2019 Veterans In Business Network National Conference - San Diego

Speakers & Workshops

(Click on name to jump down to their bio and workshop information.)


Panel Discussion 1:

"Successful Veteran Businesses"
Cole Woodman, VIB Network (Moderator)
Erick Castro, KSE Construction
Laurie Sayles, Civility Management
Aliahu Bey, Totem Tech / Haight Bey

General Session

"Working 'On' Your Business, Not 'In' Your Business: How to Scale for Growth"
Andy Kemal, INFIX

"Doc’s Top 10 List of VOB Must Dos!"
Eric "Doc" Wright, Vets2PM

Panel Discussion 2: 

"Veteran Business Briefing"
Rene Cota, CMG Alliance (Moderator)
Jose Gabriel Espinoza, California Water Service
Michael Aguillio, DGS
Dawn Gilbert, Frontier Communications



Lunch Fireside Chat

Cedric Williams, SoCalGas

Business Development Seminars

NOTE: Seminars are in alphabetical order and are not listed by their times. Please check the schedule posted at the conference for actual times. Seminars go from 8 - 11 am and are 50 minutes each. You may select the seminar(s) that will benefit you and your business.

Accounting Automation Tools to Simplify Your Business
Robert E. Jones, Left Brain Professionals

Combat Burnout: Finding the Perfect Balance Between your Business and Personal Life
Marc Koehler, Lead with a Purpose

Getting Past the Gate Keeper to Win Corporate Contracts
Lisa Castillo, AT&T

Inspired Sales: Five Components to Creating a Sales Plan for Longevity
Chandra Adusei, Veteran Wealth Partners

Power Couples: Teaming, Joint Ventures, Mentor-Protege and Other Alliances
Hawk Thomas, Reid Law PC

Secrets to Success: How to Tap into Army Corps of Engineers Contracts
Eric Ravelli, USACE
Michelle Morales, USACE
Robert Garcia, USACE

Top Notch Capabilities Statement & Tactics
Coreena Conley, VBOC
Chris Tande, VA

Show Me The Money: Financial Panelists
Cole Woodman, VIB Network (Moderator)
Mark Bergeron, StreetShares
Darius Mahajer, Veteran Launch
Ken Luis, SBA

Frank Robinson, Union Bank

Top 5 Cybersecurity Safeguards for Small Businesses
Adam Austin, Totem Tech


Panel Discussion 1: "Successful Veteran Businesses"

Learn from a panel of successful business owners!  Find out how they're utilizing their Veteran Business status and how they're differentiating themselves from the completion to succeed in business.

Cole Woodman (Moderator)

Chairman, VIB NetworkColeWoodman2
President, GES

Bio:  Cole Woodman is the President and CEO of Global Engineering Services, where his leadership and foresight have grown the business from a small utility engineering firm into a full-service general contracting company operating in 12 states and the territory of Guam. Throughout his many successes and failures of business ownership, Cole discovered his most valuable asset – the experiences he gained while serving in the US Navy.


As a Disabled Veteran, Cole believes in giving back to the Veteran community and sharing his business skills and lessons learned with other Vets. Co-Founding the Veterans In Business Network in 2016, Cole has set out to develop a 21st Century Veteran Service Organization that aims to empower Veterans through businesses ownership and success as purpose-driven entrepreneurs. Cole firmly believes that all those who served together in uniform can succeed together in business.

In January 2017 Cole won the California Department of Veterans Affairs, John K. Lopez Award for Individual Excellence. 

Cole is a Navy Veteran.         


Erick Castroerickcastro


Bio:  Erick served in the Iraq War with the 3rd Armor Calvary Regiment (Army) as a combat Engineer. He has a General Engineering A & C-10 construction license, Math Degree from Arizona State University and an MBA with concentration in Accounting. 2018 Erick was awarded the Veteran Business of the Year from the VIB Network.

Erick is an Army Veteran.


