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Hancock County employee earns Vinson Institute certificate, saves county millions

Hancock County Clerk Borderick Foster’s cost-saving initiative succeeded beyond his wildest dreams. Not even a courthouse fire so hot it melted a brass bell could deter him.

When Hancock County leaders began seeking new ways to cut costs and build reserves, Foster figured out how to save $5.5 million by refinancing a jail construction bond. But first he had to track down or re-create copies of the bond documents that were destroyed when fire gutted the Hancock County Courthouse on the square in Sparta.

Foster made the cost-saving initiative his capstone project when he enrolled in the Carl Vinson Institute of Government’s Certified Public Manager (CPM) program. He presented the project results to his 26-member class in late spring and received his CPM certification at a graduation ceremony this summer.

Refinancing the 1989 jail construction bond reduced the principal and interest payments by $550,000 a year, saving the Hancock County general fund $5.5 million over the bond’s 10-year repayment plan, Foster said. The savings have allowed the county to expand its road resurfacing program (Foster also serves as county road administrator), make some much-needed building repairs and start building an emergency reserve in the county general fund.

“Last year, we were doing a campaign on ways to save,” Foster said. “This was the end of October, and you can only refinance these bonds in December and June, so we had a short deadline to get it done that year.”

It didn’t help that the very documents Foster would need had been destroyed when fire ripped through the county’s 130-year-old courthouse in 2014.

“It was a nightmare at first. I had no idea how we were going to re-create all these files, because when the courthouse burned, all that stuff was destroyed,” he said.

Foster turned to the network he had built years earlier while collecting and organizing county documents. That network included the original bond issuer, the Bank of New York (now BNY Mellon). Bank employees scanned hundreds of documents and sent electronic copies to Hancock County.

“I printed those documents out, and I reconstructed the bond the best that I could,” Foster said.

County Commission Chair Helen G. “Sistie” Hudson helped Foster pull everything together quickly enough to refinance the jail bond late last year.

Foster says he’s still amazed by how much the county could save by refinancing the jail bond.

“It only extended the payment schedule by one year, so if we had not done the refinancing, we would still be paying that huge amount each year. Now I can see how we can even build some reserves and give the general fund a break,” he said.

The 300-hour CPM curriculum, delivered in Georgia exclusively by Institute of Government faculty, is designed to help managers with state and local government agencies strengthen their leadership skills to earn nationally recognized certification. The program features a combination of in-class learning, independent study and a capstone project, according to CPM instructor Marci Campbell, an Institute of Government faculty member.

“The capstone project is a CPM requirement and has to help improve efficiency, customer service or program effectiveness,” Campbell said.


WRITER

Roger Nielson Public Relations Coordinator—Carl Vinson Institute of Government

nielsen@uga.edu • 706-542-2524

UGA student designs plans for an Archway Partnership community welcome center

An abandoned storefront on the Moultrie downtown square will be repurposed into a welcome center where newcomers and visitors can find information about Colquitt County.

The former Citi-Trends store also will house offices and possibly a co-working space for small businesses.

Yusheng Fang, a graduate student in interior design at the UGA Lamar Dodd School of Art produced the design for the building’s redevelopment.

“The welcome center will serve as a cultural communication center for Moultrie so that more people can know about the city,” said Fang, a graduate assistant at the UGA Archway Partnership. Colquitt County was selected as UGA’s first Archway community in 2005. “The process of designing the Moultrie Welcome Center was also the process for me to learn the city.”

Downtown Moultrie Tomorrow, Inc., is developing the welcome center.

“We look forward to having a central space that will give us needed meeting space, restrooms and a space to provide information and history about Moultrie to both visitors and residents,” said Amy Johnson, director of the Downtown Development Authority, which oversees Downtown Moultrie Tomorrow, Inc.

The site, which has been vacant since 2016, has a long retail history.

Prior to Citi Trends, it was Allied Department Store. Prior to that, it was McLellan’s Five & Dime. McLellan’s name remains visible on the sidewalk on front of the store.

As McLellan’s, employees handled payment by using pneumatic tubes, similar to those at bank teller windows. Holly Perryman said her mom Lynda Moseley remembers the process of paying the cashier. Money would go into a container and it would be sent upstairs through the vacuum-operated tubes, recalls Moseley, a long-time tennis coach in Moultrie. An employee upstairs would send change back through the tubes.

Mary Lewis enjoyed working the candy counter and the popcorn machine at McLellan’s in the 1950s. She was working on Christmas Eve the year Elvis Pressley’s “Blue Christmas” came out and “the song was played over and over,” Lewis said.

Fang was selected for the project because of her expertise in reimagining spaces for their function and possibility. The redevelopment, rather than new construction, posed a different kind of design challenge for Fang.

“This project is a building that has undergone many renovations and is relatively complicated in structure. But the traces of this history also give this building a unique life,” she said. “On the second floor there is a special barn door and many structures with a sense of industrial design. How to retain these historical senses while allowing them to serve the new functions is an exciting and challenging part of the renovation project.”

The Archway Partnership is a unit of Public Service and Outreach at UGA. It connects Georgia communities to the full range of higher education resources available at the university to address critical community-identified needs. Colquitt County was where Archway started back in 2005 and is one of 13 communities that Archway has served since then.

“Partnering with the Archway Partnership definitely allows us to explore opportunities we would not have been able to do without Archway’s help,” Johnson said.

For more information about the Colquitt County Archway Partnership, contact Sarah Adams sadams1234@uga.edu or 229-921-3170.

UGA Graduate Students selected as Knauss finalists

Two graduate students from the University of Georgia have been selected as finalists for the 2020 John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship, sponsored by the National Sea Grant College Program. The finalists will spend one year in Washington, D.C. in marine policy-related positions in legislative and executive branches of the federal government.

The students will join 69 other finalists in the 2020 class representing 27 of the 34 Sea Grant programs in the coastal and Great Lakes states and territories.

The finalists from Georgia are:

Guy Eroh, a master’s student in the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources. Eroh is studying hybridization in Georgia’s black bass species and the effects of fungicidal hydrogen peroxide treatments in the hatching success of walleye eggs. He holds a bachelor’s degree in ecology from the University of Georgia.

