WBDC Team

WBDC Leadership Team

Fran Pastore founded the Women’s Business Development Council (WBDC) more than 25 years ago and continues to serve as the organization’s CEO. WBDC is Connecticut’s leading organization championing female entrepreneurship. Ms. Pastore is a devoted catalyst of women’s economic equality across the country and around the globe.

In addition to her work with WBDC, Ms. Pastore has served as a member of The National Women’s Business Council (NWBC), an independent source of counsel to then President Obama, Congress, and the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).

Brenda Thickett is WBDC’s Senior Vice President, Programs & People. She is responsible for ensuring the implementation and delivery of quality entrepreneurial programs and services across the state.

WBDC Staff

Email:

bthickett@ctwbdc.org

Chief Operating Officer

Brenda Thickett is WBDC’s Chief Operating Officer. She is responsible for ensuring the implementation and delivery of quality entrepreneurial programs and services across the state. As a member of the Senior Management team, Brenda is responsible for developing and implementing cross-functional strategies and systems, raising the profile of the organization with key partners and stakeholders, and helping shape the future direction of the organization.

Brenda served WBDC on the Board of the organization for 8 years, as Treasurer, Vice Chair and Board Chair, before joining as an employee. Previously, she worked at the Boston Consulting Group for over 20 years, managing and leading teams, while driving strategy from approach to implementation and impact. She served BCG clients as well as supported the growth of the firm with roles in the Knowledge Team, Global Staffing and Mobility and Social Impact. She spent the majority of her time at BCG building and managing the Social Impact practice, serving nonprofit clients all over the world. Before BCG, she worked in banking and advertising, and with small businesses at the Wharton Small Business Development Center and beyond.

Brenda has a BA summa cum laude in Quantitative Economics and International Relations from Tufts University, an MBA in Entrepreneurship from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and an MA in International Relations from the School of Advanced International Studies of Johns Hopkins University.

Tasha Jackson is a seasoned nonprofit executive with more than 20+ years of driving organizational capacity, adaptability, and sustainable growth. 

WBDC Staff

Email:

tjackson@ctwbdc.org

Chief Financial Officer

Tasha Jackson is a seasoned nonprofit executive with more than 20+ years of driving organizational capacity, adaptability, and sustainable growth.  In her prior positions, she has developed and instituted the infrastructure and systems to ensure scalability while maximizing efficiencies and effectiveness.

Tasha is dedicated to working with organizations who missions strive to improve the lives of underserved and disenfranchised women, girls, and people of color. Over her career, Tasha has provided strategic direction and leadership for Finance, Human Resources, Risk, Information Technology and Facilities teams.

Tasha holds an MBA in Leadership from Post University and a bachelor’s degree in finance and insurance from the University of Hartford.

Dorothy Bratchell’s diversified business background both in business education, management and as an entrepreneur serves her well as WBDC’s Chief Advisory Officer and Co-Founder.

WBDC Staff

Email:

dbratchell@ctwbc.org

Chief Advisory Officer

Dorothy Bratchell’s diversified business background both in business education, management and as an entrepreneur serves her well as WBDC’s Chief Advisory Officer and Co-Founder.

As Chief Advisory Officer, Dorothy is involved in overseeing all aspects of operations, programming, finance and administration for all WBDC locations. As part of the executive management team, she also participates in setting the strategic direction of the organization and ensuring that organizational goals are accomplished.

Dorothy has 35+ years of business education, workforce and economic development, management, and counseling experience. A former teacher, she was also the founder of AWS, a firm providing technical writing, consulting services, and training programs for Fortune 500 corporations.

Louise Lisboa is Vice President of Impact, Operations, and Child Care at the Women’s Business Development Council (WBDC).

WBDC Staff

Email:

llisboa@ctwbdc.org

VP of Child Care Program & Impact

Louise Lisboa is Vice President of Child Care Program and Impact at the Women’s Business Development Council (WBDC). She is responsible for ensuring the implementation and delivery of quality child care entrepreneurial programs and services across Connecticut. As a member of WBDC’s Senior Management team, Louise is responsible for developing and implementing cross-functional strategies and systems, raising the profile of the organization with key partners and stakeholders, and helping shape the future direction of the organization.

Prior to spearheading WBDC’s child care division, Louise spent 7 years with the organization building impactful business development programs and reporting systems. Before joining WBDC, she worked within the education sector in Connecticut and overseas, enabling children’s learning, advocating for stronger investments in school systems, and designing reporting systems for national non-profits and universities. Louise has an MBA in International Relations from the University of Bridgeport.

JoAnn Gulbin serves as Marketing and Communications Manager for the Women’s Business Development Council (WBDC).

WBDC Staff

Email:

jgulbin@ctwbdc.org

Marketing and Communications Director

JoAnn Gulbin serves as the Director of Marketing and Communications for the Women’s Business Development Council (WBDC). Prior to joining WBDC, JoAnn spent many years in human resources and benefits communications consulting for Mercer, a global consulting firm, and as an independent contractor. Throughout her career, JoAnn has collaborated with clients such as GE, Merrill Lynch, and Citigroup, as well as countless smaller businesses, to develop and implement communications strategies.

