Listen Now!

Business Talk 24-7

Curated Collection Of The Best Interviews From Our Midtown Studio

ION Loyalty Rewards and Small Business Saturday

William Mills Agency     SionicMobile

ION Loyalty Rewards and Small Business Saturday

This week I got to sit down with another pair of movers and shakers in the technology and payment processing/ merchant services space in Atlanta.  William Mills of William Mills Agency introduced us to Ronald Herman, founder of Sionic Mobile.  We talked about the cool app the company has developed that gives merchants an elegant way to incentivize their customers to keep coming back to patronize their business.  The Loyalty app is designed in such a way that as customers spend money they earn “ions” they can then redeem at any participating merchant.  I also spoke with Terri Dennison, Georgia District Director of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) about the upcoming Small Business Saturday and Small Business Saturday Night this coming November 29th.

The William Mills Agency has been in the Atlanta area for over 35 years, providing a suite of PR services, with a heavy focus on the financial services/payment processing technology sector.  The company provides public relations, crisis management, brand awareness/marketing strategy, and content marketing.  The William Mills Agency leadership team is heavily involved in the TAG FinTech Society.  FinTech is a group of professionals representing a broad range of financial technologies as well as a variety of roles within the industry, including executive management, solution specialists, sales and marketing, industry entrepreneurs and venture capitalists.  William has worked with 500-600+ innovative technology companies.  Even so, he was particularly intrigued by the model put forth by Ron Herman and his team at Sionic Mobile; so much so he became a member of the advisory board for the company.

Midtown Atlanta-based Sionic Mobile markets to smartphone consumers and rewards them for every mobile checkout. The mCommerce company utilizes mobile devices, Bluetooth® beacons and the cloud to connect merchants with nearby, ready-to-spend consumers. The company is the maker and provider of ION — the first, fully digital mobile promotions, gift cards, payments and rewards apps for phones and tablets. Merchants use ION Loyalty® to increase traffic, sales & margins, reduce credit card fees and get good customers back more often.  Users of the ION Consumers use ION Rewards® to earn IONs at every checkout, then spend them like cash on anything at any time at nearly 40,000 retail locations nationwide. The free apps support iOS and most Android devices.

The Small Business Administration provides a host of services designed to enhance the likelihood of success for small businesses in the US.  Their overarching goal is to increase available jobs through helping small businesses (who make up >50% of US business commerce) grow.  I got to speak with Terri Dennison of the Small Business Administration about their initiative to support small businesses through the Small Business Saturday campaign, aimed at encouraging US consumers to include local small business retailers in their holiday shopping.  SBA encourages America to support local economies shopping small on November 29th.  At the SBA, they know small businesses are vital to the growth and prosperity of the American economy. Since the recession, small businesses have created two out of three new private sector jobs… these firms are largely responsible for America’s 10.3 million new jobs that have led to 56 straight months of job growth.  Accelerating our recovery means creating the right environment and implementing the best policies for small businesses to thrive. The entrepreneurs the SBA works with face many challenges, but among the greatest is getting new customers in the door.  That’s why the SBA is proud to be part of Small Business Saturday – it’s a perfect time to promote your business and find new customers. On November 29th, millions of consumers across the country will participate in Small Business Saturday. More than 70 percent of Americans are now aware that two days after Thanksgiving is a day devoted to shopping small.  Last year, nearly half of all consumers who knew about Small Business Saturday…. acted on it … spending an estimated $5.7 billion dollars at local merchants across the nation. So we want to continue this momentum… And we’re asking you to help us promote the message that Small Business Saturday is day when buying gifts for the people we love … supports jobs and prosperity in the communities we call home.