Emily Yarbrough Horton is finishing her PhD in integrative conservation and anthropology in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Georgia. Horton is focusing her research on the socioecological dimensions of small-scale fisheries governance in a marine protected area in Northeastern Brazil. She holds a B.S. in environmental science and communications from the University of South Alabama.

The 2020 Knauss finalists will become the 41st class of the fellowship and will join a group of over 1,300 professionals who have received hands-on experiences transferring science to policy and management through the program.

Placement of 2020 Knauss finalists as fellows is contingent on adequate funding in Fiscal Year 2020.

The National Sea Grant College Program announced finalists for the 2020 John A. Knuass Marine Policy Fellowships. Here is a link to the national release.

Employee Development, Digital Marketing and New Lines Grow Sales for Carrollton Landscaping Firm

Joe and Sarah Bearden own Dreamscapes Landscaping Services. In 2017, Dreamscapes acquired a competitor, which yielded immediate and significant growth.  Due to its size, Dreamscapes required additional personnel to meet and manage their own sizeable growth along with the new growth through acquisition.

At about the same time, Sarah was installing a backyard pool and looking for independent retailers who sold outdoor furniture. Learning there were none in west Georgia, she realized she’d found a second growth opportunity.

While considering her options, she learned that Cole Fannin, a Dreamscapes client, had joined the UGA SBDC at the University of West Georgia as a business consultant. Bearden came to his office in July 2017 to discuss managing her business’s growth while expanding into retail and acquiring a new facility to manage her operations.

They first addressed the staffing issues.

“This industry has a high turnover,” said Fannin, “so we looked at her interview screening process, employment count and the additional labor force needed. Then we focused holistically on her human resources processes.”

An employee handbook and safety manual are critical for any small business, especially in an industry where heavy machinery is operated. Fannin called on UWG Area Director Todd Anduze for his expertise in Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations. Together they assisted Bearden in developing an employee handbook and safety manual, and Fannin assisted with developing a streamlined onboarding process for new hires.

“Once we put the guides and employment expectations in place, the hiring process improved,” said Bearden. “There is no question now on what we expect. And we’ve grown to 15 employees.”

She then worked with Fannin to prepare owner financing documents for a 2,000 square-foot commercial building that would allow Dreamscapes to sell outdoor furniture and playsets. They reviewed her QuickBooks and financials and put together a cash flow analysis.

Bearden purchased the building and added a showcase filled with high-quality outdoor furniture. She also began selling and installing residential playsets. Her expansion paid off, with Dreamscapes winning the bid to build a 9,000 square-foot playground at the Douglasville home of Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton and his family.

Bearden next explored Google AdWords to create a digital marketing campaign. Fannin called in Drew Tonsmeire, area director for the UGA SBDC at Kennesaw State University and a digital marketing expert.

“Drew helped me pinpoint who to reach out to and showed me terminology people in the South use when they look for playgrounds. Our sales quickly picked up,” said Bearden.

In fact, net revenues for Dreamscapes grew more than 40 percent in 2018. By April 2019, the company’s installations were booked to October.

“I told Cole just this morning that after owning a business for 10 years, you think there’s nothing left to learn. But if I had just continued running a landscaping business, it wouldn’t have grown like this,” said Bearden. “I encourage all small business owners to reach out to the SBDC. You may not know how big you can get until you start talking to them.”

UGA Institute of Government, Archway Partnership create brand designed to draw people to Hawkinsville

Day-trippers, agritourists and businesses are being invited to “Come Home to Hawkinsville” to visit, shop and perhaps put down roots in the Pulaski County city.

Hawkinsville and Pulaski County are extending the invitation through a community branding initiative developed by the UGA Carl Vinson Institute of Government and the UGA Archway Partnership with input and a broad-based community branding steering committee. The steering committee will host a formal, public unveiling of the “Come Home” brand and logo later this year.

Chaired by Hawkinsville Public Relations Director Ginger Martin, the steering committee worked with Institute faculty and staff since late last year to gather ideas and identify the community’s most important attributes.

“Our new brand came from months of seeking input in our community and is intended to reflect a common theme for us all,” Martin said.

The Institute of Government team developed the brand design, complete with a user guide and stylebook, over the last nine months with Archway Partnership support. The Institute of Government team conducted seven different focus groups, interviewed 76 people and collected more than 100 online survey responses. The team also visited many local businesses, restaurants and farms.

CVIOG and Archway staff pose with members of the steering committee revealing the new city of Hawkinsville logo

Faculty member Kaitlin McShea Messich, a community branding and placemaking specialist who managed the project, said branding goes much further than just designing a logo that features an iconic site like the Pulaski County Courthouse cupola.

“It is more complex than that. Different from marketing, community branding is figuring out who and what a community is — uncovering unique assets, history and culture — and then packaging that in a way that is appealing to desired audiences,” she said.

Messich and institute graphic designer Allison Cape recently presented their final branding recommendations to Hawkinsville representatives, steering committee members and Archway professionals. They shared copies of the “Hawkinsville & Pulaski County Brand Lookbook” user guide, as well as samples of car decals, mugs, hats and other promotional merchandise that include the new logo.

The lookbook explains that branding provides a strategic way to attract visitors, new residents and new businesses by showcasing what makes a community unique and differentiating it from other communities in a competitive market.

“I just can’t put into words my excitement for Hawkinsville and Pulaski County’s new brand and the potential impact it will have on the ongoing progress of our community,” said Jenna Mashburn, Pulaski County sole commissioner. “This is such a fantastic opportunity to showcase our beautiful county and everything we have to offer, not only to our citizens but to anyone looking for a new place to explore or even somewhere to call home.”

The next step is developing a strategy for the full introduction of the new branding.

“The new logo looks great, and I am excited to unveil this to our community. Now the ball is in our court to prepare, promote and produce results,” said Shelly Berryhill, a Hawkinsville City Commissioner who serves on the steering committee.

 


MEDIA CONTACT

Baker Owens Archway Partnership Public Relations Coordinator

baker.owens@uga.edu • 706-542-1098

Roger Nielsen Institute of Government Public Relations Coordinator

nielsen@uga.edu • 706-542-2524

UGA student Sarah Jackson turns service-learning into a career

After Sarah Jackson took her first service-learning course at the University of Georgia, she was hooked. Ten years later, she’s made a career out of service, community engagement and nonprofit partnerships.

