Meet the Experts

Below is a list of our expert mentors (in alphabetical order). You can engage with these people through our programs including Hours with Experts, Workshops and Company Launch. You may also make a special request to meet one of the expert below by using this meeting request form. If you want to become a mentor, please complete this interest form.


Charlie Bessey

Coalatree

With 15 years of professional experience in the action sports/outdoor fashion industry. Charle’s expertise in the area of entrepreneurship is very broad. He has now led Coalatree and his team in raising over 2 million in crowdfunding and has become an expert in the field.


Deb Bilbao

Salt Lake Chamber Women’s Business Center

Deb Bilbao is a keynote speaker, trainer, executive coach and business consultant at the Salt Lake Chamber Women’s Business Center. Using passion and an incurable desire to create powerful change in the business world, she brings leadership and solid growth strategies to entrepreneurs and their teams. She works to create intricate, potent strategies with businesses of all levels, from pre-startup, to start-up, to critical growth in established enterprises. Whether one-on-one or training for a team or group, specific topics she addresses are business planning, cash flow projections, financing, management, operations, strategic partnerships, organizational and corporate strategy and structure, as well as government procurement.


Joseph “jo” Blake

Assistant Professor of Dance, Weber State University

Joseph “jo” Blake, is currently an assistant professor of dance at Weber State University and newly elected to a three-year term as the advisory board director of student initiatives with the National Dance Education Organization. He is a BFA graduate of the University of Utah and an MFA graduate of the University of Washington, is a performance artist, choreographer, director, and educator who has performed, taught, and choreographed throughout the United States, Europe, South America, and Southeast Asia. As a member of Salt Lake City-based Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company (2003-2013), he performed internationally in works by such artists as Alwin Nikolais, Doug Varone, Wayne McGregor, Carolyn Carlson, Bill T Jones, Susan Marshall, Charlotte Boye-Christensen, as well as many other influential dance makers. As a graduate student, jo had the opportunity to perform in the recreation of works by Yvonne Rainer, Zvi Gotheiner, Anna Sokolow, Trisha Brown, Joe Goode, Brian Brooks, and Shapiro & Smith.


Paul Burnett

Audit Manager and CPA, Tanner LLC

Paul Burnett is an audit manager and CPA with Tanner LLC who has almost seven years of public accounting experience serving a variety of industries, including not-for-profit, SaaS and technology, manufacturing, trucking, healthcare, and others. He enjoys being a team member of Tanner which allows him to work on mostly non-public companies with revenues ranging from $100,000 to $1 billion. He joined Tanner after graduating with his master of accountancy from Southern Utah University. He is a board member and treasurer of the Utah Nonprofits Association. Paul loves spending time with his family (wife and three kids), playing board games, watching movies, playing sports, and more.


Matthew Bury

Micheal Best

Matt assists clients in preparing and prosecuting patent applications. His practice is built on a background in mechanical engineering, with firsthand experience with the complexities of project design and building. He also assists with matters regarding clearance, patentability, and validity options.https://www.michaelbest.com


Victoria Cabal

Director, Office for Student Inclusion and the First Ascent Scholars program, David Eccles School of Business, University of Utah

Dr. Victoria Cabal has over 10 years of experience in developing equity, diversity, and inclusion centered strategies ranging from targeted programs to organizational planning. Cabal manages collaborative relationships across leadership to develop and implement strategic initiatives, aligned with an organization’s mission and values. Cabal is a visionary leader whose expertise allows organizations to explore the historical and contemporary impacts impeding organizational inclusive growth. Utilizing a relationship-based approach, Cabal makes connections throughout organizations to ensure the organizational “village” works toward supporting everyone’s success. Currently, Cabal serves as director of the Office for Student Inclusion and the First Ascent Scholars program at the David Eccles School of Business.


