Listen Now!

Business Talk 24-7

Curated Collection Of The Best Interviews From Our Midtown Studio





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

 

Transition Planning

NOWaccount

Archie Jones CFO of NOWaccount

NOWaccount

NOWaccount Chairman, John Hayes

Transition Planning

I sat down with NOWaccount CFO, Archie Jones and his colleague, NOWaccount Chairman, John Hayes.  They stopped by to share some thoughts on how business owners need to start planning for how they intend to transition their business when it comes time, whether that’s selling it to a buyer or passing it to family members.

John and Archie talked about some of the common missteps business owners make that can complicate or delay sale of a business, or even cause the sale to fail.  We talked about how important it is to choose capital sources carefully, taking a few minutes to discuss factoring, business loans, and NOWaccount’s innovative merchant services option that gives the business access to their accounts receivable cash and preventing the need to acquire debt.

We discussed how important it is for business owners to insure they are on the same page with all partners with regard to what the plan is for the “end game”—sell or transition the business to family.  Archie and John shared the pros and cons of various business structures such as LLC’s versus C Corp, for example.  Three topics of conversation that owners need to have:  How will the company be operated?  Will all members/partners have roles or equal votes in decisions?  How much revenue will be taken for salaries for partners?  What is the “horizon” for deciding if/when to sell if that’s the goal?

John and Archie shared a number of critical points that make a business very attractive for a seller (or unattractive).  Archie talked about how important it is for business owners to educate themselves on the potential market for buyers of their business when they go to sell.

Special Guests:

Archie Jones,  VP of Finance/CFO of NOWaccount  facebook_logo_small3  twitter_logo_small  youtube logo  linkedin_small1

NOWaccount

  • MBA General Management, Harvard Business School
  • Previous Principal and Charter Member, Parthenon Capital
  • Member, Board of Directors, AIT Worldwide Logistics
  • Founder, Tubman Ventures

John Hayes, Chairman of NOWaccount  linkedin_small1

NOWaccount

  • JD, Law, Emory University School of Law
  • Previous CEO/Chairman, FTRANS Corp.
  • Founder and Former CEO, OneCoast Network
  • Founded Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC) at Georgia Tech

 

MARTA and Disadvantaged Business Enterprises

IMG_0465

MARTA and Disadvantaged Business Enterprises

This week, Lara Hodgson, CEO and Founder of NOWaccount came by and brought experts from Atlanta’s mass transit authority and a WBE who’s worked with them to talk about MARTA and Disadvantaged Business Enterprises.  Ferdinand Risco is the Executive Director for Marta’s Diversity and Equal Opportunity platform.  This arm of MARTA focuses on engaging Atlanta’s disadvantaged business enterprises to provide them with opportunities to vie for contracts and sub-contracts to work with federally-funded projects around the community.

Ferdinand shared that their goal for DBE participation is 30% of contracts awarded to this demographic of Atlanta’s business community.  He talked about the fact that there are business opportunities on a broad spectrum of needs from basic office supplies to construction, planning, and other services.  We talked about the online resources MARTA makes available to allow local business owners to easily review current and upcoming projects they could potentially participate in.

We also talked about the fact that business owners need to go through the effort to establish credit and corporate structuring to position themselves to be able to meet certification requirements for DBE status.  Through partnerships with GMSDC and SBA, MARTA helps business owners have access to these often-free education and mentoring resources, as well as access to necessary resources such as working capital.

Lara shared information about NOWaccount’s recent partnering with MARTA to make their innovative capital solution available to the B2B community.  This solution gives business owners access to their AR capital within 5 days or less for 2.5% of the total AR sold.  In this way, NOWaccount gives B2B’s quick access to the capital they’ve already earned so they can add new staff, take larger orders, or purchase in bulk on discounts they wouldn’t be able to get otherwise.

Lara also introduced us to Heather Alhadeff, President of Center Forward, a transportation and land use planning firm based in Atlanta.  Heather is so committed to the value of mass transit, she hasn’t owned a car in years.  In addition to avoiding headaches associated with driving with Atlanta traffic, she also has gained first-hand experience of what users of our mass transit system experience.  This affords her with insight to be able to recommend options that would improve on the experience and/or allows her to effectively engage community residents when discussing developments (growth or retraction) of mass transit, road systems, or urban land development.

We talked about why transportation is such a key element of urban or city planning, discussing examples of how mass transit availability can have unexpected impacts on such facets of our lives as healthcare delivery and other important functions.

