Our Team

Our Team

We are passionate and driven to support startups and small businesses in their pursuit of America’s Seed Fund.  Our team of professionals have diverse backgrounds and experiences to help us build our organization that ultimately supports startups and small businesses.

  • Our current Board of Directors represents our constituents.  Small businesses and startups with SBIR/STTR successes, and professionals with deep knowledge and experience.

    Click here for our current board members.

  • Pat Dillon is the Founder and President of MNSBIR, Inc., a private, non-profit organization to support startups and small businesses to research, develop and commercialize technologies into novel products and services for domestic and global markets by leveraging federal research and development investments. Dillon has nearly 45 years of experience in government, industry, non-profit and academic organizations. Dillon is a leader in Minnesota’s innovation, investment, and commercialization ecosystem with nearly 30 years of knowledge, experience and relationships in the federal Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs.

    Dillon is a member of the University of Minnesota (U of M), Technology Commercialization, Business Advisory Group; the Chair of the Advisory Board for the U of M, Technological Leadership Institute; a mentor for the Carlson School of Management, STARTUP Course; a frequent contributor to MN-REACH and MIN-CORPS (I-Corps Programs); a former MN-CUP Life Sciences Semi-Finalist Committee Member; a former speaker and moderator at the U of M Medical Devices Conference, Government Funding for Startups; and a frequent speaker at Twin Cities Startup Week, and taught a graduate course at the Mayo Clinic, Office of Entrepreneurship.

    A staunch advocate of the SBIR/STTR programs, Dillon has tirelessly led the startup of MNSBIR in 2014 while at MEDA, then transitioning to Minnesota Technology Association (formerly the Minnesota High Technology Association) in 2016. Previously, Dillon served as the Northwest Regional Director for the Wisconsin Entrepreneurs Network from 2005-2013, a key initiative under Governor’s Doyle’s Grow Wisconsin plan. From 1992-2004, Dillon served in multiple roles at Minnesota Project Innovation, Inc. that culminated into the role of Executive Director in 2004. MPI, Inc. had a successful track record for 20 years before state budget challenges impacted its funding sources.

    Dillon is a 1999 recipient of the prestigious Small Business Administration’s Tibbetts Award: a national award for excellence in the SBIR/STTR Programs. Pat is also a 2001 recipient of the City Business’ 25 Most Innovative Woman Award (now the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal). Pat has served as a commercialization plan reviewer for the National Science Foundation (twice) and the United States Department of Agriculture (multiple times) and was the principal investigator of an Office of Naval Research contract for SBIR outreach in a five-state region for the first-ever SWIFT Tour (SBIR/STTR Where Innovation Focuses on Technology) (now called SBIR Road Tours).

    Dillon is a retired United States Navy Commander with 40 years of service both active and reserve, and in both aviation and intelligence communities. Pat is a combat veteran having served 10 months in Kabul, Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Dillon is a proud recipient of the Vietnam Era GI Bill earning an MBA and BS in Business Administration from Winona State University, Winona, MN.

  • Click here for our current list of independent contractors.

  • Taunia Gorka is a financial consultant engaged by MNSBIR, Inc. to help assist and transition the organization to continue to meet the needs of the SBIR/STTR awardees by using her 30-plus years of experience in accounting, human resources, and business analysis.  Taunia helps for-profit and non-profit organizations set up financial management systems and has extensive experience with Uniform Guidance and managing federal and state grants.  Taunia graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Science in Accounting and a Master of Science in Accountancy and is an inductee of Omicron Delta Epsilon (international honor society in economics) and Delta Mu Delta (international honor society in business).  Taunia has held management positions in the arts, social services, engineering, wealth management, and economic development and now focuses exclusively on small emerging businesses.

  • Candi leads our public engagement and education efforts. She works across broad spectrum of interested parties, including legislators, policy makers, government agencies, small businesses, and other stakeholders.  She ensures our efforts are prioritized based upon high impact interactions and returns for Minnesota’s state economy and job growth and taking a flexible approach to a rapidly evolving civic environments and engaging advocacy tactics that are consistent with short and long-term priorities of MNSBIR, Inc.

