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Curated Collection Of The Best Interviews From Our Midtown Studio





Bowlfreak

Bowlfreak

Bowlfreak

This week I had the opportunity to sit down with long-time friend of mine, Michael Powell, founder of Bowlfreak.  Bowlfreak is a web-based app that allows bowlers who participate in USBC-sanctioned leagues simultaneously compete in bracket-style tournaments via the app with opponents they’re matched with based on their sanctioned handicaps.

Most leagues and even professional bowling tournaments will have bracket tournaments going on within the main event.  The Bowlfreak app creates very large bracket tournaments against similarly-skilled players, providing for potentially very large prize awards for winning/placing in competitions.

Michael shared how the idea for the app was born out of a conversation with a local league manager who opined that there ought to be an app for bowlers.  Given Powell’s previous work as a web designer and creator of numerous mobile apps, he and his colleagues readily possessed the know-how.

The Bowlfreak team is preparing to launch the app to the public for use within the next few weeks.  And, it is entirely possible that with the ability to significantly increase the ability to win sizable prize awards, along with a competitively-level playing field, will help increase interest in participating in USBC-sanctioned leagues.

Special Guest:

Michael Powell, Creator of Bowlfreak

Bowlfreak

Bowlfreak creator, Michael Powell

Woman Owned Business

business radio

Marie Hunter and Kenzie Biggens join CW Hall on Midtown Business Radio

Woman Owned Business

On this week’s episode I continued my monthly series with NOWaccount.  CFO Archie Jones stopped by to talk about woman owned business.  He introduced us to two female entrepreneurs who are working on disrupting their respective industries.

KRG Oil Company is a family and female owned fuel and petroleum products business.  The company has positioned itself to serve the needs of small to mid-sized clients that require quantities of fuel and petroleum products that are below what larger fuel companies are willing or able to fulfill.  Marie described how she and her father, who had spent numerous years in the fuel business, decided to start their own company together after Marie was laid off from a previous job.

They determined their mission is to provide excellent customer service that goes above and beyond their competitors.  Marie shared how KRG’s corporate  philosophy is to treat all of their customers with professionalism and respect, no matter how big or small the client company.  KRG Oil was started because its founders felt that the fueling industry was missing good and old fashioned “customer service.”

We talked about how Marie and her team want the success of this business to be used as a platform to encourage others to “think outside of the box” and to give back to our community.

Kenzie Biggens explained how her earlier work in the social media arena opened the door to an unexpected opportunity to launch her virtual assistant business, Uniquely Virtual.  She explained how an executive she had been working with on social media services was retiring and suggested she start the business she had been contemplating for some time.

Kenzie got her business started and began to see a true niche and need for virtual assistants, particularly for executives who are serving in a contractor/consultant role.  Eventually, she designed an effective database and client management platform that has empowered her to allow her production partners to work remotely, helping to accelerate scaling and growing the company.

The Uniquely Virtual solution allows executives to gain access to professional assistant services while saving many of the employee expenses that come with employing workers.

My guests shared strategies they have used to help them get a toe hold in their markets and how they chose to distinguish themselves from their competitors, particularly with strict focus on customer service.

Special Guests:

Marie Hunter, President/CEO of KRG Oil Company  twitter_logo_small  facebook_logo_small3  linkedin_small1

KRG Oil Company

  • BA, Journalism and Telecommunication Arts, University of Georgia
  • Previous Internet Sales Manager, Lewis & Sheron Textile Company

Kenzie Biggens, CEO/Founder of Uniquely Virtual  twitter_logo_small  linkedin_small1  facebook_logo_small3  google-plus-logo-red-265px

Uniquely Virtual

  • MFA, Luxury and Fashion Management, Savannah College of Art and Design
  • Committee Member, Atlanta Regional Commission, Strategic Implementation Innovation Subcommittee
  • Member, Board of Directors, ArtsATL

Veteran Owned Small Businesses

NOWaccount

Melinda Coker and Kit Walker talk Veteran Owned Businesses

Veteran Owned Small Businesses

This week I was joined in studio by friend of the show, Lara Hodgson, CEO of NOWaccount.  We focused this episode on veteran owned small businesses.  Lara introduced us to Kit Walker, a combat-disabled veteran who started his own small business, EBS-4U, after spending several years in the corporate world.

His company provides professional cleaning services for businesses and has begun to expand into construction clean-up.  After completing certification as a minority business enterprise and combat-disabled veteran, Kit began to expand his business through fulfilling federal contract opportunities.

