Meet the SBDC Team

Our team of seasoned consultants have significant knowledge in owning and growing their own businesses and will share their real-world business experience to assist your specific needs.

Thomas Cassell: SBA Loans, Strategy, General Guidance

Thomas Cassell PhotoAs Director of the Illinois Small Business Development Center at Harper College, Tom Cassell advises startups, early stage, and mature companies on financing, marketing, strategy, operations and business development. Before his current post, Tom served as Director for two Small Business Development Centers (Chicago Community Ventures and Industrial Council of Nearwest Chicago) and was responsible for helping Chicago businesses receive over $10 million in startup and operating capital. He has provided one-on-one business coaching to over 500 businesses across many different industries helping to create/retain hundreds of jobs in Illinois. Tom has owned several businesses including Route 101 Guitars, a company that manufactured custom electric guitars and JB Music, a guitar factory in Johor Bahru, Malaysia. Tom’s previous posts include promotion manager at Penguin Publishing (New York) and product/brand manager at Dana B. Goods (Los Angeles). Tom serves on Congresswoman’s Tammy Duckworth’s business advisory committee and is a Fellow for the U.S. State Department’s Small Business Network of the Americas Program.

Anthony J. Baldassano: Accounting, Tax, General Guidance

Anthony J. Baldassano PhotoAnthony J. Baldassano has extensive experience in tax services, business coaching, and financial consulting, including business and estate planning, business evaluation, and management services. His experience includes a broad range of industries, including: real estate, wholesale distributors, trucking companies, retailers, contractors, education, chemical companies, contract manufacturers, farming, and business services. Anthony J. Baldassano graduated cum laude in May 1988 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Finance from Northern Illinois University and Master of Science degree in Accounting from DePaul University. He holds a Certified Public Accounting certificate from the State of Illinois and is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. He has passed the Investment Advisor licensing exam and holds the Professional Financial Specialist (PFS) credential, issued only to Certified Public Accountants.

Shawn Smith: Marketing & Branding Help

Shawn Smith, AdvisorShawn Smith is a creative, branding, and marketing guru, and runs two unique small businesses in Chicago. While he has a degree in fine art, Smith loves the intersection between creative thinking and commerce, particularly in the realm of consumer products. Brainstorming brand and marketing plans and problem-solving design and production issues top his list with regard to advising IL SDBC clients. In addition, he loves crowdfunding platforms, has created and has had successfully funded three Kickstarter projects to date. He has received considerable help from IL SBDCs and related programs in the past, and is now incredibly happy to share all of what he's learned with his fellow entrepreneurs. 

Dennis LaPorta: Sales Strategy Help

Do you need help with developing your sales strategy? Not having much luck with your sales calls? Dennis LaPorta can help. He's been in sales for over 25 years and has an in-depth understanding of the many hurdles facing entrepreneurs in their efforts to launch a successful sales campaign. Dennis will help you fine tune your sales technique resulting in better outcomes. Dennis can help with sales calls, sales message, sales strategy, consultative sales, sales presentations, prospecting and much more. 

Jennie Johns: Website and Technology Help

Book an appointment with Jennie Johns if you need assistance with your website, email service, and/or other technology issues. Jennie specializes in web functionality, usability and customer experience. She can assist with your technical questions regarding website creation, deployment, and ongoing maintenance. Jennie has over 20 years experience in developing websites along with 8 years teaching website usability, programming, and Microsoft Office applications.