Staff

Gustavo Lasala

President & CEO
Gustavo is a seasoned microfinance practitioner passionate about advancing opportunities for underserved communities through capital. Prior to becoming President and CEO of PeopleFund he held leadership positions with top-tier community lenders where he was instrumental in their growth at a national level. Highlights of his career include: the development of LiftFund’s MMS - an early “lending as a service” platform tailored to microlending in the US; the financial engineering of a $30M asset purchase agreement between LiftFund and Citibank - a first in US microlending; the expansion of Oportun (from 35 to 85 stores) where he was directly responsible for the production of 20,000 loans per month; he redefined the CFO role for Opportunity Fund and put together credit facilities that helped the organization become the largest non-profit microlender in US. Most recently he co-founded and managed Listo, an organization providing financial products and services to thousands in California. Gustavo has served on the boards of Opportunity Finance Network, Foundation for Women and School of Excellence - San Antonio and holds a Master’s Degree in Business Administration from the University of Texas at Austin.

Jenny Palecek

Vice President of Philanthropic Partnerships & Investor Relations
As Vice President of Philanthropic Partnerships and Investor Relations, Jenny is responsible for leading and managing PeopleFund’s partnership development and fundraising/fund development strategies. As a Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE) she is passionate about bringing resources to nonprofits and underserved populations. Prior to her role at PeopleFund, she was responsible for managing programs raising millions in grants and donations for several Central Texas nonprofits. She has extensive experience in business operations and fundraising and has spent 20 +years leading and managing a small for-profit business. She understands the challenges faced by entrepreneurs and small business owners. Jenny holds a Master of Arts Degree in Psychology from Stephen F. Austin State University. Outside of work, Jenny enjoys spending time with her husband and three daughters. She enjoys traveling, camping, and volunteering.
Jemerell Rogers

Jemerell Rogers

Director of Lending
As Director of Lending, Jemerell is responsible for statewide loan production and creation of responsive loan products that meet client need. Jemerell focuses on our mission to create access to capital to underserved Texas entrepreneurs, leveraging partnerships and community engagement to help small businesses thrive. Jemerell supervises PeopleFund’s lending and loan administration team throughout the state to advance economic opportunity in rural and urban communities. As a member of Austin’s financial industry for over 11 years and operating his own business for 4 years, Jemerell is in tune with the obstacles faced by many PeopleFund clients. With a keen understanding of the traditional financial mainstream, Jemerell looks forward to creating opportunities to help small businesses thrive. Originally hired as a loan officer, Jemerell was promoted to a Senior Loan Officer and Director of Lending, a showcase of his commitment to PeopleFund and the underserved entrepreneurs we elevate.
Grant Bennett

Grant Bennett

Director of Veteran Programs
Grant orginally joined the PeopleFund team as an intern and was then hired full time as the Lending Support Officer after showing tremendous aptitude and a desire to further PeopleFund’s mission. Grant then served as a Senior Underwriter and now manages the national CDFI collaborative Veteran LLC. Veteran LLC works to increase access to capital, business education, and training for military veteran small business owners and their families. Grant grew up in Jackson, Ohio and joined the Army after high school. He served two combat deployments in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Grant then served in the Texas National Guard as a Non-Commissioned Officer in an Airborne Infantry unit. He has a BBA in Management from St. Edward’s University and a MS in Technology Commercialization from the University of Texas at Austin.
Katherine Sobel

Katherine Sobel

Director of Training & Education
As Director of Training and Education, Katherine oversees creation and implementation of educational curriculums statewide and also leads PeopleFund’s training program. Katherine focuses on raising the expertise of entrepreneurs through comprehensive learning opportunities, including classroom-style instruction, integrated bootcamps, an online education portal, and tailored business advising. Katherine also administers PeopleFund’s business education contract with the City of Austin. Katherine originally joined the PeopleFund family as the Education Specialist, focusing on expanding the organization’s mentor program and diversifying learning opportunities. She earned a Bachelor’s degree in Family and Consumer Sciences from Texas State, and is now working on her Ph.D. through Texas Tech.
Patricia Colomo Baray

Patricia Colomo Baray

Assistant Director, Portfolio Risk
Patricia joined PeopleFund as a Development and Finance intern and was quickly promoted because of her experience and work ethic. She graduated in December 2012 from the University of Texas with a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and a minor in Business Administration. Prior to joining Peoplefund, she assisted a UT professor with her research about the socioeconomic returns in education in developing countries and volunteered in other organizations, such as Latinitas, Candlelighters, and the American Cancer Society.

