Meet Our Contributors

Meet Our Team Here!


Ocie Irons, MBA, Business Coach and Trainer

Ocie Irons is the principal of Ironbridge Development Company. A master facilitator, his 25-year career has centered on helping business owners and entrepreneurs focus on strategic objectives, alignment of human and capital resources to goals, and leadership accountability. Ocie excels at connecting dots, people and ideas, specializing in business planning, strategic coaching, process improvement, leadership development, customer loyalty, goal planning and execution, business development, and individual/organizational assessments.


Dexter Snyder, PhD, Technology Consultant

Dexter D. Snyder consults on formation technology start-up companies and creation of science education programs. He combines strengths in chemistry, materials science, and consulting with 35 years’ experience in automotive R&D and technology foresight. He holds a PhD in Physical Chemistry from MIT, was on staff at Arthur D. Little Consulting, and retired from General Motors as a GM 


Aref Hanaysheh, Software Development General Manager

Aref Hanaysheh has 10 years of extensive experience in web and mobile software development, working with private and governmental entities, local and international organizations. He also has proven experience and skills in commercial operations, project management, strategic planning, and business development. Currently, Aref is the General Manger of iConnect Tech. He is a permanent participant in local and international ICT professional events, fellows, and research conferences.

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Robert Brown, Web Analyst

Robert Brown is a student at Oakland Community College, and member of the MAT2program for information technology. He studies hard to keep pace with the advanced schedule and looks to apply his skills immediately in a work environment. He was selected from a large pool of students to undergo a rigorous and specialized IT program designed to train students in information technology in the shortest but most effective amount of time.


Debi Acker-Zolnoski, Community Outreach Manager

Debi Acker-Zolnoski is an experienced Community Relations professional, published author, and a sixth-generation  Detroiter. Debi holds degrees in Community Development,  Public Administration, and Business Management. She was the first female to receive a municipal board appointment, contributing over fourteen years of guidance and planning as treasurer of the EDC, Planning Commissioner and Zoning Board Member for the Township of Macomb, Michigan.


Beth Nuccio, Talent Development Specialist

With 25+ years of experience in the field of non-profit higher education and 18 years of elected public service, Beth has built a strong repertoire of skills and is driven to involve, innovate and improve culture. Beth is skilled at presenting vision for growth, engaged and driven with a solid focus on results. She is proficient at establishing consultative relationships, collaborative programs and has expertise in preparing students for the world-of-work through quality career advising and programming and assisting employers with their hiring needs.


Alex Rexer, International Business Analyst

Alex Rexer is a recent graduate of Oakland University with a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations with a minor in History.  Formerly a volunteer assistant coach for a high school rugby team, and currently volunteers at the International Visitors Council of Detroit.


Cynthia Hoffman, MBA, Entrepreneurial Programs Director

Cynthia Hoffman has been starting and selling businesses for more than 20 years, writing business plans, conducting marketing research, building locations, hiring and training staff, supervising and coordinating all daily operations, and ultimately selling or closing the businesses. She was the managing partner of ie; (ideas & exhibits) llc, owner of Just Like Home 24/7 Child Care, partner in Bounce 3 Inflatable Rentals, and managing partner of Chicago Coffee Company. Mrs. Hoffman holds a bachelor’s of science in education K-12, an MBA with a specialty in management, and is currently enrolled in the Instructional Technology doctoral program at Wayne State University. She has been teaching on-ground and online business courses at Macomb Community College since 2012.


Gail Parker, CFE, LMSW, Business Coach and Trainer

Gail Parker has had a career focused on empowering individual and organizations to excel. Parker has had 20+ years’ experience in human services as a therapist, outpatient substance abuse prevention and treatment program supervisor. Her business experience includes qualifying prospective franchisees and 10 years of small business ownership. Gail is a certified trainer of numerous Kauffman entrepreneurship programs as well as Operation Jumpstart.


Herb Drayton, MBA, Business Coach and Trainer

Herb Drayton’s 35+ years’ experience as a business owner and coach have made him a specialist in entrepreneurship, funding acquisition, business plan development, marketing, advertising, sales, and strategy development. He has worked with micro-enterprises, small businesses, and Fortune 500 firms. Herb is a Kauffman Foundation certified trainer for the FastTrac programs. His current business is Motor City Coaching – a marketing, advertising and sales development system for small business.


Sagor Bhuiyan, Web Designer & Developer

Sagor Bhuiyan is a student at Wayne State University pursing Biology. He has been involved with medical device, mobile app, as well as a few web startups. He has been a venture consultant for over 4 years at Blackstone LaunchPad and is also a graphic/web designer and web developer.