Laurie SaylesLaurieSayles
President / CEO


Bio:  Laurie Sayles formed Civility Management Solutions (CivilityMS) in 2012 as a professional consulting services working within both the Government and Commercial space.  Currently CivilityMS is providing Project, Program, Financial and Grants Management; Training; Conference Logistics, Acquisition, and Administrative support working in DHS, HHS, VA, DoD, DOT and NASA.  CivilityMS is a certified SBA 8(a), WOSB, EDWOSB and VA verified SDVOSB.  
Laurie’s served the United States Marine Corps in Maintenance Management and served in Camp Lejeune, NC; Kaneohe Bay, HI and Cherry Point, NC.  
Laurie has become an outspoken advocate for Veteran’s as she was sought out to testify in 2017 at a hearing regarding Veteran Entrepreneur Training for the U.S. Senate Small Business Committee.  In 2019 she once again sat as a witness for the SBA Reauthorization with the U.S. Senate Small Business Committee, and within 30 days was in front of the U.S. House of Representatives discussing the movement of the verification from the Department of Veteran Affairs to the SBA.  Lastly, she was elected as the first Woman Veteran Officer on the Veteran Entrepreneurship Task Force (VET-Force) Committee.

Laurie is a Marine Corps Veteran.


Aliahu "Alli" BeyAliahuBey
CEO (Totem Tech) / President (Haight Bey)hbtotemcombo


Bio:  Aliahu “Alli” Bey is an Army veteran with almost two decades of engineering and project management experience. After working for several international and Fortune 200 companies he decided he would prefer life without the corporate politics. In lessons learned from that experience he started his own small business while moonlighting at a small food manufacture and working in a ski resort rental shop, he won two Department of Defense contracts worth more than 50 million dollars from proposals he wrote in his basement. Now his focus and dedication is helping other small businesses navigate the complicated worlds of government contracting and cybersecurity compliance.

Aliahu is an Army Veteran.

General Session Speakers

Andy Kemal
Founder/Principal Consultant


Working "On" Your Business, Not "In" Your Business: How to Scale for Growth

Business owners typically know what they "should" be doing - but frequently are not able to focus on their highest priorities.... because they have day-to-day activities in running their business that create distractions. This is the cause of "working 'IN' the business". Andy addresses some valuable methods like defining a clear vision so one can start to climb ON TOP of their business and start doing the things to scale the business for greater profits and longevity.

Bio:  Andy Kemal has been coaching small businesses since 2010. He previously retired as a technology executive after 2 decades at Qualcomm to start INFIX where he led large technology groups building businesses in the fast paced mobile tech industry. As a leader in business and technology for 30+ years, he helps small businesses get focused and achieve greater results.

Andy is the spouse of an Army Veteran.


Eric "Doc" Wright
Current Vets2PM Logo with R Mark Sans Tag Line

www.vets2pm.com / www.thevpmma.org

Doc's Top 10 List of VOB Must-Dos!

Eric “Doc” Wright has about 19 pages of lessons learned from founding 3 companies and 1 non-profit organization over the last 6 years.  1 was a spectacular failure, and the other 3 are smashing successes!  In this talk, he presents what he considers the top 10 Veteran Owned Businesses Must Dos for VOBs to realize success and longevity.

Bio:  Doc is a US Navy Veteran and Serial Founder of 3 companies and 1 non-profit organization.  He helps military Veterans change their lives profoundly through project management, entrepreneurship, and AI using inspiration, translation, training, placement, and professional development.

Doc is a Navy Veteran.

Panel Discussion 2: "Veteran Business Briefing"

De-code the secrets to working with corporations and government agencies.

Rene Cota (Moderator)cmg_logo


Bio:  CMG Alliance is a management consulting firm specializing in government acquisitions. Rene is a certified management specialist with over 15 years experience as a contract negotiator. His contract negotiation experience started with the law firm of Lacky and Demier. Through his experience with this large law fi rm the vision of providing government contracting consultation to businesses began.

Rene has managed major projects in federal, state and city government. His experience covers negotiations with government agencies and small to large business in the areas of contracting. He has testified as an expert in federal and state courts in the area of policy and statute compliance. Rene began his firm as a DOD security contractor and quickly branched out to provide small business action plans for aerospace and large government contractors.

Rene is a Marine Corps Veteran.


