Entrepreneurs earn big rewards in a small quilt shop in Marietta

An award-winning quilter, Maetha Elliott shopped for many years at Tiny Stitches, a quilting shop in Marietta.

“The owner kept talking to me about teaching quilting classes and later suggested I could own the shop,” Maetha Elliott said.

When the owner decided to sell the shop, Maetha and her husband Henry Elliott decided to buy it.

After teaching in the Cobb County School System for 20 years, Maetha Elliott was ready for something new. She and Henry Elliott had been looking for a retail business they could buy. They visited children’s book stores, as they both loved children and books. But the earning potential wasn’t high enough.

As they began the process to finance the purchase, they reached out to the University of Georgia Small Business Development Center (SBDC).

“Maetha and Henry approached their goal to be entrepreneurs the right way, by getting educated before buying a business,” said Drew Tonsmeire, area director of the UGA SBDC office located at Kennesaw State University in Cobb County.

The Elliotts attended an SBDC program for business start-ups and SBDC financing workshops for new entrepreneurs.

“Drew reviewed all of our financials to make sure they looked good. He gave us an outline of what needed to be in our business plan, and he helped us with the narrative,” said Henry Elliott. “We did a PowerPoint presentation of the plan and took it to the United Community Bank to get the loan to purchase the business.”

The Elliotts spent six months in the purchasing process before they bought the business, Tonsmeire said.

“Then they needed to make changes to the shop’s processes and culture, which also presented challenges,” Tonsmeire said. “Henry and Maetha began quickly bringing all their management skills into play.”

Henry Elliott created an inventory spreadsheet to plan for fabric deliveries, which can take six months or longer to arrive after ordering. The Elliotts also updated customer records and changed to a point-of-sale system that collected more useful sales data.

By 2014, the 3,500-square-foot store in a retail shopping center needed to expand, so the Elliotts moved into a space next door, which had housed a consignment shop and martial arts studio. With twice as much space as they had in the original shop, the Elliotts now display fabrics, patterns and notions on the first floor, and use basement space to display work done by beginners as well as guild-level quilters who take classes and sew at the store.

“Tiny Stitches lives up to its motto: a gathering place for quilters,” Tonsmeire said. “The shop is like a second home for customers who can both buy and sew in the building. Maetha is totally focused on the customer experience. She wants them to enjoy their time there.”

The Elliotts now have 14 employees and have nearly doubled their annual sales revenue.

They attended the SBDC’s GrowSmart® program and are working on social media marketing with Tonsmeire and a digital media expert at the SBDC. They plan to launch an online store this year.

“If we have a problem, the first person we call is Drew,” Maetha Elliott said. “He’s local, he will return the call, and he will come to our shop. You don’t get that service anywhere else.”


The Small Business Development Center (SBDC) provides tools, training and resources to help small businesses grow and succeed. Designated as one of Georgia’s top providers of small business assistance, the SBDC has 17 offices in regions throughout the state to help serve the business community. Since 1977, the SBDC network of partners has helped construct a statewide ecosystem to foster the spirit, support, and success of hundreds of thousands of entrepreneurs and innovators. A part of UGA Public Service and Outreach, the SBDC, is funded in part by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and is nationally accredited by the Association of SBDCs. Learn more at

UGA has three finalists for national economic development award

For the second year, three University of Georgia programs have been selected as finalists for national awards recognizing innovation in economic development.

Archway Partnership, Carl Vinson Institute of Government and Innovation Gateway are among the 24 finalists for the University Economic Development Association 2018 Awards of Excellence. UGA’s finalists are in different categories and will not compete with one another.

UEDA represents higher education, private sector and community economic development stakeholders across North America. Entries were judged by a panel of university and economic development professionals based on the alignment of their institution’s core mission activities with regional economic development goals. Categories include innovation, talent and place, as well as the intersections of these three categories. Criteria for judging included originality, scalability, sustainability, impact and the feasibility of other organizations replicating the initiatives in their communities.

Two of the finalists are from units of the Office of the Vice President for Public Service and Outreach:

  • UGA Archway Partnership Addresses Healthcare Needs in Rural Georgia is a project in which UGA faculty and students worked side-by-side with local stakeholders in Pulaski County to evaluate health data, conduct surveys and host focus groups to prepare the local hospital’s mandated Community Health Needs Assessment. The CHNA assisted the rural hospital in remaining viable in a challenging environment by bringing to light new services that community members would like to see. This collaboration led to the establishment of an urgent care clinic at Taylor Regional Hospital. The clinic is seeing an average of 18 patients a day and has reduced hospital emergency room traffic by 10 percent. The Archway Partnership project is a finalist in the “Place” category.
  • The Georgia Certified Economic Developer Program was developed by the Carl Vinson Institute of Government in an effort to be responsive to Georgia’s economic development needs. The state-specific training provides the essential high-quality curriculum needed by economic development professionals to effectively compete in today’s global economy. The program offers economic developers the opportunity to achieve their certification more cost-effectively, as courses are taught in central locations around Georgia, and timely, within a two- to three-year period. The courses offer practical, skills-based training with immediate application. The program design is grounded in a competency cluster framework that reflects internationally recognized skills and abilities. Since the launch in 2016, participants from over half of Georgia’s 159 counties have enrolled in GCED classes. In September 2017, UGA awarded the first GCED designation followed by four additional recipients in May 2018. The GCED program is a finalist in the “Talent + Place” category.

“We are honored to be finalists again in this national competition,” said Jennifer Frum, vice president for public service and outreach. “This recognizes UGA’s commitment to improving the quality of life for all Georgians.”

The third finalist is from the Office of Research:

  • The Cultivar Development Research Program is an internal grant program, managed by Innovation Gateway in cooperation with the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and the Georgia Seed Development Commission, that is funded entirely by the licensing royalty revenue derived from UGA-developed plant cultivars (varieties). Since 1997, the CDRP has provided almost $20 million in grant funding that has helped generate more than 300 new plant cultivars. Cultivars generated through CDRP funding have had a tremendous impact on Georgia’s $73 billion agriculture industry, helping Georgia become the No. 1 state for peanut, blueberry and pecan production. Furthermore, the CDRP simultaneously serves as an effective tool in attracting and retaining top-tier plant breeding scientists to UGA. The CDRP is a finalist in the “Innovation” category.

“The beauty of UGA’s Cultivar Development Research Program is that we use licensing revenue from existing cultivars to invest in research that yields the next generation of cultivars, and so it propagates the university’s very positive impact on commercial agriculture,” said Vice President for Research David Lee. “It’s a win-win for everyone and has allowed us to maintain a robust, diverse plant breeding portfolio.”

Winners will be announced during the UEDA Annual Summit in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Oct. 21-24, 2018.

Two other UGA programs were selected as “Lightning Round” entries, new in 2018. Each entry will be allowed a five-minute pitch to the audience at the UEDA Annual Summit in October, followed by a question and answer period.

