, she ran a large local gallery for ten years, was a graphic designer and picture framer.  

Traci Fansler

Business Advisor - Del Norte

For over 8 years, Traci Fansler has been a business advisor for the North Coast Small Business Development Center, providing businesses in Humboldt and Del Norte Counties with much needed consulting services. Traci brings to her counseling over fifteen (15) years of financial management expertise. Her work history includes experience as the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of the Del Norte Harbor District, and prior to that as CFO of Mindspire Technologies. Traci also has extensive experience with Human Resources and Office Management, and has been a small business owner, herself. Drawing from her experiences, she guides small businesses through the challenges they face and to better stability and solvency. When Traci is not helping business owners she can be found hanging out with her grandkids, gardening, or making jewelry.

Lonny Grafman

Business Advisor

Lonny Grafman is an Instructor of Environmental Resources Engineering and Appropriate Technology at Humboldt State University; the founder of the Practivistas full immersion, abroad, resilient community technology program; the Advisor and Project Manager (and at times fundraiser) for the epi-apocalyptic city art projects Waterpod, Flock House, WetLand, and Swale; the director of the AWEsome Business Competition for groups working on Agriculture, Water and Energy in Northern California; and the Founder and President of the Appropedia Foundation, sharing knowledge to build rich, sustainable lives.
Lonny has taught university courses in six countries and presented in dozens more. He has worked, and led teams, on hundreds of domestic and international projects across a broad spectrum of sustainability - from solar power to improved cookstoves, from micro-hydro power to rainwater catchment, from earthen construction to plastic bottle schoolrooms. Throughout all these technology implementations, he has found the most vital component to be community.
His first books, To Catch the Rain and Atrapando la lluvia, cover inspiring stories of communities coming together to catch their own rain, and how you can do it too.

Charlie Jordan

Business Advisor

Charlie Jordan is a Business Advisor with a background in product development and business development.  She brings 40 years of experience in the food and beverage industry, the outdoor industry and with consumer goods working with startups to multi-million-dollar multi-national companies.  Charlie is a proven change agent and has helped several companies grow to the next level of business.  Trained in business development, Charlie is a strong generalist with strengths in the following area:  strategy and management, finance, manufacturing, organization, business growth, marketing and sales. 
Charlie has been working as an SBDC Advisor for over 4 years.  She is the managing partner of Kinetic Koffee and serves on a couple of Boards both for private businesses as well as public non-profits.
Charlie raised her 4 children in Humboldt County and grateful that two of them and their families are still local.  When she is not working on her own company or advising, Charlie can be found cycling, hiking and generally enjoying our beautiful north coast.

Morgan March

Business Advisor - Worker Ownership

Morgan is  a Cooperative Developer and business advisor for SBDS and with the Worker Owned Humboldt program area of Cooperation Humboldt. He has a BA in Theatre and Professional Practice from Coventry University in UK, a MFA in Ensemble Theater from Dell'Arte International in Blue Lake, CA and a MA in Education from Gothenburg University in Gothenburg, Sweden. He is a native of Sweden, and a first generation immigrant to the US and Humboldt County where he moved to be with his wife and child in 2015. His experience with cooperatives, and worker-ownership, stretch back 25 years into his teenage, and he has been part of starting, running, working for and with, and dissolving multiple co-ops and nonprofits. He has been teaching and running projects in public, private and nonprofit sectors, in industries as varied as theatre, outdoor adventure, equestrian education, and information technology.  

Virginia Salvi

Business Advisor

Under Construction

Holly Stiel

Business Advisor - Hospitality

Holly Stiel is a trailblazing service philosopher who innovated a method of training based on the practices and principles of the world-class concierge.
Her clients include: Disney,Nordstrom, AVEDA, American Express, Visa Signature card, Hilton, Hyatt, The Luxury Collection and Auberge Resorts to name a few.
In 1976, Stiel became the first female concierge in the country when she created the desk at the Grand Hyatt Union Square in San Francisco. Two years later she was the first American woman to be admitted to the exclusive Les Clefs d’Or Association for concierges. She received the association’s Lifetime Achievement award for her broad contributions to her profession. Stiel was the first female and non-corporate executive to receive the “Distinguished Visiting Professor” Chair from Johnson and Wales University.
She is the author of five books including The Art and Science of The Hotel Concierge, Ultimate Service, The Complete Handbook to the World of the Concierge, Thank You Very Much – A Book for Anyone Who Has Ever Said, “May I Help you?” The Neon Signs of Service and The A-Z Guide How to Best Use Your Hotel Concierge
Her newest On Line programs called HollyNow and Help Me Holly make her  available as a Mentor 24/7. Her wisdom philosophy and skills are distilled into quick fun and memorable lessons.

Allison Valentin

Business Advisor

Allison's first career spanned 15 years in the hospitality industry, which culminated in the development and operation of Crush and Harvest restaurants in Arcata, as well as Retrowagon - an event and festival based food truck.
After leaving the hospitality business, she lent her hard-earned bookkeeping, accounting, tax and payroll experience to positions with Coast Central Credit Union, Blue Lake Casino, SN Servicing Corporation, and is now back at Coast Central Credit Union as a Risk Management Representative.

She has also held various positions in other industries, including web design and event/workshop management for a yoga studio, and art gallery assistance for the former First Street Gallery in Eureka and Reese Bullen Gallery at Humboldt State University.
She is pursuing her passion for supporting small business by completing an MBA with a emphases in Agricultural Economics and Community Development. She is excited to work with and support our local small business owners.

Brett Watson

Business Advisor

Brett Watson moved to Humboldt County in 2006 to attend HSU and has owned and operated small businesses in Arcata for over 10 years. Brett has been on the Arcata City Council since 2017. He served on the City of Arcata’s Economic Development Committee for five years, on the board of Arcata Main Street, and was an early board member of Zero Waste Humboldt. Brett is also a Big Brother with Big Brothers Big Sisters of the North Coast.

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Funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration. All opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SBA or HSU Sponsored Programs Foundation.