Ashley Christenson

Tax Manager, Tanner LLC

Ashley is a Tax Manager at Tanner LLC. She graduated from BYU with her Master’s of Accountancy and has about five years of experience in public accounting. Ashley has worked with many different industries and sizes of clients in her public accounting career and is excited to help Lassonde’s up-and-coming businesses with any tax questions they may have. Ashley enjoys traveling (Iceland, Costa Rica, and Kauai have been a few recent highlights), college football, and working with animals.


Robyn Cohen

Director of Client Relations, SEARCH Group Partners

Robyn is an accomplished professional with 15-plus years of experience specializing in operations, integrated marketing strategies and strategic partnerships, having worked with startups, medium-sized businesses, as well as large corporations. Robyn leads business development and client relation efforts at SEARCH Group Partners, with a focus on supporting organizational growth through building new relationships, as well as maintaining existing client relationships. In 2017 she was hired as director of operations at the Impact Hub Salt Lake, one of the city’s first co-working spaces. She has also been involved in the women’s advocacy space for over a decade. Upon moving to Salt Lake City in 2014, Robyn was one of the first executive committee members for Womenpreneurs. Originally from Toronto, she has lived in two continents, three countries, and seven cities over the course of 25 years. In her spare time, you can find her in the gym, camping somewhere in the Intermountain West, and spending time with her furry daughter, Asia, and her husband, Todd.


Olivia Crellin

Associate, Snell & Wilmer

Olivia Crellin’s principal area of practice is corporate finance and securities law with an emphasis on corporate governance, mergers and acquisitions, private placements, securities law compliance, joint ventures and general corporate matters. She also works directly with businesses, organizations and individuals in natural resource transactions including, specifically, the appropriation and sale of water rights and commercial transactions with tribal entities.


Jeff Davis

Molio

For 23 years, Jeff Davis built brands at Procter & Gamble, in numerous product sectors (consumer-packaged goods, beauty, pharmaceuticals) and for numerous global markets (USA, Canada, Germany, Czech Republic, Slovakia.)After retiring from P&G in 2009, Jeff was the angel investor, board member, and eventual CEO of Orabrush Inc. According to Google, Orabrush was the first company to commercialize a brand on a global level leveraging only YouTube advertising. Jeff brings this deep expertise to the start-up and agency world at Molio, Inc. Jeff is one of the rare executives that has run global billion dollar businesses and has also launched two start-ups with successful exits. In his spare time, he is an Adjunct Professor at the University of Utah and a published academic author. He also serves as a board member for several outside companies. In addition to speaking German fluently, Jeff is an avid skier and an advanced open water scuba diver and a less advanced golfer. Jeff holds bachelor’s degrees in marketing and German, both from the University of Utah.


Crayton Edwards and Dennis Garrett

The Clever Bean

Craton grew up within a family-owned business, then went to Colorado Mesa University for Culinary Arts and Business Administration. Throughout college he was very focused on building entrepreneurial skills and started multiple different companies in an attempt to learn more about creating a successful business. Craton has always believed in the philosophy that together is better. This mantra brings a focus of teamwork and community that is a unique aspect of the culture here at The Clever Bean.https://thecleverbean.com


Joshua B. Erekson

Senior Counsel, Michael Best

As senior counsel, Josh advises clients in all realms of corporate law, including federal and state securities law compliance, the formation and financing of start-up businesses, and mergers and acquisitions. Prior to joining the firm, Josh served as corporate counsel at Huntsman Corporation, where his practice focused on SEC regulatory compliance and general corporate legal matters.


Kyle Graham

Audit Manager, Tanner LLC

Kyle is an Audit Manager with Tanner LLC who has close to 8 years of experience in public accounting. He joined Tanner after graduating with his Master’s of Accountancy from Southern Utah University. He’s a recent graduate of the AICPA’s Leadership Academy. He enjoys being a team member of Tanner which allows him to work on mostly non-public companies with revenues ranging from $1M to $600M. He’s also very involved in the firm’s recruiting efforts, internal training, and the firm’s consulting practice in areas of due diligence and business transactions. He’s an avid outdoorsman enjoying any activity that gets him into the mountains or on a river.