UGA’s Lightning Round entries are:

  • The Animal Health Hackathon, hosted by UGA and Boehringer-Ingelheim, the world’s second largest animal health company, brought together students, faculty, entrepreneurs and business leaders to explore multidisciplinary approaches for improving animal health. Thirteen diverse teams competed for $5,000 and a one-year membership to a community business incubator. The momentum from this Hackathon continues to build the innovation pipeline – several teams are pursuing patents on their solutions and participating in UGA’s idea accelerator.
  • The New Materials Institute (NMI) is an interdisciplinary effort with 20 faculty working with public and private partners to pioneer systems and materials that promote a circular economy. Programs range from innovative waste management systems to novel, truly biodegradable materials that meet the high expectations of industry and their consumers. Most importantly, NMI trains the next generation of engineers and scientists to use this holistic approach



Kelly Simmons,, 706-296-0855


Jennifer Frum,, 706-542-3352

David Lee,, 706-542-5969

UGA students design proposals for landscape revitalization at church in Athens

The 109-year-old campus of Young Harris Memorial United Methodist Church in Athens will be getting a facelift with assistance from UGA students.

Students from the UGA College of Environment and Design assessed the six-acre campus on Prince Avenue and drafted plans to update the grounds and facilities. Specifically, the church wants to expand its playground and enhance the presence of a community garden, installed seven years ago.

“My desire is to will us toward connecting with our community,”  said David Wofford, pastor of Young Harris Memorial United Methodist Church. “These designs will help us focus our vision on being part of the community and reaching out with purpose.”

The students presented a range of possibilities, such as adding native plants and maintenance-free artificial turf in the community garden and incorporating symbols important to the Methodist heritage, including octagons that symbolize the Heptonstall Church in Heptonstall, England, one of the oldest Methodist churches in the world.  

John Adeyemi, a student in CED Associate Professor Shelley Cannady’s Landscape Architecture Design Studio, said the group tried to keep in mind historical touches in designing a new playground and making the church courtyard less imposing.

“It feels good to know you can have an impact on positive change in the community,” Adeyemi said. “UGA is incorporating the community into the university and it’s something I love to do.”

CED professors take on about 15 community projects each semester, providing an opportunity for students to put their academic knowledge into practice.

“Service-learning is just the way we like to teach,” said Jennifer Lewis, outreach coordinator for CED. “Students develop a very valuable skillset that helps them hit the ground running once they graduate.”

The church is using the student designs in its visioning process to help plan for the next quarter century, Wofford said.

“These sorts of ideas and energies and passion don’t happen in a non-college town,” Wofford said. “This idea factory is a tremendous opportunity for us.”

It is a great opportunity for the university, as well, Cannady said.

“This is our way of giving value back to the state of Georgia,” Cannady said. “The students get so energized by real-world projects. I know from personal experience it’s frustrating to just produce paper (designs) in class when you want to make the world better.”


Contact: Jennifer Lewis,, 706-369-5885

UGA installs first large-scale green infrastructure project in Brunswick

The area next to the soccer field at Brunswick’s Howard Coffin Park received a much-needed facelift in the form of native plants and new soil.

The 3,000-square-foot tract is a large scale stormwater demonstration project that UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant hopes will educate visitors on ways to improve water quality.

Jessica Brown, stormwater specialist at Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant, oversaw construction of the site, which is called, in technical terms, a bioretention cell.

“This project will serve as a case study and educational demonstration of a bioretention cell, which is a stormwater management practice that captures and treats runoff,” Brown says. “It’s a form of green infrastructure that helps protect and restore habitat by mimicking the natural water cycle.”

The bioretention cell, next to a tidal ditch, will act as a buffer for the park. When it rains, excess water from the soccer field will flow into the bioretention cell, which consists of layers of sandy soils, mulch and stone. Pesticides, fertilizers and other chemicals applied to the playing field will be filtered out through these layers instead of running directly into the tidal creek.

With population growth and increased land development in coastal Georgia, the use of green infrastructure has become increasingly important because it protects water quality and coastal habitats from pollution.

Brown worked with the City’s Engineer, Garrow Alberson, to design the bioretention cell. City employees constructed the project.

Alberson hopes the project will raise public awareness of green infrastructure practices.

“It seems that a lot of developers and engineers are hesitant to implement these practices because of factors like cost, long-term maintenance and effectiveness,” he said. “Hopefully, the construction of the demonstration cell will show that these practices can be effective for runoff volume reduction and water quality improvement, and that the practices can be cost-effective to install.”

The final phase of the project involved installing native plants, selected by Keren Giovengo, Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant’s EcoScapes program manager. The EcoScapes Sustainable Land Use program promotes responsible stewardship of natural resources in Georgia through sustainable land development and landscaping practices.

Keren Giovengo, EcoScapes program manager, demonstrates how to plant one of the native plants in the bioretention cell.

“Because of the size of the bioretention cell, I was able to consider a variety of trees, shrubs, grasses and palms for the site,” Giovengo says. “They were selected to provide a diverse array of local deciduous and evergreen species that are low maintenance and can tolerate drought, flooding and salt.”

Twelve students participating in a landscaping course through the Job Corps Center in Brunswick assisted with the planting.

Job Corps, a no-cost education and career technical training program administered by the U.S. Department of Labor, helps young people ages 16 to 24 improve the quality of their lives through career technical and academic training.

“They’re in our program for roughly eight months and we help them earn their high school diploma or learn a trade and become certified,” says Kevin Brandon, landscaping instructor at the Brunswick Job Corps Center.

“We look for as many hands-on opportunities like this as possible because our goal is to get them a job when they complete the course,” he says.

Thanks to help from the students, all 216 native plants were in the ground in less than four hours.

Brown plans to showcase the demonstration site to environmental professionals and public works staff in surrounding counties.

“My hope is that we can do enough demonstration projects, such as this one, to better understand how they perform in a coastal environment and build capacity within the local workforce,” says Brown. “Fostering ownership of these type of practices at the local level will go a long way to support future implementation.”

Writer: Emily Woodward,, 912-598-2348

Summer service project benefits rural Georgia communities and UGA students

UGA students are getting hands-on experience and helping preserve history in rural Georgia through a service-learning program in the College of Environment and Design.

Called Findit, the program sends graduate students studying historic preservation, environment, planning and design, and landscape architecture into a rural county each summer to look for historic properties and sites. Their findings become an inventory for the county and are added to an online database that is available to the public. CED’s partners in the program are the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Historic Preservation Division and the Georgia Transmission Corporation.

The findings often result in historic preservation status for properties, which guides county officials, builders and utility companies when they are planning projects.

“Every time we have an application for a modification in the historic district, we refer to it,” said Tom Brown, chair of Social Circle’s Historic Preservation Commission. Students surveyed Walton County, which includes Social Circle, in 2012.

This summer, students are assigned to Dooly County in middle Georgia, south of Macon.

Anders Yount and Mills Dorn, College of Environment and Design students, map out properties to document.

