Russell V. Combs Sr., CBIP
President - Senior Consultant
- Presenter National Business Incubation Association Conferences
- Presenter / Trainer National Business Incubation Association Fall Training
- Presenter Appalachian Regional Commission Conferences
- Member Appalachian Regional Commission Peer-to-Peer Incubation Best Practices Team
- Presenter International Business Incubation Conference, Hong Kong
- Past President of Virginia Business Incubation Association
- Co-Chair New York State EDZ Committee for Business Incubation, Marketing and Expansion
Russell V. Combs is experienced in many aspects of business incubation best practices, including incubator management, entrepreneurship training, development of technology-based facilities and training programs, management of governmental programs supporting economic development, as well as business consulting in the private sector. He currently is President of IOTA, Incubation Operations, Training and Applications with US Headquarters in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He recently served as Director of the WESST Enterprise Center, Albuquerque, New Mexico, the Erie Technology Incubator at Gannon University Erie, PA and previously directed a regional multi-facilities business incubation project in Northern Virginia. His administrative experience has included direction of the Tech Ventures division for a community development non-profit corporation, in Southeastern Ohio. This included development and management of a youth entrepreneurial development program, a technology-based business incubator, and four community technology centers. He has directed the administration and marketing of an Economic Development Zone initiative in rural New York, which included strategies of growth, business incubation, and expansion for over 65 businesses. The program was recognized globally for its successes as an “incubator-without-walls” project. He also served as the director of a Microenterprise, Entrepreneurial Assistance and ARC Second Stage Business Counseling Program, including a state-of-the-art computer lab focusing on workforce development and skill sets improvements. This initiative resulted in over 100 small business start-ups within a six-year period with a 94% success rate. Mr. Combs also was the architect and administered the formulation of a five-community human services and economic development initiative resulting in creation of five diverse programs that received special recognition from New York State Department of Youth and Department of Social Services, as well as New York Department of Economic Development for business retention and expansion strategies within the five communities. Mr. Combs has worked in the private sector as CEO and Senior Consultant of his own business that restructured failing companies. All businesses assisted remained in operation retaining over 1,000 jobs.
Mr. Combs received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Dayton Bible College, Dayton, Ohio, in 1972. Since graduating, he has continued his studies in Business Administration and Management, as well as Management/Labor Relations. He received his designation as a Credentialed Business Incubation Professional, awarded by the National Business Incubation Association, in 2009. He has served as President of the Virginia Business Incubation Association. He is active in the National Business Incubation Association, the Appalachian Regional Commission, and is a frequent presenter at their conferences as well as other state and regional incubation conferences. He was also a presenter at the International Business Incubator Conference in Hong Kong.
Associate Senior Consultant: Site & Economic Development
Carroll has 25+ years of local, regional, national and global strategic private/public entrepreneurial leadership experience as a business environment enabler/investment advisor (BEE/IA). Within this field, he develops, implements and manages innovative public/private sustainable economic development initiatives; entrepreneur empowerment/community regeneration/capacity building efforts; streamlining the public sector point of contact for planning/approval processes; foreign market access programs (investments, strategic alliances and market penetration); and, organizational/business creation/change management efforts. He gained this background and a strong global network of public, private and non-profit/academic sector professional associates by working with governments, organizations, locales, small-medium sized enterprises (SMEs), multinational corporations and universities (chancellor, vice chancellor, dean and program director levels) in the United States, United Kingdom, China, Germany, Canada, the United Arab Emirates, India, Russia, East Africa, Mexico and Bahrain.
His public sector experience includes:
- Director of Civic Investment, City of Newport, Newport, RI
- Chief Executive Officer, Plymouth City Development Company, Plymouth, UK
- Executive Director, Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority, Front Royal, VA
- China Officer, Massachusetts Port Authority, Boston, MA
- Taiwan Desk Officer, US Department of Commerce, Washington, DC and Taipei, Taiwan
- Various global and national consultancy engagements
CEO Associate Senior Consultant, Business Incubation Specialist
Lisa C. Ison served as the founding president of The New Century Venture Center, a mixed-use incubator, located in Roanoke, Virginia, from 1996 through 2009. In this role, she was responsible for the day-to-day operations of the Center and its many programs. As the Center’s first and only President, she was responsible for the development of its tenant base, programs of service to tenants and the small business community at large. Prior to her involvement with business incubation, she was involved in several areas of local economic development.
Her contribution to the business incubation community is substantial. She served two three-year terms as a member of the board of directors of the National Business Incubation Association, and served as Chair of the Board in 2005. She also served a two-year term as the founding president of the Virginia Business Incubation Association (VBIA), and a four-year tenure as Vice President and Secretary/Treasurer. Ms Ison served as a member of the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) Business Incubation Steering Committee. Ms Ison has worked closely with legislators, including former Congressman Rick Boucher, in developing incubator programs in Southwest Virginia, as well as assisting other economic development and interested parties throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia and rural Appalachia in starting incubation programs. Ms Ison was chosen as one of seven incubation professionals from throughout the country to serve as a mentor for incubation programs within the ARC. In this role, she worked closely with community leaders and incubation programs in rural Appalachia, including the Mississippi Band of Choctaws. She has also served as a peer reviewer of existing incubation programs in the ARC, benchmarking existing programs to national standards.