“Through my geography major, I became involved in a bunch of service-learning courses, and I got to really apply what I was learning in the classroom into the real world in a practical sense,” says Jackson, a geography and Spanish minor in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. “It gave me confidence, new skills.”

Service-learning courses inspired Jackson to become a Public Service and Outreach Student Scholar, a year-long program that introduces students to UGA’s land- and sea-grant mission. During the spring, scholars complete an individual internship with a PSO unit that most corresponds with their academic and professional goals.

Jackson interned with the Office of Service-Learning, a partnership between the Offices of the Vice President for Instruction and the Vice President for Public Service and Outreach. The Office of Service-Learning supports the development of academic courses geared towards applying academic knowledge to the real world—a learning benefit for both students and the community.

In true service-learning nature, Jackson wasn’t just sitting at a desk. Along with another student, Jackson pioneered Campus Kitchen at UGA (CKUGA), UGA’s student-led, hunger relief organization housed at the Office of Service-Learning.

Sarah Jackson and a volunteer smile in front of a commercial kitchen.

Sarah Jackson helps prepare food with Campus Kitchen at UGA volunteers. (Photo: Shannah Montgomery/PSO)

At CKUGA, volunteers collect surplus food from grocery stores and the university’s student farm, UGArden, and deliver them weekly in grocery bags or transform them into family-sized meals. CKUGA serves those at risk of hunger, who are often on the waiting list for aid programs like Meals on Wheels.

“We partnered with the Athens Community Council on Aging [ACCA] to identify clients and found out that over 70% in the Grandparents Raising Grandchildren program were food insecure,” says Jackson. “It just seemed like a really big gap and something where we could really make a difference.”

Instead of returning to her home state of Ohio after graduating in 2011, Jackson stayed in Georgia and turned her internship into a full-time coordinator position. Within four years, CKUGA grew to more than 400 volunteers and helped reduce food insecurity of ACCA clients by 30%. CKUGA was awarded Chapter of the Year by the national Campus Kitchen Project in 2014 and became a focal point for service-learning classes in a variety of disciplines, ranging from recreation and leisure studies to public health to dietetics.

Sarah Jackson picks plants outside. A big yellow tub sits next to her.

Sarah Jackson at UGArden, the university’s student-run learning and demonstration farm. (Photo: Dot Paul/UGA)

A key component of the CKUGA’s success was the introduction of AmeriCorps Volunteers in Service to America (VISTAs), who serve for either a summer or a year in nonprofits or Clarke County School District’s middle schools. The VISTA network is administered by the Office of Service-Learning, and Jackson became the first VISTA grant coordinator at the university.

“Partnering between VISTA members, UGA and nonprofits in the community, we had strong core partnerships where we could do program evaluation,” Jackson says. “With the university there, we had all the resources to say what we’re doing in theory seems like it works, and we can show we’re actually improving food security of our clients. We can measure our impact.”

Since 2013, the UGA VISTA network is committed to alleviating poverty. VISTA members help organizations reduce food insecurity, develop programming and otherwise assist low-income families. Today, there are 15 VISTA members serving in Athens-Clarke County and Barrow County.

“During her time at UGA, Sarah created meaningful, impactful, lasting change. She was able to develop herself as a leader and hone her skills in community partnership management and program evaluation,” says Shannon Wilder, director of the Office of Service-Learning. “We’re grateful for her efforts in leading both Campus Kitchen at UGA and the VISTA network.”

After earning a master’s in public administration from the School of Public and International Affairs in 2015, Jackson’s journey to combat food insecurity led her career to the Georgia Food Bank Association, which helps coordinate the efforts of Georgia’s seven regional food banks. As director of strategic initiatives, Jackson facilitated partnerships, secured sponsorships and created campaigns. It wasn’t long though until she found herself in a daunting new position: coordinating statewide responses during national disasters.

“When Hurricane Irma hit in 2017, I was placed in charge because my boss was out of the country,” Jackson says. “But we had never had a storm like that before. Irma hit all across the state. It was critical all of the food banks were communicating, sharing resources and plugging in with Feeding America, our umbrella organization.”

After that experience, Jackson began serving on the board for the Georgia Voluntary Organization Active in Disaster (VOAD), a coalition of relief organizations that help each other plan, network and stay up to date on relief efforts.

Everything changed when Hurricane Michael hit in October 2018. The fifth major hurricane to hit the state, Michael destroyed much of the agriculture industry in southwest Georgia with damages surpassing $3 billion, according to University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service and the Georgia Forestry Commission.

“Hurricane Michael was devastating to southwest Georgia, which had just been hit with tornadoes the year before. The agricultural damage was huge, and that’s the foundation of our economy. It’s kind of become a lost story—when people think recovery, they think six months after. No. It takes years just to go through all the cases.”

During Hurricane Michael, Jackson served as the point of contact between VOAD and the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency (GEMA/HS), the state’s response and recovery agency. When a Community Partnerships Manager position opened up at the beginning of 2019 at GEMA, Jackson’s role was reversed—she’s now the one at the state agency helping to coordinate response efforts with volunteer groups.

Sarah Jackson points at the picture of a map in a glass office. Another person sits at the table.

When storms aren’t brewing, Jackson will be traveling throughout rural Georgia to build infrastructure and create strong nonprofit partnerships. That way, when storms strike, communities are better equipped to deal with the damages.

For an out-of-state student who wasn’t sure what she wanted to do after college, the turning point was service-learning. Now, Jackson is making a difference in the lives of Georgians every single day—and she’s just getting started.

“My experience in service-learning is what made me who I am today and I’m so grateful for that,” said Jackson. “I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing without that.”


MEDIA CONTACT

Leah Moss Public Relations Coordinator

leahmoss@uga.edu • 706-612-0063

Shedding a light on longtime State Botanical Garden supporter James Miller Jr.

Jim Miller grew up with a mother who enjoyed gardening. When an advisory board for the State Botanical Garden of Georgia began forming in the 1980s, he was a charter member.

His gift of $5,000 was the first private funding the garden received and it forever changed the trajectory of the board of advisors.

“It was symbolic, it set the tone for the whole board to be able to succeed, and it made an incredible difference to the garden,” recalls Susan Duncan, who helped establish the board.

Since then, James B. Miller Jr., as he is known formally, has remained a steadfast, often behind-the-scenes “gentle giant” at the garden, Duncan says. To this day, Miller continues to be active and involved at the garden, giving generously both personally and through Fidelity Southern Corporation in metropolitan Atlanta, where he serves as chief executive officer and chairman.