Special Guests:

Ferdinand Risco, Executive Director of Diversity and Equal Opportunity, MARTA  twitter_logo_small  Pinterest-logo  instagram-logo-transparent-png-i11 (16x16)  feed logo  facebook_logo_small3  linkedin_small1   flickr  youtube logo

MARTA

  • MBA, University of New Haven
  • Recipient, 2014 GMSDC The Ambassador Award
  • Former Bradley Platoon Leader, US Army
  • Previous Inclusion and Diversity Manager, MTA Metro-North Railroad

Heather Alhadeff, President, Center Forward    facebook_logo_small3  linkedin_small1  twitter_logo_small  google-plus-logo-red-265px

Center Forward

  • BS Planning & Economic Development, Georgia State University
  • MBA, City Planning, Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Published Author
  • Part-time instructor, Georgia Institute of Technology

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

 

 

 

 

Some backing music provided by: www.pacdv.com/sounds/

 

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

Payscape Advisors

Payscape Advisors

Payscape Advisors

According to the Atlanta Metro Chamber, “Georgia is 3rd in the nation, just behind New York and California in FinTech revenue. Georgia FinTech companies have produced more than $83 billion of shareholder value since 1995 and revenues are more than $34 billion annually.  Wages in Atlanta’s financial and IT industry are lower than competitive markets. Here, there is a convergence of three key sectors: finance, IT, and software, all of which have a strong presence in Atlanta, along with an abundant IT, software and financial labor force.”

Today I got to sit down with 3 of the folks on the team from Payscape Advisors, an Atlanta company through and through that is an important player in those amazing statistics.  I was joined by Rachel Lawrence, Technology Integration Specialists, Hunter Hudson, Director of Business Development, and Zach Wing, Product Manager.  Hunter Hudson has been with Payscape Advisors for a number of years and he shared the story of how Payscape Advisors was started and launched by two Atlanta residents, Jeremy Wing and Adam Bloomston.  They have since grown the company to include offices in 13 cities nationwide that also has clients and partners around the globe.  The company initially focused on payment processing but saw opportunities to expand their suite of services to include point-of-sale processing, access to working capital, SaaS services including Reg Point and Billing Orchard, international payment processing, web development for eCommerce sites (including compliant payment features) and more.  The company has striven to provide the gamut of services to merchants

As Hunter described why they’re different than many of the other merchant services companies out there, “We do have those feet on the street.  We have a team.  We have somebody you can call.  You’re gonna call their cellphone and you’ll have their email address.  We’re not just a 1-800 number.   You’re gonna have someone who’s going to be there for you.”  He went on to talk about the different service options they provide and how they collaborate with SaaS developers to provide the payment interface for their applications, enabling them to provide a more desirable, robust product to their users.

We talked about the innovative user registration software they make available to groups such as camps and other large events that provides a secure way for attendees to sign up and enter sensitive information and provide payment.  The company also offers several avenues for companies to access working capital when bank loans are not readily available.

As I sat with these 3 experts it was clear that they all share a passion for what they’re doing and take pride in engaging their clients and partners with a personable, professional approach with the goal of forging long-term, mutually-beneficial relationships.

Special Guests: Payscape Advisors LinkedIn  Twitter  google-plus-logo-red-265px  Facebook

Rachel Lawrence, Technology Integration Specialist, Payscape Advisors  Linkedin

rachel

  • BA Communication, University of Georgia
  • WW IBM WebSphere GB and Partner Sales Executive 4/13
  • Recipient, Rep of Quarter Q1 2013, IBM

Hunter Hudson, Director Business Development, Payscape Advisors Linkedin  Twitter 16x16

hunter

  • BA Finance, University of Alabama
  • Successful entrepreneur

Zach Wing, Product Manager, Payscape Advisors  Linkedin

zach

  • BA Marketing, University of Alabama
  • Former Manager, Direct Sales, Atlantix Global Systems
  • Former Owner/Partner, USA Payroll

Elavon Merchant Services

Elavon

Megan Heinze talks about Elavon’s services for small businesses.

Today I sat down with Megan Heinze of Elavon merchant services, one of the world’s largest provider of merchant payment processing services.  The company was founded in Atlanta in 1991 as NOVA Information Systems, with a focus of providing services supporting small- to mid-sized companies.  The company combined forces with USBank, who brought a compliment of large client companies from around the globe.  Elavon continues to innovate payment processing services, providing a range of technologies, access to key business data, and customer loyalty options that help companies operate and grow more efficiently.

Megan talked about Elavon’s platform called, “Talech”, which gives the small- and mid-sized company owner the ability to use a variety of devices, including tablets and smart devices, to take orders, process payment, manage inventory, assess sales histories for their products/services, and more—all at their fingertips.  This platform gives the small- to mid-sized business owner the ability to more efficiently “wear the many hats” that small company executives often have to wear to operate their business.  Additionally, Elavon provides the business owner with the ability to offer “cardless” customer loyalty programs that are highly customizable.  Customers are able to be recognized by either their credit card or phone number, eliminating the need for a punch card or cumbersome rewards card they have to carry to be able to accrue/redeem the rewards they qualify for.

For companies in the hospitality and food/beverage spaces Elavon has partnered with Micros, the maker of point-of-sale platforms to enhance the level of security from end to end.  This collaboration will help reduce risk for both the merchant and their customers.

Special Guest:

Megan Heizne, Senior VP/General Manager, US Bank Payment Solutions & Partner Channels of Elavon  Linkedin

Elavon

  • >20 years of high-level leadership rolls in banking/finance
  • MBA, Duke University
  • Board Member, Head of Audit Committee, Littleford Day, Inc