Jose Gabriel EspinozajoseBW19
Supplier Diversity Program Manager


Bio:  Jose is responsible for California Water Service’s supplier diversity goal. That is, 21.5% of all procurement sourced from minority-, woman-, disabled veteran-, and LGBT-owned businesses.
He holds certificates in Leading Successful Programs - Harvard Kennedy School, and Global Logistics - Frankfurt University of Applied Sciences.

Jose is a Marine Corps Veteran.


Michael AguillioMichael19
Small Business and Disabled Veteran Business Enterprise Customer Liaison


Bio:  Michael Aguillio serves as an Outreach Liaison and SB/DVBE Advocate with the California Department of General Services, Procurement Division, Certification and Outreach Branch. In this role, he educates business owners about the benefits and opportunities of pursuing a Small Business (SB) certification, Disabled Veteran Business Enterprise (DVBE) certification, and contracts with the State of California. In short, facilitating contact which may lead to contracts.

Michael is a Veteran Advocate.


Dawn Gilbertdawngilbert
Director of Strategic Sourcing – Supplier Diversity


Bio:  Dawn was the first leader to achieve over 50% MWDVBE Spend in California and has held various leadership roles with Verizon, American Water and Frontier Communications.

One of her favorite quotes is from Henley “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.”

Dawn is a Veteran Advocate. 


Lunch Fireside Chat

Find out first-hand how much Veteran Businesses mean to corporations. Get the inside scoop from SoCalGas Vice President of Construction – and Marine Veteran – on how to successfully represent your business and accomplish your goals.

Cedric Williams
Vice President, Construction



Bio:  Cedric Williams is vice president of construction for Southern California Gas Company (SoCalGas) and San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E), Sempra Energy’s regulated California utilities. He oversees execution of the planned natural gas system capital investment program for both utilities, as well as their construction management capabilities.
Prior to rejoining Sempra Energy, Williams was vice president of National Grid’s complex capital delivery program. Before joining National Grid in Massachusetts in 2014, Williams had a 25-year career with SoCalGas. He has held a number of increasingly responsible management positions at SoCalGas, including director of labor relations, director of gas system operations and director of field operations.
Williams spent four years in the U.S. Marine Corps prior to joining SoCalGas. He currently sits on the board of directors for The YMCA of Greater Los Angeles and is active with the Leukemia/Lymphoma Society. Williams holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering from California State University, Long Beach, and a master’s degree in business administration from California State University, San Bernardino

Cedric is a Marine Corps Veteran.

Business Development Seminars

NOTE: Seminars are in alphabetical order and are not listed by their times. Please check the schedule posted at the conference for actual times. Seminars go from 8 - 11 am and are 50 minutes each. You may select the seminar(s) that will benefit you and your business.

Robert E. Jones



Accounting Automation Tools to Simplify Your Business

Does the thought of accounting make you cringe? Looking for ways to ease the administrative burden of accounting? Join me to learn about inexpensive tools to automate the entire accounting function in your business from timekeeping to payroll, vendor bills to payments, and customer invoices to receipts. You can ditch the paper and your tax CPA will be thrilled to have easy access to all of your records and year-end reports.

In this session you’ll learn how to:
• Describe the key accounting tasks in every business
• Locate automated tools
• Create an efficient paperless process

Bio:  Award-winning speaker Robert E. Jones shows audiences how to navigate the constantly changing legal and regulatory landscape of government contracts. In his engaging and highly rated presentations, he shares insider secrets drawn from 15 years of DoD contract and accounting experience.

Robert is a Veteran Advocate.



Marc KoehlerMarcKoehler

www.leadwithpurpose.comLWP logo_color_gradated

Combat Burnout: Finding the Perfect Balance Between your Business and Personal Life

Do You Feel Overwhelmed and Stretched Too Thin?  Are You Late to Your Kids Choir Performances or Soccer Games? Are You ‘Leading Your Day’ or is the ‘Urgent of the Day’ Leading You?  Today, we have unprecedented access to products, tools, and information that are supposed to make our lives better.  So why are we still struggling to achieve more harmony and balance in our lives?