JoAnn received a BA in English, with a concentration in business and technical writing, from the University of Delaware.

WBDC Team Members

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WBDC Staff

Email:

lbawot@ctwbdc.org

Marketing Assistant

Taylor Bergeron
WBDC Staff
Taylor Bergeron

Email:

tbergeron@ctwbdc.org

Program Specialist

Taylor Bergeron recently graduated from Southern New Hampshire University with a degree in Business Administration. She is beginning her career at WBDC as a Program Specialist. Taylor’s work experience consists of customer service, marketing, and sales.

WBDC Staff

Email:

lblake@ctwbdc.org

Program Manager

Dr. Laura Blake has over 20 years of experience in higher education in management, business strategy, and marketing, supporting her passion for teaching, curriculum development, and entrepreneurial endeavors. Before joining WBDC as Program Manager, Eastern Region, Dr. Blake was the Management Chair and Associate Professor at Nichols College School of Business and was active with the Nichols College Susan Engelkemeyer Institute for Women’s Leadership (IWL) supporting female business students.  She has also held faculty positions at Assumption University and Mitchell College.
Outside academia, Dr. Blake has an extensive background in the business world, having worked with notable companies such as Canon USA, Dentsu America, Inc., and Quesited Market Research.  Her roles as Vice President and Client Services Account Manager demonstrate her proficiency in client relations, marketing communications and business development.
Dr. Blake’s commitment to community service is highlighted through her pro bono consulting work with local businesses and nonprofits, where she strategically advised start-up ventures and incorporated experiential learning opportunities for students. She continues to teach in the Nichols Graduate School MBA and Executive Academy programs part-time.
As a lifelong learner, Laura holds a Doctorate in Business Administration from Pace University.  She has also earned a Master of Science in Management & Technology from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (Summa Cum Laude) and a bachelor’s in business administration with a focus on Marketing from Pace University.
In summary, Laura is a dynamic professional with solid experience in education, marketing, business management/strategy, and community service. Her story is one of continuous learning, leadership, and a desire to have a profound impact on entrepreneurs, students of business, and the broader community.

WBDC Staff

Email:

jgenereux@ctwbdc.org

Areas of Expertise

Josephine Genereux serves as the intern for the Women’s Business Development Council’s Impact Team. She is very excited to learn more about needs small business entrepreneurs are looking for in Connecticut, and how WBDC can help accelerate their launch. Josephine just finished her 2nd year at the University of Virginia where she is majoring in Urban and Environmental Planning, she is also on the Varsity Track, and Field team. Lastly, she is an Army ROTC cadet.

WBDC Staff

Email:

tgibbons@ctwbdc.org

Comptroller

Tracy Gibbons serves as the Controller for WBDC. She is a CPA who worked in public accounting for many years, most recently with Marcum LLP. Over the years, she has worked with businesses, charitable organizations, foundations, business executives, employee benefit plans, trusts and estates. Prior to joining WBDC, her focus was on tax compliance and financial planning, working primarily with high-net-worth families and hedge fund investors.

She has an BA in Economics from Colgate University, a master’s degree in accounting from the University of Hartford, and recently completed a Graduate Certificate program in Public Policy at UConn.

WBDC Staff

Email:

shackett@ctwbdc.org

Program Coordinator

Susan Hackett is a Program Coordinator, responsible for coordinating and implementing key programs and services throughout the Eastern region and in WBDC’s virtual classroom. Susan oversees WBDC & AARP’s Work For Yourself @ 50+ and Academy for Small Business programs and handles development of WBDC’s eLearning Library.

Susan is a graduate of Emerson College with a Bachelor of Fine Arts. Outside of WBDC, Susan enjoys a nice cup of tea, photo-documenting her view of the world, serving as a museum docent, and creating masterpieces with fabric.

WBDC Staff

Email:

kham@ctwbdc.org

Finance Director

Karen Ham has been with WBDC since 2009. She serves as the organization’s Finance Director.  Prior to joining WBDC, Karen ran her own accounting and bookkeeping business.

WBDC Staff

Email:

jlarock@ctwbdc.org

Ignite Grant Program Coodinator

Juliette LaRock coordinates all aspects of WBDC’s Ignite Grant Program. She graduated from Clarkson University in May 2023. She received a bachelor’s degree in Innovation & Entrepreneurship, and pursued a minor in Psychology, New Product Development, and Marketing. Juliette was on the Clarkson Women’s Soccer team and a member of the Sigma Nu Tau entrepreneurship honor society.