We also met Melinda Coker, of Small Business Access Partners, of Gainesville, GA.  This non-profit organization works with small business owners, helping them get access to available small business loans for their particular needs.

In our discussion on veteran owned businesses, Melinda explained there are numerous options for business owners today, and shared some information about veteran owned businesses.

Coker explained a resource available through the Veterans Administration.  If you go to the VA’s website which is va.gov and click on the resources link and then select businesses, there are several helpful links for veteran small business owners who are seeking financing for their businesses.

VA’s website also allows business owners to customize their search criteria by zip code to find financing options applicable to their area of operation.  SBA’s website also has a special tool now for small business owners known as SBA Linc that allows small business owners to fill out a survey for the financing they are looking for and then SBA distributes that information to a network of lenders who can then
respond based on the financing need requested.  The applicant is also provided the contact information for the lenders interested in their request.

Special Guests:

Lara O’Connor-Hodgson, CEO of Nowaccount Network Corporation  Twitter  LinkedIn  Facebook

Nowaccount Network Corporation

  • MBA Harvard Business School
  • Former Adjunct Professor of Finance, Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Board of Directors, Georgia Regional Transportation Authority
  • Owner, Insomnia Group
  • Chairman of the Board, Atlanta Heights Charter School
  • Second Language–Japanese

Kit Walker, CEO/Founder of EBS-4U  linkedin_small1

EBS-4U

  • MBA, Management & Organizational Behavior, Woodbury University
  • Combat-wounded veteran
  • Previous VP Relationship Manager, Bank of America
  • Former Consultant, Migration Project Partner, Wells Fargo Bank

Melinda Coker, of Small Business Access Partners linkedin_small1

Small Business Access Partners

 

JR Revelry Bourbon Whiskey

Rick Tapia

Rick Tapia, founder of JR Revelry Bourbon Whiskey

JR Revelry Bourbon Whiskey

On this episode I featured friend of the show, Rick Tapia, the founder of JR Revelry Bourbon Whiskey.  I met Rick last year around this time, celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month when he appeared on Let’s Talk Small Business, sponsored by the GMSDC.

JR Revelry Bourbon Whiskey

We talked about how he  spent the early years of his career learning about the business side of the beverage industry with Seagram Company.  As his career advanced, the possibility of having to relocate began to appear on the horizon Rick decided it was time to pursue an idea that had been on his mind for a while—he’d start his own brand.

So, Rick began working on developing a recipe that would provide the flavor profile and color he was looking for, found a contract distiller, selected the glass he would use, and JR Revelry was born.  When I met him last year he was in the process of contacting distributors through which his bourbon would make it to package store and restaurant/bar shelves.

Tapia shared how challenging it is to forge a relationship with distributors, describing how many new beverage makers are trying to do the same time.  He ultimately found a receptive distributor in New York and was able to begin marketing his spirit.

Today, JR Revelry Bourbon Whiskey is available in four states, including Georgia, and he’s continuing to work to expand the footprint of his brand.

I had the opportunity to try his bourbon and I can tell you, it is excellent, particularly for its price point.  To find out where you can purchase your own  bottle, visit the JR Revelry website to see merchants who carry his product.

Special Guest:

Jesus Ricardo (Rick) Tapia, Founder of La Bodega International, LLC and Creator of J.R. Revelry

Facebook  Twitter 16x16

JR Revelry

  • 17 years of experience in alcohol beverage industry
  • Successful entrepreneur
  • Actively involved in the community, supporting Hispanic and Latin American Chambers of Commerce
  • BA, Boston University
  • Speaks Fluent Spanish

 

Pitch The Crowd

Pitch The Crowd

Pitch The Crowd

I met JR McNair a few months ago when I was just getting started here with the Midtown studio.  He is an Atlanta native and hometown sports star that now resides in South Fulton County.

While in College J.R. started a business development company that since its inception has helped over 3,000 small business owners. J.R. is an avid learner and prides himself on mastering a new business skill every 12 months. J.R. has helped incorporate almost 1,000 entities and as such is an expert in the field of corporate formations. J.R. McNair started his first business at the age of 10 years old and has  personally started, branded, invested or sold over 30 businesses since that time.

He came by to talk about his newest effort—Pitch The Crowd, a show he recently launched on cable TV here in Atlanta.  The show, which currently will air a new episode quarterly, is similar to the popular Shark Tank.  With Pitch The Crowd, the goal is to pitch your business or not-for-profit to the crowd funding space.

