First Friday

*First Friday is currently on hold during the COVID-19 pandemic.*

About First Friday

First Friday is a free community service connecting local Champaign County advisors and small businesses or startups.

The group meets the First Friday of each month, and advisors provide advice on an array of topics spanning from fundamental business experience, legal knowledge or advice, technology suggestions and support, and so much more.

The goal of the group is to provide collaborative advice to small businesses in a comfortable, confidential space. Advisors do not provide funding opportunities.

Each meeting follows the same agenda on the First Friday of the month from 7:30 – 9 AM, locations vary:

  • Welcome and Introduction of Advisors (3-5 minutes)
  • Company Presentation 1 (8 minutes)
  • Company 1 – Question & Answer Session (25 minutes)
  • Company Presentation 2 (8 minutes)
  • Company 2 – Question & Answer Session (25 minutes)
  • Networking

The group has been reviewing plans for more than 15 years, providing advice to help small or startup businesses achieve their goals. First Friday started its life as the Second Saturday Business Review Group in May 2000.

Meetings are led and organized by the Illinois Small Business Development Center at Champaign County EDC and University of Illinois Research Park.

For Presenters

Are you interested in sharing an idea or pushing yourself to improve? Presenting at First Friday is a safe and confidential way to receive valuable feedback in a casual environment from experienced professionals in our community.

Safe: First Friday is meant to be a place for small and startup businesses to practice a pitch or try out a new idea and receive candid feedback. Advisors are not sources of financial investment so the presentation does not need to be extremely polished or perfect and can feel more like a rough draft.

Confidential: Advisors for First Friday are required to foster a comfortable and secure space for our business presenters. Our advisors have many great connections, but please be respectful of proprietary ideas and privacy.

Preparing For Your Presentation: The presentation should be about 8 minutes long and should focus on your business proposition or area you feel needs improvement.

Is First Friday for you? If you have a small or startup business and want feedback on your business plan, we urge you to contact us. The advisors are experts in technology, business, healthcare, agriculture, law, finance, and more.

First Friday Advisors

  • Don Elmore, Director – Illinois Small Business Development Center at Champaign County EDC
  • Laura Bleill, Director, External Engagement – University of Illinois Research Park / Mom-in-Chief –
  • Liz Kellner (Original Founder of First Friday, known then as Second Saturday)
  • Alan Singleton, Attorney – Singleton Law Firm
  • Mariel Huasanga, International Trade Director – Illinois Small Business Development Center at Champaign County EDC
  • Brendan McGinty, Industry Director – National Center for Supercomputing Applications
  • Deb Reardanz, President & CEO – Clark-Lindsey Village, Inc.
  • Ken Taylor, Cloud Architect – University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Laura Frerichs, Director – University of Illinois Research Park
  • Mauureen McMichael, Associate Professor – Department of  Veterinary Clinical Medicine at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Roland Garton, Founder – Garton Consulting Services
  • Shayla Maatuka, Attorney – Dodd & Maatuka Attorneys at Law
  • Susan Toalson, Chief Development Officer / Senior Vice President – Credit Union National Association
  • Tom Parkinson, Senior Director – IllinoisVENTURES
  • Will Patterson, Lecturer – College of Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Cindy Somers, Owner – Spherion
  • Dennis Beard, Principal – Serra Ventures
  • Irfan Ahmad, Executive Director, Interdisciplinary Initiatives – College of Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Carly McCrory-McKay, Executive Director – Champaign County Economic Development Corporation
  • Bruce Knight, Planning & Development Director – City of Champaign
  • Jason Berg, President – Pixo
  • Daniel Gambrell, Associate – IllinoisVENTURES
  • Matt Cho, Owner – Cake Design Development
  • Marissa Siero, Office of Experiential Learning – Gies College of Business at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Steve Tock, Senior Leader (Champaign Region) – Hickory Point Bank
  • Chad Hoffman, Executive Director – Habitat for Humanity of Champaign County
  • Chris Harbourt, Managing Partner – Hatch Ag Group
  • Christopher Alix, Owner/President – Prairie City Computing
  • Deana McDonagh, Professor of Industrial Design – University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Doug Jones, Partner/Business Process Consultant – Process Renovation Consulting, Inc.
  • Eric Minnick, Senior Partner – Anther Group, LLC
  • Jane Hays, Managing Director – The Downey Group
  • Paul Lucas – Ekey Technology
  • Sharon Allen, President/Co-Founder – Sterling Wealth Management
  • Tim Hoerr, CEO – Serra Ventures

Please note that not all advisors are present at all First Friday meetings.

First Friday values diversity in the background, education, race, and gender of our advisors. We strive to provide feedback from a variety of advisors by making our group invitation only.

Hosting First Friday

First Friday travels around the community to highlight businesses and share working spaces.

We require seating for about 15-20 (including presenters) and A/V for the presentations. We also ask hosts to supply a light breakfast and coffee.

If you are interested in hosting our First Friday group, please contact Don Elmore at

First Friday Contacts

Don Elmore

Laura Bleill