Yaqian Tan, Marketing Analysis

Yaqian Tan is a graduate student of University of Michigan Dearborn with a major in Business Analytics. She is now serving as the Vice President of Supply Chain Association at the University of Michigan Dearborn. She had three years’ experience of English teaching at New Oriental Education & Technology Group, Inc in China and was promoted to a teaching supervisor. Ms. Tan enjoyed working at a multiple cultural environment and her most recent job was working as an assistant of Supply Chain Director at SAIC-General Motor Corporation Limited where she developed strong analytical and interpersonal skills. 


Kristen Johnstone, Digital Marketing Intern

Kristen is pursuing a Bachelor’s of Business Administration with a major in Marketing at the University of Michigan-Dearborn. She has created several websites, and, as the Social Media Coordinator for the American Advertising Federation, she makes weekly Facebook posts on meetings and events.  Kristen embodies the spirit of volunteerism and is a Committee Co-Chair of an organization that supports the children of Haiti.


Derrin Leppek, Small Business Specialist

As a Small Business Specialist, Derrin Leppek has implemented and ran several small business investment programs, along with coaching hundreds of business owners.  Derrin specializes in hi-tech and retail business development, and is an expert in business pitching.  He is passionate about working with minority, and underserved groups. The investment funds Derrin has managed have funded a high percentage of women, veterans, African-American, Middle-Eastern and other disparate populations. Most recently, Derrin worked closely with JPMorgan Chase overseeing their Innovation Fund at Macomb Community College.  Previously, he served as the Managing Director of Place-Based Entrepreneurship at Wayne State University’s, TechTown.  There he launched several successful programs including the highly impactful SWOT City program that works with small businesses in the underserved neighborhoods of Detroit.  In total, Derrin has raised more than $10M in capital for multiple programs, entrepreneurs, and his own hi-tech startup – NextCAT.

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Kristen Sheppard, Digital Marketing Manager

Kristen is earned her Master’s of Science in Information at the University of Michigan with focuses in Human-Computer Interaction and Entrepreneurship. She has entrepreneurship experience working on her own venture and previously worked at Google where she consulted a wide variety of industries on their AdWords and digital marketing strategies. She currently works as a developer and technology evangelist for an online brokerage firm. 


Jason Beale, Small Business Specialist

Jason has over 8 years’ experience in commercial real estate and business finance. He has his Bachelor’s from Walsh College in Troy, Michigan. He has several years in business development and sales. At 1st National Financial (now 1st Financial Lending) he help build the company's commercial loan business from $20MM annual to over $400 Million in commercial loans. While the head of development for several companies including, a commercial cleaning company and a promotional marketing company, Jason grew sales over 500% at each company. Jason was the cofounder of a tech website/app called Regaingo, where Jason raised over $150K in seed funding and won several pitch competitions. Over his career Jason has worked side by side with hundreds of entrepreneurs for the last 10 years helping them acquire financing, put together business plans, market strategies, team development and investor pitches. Jason has structured creative financing and business development for several companies allowing them to acquire all of their capital needs along with provide flexibility for long term growth.


Barbara Boldt, International Communication Specialist

Barbara has more than 20 years experience training international managers and students in effective cross-cultural communication. An American national, she expatriated herself to Europe in 1994 and spent the next 19 years creating and living her career as a trainer, teacher and coach. Barbara has been teaching International Presentation Skills for more than 15 years, both in academic and corporate settings. For seven years she facilitated Pitching Contests for technical/entrepreneurial master’s students at the Swiss Federal Technical Institute in Lausanne Switzerland. Her gift is in being able to help people, especially those who are not native speakers of English, to express themselves clearly, concisely, and professionally, no matter the situation or circumstance. Barbara holds a B.A. in Nutrition from the University of Iowa and a M.A. in International Relations from University of the Pacific.


Iyinoluwa Omishope, Business Idea Coach Assistant

Iyinoluwa Omishope is currently an Industrial and Systems Engineering student at Wayne State University with a concentration in Systems Optimization. She completed an entrepreneurship through the DTX launch program at TechTown where she served as the project manager for her team and won the program’s MVP award. She is currently working on Millennial Marketing Strategies as a research assistant at Wayne State University. 


Michael Crawford, Special Advisor, Innovation

Building upon more than seven years of facilitation and scholarship in the fields of psychology, education, entrepreneurship, and human development, Michael combines theory and practice from multiple disciplines to drive creative and impactful work. Formerly of Kauffman Scholars, Inc., the Entrepreneurial Learning Initiative, and Story2, Michael draws upon a wealth of experience from academia, philanthropy, and startups. He is currently a PhD candidate in educational psychology, with an emphasis on development and learning, at the University of Kansas. His research and service has centered around youth development, non-formal learning environments, and adolescent neuroscience. When he's not working, you can find Michael spending time with his family, reading, and Tweeting.