He brought along several guests who had appeared on the show’s first episode.  Emmenette Mason oversees a non-profit organization focused on giving Atlanta young people and adults education on entrepreneurship through a series of weekly workshops in the summer in addition to other educational offerings.  IXOYE Global Entrepreneurship Network, or IXGEN for short, has already seen success, with numerous young people who have gone through the program coming back to talk about how they have successfully launched their own small businesses based on what they learned from IXGEN.

IXOYE Global Entrepreneurship Network (IXGEN), is a Georgia nonprofit organization created to provide business support services to assist in creating, strengthening and expanding grassroots micro and small enterprises, and guiding them toward national and international levels of entrepreneurship.  IXGEN’s mission is to facilitate access to resources, provide information, technical assistance, training, counseling and other support services, to micro and small entrepreneurs to enable them to promote, strengthen and grow their businesses. IXGEN is committed to ‘promoting a global perspective for micro entrepreneurs in the USA and in Africa.

IXGEN passionately advocates (non-politically), the need for entrepreneurial education as an integral part of the middle and high school curricula throughout the USA and Africa. In this regard, IXGEN has initiated a youth empowerment program (iYEP), for youth in middle and high schools, as well as for young adults.  The Youth Empowerment Program (iYEP), is an annual Entrepreneurship, Leadership, & Life Skills Training that provides opportunities for the young people to develop the competencies they need to become successful individuals, and potential business owners.

IXGEN has developed strategic collaborations/partnerships with individual entrepreneurs, philanthropists, development practitioners, governmental and non-governmental agencies, and faith-based organizations that are engaged in economic and community development.

Deontae Trundle came by to talk about Indie Film Loop.  The Indie Film Loop is a three-day Film Conference and Creative Showcase that starts on Friday, August 7th, 2015 and ends on Sunday, August 9th. It is projected to be the Southeast regionʼs premiere marketplace for Independent talents within the film & media industries. Attendees will have the opportunity to discover new creative talents within the industry by seeing the showcased participants engaged in intense film related competitions and more. Participants will also be able to gain valuable knowledge from industry leading professionals through thought provoking panel discussions and keynotes, interactive workshops and collaborative opportunities making The Indie Film Loop a vibrant avenue for career development. Emerging professionals of today will be able to earn the right to become the industry elites of tomorrow!

Mark Cano was a Pitch The Crowd participant who is looking for crowd funding to support his efforts to launch a state-of-the-art cosmetology school in the Atlanta area.  Having been exposed to the industry of cosmetology education with his wife while living in Florida.  Mark’s wife, who has many years of experience in cosmetology was invited to help build a new school in their community and they became intrigued by the possibilities.

Mark has leveraged his background in investment banking, his wife’s experience, and their work as owners of the MedSpa in Johns Creek to develop a passion to build a cosmetology school the he hopes will be the go-to option for the region.

Special Guests:

JR McNair, Business Service Pros, Pitch The Crowd  facebook_logo_small3  twitter_logo_small  google-plus-logo-red-265px

Pitch The Crowd

 

  • Founder, Business Service Pros
  • Launched his first business, age 10

 

Emmenette Mason, IXOYE Global Entrepreneurship Network  facebook_logo_small3

emmenette

  • MBA, Entrepreneurship Development, University of Akron
  • Founder, Youth Empowerment Program
  • Member, National Association of Professional Women
  • Counselor, SCORE (Business counseling of SBA, Georgia Chapter)

Deontae Trundle, Managing Partner, Indie Film Loop  facebook_logo_small3  twitter_logo_small  linkedin_small1

deontae

 

  • AA, Applied Business with focus in Graphic Design, Coyehoga Community College
  • Produced “Mr. Amazing”, 2009 Atlanta Film project Competition in Atlanta, Winning 5 “Best Of” Awards
  • Previous Creative Director, Upris Corp
  • Creative Director/Founder, Creative Synergy Design, LLC

 

Three Fantastic Female Entrepreneurs

women

Three Fantastic Female Entrepreneurs

This week I got to sit down with Three Fantastic Entrepreneurs from the Atlanta area. Diana Keough, CEO and founder of ShareWIK Media Group (Share What I Know), LeeAnn Maxwell, Co-Founder of Vixen Vodka, and Lara Hodgson, multiple-time successful entrepreneur and CEO/Founder of NOWaccount.  We talked about some of the challenges they faced as women launching their own businesses, hear what they believe helped them succeed as entrepreneurs, and advice they offer for women contemplating starting a business of their own.  For the longest time most of us would envision a man when thinking “CEO” or “Doctor”, or even “Entrepreneur”.  And, as our guests shared, many times they’re the only female CEO/Entrepreneur in a room full of men.  Times are slowly but surely changing.  And today many women are launching successful brands and businesses, some of which are now global brands.

