With a variety of specialized skills, background experiences and expertise, The IEE team is deeply committed to our mission of promoting economic growth in the Western Pennsylvania region as well as helping business leaders prosper.

Senior Team

Robert (Bob) Stein


Executive Director, University of Pittsburgh’s Institute for Entrepreneurial Excellence

Robert Stein brings to his role as Executive Director more than 15 years of entrepreneurism, nationally recognized technology expertise, and visionary leadership. A senior advisor with the IEE since 2005, Stein created a specialized information technology consultancy within the IEE and led the department in helping dozens of member companies achieve multi-million dollar growth. In addition to leading the IEE, Bob remains one of the country’s most sought after tech-industry consultants and continues to leverage his contacts and experience to the benefit of IEE members.

Bob’s deft business development and entrepreneurism can be traced to childhood, where he witnessed the challenges and opportunities of entrepreneurism at his family-owned coal processing business. As a pre-teen, Bob was introduced to the World Wide Web, and immersed himself into the high-tech world, working with America Online and Microsoft as early as age 13. At 16, Stein founded Active Network, Inc. (, a Microsoft focused “go to” web portal for high-tech news and information that received tens of millions of impressions since inception. Moreover, through a variety of positions at his family’s business, Bob was able to garner significant exposure to international business via extensive travels to India, Turkey, Romania, and more.

In addition to his visionary entrepreneurism, Bob’s extensive experience in project management and implementing cost-effective integrated information systems has earned him the respect from long-standing tech leaders such as Steve Ballmer and Meg Whitman. For 13 consecutive years, Stein has earned the title of Microsoft’s Most Valuable Professional. He has been featured in many national publications, including Wall Street Journal, USA Today, NY Times, Washington Post, and American Business Journal. Pittsburgh Technology Council also named Bob as a finalist for the 2014 CIO of the year award.

Stein holds a Bachelor of Science in Operations and Information Systems Management from the Smeal College of Business from the Pennsylvania State University and a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) degree from the University of Pittsburgh Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business. He also holds a certificate in Executive Leadership from the Harvard Business School.


Bachelor of Science in Operations and Information Systems Management, Pennsylvania State University
Master of Business Administration (MBA), Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business, University of Pittsburgh
Certificate in Innovation in Economic Development, Harvard Kennedy School

Rhonda Carson Leach

Director, Urban and Community Entrepreneurship Program and Entrepreneurial Fellows Classcarsonleach_website

As Director of the Urban & Community Entrepreneur Program and the Entrepreneurial Fellows Class, Rhonda Carson-Leach is responsible for developing and implementing entrepreneurial programs focused on providing business leaders with the direction, knowledge and connections to take their businesses to the next level. She is also lead facilitator for the IEE’s Urban Power to Prosper, a nine-month certificate program for small business owners in urban neighborhoods that explores such topics as access to capital, financial management, strategic planning, sales strategies, access to new markets, and managing human resources.

Rhonda Carson-Leach has over 16 years of experience motivating small business owners, entrepreneurs, executives, nonprofit leaders, groups and individuals in a career or life transition to use their innate abilities to master their goals and achieve success. Her areas of expertise include leadership development, conflict resolution and group dynamics. She is also an executive life coach, management consultant, corporate trainer and motivational speaker in the Pittsburgh area.

Rhonda Carson-Leach was honored as one of 50 Women of Excellence by the New Pittsburgh Courier in 2009 and as a Minority Small Business Champion by the U.S. Small Business Administration in 2005. A member of the African American Chamber of Commerce of Western Pennsylvania, she has served on the boards of the American Society for Training and Development, YWCA of Pittsburgh, Children/Adults Recreational Services, Urban Youth Action, Inc., and the Pittsburgh Chapter of the National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women’s Club, Inc. She is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated.


Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, Western New England College
Master of Science in Organizational Leadership, Geneva College

Jessica Sinclair

Director, PantherlabWorkssinclair_website

Jessica Sinclair is the Director of PantherlabWorks, a program to prepare both early stage and established companies to innovate and commercialize. Jessica has over 10 years of experience in concurrent roles as a program manager, research and development manager, and proposal writer and coordinator. Jessica comes to the IEE from a small Pittsburgh-based biotechnology company which originally spun out of the University of Pittsburgh, where she led diverse teams in creating innovative products. Her collaborative efforts resulted in research and development funding awards totaling over $40 MM as well as product contracts in excess of $50 MM. Jessica’s strengths lie in strategic planning for technology development through team building and management, communication of complex technical concepts for broad understanding, and in new product development from early stage proof-of-concept through fielded products. Jessica also has significant experience with all facets of small business technology development, including proposal and funding capture, government relationship management, and commercial transition of SBIR-funded products.


Bachelor of Science in Chemistry, Gannon University
Master of Science in Organic Chemistry, University of Maryland Baltimore County

Raymond L. Vargo

Director, Small Business Development Centerray-vargo

Raymond L. Vargo, Director of the University of Pittsburgh Small Business Development Center at the IEE, counsels businesses at all stages of their lifecycle.

Working with businesses in industries such as retail, high tech, manufacturing and professional services, he provides strategic business and financial advice to help companies expand their profits, explore new markets and overcome business challenges.

Since opening the Washington County Outreach Office of the University of Pittsburgh Small Business Development Center in 1995, Vargo has grown it to become one of the most successful outreach offices in the Pennsylvania SBDC system.

He has become a leader and valuable resource for Western Pennsylvania businesses, and in addition to his consulting management responsibilities, Vargo teaches accounting and small business management to both undergraduate and graduate students at Waynesburg College and the University of Pittsburgh.


Bachelor of Science in Accounting, Pennsylvania State University
Master of Business Administration (MBA), California University of Pennsylvania


Lee Ann Briggs

Environmental Consultantbriggs_website

Lee Ann is an Environmental Consultant with the University of Pittsburgh Small Business Development Center (Environmental Management Assistance Program (EMAP)), assisting businesses with environmental and health and safety compliance, pollution prevention and sustainability opportunities for new business start-up, overall operation and/or potential expansion.

Lee Ann has over 28 years of environmental regulatory compliance experience in both consulting and industrial capacities. In addition to her experience working as an environmental consultant with the SBDC EMAP program from 2000 – 2011, she was previously the Manager of Environmental and Regulatory Affairs for a paint and coatings manufacturer, providing full environmental, product safety and employee safety compliance.

Prior to this she was an Environmental Scientist/Project Manager with two different Environmental/Engineering Consulting firms.


Bachelor of Science in Environmental Resource Management, Pennsylvania State University
Registered Environmental Manager (REM) with the National Registry of Environmental Professionals

Tara Gerek

Senior Events Manager

Tara Gerek, Senior Events Manager, joined the Institute for Entrepreneurial Excellence in 2012. In her position she is responsible for all of the details and various aspects of event/program logistics for the various centers of the IEE. These details include the planning and execution of educational and social networking events for the Membership Program, and the Entrepreneurial Fellows Center. Specifically, Tara handles items related to venue development, registration, final reconciliation of the event/program and serves as a liaison to existing members and clients of the various IEE centers.

Prior to joining the IEE, she worked for five years at Concord Hospitality Enterprises, coordinating special events in Marriott brand hotels in the Greater Pittsburgh region.

Tara is a member of the Meeting Professionals International – Pittsburgh Chapter and in her spare time serves as a volunteer for the United Way.


Bachelor of Arts in Business Management, University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown

Victoria Hassett

Management Consultanthasset_website

Victoria first joined the Small Business Development Center as an intern in Washington. As a Washington County native, she was thrilled to rejoin the team as a consultant in January 2015 managing the Washington and Waynesburg offices. She works closely with both start-ups and existing businesses to help them reach their goals. The majority of her work is focused on assisting clients with strategic planning, cash flow statements, and loan packaging. In addition, she does most of the educational programming within Washington and Greene County. She loves being active with entrepreneurs within her own community.

Prior to her return, Victoria worked as both a Financial Aid Advisor and Career Services Advisor at Penn Commercial Business/Technical School in Washington.

In her spare time, Victoria sits on several boards and committees focused on civic involvement, ball room dancing, and education.