Last fall, Miller was named the State Botanical Garden of Georgia’s 2018 Distinguished Honoree during the garden’s biennial Giving Tree Tribute celebration of donors.  The Distinguished Honoree is the highest award bestowed on donors, recognizing those who have dedicated significant time and resources to the garden.

“Without his support, the garden would not be what is today. He has helped grow the garden from the very beginning,” says Jenny Cruse-Sanders, director of the State Botanical Garden. “He recognized the potential of the garden early on and the impact it could have on education, conservation and research for the university and across the state.”

Miller has supported campaigns for the International Garden, the Heritage Garden, the Flower Garden and the Alice H. Richards Children’s Garden, to name a few. He also supports the annual Gardens of the World Ball, the State Botanical Garden of Georgia’s annual fundraiser, and served as ball co-chair in 1989 with the late Eugene Younts, then the UGA vice president of Service.

“I’ve always liked gardening, I grew up with a mother that liked gardening, and nature is so critical to us for food and life,” Miller says. “It’s amazing how much work, time and effort goes into the garden, but it’s an incredible asset for Athens and what an asset for Georgia.

He most recently contributed to the campaign to build a formal entrance to the Alice Hand Callaway Visitor Center and Conservatory near the upper level parking lots, with an elevator to make the garden more accessible to people in wheelchairs or pushing strollers, or who just have trouble maneuvering stairs.

“When my wife developed arthritis, I became very aware of what it takes to get around,” he says. “It’s also important to me now, personally, since getting a knee replacement and experiencing what many people go through.”

Miller was among the first donors to the accessibility project, said Dr. Geoffrey Cole, who chairs the garden’s board of advisors.

“It’s not just about money, though—he commits to things,” Cole says. “He’s been dedicated to the garden since it started.”

As a unit of Public Service and Outreach, the garden is dedicated to providing a place for not only UGA students, but visitors across the southeast to discover the wonder of nature and the important roles it plays in life.

 

GIVE TO ACCESSIBILITY AT THE GARDEN

 


MEDIA CONTACT

Leah Moss Public Relations Coordinator

leahmoss@uga.edu • 706-612-0063

Buford marketing firm gets an edge on the competition with help from UGA

Ten years ago, Alexandra Radford and Lauren Tatum were teenagers at a Gwinnett County high school where they shared common interests like fashion, friends and cheerleading.

Today, the two women still share interests but now those are graphic design, social media marketing and business operations at the small business they own together, the Edge Agency in Buford, Georgia.

There’s often also another party to the conversation: the UGA Small Business Development Center, a unit of UGA Public Service and Outreach. The mission of the SBDC is to strengthen small business through one-on-one consulting as well as with trainings and workshops.

Radford first turned to the SBDC when she launched her first business in 2016. A UGA graduate in consumer journalism, she felt comfortable working with consultants from UGA. SBDC consultants helped her get the Limited Liability Corporation status and a business license for her company, Edge Marketing Company, LLC.

At the time Tatum was running a separate company that handled marketing for small businesses, and the two friends referred clients back and forth to each other for different services.

“One day we said, why are we doing this? This is silly. We could join and do this together,” Tatum said. “So that’s what we did. We took our two small business and put them together.”

They turned back to the SBDC to help form the new business, the Edge Agency. The transition was much easier with SBDC assistance, Radford said.

Alexandra Radford and Lauren Tatum combined their two small businesses to form the Edge Agency.

“I remember talking to the SBDC about an operating agreement, but it wasn’t something I needed when it was just me. When Lauren and I [put our businesses] together, it was something we did need and I wouldn’t have known about it without the SBDC,” Radford said.

Benny StaRomana, an SBDC consultant in the Gwinnett office—one of 17 regional SBDC offices across the state—helped the women through a strategic plan for their consolidated business.

“I helped them develop a strategy to accelerate cash flow by focusing on markets that are most receptive to their unique strengths.” StaRomana said. “Our role at the SBDC is to look at the underlying foundation and fundamentals of the business, including how to improve sales, which is always a major goal especially for emerging businesses.”

Although Radford and Tatum are young, they understand and can help their clients understand communications, relationships and psychology—a unique advantage StaRomana helped them find.

“The Edge Agency will ask clients, ‘Who is your ideal customer?’ If it’s a boutique selling clothes to 22- to 39-year-old women, earning $60,000 and above with small families, they know how to relate that demographic information to a website and design choices,” StaRomana said.

In just over two years, the Edge Agency has grown to four employees with more than 20 clients located not just in Georgia but also internationally. Clients range from companies focusing on real estate, events, fitness and wellness, insurance and nonprofits, to even plumbing.

Tatum speaking on the Digital Marketing Panel at StartSmart™ with other participants.

Now, the women are in a place where they’re regularly invited to tell their story during SBDC training classes, like StartSmart™, for new businesses, and GrowSmart™, to help businesses expand. They also regularly refer clients and industry colleagues to the SBDC.

“I recently sent a friend who was debating buying a book of business (a list of someone else’s clients) to the SBDC,” Radford said. “My uncle is also debating opening a franchise, so I told him he had to go. I tell people, why would you not go? It’s free. I throw it out there every chance I get.”

“We still meet with Benny StaRomana once, or every other month. The best leaders are always learning,” Tatum said. “Our advice to other young entrepreneurs: keep learning.”


MEDIA CONTACT

Leah Moss  Public Relations Coordinator

leahmoss@uga.edu • 706-612-0063

 

Retiring in style: former corporate executive realizes entrepreneurial dream in franchise ownership

Mark Day was sure he would be an entrepreneur. After graduating from the University of Georgia with a business degree, he planned to do two years of corporate work and then set off on his own. His success in the corporate world, though, prevented him from executing his dream right away.

“I started as a sales rep, then decided to get my MBA, which enabled me to move into multiple roles in marketing, product management and sales management,” he said. Day was promoted to global vice president and then to divisional vice president for Asia, Africa and the Middle East region, where he served 10 years.

Upon retiring, Day began looking at opportunities to buy a small business.  “After 35 years in the corporate world I decided I really wanted to do something entrepreneurial. I was not ready to do nothing, not yet.”

