Assisting Clients in the
Greater South Bay
hosted by: El Camino College SBDC

The SBDC hosted by the El Camino College

About the El Camino College Small Business Development Center

Mission Statement

The mission of the Small Business Development Center hosted by El Camino College is to be the number one service provider of no-cost, expert entrepreneurial consulting, education and access to capital assistance to the small business community in the greater South Bay and Los Angeles area.

We are part of the Los Angeles Regional SBDC Network, which assists small business owners throughout the Los Angeles, Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties.

About the El Camino College SBDC Team

Our team is pleased to offer our consulting services in English and Spanish, as needed. Please contact us at 310.225.8277 to schedule your appointment.



Starleen Van Buren, Ed.D., MBA

Position: Director
Business expertise: Market research, planning, communications, public relations

Starleen Van Buren is the SBDC director and has served in that position since 2008. She and her husband own a small business, so she understands the challenges that business owners and those looking to start a business face. Star has many years of experience in the field of marketing, and specializes in market research, planning, communications and public relations for small businesses. She earned her doctorate in Educational Leadership from USC, an MBA from the University of Redlands, and a BA in communications from CSU Dominguez Hills.

View Starleen Van Buren, Ed.D., MBA's Professional Bio



Larry Johnson

Position: Lead Program Advisor
Business expertise: Debt & equity funding; Specialty: food & beverage industry

Larry Johnson has been a core advisor at the SBDC since 2012. His dual specialties are in the food & beverage industry, as well as debt and equity consulting. Larry is active after hours as a Rotarian in his local community and is also an aficionado of classical music and the LA Philharmonic. His weekend passions include golf, tennis and hiking the local mountains.

View Larry Johnson's Professional Bio


Business Consultants



Michael DeDonato J.D.,MBA

Position: Business Advisor
Business expertise: Finance, accounting, business entities

Mike DeDonato is a seasoned corporate finance executive and business advisor, with a demonstrated history of working in the manufacturing, healthcare, consumer goods, construction and aerospace/defense industries. Mike’s functional expertise is in accounting and financial management. He has been relied upon by clients for his competencies in financial management, M&A due diligence and acquisition integration. "I am dedicated to the success of every client and very much look forward to the actualization of client aspirations and visions."

View Michael DeDonato J.D.,MBA's Professional Bio



Deborah Deras

Position: Business Advisor
Business expertise: Social media, digital marketing

Deborah Deras has a master's degree in education and a bachelor’s degree in marketing. She has been a business owner since 2002, providing Fortune 100 companies with peak performance corporate training, and is also an international speaker and author. She has served as a marketing consultant to various Small Business Development Centers with her expertise in digital marketing. Her specialties include content creation, social media strategy, YouTube, SEO, Facebook, live streaming, podcasting, Instagram Sales, and how to speak with confidence on camera. She speaks English and Spanish and has been a sought-after professional speaker for over 20 years.

View Deborah Deras's Professional Bio


Nate Jemison

Position: Business Advisor
Business expertise: Access to capital, finance

Nate Jemison provides access to capital, financial analysis and loan consulting. He has over 20+ years' experience as a commercial and corporate banker with national, regional and community banks. Nate has also operated his own independent financial consulting business for the past 15 years. Nate is a graduate of CSU Long Beach and received his formal credit training from the distinguished and highly regarded Security Pacific National Bank Commercial Loan Training Program.

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Charles Lowe

Position: Business Advisor
Business expertise: Bilingual (English/Spanish), business planning, startups, marketing, import/export, government contracting

Over the last twenty years, Charlie Lowe has acted as a business consultant to the Small Business Development Centers and Centers for International Trade Development for El Camino Community College, Long Beach City College, and for Loyola Marymount University. He has 30 years’ experience in small business and international trade, having done business in 45 countries throughout Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Latin America. Charlie is bilingual in English and Spanish. He holds bachelors’ degrees in Latin American Studies and Economics and an MBA in International Management.

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Andrew Strachan

Position: Business Advisor
Business expertise: Finance, bilingual in English and French

Andrew Strachan has many years of financial analysis expertise. He served as financial analyst/VP of finance for over 20 years in the U.S. and Europe, following an earlier career at two start-ups. Andrew leverages his experience for the benefit of his SBDC clients, as he assists them with financial model development, financial statement creation and review, along with strategy development, business planning and working with investors (pitch deck review, business plan, presentations). He is bilingual in English and French.