We all have a stake in seeing foot traffic increase on Main Street.  We want to encourage shoppers to seek out unique, handmade gifts they won’t find at a big-box retailer.  And we want to see Internet traffic spike, too, with purchases of “gifts to ship” – and gift certificates from restaurants and service providers.  Everyone can spread the word about Small Business Saturday by recommending their favorite local shops and restaurants via Facebook and Twitter. The SBA is helping to spearhead an effort this Nov. 29 to extend the hours, so to speak, by promoting Small Business Saturday Night.  We know many of our small businesses are local restaurants and food purveyors…After a busy day of shopping, we want to encourage consumers to patronize their local small business restaurants and favorite watering holes.  The SBA is partnering this year with the National Restaurant Association to encourage families who are shopping small to “dine small” at local restaurants Saturday night.  Additionally, we’re encouraging small business merchants to extend their hours so they can take advantage increased nighttime foot traffic on Small Business Saturday Night.  So I hope we can create some synergy in this effort to keep Small Business Saturday going when the sun goes down.  To help in your preparations, I want to direct you to where we have holiday marketing tips, ideas and materials … even for entrepreneurs on a limited budget.  And use our hashtags on Twitter: #SmallBizSaturday for Small Business Saturday and #DineSmall  for Small Business Saturday Night.

Special Guests:

William Mills, Owner of William Mills Agency  Twitter 16x16  Facebook  Linkedin  google-plus-logo-red-265px  youtube logo  feed logo

William Mills Agencies

  • BA Communications, Florida State University
  • Member, Executive Committee of Florida State University College of Communications & Information’s Advisory board
  • Has been quoted as an expert for Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and Entrepreneur
  • Contributor for numerous publications

Ron Herman, CEO of SionicMobile  google-plus-logo-red-265px  Facebook  Twitter 16x16  Linkedin  


  • Founder and Former CEO, Urban Informatics Corporation
  • >19 years of Executive Leadership roles in Technology Start-up to Fortune 500 Companies
  • Former CEO, Intellione Technologies

Terri Dennsion, District Director, US Small Business Administration Georgia District Office  Facebook  Blogger 2  youtube logo  google-plus-logo-red-265px  Twitter 16x16 

Small Business Administration Georgia Office

  • Former Deputy District Director, US Small Business Administration Indiana District Office
  • MA Urban Studies, Trinity University
  • Recipient: Atlanta Business League 100 Most Influential Black Women, 2006-2008
  • Atlanta Business Chronicle 100 Top Professionals in Banking and Finance, 2007-2011

Nine Labs, Polygon, Casey Gilson, Nelson Mullins, and SoundRiver Advisors

SoundRiver Advisors    MBR hollingsworth cornelius

Nine Labs, Polygon, Casey Gilson, Nelson Mullins, and SoundRiver Advisors

This week we heard from experts in corporate law (workers compensation and mergers & acquisitions), web design and customer experience, and corporate executive compensation and financial planning.  I hosted folks from Nine Labs, Polygon, Casey Gilson, Nelson Mullins, and SoundRiver Advisors.

J. Cornelius is the President of Nine Labs, a web design and customer experience company based in Atlanta.  He also started Polygon, an event space designed and dedicated to support Atlanta’s growing technology industry.  Nine Labs is a user experience consultancy that helps businesses improve the look and feel of their digital technologies, making sure that a customer’s experience is useful, intuitive, and branding is maintained across the variety of digital media, mobile devices, and other user interfaces.  The company will provide message content or work with their client’s internal team to optimize the way the client presents their brand to the public.  Nine Labs is able to help businesses that are putting effort into making sure their customers can have a consistent experience across all digital/mobile platforms.  They often encounter situations where a user’s experience on a mobile device is very different in terms of look and feel of a company’s branding, along with less-than-optimal navigation or functionality.  Nine Labs’ experts are able to bring a consistent, positive experience to a company’s web visitors, regardless of technology used to access it.  Polygon is an event space located in popular Atlantic Station in Midtown Atlanta that was created to provide  technology companies and associations with a place to have productive networking, planning, and educational events.  The space is located, laid out, and equipped with the Atlanta technology industry in mind.