WBDC Staff

Email:

emercede@ctwbdc.org

Program Manager

Erin Mercede serves as the Program Manager of the West Region for WBDC. Prior to joining WBDC, Erin ran the Bridgeport Regional Business Council’s leadership programs (Leadership Greater Bridgeport, Women’s Leadership Network, and Thrive: Emerging Leaders), and held various analytical and customer service roles at Santa Energy in Bridgeport and Ellington Management Group in Old Greenwich. She is also a graduate of Leadership Greater Bridgeport.
Erin received an MBA from UConn Stamford and a BS in Business Administration, with a concentration in finance, from the University of New Hampshire

WBDC Staff

Email:

nobrien@ctwbdc.org

Impact Manager

Nicole O’Brien serves as Impact Manager for WBDC. She plays a key role in measuring, enhancing, and communicating WBDC’s economic impact. Prior to joining WBDC, Nicole worked in the Office of Grants & Funded Research at Central Connecticut State University, and she has over a decade of customer service experience. She has worked on a variety of research projects in conjunction with faculty during her time at CCSU and UConn. She is passionate about ensuring data integrity and sharing clients’ success stories to showcase WBDC’s impact.
Nicole has a B.A. in Psychology and Sociology from the University of Connecticut and an M.A. in Psychology with a concentration in Community Psychology from Central Connecticut State University.

Adyanna Odom
WBDC Staff
Adyanna Odom

Email:

aodom@ctwbdc.org

Launch Pad Grant Coordinator

Adyanna Odom was born and raised in Houston, Texas but moved to Connecticut for college. As WBDC’s Launch Pad Coordinator, Adyanna manages all aspects of  the Launch Pad Grant Program, our grant program for early stage businesses in Connecticut. Adyanna graduated from Trinity College in Hartford with a degree in International Studies and a minor in Community Action. Adyanna is a lifelong learner, outdoors enthusiast, and avid baker.

Denise Ramirez Lecca
WBDC Staff
Denise Ramirez Lecca

Email:

dlecca@ctwbdc.org

Areas of Expertise

Denise Ramirez Lecca is WBDC’s Development Database Administrator. Her journey in the nonprofit world began simply, with a desire to help others, and has grown into a fulfilling career in donor database management. Denise excels in optimizing processes and strategic approaches to drive fundraising success. After graduating from Hofstra University, she’s enjoyed dedicating her work to organizations that create impactful change in their communities. Be it through fundraising, outreach, or otherwise, she is committed to making a tangible difference in people’s lives.

WBDC Staff

Email:

ssolis@ctwbdc.org

Child Care Opportunity Fund Program Lead

Sonique Solis is a Child Care Opportunity Fund Program Lead, delivering ongoing business support and case management to Connecticut child care providers and pairing them with WBDC Business Advisors to support their progress towards business development goals. Additionally, she conducts assessment counseling, provides technological education, and serves as a facilitator for WBDC’s child care programs.
Sonique has worked in the child care industry and offered family support since 2012, spending time as an infant and toddler home care provider and a community resource. Prior to joining WBDC, Sonique worked with First County Bank, a local community bank dedicated to serving individuals, families, businesses and nonprofit organizations. She is very passionate about helping individuals to navigate their entrepreneurial journeys while making a positive impact on our community.

When she is not assisting child care businesses, Sonique can be found capturing mouthwatering food photography images in support of small businesses and her very own home cooking.

WBDC Staff

Email:

dtavarez@ctwbdc.org

IT & Operations Manager

Diurka Tavarez was born in the Dominican Republic and came to the United States 30 years ago. She attended Westhill High School in Stamford and took courses at Norwalk Community College as a Business Major. Due to life changes, Diurka did not complete her classes at that time, but she has reinstated and registered for classes starting in May 2023 hoping to obtain her diploma.

Diurka worked at Norwalk Community College as an Administrative Assistant for the ESL Department and at Norwalk City Hall in the Planning and Zoning Department. Prior to those position, Diurka worked for AXA XL with a background in records management and operations.

Diurka considers herself to have strong leadership and interpersonal skills while being a great motivator for others.

Katherine Torres
WBDC Staff
Katherine Torres

Email:

ktorres@ctwbdc.org

Spanish Language Program Manager

WBDC Staff

Email:

nwillard@ctwbdc.org

Development Associate

Nicole Willard is the Development Associate at the Women’s Business Development Council, working to secure funding for WBDC’s programs and services. After graduating from Dean College with a bachelor’s degree in arts and entertainment management, Nicole joined the development team at Moving For Life, a nonprofit organization offering free movement programs to older adults and people affected by cancer. Now as team member of WBDC, Nicole is excited to be exploring her interest in business from a fundraising perspective and supporting local women-owned businesses.

WBDC Staff

Email:

mwormser@ctwbdc.org

Client Services Manager

Megan Wormser serves as the Client Services Manager at WBDC. Prior to joining WBDC, Megan was an administrative assistant at David Monn LLC, a NYC-based event planning firm, where she provided coordination for a wide variety of events from small initiate dinner parties to large scale weddings and corporate events.
Megan received a BS in Integrated Marketing Communications from Ithaca College.

WBDC Staff

Email:

dzhang@ctwbdc.org

Impact Specialist

As a WBDC Impact Specialist, Doris Zhang supports the collection and communication of the organization’s economic impact. She works on database management, data reporting and survey design, which allows the team to make evidence-informed client services decisions.

Doris is passionate about data analysis and policy research on topics related to women and children’s welfare. Her prior experience includes program development at Save the Children International, supporter engagement at UNICEF, as well as economic and industry research in the financial sector.
Doris holds a MS in Public Policy from New York University, and a BA in Economics from Fudan University in Shanghai, China. In her free time, she enjoys reading detective stories and exploring restaurants.