Steve Hale

Director of Operations, Album VCC

Steve earned a bachelor’s degree from Brigham Young University’s entrepreneurship program. While studying, he created an online peer-to-peer housing exchange that he operated successfully for several years, helping thousands of students. Steve is trilingual (English, Spanish, and Portuguese) and volunteered as a microenterprise educator/consultant in Mexico for the Academy for Creating Enterprise. He also served Utah GOED for several years as a TCIP panelist helping to determine where the state allocated its grants to startups. Just before joining Album VC, Steve led Veracity Solution’s venture program and consulted its clients in product and innovation management. As Album VC’s director of operations, he oversees the firm’s investor communications, finances, internal tooling, and internship program. He also helps portfolio companies primarily with PR and downstream investor relations.

Areas of expertise: venture capital, entrepreneurship


Peter Harris

Partner at University Growth Fund

Peter is a founding partner with University Growth Fund (UGF), a venture fund designed to give university students hands-on experience investing in privately held companies. Prior to UGF, Peter was a principal with University Venture Fund, a predecessor fund to UGF. During the last 14 years, Peter has mentored over 400 students and invested in over 50 private companies including Lyft, Spotify, Fastly, Flexport, Airbnb, Postmates, Instructure, and Workfront. Peter has also worked as an international business consultant, helping launch 10 microfranchises around the world. He holds an honors double major in economics and international business from Brigham Young University.

Areas of expertise: fundraising, venture capital, business strategy, entrepreneurship


Kyle Hepworth

Tax Manager, Tanner LLC

Kyle is a tax nanager at Tanner LLC. He received his master’s of accountancy from Utah State University and joined Tanner after completing his degree. He has five years of experience in public accounting and has experience in various industries and sizes of clients. Kyle enjoys helping Tanner with training new employees as well as the firm’s recruiting efforts. Kyle is excited to help Lassonde’s businesses with any tax or accounting questions they have. Kyle enjoys basketball, golf, spending time with his two young kids and wife, and helping his dad on the family farm in Idaho.

Areas of expertise: tax, accounting


Jodie Hewitson

Tax Partner, Tanner LLC

Jodie has 21 years of public accounting experience. Prior to joining Tanner, Jodie spent 10 years with a Big 4 firm. She has extensive experience in all phases of tax compliance and consulting, consolidated and multi-state filing issues, international tax, partnerships, S corporation, individual and expatriate tax. Jodie graduated from the University of Utah with a master of professional accountancy and a bachelor of science in accounting.


Dustin Howell

Intellectual Property Law, Workman Nydegger

Dustin Howell’s experience runs deep in the subjects of physics, optics, mechanics and mechanical engineering. He uses his background to help clients in the preparation and prosecution of the U.S and international patent and trademark applications as well as licensing and confidentiality agreements and other IP issues.


Anthony Mastracci

Political Science Instructor, University of Utah

Tony is an Adjunct Instructor in the Political Science Department and an Associate at the Institute of Local Government Studies at the University of Birmingham, UK.  He has 15 years of experience in nonprofit operations, as Chief Operating Officer for the Community Foundation of Utah and as Vice President of Operations for Mercy Housing Lakefront in Chicago, and he also taught nonprofit management as Adjunct Faculty at Northwestern University.  Tony also served on the board of a startup social enterprise, that operated as a joint venture of two nonprofits in Chicago.  His career includes working as a Corporate Budget Manager for the City of Austin Texas and as a Policy Analyst for the Ohio Legislative Budget Office.  He has received both a Bachelor of Business Administration in Finance and a Master of Public Administration from the Ohio State University.


Plymouth D. Nelson

Partner, Michael Best, Intellectual Property

Plymouth’s practice includes the preparation of invalidity, non-infringement, and clearance opinions, as well as patentability analysis, and the drafting of license, confidentiality, and other agreements. In addition, he counsels clients on the acquisition and enforcement of patent rights and the avoidance of competitor patents. Plymouth worked as an attorney at an Intellectual Property firm in Washington, D.C., after serving in the Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) Corps of the U.S Army.