Bachelor of Arts in History and Political Science, Grove City College

Meghan Hillegas

Management Consultant

Meghan Hillegas is a Management Consultant with the University of Pittsburgh Small Business Development Center.  At the SBDC Meghan works closely with clients in all stages of business growth. With nearly a decade of experience in small business and nonprofit operations and financial analysis, Meghan focuses her consulting work in organizational management and financial forecasting.


Bachelor of Science in Sport Management, California University of Pennsylvania
Master of Business Administration, Waynesburg

Nicole Hudson

Program Manager, Urban and Community Entrepreneurship Program and Entrepreneurial Fellows Classhudson_website


As Program Manager, Nicole Hudson is responsible for the recruitment and management of all entrepreneurial activities under the the Entrepreneurial Fellows Class and Urban and Community Entrepreneurship Program. She will work closely with the Director to coordinate the administrative function of both centers, and is responsible for planning and maintenance of organizational needs and client and community relationships. Nicole will assist the Director in cultivating and closing leads to ensure quality program execution. Nicole comes to the IEE from within the University of Pittsburgh, Katz Graduate School of Business and College of Business Administration, central administration office.  She is a strong supporter of Pitt and is actively involved in the University’s Staff Association Council, and volunteers her time to University wide events and initiatives.


Bachelor of Science in Management, Indiana University of Pennsylvania

Lisa Iadiccio

Senior Management Consultant

Lisa Iadicicco is a management consultant, guiding small business owners and entrepreneurs to take their businesses to new heights.  Lisa has deep cross-discipline expertise in sales generation, marketing, supply chain and the financial sides of business. She has a passion for arming people with the tools to be successful.

An entrepreneur herself, Lisa co-founded Mother, May I, an etiquette coaching business that has improved “Professionality” in Pittsburgh and surrounding areas.  She has worked in the business and marketing industries for more than 30 years. After working with major retailers like Kaufmanns, GNC, Target and Best Buy, she worked with major brands like Oscar de la Renta, YSL, Disney and Warner Brothers, observing, accessing and developing improvement plans.

She loves to run, bike, travel, watch movies, philanthropy and has a major weakness for good pizza.


Bachelor of Science in Business, Purdue University

Rachel LaMarco

Marketing Coordinator

As Marketing Coordinator, Rachel is responsible for planning and executing marketing communications and media
relations initiatives that distinguish the brand of the Institute for Entrepreneurial Excellence with stakeholders and the general public. This includes managing and updating electronic communications channels, coordinating promotional materials and implementing strategic marketing efforts across all IEE centers.

Rachel began her affiliation with the IEE as an Administrative Intern in 2013 while attending the University of Pittsburgh and is currently working towards her MBA at the Katz Graduate School of Business part-time.


Bachelor of Arts in Business and Economics, University of Pittsburgh

Victoria Lopez

Management Consultantlopez_webiste

Victoria Lopez came to the Institute for Entrepreneurial Excellence after graduating from the University of Pittsburgh in 2013.  As a Management Consultant for the Small Business Development Center, she works closely with clients as they prepare to start a business or as they plan to grow their existing enterprise. Victoria helps her clients by providing assistance with business and strategic planning, marketing and financial analysis. As part of the Internship Initiative that was launched in 2014, Victoria also serves SBDC clients and member companies by connecting small business owners to the large pool of student talent at the University.

In addition to her work as a Management Consultant, Victoria also works closely with other consultants to prepare and plan for educational programing, mainly through her involvement with the First, Second and Third Step programs that are designed to help start-up businesses. As a new initiative, Victoria has made strides to connect to the Latino community in the Greater Pittsburgh Area in order to provide educational programs and consulting services to Spanish speakers.


Bachelor of Arts in Politics & Philosophy and History, University of Pittsburgh

Michael Paul

Membership Managerpaul_website

As Membership Manager, Michael Paul works to sustain and grow the IEE’s Membership program which is comprised of closely-held and family owned businesses.  He assists in the content and composition of monthly membership programs and enhances member engagement through networking and social events.  He also recruits for additional departments such as the Urban and Community Entrepreneurship Program and the Entrepreneurial Fellows Center.

