Subject Matter Experts (SMEs)

CAICs SMEs are available to registered CAIC participants for individual counseling on matters in the SMEs’ field(s) of expertise.

Registered CAIC participants should call 410.770.9330, ext. 5 (please do not send a text message) and leave a message clearly stating your name, phone number, and the SME with whom you would like to schedule a meeting. A CAIC Staff Member will return the call promptly.

Christine Bucan

Area of Expertise: Marketing and Communications
Christine Bucan is a communications executive with extensive experience developing strategic public relations and social media programs for clients. She has served as public relations counsel for Fortune 500 companies and for startups.

Ms. Bucan’s experience includes working as a journalist (newspaper reporter and magazine editor) and in many areas of international communications.

Originally from New York, where she served as a Vice President at Edelman Public Relations, Ms. Bucan currently lives in Miami Beach with her husband and two college-age daughters.

Christopher Hlubb

Areas of Expertise: Food Manufacturing, Operations, Biotechnology
Chris Hlubb, Program Director of the F3 Tech Accelerator, works with companies to commercialize innovations and technology. His experience includes start up innovations and turnaround successes. Mr. Hlubb has proven to be an agile mentor and catalyst for change and progress.

Shelley Lombardo

Area of Expertise: Finance
Shelley Lombardo is the Chief Operating Officer of financial consultancy Evergreen Advisors in Columbia, Maryland. She has financial and operation knowledge and experience for working with growth-stage companies. Her specific experience includes providing accounting and financial advice to entrepreneurial enterprises.

Ms. Lombardo can provide strategic and fiscal guidance to help CAIC participants achieve the goals they have set for their value-added aquaculture and agriculture businesses.

George J. Nemphos, Attorney

Area of Expertise: Business Law
Mr. Nemphos’s law firm, Nemphos Braue Law, represents entrepreneurs and their companies in the following areas:

  • Entity Choice and Formation
  • Mergers and Acquisitions
  • Private Placements of Debt and Equity
  • Complex Joint Ventures
  • Structural and Day To Day Issues
  • Corporate Governance
  • Securities Law Compliance

As an entrepreneur, Mr. Nemphos has the experience to work closely with clients to achieve practical, business-oriented solutions. He has specific experience in the agriculture/aquaculture sector.

Sam Zappas, Entrepreneur-in-Residence

Area of Expertise: IP, Investment, Business Growth

Mr. Zappas brings to CAIC a wealth of entrepreneurship experience in the areas of Intellectual Property, Investment, and Business Growth. Currently he heads a consulting practice that focuses on revenue strategy. Mr. Zappas’s experience includes founding media organizations and consumer companies. He serves on the Boards of several non-profits and private companies including serving on the Advisory Boards of early-stage and late-stage companies.


Registered CAIC participants in the “Business Solutions for Value-Added Producers” Program will be able to schedule sessions with the Mentors after attending the Virtual Presentations part of the Program.

Janna Howley, Grow & Fortify

Area of Mentorship: Regulations, licensing, and permitting. 
Janna Howley, of Annapolis-based Grow & Fortify, focuses on value-added agriculture and aquaculture startups that require mentorship in the areas of government regulations, licensing, packaging, labeling, zoning, and permitting procedures. Although Grow & Fortify specializes in alcoholic beverage producers (breweries, wineries, meaderies), they deal with all value-added producers who need advice on regulations and licensing.

Kym Briden, Founder And CEO Of Cureate

Areas of Mentorship: All phases of marketing; developing sales channels.
Kim Bryden is the founder and CEO of Cureate; Cureate is a woman-owned business based in Washington, DC. The company offers strategic counsel to help small businesses navigate shifting consumer tastes and interests in the agriculture and aquaculture food sectors. Mentorship will cover the topics of successful go-to-market strategies, market analysis, sales channels, distribution, and marketing.

Kathleen Overman, Director of Connection at Cureate

Areas of Mentorship: All phases of marketing; developing sales channels.
Kathleen is recognized as an invaluable community builder, a facilitator of Cureate Courses, and a provider of one-on-one coaching to entrepreneurs.
Kathleen Overman, Director of Connection at Cureate, has more than a decade of community engagement experience. She focuses on local business advocacy in the Mid- Atlantic region. Her work as a field marketing expert in development and grassroot campaigns has brought the products of more than 25 area businesses to more than 50 retail outlets throughout the region.

Brian Brown, Southeast Rural Community Assistance Project, Inc.

Brian Brown currently serves as the Business Development Manager for the Southeast Rural Community Assistance Project, (RCAP) Inc. He previously served as Executive Director of the Halifax Industrial Development Authority. Brian’s background includes serving as an economic development professional and having leadership roles in the areas of security, media, real estate, architecture, and engineering

Akira Morishita

Areas of Mentorship: Business and Marketing plans; business growth strategies.
Akira Morishita is a Senior Management Consultant for the Entrepreneurship Program at Communities Unlimited (CU), one of RCAP’s Regional partners. He works with rural and minority-owned small businesses and assists entrepreneurs in identifying and implementing solutions to start or grow a business. Before joining CU Akira worked with start-up ventures in the areas of operations management and accounting control.


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Mini-Grants up to $5,000 are available for:
– Market Research and Validation of Target Market
– Customer Acquisition
– Product Development Initiatives
– Food Safety Classes
Value-added producers and companies with traction ($20,000 or more in yearly revenue) in Maryland and Delaware are eligible to apply for Mini-Grants. Participants may apply once for each of the categories. Applicants must demonstrate that they have a unique and differentiated product or service that incorporates an aspect of innovation or technology in its production, processing, distribution, or other element of the food supply system.
Applications are accepted on a rolling basis. Award decisions will be made and funds will be available no later than three weeks following the receipt of a completed application.
Application Process
Applicants must submit Mini-Grant proposals by filling out the form at this link. Copy(ies) of quote(s), proposal(s), estimate(s), or any other supporting documents.


CAIC offers access to Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) who can offer authoritative advice based on their deep knowledge and experience in a specific area. See the ADVISORS page of this Web site to learn more about the SMEs who are available to CAIC participants.