Rayford Taylor is an attorney with the firm, Casey Gilson PC, admitted to practice law in Florida and Georgia. The majority of his practice is providing advice and representation to employers, insurance companies, insurance funds, and third party administrators in the defense of workers’ compensation claims, whether at trial or on appeal.  Rayford also represents such entities in disputes with both Florida and Georgia state governments and regulators involving the operation of their companies and businesses. He has handled workers’ compensation cases all over Georgia and North Florida since 1990.  The law firm of Casey Gilson is a firm that practices in the areas of labor law, personal injury defense, business litigation, trademark matters, patent disputes, bankruptcy cases and general litigation throughout all parts of Georgia.  Rayford talked about some key areas where businesses make mistakes that can create increased exposure to workers compensation costs.  He shared recommendations that employers could use to improve relations with injured employees as well as reducing risk for fraudulent behaviors.

Michael Hollingsworth is an award-winning attorney with Nelson, Mullins, Riley, and Scarborough LLP, located in Atlanta.  He is a managing partner of Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough’s Atlanta office, and is co-head of the Firm’s Mergers & Acquisitions Group. Mr. Hollingsworth focuses on middle-market corporate transactions, including mergers, acquisitions, divestitures, and joint ventures. He also serves on the Firm’s Executive Committee, the governing body of seven partners who oversee firm standing committees, strategic initiatives, and firm operations. Michael represents private equity and hedge funds relative to their formation, operations and investments.  He has a broad range of industry experience including food and beverage, consumer-branded products, healthcare, construction and aggregates, technology and telecommunications, media, manufacturing and distribution, and business services.  Michael is also a transactional lawyer in the Firm’s multidisciplinary National Healthcare Practice Group.

Nelson Mullins provides advice and counsel in litigation, corporate, securities, finance, intellectual property, employment, government relations, regulatory, and other needs of clients ranging from private individuals to large businesses, including many publicly held companies.  Nelson Mullins offers services in over 40 practice areas and as such they are able to provide expertise to a wide range of legal and business problems while offering value-added service to clients. Many Nelson Mullins clients—including growth companies, expanding local businesses, and major international companies—retain the Firm to provide all of their legal services. Other clients are national companies requiring assistance with specific regional or local legal matters. The Firm also has experience representing international companies interested in locating facilities in the Southeast. Start-up assistance for entrepreneurial endeavors, multi-action litigation defense, and representation of underwriters and investment bankers are only a few of the services that are provided by Nelson Mullins attorneys.  Michael talked about how rewarding it is to become a trusted adviser for his clients as well as helping them to successfully navigate the sale of a successful business to the betterment of their financial situations.

Bo Wilkins, of SoundRiver Advisors stopped by to talk about the way their firm helps privately-owned businesses plan for generational transitions of ownership as well as preparation for sale or merger should those options be the chosen path for their clients.  SoundRiver Advisors is an independent wealth management and life insurance advisory firm providing strategies to help privately held business owners invest, protect, and perpetuate their wealth.  We talked about how challenging it can be for companies to retain high-performing, key executives (as well as how expensive it can be to replace them).  SoundRiver Advisors is able to help the business owner develop a compensation plan that affords their key executives with a compelling pay and bonus structure along with effective investment/benefit vehicles that will optimize the tax picture of that compensation package, making it much more likely those important executives will remain in place.  The firm provides certified financial and insurance experts and is a Registered Investment Advisor.  SoundRiver is structured to offer their clients unbiased and untethered solutions. They avoid selling captive investment or insurance solutions.  You don’t have to talk with their folks very long before you realize they are in the business of finding the best solution for each of their clients.

Special Guests:

J. Cornelius, President of Nine Labs, Founder of Polygon  Twitter 16x16  Facebook  LinkedIn  github logo

Nine Labs

  • President, Atlanta Web Design Group
  • Former VP Operations, CoffeeCup Software, Inc.
  • Mentor, ATDC
  • Creative Circus Advisory Board Member

Rayford Taylor, Attorney of Casey Gilson PC  Linkedin


  • Former VP, Stiles, Taylor, and Grace
  • Former General Counsel and Legislative Counsel, Florida Bar
  • Juris Doctor, Florida State University College of Law
  • Fellow, National Workers Compensation Lawyers