An entrepreneur himself, Michael established and operated a regional chain of party good stores by the name of Papermart.  He was responsible for all business operations from initiating the business in 1984 to its closing in 2014.  He experienced thirty years of business success and growth based upon opportunistic buying, early forecasting of novelty market trend items such as Beanie Babies and was exceptional at low cost creative marketing.

Michael was a former United States Peace Corps volunteer in the Central African Republic and currently volunteers for the Foundation for Fighting Blindness and the Pittsburgh Vision Walk.


Bachelor of Science in Marketing, Pennsylvania State University
Master of Business Administration, Joseph M Katz Graduate School of Business, University of Pittsburgh

Lauren A. Scholtz

Department Administrator

Lauren Scholtz joined the Institute for Entrepreneurial Excellence in 2007. She is responsible for monitoring and analyzing financial reports, processing accounts payable and receivable documents, and rendering her professional recommendation for cost effective and efficient financial policies.

In addition, she collaborates with the University of Pittsburgh’s Office of Research, Research Cost Accounting and Institutional Advancement departments to prepare essential grant and program reports for proper correspondences with donors, pledges and other stakeholders.


Bachelor of Science in Accounting, Indiana University of Pennsylvania
Master of Business Administration (MBA), Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business, University of Pittsburgh

Shelley Taylor

Peer Forum Director

As Peer Forum Director, Shelley Taylor oversees the IEE’s professionally-facilitated peer forums which meet regularly in
an environment of confidentiality and trust to explore business, family and personal aspects of operating a business. Members are carefully matched within each forum based upon the nature of their business and individual areas of interest. Taylor’s work at the IEE also includes working with business-owning families on matters pertaining to governance, structure, roles, family councils, next generation development and generational transitions.

Taylor got her start in the field of family business through her involvement in a company owned by her husband’s family. She has been a member of the IEE team since 2000. Taylor has served on the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s Board of Trustees since 2001, including one term as chairperson.


Bachelor of Arts in Linguistics, Distinction in all Subjects, Cornell University
Certificate in Family Business Advising, Family Firm Institute

Catherine Tyson

Senior Management Consultantcatherine-tyson

Since 1991, Catherine Tyson has functioned as an integral component to the success of the IEE. In addition to providing superior consulting services to thousands of clients at the University of Pittsburgh’s Small Business Development Center, she has also manifested the growth and perpetual success of innumerable regional Pittsburgh companies.

Tyson has utilized her consulting expertise to develop the Emerging Enterprise Program, a program generated around educating, managing and directing teams of student consultants. Over the years the program has grown to represent one of the IEE’s most valued company bedrocks; together, Tyson and her students provide consulting services to a variety of businesses from every industrial sector.


Bachelor of Science, California University of Pennsylvania

Michael Wholihan

Manager of Training and Community Outreachmichael

Michael joined the IEE to infuse his passion for entrepreneurship and education in support of the University’s mission for regional economic development. Michael’s committed to broadening our region to assist business owners with profitability and sustainability. As an advocate for small business growth, Michael brings value through the delivery of training and counseling.

He will work with the IEE team to achieve its’ goals in fostering innovative ideas to strengthen and expand the University’s strategic outreach. Michael has expertise in entrepreneurship, financing, grant writing and higher education management.

Michael worked previously with the IEE as their Educational Program Manager from 2004 – 2008. For five years he served as a co-owner of family business in the financial services industry. Michael has previously presented at the ASBDC annual conference. His published research dissertation focused on: Educating Entrepreneurs, Strategic Methods Utilized by Small Business Development Centers in the U.S. to Deliver Educational Programs.

Michael has spoken as a panel member at the U. S. Capital Building for a Senate sub-committee on SBA financing. He presented a Small Business Development Center (SBDC) client whose commercialized LED lighting sensors were being used in hospitals in the U.S. and internationally as effective cost savings solutions. He guided a start-up venture to receive an investment to launch a company that provides clinical laboratory and toxicology testing for physician owned practices.


Bachelor of Education, University of Toledo
Masters of Education, University of Pittsburgh
Doctorate of Education, University of Pittsburgh