Creative Internet Authority is more than a name for Montina Portis’s Roswell-based video marketing business. Establishing one’s authority and creating a reputation for knowledge and opinions that are respected by one’s peers has been so essential to her success that she speaks on the topic at industry conferences around the country.

Portis knew she’d need to establish herself as an authority when she decided her new company would be serving a highly competitive market: attorneys.

“I knew that I needed to get in front of attorneys as a thought leader. They need to see you as an authority,” she says. “Being a former homeless woman, building authority is important for the audience I’m serving, so I reached out to the UGA SBDC.”

Abandoned at 18 months old by her mother, her father in prison, Portis grew up with her aunt. By the age of 18, she was pregnant and living at the YWCA. By 19 she was living in a homeless shelter with her baby. Battling long odds, she earned her G.E.D., graduated from college with a master’s degree and worked for major corporations. On the side, she crafted and posted YouTube videos and amassed 34,000 subscribers to her channel.

Portis relocated to Atlanta in 2011 for her work with one of the nation’s largest information technology financial services companies. When her director took another position, she felt it was time to go. “I had been working online since 2009 and decided to start my own video marketing business.”

By the time Portis met with Jeff Patterson, area director of the UGA SBDC at Georgia State University, her small firm had already begun to grow. She needed to hire additional staff and wanted more information on the metro area’s market potential.

“We took a holistic view of her company, looking at everything from her financials to her hiring and marketing strategies,” says Patterson. “We found she didn’t need any credit. She was wisely covering her fixed costs on the front end of her contracts. We ended up helping her with her first blush at outbound marketing.”

Patterson pulled a list of potential prospects, and Portis worked with him to develop a successful drip campaign. He also directed her to local workforce development incentives that allowed her to hire and train four unemployed or underemployed people whose technical skills are now integral to the company’s success.

“I want the people I hire to grow with us,” says Portis. “If they work hard, we’re here to work with them. If they have a great personality, we can train them. I was that person once, and someone didn’t give up on me.”

After attending the UGA SBDC’s GrowSmart® program, Portis worked with Patterson’s office to host a marketing workshop specific to her niche market. “I got to talk to 21 attorneys, all potential new SBDC clients. One decided to sponsor some future SBDC programs,” he says.

Creative Internet Authority has grown exponentially since its 2014 founding. Sales have grown from six figures and two staff in year one to four employees and more than $1 million in sales expected by 2018. In fact, in just three years, Portis’s company has grown into one of the rare minority female-owned businesses to surpass the multiple six-figure sales mark, a point she notes with gratitude and well-earned joy.

“We have tripled our growth,” she says, “and the SBDC has given us the resources and tools to grow. My business wouldn’t have been able to reach these milestones without the SBDC.”

“Montina has really done a great job,” says Patterson. “She won’t just be a success, she’ll bring others along with her. That’s what makes her success a beautiful thing.”

“I recommend the SBDC all the time. No matter where you are in your business, reach out to them,” she says. “Everyone needs to talk to them, for their support, the services they can recommend and their workshops and events. It’s a hidden gem. No one should struggle when you have resources like the SBDC available to you.”