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. 

Peggy Murphy

Center Manager

Peggy is currently the Manager of the North Coast Small Business Development Center. She has been with the center since July 2017.

Peggy’s work history includes Google Maps, The University of Washington and Alternative Treatment Management. Additionally, she owned the Hat Rac Art Gallery in Oakland, CA and is still a partner in 1714 Arts, which is a marketing and web design consultancy. Peggy brought to SBDC lessons learned from both the corporate world, as well as, business ownership.

In her free time Peggy is a silversmith, making handmade jewelry, and is an active participant in her husband’s art career. She also loves to spend time with her family, dogs and chickens.

Lauren Heirigs

Marketing Assistant

Lauren is a Business Major with an emphasis in Marketing. She's interested in being able to create unique and memorable events for people, as well as supporting the growth of small businesses. Lauren excited to be a part of this cohesive team and learn and take part in the process of guiding businesses to success. I look forward to reaching out and developing strong relationships within the business community. In her free time she enjoys going to the beach, exploring different hiking trails, trying new restaurants, and going to support local events. She loves to travel, and has visited France, Amsterdam, the Caribbean, and El Salvador. For she next destination she would love to go to Spain!

Melanie Barnett

Business Advisor

Melanie Barnett has spent her career assisting small business, and believes in an integrative approach to business management. She has expertise in the specialty food industry, small and large scale event planning, group facilitation, organizational development, marketing, and employee management. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Management and will have completed a Master's of Psychology in May of 2020. She has a consulting firm in Humboldt County that assists entrepreneurs with business plan development and execution, and also sees clients as a therapist and life coach. She believes that the health and well being of an organization starts at home with the leader's own well being, and helps others to embody a thriving and sustainable personal, as well as professional, life. She also has experience with industry trade shows, working with Instagram Influencers and social media marketing, and planning events.

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.

Becky Deans

Business Advisor

Becky Deans is the Office Alchemist, a talent management and human relations consultant that transforms employees into top talent. She has a forward-thinking approach to training, developing and caring for employees and she does it all with heart, smarts, and technology. 

Becky has a Bachelors of Science degree in interpersonal communications, certification in Human Resource Management and ten years of experience as a certified life coach. Her mission is to help the small businesses of Humboldt County to thrive financially and consciously while creating a workplace that helps employees thrive too.

Allie Heemstra

Allie Heemstra

Business Advisor

Allie Heemstra is a freelance creative and owner of Allie Illuminates, a Humboldt-based marketing agency with a national reach. She brings her expertise in brand development to shed light on the essence of your business and uses effective marketing strategy to help you connect with your ideal audience.

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.

Richard Paris Borough

Richard Paris Borough, Ph.D.

Business Advisor

In the 1970’s Richard finished his training in clinical psychology and began his career as a group therapist and administrator of two community mental health programs in the San Francisco Bay Area. After five years he went into private practice. He opened an office in Palo Alto close enough to where he lived that he could walk to work.

Richard specialized in “executive stress management” and worked with a clientele of small business owners and professionals who, according to their stories, were stressed to the max by the demands of their work. The strategies Richard taught them were about better ways to communicate, better ways to prioritize or manage time, new sales and marketing ideas, leadership tactics, or many other strategies with which to modify their behavior so they could be productive but without the bone crushing stress.

Additionally, Richard founded The Master-Mind Alliance® over 40 years ago and still runs it today in Humboldt County. The Master Mind Alliance is a facilitated business coaching program for owners and operators of local small businesses, in which business owner peers, people very much like you, meet to share experiences, offer insight and to resolves issues and problems – and to devise and install proven strategies designed to produce steady business growth, increase profits, simplify operations and build wealth.

In the course of finding his life’s work Richard made a transition from the role of psychologist to the role of a business consultant and coach. Along the way he learned how businesses ought to work and how to gently but firmly nudge them in the right direction. Richard brings his experience and expertise to the North Coast Small Business Development Center, focusing on coaching owners through business transitions.

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.

Marta Rivas

Marta Rivas


Marta Alicia Rivas is an Interpreter and Instructional Assistant at Eureka High School.

She graduated from UC Berkeley in 1994 with a Major in Political Science and Spanish Literature Minor. After graduating she immediately began her professional Sales/Marketing Career by working in Print Advertising with Tidings Vida Nueva Newspaper and later moving to Television Advertising working for KWHY-Channel 22, KABC-7, UPS Logistics Business Development and has worked on projects with clients in various industries throughout Los Angeles.

In 2014 she left UPS and traded the city pressure for the rural Arcata/Humboldt area to begin her second career in Education and complete her MBA in Sustainability at Humboldt State. She will graduate Spring 2019, with an MBA in Sustainability and Certificate in Faculty Preparation/High School Teaching Credential. She plans to teach, consult, and use her language skills to translate business-English and Spanish

Marta enjoys the outdoors, meeting community members and participating in the community, but most of all she enjoys her agenda of "her collective roles as Marta Rivas," which includes spending time with her kids, and running in the Arcata bottoms with her two huskies. She has a scholarly bent and is interested in researching small businesses, sustainability finance, corporate social responsibility reports, and communication in higher education. She plans to continue learning and researching these topics with an emphasis on useful internal-external communication, business networking and the growth of multicultural families like hers and creating inclusive spaces to welcome them as well as other bi-cultural and biracial Americans in socially tense times and environmentally vexing problems.

