Meet Our Staff


Deborah Groban Olson, Executive Director

Since 1981 Deb has specialized in creating and advising employee-owned companies and many types of cooperatives. A former chair of the National Center for Employee Ownership, Olson serves as board chair of employee-owned Once Again Nut Butter Collective and on the board of Circle Pines Center, a co-op education and recreation center. She was also founder of the Capital Ownership Group at Kent State University, where she ran its global online think-tank and conference center on using ownership to counter the negative impacts of globalization. Olson has also published and spoken extensively in both the US and Europe, and done extensive teaching and consulting. As a 1976 Order of the Coif graduate of the University of Wisconsin Law School, she has an AV peer rating from Martindale Hubbell as a preeminent attorney in her field. Read full biography.


Lanita Carter, Office Administrator

Detroit-based youth advocate, Lanita Carter is passionate about mentoring and bringing out the passion in the inner city youth. She has worked as a coordinator at Ceasefire Detroit, which provides young men who have been incarcerated with services such as job placement, ID registration, trauma support, etc. In 2013, she founded a real estate investment company, Diamond In The Rough Real Estate, whose mission is to revamp the inner city of Detroit housing market. Lanita is also a licensed Michigan Real Estate Agent and a law student at Western Michigan Cooley Law School. 


Halima Cassells, Outreach and Connectivity

Detroit-based artist/community advocate Halima Cassells crosses innumerable disciplines and group boundaries, always defying expectation. A consummate diplomat and avid experimentalist, she traverses many diverse circles, and occupies a myriad of roles that are unified by a deep and unwavering devotion to fostering community inter-connectivity. In practice she designs spaces for authentic engagement, and artistic expression, as well as engenders ideas of new economy. In addition to serving as the community and connectivity coordinator for Community Based Enterprise, she works as an independent artist and assumes leadership roles at O.N.E. Mile project, Oakland Avenue Artists Coalition, Incite Focus Fab Lab, North End Soup, and the Free Market of Detroit.


Paul Chander, Equal Justice Works Fellow

Paul Chander is passionate about advancing economic, social, and environmental justice by building worker cooperatives, economic democracy, and the solidarity economy. At C2BE, Paul provides outreach, education, and legal services to help community-based entrepreneurs build a network of democratic enterprises in a cooperative ecosystem. Paul graduated with a B.A. in political science and a minor in public policy from UCLA, where he founded the General Relief Advocacy Project. After working as a political organizer, Paul graduated from Columbia Law School, where he co-founded the Student Public Interest Network. Paul has completed the Worker Cooperative Developer Fellowship with the Democracy at Work Institute. He also serves as a board member of Soulardarity, an energy democracy project in Highland Park.


Bryce Detroit, Cultural Programming

For the past 5 years, Bryce has led an intergenerational charge to “bridge the gap” between Detroit’s legendary musical pioneers and the city’s young emergent innovators. In 2012, Bryce teamed with legendary Motown arranger Paul Riser to co-direct and host the Red Bull Music Academy presents Motown to New York City: Paul Riser & Friends w/Young Guru. In 2014, he produced the ONE MILE Mothership Launch: Legacy of Funk concert with funk legend Carl ‘Butch’ Jones, bringing together four generations of Parliament-Funkadelic alumni. As co-founder of Detroit Afrikan Music Institution, and founder of Detroit Recordings Company, he uses entertainment arts and community cultural legacies to promote new Afrikan and Indigenous narratives, cultural literacies, and new cooperative music economies—Entertainment Justice. He grows intersectional communities as C2BE’s Director of Cultural Programming, as Director of Commons Relations for East Michigan Environmental Action Council, and as a founding member of Oakland Avenue Artists Coalition and Detroit Future Youth Network.


Michael Friedman, Operations and Project Oversight

Michael retired at the end of 2013 from the law firm of Honigman Miller Schwartz and Cohn, LLP where he was a partner in the employee benefits, executive compensation and insurance groups, advising employers, insurers, health plans and third party administrators on a wide range of issues and litigation matters under ERISA, HIPAA, FMLA, the Tax Code and the Affordable Care Act. He is a certified mediator, and handles pro bono court ordered mediations through the Wayne County Mediation Center. He has been Board Chair of C2BE since its founding in 2007, and has done volunteer staff work for C2BE since his retirement. He is also currently Board Secretary of the Coalition On Temporary Shelter (COTS) in Detroit, and a Board member and past Board President of the Friends of the Detroit Public Library Foundation. Prior to becoming an attorney, Michael drove a truck in Cleveland, Ohio for 14 years, and was a union activist, being a founding member of Teamsters for a Democratic Union (TDU). TDU is still active and is the longest running rank and file caucus in U.S. labor history. Michael received his law degree, magna cum laude from Wayne State University Law School, his A.B degree, summa cum laude from Columbia College, and B.A. and M.A. degrees from Trinity College, Cambridge England.


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Ocie Irons, Enterprise Growth

Ocie Irons, Project Management, Through his company, Ironbridge Development LLC, Ocie provides training, coaching and advisory services to small business owners and entrepreneurs. His other entrepreneurial interests involve providing expanded access to nutritious foods, creating jobs, and educating young people throughout southeast Michigan. Previous jobs included Director, Entrepreneurial Programs at TechTown and Client Delivery Executive at EDS/HP. Ocie spent 25 years in leadership roles in sales, operations, and marketing with a number of well-known companies including EDS, GE Capital, Mazda, and Citicorp.