He was frustrated, though, in trying to acquire the right business. “They were over- or under-valued or had skeletons in the closet. I could not find a good stand-alone entity to acquire at my price level.”

Day came close to buying a seasonal equipment rental business in Seaside, Florida, but the seller ended up dragging his feet on the sale, so he walked away. In late 2016, he approached the DeKalb office of the UGA Small Business Development Center for help in analyzing his options. He had known business consultant Steve Newton since their undergrad days together at the University of Georgia.

“We talked about his Seaside experience, and I invited him to several SBDC training sessions,” said Newton, “but he was unable to attend. I took notes at broker Leslie Kuban’s class on owning a franchise and invited him to meet her.”

Kuban introduced Day to several new franchise businesses, and he found others through his contacts. He worked with Newton to analyze each for its potential.

“We’d look at industry trends, references and cash flow analyses for these businesses, anything we could do to help Mark see how each business would develop over time,” said Newton. “Finding the perfect fit is the challenge. Each business has its own unique characteristics, so you must dig through the financials and other data to see what makes it profitable. The numbers may look good, but that may depend on its owner’s charisma, which may not transfer to a new owner. Leadership is important.

“We also look at whether it’s scalable. Can it grow? Is it in a growing industry? We help our clients recognize that. We do not do business valuations, but we can help a buyer understand what a typical business in that industry may be valued at, based on certain guidelines like owners’ discretionary earnings, inventory levels, average sales and profits. In Mark’s case, he ended up purchasing the franchise that was the least difficult to analyze and the most difficult to operate.”

After doing what he called “a lot of brainstorming with Steve,” Day, during a six-week period beginning in October 2017, acquired nine Smart Style full service hair salon franchises located in Walmart Supercenters in outlying metro Atlanta counties.

“I was very close to signing on with another franchise but changed my mind when I realized the salons belong to Regis, the world’s largest haircare company, and are located in the world’s largest merchandiser, where foot traffic averages 5,000 people per day,” said Day. “And hair is recession-proof. Amazon can’t do it.”

Day now manages nearly 50 employees in the nine shops while keeping his profits steady. He has learned turnover and customer loyalty are big issues. He also admits he has developed a new understanding of business management.

“I learned quickly that operating your own business is a whole different animal. You are HR, finance and the fixit person. Everything falls on you,” he said. “Steve has owned a business, so I’ve always respected his logic. Quite frankly, just having the resources of the SBDC, and being able to use Steve as a sounding board, is the best resource. I tell everybody about the SBDC now.”

Vinson Institute training helped prepare Harris County leaders for March tornado

There was no storm on the horizon the day that Harris County Commissioner Harry Lange took a disaster preparedness class with the Carl Vinson Institute of Government.

But five months later, when a tornado churned through his west Georgia community, Lange and Harris County first responders had an up-to-date disaster response plan in place to guide their recovery efforts.

“My feeling was, ‘We know how to respond to this,’” Lange said. “We had reviewed the preparedness plan, updated it and we knew what bases we needed to touch.”

Lange had attended a Disaster and Emergency Preparedness class during a training conference presented by the Vinson Institute in partnership with the Association County Commissioners of Georgia (ACCG).

The class inspired him to return home, dust off the existing Harris County disaster response plan, and spearhead an effort to update it, prioritizing response and recovery needs.

On March 3, a tornado ripped through Harris County, damaging homes and leveling thousands of trees. The county was prepared, Harris County Manager Randall Dowling said.

“I think that the response was smoother since the county had a recent update to its operation plan,” Dowling said.

Since the tornado flattened most of the trees in a newly completed park, county leaders quickly decided that area temporarily would serve as a storm debris drop-off site for cleanup crews and the public, Lange said.

A tornado damaged homes and uprooted trees in Harris County.

On May 29, Lange met with department heads and other commissioners to review their response to the emergency, to discuss what worked and what they can do better. They used that information to further update the county’s disaster response plan.

The daylong Disaster and Emergency Preparedness class is part of the Lifelong Learning Academy continuing education program that the Vinson Institute and ACCG provide for commissioners and other county government officials. The class is designed to help county leaders learn more about out how planning can improve disaster response, explore their roles and responsibilities, and offer practical guidance on post-disaster action steps, said Mara Shaw, leadership development program manager at the Vinson Institute.

“At the end of the day, (Lange) commented about how much he had learned about his role in an emergency situation and the homework he needed to do when he got back to Harris County,” Shaw said. “Then, he put his learning into action. That’s the way it’s supposed to work.”


MEDIA CONTACT

Roger Nielsen Public Relations Coordinator

nielsen@uga.edu • 706-542-2524

UGA teams up with Georgia Chamber for High Potentials Leadership program

 

UGA led 19 business and organization members of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce through a leadership program in May designed for employees with the potential to help address challenges in their communities.

It was the second annual High Potentials Leadership program, led by faculty from the J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development.

Along with leadership training, participants also delved into public policy with faculty from the UGA Carl Vinson Institute of Government, learning about state demographics and local government. Meanwhile, leaders within the Georgia Chamber membership helped participants by providing practical advice and real-world professional experiences.

“I have learned so much, and I feel very fortunate to be a part of this program,” says McKenzie Lewis, director of Digital Media and Communications for the Georgia Association of Broadcasters. “Learning from other professionals and being able to talk with them about best leadership practices and how we can better engage with those in our community has been very beneficial to me.”

The High Potentials Leadership program is an example of how the Fanning Institute can tailor its leadership curriculum to meet the specific needs of an organization, said Fanning Director Matt Bishop.

“Unique leadership programs such as the High Potentials Leadership program can help communities and organizations engage their members and create a network of people with advanced leadership skills who are ready to contribute to a stronger state,” Bishop says. “We commend the Georgia Chamber for its commitment to developing leaders at all levels, and we are proud to support their efforts.”

By completing the program, graduates are equipped to address emerging opportunities and challenges facing their companies and their communities, said Chris Clark, president and CEO of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce.

“The most critical component to the long-term economic prosperity of Georgia is how we develop the next generation of servant leaders in the corporate community,” Clark says. “The High Potentials Leadership program was designed to position these leaders to find personal and service-oriented success.”

During the program, Fanning Institute faculty covered servant leadership through many lenses such as personal leadership styles, board governance, dialogue and examining one’s values and behaviors.