Mills Dorn, who is getting a master’s degree in historic preservation, is part of the team looking for old houses, cemeteries, water towers, barns and other properties to catalog.

On a hot June day, he stopped to study a house that had been altered at some point.

“Originally it was a bungalow; they added this side part later,” Dorn said. “I just finished learning about architectural styles in class so it’s pretty helpful being out here and getting to see them.”

Since its inception in 2002, CED students have collected data on thousands of properties in more than 60 Georgia counties. Findit coordinator Laura Kviklys and students also take on smaller projects for local governments and regional commissions during the school year.

The group completed an inventory of all UGA historic properties across the state, which led to the creation of a historic preservation plan that will help the university maintain its historic properties over time. UGA has the most historic properties of the 26 University System of Georgia schools, with more than 730 historic buildings and 55 cultural landscapes across 11 Georgia counties.

For Georgia communities, the student surveys are an important first step in understanding what remnants of the past still exist and may be of value historically, culturally or economically.  More importantly, they provide communities a framework and quality data for land use planning activities. This knowledge can guide local discussions about what is worthy of protection in the face of growth or demolition, and surveys are often required for certain federal historic preservation planning grants.

In addition, the students get hands-on experience that can be valuable when looking for a full-time job.

“We see a lot of really cool stuff,” Kviklys said. “This program takes students to places their classes can’t and teaches them to be professionals. The students are desperate for this sort of field experience.”

In Dooly County, the students were looking at properties that are at least 40 years old. As they were documenting a house that dates back to the 1800s, homeowner Connie Burton Mercer showed them a family cemetery on the site, with several graves dating from the late 1800s to the early 1900s.

“So much of the (historic properties) here have been destroyed,” Burton Mercer said.

She pointed to an orchard across the road.

“The first operating dairy in the area was over there but it’s not much to see now,” she said. “It’s important to document this. There’s so much in this area that will hopefully be saved.”

Between June and August, students surveyed a total of 1,086 properties. Students found 878 properties in unincorporated Dooly County, the bulk of the properties discovered. Within cities in Dooly County, students identified 126 properties in Byromville, 58 in Lily and 24 in Dooling.

Contact: Laura Kviklys,, 706-369-5882

Hands-on course prepares UGA Extension agents to share health benefits of Georgia seafood

Barbara Worley grew up on the coast of North Carolina and considers herself an oyster connoisseur. La Keshia Levi, on the other hand, shudders at the thought of eating an oyster. But after attending a two-day Ocean to Table workshop, both University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Family and Consumer Sciences (FACS) agents are prepared to encourage residents in their counties to eat more Georgia seafood.

The brainchild of Chatham County Extension FACS Agent Jackie Ogden, the workshop series is designed to increase consumers’ and UGA Extension agents’ knowledge and awareness of Georgia seafood.

“Living here on the coast, I eat Georgia seafood, but I see that not everyone in Georgia does,” Ogden said. “With the current growth of Georgia’s oyster and clam industry, I saw the need to encourage Georgians to see the health benefits of eating seafood.”

The seafood most commonly harvested from the Georgia coast are shrimp, clams, oysters, blue crabs and fish. Georgia fishers catch favorites like sea bass, snapper and mahimahi as well as lesser-known species like triggerfish and sheepshead.

Funded by a UGA Extension Innovation Grant, the workshops are presented through a partnership between UGA Extension and Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant.

“With these grants, I wanted to foster innovation, partnership and collaboration in Extension programming. This particular project brings the expertise of UGA Extension and Marine Extension together to create a better program,” said Laura Perry Johnson, associate dean for Extension. “That exemplifies the true spirit of the land-grant mission.”

Three workshops were presented to educate the public, then two train-the-trainer workshops prepared county agents to teach seafood programs.

The most recent workshop was held May 23 and 24 at the UGA Marine Education Center and Aquarium on Skidaway Island, Georgia. This Ocean to Table workshop included an overview of the nation’s seafood industry and taught the county agents who are piloting the program how to handle and cook seafood, read product labels, and know proper portion sizes.

The county agents also cracked and ate Georgia blue crab, dined on deviled crab, roasted oysters and had a low country boil, took a boat trip on the waterways near Skidaway Island, tried crab fishing, and toured Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant’s oyster hatchery at the Shellfish Research Lab on Skidaway Island, the only such hatchery in the state. To better understand the deep history of Georgia’s seafood industry, the group also toured the Pin Point Heritage Museum, the former home of A.S. Varn & Son Oyster & Crab Factory located in the heart of a Gullah/Geechee community.

“I’ve lived in Georgia since 2000, and I didn’t know that we produced so much seafood,” said Levi, who is based in middle Georgia’s Houston County. “I knew I was going to learn a lot in this program, but I had no idea that I was going to get to try all the different types of seafood and get so much hands-on experience, and I went on my first boat ride.”

Levi even ate roasted oysters.

She plans to incorporate the health benefits of eating seafood into the trainings she offers, especially those for pregnant women. She will also encourage Houston County restaurants to serve more Georgia seafood.

Worley was amazed by how much she learned in the workshop.

“I’m a scuba diver. I’ve picked up lots of oysters, but I never knew they were transgender until we toured the hatchery,” she said.

Her goal was to return to Forsyth County with information about the type of Georgia seafood available to her clients and how they can access it. She now plans to brainstorm with other metro area FACS agents to develop a seafood education program that can be used in multiple counties.

Ogden says she knew the key to reaching Georgians was to train her fellow FACS agents, who share health and wellness information year-round and are constantly on a mission to improve the health of Georgians.

Americans consume 4.8 million pounds of seafood each year, but the average American eats less than 15 pounds of seafood a year, according to Bryan Fluech, associate Marine Extension director at Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant.

“Living in Brunswick, my family probably ate 15 pounds of seafood last night,” said Fleuch, who helped to organize and teach many of the Ocean to Table sessions. “But when I was a child, I thought of shrimp as a special-occasion food, something that was served on holidays.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends eating two to three servings of seafood per week, but only 1 in 5 Americans meets that dietary recommendation. Fatty fish are one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which are known to reduce the risk of heart disease.

Fluech believes Georgians would increase their consumption of seafood if they knew seafood contains essential vitamins and minerals like zinc, iodine, iron, calcium and selenium.

“People may think they don’t like fish, but there are hundreds of species, and they don’t all taste the same,” Fluech said. “Fish is very affordable, too, if you just learn to diversify your palate.”

It’s rare, but eating too much seafood can increase a person’s mercury levels. Fleuch said the key to keeping mercury levels low is to eat a variety of seafood, such as shrimp, salmon, pollock, cod, catfish, crab, scallops, clams and oysters, which are low in mercury.

Workshop participants also took advantage of Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant’s mercury hair-testing program and submitted a few strands of hair to be tested. This test is available to the public for $20. Call 912-262-3338 for details.

