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Curated Collection Of The Best Interviews From Our Midtown Studio

Government Contracting

Government Contracting

NOWaccount CEO, Lara Hodgson, stopped by the studio to talk about government contracting for small businesses.  I also hosted 3 experts who serve our community by helping children and adults in need of foster care, and help/treatment for developmental challenges and/or mental illness.  Tom Russell and Lori Brickman of Creative Community Services, and Pat Strode of the Georgia Chapter for the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) joined us to talk about the vital role they play for children in foster care, particularly those who face those developmental issues or mental illness.

Lara discussed a recent event where an SBA representative shared information about doing business with the federal government.  Did you realize there’s over $100 BILLION dollars of federal contracts available?  And that there’s ~23% are earmarked for small businesses who are able to fulfill the need for goods and services?

We talked about what to do to prepare to do business with the government, where to go to register, where to go for information on contracts available, as well as resources available that can facilitate accepting government contracts even if invoices are paid slowly.

I also learned that there are over 11,000 children in foster care in Georgia.  The folks from Creative Community Services and NAMI, came by to talk about how they serve our community by working to help this vast population of children in need of loving, safe environments, along with supportive care they require as well if they’re facing developmental challenges or mental illness.

We talked about how important getting treatment and medication is for patients who are dealing with mental illness is. We also discussed how important it is for first responders to be certified to be able to identify and handle persons suffering from mental illness rather than simply assuming they’re criminals.

Tom explained that many of these children lack any real positive role models or mentors

The groups have regular events to raise funds to enable them to provide support and treatment for patients in need.  Be sure to visit their websites for more information on events as well as opportunities to serve with your time as volunteers or mentors.

Special Guests:

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

Nowaccount Network Corporation

Tom Russell, Director of Therapeutic Foster Care at Creative Community Services  facebook_logo_small3  youtube logo  google-plus-logo-red-265px  twitter_logo_small  linkedin_small1

Creative Community Services

Lori Brickman, Volunteer for Creative Community Services and NAMI  linkedin_small1

Creative Community Serivces

Pat Strode, CIT Program Administrator,  National Alliance on Mental Illness  facebook_logo_small3  linkedin_small1  youtube logo  instagram-logo-transparent-png-i11 (16x16)  twitter_logo_small  tumblr logo

National Alliance for Mental Illness

Yacht Rock Revue and Ignited Entertainment Group

Emerging Artist Network

Peter Stroud & Dave Sutton talk Emerging Artist Network

Emerging Artist Network

Nick Niespodziani and Sonny Del Grosso talk about the business of music.

Yacht Rock Revue and Ignited Entertainment Group

I sat down with co-founders of Emerging Artist Network, Dave Sutton and Peter Stroud to learn about the cool technology platform they created to pair bands with brands that are looking to integrate music into their marketing efforts.

They brought along Nick Niespodziani, lead singer and co-founder of the popular Atlanta-based, Yacht Rock Revue, and Sonny Del Grosso, founder of Ignited Entertainment Group, and former manager for the Zac Brown Band in their early days.  Nick and Sonny shared their stories and how their respective businesses evolved to where they are now.

check back soon for more information!

Special Guests:

Dave Sutton, CEO/Co-Founder of Emerging Artist Network   twitter_logo_small  facebook_logo_small3  linkedin_small1


  • MBA, Marketing, George Washington University
  • Published Author
  • President/CEO, TopRight Partners

Peter Stroud, Co-Founder/ Artist Relations of Emerging Artist Network  twitter_logo_small  facebook_logo_small3  linkedin_small1


  • Guitarist, Musical Director for Sheryl Crow
  • Co-Founder/Partner, 65amps
  • Founder of the band, Big Hat

Nick Niespodziani of Yacht Rock Revue  linkedin_small1  twitter_logo_small  facebook_logo_small3  youtube logo  soundcloud logo

Yacht Rock Review


  • BA, English, Indiana University Bloomington
  • Previous Director of Business Development, Camp Jam
  • Former President, Jamling

Sonny Del Grosso of Ignited Entertainment Group  linkedin_small1  twitter_logo_small  facebook_logo_small3

Ingnited Talent


  • BA, Communication, Florida State University
  • Former Manager, Zac Brown Band
  • Previous Senior Marketing Manager, Turner Broadcasting System/Turner South

Self-funded Health Plans


mPoweredIThealth connection strategies

Self-funded Health Plans

On this episode of Midtown Business Radio I featured two Atlanta area companies that help business from a couple of directions.  John Mamon, CEO of mPoweredIT, came by to talk about their outsourced IT solution.  He introduced us to Brian Keen, President/CEO of Health Cooperative Strategies.

mPowered IT is an IT support services provider focused on delivering the entire IT value chain to small and medium medical practices and businesses. Offerings include fixed fee IT support, cloud services, backup and disaster recovery, and managed network security.

John shared how he came to starting his service company that enables medical practices and small to mid-sized businesses focus on their core functions rather than spending unproductive time trying to maintain and manage their IT hardware, software, and infrastructure.

