The Contra Costa SBDC is staffed with experienced leaders who assist SBDC clients grow and develop their businesses.
Contra Costa SBDC Director
Oscar Dominguez, proud son of former small business owners, is originally from El Paso, Texas. He relocated to the San Francisco Bay Area to attend Stanford, where he earned a BA in Political Science. After working in various customer service, operations and sales positions, he enrolled in the Masters in Business Administration program at San Francisco State University, earning an entrepreneurship degree with a focus on marketing and management.
Oscar applied his newfound knowledge and long-time passion for economic and social justice first as a bilingual business advisor for the Mission Economic Development Agency, then as a manager of business training/technical assistance and financial literacy/coaching programs for Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center. As the director of the Contra Costa SBDC since May of 2012, Oscar oversees a results-driven Center, collaborating with public, private and nonprofit partners to deliver impactful small business training, support and resources to the East Bay region.
Under his leadership, the Center nearly doubled its operating budget and more than tripled the number of clients served yearly and launched a manufacturing-focused initiative and a Spanish-language program. He is a board member and treasurer of CAMEO (California Association for Micro-enterprise Opportunity), serves on the Business Task Force of the East Bay Leadership Council, as the co-chair of the Economic Development Directors' Council of East Bay EDA and on the Hispanic Advisory Committee of Travis Credit Union. Oscar resides in the Eastmont Hills of Oakland with his wife, Mila.
Start-up Support, Strategy Development, Marketing, Financial Management, Leadership Development
Blair Abee is president of the Strategy Development Group, a private consulting firm that specializes in 1 and 3 year action planning, marketing strategy and financial management. Prior to moving to California two years ago, Blair was the Greensboro Regional Center Director for the Small Business and Technology Development Center (SBTDC) in North Carolina.
In his 19 year career at the North Carolina SBTDC, Blair worked with a broad range of clients from early stage and startup companies to existing firms that were trying to survive and had potential to grow. His areas of expertise include start-up support, strategy development, marketing, financial management and leadership development. He also has experience working with small to medium sized manufacturers to help them develop their management capacity for growth.
In addition to his private consulting practice, Blair works with the Contra Costa SBDC as a business advisor. Prior to his private consulting and his work with the SBDC, Blair owned several successful construction related businesses in the Berkeley area. He is also a budding author, with two books ready for publication and three others in the works.
Blair’s education includes a Bachelor of Arts (BA) from Davidson College in Davidson, North Carolina, and a Master of Public Administration (MPA) from Golden Gate University in San Francisco, California.
Carlos J. Alarcon
Carlos J. Alarcon brings over thirty years of successful business experience in mediation, negotiation, regulatory compliance, risk management and financial transactions structure for the high technology, energy, government and financial services sectors, both for profit and not for profit organizations to Contra Costa SBDC.
Carlos held positions as broker, trader and finally as risk manager during his 18 year career in the financial markets on Wall Street in New York City.
Today, he is the principal of The Alarcon Group LLC and recognized nationally in academic and financial circles for his thorough and innovative work and acknowledged as a thought leader in conflict resolution and negotiation, risk management, financial structuring, government contracting, business modeling and decision-making analysis.
Darlene Rios Drapkin
Darlene Rios Drapkin owns and operates Urban Transformation, a consulting firm that works with local governments and community based organizations to develop and implement economic revitalization strategies for neighborhood commercial districts. As a commercial revitalization and management consultant, she has Independently, and as a Program Officer for Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), a national non-profit, provided assistance to implement comprehensive revitalization programs in neighborhoods around the country.
Darlene is passionate about “placemaking” and loves working with start ups to find their perfect storefront, assisting them with their business plans, negotiating leases, marketing, and getting loans.
Darlene’s professional background includes international sales and marketing experience in high tech and hospitality. She’s worked with such companies as Compaq Computers, British Airways, and Marriott Hotels.
Darlene has an MBA from the American Graduate School of International Management. She is a native Spanish speaker and has conducted business in French and Portuguese. Her cross-cultural experience helps her meet the unique needs of multi-cultural communities.
For fifteen years Jeffrey G. Hall was an international area manager for S&W Fine Foods in San Ramon, CA, and managed their sales and operations in Europe and Asia. In 1996 he became a client of the SBDC and started his own international trading business.
In 1999 Jeff came back to the SBDC as an instructor in the New Venture Training Program. In his work at the SBDC over the last several years he has helped 500 persons plan the start-up and launch of a new business.
Jeff holds a BA in Philosophy from St. John’s University and MA in Education from Chapman University.
