Staff Biographies


Our headquarters staff is dedicated to providing you with the tools and resources that will help your business succeed. Just as every business is unique, every team member brings a unique skill set to the table. Learn more about our staff by clicking on the names below.

Melissa Angel, Associate Business Growth Team Manager

Melissa Angel is the Associate Business Growth Team Manager for the MI-SBDC. In this role, Melissa utilizes the MI-SBDC tools to assist companies in assessing and implementing opportunities for growth. During her fifteen years with the MI-SBDC, Melissa has served the roles of Consultant, Regional Director, Growth Group Specialist, and her current role of Associate Business Growth Team Manager.

Melissa has over twenty years of business experience as a business owner, educator, and consultant. Her roles outside of SBDC have focused on sales, marketing, and new venture development. Melissa earned a BA from Western Michigan University majoring in marketing and an MBA from Wayne State University with an emphasis in finance. She has additional training or certifications in strategic planning, process mapping, and financial analysis. Melissa has received the MI-SBDC Outstanding Consultant Award as well as the ASBDC Michigan Star Performer Award.

Elaine Benoit, Accounting Clerk

Elaine Benoit is a seasoned SBDC employee, as she moved to the State Headquarters from the regional office and previously served as Lopucki’s secretary. Benoit came to Grand Valley State University in 1995, working for the Seidman School of Business, Office of Economic Expansion and transferred to the SBDC Regional Office in 1999. She is currently responsible for a variety of duties including the coordination of special projects, special events, and network correspondence.

Nancy Boese, Business Growth Team Manager

The MI-SBDC has many advanced tools for existing businesses and Nancy’s role is to help the network utilize these tools in the region. She has assisted many small business owners with assessments, analysis, and prioritizing opportunities for growth.

Nancy earned her MBA from Western Michigan University. She has owned her own business in marketing consulting and has worked in various capacities with nonprofits. She has served on the board for Habitat for Humanity, volunteered with Grand Rapids Opportunities for Women (GROW), and has been a member of the Athena Planning Committee. In the past she has also been a board member and President of the Alliance of Women Entrepreneurs and Athena Board of Directors. She is currently involved in the Lakeshore Advantage Advisory Board, National Business Incubator Association, and Michigan Business Incubator Association and serves on several committees with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC).

Hanna Burmeister, Marketing Associate

Hanna Burmeister manages marketing and communication strategies for the state headquarters of the 11-region SBDC network. Hanna designs and produces key marketing pieces including eMarketing, print, and online material. She also promotes the SBDC’s services through written success stories, videography, press releases, and social media. She is an active member of the planning committee for Michigan Celebrates Small Business, the state’s yearly small business awards ceremony. Burmeister graduated from Michigan State University in 2012 with a degree in Communications and Public Relations and is currently pursuing her Masters of Public Administration at Grand Valley State University.

Jennifer Deamud, Associate State Director

Jennifer Deamud is responsible for creating and developing communication strategies for the state headquarters and the 11-region network. She assists with long-range planning and program development, manages Michigan Celebrates Small Business, and maintains key statewide relationships with stakeholders, partners, clients, and media. Jennifer is an accomplished communications professional with 18 years of communication, strategic planning, and media relations experience.

Jennifer serves on the ATHENA steering committee and Leadership Forum subcommittee and is co-chair of the INFORUM Small Business & Entrepreneurship Affinity Group. She is actively involved as a steering committee member of Huntington Bank’s Rising Women Leaders Alumni group. She is a member of the WGVU Engage Committee and was part of the LZ Michigan Welcome Home Vietnam Vets. Jennifer also spends time volunteering with Mel Trotter Ministries and has spent several years volunteering with the Special Olympics. Jennifer enjoys giving back to her local community by volunteering at the Byron Center Schools, being an AYSO soccer coach, and mentoring young women.

Jennifer is in the Master of Public Administration program at GVSU and has a Master of Science in Communications and a Bachelor of Science in Advertising and Public Relations from GVSU. She is a graduate of Grand Valley State University’s Leadership Program and the Huntington Bank’s Rising Women Leaders Program. She is a certified business consultant.