ShareWIK Media Group is a licensed content-generating group, producing high quality, interesting content across all media types for use in population health management efforts, inbound marketing/branding, testimonial content, and pertinent health optimization content.  Diana talked about her transition from a journalist for the Plains Dealer newspaper to a Chief Executive Officer in a leadership role.  She says, “If you are not surrounding yourself with people who are better than you and open to the fact that you might be wrong; or they might have a better idea on how to do things, then you’re not going to grow.”  Over the weeks since I met Diana I’ve had the opportunity to meet several of the folks who make up the team at ShareWIK and seen some of their work.  I can tell you: if your organization or agency needs to move an initiative or your business forward and you rely heavily on engaging your target audience to drive awareness you MUST include ShareWIK Media Group on your shortlist of content providers.  At their core, the people at ShareWIK Media Group are journalists with expertise across all media types.  On top of journalistic skills they bring knowledge and expertise within the healthcare journalism space as well.

Vixen Vodka is an EXCELLENT vodka that was born out of a trip to St. Simons Island, GA where two friends, drinking cocktails by the pool, decided they should launch their own vodka, branded and tailored for women.  As LeeAnn says, “We came home, sobered up, and remembered it was a great idea.”  “A dream without action is merely a fantasy.”  It took them 2 years from beach to shelf.  She shared how she and her good friend (also a woman) broke into the spirits business, starting with ZERO knowledge of how to make vodka much less how to bring one to market.  After being told her idea was fantastic by a business consultant he turned around and told them, “I’ll never work.  The spirits industry is a Good Ol’ Boys network.  Those men will chew you up and spit  you out!”  That was several years ago and now the brand is adding more states to the seven states where they’re currently sold.

NOWaccount got started as a solution to a problem Lara Hodgson encountered as an entrepreneur with an earlier business, the impact of not having access to cash that is tied up holding unpaid invoices, particularly when they aged for several weeks (or more).  She firmly believes that a successful business needs to have people behind them who are providing the product/service to solve a particular problem for their customer more so than “to sell lots of ‘X’ and make lots of money because it’s a great product”.  She said, “So many people come up with a great idea and they fall in love with the ‘What’.  They fall in love with the widget or the product.  And if your ego and your passion is in the product then they are going to woefully un-deliver.  But if your ego and your passion are in the “So What?” and the impact and the problem you’re solving then the sky’s the limit.”  NOWaccount is a merchant services company that provides the B2B company with access to capital by selling slower-paying invoice accounts within 2-5 days for basically the same cost as accepting a credit card.  Their solution is invisible to their client’s customers, has no minimum time commitment, and includes only those accounts selected by the B2B they’re helping.  The NOWaccount option gives businesses the capital they need to accept larger orders, add staff, often enabling them grow larger and faster than was possible before.

Special Guests:

Lara O’Connor-Hodgson, CEO of Nowaccount Network Corporation  Twitter  LinkedIn  Facebook

Nowaccount Network Corporation

Lara O’Connor-Hodgson of Nowaccount Network Corporation

  • MBA Harvard Business School
  • Former Adjunct Professor of Finance, Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Board of Directors, Georgia Regional Transportation Authority
  • Owner, Insomnia Group
  • Chairman of the Board, Atlanta Heights Charter School
  • Second Language–Japanese

Diana Keough, CEO/Founder of ShareWIK.com  facebook_logo_small3  twitter_logo_small  linkedin_small1  Pinterest-logo  google-plus-logo-red-265px  

ShareWIK.com

  • Journalism Instructor/Guest Lecturer, Emory University
  • Member, Koles College of Business Advisory Board, Kennsaw State University
  • Former Front Page Series Writer, The Plain Dealer
  • Former Reporter/Commentator, WKSU
  • Co-author, “Building a Business, Building a Life: The Incredible Life of a Woman Business Owner”

LeeAnn Maxwell, CEO/Co-Founder of Vixen Vodka  Facebook  Twitter  LinkedIn  Pinterest

Vixen Vodka

  • 28 years experience in finance sector
  • former Director, Client Services of AccousTech Music Productions
  • Crossfit fan
  • 50% Firecracker
  • 50% Do-It-Yourself Woman