Timothy D. Nichols

Intellectual Property Law, Workman Nydegger

Timothy D. Nichols is a former engineer and federal law clerk who today represents companies of all sizes in patent, trademark and copyright matters. He regularly counsels clients regarding the procurement and licensing of their intellectual property, and guides them through the intricate nuances of online marketplaces to better manage, protect, and extract revenue from their intellectual property portfolio.


Matt Orton

Senior Tax Manager, Tanner LLC

Matt has 18 years of experience in public accounting. He has extensive experience handling the tax and accounting needs of companies and executives within many different industries, including SaaS, software development, manufacturing, technology, services and real estate. Matt specializes in helping companies with their federal and multi-state tax compliance, tax planning, cash flow planning, capital expenditures, entity structuring and M&A and transaction planning.


Tony Passey

Founder and CEO, Firetoss

Tony Passey is founder and CEO of Firetoss, a marketing and web development firm in Salt Lake City, Utah. He is also an Assistant Professor, Lecturer in the Marketing Department of the David Eccles School of Business at the University of Utah. Firetoss provides SEO, marketing and creative services to firms across the nation. Firetoss’ integrated approach to strategy, creative development and marketing execution provide a unique advantage over other agencies. Tony created a new digital marketing curriculum for undergraduate and graduate students that applies marketing strategy to project-based assignments. Students learn through a mixture of lectures and hands-on group work for local non-profits and small businesses. Tony has engaged in various start-ups ranging from tech companies to retail to manufacturing, including the creation of an elite brand of energy efficient products, Thermaglass Windows, and the west coast’s first fully custom fiberglass door manufacturing company, SureFit Door Co. Tony Passey received a B.A. in Economics and an M.S. in Finance from the University of Utah. He has received several business awards including being named to the Utah v100, top CEOs in technology.


Darin Pierson

Tax Manager, Tanner LLC

Darin is a tax manager at Tanner LLC. He has 6.5 years of public accounting experience in a variety of industries. His primary focus throughout his career has been in corporate tax and accounting for income taxes under ASC 740 for public and private companies. Prior to joining Tanner, Darin was a tax manager at Ernst & Young in Dallas. While in Dallas, he focused mainly on healthcare, technology, and real estate clients, including several Fortune 500 companies. Darin received his bachelor’s and master’s in accounting at Brigham Young University.


Todd Reece

Attorney, Ballard Spahr

Todd A. Reece is an experienced transactional attorney who utilizes and combines his knowledge of legal, business, and accounting principles to provide comprehensive, practical, and creative business law services. He previously worked as an internal auditor at Arthur Andersen LLP in Silicon Valley and Salt Lake City. Todd advises clients on mergers, acquisitions, financings (venture capital and private equity), joint ventures, licensing matters, business formation issues, internal restructurings, and corporate governance. He regularly advises U.S. clients and non-U.S. clients on general business matters and M&A transactions. Todd is a Co-Practice Leader of the firm’s Emerging Growth and Venture Capital Practice Group. Todd represents clients in a wide range of business sectors, including high-tech, software, biotechnology, communications, professional services, retail, logistics, and manufacturing.


Shaun Ritchie

Founding Partner, Persistent Ventures

Shaun is a founding partner at Persistent Ventures, a diversified investment firm. Previously, Shaun co-founded and was CEO of Teem, a venture capital-backed SaaS software company, which was acquired by The We Company (parent of WeWork) in September of 2018. Teem grew to become the leader in the workplace experience software category and was recognized by Inc. Magazine as a Best Workplace in 2017. In 2018, Teem was named the third fastest growing company in Utah. After the sale of Teem to The We Company, Shaun served as the chief workplace experience officer at WeWork. Shaun’s first company, Neutron Interactive, an online marketing company, twice earned spots on the Inc 500 list, at #313 and #318. Neutron was named multiple times as one of the fastest growing companies in Utah, a Best Company to Work For. Shaun has served on the Utah chapter board of Entrepreneurs Organization and as chapter president in 2012. He received his bachelors in marketing communications from Brigham Young University and his master of business administration from the University of Utah.