Michael Hollingsworth, Managing Partner, of Nelson, Mullins, Riley, & Scarborough  feed logo  Twitter 16x16  Facebook  Linkedin

Nelson Mullins

  • Juris Doctor, Samford Cumberland School of Law
  • Master of Laws, Taxation, University of Alabama School of Law
  • Member, Executive Committee, Managing Partner-Atlanta, Co-chair Mergers & Acquisitions
  • Recipient: BTI Client Service All-Stars (2012), Chambers & Partners (M&A), International Who’s Who of Business Lawyers, SuperLawyers (Georgia)

Bo Wilkins, Partner, SoundRiver Advisors  Linkedin    

SoundRiver Advisors

  • Former Executive Managing Director, Wealth Management, Reliance Trust Company
  • Former Partner, Nease, Lagana, Eden, & Culley
  • BA, History & German, Hampden-Sydney College
  • CLU – Chartered Life Underwriter; ChFC – Chartered Financial Consultant; CAP – Chartered Advisor in Philanthropy

Marketing Eye, SolTech, Cox Digital Solutions, and Pindrop Security

soltech marketing eye

Marketing Eye, SolTech, Cox Digital Communications, and Pindrop Security

Today, I had the opportunity to feature another four technology companies that help businesses grow and operate more efficiently.  I was pleased to host Marketing Eye, SolTech, Cox Digital Solutions, and Pindrop Security.  Mellissah Smith, founder and CEO of Marketing Eye brought along Veanne Smith, Vice President of SolTech, an innovative Atlanta technology company and client of Marketing Eye.  One of the digital strategy experts from Cox Digital Solutions, Drew Erickson, joined us to talk about why it makes sense to work with Cox Media and their digital team to maximize ROI on investing in a digital marketing strategy.  And Matt Anthony, VP of Marketing for Pindrop Security stopped by to talk about how they help companies avoid falling victim to phone fraud of a variety of types, protecting them and their customers from financial loss.

Marketing Eye is a disruptive marketing consulting firm that delivers small to medium-sized businesses with an experienced marketing team for a small, weekly fee. Their outsourced marketing solution delivers exponential growth to the companies we work with through a strategic approach and clear understanding of marketing strategy, creative, brand, lead generation, public relations, and sales and marketing automation.  Marketing Eye’s model is simple; they provide businesses with a marketing manager and outsourced marketing team dedicated to ensuring that your business achieves its marketing goals. Complete with branding, graphic design, web development, search engine optimization, social media, lead generation and direct marketing expertise – Marketing Eye is the ultimate results-orientated marketing solution in Atlanta.  Whether you need a marketing resource to accelerate your business growth, or a more strategic approached aligned to your business outcomes, Marketing Eye is well known for high performance, technology-driven marketing campaigns that deliver results for their clients.

SolTech is a Custom Software Development, Web Applications Services, IT Staffing and Technology Consulting Company in Atlanta, GA.   The company, now in its 16th year, helps companies fulfill visions of success and goals for growth through custom software development, strategic technology consulting, system integration, application infrastructure support, and staff augmentation. Using proven, structured methodologies to ensure outstanding deliverables, SolTech provides a quality alternative to high-priced consulting firms. Their promise to their staff and clients: to be honest about their capabilities, to stay focused on core services, and to remain committed to delivering quality results. To find out more about how SolTech can turn your company’s ideas into reality now and as you grow, visit their website.   The company is a Microsoft Gold Partner, Sitecore Partner and a Java certified developer.