Government Contracts, Business Planning, Marketing Strategies
Mitch Hardin, Jr. leverages his experience as the current CEO & President of Hi-Lite Enterprises, Inc. dba: Hi-Lite Janitorial, which he started 30 years ago, to advise Contra Costa SBDC clients on government contracts, business planning and marketing strategies. A graduate from Clark Atlanta University Executive Education Program and the FastTrack Entrepreneurship Program at the Business School of Haas UC Berkeley. Developer of the BlindMaid, a mobile mini-blind cleaning system, developer of Finalcleanup.com, an on-line merchant matching lead site for cleaning service providers and the author of a how-to manual on starting a computer cleaning business. He also has experience in product development, product research, new business start-up, business coaching and Guerrilla marketing strategies.
Robert Lane was the Assistant Director of the Small Business Program with the Department of Defense, where he helped the agency achieve its subcontracting goals with small, woman and minority owned businesses. As an SBDC Advisor, Robert assisted an Oakland firm close $25 million in government contracts.
Robert has significant experience in the area of government contracting and is an expert in the certification process. He is able to assist with Requests for Proposal (RFP) reviews, General Services Administration (GSA) Schedules and myriad certifications including disadvantaged business or 8(a), Women Owned Small Business and HUBZone.
Robert is currently working with several SBDC's including San Francisco, Contra Costa, Alameda, and Silicon Valley. In addition to advising, Robert conducts workshops such as “Government Contracting 101”, “Responding to Solicitations”, “Getting on the GSA Schedule” and “Certification Made Simple”.
After leaving the DOD, Robert held a Procurement Specialist position with the Economic Development Commission for the State of Nevada. He then accepted a position as Assistant Director for a Procurement Technical Assistance Program (PTAC). He later transferred to The Federal Technology Center in Sacramento where he continued assisting small firms with government contracting.
Robert holds an AA from College of San Mateo and a BA from San Francisco State University.
Small Business Management
Mari LoValvo is an SBDC Business Advisor/Trainer with over 15 years of experience in small business management, sole proprietors, home-based and women-owned businesses. She works actively with clients to develop effective business plans, guiding them from the pre-start stage to the execution of an Action Plan that leads to achieving profitability in the expansion phase of their businesses. She works diligently to understand clients’ needs including cultural values as they apply to business concepts in immigrant populations. She is people-focused, intuitive and results oriented. As a certified Financial Coach she also helps small business owners with financial challenges by helping them transform their financial difficulties into financial well-being and peace of mind.
As the Regional Team Manager, she was responsible for launching the SBA funded, Women’s Business Center in Concord and is a seasoned bilingual business trainer. Topic areas taught included Business Law, Small Business Management, Business Communications, Salesmanship, Marketing and Branding.
Mari’s educational background includes a Bachelor Degree from the University of Washington and a Master of Administration with an emphasis is Business and Human Resources Management from the University of California, Riverside. She is a certified Nx Level and Green Business trainer.
She is also a graduate of Leadership Concord Program and recipient of the 2014 Regional SBDC Program Top Contributor.
Start-ups, Marketing, Sales and Business Development
Sandy was Vice President of Marketing and Sales for corporate divisions, corporate acquisitions and venture capital funded start-ups and launched her own small business.
Sandy brings a unique understanding and experience in/with start-ups, marketing and business development as a practitioner in the service, retail, wholesale, software-as-a-service, education and nonprofit sectors.
Sandy specializes in high-growth start-ups and rapidly expanding small businesses in the areas of strategic planning, marketing, sales and business development. For the Contra Costa SBDC, Sandy serves as a lead advisor and generalist, primarily assessing and assisting small business owners and projects of all kinds, with a focus on new ventures and marketing. She also presents "First Steps to Successful Start-Up's" on a regular basis.
Prior, Sandy was on the founding executive team at Office Club in charge of all marketing and sales including advertising, market research, public relations, in-bound phone sales, and commercial sales. She was instrumental in helping the company grow from concept to 60 stores and $450 million in sales in five years. Sandy was also co-founder and EVP at MarCole Enterprises, the leading provider of gift registry systems and related interactive applications. Earlier at McKesson, Sandy led the acquisition of an office products wholesaler for which she was then responsible for all marketing and business development.
Sandy earned a B.A. in Human Biology, Phi Beta Kappa, from Stanford University and an MBA from Yale University, School of Management.
Maria Mejia has over 18 years of financial services and small business experience. For over five years, Maria has worked in various capacities at JP Morgan Chase, including positions as business relationship manager and branch manager. Prior to this position she worked at large companies such us Wells Fargo, Citibank and ABN Amro Bank with emphasis on lending and business development.
Maria has a portfolio over 450 clients in the financial and business area and more then 180 successful graduates of her business classes. Some of her graduates are already successful entrepreneurs for more than three years contributing to economic development in Contra Costa.
Maria is now working closely with other strategic partners in the monument corridor in Concord, California to develop basic finance courses in English and Spanish in order to empower the community to a tangible economic improvement.
Maria has extensive leadership, employee development and business development experience in retail offices and corporate environments. As a business relationship manager, Maria has been recognized by the city of concord as a leader in education for small business contributing to the formation of numerous businesses in the year 2008.