Barbara Zoellner

Barbara Zoellner

Business Advisor

Barbara has started four businesses: a delicatessen, restaurant (Hurricane Kate’s), small business consulting (Barbara M. Zoellner), and a travel agency specializing in introvert and small group custom itineraries (A Path Less Traveled). Much of the consulting work Barbara has done has been in bookkeeping and finance management as well as the nuts and bolts of start-up restaurants, though she is also experienced in non-profit and government entities, as well. Barbara has also been an active board member and chair of Compass Community Credit Union for over 15 years. Barbara has worked on the North Coast SBDC team in the past and is looking forward to lending assistance to the community once again.

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.

Bill Prescott

Business Advisor- Operational Excellence

Bill Prescott is currently the General Manager of Lost Coast Communications Inc (LCCI). LCCI runs four live, local radio stations, KHUM, "KWPT The Point", KSLG "KSlug" and KLGE "The Lounge". LCCI also includes two hyper-local real time news websites; The Lost Coast Outpost and The Wild Rivers Outpost. Previously, he was the marketing person at Sun Valley Floral Farms, the largest cut flower company in the United States.

Bill has been a contributor to the Huffington Post and The Produce News, and featured on HGTV and the DIY Network. Based in Eureka, California, Bill also runs a marketing consulting firm, Prescott Designs.  Bill is active in his community as a commissioner on the City of Eureka Economic Development Commission, a consultant for the Northern California Small Business Development Center and a Board Member for Humboldt Made.


Emanuel Rose

Emanuel Rose

Specialty Advisor- Digital Marketing

Emanuel Rose is an accomplished Senior Executive, Entrepreneur, and Consultant with more than 25 years of sales and marketing success in the finance, real estate, jewelry, manufacturing, health, fitness, outdoor, and consumer electronics industries. His clients get as much as 4x the closed sales from his programs compared to previous marketing activities, and their email open rates increase over 50%. Leveraging extensive experience in branding, marketing, and advertising, Emanuel is a valuable asset for small companies with up to $25M in gross sales that are seeking expert assistance with developing a story, brand, and human connection with their customer. Emanuel’s broad areas of expertise include AI software, digital marketing, email SEO, social media content, sales process and funnel, lead capture, product development, and go-to-market strategy.

Throughout his executive career, Emanuel has held leadership positions at American Mercantile, HealthSport, C.Crane Company, Inc., and Tomas Jewelry. In 2010, Emanuel founded Strategic Marketing where he currently serves as CEO and Principal Consultant of the Strategic eMarketing firm.  With marketing and advertising that incorporates mobile web, email, social media, and direct mail, Emanuel helps his clients capture the breadth of business they need to increase sales and produce an uncommon return on investment.

Previously, as Wholesale Manager at C.Crane Company, Emanuel developed triple digit LED bulb sales growth and doubled wholesale sales, in just three years. Emanuel’s strategies also increased their wholesale contribution margin by over 250% and increased key account sales in six major accounts. Emanuel previously served on the Board of Directors for The Jack and Buena Hazard Foundation and the Boys and Girls Club of Humboldt County.

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.


Michelle Lopez

Michelle Lopez

Business Advisor- Bookkeeping, Quickbooks online

Michelle Lopez owner of Michelle Lopez Accounting began working with the Small Business Development Center in 2014 as an accounting specialty advisor. Michelle has over 20 years experience in the accounting industry mostly working with small businesses. Michelle Lopez is a certified ProAdvisor for QuickBooks Online and is passionate about teaching bookkeeping and general business procedures.

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.  

Suzanne Dockal

Business Advisor

Suzanne Dockal is a Financial Business Strategist and CPA. Not like the rest, she doesn’t do taxes or audits. Suzanne has always worked on the on the front end of businesses and their accounting and assists with business planning, cash flow management, budgeting, cost analysis,  loan packaging, and maximizing the use of Quickbooks  information through  set up and reports. Suzanne has been a business advisor with the SBDC since the late 1980’s and brings more than 40 years of accounting experience to our clients. 

Brandi Easter

Business Advisor - Photography

Brandi Easter is a local commercial advertising photographer. She has photographed for clients since 1989 for their websites, product packaging, point of purchase, postcard mailers, bill boards and more. She brings her photography expertise to sharing the basics of photographing products and services on a limited budget. Clients who participate in her Photography for E-Commerce classes come away enthusiastic about how much they can do themselves to create affordable, professional visual images of their products and services.

Virginia Salvi

Business Advisor

Under Construction

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.

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It all starts here. Complete the application and submit your request. A member of the SBDC will follow up with you and help you achieve your small business goals -- at no cost to you.
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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.