Drew Erickson, Digital Sales Manager for WSB-TV and Cox Media Group. He consults with clients to develop a strategy for digital marketing, advertising, audience insights and lead generation programs. He’s been with Cox Media Group for over 10 years, all in digital marketing and advertising.  Their staff, comprised of a team of highly-experienced digital marketing experts, work closely with their clients to determine what their goals are.  They review what they have been doing to date to grow awareness of their brand, how effective those measures have been, and come up with a comprehensive set of recommendations that encompasses the variety of media types at their disposal to create a campaign that gives the greatest likelihood the brand gets its message in front of their target customers.  Cox Digital Solutions takes full advantage of today’s mobile technology, enabling their customers to display ads to prospective customers based on geo-location, allowing their clients to be very specific about where and when their message is displayed.  Cox Digial Solutions also leverages their role as a Google Premier Partner to take advantage of the wealth of analytics data available to them to place Search Engine Marketing (SEM) and Pay Per Click (PPC) text and display ads that much more effectively.  They combine these tactics with recommendations for improvements to their clients’ websites to insure the landing page for displayed ads provides the highest likelihood of conversion once a prospective client visits the website.  As someone who has worked with the team at Cox Digital Solutions I can tell you it will quickly become apparent they are invested in your success as an advertiser investing money with them to grow your business.

Matt Anthony is the VP of Marketing for Pindrop Security.  I was fortunate to link up with them via Twitter and looked into what they do.  Prior to that I knew phone fraud occurs but I didn’t realize that it’s not only still going strong, it is as Matt put it, “a growth industry”.  Thieves have become experts at “social engineering”, meaning they are adept at personifying an authentic customer in an effort to obtain sensitive data from a helpful call center agent.  This puts any business that possesses sensitive information at risk for significant financial loss.  Pindrop Security has developed technologies that enable their client businesses to determine with a high degree of accuracy that a given call to their call center is likely a fraudulent attempt to breach their system.  The process of evaluating voice, originating device, and geographic location happens as quickly as 20 seconds into the call.  This means Pindrop Security customers are able to terminate those calls or lock down the account that the caller is attempting to access to prevent the theft before it happens.  This means that Pindrop Security clients are able to avoid significant  financial losses and potential legal issues that arise when their systems are breached, allowing sensitive data to be stolen.

Special Guests:

Mellissah Smith, Managing Director/Founder of Marketing Eye  Facebook  Twitter 16x16  Linkedin  Pinterest  feed logo

Marketing Eye

  • Founder/Owner, Insomnia Marketing and Communication
  • Founder, Marketing Eye Magazine
  • Author, “108 Ways to Market Your Small Business”
  • #2 Marketer to follow on Twitter, >47,000 followers on Twitter, >11,000 connections on LinkedIn
  • Hundreds of thousands of readers follow her blog

Veeanne Smith, Vice President/Founder of SolTech  Facebook  Pinterest  Twitter 16x16  Linkedin


  • Former VP, Computer Management Services/Computer Associates
  • Former Professional Services Manager, Computer Task Group/ctg
  • CS Advisory Board Member, Kennesaw State University
  • BS, Computer Science, Illinois State University

Drew Erickson, Digital Solutions Manager, Cox Digital Solutions/ WSB-TV  Twitter 16x16  Facebook  google-plus-logo-red-265px  Linkedin

Cox Digital Solutions

  • Former Owner, Drew Erickson Productions and Marketing
  • Former Sales Account Manager, Cox Radio
  • Former Digital Web Master, Cox Radio
  • IAB Digital Media Sales Certification, Interactive Advertising Bureau



Custom Software Development, Technical Recruiting & Staffing, Mobile Application Development, Hosting & Hardware Support, Strategic Consulting


Intellectual Property, Film, Music and Sound Production, and Theater

John Seay

Intellectual Property, Film, Music and Sound Production, and Theater

Today’s show focused on the entertainment industry.  I sat down with experts in Intellectual property, film, music and sound production, and theater.  John Seay, from The Seay Firm LLC is an attorney who focuses his practice on the entertainment space.  He talked about how in reality he’s a small business attorney whose major client base comes from the entertainment sector.  He serves many small business owners in matters of intellectual property and issues such as trademarks, copyrights, and more.  John is a practiced musician who’s been known to perform in the Atlanta area.  And, he’s been honored to fulfill his role as legal counsel for the Wilson Pickett estate–making him particularly proud being a fellow Alabama native.  John shared some excellent advice for artists who are producing work in print and media with regard to protecting the intellectual property they produce–including things they can do without the help of an attorney that will give them additional recourse in the case of infringement by another party.