Tara Spalding

President and Founder, Hen House Ventures

Tara Spalding is the Founder and President of Hen House Ventures, a startup incubator based in Salt Lake City, Utah. Chosen as a 2020 Utah Business Top 30 Women to Watch, Tara is motivated to help companies who intend to better the world through technological innovations but need a path to fund and grow their business. Beginning her high-tech career in Silicon Valley when she taught herself to code software, she became the first employee, and eventually VP of Marketing at SugarCRM. Tara is on the advisory board for VentureCapital.org and enjoys spending time with her family in the outdoors.

Areas of expertise: entrepreneurism, go-to-market strategies, raising capital


Brian Sather

CEO, Blacksmith International

Brian Sather is the CEO of Blacksmith International, a Founder of the Product PowerUp Conference, a music fan, musician, skier, dad, and hardcore entrepreneur. Brian’s career has taken him from startups to Fortune 100s, from acquiring companies to being acquired, from Silicon Valley to the Silicon Slopes, and all around the world. He is a passionate advocate for the Utah consumer goods industry and for manufacturing as a vehicle for progress in Utah’s underserved rural communities.


Ian Shelledy

The Community Foundation

Ian brings over 10 years of non-profit experience to CFU. Before joining the team, Ian served was Co-Founder and Executive Director of Sustainable Startups, a non-profit organization dedicated to developing diverse human capital and fostering projects that improve the economic, social and environmental conditions within communities. Under Ian’s leadership, Sustainable Startups was a four-time finalist and two-time winner of the U.S. Small Business Administration Growth Accelerator Competition and expanded its programming to 16 cities across the nation. Ian also served as Director of Innovation and Education at The Leonardo. He is a James A. Covert Leadership Award recipient and a participant in the White House Business Council Forum on Accelerating Entrepreneurship. Ian holds a master’s degree from Colorado State University specializing in collaborative decision-making, and a B.A. from the University of Portland. He has a wife and three children, one much furrier than the other two.


Judson Stelter

Micheal Best

Jud has experience representing clients before administrative agencies such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Department of Labor and the National Labor Relations Board. His background also includes three years as an adjunct professor at the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law at Cleveland State University, where his course focused on the drafting of transactional documents such as employment contracts and settlement agreements.https://www.michaelbest.com


AJ Wentworth

Chocolate Conspiracy

AJ received his training to practice Holistic Health Counseling at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, the world’s largest nutrition school, which is the only nutrition school integrating all the different dietary theories— combining the knowledge of traditional philosophies with modern concepts like the USDA food pyramid, the glycemic index, the Zone diet and raw foods. AJ also received certification as a Live-Foods Instructor, which he earned after completing a hands-on educational apprenticeship at the Tree of Life Rejuvenation Center. Known worldwide for its foundation in spirituality and living foods, the Tree of Life Rejuvenation center is a leading fasting & detoxification center, founded by Dr. Gabriel Cousens, M.D., a diplomat of the American Board of Holistic Medicine. At the Tree of Life, AJ developed an insatiable love of raw, vegan desserts. He had an especially strong attraction to raw cacao – the beginnings of all chocolate. This led him to develop his business, learning to manufacture chocolate with old traditions, in a new way.https://www.eatchocolateconspiracy.com/


Blake Wigdahl

Vice President of Design and Business Development

Blake has experience in for-profit, and non-profit sectors as a design anthropologist, tinkerer, educator and is perpetually curious about design thinking (human-centered design). As an experienced designer, his passion is looking for ways to design meaningful experiences, spaces, and products. http://www.processcuriosity.com