Amy East

Manager of Philanthropic Partnerships and Fund Development
As Manager of Philanthropic Partnerships and Fund Development, Amy is responsible for advancing PeopleFund’s mission through fundraising efforts. Amy is passionate about engaging with supporters and the community to build long-term relationships to enhance PeopleFund’s vision of becoming the premier nonprofit lender in Texas. Amy joined the PeopleFund team with several years of nonprofit development experience and is excited to now help create economic opportunity and financial stability for underserved entrepreneurs. Outside of the office, Amy enjoys theatre, spending time with family and friends, and kayaking.

Demetria Scott

SBA & Loan Closing Manager
In her role of SBA & Loan Closing Manager, Demetria is responsible for assembling, preparing, and verify closing documents for aspiring entrepreneurs. She has over 20 years of experience in the retail mortgage industry; she uniquely understands that the financial picture for each client has its own story. Demetria has her Bachelors of Arts in Fashion Design from Norfolk State University and a Master’s degree in Business Administration with a concentration in management from Sam Houston State University. Demetria is extremely active in her community working with the Bastrop food pantry and community events. She is happily married to her husband Anthony with two children and a Scottish Terrier named Scottie. When not working with business owners, Demetria enjoys traveling, designing swimwear, and restoring vintage furniture.

Angela Amaya

Systems and Data Manager
In her role of Systems & Data Manager, Angela streamlines IT processes across all of the organization’s offices in Texas and supports PeopleFund’s impact measurement for the education department. Angela has years of experience in operational and program support. She is a proud member of the Fightin’ Texas Aggie class of 2008 and holds a Certificate in Nonprofit Management from the Bush School of Government and Public Service. When she’s not empowering small business owners, you can find Angela exploring local coffee shops in her hometown of Austin, playing Ultimate Frisbee, or nose deep in a good book.
Shane Cormier

Shane Cormier

Organizational & Employee Equity Manager
Shane joined PeopleFund with a mission to heal the world one business at a time. Shane has 15+ years’ experience with businesses of varying size and mission, focusing on the customer’s goals and missions. Specifically, his experience entails Account Management, Customer Success Management, Tech and Small Business Consulting, Coaching, Leadership and Marketing. He received his Bachelor’s Business Admin from Lamar University and is certified in Coaching, Gallup Strengths Training and is a Certified Scrum Master. Outside of Shane’s professional experience, he volunteers as a Mentor for Everwise, a Reading Buddy for Andrews Elementary 4th graders and, as of recently, volunteered as a Community Ambassador with Urban Co-Lab. Shane’s mission in life is to assist others with their inherent abilities and guide them to their next step.

Jean Savvas

Staff Accountant
Jean brings a passion for nonprofit work and over ten years of experience to PeopleFund's growing Accounting team. Originally from upstate New York, Jean enjoys reading, taking online language classes (human and computer), and trying out new baking recipes and crochet patterns.

LaChandra Cobb

504 Credit Officer
In her role as 504 Credit Officer, LaChandra is responsible for promoting, underwriting, packaging, processing, and closing loans under the SBA 504 program. LaChandra’s commercial lending career started in banking where she spent over 20 years primarily focused on the various SBA lending programs. Her focus became strictly SBA 504 when she joined CDC of the Southwest in 2016. A native Texan, LaChandra holds a BBA in Finance from The University of Texas at Austin and an MBA from University of Phoenix-Dallas. Outside of work, LaChandra enjoys cardio dance, nature walks, reading, and spending time with her young daughter, Kayla Marie.