John brought along guests Marcus Blackwell, of Make Music Count, and Philip Justman, of Saiah Arts International.  Make Music Count is an innovative curriculum for improving understanding of mathematics in young students using music instruction on a keyboard.  His approach has proven to be highly effective in children in the Georgia schools where his curriculum is being employed as an after-school offering.  Philip Justman joined us to talk about his work at Saiah Arts International, a theater production he has with his wife, Marium Khalid.  They provide a cutting edge, immersive theater experience.  They place great focus on story telling and character development in their productions, which may take their intimate audience through a half mile to a mile of walking through an outdoor set in the elements as they follow the cast moving through an expansive set in the elements.

Chris Ethridge, of Blue Dusk Promotions came by to talk about the recent release of their motion picture, “Attack of the Morningside Monster“, a thriller-horror film.  Chris shared a little about the plot of the story along with some of the well-known acting talent they were able to include in the making of the film, including: Nicholas Brendon, Tiffany Shepis, Robert Pralgo, Catherine Taber and Amber Chaney.  The movie, which is available in several video-on-demand outlets, is also going into distribution on DVD/Blueray and has shown popularity with audiences abroad as well.

Our producer, Krista Berutti introduced us to music and sound production specialist, Greg Shearer, of Street Level Sound.  StreetLevelSound adds Floor and Decor to the growing client list as well as the new credits in the TV shows “Revenge,” “Keeping Up With The Kardasians,” and “Storage Wars.” Another recent new agency client was BBDO of New York!  They also have worked for such clients as AT&T, BMW, Dell, Kellogg’s, Lysol, Conoco Oil, Quaker Steak and Lube, Unocal, Dannon, Kraft, Aetna Insurance, Hard Rock Hotels and Casinos, HIghmark BCBS, TrueValue, Disney, and others. Street Level Sound has worked with agencies including, Leo Burnett, GSD&M, 22 Squared, and Mullen. StreetLevel has also contributed to network shows like “Veronica Mars,” and “10 Things I Hate About You,” Showtime’s “Sleeper Cell,” and regularly to Harpo Productions. The company does great sound design and audio post too!  Greg discussed his work  in the sound and  music production space along with his long-time experience in the recording industry and how those combined experiences make Street Level Sound a popular choice for advertisers and movie/TV productions.

Special Guests:

John Seay, of The Seay Firm LLC  Twitter 16x16  Facebook  Linkedin  feed logo

The Seay Firm LLC

  • JD, University of Georgia School of Law
  • Former Tour Manager, Saddle Creek Records
  • Author of Multiple Published Articles on Entertainment Law and Other Legal Topics
  • Legal Counsel for the Wilson Pickett Estate

Marcus Blackwell, CEO of Make Music Count  Twitter 16x16  Facebook  Linkedin  youtube logo  flickr

Make Music Count

  • BS, Mathematics, Morehouse College
  • Former Modeling Analyst, GE Energy
  • Trained Pianist in Jazz/Classical and Self-taught in Gospel Music
  • Music Director, Elizabeth Baptist Church

Chris Ethridge, Co-founder of Blue Dusk Productions Linkedin  Facebook  Twitter

Attack of the Morningside Monster

  • Director, “Attack of the Morningside Monster” Motion Picture
  • Senior Software Engineer, Insight Catastrophe Group
  • BS Computer Science, James Madison University

Greg Shearer, of Street Level Sound  Facebook  Linkedin

Street Level Sound

  • DMA, Composition, Northwestern University
  • Bachelor of Music, Guitar Performance, Indiana University
  • Nominated for Emmy for work on Oprah Winfrey Specials
  • Multiple-winner of Addy and AIR awards


Philip Justman, Co-founder of Saiah Arts International  Facebook  Twitter 16x16  Linkedin

Saiah Arts International

  • 20 major awards within 3 years Including: Best Theatrical Show 2012, 2013 and 2014, the Inspiration Award from the City of Prague, and the prestigious Creativity and Arts Impact Award from Emory University.