Jennifer has received the Grand Rapid’s Business Journal’s “40 Under Forty” award and the Association of Small Business Development Center (ASBDC) Michigan’s Star Performer Award.

Cathleen Kaiser, Training Coordinator

Cathleen Kaiser has over twenty years of corporate, education, and independent business experience, in a variety of functional areas that include marketing, training, and career counseling. She has worked with industrial, consumer, service, and educational organizations, implementing strategic marketing projects, market research focus groups, sales training seminars, corporate planning sessions, small business training and counsel, and personal development workshops.Ms. Kaiser holds an MBA in General Business from Grand Valley State University and a BA in Liberal Arts from Central Michigan University. She also has a teaching certificate from Aquinas College.As a Facilitator and Training Manager for the Michigan Small Business Development Center, Cathleen utilizes creative, adult-focused, and practical techniques for stimulating learning among new and existing entrepreneurs.

Sienna Mavima, Assistant State Director

Sienna Mavima is responsible for data and information management of the SBDC network. She collects all the data that goes into the network’s financial and narrative reports. She is also responsible for the performance systems that ensure the network is operating effectively and efficiently, consistent with the network’s strategic plan, ASBDC accreditation standards, and the SBA cooperative agreement. Mavima has been with the MI-SBDC for the past ten years. Prior to joining the network, she was in another department of Grand Valley State University where she served as an instructional design consultant. Prior to her tenure with Grand Valley State University, Mavima served as a teaching assistant at Florida State University, where she taught a graduate course in systems approach to change management. Mavima received a Bachelor of Arts in Education, and her professional teacher’s certification from the University of Zimbabwe. She earned her Master’s in Instructional System Design from Florida State University. She is passionate about issues of curriculum design and human capital development.

Michelle McCloud, Finance Manager

Michelle McCloud is responsible for managing the financial aspects of the MI-SBDC operations, including contract administration, financial reporting, and compliance, and managing the internal and external audit activities on behalf of the Center. A recent addition to the MI-SBDC staff, Michelle comes to the SBDC after almost seven years of service in GVSU’s Business and Finance office, as a senior grants accountant. She is an accomplished financial professional with over 16 years of accounting and finance experience.

Michelle serves the GVSU, Grand Rapids and professional communities in many ways. She currently serves on the GVSU Women’s Commission Advisory Board and has served as the Chair of the GVSU Administrative Professional Committee and the President of the GVSU Positive Black Women organization. In the community, Michelle currently sits on the board of directors for the Court Appoint Special Advocate (C.A.S.A) of Kent County, Inc. and is a member of the Kent County Board of Commissioners, Officers Compensation Committee. She has served as the President of the National Association of Black Accountants Lansing Chapter and held leadership roles in other professional organizations. She’s an active community volunteer that has served as a hospice volunteer for Heartland Hospice Care, delivered meals for the Meals-On-Wheels program, served as a mentor for young women at GVSU and through Bethany Christian Services, and actively participates with her local school community.

Michelle earned her MBA and her BBA in Accounting from Davenport University, is a Certified Government Financial Manager (CGFM), and holds certificates designated for grants management professionals.

Zara Smith, Export Program Manager / Manager of SBDC Network Technologies

Zara Smith is responsible for anticipating and meeting the various technological needs of the network; the implementation of key software, and the development of custom tools.  She is also responsible for managing various aspects of the SBDC Export Program including timely delivery of services, quarterly reporting and regional alignment of the SBDC Export Team.

Zara’s professional background includes 15+ years of experiences including a project manager at a small software and website development agency, business planning specialist at a large healthcare system, and technology systems manager at the SBDC. Her unique set of skills allows her to work within the complex SBDC network and be able to relate to small business clients.

Zara is a graduate from the MBA program at Grand Valley State University. In 2013 she achieved her NASBITE Certified Global Business Professional (SGBP) certification.