“The agents are now prepared to answer questions about seafood consumption, like knowing the mercury levels in fish, and are ready with suggestions and specific seafood recipes to help clients prepare seafood for their families,” Ogden said.

To learn more about incorporating seafood into your diet, go to

By Sharon Dowdy,

UGA professor studies college access in two Archway Partnership communities 

The Archway Partnership opened doors for UGA Assistant Professor Darris Means when he began to study the tools and skills high school students used to prepare for college.

He had reached out to 20 Georgia school superintendents hoping for access to students, but none were accommodating. Pulaski and Candler counties, both Archway Partnership communities, welcomed him into their schools.

Since the start of the 2017 school year, Means has been talking to African American high school students in both school systems, studying how they, along with students of low-income and first-generation college families, navigate their pathways to and through higher education. He hopes to complete the study over the summer and return to the schools to present his findings next fall.

“I could not be doing this study without Archway,” said Means, an assistant professor of counseling and human development services in the College of Education. “The Archway Partnership already has that rapport. They already have those relationships. It’s been fantastic partnering with them.”

The Archway Partnership, a unit of UGA Public Service and Outreach, connects Georgia communities with UGA resources to address locally-identified needs. Since the program was created in 2005, a growing number of faculty members have used the communities for their research, often bringing students along. The result is a benefit to both UGA and the community.

That reputation is what helped Means get into the Pulaski and Candler County schools.

“All of the projects we do are locally driven, so we presented the opportunity to the school system, and they wanted to do it,” said Sam Perren, the Pulaski County Archway Professional.

Catherine Muse, the Archway Professional in Candler County, said, “Once Dr. Means connected with the high school counselors, they hit the ground running. It’s been a really smooth process.”

Means’ research focus is on social justice and college access. Before he began studying how students prepare for college, he completed a study on the college and career aspirations of rural black teenagers.

“Being able to interview and work with students and school staff just really inspired me to think about how important it is to make sure that that narrative of rural black students and their families is heard,” he said.

Although Means work in the schools has been primarily for his study, it has given him an opportunity to give back.

“Along the way, I’ve enjoyed having the opportunity to not only speak with students, but I’ve also given presentations at different high schools about pathways to college,” he said. “It’s been great to do a combination of that outreach and research while I’ve been doing this study.”

By Alexandra Shimalla and Rosanna Cruz-Bibb

UGA’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government helps elected officials succeed

More than 600,000 cyclists and walkers pass through Paulding County each year on the Silver Comet Trail, a 61.5-mile paved, non-motorist path that runs from Smyrna into Alabama.

In Dallas, the Paulding County seat, visitors cross the Pumpkinvine Trestle, a 117-year-old railroad trestle, 126-feet above Pumpkinvine Creek, which was converted into part of the trail in 2000.

Farther west, the trail passes through a massive turn-of-the-­century railroad tunnel under Brushy Mountain Road. A little farther is Coot’s Lake Beach Trailhead, with a public swimming hole.

With assistance from the University of Georgia’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government, Paulding County officials have turned the trail into the centerpiece of a marketing campaign designed to draw tourists to the west Georgia county.

Tourism emerged as the direction the county needed to turn after county commissioners held strategic planning sessions facilitated by Vinson Institute faculty last fall.

Commission Chairman Dave Carmichael first got to know about the Carl Vinson Institute of Government and the wealth of training programs and services it offers during newly-elected officials training with the Association County Commissioners of Georgia in 2012, when he was first elected as a county commissioner. He was elected commission chair four years later.

Cyclists race on the Silver Comet Trail, an area identified for upcoming economic development opportunities.

Like so many other government officials in Georgia, Carmichael has returned to the  Institute of Government time and again for programs that help him be a more effective leader. He has completed  over 100 hours of training through more than a dozen courses in such areas as county government law, economic development, ethics, human resources, property appraisal and taxation, and public health and safety.

At any given time, institute faculty are heading in all directions, helping facilitate strategic plans, studying city-county consolidations, helping communities restore their downtown business districts and training elected officials throughout the state in economic development, city and county management, finance, human resources, education and workforce development and much more.

During fiscal year 2017, the Carl Vinson Institute of Government offered 64 six-hour courses to county officials in partnership with ACCG and its Lifelong Learning Academy, with more than 1,800 participants from across the state.

“Communities across the state look to the Institute of Government and UGA as a whole to help them develop the knowledge and skills needed to grow and thrive,” said Jennifer Frum, UGA vice president for Public Service and Outreach. “As the land-grant and sea-grant institution, it’s our responsibility to help all Georgians prosper.”

During the Paulding County strategic planning sessions, Institute of Government public service associates Phil Boyle and Mara Shaw brought together county commissioners, educators, business people and municipal leaders to hone in on the assets the county could use to diversify and bolster  the local economy. Marketing the county as a tourist destination emerged as a top priority.

With UGA’s help, Paulding County is now looking at ways to capitalize on the Silver Comet Trail, as well as other historical, recreational and cultural sites in the county, including a watershed featuring 43 species of fish, well-preserved civil war battlefields and a wildlife management area perfect for hunting, fishing and hiking.

“I think it’s invaluable to get everyone together and have them be honest about where they see us going,” Carmichael said. “Phil and Mara are pros and know how to bring out honest responses from people. Our tax base isn’t diverse enough, and they were able to show us some practical things we could do.”

“Helping local governments explore ways to engage in creative approaches to their critical challenges is at the heart of all we do,” said Laura Meadows, director of the Institute of Government. “The local level is where we can really see meaningful change and growth happen. Much of the progress we see as a state stems from progress made first in Georgia’s local governments, whether large or small.”

Carmichael and Baker with a pine cone from the rare mountain longleaf pine, native to this region of Georgia.

Commissioner Ron Davis, who was first elected to office in March 2016, said the strategic planning sessions helped everyone get a chance to be heard and realize where they had common ground. Like most local governments, discussion at commission meetings can be emotional, he said, but the conversation at these planning sessions was about charting a future course for the entire county. Creating new economic opportunities through tourism was something they all could get on board with.

“We all agreed on the direction we needed to go, which is a pretty significant feat,” Davis said. “I really enjoyed having the Carl Vinson Institute come in and work through that and the expertise that they brought to the table. It was almost like a counseling session. I thought, ‘This is good. We can go somewhere with this.’ ”

And they are. County administrator Frank Baker is spearheading the next steps as head of a task force created as a result of the facilitated planning sessions. His group is discussing improved signage, enhancing existing trailheads and adding new trailheads along the Silver Comet.

“We have so many natural draws here,” he said. “Part of the outcome of those sessions was really thinking about what we have to offer and how to move that forward. The Carl Vinson Institute was instrumental in getting us laser-focused on tourism. Some really, really good stuff is coming out of that.”


Writer: Christopher James

Photographer: Shannah Montgomery

Financing Solution and Strategic Planning Support Rapid Growth of Covington Business

Ryan Loew worked in equipment and machinery maintenance for a Fortune 500 food manufacturer for 10 years, tasked with ensuring that all equipment ran productively and efficiently.