James Lesko, Enterprise Growth and Marketing

James is a marketing professional with 25+ years experience producing award-winning local, regional and national advertising campaigns for some of the country’s most recognized brands. Prior to his return to Detroit in 2014, James worked in the creative departments at leading San Francisco ad agencies—including Saatchi & Saatchi and DMBB/Highway One— as well as client-side at the 4.3-million-member American Automobile Association (AAA) of Northern California, Nevada & Utah, where he managed ad agency relationships and was responsible for media planning and buying, placing more than $50 million in advertising across radio, TV, print and web. Committed to ensuring that Detroit's revitalization is rooted in economic democracy, James is helping C2BE expand its build business partnerships while providing marketing support to C2BE's partner-clients.


Todd Leverette, Business Owner Support

Todd Leverette is a small business/non-profit development consultant with experience in early stage enterprises.  Todd also has a background in corporate finance and residential real estate. A 2013 graduate of Columbia Law School and Columbia Business School, Todd is also co-founder of Your Financial Lane, a start-up focused on personal financial management for everyday people.


Terry Lewis, Business and Financial Strategy

Terry is the Principal of LIA Advisors, LLC, a private consulting firm providing advisory services in housing and community economic development. She was formerly Vice President for Cooperative Development with the National Consumer Cooperative Bank (dba NCB), where she advised internal NCB teams and NCB customers in multiple lines of business on the structuring and development of cooperative and other community ownership entities. She also served as President and CEO of NCB Community Works, LLC, an affiliated for-profit affordable multifamily housing development organization. In 2011, President Obama appointed Terry to the board of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, the U.S. government’s development finance institution, where she serves as a member of the organization’s Audit Committee. From 1991 to 2014 she was a director of the Cooperative Development Foundation, serving for 8 years as Chair and managing governance, strategy, and the oversight functions of multiple grant and loan funds. She was inducted into the Cooperative Hall of Fame in 2008. Her early career was spent as a private attorney in Michigan, specializing in multifamily housing, structuring business entities, and negotiating business transactions. Terry did her undergraduate studies at Swarthmore College and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She received her law degree cum laude from the University of Michigan School of Law.


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Karen Tyler-Ruiz, Principal Consultant for Tyler-Ruiz & Associates

Karen is an experienced non-profit management professional with a passion for finding ways to support the economic mobility of low-to-moderate income individuals and their families. Sharing her 20+ years in the field, she provides consulting services in non-profit resource development, strategic partnerships and strategy, board and program development.  Her most recent roles include Senior Director at United Way for Southeastern Michigan, where she provided leadership to a portfolio of family asset building strategies she helped catalyze including the Greater Detroit Centers for Working Families helping over 10,000 Metro Detroiters increase their income. She also served as the as Executive Director of the Detroit Regional Workforce Fund, a public/private workforce-focused funders’ collaborative, investing in innovations that helped more Detroiters meet the talent needs of the local and regional market. She helped create Access for All, a construction trades pre-apprenticeship program with a 91% employment rate, and a 67% apprenticeship entry rate. Ms. Tyler-Ruiz, is bilingual English-Spanish, has over 20 years working in community economic development including housing, neighborhood commercial revitalization, training in non-profit capacity building, in addition to significant international work experience. She holds a B.A. from Grinnell College and has professional development coursework in organizational development, and a housing finance certification from the National Development Council.

Our Board of Directors:

Hassan Bazzi, Director, Regional Opportunities, ACCESS
Halima Cassells, Fellow, Incite Focus
Steve Dubb, Senior Editor, Nonprofit Quarterly
Dr. Alicia Renee Farris, State  Director, Restaurant Opportunity Center of Michigan
Michael Friedman, Chair, retired partner, Honigman, Miller, Schwartz & Cohn, LLP
Deborah Groban Olson, Executive Director, Ex Officio, Attorney, Law Office of Deborah Groban Olson, PLLC
Robert Hoff, retired President/Chief Operating Officer, Incoe Corporation
Nancy Jones, retired Director of Education, Detroit Institute of Arts
Erica Raleigh, Executive Director, Data Driven Detroit L3C
Reverend Barry Randolph, Pastor, Church of the Messiah
Karen-Tyler-Ruiz, consultant
Harriet B. Saperstein: Urban Consultant & Retired Executive Director, HP Devco, Inc
Judith Williams, Manager, Neighborhood and Economic Revitalization, HOPE Village Initiative, Focus:HOPE


Board Advisers

Andrew Blain, Consultant, Next Level Consultants
David Drews, retired CFO of Project Worldwide
Ed Egnatios, Program Officer, Kellogg Foundation, Detroit
Juan Escareno, Community Growth Partners
Ian Chan Hodges, Principal, Responsible Markets
Alan Kaniarz, Principal, AK Services
Adam Konner, IT and Co-op Consultant, Collective Seeds
Paul Saginaw, Co-Owner & Founding Partner, Zingerman’s Community of Businesses
Errol Service, Principal, ECP Partnership, McDonald’s