  • Susan Henken-Thielen is a senior level product and marketing expert with 40 years of executive experience in a range of industries including educational and medical technology and devices, consumer goods, fitness, and higher education.  Her career has focused on developing and introducing innovative, impactful and beneficial products, services and businesses that uniquely meet the needs of target customers.  As the president of a product launch and marketing consulting business, she provides strategic assistance to entrepreneurial ventures, mid-sized and Fortune 500 companies, non-profit organizations, and higher education institutions, providing marketing research insights, product optimization, market development and enhancement strategies, and marketing plans that launch new and grow existing businesses.

    Previous experience includes leading product strategy, product development and management initiatives for Collegis Education, a higher education consulting company. Prior to joining Collegis Education, she led the product, marketing and project management for the development and implementation of the online Competency-Based Learning initiative at Rasmussen University. As an Adjunct Professor for Rasmussen University, she taught marketing, sales and consumer behavior classes.  Serving as Brand Director on several new ventures at Pearsom Vue, she led product launches and marketing strategies for new higher education assessment software businesses globally, marketed to businesses and consumers, establishing the UExcel® brand as one of the leaders in the competency-based higher education assessment industry. Susan has also held Marketing and Product Management leadership positions at the US subsidiary of Irish medical device company Bio-Medical Research, Ltd., Compex Technologies, and Cigna Behavioral Care.

    Susan is an active volunteer, currently serving as Vice President on the Board of Minnesota Lakes and Rivers Advocates, an advocacy group focused on protecting Minnesota waters from pollution, over-development and Aquatic Invasive Species. She also served for 7 years on the select Grinnell College Alumni Council, an alumni leadership organization, where she held the role of President.  Susan earned her Master of Management degree at the Kellogg School, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL, with concentrations in Marketing, Strategy, and Industrial Relations. She graduated from Grinnell College, Grinnell, IA with a B.A. in Psychology, with highest honors, and earned membership in the Grinnell and Mortar Board Honor Societies and Phi Beta Kappa. In 2019, she was honored with a Grinnell College Alumni Award for accomplishments and contributions in her career, community and to the College.

  • Laura has a broad background between media, service and administration, and offers a fresh perspective on the complexities of the current SBIR/STTR atmosphere.

  • Becky Siekmeier (SEEK-meyer) is a versatile graphic designer specializing in type treatments, logo design, traditional page layout, presentations, and annual reports. Her gift is organizing information in an eye-catching and easy-to-read format, and her style is clean and bold. See examples of her work at https://scitechmn.org/about/ – scroll down to the Program Reports section. Becky is a sole proprietor doing business as Grand Calligraphy and Graphics.

  • Running a small business is hard. But finding a partner to help you develop and execute a killer marketing strategy shouldn’t be. If you’re a small business owner who doesn’t have a background in marketing, it is hard to know what you should be doing to promote your business, let alone grow it. I started junebird creative because I can’t stomach watching  good companies throw away marketing dollars on well-intentioned marketing before spending the time developing their brand identity.

    I love helping small and start-up businesses develop a clear understanding of who they are so they can effectively connect with their customers. When you’re intentional about the content you put into the world, you’ll be proud of your brand. And when you’re proud of your brand, your business will thrive.

    With 15 years of digital marketing experience, an MBA from St. Thomas University and a plethora of cross-industry experience, I’m confident that I can help you develop the killer marketing strategy that will connect with your customers and make them wish they’d found you sooner.

  • Vasiliki Papanikolopoulos specializes in marketing small businesses and startups. With a background across procurement, business development, and communications, she works at the intersection of social, environmental, and economic impact. Vasiliki is a B Leader certified by B Lab, the leading social organization for business and holds a B.S. in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering from the University of Pennsylvania.

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