We talked about the fact that for most small- to mid-sized businesses it makes sense to outsource the IT management function in order to maximize reliability of vital IT elements, their security, and compliance, while at the same time, spending less than would be required if they were to hire a skilled expert themselves.

Brian talked about how Health Cooperative Strategies collaborates with associations, chambers of commerce, and other large groups such as GPO’s to create self-funded health plans.  In this way, these organizations are able to offer large-group-type health plans that in some cases, equals the benefits and member expense as a 10,000+ employee company.

We talked about how, before the ACA, health plans were able to offer discounted rates to organizations such as these for insuring large, mostly-healthy groups for inclusion in the plan.  The recent level of implementation of the ACA changed that, making it impossible for companies participating in exchanges to offer such a discounted, minimal-risk group plan.

Health Cooperative Strategies fills that void.  They are able to work with these organizations who seek to provide such benefits to help them create a self-funded plan and/or to combine with other similar groups to forge an even-larger group that helps them offer outstanding benefits for a comparatively low rate.

Special Guests

John Mamon, CEO/Founder, mPoweredIT  linkedin_small1  google-plus-logo-red-265px


  • Associates Degree, Information Technology, Bryant and Stratton College
  • Previous VP, Professional Services, BMC Solutions
  • Former Executive VP, CDI Managed Services

Brian Keen, President/CEO, Health Cooperative Strategies  linkedin_small1

health connection strategies

IRC Wealth 1

IRC Wealth and 3 Female Entrepreneurs

This week marked the first of a monthly series we’re running with the folks from IRC Wealth.  Vice President of Business Development, Joe Schum, co-hosted the show with me.  He introduced us to three highly-successful female entrepreneurs from the Atlanta area who, while accomplished in their own rights, are also clients of IRC Wealth.

Jodi Hersh founded Orange Star Design, a firm specializing in graphic and web design and social media content creation.  For over 20 years, Jodi has worked with small businesses, Fortune 500 companies, indie artists, and even rock stars, helping them craft and improve their brands.  Jodi has been providing her services to the IRC Wealth team for a number of years.

Sarah Huie Coleman, an Atlanta native, founded Huie Design, Inc. in 1996 after completing design and implementation of the “Look Of The Games” for the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Centennial Games for Copeland Hirthler / Iconologic.

Huie Design has been working with municipalities, architects, developers, and owners on public spaces to create entire signage and wayfinding systems that function effectively, entice interaction, and inspire joy. Feeling lost or confused when navigating is frustrating and stressful. Their work achieves project goals, puts patrons and visitors at ease, and makes a lasting impression.  In fact, their quality of work and attention to customer service and detail has allowed the firm to grow, heavily through referral and repeat business.

Founded in 1999, Giant Studios offered filmmakers capabilities that simply cant be done anywhere else, from Gollum in Lord of the Rings to Avatar. With a home office in Atlanta, state-of-the art studio facilities in Los Angeles, and To Go capabilities around the world, Giant was the recognized leader in motion capture and virtual environments for even the most demanding film requirements.

Candice Algers joined us to talk about the genesis of Giant Studios and how they leveraged innovative technology to become a sought-after partner in some of the film and gaming industries’ most highly-acclaimed productions.

In 2014, Giant Studios, Inc. sold the rights to its performance capture technology for entertainment applications to Lightstorm Entertainment. The Giant R&D team will continue developing the software under the Lightstorm umbrella.  Lightstorm will continue developing and leveraging the technology during the production of the next three Avatar sequels.

Giant was able to demonstrate the robustness of the technology over the past fifteen years on numerous films including, but not limited to: The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, The Polar Express, The Lion the Witch and The Wardrobe, Iron Man, Real Steel, Avatar, The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret Unicorn, and Jack the Giant Slayer. Video Game credits include many highly acclaimed titles such as Halo 4, Call of Duty 3, Devil May Cry, Fable II, and Jade Empire.

Special Guests:

Joe Schum, VP of Business Development, IRC Wealth  linkedin_small1  twitter_logo_small  facebook_logo_small3  youtube logo  feed logo

IRC Wealth

  • BS, Economics/Commerce, Niagara University
  • Founder, The Niagara Group
  • Board of Advisors, Safe Haven Museum and Education Center
  • Board Member, Visions Anew Institute

Jodi Hersh, Founder, Orange Star Design  twitter_logo_small  linkedin_small1  feed logo  Pinterest-logo  instagram-logo-transparent-png-i11 (16x16)

Orange Star Design

  • BFA, Graphic Design & Photography, University of Michigan
  • Previous Graphic Designer, Tom Graboski & Associates
  • Former Art Director, Dynamic Press

Sarah Huie Coleman, Founder, Huie Design

Huie Design

  • BA, Graphic Design/Packaging, Art Center College of Design
  • BA, Psychology, Sweet Briar College
  • Previous Managing Director of Environmental Design, Iconologic
  • Former Senior Graphics Designer/Manager, RTKL

