Sacramento Founders to Mentor Student Startups

On Wednesday, Oct 17, 2018, Sierra College will host the first Startup Pitch Mentor Round at the Rocklin campus in the Fireside Room adjacent to the cafeteria at 6:30 PM.

Get your tickets for Startup Pitch Mentor Round

Sierra College is honored that the following Sacramento region founders have graciously agreed to provide advice and resources to Sierra College entrepreneurs as part of the Affiliate Mentor Program assembled by Steve Ricketts.

David Dwelle — Flyers Energy, LLC was formed in 1979 by four brothers: Tom, Walt, Steve and David Dwelle. Their grandfather, Walter B. Allen, founded Beacon Oil Company in 1931, providing a legacy the Dwelle brothers would carry on with their purchase of seven gas stations in the greater Sacramento region. Naming the company Nella in honor of their grandfather (Allen spelled backwards), they have since created a forward-moving company with a strong, dynamic culture. In 2011, Nella Oil Company changed its name to Flyers Energy, LLC to align with the recognizable Flyers brand, as well as reflect its expansion into alternative energy sectors.

David attended Cal Poly (SLO) and immediately started a retail stereo and speaker manufacturing business with his college roommate. Sun Stereo grew to 13 stores and his “DWD” speakers were sold throughout the world. In 1980, David became General Manager of Nella Oil Company until Tom took over the reins in 1985. David is passionately interested in renewable energy and energy conservation for a sustainable society. He has positioned Flyers Energy as a leader in the industry by applying Solar PV electricity to Flyers stations and in major commercial installations. He has been an active entrepreneur, co-founding Pacific Power Renewables and MOONRAKER Brewing Co., among many others.

Jason France — President, Founder, and Sole Owner ClipperCreek, Inc., Jason has over 24 years of Electric Vehicle (EV) market experience. He began his career as a computer engineer and subsequently founded an engineering consulting company. He later joined EV charging pioneer, EVI, where he led the company’s engineering and manufacturing efforts before rising to the position of CEO. After EVI, Jason served as an independent consultant offering a wide range of strategic business advisory services to startup companies, including guiding a company through a successful acquisition transaction. He holds a B.S. Degree in computer engineering from Chico State University.

Mark Haney is a serial entrepreneur and media personality who has founded and owns numerous companies across various industries including: new media, real estate, construction, transportation, distribution, and security. Mark’s accomplishments include successfully exiting a Rocklin, CA based enterprise that maintained hundreds of employees and generated over $200M in annual revenues. Mark currently invests his time igniting the Entrepreneurial Revolution as host of The Mark Haney Show and as Chief Dreaming Officer for HaneyBiz, a business platform designed to help entrepreneurs be entrepreneurs by providing one-stop access to funding, services, office space, programs & events, and growth solutions for companies of all sizes. Mark also serves on various corporate and non-profit boards and he and his family devote time to helping military veterans through his “Allegiant Giving” non-profit. You can learn more about Mark at

Rand Heer has over 40 years’ experience as a financial officer, founder and chief executive of high tech, manufacturing, and training businesses. An entrepreneur at heart, he has started-up four companies, creating unique products and setting standards in the software industry. Over his career, Rand has facilitated 20 company-side equity and M&A transactions and has raised over $75 million in venture capital, corporate, and IPO funding. Rand is a popular speaker at industry conferences and an advisor to companies on such subjects as software product design, training, and managing startups. He has also published numerous white papers, articles in finance journals, and was the contributing editor of a book on business intelligence published by Microsoft. He is currently writing a second book on corporate planning. He is now retired and teaches Entrepreneurship at Sacramento State University. Rand holds an A.B. Degree from the University of California, Riverside and an M.B.A. Degree from Harvard University.

Aaron Klein, Chief Executive Officer, Riskalyze — Aaron’s career has largely been at the intersection of finance and technology. As co-founder and CEO at Riskalyze, he led the company to twice being named one of the world’s top 10 most innovative companies in finance by Fast Company Magazine. Aaron has served as a Sierra College Trustee, and in his spare time, he co-founded a school project for orphans and vulnerable kids in Ethiopia. Investment News has honored him as one of the industry’s top 40 Under 40 executives.

Dr. Grover Lee grew up in the central valley of California with thousands of acres of grape vineyards surrounding his modest home. Throughout his high school years working in vineyards and testing labs he gained an appreciation of viticulture and enology. At Cal Poly S.L.O., this interest in wine making expanded as he received a BS in Biological Science with minors in Chemistry and Biochemistry and one year in a Master’s program in Biochemistry. On to the University of the Pacific where he entered as a PhD candidate in Biochemistry but decided to double major in the PhD Biochemistry and Doctorate in Clinical Pharmacy programs. Dr. Lee completed all of his course work in Biochemistry and received a Doctorate in Clinical Pharmacy. Dr. Lee continued his education with a Medical School Board Certification in Managed Care Medicine.

