Southwest Colorado Small Business Conference Presenter Bios

Zeb Smith – Money Talks: Your Ticket to a Strong Employee Ownership Culture

In this hour-long session you’ll learn how creating an employee ownership culture in your business leads to more engagement, more motivation, more empathy, and more money. We’ll go over workforce trends, leadership culture, and how business owners and leaders can instill a healthy “Employee Ownership Culture” by educating managers on their business’s financials.

Diana Murray – Leadership vs. Management

“It’s the people who make ASAP and deliver value to our clients. We’re a trusted partner because of our employees – they determine our success.” Over the course of Diana’s career, she’s focused on fostering a culture rich in collaboration, engagement, and growth. This commitment has contributed to ASAP’s longevity and expansion in key business areas, including the recent merger between ASAP and Dominion Payroll. In addition to managing day to day operations and customer experience, she’s passionate about developing others. A believer in community-building, Diana has served on a varity of board including the Durango Chamber of Commerce, the Business Advisory Council for Katz School of Business at FLC and as Board Member for Citizens State Bank.

Calvin Romero and Bill Clements – Understanding Retirement Benefits for Small Businesses

Calvin Romero and Bill Clements are both owners of Legacy Financial Advisors, a local firm in Durango. We are second and third generation locals, FLC alums (finance) and experienced financial advisors who are both Accredited Investment Fiduciaries (AIF®) and Registered Principals with LPL Financial. With 44 years of combined experience, we tailor solutions that focus on retirement outcomes for small businesses and their participants. We have been an avid internship partner with FLC and we strongly believe in local first. Our team utilizes a holistic approach, ensuring that the client’s business vision, retirement time horizon, and risk tolerance all work together to meet their long-term financial goals. Legacy Financial strives to deliver ethical and competent Financial Planning combined with unparalleled customer service. 

Ben Sorensen – Humanizing your Brand- Using Digital Marketing to Create Community

Ben has always had a passion for marketing. In high school, Ben was DECA state champion in “Business Services Marketing” and a two-time national qualifier. After high school Ben attended Fort Lewis College, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Marketing and a Minor in Economics. After graduating, he worked for a marketing agency for almost 9 years, before finally founding Ascent Digital in 2021. When he isn’t helping businesses with their marketing, he is enjoying raising a family in Durango and enjoying all the area has to offer!

Richard Lindbald – Useful Tools That Can Measurably Improve the Performance of Your Business

Rich Lindblad began his career as a systems developer for AT&T Bell Laboratories in New Jersey. After spending some 12 years with the Labs he moved onto AT&T Corp. where he became heavily involved with new product development, product launches and complex network designs for the Federal Government. Rich later became the Chief Operating Officer for a systems design company and spent some 15 years teaching undergraduate/graduate courses in management and entrepreneurial workshops. He currently runs his own business consulting firm and is also a business advisor in the Small Business Development Center at Fort Lewis College. His background includes an associate degree in Engineering, a BS in Management Science and a MBA in Organizational Behavior. Rich received the outstanding leader in America award presented to him by members of his peer group.

Tomasz Miaskiewicz – AI for Small Business and Personal Productivity

Dr. Miaskiewicz is an associate professor of marketing in the School of Business Administration at Fort Lewis College. He joined the College in 2016. Prior to joining Fort Lewis, Miaskiewicz was a special appointment instructor in the Department of Marketing at Colorado State University and an assistant professor of marketing at the Nova School of Business & Economics in Lisbon, Portugal. He also worked in a variety of design and web development roles. Dr. Miaskiewicz’s teaching experience includes search engine marketing, search engine optimization, digital marketing, marketing research and user-centered design, to name a few. Active professionally, Miaskiewicz has published in journals such as Design Studies and The Communications of the Association for Information Systems (CAIS). He also presented at conferences such as the International Product Development Management Conference, the European Marketing Association Conference, the Americas Conference on Information Systems, and the ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI).

Michelle Kooi – Time and Energy Management for Small Business Owners

Michelle helps women small business owners with ADHD prioritize and organize so they can get more done, have more fun, and achieve the success they want without burn out and overwhelm. She became a life and business coach to help women like her get the support, guidance, self-care, and confidence they need to reach their goals without burning out, and live and work feeling more aligned, energized, and empowered.  She supports them to prioritize themselves, harness their superpowers, and learn to set boundaries, while also guiding them to work with their money and time in a way that is more authentic and sustainable.  With twenty years of experience working with small businesses as a CPA, she now balances her coaching business with a life full of adventure and work she is passionate about instead of tax returns. She lives in Durango, Colorado and loves to play outside in the mountains, on the trails and on the river.

Heather Otter – The Loop: Resources to Keep You on Top of the Regional Business Environment

Heather Otter, Economic Development Project Manager. Heather Otter joined Region 9 in January of 2018 following a role as program manager for the La Plata Economic Alliance. She has a BA in Psychology and a Master’s in Education with a concentration on technology. Heather has professional experience as an educator, small business owner, corporate training manager, school board governance consultant and economic development planning & project management. She is a proud alum of Fort Lewis College.

Kate Ishay – Turning Your Website into Your Most Valuable Team Player

Kate Ishay is the CEO and Co-Founder of Psyche Digital, a Digital Marketing and Creative Agency based in Durango, Colorado. She has over 10 years of experience in Digital Marketing, Brand Development, and Marketing Strategy across a range of sectors including healthcare, tech, wellness, investor marketing, and more. She has a B.S. in Public Relations and Advertising from Northern Arizona and an M.S. in Global Marketing Management from Boston University.  In other words, Kate is your #1 resource for branding, strategy, and marketing for your business.