Candice Algers, CEO, Giant Studios  facebook_logo_small3  linkedin_small1

Giant Studios

  • ABJ, Journalism/Minor in Marketing, University of Georgia
  • Previous Executive Vice President, Crawford Communications



Engineering Integrity and Secret Shoppers

Morgan Consultants

Lara Hodgson and Traci Morgan talk Engineering Integrity

Mystery Researchers

Lisa van Kesteren of Mystery Researchers

Engineering Integrity and Secret Shoppers

This week I was joined by guest co-host, Lara Hodgson, CEO of NOWaccount.  She introduced us to Traci Morgan, founder of Morgan Consulting, Inc., and Lisa van Kesteren, CEO/founder of Mystery Researchers.  Morgan Consulting focuses their expertise on the food and beverage processing and manufacturing industries.

Traci Morgan is a senior process engineer who has been in consulting engineering for over 30 years, with 25 years being focused on Food, Beverage, and related Consumer Products industries. Ms. Morgan’s industry experience includes beverage, dairy, brewery, biscuit, bread, and snack baking, meat and poultry, sauces and dressings, fresh cut produce, consumer household products, personal care products, tobacco, and injectable pharmaceuticals. She holds a BS of Chemical Engineering from Ohio University.

In addition to experience as a design engineer, Ms Morgan has expertise in the plant operations environment, as well as in product and process development. She has a high level of experience in operations management, production, maintenance, sanitation, quality assurance, and regulatory requirements, and a working knowledge of the Product Development process. Ms Morgan has the ability to bring people together from a wide variety of roles and backgrounds and develop proactive and synergistic teams.

Traci spent the early part of her career working for large consulting engineering firms. As a field engineer in large food manufacturing operations, she developed an appreciation for the importance of digging into more than just the engineering aspects of an operation. Through her comprehensive approach to projects, Ms Morgan has demonstrated the ability to fully integrate all aspects of manufacturing from concept development through the delivery of consumer products to the shelf.

She saw an opportunity to develop a more hands-on, practical, and relationship-based approach to consulting. And Ms Morgan recognized a niche for bringing together experts with the ability to address every facet of product manufacturing. Most importantly, she emphasizes the importance of understanding the client’s culture and fully developing the customer/supplier relationship.


Traci’s aspirations of finding a more effective way to serve manufacturing clients were realized with the inception of Morgan Consultants, Inc in 1997. Morgan Consultants, Inc provides specialized engineering, management, and consulting services to manufacturing companies. Morgan Consultants, Inc has the ability to assist clients and help shape their business direction by 1. Working upstream in the areas of product, process, and equipment development, 2. Executing traditional design, build, and startup projects, and 3. Analyzing and recommending improvements to current operations.

Morgan Consultants, Inc leverages their impressive group of industry experts to drive operational excellence and bring innovation to their clients in a cost-effective manner. Fortune 100 and Fortune 500 clients include PepsiCo and Frito-Lay, Famous Brands and Mrs Fields, Kraft Foods, Kellogg’s, Clorox, Sara Lee, Pinnacle Foods, Chiquita Brands and Fresh Express, Anheuser-Busch, Beam Global Spirits, RJ Reynolds, Coca-Cola, General Mills, McCormick, ConAgra, Kroger, Energizer, Unilever, Monsanto, Eli  Lilly, Procter & Gamble, and HJ Heinz.

Owner and operator of Mystery Researchers, Lisa van Kesteren, has more than 25 years of experience in the mystery shopping industry. She began her career in the early 90’s and over the course of the next 15 years established mystery shopping divisions for two large global corporations.  During this time, Lisa was one of the founding members of the industry association, Mystery Shopping Providers Association, which was created in 1997. She served as the Chairperson of the Professionalism and Ethics Committee, and in this role she was responsible for the creation of the original Code of Ethics for the industry. In addition, she earned an MBA from Kennesaw State University.

In 2008, Lisa decided to go out on her own and so established her own mystery shopping company, Mystery Researchers. Since that time Mystery Researchers has grown rapidly, nearly doubling in revenues each year.  In 2014, Lisa was able to raise the capital necessary to make two acquisitions, both also in the mystery shopping industry. Her company is now one of the largest privately held companies in the industry.

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

Traci Morgan, Principal, Morgan Consultants, Inc.  facebook_logo_small3  linkedin_small1

Morgan Consultants, Inc

  • BS, Chemical Engineering, Ohio University
  • Former Lead Engineer, Lockwood Greene
  • Previous Senior Project Leader, Cadence Technologies

Lisa van Kesteren, CEO/Founder, Mystery Researchers  facebook_logo_small3  linkedin_small1

Mystery Researchers

  • MBA, Business, Kennesaw State University, Michael J. Coles College of Business
  • Previous Vice President, Field Research Division, Pinkerton Consulting & Investigations
  • Former SVP, Mystery Shopping Division, TNS US Custom