Bio:  Marc Koehler has 30+ years of life’s leadership experiences including US Navy Submarine Officer, Interim CEO, Entrepreneur, Husband, Father, and soccer coach.  He is President of Lead With Purpose, a company that provides tools and best practices that help people lead more purposeful and inspiring lives.  He is also the author of Leading With Purpose, an award winning book that thousands of leaders have used to create their own engaged and empowered team that collectively drives success, solves problems, and manages change.

Marc is a Navy Veteran. 



Lisa CastilloLisaCastillo
Associate Director


Getting Past the Gate Keeper to Win Corporate Contracts

Join us for an interactive session with Supplier Diversity professionals from various commercial sectors to give you real insight and tactics on how to get through gatekeepers.  The experts will share best practices how to garner success and get invited to corporate RFPs.  This workshop will give attendees deep insight on how to navigate through the wonderful world of Supplier Diversity and GROW YOUR BUSINESS!

Bio:  Associate Director Lisa Castillo is responsible for fostering key stakeholder relationships for AT&T Supplier Diversity. Over the last 20 years, Castillo has garnered an extensive background in Wireless, Consumer, Small Business, Government/Education and Global Business segments has enabled her to provide optimal positioning of qualified suppliers into the supply chain. Lisa is passionate for helping to develop small businesses, enabling them to align with Fortune 100 corporations and has garnered much success growing MBEs over the last decade.  Currently Ms. Castillo is serving as the Vice-Chair for Western Regional Minority Supplier Development Council Board of Directors and serves on a variety of committees for the minority business community.  Lisa earned her Master of International Business and currently lives in Dublin, California with her husband.

Lisa is a Veteran Advocate.

Chandra AduseiChandraAdusei


Inspired Sales: Five Components to Creating a Sales Plan for Longevity

As business owners it is understood that financial targets are important to the growth and longevity of the business. However, that is not a well-balanced sales plan. In order to truly achieve success and longevity for your business, any sales plan must include these 5 critical components to avoid burnout, reduce stress, and hit target goals while having fun in the process.

Bio:  As a Naval Academy Graduate and combat veteran with more than 10 years of project management experience and 8 years of Six Sigma Lean experience, Chandra Adusei utilizes her diverse background to provide innovative solutions to the problems that keep business owners up all night.  Featured on NPR and in US News for her ability to empower folks to take charge of their finances, Chandra enjoys working with business owners to make important decisions for the future of their business.  When she is not working with her clients, she enjoys teaching her young children to be better humans.

Chandra is a Navy Veteran. 


Hawk ThomasHawkBW19
Managing Counsel


Power Couples: Teaming, Joint Ventures, Mentor-Protege and Other Alliances

Successful pacts in the federal market must fly with contracting officers, withstand challenge by competitors, and deliver exemplary performance while steering clear of the courthouse. Learn how to shape the battlespace before and after your proposal with the right partners to vastly improve the odds of winning and executing contracts vital to your success.

Bio:  Mark R. “Hawk” Thomas is Managing Counsel at Reid Law PC, where he represents federal business ventures. Colonel Thomas is an industry executive, federal lawyer, military aviator, and electrical engineer with more than thirty years’ tested leadership in government contracting, technology development, and legal advocacy. He guides entities through the regulatory requirements, technical challenges, legal complexities, and financial decisions inherent to procurement transactions and disputes involving federal agencies. Colonel Thomas’ exemplary military career as a tactical weapons engineer and flight test officer was followed by earning his Juris Doctor degree at the University of Denver, where he was a Wendelken scholar and served as Business Editor of the Denver University Law Review. He holds graduate degrees in business and military operations, along with postgraduate credentials in defense systems management, national security strategy, and federal procurement policy. Colonel Thomas has authored papers across a spectrum of technical, military, business, and legal topics.

Hawk is an Air Force Veteran.


Panel Discussion

Secrets to Success: How to Tap into Army Corps of Engineers ContractsUSACE

Small Business Deputies drop deep knowledge on what it takes to be a successful Corps contractor. The speakers will share their experiences based on working with hundreds of small businesses on what works, what doesn't and what you need to consider to be successful. This seminar is most valuable for small businesses in the construction, engineering, and environmental remediation industry. 