After working swing shifts to earn a bachelor’s degree in business, Loew decided to step out on his own in 2012 and launch an original equipment manufacturing business. Process Equipment and Control, in Covington, Georgia, began with two employees, including himself.

By 2016, Process Equipment and Control employed 15 employees and Loew was looking for tools to help manage the company’s cash flow.

He found the University of Georgia Small Business Development Center and business consultant Mike Myers.

“Mike came out, we had a discovery session, and he said he could help,” Loew said. “He brought in solutions.”

Before long, companies began outsourcing their equipment and maintenance needs to Loew. While the additional business was good, the companies often stretched their payments to 90 days or more, which made it difficult to maintain a balanced budget.

“Managing cash flow is the number one issue for any business,” Myers said. “The technicians at Process Equipment and Control earn well above what a minimum wage job pays. (Loew) was having to pay his highly compensated employees for their work while waiting months to get his invoices paid.”

Myers introduced Loew and his accountant to cash flow management tools that would keep his business running. He then led Loew and his senior management through a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis and strategic planning exercises.

“The strategic planning helped us plan out where we’d be at years one, three and five,” Loew said. “As long as we hire the right people and make sure they match our goals and vision, we will continue to see success. It’s been key to our vetting, hiring and onboarding process.”

Myers also showed Loew how use material that emerged during the planning sessions on the company’s web site.

“They took a lot of components from the sessions to better explain who they are and what they stand for,” Myers said. “A website needs to catch someone’s attention, so they will engage you. Their site is now very engaging.”

Process Equipment and Controls now has 75 employees and serves customers in both in the U.S. and abroad.

“Working with Mike, we tackled the cash flow challenges we faced and increased our sales 900 percent over the past two years, exceeding our wildest dreams for this business,” Loew said. “We’ve grown significantly. Without the assistance of the UGA SBDC, we would not have been able to manage our explosive growth. We would have grown to death.”

Economic developers learn about UGA’s investment in coastal communities

Economic development professionals from Georgia’s inland counties got a firsthand look at UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant operations in Brunswick, and learned how work done there affects the rest of the state.

Sean McMillan, director of UGA’s Atlanta-based office of economic development, accompanied 23 members of the Georgia Economic Developers Association (GEDA) to Brunswick. McMillan organizes the tour each year to connect businesses and communities across Georgia to UGA’s economic development efforts on the coast.

“This tour impresses upon the economic development community in Georgia all of the wonderful work that Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant does for our coastal communities,” said McMillan. “Faculty and staff here provide the underpinnings for successful businesses and vibrant communities.”

The visit included a trawl on the Georgia Bulldog, UGA’s 72-foot research vessel. During the trip on St. Simons sound, Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant Director Mark Risse told the group that his faculty and staff support sustainable commercial fisheries and explore options, such oyster aquaculture, to diversify the coastal economy.

UGA’s 72-foot research vessel

“We are working with shellfish growers to study methods to make farming oysters easier and hopefully attract new farmers,” Risse said. “We’re also training commercial fishermen on how to collect data on black gill, a condition impacting Georgia shrimp.”

In 2015, Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant launched an oyster hatchery at the UGA Shellfish Research Center Lab on Skidaway Island. Extension agents at the hatchery create oyster spat (baby oysters), which they give to local shellfish farmers to grow out. The hatchery has distributed 1.4 million spat to farmers since 2015. With a change in state regulations that would allow the use of proper equipment to farm the oysters, marine extension agents predict they could produce 15 million spat at full capacity, with an estimated harvest value of $3.75 million to $5.2 million.

The total value of Georgia’s commercial seafood landings in 2017 was $16.8 million, according to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

In addition to fishing and aquaculture, the seafood industry creates jobs in the service sector, such as hotels and restaurants that draw tourists, who spend money, boosting the local economy.

“The work with the seafood industry directly relates to economic development in so many ways,” said Pat Merritt, GEDA vice chair and president of community and economic development for the Georgia Electric Membership Corp. “There’s a job-creation aspect to it and that’s what we’re all about; creating jobs and investment.”

Sean McMillan (left) talks with Jessica Brown (right), stormwater specialist with Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant during the GEDA visit.

In addition, GEDA members learned that specialists with Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant partner with local governments to improve stormwater management and plan for coastal hazards. They also promote healthy coastal ecosystems through education and outreach focused on reducing marine debris and improving water quality.

“It’s interesting to hear about all the different areas (UGA) works in,” says Megan Baker, business retention and expansion project manager at the Fayette County Development Authority. “We’re fortunate to have this program here because it supports economic development as well as the people and the coast.”

The Georgia Economic Developers Association is a non-profit association of professionals and volunteers who are involved with the economic development of the cities and counties of Georgia. GEDA was organized to increase the effectiveness of individuals involved in the practice of economic development in Georgia by encouraging cooperation, exchange of information, and upgrading of professional skills.

Commitment to historic land preservation and education earns national award for UGA donors

Longtime UGA supporters and alumni Craig and Diana Barrow were awarded the prestigious Margaret Douglas Medal by The Garden Club of America (GCA) for their commitment and service to conservation education at their Wormsloe estate near Savannah, Georgia.

The national award was given to the Barrows in recognition of their “thoughtful stewardship and generous donation of both land and resources,” said Dede Petri, president of The Garden Club of America.

The Barrows are the ninth generation to live at Wormsloe, located on the Isle of Hope outside of Savannah, since the property was claimed and developed by Craig Barrow’s ancestor Noble Jones in the mid-1730s. Wormsloe is the oldest property in Georgia to be held continuously by the same family.

Wormsloe was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972. That same year, the Barrow family donated 822 acres of the property to The Nature Conservancy, which transferred the land to the state of Georgia to be managed by the Department of Natural Resources as a historic site. The Barrows retained Wormsloe House and the surrounding 50 acres of the property.

In 2007, the Barrows founded the Wormsloe Institute for Environmental History to conserve the undeveloped land on the estate and to promote research and education programs there.

More than a dozen units across the university have engaged in research and education at Wormsloe. Among them are the College of Environment and Design, the Odum School of Ecology, the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, the College of Engineering, the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, and the State Botanical Garden of Georgia.

In 2013, the Barrows, through their Wormsloe Foundation, donated 15 acres of the property to the University of Georgia to establish the Center for Research and Education at Wormsloe (CREW). The center provides opportunities for UGA faculty and students to study cultural history and historical land use practices, among other topics, under the direction of Sarah Ross, a member of the faculty of the College of Environment and Design and executive director of CREW. In 2016, UGA dedicated two new cabins built on the property to house visiting students and faculty. The cabins were partially funded by the Wormsloe Foundation as well.

Cabins at Wormsloe provide lodging for students and faculty immersed in experiential learning programs on site.