Dr. Lee read many technical winemaking, and vineyard management books and took extension courses from UC Davis in Viticulture & Enology. His quest to learn included reading most of the test books used in the viticulture & Enology departments at UC Davis. With a base of Chemistry, Biochemistry, Microbiology and much more, his technical knowledge of winemaking was formed from a solid foundation.

Traveling extensively throughout Europe and taking copious notes about wine making techniques as he talked with winemakers was an epiphany of life and changed how Dr. Lee looked at the art and science of winemaking. By applying a rigorous scientific approach to wine making, the best of classic wine making was utilized when it met the rigors of science. The appreciation of European wine making and importance of food and wine has shaped his wine making style to this day. In 2015 Wise Villa Winery was awarded the highest award offered to a winery from the California State Fair. Presented at the Governor’s office, this award was for the winery that had the highest number of the highest scoring quality wines. The California State Fair is internationally recognized as a truly unbiased judging of wines with hundreds of judges, judging the wines. It is also the oldest wine competition in the United States.

Shortly after leaving the University, Dr. Lee started a medical company that provides an array of medical services, such as disease management, hospital management, Physician treatment plan management, a unique electronic medical records, and pharmacy benefit management. It now operates in all 50 states and employs 100’s of healthcare professionals. Wine education was always part of his life, even while building a national medical company that is truly unique in its medical services, serving tens of thousands of patients nationwide.

Don Whitaker — CERONIX, Inc., founder Don Whitaker began developing the company’s superior product line from his Northern California home kitchen table over 30 years ago, including his family in every step of the design, enhancement, and progression of the company’s unique video monitoring systems and custom circuit-boards. With a continuous goal of building the best, most reliable and technologically-advanced color LCD monitors and custom circuit boards in the market, Don and his family grew the company from his small Northern California home to operations of over 63,000 square feet, employees, and customers, worldwide.  CERONIX, Inc., is now the leading United States developer and manufacturer of custom color monitors and circuit boards.

Craig Mitchell serves as a Partner at DCA, a boutique investment bank and private equity fund.  Mr. Mitchell has worked on over 40 transactions that have ranged in size from $1 million to over $5 billion.  He has also started and operated his own businesses, including Rainbow Tavern & Lodge and Triple Peak Beverages.  Additionally, he has worked with numerous, high-growth ventures, including Lids, which tripled from 13 stores to over 40 stores, and Noodles & Co., which grew from 3 locations to 12 locations, during his tenure.  Lids was subsequently sold to Hat World when it had 290 stores and Noodles & Co. (NDLS) went public and now has over 400 locations.  Mr. Mitchell also worked at TargetSmart, a CRM software company, and Epicor, an ERP software company.

Mr. Mitchell earned his Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the University of California, Berkeley and his Master’s in Business Administration from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

Deborah Lowe Muramoto is the Director of California Capital Financial Development Corporation’s Women’s Business Center, which serves the six county Sacramento region and San Joaquin County.  Previously, Deborah served as Director of Fund Development and Marketing for the organization, a non-profit corporation serving 27 counties in Northern California, providing business development and capacity building programs for small businesses, including the administration of the State of California loan guarantee program, microenterprise loans, technical assistance, one-on-one counseling, and financial education for youth, adults and small business owners.

Recognizing the need for California Capital’s programs and services within the limited, non-English speaking and immigrant business communities within its region, Deborah lead the development and delivery of California Capital’s Bilingual Business Success Forums, which has been delivered in nine languages. She has worked with many local, state and national organizations and associations on community and economic development issues that affect entrepreneurs and owners of small businesses; with a focus on the development of programs and services that benefit low and moderate income communities, and communities of color.

Eric Ullrich co-founded Hacker Lab in 2012, creating one of the area’s first co-working and makerspaces. Since then, the organization has hosted multiple hackathons, hundreds of meetups and thousands of classes to help foster startups and innovation throughout the community.



Steve Ricketts, SRickettsConsulting, spent his early career in New York and San Francisco in investments and finance with Blyth Eastman Dillon and Bechtel Corporation and as V.P. Manager of Financial Analysis for Wells Fargo Bank. He then relocated to the Sierra Foothills and, for over 35 years has directed strategic growth and bottom-line results as a consultant and key advisor to entrepreneurs in a wide variety of industries. His expertise includes corporate finance and investment banking with emphasis in equity/debt financings, mergers and acquisitions, strategic planning, due-diligence, financial modeling and analysis. He has been an officer and/or director of more than 25 companies, and an advisor and mentor to more than 60. He has been instrumental in helping to launch several of the most prominent growth companies in the Sacramento and Foothill Areas and has helped create more than 1,000 new jobs. He holds B.A. and M.B.A. Degrees from the University of California, Berkeley.

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