Marion Tarin

504 Servicing Manager
As the SBA 504 Servicing Manager, Marion promotes best practices and adherence to the SBA 504 Loan Program Policies and Procedures. Marion has over 40 years of banking experience with over 30 years in lending and servicing SBA loans. He has been involved in all areas of the SBA 504 Loan Program and believes that this SBA product provides small businesses the best opportunity for financial stability. When he is away from work, Marion enjoys being with his wife, three daughters, and four grandchildren.
Bill Anderson

Bill Anderson

Regional Lending Manager, South Texas
As the regional lending manager for the Rio Grande Valley, Bill is responsible for identifying and supporting the financial needs of local businesses and working with them throughout the loan process. Bill has over 33 years of banking experience, which includes business lending, retail lending, mortgages and customer service. Bill is fully bilingual and is ready to assist Spanish-speaking clients.

Elvira Valles

Regional Lending Manager
Elvira is passionate about empowering entrepreneurs through access to capital. With more than 17 years in the finance industry, Elvira has been a dedicated advocate for small businesses in the community and has been named as Financial Services Champion and Minority Advocate by the U.S. Small Business Administration El Paso Office. She works closely with business owners to help them understand their capital options, increase their business knowledge, and connect them with additional resources in the community.

Chris Smith

Regional Lending Manager - North Texas
Born and raised in Arlington, Chris has always believed that a strong and diverse culture of entrepreneurial spirit is at the heart of every healthy community, and that our country is better when every community is fully involved and thriving. In 15+ years of small business community lending, he has worked to help fulfill this exact belief. His experience spans the spectrum from global banks, to Texas-based lenders, to family-owned community lenders. In his role as a Regional Lending Manager, he brings his passion for helping create thriving small business communities to the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex. Chris holds a Bachelor’s degree in business from Texas Wesleyan University in Fort Worth, and a Master’s Degree in Business from The University of Texas at Arlington. Outside of the office, Chris enjoys coaching youth sports, playing soccer, finding new outdoor adventures, and volunteering within the community.
Sheyenne Alvarez

Sheyenne Alvarez

Senior Loan Officer - Greater Austin
Sheyenne first joined the PeopleFund team as a volunteer and quickly joined the staff full time. As a passionate representative of the organization’s mission to create economic opportunity, Sheyenne supports with startups, established businesses, and nonprofit clients – educating them about accessing capital and the process of obtaining capital. Sheyenne’s experience spans entrepreneurship, banking, and finance. Currently, she focuses on the Central Texas community, where she lives and raises her four children. A graduate from Texas State University with a degree in management and entrepreneurial studies, Sheyenne empowers clients so they can access the funds needed to create jobs, provide needed community services, and achieve the American Dream. An active member of her community, Sheyenne dedicates time outside of the office to volunteering, and has worked with Court Appointed Special Advocates, Boy Scouts of America, and neighborhood organizations.

Cindy Urrutia

Loan Officer - Houston
As the daughter of an entrepreneur, Cindy understands the challenges small business owners face and is passionate about advancing access to affordable capital for entrepreneurs. She joined the PeopleFund team after 12 years in banking with both BBVA and J.P. Morgan Chase. In addition to her experience in the financial sector, Cindy has certifications in real estate and insurance. She has a degree in Business Administration and Finance from the University of Houston Downtown. Outside of the office, Cindy enjoys spending time with her family and finding new places to eat with her teenage daughter.

Brittany Rivera

Loan Officer - Lubbock
A Native Texan, Brittany is passionate about empowering fellow Texans through entrepreneurship and small business development. As a Loan Officer for Lubbock, she guides entrepreneurs through the loan process and supports the financial needs of local businesses. Brittany has over 6 years’ experience in the financial services industry including her tenures at City Bank and Wells Fargo assisting community members with personal, auto, and debt consolidation loans. When she isn’t working with entrepreneurs, Brittany loves playing board games with her four kids, close family, and friends.