Presented by Representatives from U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Los Angeles District
Eric RavelliEricRavelli19
Deputy for Small Business Programs

Bio:  Mr. Prisco Eric Ravelli is the Deputy for Small Business Programs at U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles District managing the Small Business Program for a District with over $1B in awards annually. Mr. Ravelli has thirty years public and commercial experience, is a Certified Army Acquisition Corps Professional, certified DAWIA Level III in Contracting, and holds a M.S. in Management with marketing specialization and B.A. in Economics from University of Maryland Global Campus and Rutgers University respectfully. 
Eric is a Veteran Advocate. 


Michelle MoralesmichelleMorales
Small Business Deputy

Bio:  Michelle started her federal career in August 1981 at McClellan AFB in Sacramento, California.

She worked at McClellan AFB for 18 years – upon base closure, she accepted a position in the Small Business Office at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.  She has been the Small Business Deputy for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for 20 years.
Michelle is a Veteran Advocate. 


Robert GarciaRobertGarcia
Small Business Deputy

 Robert started his federal career in July 1977 at McClellan AFB in Sacramento, California in the Contracting division as a Contract Negotiator/Specialist. He worked at McClellan AFB for 22 years in that position. Since base closure, he has worked in Contracting at the Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA), Veteran's Affairs, Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA), the US Army Corps of Engineers and since January 2018,  the small  Business Office at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.  He has worked for the Army Corps of Engineers for 10 years.
Robert is a Veteran Advocate. 



Top Notch Capabilities Statement & Tactics

The government and private sector markets utilizes a business development document known as a Capability Statement. This learning platform provides guidance to better understand the different types and usage of a Capability Statement. You will learn how to create a core focused effective industry specific Capability Statement that will capture the interest and deliver a value proposition.Then you will learn how to develop your value proposition to foster and solidify relationships with decision makers.

Coreena ConleycoreenaBW19
Executive Director / CEO


Bio:  Coreena Conley serves as the Chief Executive Officer of the Veterans Business Outreach Center serving California, Nevada, Hawaii, Arizona and Guam. Ms. Conley possess 25 years executive management level expertise. She holds a Master of Business Administration with a minor in Economic Development and Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a minor in Financial Management.

Coreena is a Veteran Advocate. 


Chris TandechrisBW19
Small Business Manager


Bio:  Chris Tande serves as the Small Business Manager for the Department of Veterans Affairs, Veterans Health Administration, Service Area Office (SAO) West.

He was raised in Helena, Montana and holds several educational degrees and certifications which include a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Management, International Business from Montana State University and a Master of Science degree in Program Management from the University of Maryland University College. Chris also has three master’s level certificates in construction management from Auburn University.  And, he has a Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act (DAWIA) Level III Certification in both Program Management and Contracting, as well as a Federal Acquisition Certification Level III in Contracting.  

He is a recently retired Lieutenant Colonel of the United States Army with 21 years of active duty service. As a soldier, Chris served in infantry and military intelligence units before becoming an acquisition officer specializing in program management and contracting.  His career highlights include service as a Rifle Platoon Leader, and Scout Platoon Leader with 1-36IN in Friedberg, Germany and Bosnia, Herzegovina; J2X Operations Officer with the CJTOF – Horn of Africa in Djibouti, Djibouti; Company Commander with the 502nd MI Battalion in Baghdad, Iraq; Contracting Officer with the 902nd Contingency Contracting Battalion in the Southern Philippines; Chief of Contracting with the JCC-I in Kirkuk, Iraq; Integration Officer for the THAAD Missile Program in San Jose, CA; and, Deputy Chief of Contracting for USACE in Sacramento, CA.
Chris has numerous awards and decorations which include the Bronze Star Medal, Defense Meritorious Service Medal; Meritorious Service Medal, Joint Service Commendation Medal; Army Commendation Medal, Joint Achievement Medal, and the Army Achievement Medal as well as Joint Meritorious Unit Citation with two oak leaf clusters; Parachutist Badge, and Combat Action Badge.