Kevin Bowen – Exit Planning: How much is your business worth?

Kevin Bowen has an entrepreneurial passion for small business development with a heightened focus on finance & accounting, sustainable & ethical business practices, and the development of operations & strategic initiatives based on business analytics (BA). In 2021, Kevin along with his partners opened The PAD in Silverthorne, CO, a boutique hotel/hostel hybrid concept with a focus on the environmental, communal, & sustainable aspects of traveling. This experience helped Kevin become an expert in the field of green business and more specifically, sustainable tourism and B Corp certification. From there, Kevin began Hospitality Consulting Solutions, to assist businesses manage change, optimize operations, and generally improve the profitability and overall health of their hospitality business. Kevin also co-founded Kaizenlyst, a new era of consulting with a mission to empower small and medium businesses with sustainable solutions for success. Kaizenlyst’s comprehensive suite of services includes accounting & finance, general business administration, marketing, sustainability practices, & HR, designed to guide businesses toward achieving prosperity in today’s dynamic landscape. Kaizenlyst redefines consulting by prioritizing optimized business practices and fostering continuous growth and improvement for each client it serves. Kevin also serves as an independent consultant for the Southwest Colorado SBDC, specializing in business operations & finance.

Elise Mariner – Exit Planning: How much is your business worth?

Elise Mariner is a Business Broker/Intermediary with Transworld Business Advisors. She is based out of Pagosa Springs and serves small business owners across Southern Colorado to meet their unique goals when selling their businesses. Elise joined Transworld Business Advisors after a 20-year career in healthcare that spanned manufacturing, consulting, and technology businesses. Most recently before joining Transworld, Elise held multiple leadership positions at a fast-growing healthcare services business and built many departments ‘from scratch’ while the organization grew from $100k to 9 figures in revenue. Transworld Business Advisors of Colorado is the leading business and commercial real estate brokerage in Colorado. Over the past 10 years, our team has completed $550 million+ in transactions, worked with 2,500+ business owners, provided guidance to over 15,000+ entrepreneurs about buying and selling businesses, and been involved with 950+ deals, growing daily.

Michael Hennon – HR Trends of 2024: Using HR Technology to Enhance the Employee Experience

Michael Hennon is the CEO of The Payroll Department, a local independent payroll and HR services company serving 900 clients in the Four Corners region. Before joining The Payroll Department, he was Vice President of Operations and Client Experience at First Republic Bank, and prior to that was VP Sales & Marketing at UC Berkeley Executive Education. Michael brings a history of serving clients form his time as a consultant at Deloitte and Booz Allen where he focused on business operations for large aerospace clients and government agencies. Michael earned his MBA from the Berkeley Haas School of Business, and his M.A. in International Economics from University of Denver. Michael is passionate about understanding how human capital management tools can improve business outcomes and help employees succeed and thrive professionally and personally.

Michael de Lisser – Increasing Your Team’s Ability to Focus, Learn, and Innovate on the Job

Michael de Lisser is a strategic leadership consultant with over 20 years of experience helping organizations and individuals improve performance. He has designed and delivered more than 100 customized leadership development programs covering topics such as strategic planning, leadership communication skills, change management, situational leadership, improving team effectiveness, and developing a culture of learning. He also spent over a decade teaching in the MBA and Executive Education Programs at the University of Utah David Eccles School of Business. He is currently the Managing Director and co-founder of de Lisser Leadership Consulting and is authoring a book on helping people improve their leadership communication skills. Michael earned his Bachelor’s (University of Rhode Island) and Master’s (University of Utah) degrees with a focus on interpersonal, intercultural, and organizational communication.

Chris Stubbs – Mastering the Essentials: A Guide to Understanding Financial Statements

Chris Stubbs is the dynamic CEO at the helm of ASAP Accounting, known for his entrepreneurial spirit and strategic focus. An adept multitasker, Chris’ extensive experience encompasses enterprise-level financial, strategic, and operational oversight. With a keen eye for innovation and a foundation rooted in hospitality, Chris leads ASAP Accounting with a forward-thinking approach, ensuring the company remains at the forefront of the accounting industry.

Stuart Buergler -Entrepreneur Showcase: Med Tech Innovation on a Shoestring

Stuart is a 14-year firefighter/paramedic who combined his additional duties of EMS education and EMS supply procurement to develop a series of medical devices with civilian and military application. Stuart’s technology is patent-pending, he owns multiple trademarks, and has intentions of innovating additional related and unrelated devices in the medical technology space. Stuart describes his initial naivete as a blessing in disguise, and stated that if he had known the amount of time, sweat, resourcefulness, and capital that medical technology innovation would require, he may have been dissuaded from building prototypes years ago. Now Stuart is a full-time employee of the company he founded, Emergency Dermal Solutions, and enjoys the challenge of introducing novel medical devices to multiple public and private sector markets.

Julie Davis – Solving Unsolvable Problems

A driven entrepreneur serving others by helping them reach their goals, Julie Miller Davis works with business owners and leaders to reset their productivity patterns, become more efficient, and bust through road blocks to reach their goals with excellence. An award winning coach and trainer, Julie has led and developed highly successful teams, helped hundreds escalate their own businesses and achieve goals they may never have thought possible. Even through the uncertainty of the last few years, many of Julie’s clients broke 6 figures for the first time! Her super power of out-of-the-box thinking uncovers new ways to solve business stagnation, resulting in growth and propelling her clients into new and exciting directions.

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