Manuel Santos

Sr. Loan Officer - Laredo
With over 12 years’ experience in banking and finance, Manuel has worked in both retail and business banking departments managing branches for Wells Fargo, CitiBank, and BB&T in South and Central Texas. As a Loan Officer, he is focused on supporting small business owners and helping this find the right lending solution to start or grow their business. A former business owner himself, Manuel and his brother ran a frozen yogurt business in Laredo and uniquely understands the challenges facing entrepreneurs today. Born and raised in Monterrey, Mexico, Manuel and his family have been living in the United States since 1997. Manuel is an active community member, volunteering once a week as a Spanish Public Speaker Instructor and provides interpretation services. In his free time, he enjoys spending time with his family, outdoor activities and has a knack for playing musical instruments.

Neydin Costilla

Loan Officer - RGV, Corpus, & Surrounding Areas
Neydin works with clients in support of meeting their business goals via access to capital and sharing tools and resources for business success. Neydin became passionate for entrepreneurship at a young age. Her mother started a business from home and turned it into an international business with five locations. She was in business for thirty years serving the Rio Grande Valley and the North of Tamaulipas Mexico. Raised in a family-owned small business environment has made Neydin passionate to work with entrepreneurs. Neydin has over 15 years of experience in the financial sector, having worked for Wells Fargo, Chase, and Bank of America. These experiences have given Neydin the opportunity to work with all type of businesses, including businesses that she has helped grow to be successful.

Sarina Kyle

Loan Officer - Fort Worth
Sarina joined the PeopleFund team with 8 years of banking experience, 10 years of management, and 2 years of lending experience. As the loan officer for the Fort Worth Area, Sarina loves working with people and helping others! Sarina's goal is to help and provide as much knowledge as possible to clients. Sarina enjoys reading, traveling, spending time with family and her two beautiful daughters. Sarina's mission is to show her daughters that nothing is impossible with faith, determination, and manifestation.
Victoria Valdez

Martha Victoria Valdez

Senior Economic Development Officer-South Texas
Martha Victoria joined the PeopleFund team as a Loan Officer serving the Laredo market and now serves as the Senior Economic Development Officer for South Texas. A native to Laredo, Martha Victoria has over 4 years of experience in the nonprofit lending industry as a Sr. Lending Assistant with LiftFund, Inc. She is currently pursuing her bachelors in History with a concentration in Colonial America and minoring in business administration at Texas A&M Intl University. Martha Victoria comes from a line of entrepreneurs and is committed to help fellow Texans pursue the American Dream in the border town of Laredo. You can find her spending time with friends and family on weekends. Martha Victoria enjoys attending local artists’ events where fellow Laredoans display handmade goods. With joy in her heart, Martha Victoria looks forward to helping small businesses thrive in her community.

Jess Mullen

Program Manager
As an Economic Development Officer, Jess creates partnerships and educates clients in Central Texas. After moving to Texas from Peru when she was child, Jess’ parents started their own small business that has helped them gain financial independence. Due to this, Jess has come to understand first-hand the socio-economic impact small businesses can have on families. While attending the University of Texas at Austin, Jess studied International Business with a concentration in Latin America and had the opportunity to work for the Department of Commerce at the U.S. Embassy in Lima, both of which were catalysts for her desire to serve and empower at-need communities through financial literacy and capital.
Fernando Fernandez

Fernando Fernandez

Underwriter
Originally from Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico, Fernando Aaron Fernandez Legarda graduated from UT Austin with a Bachelors of Arts in Economics and minors in Finance and Italian. He is a positive, high-achiever, and hard-working person who is eager to learn new things and passionate about helping others. Coming from a family of entrepreneurs and small business owners, he understands the complications and struggles small businesses face day to day. Fernando is passionate about helping entrepreneurs achieve financial stability for themselves and their families.

Rosario Olivarez

Senior Asset Protection Specialist
Rosario joined PeopleFund with enthusiasm and over twenty years of experience in financial services, loan portfolio management, and collections. In her recent role with LiftFund, she successfully managed a $64M portfolio quality of microloans, small business loans and SBA 7A Community Advantage Loans. With a demonstrated history of success in a variety of fields, Rosario believes jobs in the non-profit sector are the most personally and professionally rewarding.
Jessica Hernandez

Jessica Hernandez

SBA Loan Specialist
Jessica comes to San Antonio by way of Southern California and El Paso, Texas. A finance graduate from the UTEP, Jessica has extensive experience in sales, administration, education, and the public sector. Empowered with a passion for helping others achieve their personal and professional goals, Jessica helps underserved entrepreneurs across South Central Texas reach the American Dream. Outside of the office, Jessica enjoys traveling and spending time with her family and friends.