Chris is an Army Veteran. 

Panel Discussion

Show Me The Money: Financial Panelists
(Moderated by Cole Woodman)


Mark BergeronMarkBergeron
Head of Field Sales


Bio:  Mark Bergeron has been in the financial services industry for over 25 years and is currently the Head of Field Sales for StreetShares. Prior to joining StreetShares in January of this year, Mark was the Senior Director of Wholesale Lending for American Advisors Group where he developed operational sales policy and led the inside and outside sales teams.  Mark also spent several years at Freddie Mac as a Director for National Lending managing some of Freddie Mac’s largest accounts and was responsible for negotiating several multibillion-dollar contracts. He also ran sales divisions for companies such as JP Morgan Chase, IndymacBank, NetBank and others.  Mark has his master’s degree in Homeland Security and is a 2nd Lieutenant in Virginia’s State Guard. He has been married to his wife Debbie for 29 years and they have four children and are soon to be empty-nesters. 

Mark is a Veteran Advocate.


Darius MahajerDariusMahajer
Senior Vice President and Southern California Regional Lending Director 


Bio:  Darius has been with the organization for nine years and has helped deployed over $18M to approximately 150 small businesses which resulted in more than 1,000 full time jobs created or sustained. In June 2018, Darius moved from Oakland, CA to San Diego to further expand Veteran Launch’s aim in empowering Veteran entrepreneurs.  

Darius is a Veteran Advocate.


Ken Luis
Lender Relations Specialist



Bio:  Ken Luis joined SBA ten years ago.  He, most recently, worked four years as a Lender Relations Specialist for the SBA’s Los Angeles District Office.  Previously, he started as a contractor, for two years, at SBA’s National Guaranty Purchase Center in Herndon, VA.  He worked at NGPC, as a loan specialist for nearly five years.

Prior to joining the SBA, Ken worked in the public sector as a commercial business service specialist for Newtek Small Business Financing, and as a residential and commercial loan process/underwriter for OlympiaWest Mortgage Group, LLC.

Ken is a Veteran Advocate. 


FrankRobinsonFrank Robinson
Managing Director, Community Initiatives ManagerUnionBank


Bio:  Frank Robinson is the Community Initiatives Manager for MUFG Union Bank, N.A.  He is the community outreach officer and foundation director for San Diego and Imperial Counties. In 2003, Mr. Robinson served as a vice president and segment manager of Business Diversity Lending for Union Bank, where he oversaw the bank’s Special Purpose Credit Program.  Business Diversity Lending offers more relaxed underwriting guidelines for women-, minority-, and veteran-owned businesses throughout California, Washington, and Oregon.

Frank is a Veteran Advocate.

Adam Austin
Cybersecurity Lead



Top 5 Cybersecurity Safeguards for Small BusinessesTotem Logo with website

We present the “Totem Top 5™”, the five things any small- to medium-sized business must do to launch a cybersecurity program. The importance of Top 5 are explained in the context of the single biggest cyber threat facing any organization: phishing emails.  We’ll also provide some tips on how to implement the Top 5, and list some free and low cost resources..

Bio:  Adam Austin has over a decade of experience as a systems and information assurance (cybersecurity) engineer on US Federal Government IT systems, in both classified and public trust environments.  Adam has led cybersecurity risk management, policy development, user training, systems engineering, and vulnerability remediation projects for the US Army, Navy, Air Force, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Systems (CMS), and NASA.  As Cybersecurity Lead for Haight Bey & Associates, Adam developed the "Cybersecurity Empowerment" framework for small-to-medium sized businesses, and leads the development of Totem™, a security assessment management tool for small businesses.

Adam is a Veteran Advocate. 

Veteran Launch



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Adam Austin
Totem Tech

Top 5 Cybersecurity Safeguards for Small Businesses
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Adam Austin
Totem Tech

Top 5 Cybersecurity Safeguards for Small Businesses
Write-up coming...

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Adam Austin
Totem Tech

Top 5 Cybersecurity Safeguards for Small Businesses
Write-up coming...

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