Maria has a MBA from Universidad San Buenaventura, Colombia and is fluent in Spanish.
Technology Integration, Restaurant and Retail Marketing, Customer Loyalty Programs, Social Media Marketing, and Business and Partnership Development
David Mitroff, Ph.D. is a Business Advisor with Contra Costa SBDC where he advises clients and conducts workshop on Technology Integration, Restaurant and Retail Marketing, Customer Loyalty Programs, Social Media Marketing, and Business and Partnership Development.
David brings to the SBDC his experiences as the Founder and Chief Consultant of Piedmont Avenue Consulting through which he provides business consulting and marketing services to create brand awareness, strengthen customer loyalty and generate new opportunities. David works with a diversity of clients in the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond such as restaurants and retail specialty stores, franchises, professional services firms, start-ups and individual entrepreneurs.
Dr. Mitroff leverages his extensive professional and education background, including a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology, to motivate people to create change, while understanding the psychology behind business and marketing decisions. David is an active member, on the executive board, or advisory committees for several organizations. He continually collaborates with several consultant groups, merchant associations, and charities to best serve the community.
David brings a deep knowledge of the entire San Francisco Bay Area marketplace and is a fourth generation San Franciscan who is proud to have been born in San Francisco.
David is a sought after speaker on a wide range of topics from Social Media Management to the Psychology of Marketing and through his consulting, lectures, trainings, and keynotes has educated more than 15,000 business owners.
Susie O'Bryant is a Professional Connector, Trainer, and Coach who has over 20 years’ experience in Workforce and Economic Development. She provided services to small businesses, employers and those in career transition for Contra Costa County for a number of years, and also worked as a Vocational Counselor for the Department of Rehabilitation. She has taught both adult and special education, and owned her own retail store.
Community involvement and relationship building are a significant part of Susie’s life and work. She is a graduate of Leadership Contra Costa, has been actively involved in Chambers of Commerce and other professional organizations, served on the boards of the Employer Advisory Council in Contra Costa County and the Pleasant Hill Chamber, is a member of the Business Advisory Board for Saffron Strand, and has acted in leadership roles in project and committee work throughout her career.
Currently, Susie has the pleasure of connecting her clients to the "right" people and resources in her vast network to help them move forward in their business, career or personal life. She teaches small business owners the art of successful networking, and coaches both entrepreneurs and individuals who are going through transition or experiencing performance challenges. She enthusiastically promotes the services of the Contra Costa SBDC to businesses and strategic partners in the East Bay!
Susie earned a B. S. Degree in Special Education from Illinois State University, and holds a Global Career Development Facilitator (GCDF) certification.
Bashir Shah was Vice President of K&S Transportation from 2004 to 2011. He guided K&S from a staff of 4 to 50 employees in 4 years. Bashir was instrumental in shaping company policy, organization-culture, human resources,
accounts receivables and attracting government contracts. Bashir has worked with a variety of start-ups and developing businesses. He has hands-on experience in product
launching, product marketing, contract management, project management and human resources.
Today, as a Professor at Devry University, Bashir shares his business knowledge with students from a wide socioeconomic background. He is also working on a Doctorate in Business Administration. For the SBDC, Bashir teaches the Practical Business Planning class, supports the Pittsburg and Baypoint Chamber of Commerce, and is active in the community promoting the Pittsburg/Baypoint Enterprise Zone.
Bashir grew up in a family business in Pittsburg, Ca. At age 19 he joined the US Air Force where he learned leadership and responsibility. He served 6 tours of duty during the Afghan War and Iraq war.
Bashir has a Masters of Business Administration (2011) and a Masters in the Science of Management (2009) from Embry Riddle Aeronautical University.
Marketing and Business Plans
In 1990, Cindy Turner started her own private consulting practice, Turner & Associates, where she helped her clients increase their sales from 20 to 75 percent. Concurrently, Cindy has worked as an advisor with two Bay Area SBDCs, meeting thousands of clients resulting in hundreds of new business start-ups and hundreds of thousands of dollars in sales.
Knowing the inside-out of business start-ups and business planning, and using her distinct competency in market research techniques, Cindy helps her clients determine the feasibility of their ventures and guides them in the creation of effective marketing and business plans.
Cindy’s small business management instruction includes previous tenures as an adjunct faculty member with U.C. Berkeley and JFK University and as a business trainer for Contra Costa SBDC. Since 1991, Cindy has served a business professor for Berkeley City College.
As a columnist for the Contra Costa Times Family of Newspapers and Costco Connection, Cindy has shared her expertise with thousands of readers over a four-year span. She is also involved in community work and is on the Board of Directors for the Concord Chamber of Commerce, Private Industry Council and Mt. Diablo Region YMCA.
Cindy obtained her B.S. and M.B.A. in New Ventures and Small Business Management with a double option in Marketing as an M.B.A. student. She is also a graduate of the Leadership Concord Program and is a certified NxLevel Training Network.