Stocha Scranton

SBA Loan Specialist
Stocha has worked in a variety of industries, including retail and healthcare. She has experience in working with the public in a sales capacity. She has also worked as a credentialing coordinator for an independent review organization. Stocha earned her Bachelor's degree in English in 2018 through the University of Phoenix's distance education program while working full-time. She plans to further her education by obtaining a Master’s degree in communications. Outside of her work, Stocha enjoys a wide array of hobbies, including reading and writing, crafting, and spending time with friends and family. She has two cats and a dog.

Keshia Batista

Administrative Assistant II
Born in Panama, Keshia was raised in Austin, Texas and is fluent in both English and Spanish. Keshia brings nine years of customer service experience from a variety of industries including retail, sales, and medical. She enjoys helping others and being able to make a difference in people’s lives. Keshia aspires to go back to school for business administration and accounting. Outside of work, Keshia enjoys spending time with friends and family.

Alma Garcia

Customer Service Representative - RGV
As a Customer Service Representative, Alma assists entrepreneurs in the Rio Grande Valley with their business financial and educational needs. Alma’s passionate about financial growth in her community and making great customer relationships. Alma brings over 20 years of experience in customer service. She previously worked for a CPA, which gave her experience in accounts receivable, payroll, bookkeeping, and office management. Additionally, she managed a loan company in the Houston area before she decided to move to the Valley. Then Alma decided to move to the Corpus Christi area where she had the opportunity to work for a non-profit organization. Alma learned more about social services in the area before moving back to the Valley. Alma joined the PeopleFund team to help others in her community. Outside of work, Alma enjoys fishing, cooking, and watching movies with her family.

Maricela Santoyo

Customer Service Representative - Houston
Maricela Santoyo, born and raised in the windy city of Chicago, joined the PeopleFund team as a Customer Service Representative, where she educates and supports small business owners in the Houston area throughout the loan process. Fluent in English and Spanish, Maricela also brings over 10 years of experience in customer service from the insurance industry. She loves working for an organization dedicated to building up communities. Outside of the office, Maricela loves spending time with her family, watching wrestling and sports, and taking long nature walks.

Amber Coronado

Customer Service Representative - Texas Panhandle
In her role as Customer Service Representative, Amber proudly serves and educates Texas Panhandle small business owners and entrepreneurs throughout the loan process. Amber joined the PeopleFund team with multiple years of experience in accounting and marketing. Originally from Houston, Amber now lives in Slaton. Outside of work, Amber enjoys spending time with her two children and visiting small towns in Texas.

Willie Lee

Customer Service Representative - El Paso
Willie is passionate about helping El Paso entrepreneurs and local businesses thrive. Throughout the course of his career, Willie has worked in marketing, sales and staff management. In his previous role as a Marketing Manager, he contributed communication, leadership, and administrative support toward team efforts and business improvements. Willie enjoys collective brainstorming sessions which allows him to coordinate activities to achieve a common goal.

Nina Braden

Customer Service Representative - Dallas
As a Customer Service Representative, Nina proudly serves and educates Dallas small business owners and entrepreneurs about the loan process. For over seven years, Nina built a sales and customer relations career in the publishing, automotive, and property management industries. Nina has helped many clients successfully throughout the years, from purchasing their first vehicle to leasing an apartment home that fits their budget. She recently relocated to DFW from Raleigh, North Carolina and has a B.A. in Mass Communications.

Perla Martinez

Loan Administration Assistant.
Perla is from Laredo, Texas, and brings 20 years of banking experience. Perla has worked in many different areas of banking, from Teller, Customer Service, Loans, Collections, Operations, and Accounts Payable to name a few. Outside the office, Perla enjoys spending time with family & friends and traveling.