In its recognition of the Barrows, The Garden Club of America highlighted CREW’s research with 400 varieties of vegetables in the UGA Heirloom Demonstration Garden at Wormsloe. Some of these plants, such as peanuts, blueberries and cotton, are leaders in Georgia’s robust agriculture industry. Heirloom vegetable trials on site contribute to profitability for coastal Georgia’s family farms by measuring plant productivity, pest and disease resistance, and flood and drought tolerance as well as documenting the preferred flavor profiles.

GCA also recognized the Barrows’ significant backing of landscape stewardship, habitat restoration and sustainable agriculture research on their historic property—all supported largely by UGA programs on site. In addition, GCA cited the significance of the transdisciplinary approach to education provided by CREW.

“Craig and Diana are certainly deserving of this national recognition,” said UGA President Jere W. Morehead. “The University of Georgia is grateful for its enduring partnership with the Barrow family and the many ways they are helping us to expand our reach and impact across the state of Georgia and beyond.”

Craig Barrow credits Ross and College of Environment and Design Dean Dan Nadenicek for the work that led to the award.

“Diana and I were overwhelmed with humility and appreciation to be the recipients of such a prestigious award,” Barrow said. “However, we well know that the vision, leadership and hard work of Sarah Ross were largely responsible, as was the work of Dr. Dan Nadenicek and many others at the University of Georgia. The Margaret Douglas Medal not only endorses the university’s work at Wormsloe but also conveys a huge message of support for our many programs.”

Craig Barrow’s ties to UGA are deep. His great-great-great-grandfather, Alonzo Church, was president of the University of Georgia from 1829 to 1859, the longest-serving UGA president in history. Ten generations of the family have attended UGA. In 2010, the Barrows were named Family of the Year by the UGA Alumni Association.

Craig and Diana Barrow were recognized in 2013 as members of UGA’s 1785 Society, which acknowledges donors who have given more than $1 million in cumulative gifts to the university. In addition to the initiatives and research associated with CREW, the Barrows’ support has benefitted the UGA Libraries, the University of Georgia Press, the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, the Graduate School, and the State Botanical Garden of Georgia.

Craig Barrow is the current chair of the University of Georgia Press Advisory Council. Diana Barrow is a member of the Board of Advisors for the State Botanical Garden of Georgia.

The Wormsloe State Historic Site is open to visitors and includes a museum and theater, picnic area, gift shop and walking trails. Visitors enter the site through an allée of live oak trees draped with Spanish moss. Events there include exhibitions of the tools and skills of colonial Georgians, led by demonstrators in period dress. Guided tours are offered daily. For more information, go to

Writer: Kelly Simmons,, 706-542-2512

Contact: Sarah Ross,, 912-414-2940


UGA Public Service and Outreach graduates 16 from leadership academy

Sixteen faculty and staff from UGA Public Service and Outreach, Cooperative Extension and the university’s schools and colleges graduated May 11 from the Vivian H. Fisher Leadership Academy facilitated by the J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development.

Sponsored by UGA Public Service and Outreach (PSO), the leadership program emphasizes personal leadership development and communication skills. It also helps participants recognize the role of outreach at UGA, see the scope of the work the PSO units perform across Georgia and learn how that work ties into the university’s mission.

During Friday’s graduation, Vice President for Public Service and Outreach Jennifer Frum encouraged the class to continue the great work they do across Georgia.

“You are the guardians of what we do across the state,” Frum said. “It’s so important that PSO continues to maintain a pipeline of people who love what they do and are enthusiastic about serving the university and the state. This academy is one of the best investments PSO makes.”

Over the course of nine months, the class also visited each PSO unit, Cooperative Extension and the State Capitol, where they learned about UGA’s relationships with state government officials.

“Taking part in this program gives participants the ability to better understand and develop their own leadership skills that, combined with a greater understanding of the university’s public service and outreach mission, helps prepare graduates to assume leadership roles within PSO and UGA,” Fanning Institute Director Matt Bishop said.

Tracy Arner, a faculty member at the Carl Vinson Institute of Government, said she is grateful for the experience.

“This academy has been one of the highlights of my career,” Arner said. “This program has given me a greater appreciation for the state and a greater love for the mission of public service at UGA. I also learned about the importance of the willingness to step up and take advantage of opportunities when called upon.”

The academy is named for Vivian H. Fisher, who started the academy in 2007 while serving as an associate vice president for PSO. Fisher died in 2008, and the academy was named in her honor in 2012.

The 2017-2018 Vivian H. Fisher PSO Leadership Academy graduates are:

  • Tracy Arner, Carl Vinson Institute of Government;
  • Stephan Durham, UGA College of Engineering;
  • Bryan Fluech, Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant;
  • Brian Freese, Carl Vinson Institute of Government;
  • Chris James, Office of the Vice President for Public Service and Outreach;
  • Shana Jones, Carl Vinson Institute of Government;
  • Dan Lasseter, Carl Vinson Institute of Government;
  • Jennifer Lewis, UGA College of Environment and Design;
  • Sharon Liggett, Archway Partnership;
  • Mandy Marable, UGA Cooperative Extension;
  • Jeff Miller, UGA Cooperative Extension;
  • Bart Njoku-Obi, Small Business Development Center;
  • Kiel Norris, UGA Center for Continuing Education and Hotel;
  • Josh Podvin, Office of Service Learning;
  • Shelly Prescott, State Botanical Garden of Georgia; and
  • Sarah Sorvas, UGA Center for Continuing Education and Hotel


New project will investigate the impacts of Georgia’s blue crab fishery

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources awarded Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant a Coastal Incentive Grant to study recreational crabbing in Georgia.

As part of the project, Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant will partner with UGA Carl Vinson Institute of Government to develop an online survey tool and conduct in-person interviews at popular recreational fishing areas to assess the extent of Georgia’s recreational blue crab fishery.

“Catching blue crab is a favorite activity for many coastal residents and visitors, but despite its popularity, little is known about the impacts of recreational crabbing,” says Bryan Fluech, associate marine extension director and project lead.

The surveys and interviews will evaluate landings by recreational crabbers, direct and indirect economic impacts from trip expenditures and awareness among anglers of the state’s blue crab regulations.

The data generated from this project will not only address an identified coastal management research need, but will also help coastal resource managers make more informed decisions about the management of an economically and culturally important species. This information will be used to develop outreach resources that support sustainable recreational crabbing practices and the conservation of this valuable coastal resource.


Writer: Emily Woodward,, 912-598-2348

University of Georgia students solve Rocky Branch Elementary School sound problem through service-learning project

The Rocky Branch Elementary School cafeteria will soon be less noisy, thanks to students from the University of Georgia.

In the coming weeks, students in the College of Engineering will install sound-absorbing panels they created on the walls of the cafeteria at the Oconee County school. Third-grade students at Rocky Branch will decorate the panels with pictures of fruits and vegetables.

The idea came to Ben Davis, an engineering professor with experience in sound and acoustics, after he was asked to visit the school during lunch period.