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Martha Cisneros

Position: Main Office Staff Member
Business expertise: Bilingual (English/Spanish)


Blanca Huerta

Position: Main Office Staff Member
Business expertise: Bilingual (English/Spanish)



Debbie Goldfarb

Position: Business Advisor
Business expertise: Marketing and Branding

Debbie Goldfarb is a well-respected marketing coach and consultant. For over 25 years, Debbie has specialized in market research and multi-touch campaigns for small and large businesses. She works with a cache of industry leaders and enjoys coaching small business owners to success whether they are developing, growing, expanding, sustaining and/or transitioning their business.

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Omari Valentine

Position: Business Advisor
Business expertise: Website development

As an experienced digital project manager and business owner in the fields of marketing and web solutions, Omari Valentine specializes in web design, development and SEO for small businesses. He offers businesses knowledge of the digital landscape and helps them understand the options available to build and maintain a healthy web presence.

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Danielle Jenkins, Ed.D

Position: Business Advisor
Business expertise: Management and Human Resources

Danielle provides training in different areas of business such as business management, leadership, human resource management (hiring, training, development, compensation, motivation, communication, and administration), digital marketing, social media, and technology. Danielle earned her doctorate in Organizational Leadership and Behavior from Pepperdine University and her MBA in Public Administration from CSU Dominguez Hills. 

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Michael Williams

Position: Business Advisor
Business expertise: Construction, engineering, general contracting

Michael Williams is a Licensed Career Technical Education Instructor and was the Chief Instructor for Peerless Institute for more than 18 years, where he helped create construction and engineering companies by helping them with their State of California Contractors Licenses. He has dedicated his professional life to serving and helping people achieve their goals in life and business. Michael had an extensive career in retail management and has worked in the financial services market helping people with retirement planning, insurance, and estate planning.   Aside from his work in financial services, Michael is President and founder of Contractors License Network, which he founded in 1991. He also founded Solomon's Temple Design and Development with his twin brother Mitch to assist single mothers with finding, building and adding value to their homes. He is a volunteer with Habitat for Humanity, where he helps build homes for the disadvantaged in his community.

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Brett Dickstein

Position: Business Advisor
Business expertise: Financing

Brett Dickstein works with early stage ventures to help them commercialize and fund their ideas from mind to market. In the initial 10 years of his career, Brett worked with multinational consulting firms and investment banks. He spent the next 10 years supporting startups and growth-oriented businesses as they test marketed innovative products on the pathway to becoming investment ready. Brett is committed to enhancing entrepreneur and innovation ecosystems around the world, having driven business incubation and workforce development activities in 15 countries with the World Bank. Brett also contributed to launching a retail, import-export, fintech, ecommerce, and social impact consultancy. He has a Master’s in Public Finance from Columbia University and a BA from Emory College.

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Maureen Thielen

Position: Business Advisor
Business expertise: QBO, QB Desktop, payroll and other financial software

Maureen Thielen provides bookkeeping, accounting and tax consulting services to new and existing businesses. After working for more than 15 years at regional CPA firms, Maureen now trains clients on QBO, QB Desktop, payroll and other financial software. Maureen is an Enrolled Agent and has an MS in Taxation from Golden Gate University.

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Saida Pagan

Position: Business Advisor
Business expertise: Media training, communications strategy

Saida Pagan is a media trainer, communication specialist and journalist. ln addition to having extensive experience as a television reporter, host, and producer, Saida's stories have appeared in a number of online print publications. As a media trainer, she has helped people from all walks of life to prepare for media interviews and communicate effectively during times of crisis. Saida Pagan holds a master's degree, with distinction, in strategic communication and has worked as an educator in both higher education and adult education. Saida has won numerous awards for her journalism and is a member of several organizations, including SAG-AFTRA, the California Association of Public Information Officials, the Society of Professional Journalists, the Western States Communication Association and Toastmasters International.

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Benjamin Martin

Position: Business Advisor
Business expertise: Entrepreneurship, business law, management, accounting

Attorney Ben Martin loves helping new and small businesses survive to thrive. Ben has over 20 years of experience working for SBDCs, Non-profit Entrepreneurship Programs, and pro bono to help people build their futures. Ben has a reputation for advice that gives business owners confidence and independence -- and making them laugh while they learn how to reach their goals. Ben has a bachelor's degree in Business Administration and a Juris Doctor. He is a university and junior college professor in the areas of business law and management and accounting, respectively. Including the El Camino College SBDC, Ben has worked for five SBDC's in the Bay Area and Los Angeles County. He has been recognized for his role in advocating for women business owners.

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