“The curriculum prepares graduates to better understand themselves as a leader and how to apply that knowledge both within their company and when representing their company in the community to help affect positive change,” says Brittany Adams-Pope, a public service assistant at the Fanning Institute.

The 2019 Georgia Chamber High Potentials Leadership program graduates are:

  • Abby Bradley, Pinewood Atlanta Studios
  • Camron Carden, Georgia Transmission Corporation
  • David Correa, Bank of America Merrill Lynch
  • Shaun Dodson, Georgia EMC
  • Chandler Faccento, Atlanta Braves
  • Kristen Fraser, Aflac
  • Toni Hannah, Georgia Power Company
  • Stephanie Hardy, AT&T
  • Joey Heath, Oglethorpe Power Company
  • Chris Hughes, JE Dunn Construction
  • Sydney Langdon, Turner
  • McKenzie Lewis, Georgia Association of Broadcasters
  • William Mann, Grant Thornton LLP
  • Ashley Mock, CBC Bank- Langdale Company
  • James Nixon, Meadows Regional Medical Center
  • Shannon O’Keefe, Abshire Public Relations
  • Kevin Parrish, Wells Fargo
  • Rachel Rhodes, Comcast
  • Sabrina Taylor, Delta Air Lines

 

Creating learners and leaders at the State Botanical Garden

Students volunteering at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia are doing far more than just checking off their UGA-mandated experiential learning opportunity, they are using what they learn to teach other students who follow in their footsteps.

As a Public Service and Outreach Faculty Fellow, James C. Anderson II created mentor leadership training materials for the State Botanical Garden’s Learning by LeadingTM program, aimed at empowering students and helping them become career-ready. The program starts with freshmen, bringing them into the garden to complete a series of leadership development activities and completing service projects over two semesters.

The next year, they coordinate the activities for the new incoming students. During the third semester they develop a signature project at the garden and connect with a mentor. Finally, they spend their last year as an apprentice or intern at the garden.

The PSO Faculty Fellowship has been a welcome change for Anderson, a faculty member in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

“A lot of what I do is very theoretical-based and academic,” he says. “Being able to tap into the experiential learning and service mission of the university is so important.”

Upon completion of Learning by Leading, students will have a vast experiential learning transcript—and feel more prepared to pursue science careers.

Projects vary. Students in the education department designed activities for different stations in the Alice H. Richards Children’s Garden. Volunteers lead children through the activities at each station as they tour the garden. At one station they dress up like birds and create bird nests.

The ultimate goal of Learning by Leading is to retain students in the areas in which they work in the garden so that they will consider pursuing careers in that field.

“By getting these experiences while they’re still learning, they will connect to mentors and want to pursue these careers,” Anderson says.

In his position at CAES, Anderson researches effective mentorship. At the State Botanical Garden he led staff through six leadership modules, to help them become capable and confident mentors. He plans to adapt these modules and present them as a faculty learning series across campus.

“It’s so critical we have student-faculty mentorships that are strong and effective,” said Leslie Edgar, department head of the Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communication Department in CAES, where Anderson works. “Everything he’s doing at the garden fits beautifully into his research agenda. I think he’s able to use his focus and leadership abilities in ways he hadn’t thought of before—it leverages him to be an even better faculty member.”

The Public Service and Outreach (PSO) Fellowship Program provides departmental support for tenure-track and tenured professors to immerse themselves in the work of a PSO unit for one semester. The experience offers opportunities for fellows to enhance their academic courses, conduct research and apply their academic expertise to outreach initiatives. An anticipated outcome of the fellowship experience is the sustained involvement with Public Service and Outreach after the semester ends.


MEDIA CONTACT

Leah Moss Public Relations Coordinator

leahmoss@uga.edu • 706-583-0964

Tackling trash—and public health—on the Georgia coast

We know picking up trash helps keep our environment clean, but could it also improve human health?

Jennifer Gay, an associate professor in the UGA College of Public Health, is studying the impact of volunteer litter cleanups on the environment and human health in coastal communities.

A UGA Public Service and Outreach Faculty Fellow, Gay is partnering with Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant to learn more about the amount or type of physical activity that occurs in coastal environments, or how the environment contributes to healthy lifestyles.

“Through this study, we want to engage people who are participating in litter debris cleanups to assess the amount of physical activity they’re getting and how much energy they’re expending during these events,” said Gay, who researches physical activity and public health.

As part of the study, Gay worked with Katy Smith, water quality program coordinator for UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant, to figure out how to apply the study in the Golden Isles community. Smith, who leads education and outreach initiatives focused on marine debris topics, has strong connections to the volunteer community through partnerships with conservation organizations like Keep Golden Isles Beautiful and the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, which host volunteer cleanups throughout the year.

“I’m excited to see what type of data we capture,” Smith said. “We’ve got people out there cleaning the environment, but what else are they gaining? Hopefully we can use the data to get more people involved in conservation efforts.”

Smith is helping Gay survey people in Brunswick, St. Simons and Jekyll Island to understand how they perceive the coastal environment. They are recruiting volunteers to wear monitoring equipment that collects data on physical activity during cleanups. Those that agree to participate wear heart rate monitors and accelerometers that track frequency, intensity and duration of an activity, as well as step counts over a one- to two-week period.

Sharon Hindery, who worked in a medical laboratory for several years before retiring, jumped at the chance to participate in the study.

Eventually I’d like to see what the data shows, said Hindery, who is particularly interested in the heart rate data following a cleanup event.

“I imagine that would be some kind of an indicator of satisfaction. After the event is over, you sit back and realize what you’ve done. Maybe that is kind of calming. Who knows?” she said.

Hindery and her husband Rick have lived in Brunswick for six years. During that time, they have helped with several debris removal volunteer efforts, even adopting a section of Highway 17 that they are responsible for cleaning throughout the year.

“I always joke that it’s exercise with a purpose,” Hindery said. “I go out and I pull a bag or two of trash off the marsh or the side of the road, and I look back at it and I feel better.”

Next steps in the study involve recruiting more volunteers so the team has a larger set of data to assess. Smith hopes to bring in several volunteers ahead of the World Oceans Day Beach Sweep on June 8, hosted by Keep Golden Isles Beautiful and Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant and sponsored by Yamaha. More information is available here http://bit.ly/2JflIPI

Those interested in volunteering for the study are encouraged to reach out to Katy Smith at klaustin@uga.edu.