“The cafeteria creates a ‘cocktail party’ effect,” Davis said. “Students talk at a normal level, the sound bounces off the walls, students raise their voices to be heard, and the sound gets even louder.”

Davis decided to turn the problem into a service-learning opportunity for his graduate students. Service-learning at UGA is the application of academic skills and knowledge to address a community needs, issue of problem and to enhance student learning. Students who enroll in official service-learning courses receive credit for experiential learning, a requirement for all UGA students since 2016-17. Almost 6,000 students enrolled in one or more service-learning course during the 2016-17 academic year, according to the Office of Service-Learning, which is part of the offices of the Vice President for Public Service and Outreach and the Vice President for Instruction.

Davis and his students worked alongside third grade students and their teacher, Christina Crowe, at Rocky Branch taking detailed measurements and making diagrams of the cafeteria.  Crowe and her students used an iPad to measure the sound in the cafeteria and learned it exceeded the standards recommended by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Based on all of the information collected, the UGA students assembled a prototype of a soundproof panel. Constructed with wood and insulated with rockwool, an inflammable material, the panels are wrapped with sound fabric, a material designed to reduce noise. The fabric allows sound to pass and be absorbed by the rockwool.

When they took the panel prototype back to the school, it provided an opportunity for the elementary school students to learn more about the science of sound. They also wanted to know if the panels could withstand nonstandard uses, like a bump or a stray hand running along the wall on the cafeteria.

“It’s classic science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) in action,” said Laura Mason, the principal at Rocky Branch. “It’s a great partnership. The students are learning so much and solving a real-world problem.”

The engineering students also benefitted from the project.

“I liked the service-learning project because we get to directly see our work in use,” said Haynes Curtis, a master’s student in engineering at UGA. “We don’t usually get to see our projects in action.”

“I’m hoping this project can inspire the kids to see what engineering is,” said Ryan Romeo, who is getting a doctoral degree in engineering at UGA. “A couple of the kids said they want to be engineers when they grow up.”

Panel installation began May 3, 2018. 


Writer: Leah Moss,, 706-583-0964

Photographer: Shannah Montgomery,, 706-542-3638

Contact: Ben Davis,, 706-542-4225

A Winning Recipe: Restaurateur learns the special ingredients needed in documents to secure SBA loan

Andre Gomez, chef and owner of Smyrna’s award-winning Porch Light Latin Kitchen, understood the rewards of providing quality service at an early age.

“My grandfather was into a lot of Puerto Rico business holdings, and one was a hotel,” he says. “So my first exposure as a worker was in the hospitality field.”

Working while earning his bachelor’s degree in hospitality management, he says he “fell into” food. “I loved seeing people enjoying their meals. The camaraderie in the kitchen and working together with the staff was pretty cool, too.”

Upon graduation, he continued working in various positions for several restaurants, including one of the top steak houses in Atlanta. He and his wife Ashley decided to pursue their dream and open a small restaurant that offered the familial friendliness and delicious flavors he grew up with in Puerto Rico.

Gomez’s search for funding led him to a bank, which then led him to the Kennesaw State University office of the University of Georgia Small Business Development Center.

“When we talked about getting a Small Business Administration (SBA) loan, the loan officer put me in contact with the SBDC,” Gomez says. “They told me the SBDC would be a good resource.”

He met with consultant Antonio Barrios in February 2015.

“Andre was very involved in the industry,” says Barrios, who now directs the Gwinnett SBDC office. “The bank told him they were interested and would like to proceed with the SBA loan application, but he needed some help with his narrative and financial projections. Like many clients, he had provided the basic information, but it was not in the format they like to use for their analyses.”

Barrios explained SBA loans and the application process to Gomez. He helped him prepare his three-year financial projections, including detailed revenue projections, sources and uses of funds, income statement, balance sheet and cash flow. He also provided a demographic report.

“I had put a business plan together—the concept, menu, etc.—and Antonio helped me fine-tune it using all the knowledge and information he has of restaurants and in dealing with banks,” says Gomez. “He put everything in perspective, made me feel more at ease in going through this process and answered all my questions.

“I’m first and foremost a chef. I understand the business from the food part. He helped me understand the other perspective as a business owner.”

“Andre had his numbers. I helped him put them in the right place in the plan,” says Barrios. “We made sure they were good for the bank’s expectations. Then we looked at the total loan package. I advised him on the other information the bank needs—his resume, personal tax returns and other forms the bank will look for. He went to the bank with all the information they needed, which facilitated the process.”

The six-figure start-up loan was approved, and on October 1, 2015, Andre Gomez opened his 1,400-square-foot restaurant in a former Quiznos that fronts Smyrna’s Village Green. He hired 16 employees.


Less than two years later, Porch Light Latin Kitchen’s revenues were outpacing projections by nearly 100 percent, reports Gomez. The restaurant was included in Atlanta Magazine’s annual “50 Best Restaurants in Atlanta” issue.

“Andre didn’t just wake up one day and decide to start a business. He had passion and planned to be successful. He worked hard and learned the operations of other restaurants,” says Barrios. “When it was time to open his restaurant, he used resources like the UGA SBDC to overcome challenges in putting it together. It was well planned.”

By June 2017, Gomez had signed the lease on more space nearby. He plans to open another restaurant with a new concept.

“The bigger picture is the most important thing I learned working with Antonio,” he says. “At the end of the day, I always want to look ahead, keeping everything in front of me so there won’t be any surprises. As a cook, you look at food costs. As a business owner, the plan I developed with the help of the UGA SBDC has helped me spend all of my money in the right way.”





Native plants brought to campus by State Botanical Garden an education tool for students

A garden of native Georgia plants installed on south campus by the State Botanical Garden of Georgia will offer students a place to observe and study plant and insect interactions to better understand the role plants play in maintaining biodiversity.

The garden, located on D.W. Brooks Mall close to the Odum School of Ecology, the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, and the department of plant sciences is part of the State Botanical Garden’s Connect to Protect program, which encourages businesses, civic organizations and homeowners to support pollinator communities by using native species in their gardens and plant displays.

“We wanted to create a space on campus that inspires our community to think about the way that our landscape can function and look,” said Lauren Muller, a graduate student in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, who has been working with UGA faculty and staff at the botanical garden.

The plants chosen for the site are those that would do well in the moist soil conditions along D.W. Brooks Mall, said Heather Alley, a UGA conservation horticulturist at the botanical garden. Among them: buttonbush, which attracts bees, butterflies and sphinx moths; Georgia aster, which attracts bees; swamp milkweed, which attracts monarch butterflies; and scarlet hibiscus, which attracts hummingbirds. The plants were cultivated at the Mimsie Lanier Center for Native Plant Studies at the State Botanical Garden, a UGA Public Service and Outreach unit.

Muller is already using the south campus garden as an outdoor classroom for the undergraduates she helps teach about medicinal plants. She also takes time in these lectures to discuss Connect to Protect as a Public Service and Outreach program that encourages people to think about the potential ecological function of the landscape.