In 2004, the National Business Incubation Association recognized the overall excellence of The New Century Venture Center by naming it the 2004 Randall M. Whaley Incubator of the Year, the organization’s most prestigious award. NBIA also named a graduate of the Center as Outstanding Incubator Graduate of the Year for both 2002 and 2003.
Ms Ison has made numerous presentations on business incubation and conducted various training sessions for incubation professionals and community leaders throughout the country, and was a presenter at the International Business Incubation Conference in Hong Kong in 1998.
As an incubation consultant, she has conducted feasibility studies, site assessments, and has mentored communities interested in business incubation, as well as operating incubation programs. She completed a series of TV segments for Living in the Heart of Virginia, talking about issues that start-up businesses and small businesses face. She currently serves as a Business Coach for SmartSTART, an 8-week intensive entrepreneurship course offered annually by the Martinsville-Henry County (Virginia) Economic Development Department. Also, as senior consultant and business incubation specialist for IOTA, she develops and presents specialized training programs on business assistance and entrepreneurship throughout the U.S.
Founder and CEO- Brain Gain, LLC
Mike Gildea, Founder and CEO of Brain Gain, LLC, has a diverse and outcomes based background that includes startups, angel investing, consulting entrepreneurs, business incubation, government, and youth attraction/retention.
He served as the past Executive Director of the PA Angel Network (PAN) with its 17 angel group members from across PA representing over 450 active angel investors. He managed the associations initiatives benefiting angel investors, startups, and ecosystem providers such as the monthly angel roundtables with angel group leaders, angel education and networking, represented PA angels at national angel events, extensive work with startups seeking angel capital, and developed and implemented the due diligence fellowship program for college students to review startups.
His role with PAN and additional angel group clients have provided him critical insight into angel investors needs and the impact this has on entrepreneurs pitching to raise angel capital.
Mike enjoys providing consulting to entrepreneurs and ecosystem providers such as incubators, accelerators, co-working spaces, economic development, and higher education about best practices in generating interest and investment from angel investors, pitch coaching, feedback on business plans, key decision points for angel investors, updates on angel trends, and adding value to entrepreneurs’ efforts for growing their companies.
His comprehensive work with startups seeking angel investment has resulted in having reviewed over 2,000 pitches, business plans and materials from industries such as web services, software, eCommerce, cyber security, mobile, gaming, healthcare IT, 3D printing, education, healthcare, clean tech, energy, consumer products, retail, food and beverage and life sciences.
Mike serves as a business plan judge for numerous events hosted by economic development, colleges, universities and angel groups, such as the annual Angel Venture Fair in Philadelphia. Mike has engaged student entrepreneurs as a current judge and the past judging chair for the PA State System of Higher Education Student Business Plan contest that includes students from 14 universities across Pennsylvania.
As the Founder and CEO of Pie Shares, Inc., Mike leads this IT startup’s management team with individuals from programming, sales, marketing, finance and accounting while leveraging his own technical experiences on IT product development, website user interfaces, and databases.
In former PA Governor’s Tom Ridge administration, Mike was the first state-wide Director of Gov. Ridge’s $12 million Brain Gain- “Stay Invent the Future” initiative. He was instrumental in the development of the initiative and its multiple components including managing the first ever grant funding process. With over 800 partnerships created, more than $20.7 million dollars of public and private capital was deployed for projects and strategies to retain Pennsylvania’s young people and attract additional young people to the Commonwealth.
His extensive operational experience with business incubators and non-profits includes having served as the Director of a technology focused university based incubator and Executive Director of the Technology Council of Northwest PA which served startups, young professionals, and the overall technology community.
Mike has supported community service through many past board member and volunteer roles and currently services as the John Carroll University Class of 1998 Alumni Columnist/Representative. Mike is a graduate of John Carroll University in University Heights, OH.
Patricia Frerkes, CPA, CCIM, CIPS
Strategic CFO with proven experience achieving scale, operating efficiencies, and appropriate metrics in all size companies; particularly skilled in start-ups and in the banking, insurance, real estate, and health care industries. Has served as the key executive financial partner in M&A engagements
As a Strategic CFO:
- Tailor financial statements to clients’ needs, i.e., fund raising, sales or purchases, etc.
- Develop appropriate metrics for optimizing financial performance.
- Creative deal maker driven to profit-enhancing or strategic opportunities.
Experience honed by working with such companies as:
- Lockheed Martin Technology Start-ups (24)
- The Lights on Lab VC Fund
- Strategic Growth Bank
- Heritage Trust Company
- AXA Investment Division, Germany
- Mountain States Financial Corporation (public)
- Deloitte & Touche