After analyzing the data, the research team plans to develop educational outreach materials designed to engage people who are aren’t as active or involved in litter debris cleanups as a way to get them involved in physical activity and environmental stewardship.

The Public Service and Outreach (PSO) Fellowship Program provides departmental support for tenure-track and tenured professors to immerse themselves in the work of a PSO unit for one semester. The experience offers opportunities for fellows to enhance their academic courses, conduct research and apply their academic expertise to outreach initiatives. An anticipated outcome of the fellowship experience is the sustained involvement with Public Service and Outreach after the semester ends.


MEDIA CONTACT

Emily Woodward Kenworthy Public Relations Coordinator

ewwodward@uga.edu • 912-598-2348 ext. 107

High-tech helps plan ahead for road improvements

The ability to predict problems with roads and bridges could help local and state governments make needed improvements before accidents occur, using technology being developed by a UGA engineering professor working in partnership with the Carl Vinson Institute of Government.

As a Public Service and Outreach (PSO) Faculty Fellow, Sung-Hee “Sonny” Kim, in the the School of Environmental, Civil, Agricultural and Mechanical Engineering at UGA’s College of Engineering, is using Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) to look beneath the surface of roadways in a non-invasive manner and assess their condition beyond what the naked eye can see. Once the GPR has scanned the road, Kim uses that information to predict how the roadways will deteriorate in the future, and when government agencies should plan on repairing them.

“This is a really great tool for local and state governments,” said Kim. “[They can use] that information to predict how much budget should be spent this year or next year or upcoming years depending on the [road conditions]. They can manage the funds to maintain the roadway systems.”

“Other technologies just look at the pavement surface condition only, but our technology uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to predict future conditions based on continuously monitored GPR test data.”

Using funding provided by PSO to the Faculty Fellow’s academic department, Kim was able to upgrade his GPR and install it on a truck, effectively increasing the speed at which he can measure roadways from 3 MPH to 65 MPH. He and his team then spent the past year monitoring 10 different one-mile sections of highway in Athens-Clarke County.

Through his collaboration with the Vinson Institute, Kim was able to input his roadway data into the institute’s Geographic Information System (GIS), creating an interactive map that allows users to select a section of road and see its current and predicted future state.

“What Sonny’s technology and expertise allows is for brilliant imaging of those assets and to be able to use that information in a way that they can then determine where they need to invest their money,” said Stephan Durham, associate professor and assistant dean for Student Success & Outreach at the College of Engineering.

Kim has already been in contact with the Georgia Department of Transportation, which wants him to use his research to begin scanning major highway systems in the state this year. If successful, Kim hopes to eventually develop a map for the entire state.

“We’re very lucky to have [Kim] as a faculty member,” said Durham. “He’s great for us, but also great for the university as a whole, especially with the work he’s doing now with PSO.”

The Public Service and Outreach (PSO) Fellowship Program provides departmental support for tenure-track and tenured professors to immerse themselves in the work of a PSO unit for one semester. The experience offers opportunities for fellows to enhance their academic courses, conduct research and apply their academic expertise to outreach initiatives. An anticipated outcome of the fellowship experience is the sustained involvement with Public Service and Outreach after the semester ends.


MEDIA CONTACT

Aaron Cox Public Relations Specialist

aaron.cox@uga.edu • 706-542-3631

Faculty in the College of Education and in Cooperative Extension named PSO Fellows

 

Faculty members from the College of Education and Cooperative Extension, in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, have been named Public Service and Outreach Faculty Fellows for 2019-20.

Darris R. Means, in Counseling and Human Development Services at the College of Education, will work with the Archway Partnership to study the tools, skills and resources that rural high school students need to prepare for college. The research is designed to help underserved populations—such as African American, low-income and first-generation college students from rural Georgia—succeed in higher education. Means’ studies, which include data collected from Pulaski and Candler counties, will be replicated and expanded to include more Archway Partnership communities so that the Archway professionals there can make data-informed decisions to improve educational attainment across the state.

Svoboda “Bodie” Vladimirova Pennisi, a full professor and UGA Cooperative Extension Specialist at the UGA Griffin campus, will work with the Small Business Development Center to implement online learning opportunities. Pennisi’s online business training module will be designed to help entrepreneurs and managers run a successful landscape management business by covering critical topics such as financials, marketing, cost estimating, employee retention and customer service, all catered to the landscape management field. In the future, the module will be used across UGA Extension and adopted for a new online class for undergraduate students. An experienced online educator, Pennisi will apply her horticulture and landscape expertise to help small businesses across Georgia.

Launched in 2011, the Faculty Fellows program provides professors with an opportunity to apply their research and course curriculum to the needs of a specific PSO unit. As a result of the program, departments across the university have a sustained relationship between the designated unit and the Faculty Fellows’ departments.

UGA brings coastal constituents together to discuss sustainable tourism

 

Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant has launched an initiative designed to promote the state’s 100 miles of shoreline to tourists, while protecting and sustaining the natural coastal environment.

A Coastal Georgia Tourism Conference in April at the Coastal Georgia Botanical Gardens drew almost 100 people, including representatives from the Georgia Department of Economic Development (GDEcD), Tybee Island, the Golden Isles (Jekyll Island, St. Simons and Sea Island), the UGA Carl Vinson Institute of Government, Troy University, nonprofit environmental groups like 100 Miles, and communities along the coast (Savannah, Darien, Brunswick and St. Marys) that depend on tourism for their local economy.

Attendees discussed a branding campaign for the entire coast, which would be in addition to, not in place of current branding for individual beaches and communities.

Jonathan Tourtellot, founder of the National Geographic Center for Sustainable Destinations, was the key note speaker for the daylong conference. Tourtellot warned that marketing the coastline to more tourists should be done carefully in order to sustain the beaches, saltmarshes, wildlife and native cultures.

“You cannot put an infinite number of tourists in confined spaces,” Tourtellot said. “Managing tourism and managing places are the same job.”

It would be hard to make up the revenue lost if there was no coastal tourism, because the tourism industry is the fifth largest employer in the state, said Cheryl Hargrove, director of industry and partner relations in the tourism division of GDEcD.

On average every household in Georgia would have to pay an additional $885 a year to replace the tourism taxes received by state and local governments in 2017, Hargrove said.