“Our hope is that we will be able to install interpretive signage at the garden,” Muller said, “This could be a place where entomology, ecology, plant biology and horticulture students could observe plant-insect interactions in an urban landscape setting.”

Rachel Smith, a third-year horticulture major, also is involved with the south campus garden. As a student worker in the Center for Native Plant Studies at the State Botanical Garden, Smith helped shepherd the project from start to finish.

“It’s super exciting,” she said, “because I really get to know and learn about our local native plant species and their different functions in the Georgia Piedmont ecosystem.”

Honey from southwest Georgia in stores across U.S., thanks to SBDC and federal loan

Ray Crosby knows his bees and honey. A third-generation farmer who lives with his family in the rural southwest Georgia town of Omega, he understands what makes his product—packaged as pure, unfiltered raw honey—unique. His knowledge, in fact, resonates with the customers from coast-to-coast who buy Weeks Honey.

“Working with Ray, I’ve learned a lot about honey,” said Heather Sharpe, a consultant in the UGA Small Business Development Center’s (SBDC) Albany office. Her honey-buying habits have made her a “honey snob” she said.

“Ray has a passion not just for the quality of the honey, but for the bees and beekeepers,” she said. “He’s an advocate for Georgia’s local honey and its health properties. He believes in handling honey with love and great care. Weeks Honey produces a pure quality craft product without damaging its properties, and Ray is committed to this mission.”

That commitment and assistance from the SBDC has helped Weeks Honey grow from the shelves of 150 stores to 3,000. Overall sales have increased 30 percent, and they continue to grow.

In 2017, Weeks Honey was named the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Georgia District Office 2017 “Family-Owned Business of the Year.”

Crosby grew up helping with the family hives, but left home at 18 to make his mark in the corporate world.

“I said I’d never end up in this business getting stung by bees every day, but I came back in 2001 when my parents asked if I would help our family business for the next generation,” said Crosby, who has been running the business since 2009. “When we lost my father, I stepped out of the bee yards to manage the honey side as well.”

By 2015, Crosby realized that to leave a strong, viable business to future generations, he had to move it to the next level. He would need to restructure the company’s debt and expand.

He contacted Lynn Bennett, area director of the UGA SBDC at Valdosta State University.

“Ray needed some guidance in producing a solid business plan that would capture his current structure and provide a pathway for growth,” she said. “He was looking for assistance with his cash flow projections and wanted to develop a new marketing strategy.”

Bennett helped Crosby develop the plan and projections. She also introduced him to Sharpe, who worked with his staff to develop marketing strategies including social media and a plan to target new customers out west.

“We had to get bigger or cut back a lot to be profitable, so we made the leap. Our expansion was very expensive,” says Crosby said, “so I talked to Lynn and Heather quite a bit.”

Weeks Honey successfully secured a seven-figure loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Crosby used it to refinance the company’s debt and expand product sales to 28 states across the nation, from California and Arizona, across Texas to New York and New Jersey.

“The loan refinanced the equipment we needed for our expansion and the inventory and supplies. It funded the labeling equipment, machinery, inventory, bottles, jars and lids,” he said.

The business maintains between 6,000 and 8,000 hives of honey bees for production, and it rents hives to farmers in Georgia and California for pollination services. The expansion has ensured Crosby’s family and friends will continue to hold their jobs at the farm and has allowed him to hire another full-time employee. The company also supports 60 beekeepers, up from 20 just a few years earlier.

There are a lot of variables in honey production, Crosby said. But he has faith and understands the importance of good business decisions.

“I tell others, if you need advice or someone to hold your hand to get through any process in your business, the consultants of the SBDC are not afraid to get their hands dirty and do anything that needs to get done.”


New class begins UGA Public Service and Outreach leadership academy

The 2017-18 Vivian H. Fisher Public Service and Outreach Leadership Academy includes 19 faculty and staff representing each UGA Public Service and Outreach (PSO) unit, Cooperative Extension, and academic schools and colleges.

Offered through the J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development, the program emphasizes personal leadership development and communication skills, and it also helps participants recognize the role of outreach at UGA, see the scope of the work the units perform across Georgia and learn how that work ties into the university’s mission.

“By discovering more about themselves as leaders, learning more about each other’s leadership styles, and gaining exposure to the university’s public service and outreach mission, this academy helps prepare graduates to assume leadership roles within PSO and UGA,” said Fanning Institute Director Matt Bishop. “The Fanning Institute is honored to be a part of continuing Vivian H. Fisher’s legacy of professional development and service.”

Fisher was an associate vice president for PSO from March 2001 until her retirement in January 2008. She launched the academy in 2007. Fisher died in 2008. The academy was named in her honor in 2012.

“Our family is humbled that UGA recognizes Vivian as a leader and as someone who cared about her community and invested in others,” said Dexter Fisher, Vivian Fisher’s husband. “Vivian was a remarkable woman who believed in giving back and working to make her community a better place, and she would be pleased to see the work she did is continuing.”

The biennial academy provides an opportunity for faculty and staff to develop in areas that were important to Fisher, said academy participant Sarah Sorvas, a special projects manager with the UGA Center for Continuing Education & Hotel.

“The principles she left as part of her legacy—self-examination, self-empowerment, collaboration, and mentorship—are all clearly realized as part of this program’s curriculum,” Sorvas said. “These guiding principles have produced a culture among Public Service and Outreach that promotes professional growth and development and a commitment to share these ideals with our community.”

Participants in the Vivian H. Fisher PSO Leadership Academy will meet for two days during most months of the fiscal year, visiting each PSO unit, including an Archway Partnership Community and Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant in Savannah. They will spend a day in Atlanta, visiting the State Capitol and learning about UGA’s relationships with state government officials. Participants will graduate with a certificate from Public Service and Outreach during a ceremony in May.

The 2017-2018 Vivian H. Fisher PSO Leadership Academy participants are:

  • Tracy Arner, Carl Vinson Institute of Government;
  • Mark Butler, Small Business Development Center;
  • Stephan Durham, College of Engineering;
  • Bryan Fluech, Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant;
  • Brian Freese, Carl Vinson Institute of Government;
  • Chris James, Public Service and Outreach;
  • Shana Jones, Carl Vinson Institute of Government;
  • Dan Lasseter, Carl Vinson Institute of Government;
  • Jennifer Lewis, College of Environment and Design;
  • Sharon Liggett, Archway Partnership;
  • Mandy Marable, Cooperative Extension;
  • Sayge Medlin, J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development;
  • Jeff Miller, Cooperative Extension;
  • Bart Njoku-Obi, Small Business Development Center;
  • Kiel Norris, Center for Continuing Education & Hotel;
  • Josh Podvin, Office of Service-Learning;
  • Shelly Prescott, State Botanical Garden of Georgia;
  • Carolina Ramon, Small Business Development Center; and
  • Sarah Sorvas, Center for Continuing Education & Hotel


Writer: Charlie Bauder

Contact: Matt Bishop