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Curated Collection Of The Best Interviews From Our Midtown Studio

Veteran Owned Small Businesses


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 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


  • 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


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


  • 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



  • 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


Humor Wins

Humor Wins

Humor Wins

This week I sat down with Marshall Chiles, Founder and Dudeman of Humor Wins, a business that helps companies looking to improve team dynamics among their staff.  As the owner of one of the first comedy clubs in Atlanta, Laughing Skull Lounge, he has been in the humor business for years.  He decided to take his knowledge of comedy to help business people learn to add an element of humor to their client interactions and sales presentations.  Humor Wins’ team also provides corporate roast services, adding a memorable, interesting element to company events.

Marshall talked about how they take their clients through the process of learning how to develop some humorous comments or jokes that help disarm prospective customers, facilitating relationship building that can lead to a sale.  His team also facilitates team building by teaching self-deprecating humor that can foster better communication and reduce tension among the business’s staff.

He brought along Jeremy Wing, Co-CEO of Payscape Advisors, a merchant services and financial technology company.  Payscape Advisors provides an array of services and technologies for companies ranging from online invoicing, an online registration platform for schools and camps, access to AR capital, payment processing, and more.  Jeremy shared how he came to know Marshall through providing their payment processing services, ultimately becoming a client of Humor Wins.

I met Kimyung Kim, a comedian and word smith who uses improvisational free-style rapping to provide entertainment services for corporate events.  We got a demonstration of his skill with him rapping while we gave him random words he integrated into his lyrics.

If your company is looking to attract young, motivated millennials, reduce turnover, and help build closer relationships among your sales force, executives, and administrative staff, you need to get to know these innovative experts.

Special Guests:

Marshall Chiles, Founder/Dudeman Laughing Skull Lounge and Humor Wins  facebook_logo_small3  twitter_logo_small  linkedin_small1

Humor Wins

  • Bachelor of Business Administration, Management Information Services, University of Georgia
  • Founder of Southern Fried Supernova
  • Founder of the the world’s smallest comedy club (Laughing Skull Lounge)

Jeremy Wing, Co-CEO of Payscape Advisors  facebook_logo_small3  google-plus-logo-red-265px  twitter_logo_small  linkedin_small1

Payscape Advisors

  • Previous Director, MTV
  • Director, RegPoint Solutions
  • Investor in numerous businesses such as FINSYNC, KidsLink Inc., Bayan Investment Group
  • Recipient of numerous business awards including Top 40 Innovative Company, Atlanta, Top Workplace, AJC, Inc 500/5000 Fastest Growing Companies, and others

Kimyung Kim, Speaker/Rapper Kimyung Kim Speaks  facebook_logo_small3  twitter_logo_small  linkedin_small1


  • Former teacher, Social Studies, Magnolia Science Academy
  • BA, History, Georgia State University
  • National Speakers Association volunteer
  • Active comedian



MARTA and Disadvantaged Business Enterprises


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


  • 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:


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


  • 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


  • BA Finance, University of Alabama
  • Successful entrepreneur

Zach Wing, Product Manager, Payscape Advisors  Linkedin


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

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