Mark Risse, director of the UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant, said he had wanted to bring stakeholders along the coast together to discuss these issue for several years.

“All the things I thought a conference like this might be able to accomplish, I heard today,” Risse said.

Sponsors of the conference included Georgia Power, Georgia Grown and UGA Cooperative Extension. Attendees indicated in a survey that they would like to hold the conference on an annual basis.

Worth County home health and medical transport company owner gets financing and realizes growth with SBDC assistance

 

Sylvester entrepreneur Gwendolyn McDaniel would often call Karen Rackley for information or contacts to support her new businesses in home health care and non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT) services.

Rackley, the top executive for the Sylvester-Worth County Chamber of Commerce and the Worth County Economic Development Authority, would, in turn, suggest McDaniel call Rob Martin, a consultant in the Albany office of the University of Georgia’s Small Business Development Center. Every time.

McDaniel refused to make the call.

“I had worked in procurement for the Army and for Proctor & Gamble, and I knew a lot about how to run a business,” she said. “I refused, seriously, to sit down and take the time for the SBDC to help me be successful.”

Until, that is, she sat down with Martin.

“Gwen had been referred to us several times and did not want to do it. She kept putting it off,” Martin agrees. “Then the city made available a revolving loan fund (RLF) she could use to expand her businesses and buy a building. At that pivotal point, her landlord was going to sell her building. She wanted the building and needed three new vehicles. She came to us with five days left to apply for the loan.”

McDaniel had been looking for creative ways to finance her companies, PremiereCare @ Home and PremiereCare Transportation LLC, when she learned about two revolving loan funds – the one offered by the city of Sylvester, the other by Worth County.

“They were both about to lose the funds. No one had applied for them yet,” she said. She chose to pursue the Worth County funding.

The applications were lengthy.

“There were 18 items I had to submit along with my information,” McDaniel said. “They were looking for a business plan, profit and loss statement, cash flow pro forma and a personal guarantee, among others. I had to put it all together, and I had no clue. When I saw that, I knew I needed help.

“So I called Karen and said, ‘Tell me that name again?’”

McDaniel called Martin, and the next day they met for three hours to go over the application.

“Once we had that meeting, I wanted to jump over the table and hug him,” she said. “Rob set the foundation, making sure I understood everything I needed to do for the loan application.”

“We went over what her business plan looked like, and she needed to do her financial projections. Then we put together a rough draft,” said Martin. “We don’t write the plans, but we do show our clients what they need to focus on. I helped her leave with the structure of the plan, and she spent the night writing it. She had it to me the next morning to review and update.”

Within two days McDaniel completed the application, Martin said.

McDaniel had opened her companies in March and April of 2016 with one vehicle and about $1,800 in monthly sales revenues. Upon receiving the revolving loan fund, she purchased five more NEMT vehicles and her building. By June 2018, she was up to 11 vehicles and 12 employees servicing three major contracts. She plans to purchase three more NEMT vehicles, and her sales earnings will double from 2017 to six figures this year. She continues to apply for major contracts and plans to expand her NEMT services to provide rides 24 hours, seven days a week.

Martin encourages small business owners to seek SBDC support earlier than five days from a hard deadline, and he says McDaniel agrees, telling him, “‘If I’d come to you the first time I was referred to you, I’d be six months further down the road today.’”

“I don’t think Rob ever met anyone who fought against him like I did, and now I love him to death,” McDaniel said. “I have sent a few people to Rob, and now they’re doing well, too. You have to go to the SBDC to get that foundation.”

UGA works with Envision Athens on planning

Wesley Chenoweth felt alone when he was starting his business.

“As a startup, minority-owned business in Athens, I felt lost,” he said. “I didn’t know where to start or if I’d ever be able to grow my business like the successful ones I saw downtown.”

His company, Grizzly Delivery LLC, specializes in courier delivery, passenger transportation, non-emergency medical transportation and more. Chenoweth’s goal is for Grizzly to be the leading transportation company in Northeast Georgia in the next five years, but to get there, he needed support.

That’s how he found himself at Emergent: Launch and Learn, a training course offered by the University of Georgia Small Business Development Center, hosted by Envision Athens.

Envision Athens is a partnership between community and government leaders with the goal of creating a 20-year strategy for community and economic development in Athens-Clarke County. The organization is based on the idea of government and community working together, making comprehensive community planning more insightful, intuitive and inclusive.

“This is essentially the best of institutional capacity and grassroots activism combined,” said Erin Barger, project manager of Envision.

In February, the SBDC, a division of UGA’s Public Service and Outreach, worked with Envision to host a training program for business owners looking to grow their companies and potential owners looking for a starting point. Michael Myers and Bart Njoku-Obi, consultants at the SBDC, instructed upward of 50 participants on subjects from startup mechanics to writing a business plan to cashflow management.

The event was held at the Goodwill Career Center and supported by Athens-Clarke County Housing and Community Development and Economic Development offices, Enlightened Media, Athens Area Chamber of Commerce, and the Northeast Georgia Business Alliance.

Myers helped plan the training curriculum.

“Envision had business owners telling them what they’d like to see,” Myers said. “SBDC does training like this all the time across the state. We took the tools and presentations that we have and used them for this specific audience.”

Your source for UGA’s impact across the state and beyond.

Business owners like Chenoweth benefit from the economic development focus of Envision. Other focuses include — but aren’t limited to — housing, education, social services and the environment.

The organization partners with larger entities like the University of Georgia, with partnership serving as the cornerstone for Envision Athens’ approach.

“The University of Georgia and Athens-Clarke County are linked. What is good for Athens-Clarke County is also good for UGA,” Barger said. “Any movement would be remiss to not include such a key stakeholder that is the lead employer in the county and also an institution that we look to for expertise in best practices. UGA leadership is key as we pursue our vision of reaching our full potential in Athens-Clarke County in unity, equity, prosperity and compassion.”

The goals of Envision are aspirational; the committee hopes to improve every aspect of Athens-Clarke County over the next two decades. In the meantime, events like the SBDC training are directly helping citizens like Chenoweth.

“It was like a breath of fresh air to see the networking taking place at the training. Entrepreneurs from all walks of life and industries were together, engaging, encouraging and uplifting each other,” he said. “I left with a feeling of inclusion within my community and a clear path to success for my business.”


By Kellyn Amodeo