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Business owners earn Masters of Innovation awards
Entrepreneurs share success stories with students at ceremony
R. K. Whitehead talks about the history of his company, Whitehead Die Casting, during the Entrepreneurs, Masters of Innovation event Wednesday at the Featherbone Communiversity. Listening to Whitehead are fellow panel members Jody Spain, left, and Jim Syfan. - photo by Tom Reed

A good entrepreneur knows business is about more than sales and profits.

It's also about integrity, honesty and passion.

Nine local business owners demonstrate those and other characteristics in their daily lives and business operations and because of that they were given Masters of Innovation awards Wednesday morning.

The second annual award ceremony took place at the Lanier Technical College Manufacturing Development Center at Featherbone Communiversity.

The event was not only an opportunity to honor the entrepreneurs but to educate local students.

Logan Warwick, 14, said he wants to own his own business one day and gained a lot from what the speakers said.

"I thought it was really cool. I like to get new ideas from people, and I kind of want to be an entrepreneur. They gave me some new ideas and traits that I need to pick up," Logan said.

The entrepreneurs spoke of the trials and successes they've experienced in business. They encouraged the students in the audience to pursue their passions and education.

Dave Simpson left the family brick business in 1998 to pursue his passion. He went back to school to learn as much as he could about photography.

"If you don't get to where you want to go in school now, there's always time later. It's never too late to go back to school and continue your education," Simpson said.

The entrepreneurs discussed the various strategies they use in their businesses and the ways to achieve success in business.

Emmie Howard owns a clothing line for the Southern preppy gentleman. She said her business took a grass-roots approach to branding. She used social media to spread the word of her accessories. Now her neckties are in specialty stores across the U.S.

Howard said it is important that people know you have integrity and you demonstrate that in the way you do business.

"You are what you sell," Howard said.

"People should look at your business and say ‘I like doing business with them because they're good and they do right.' "

James Daniel, one of the entrepreneurs, opened his electronics business when he was 16. He encouraged the younger students in the audience to think about business ideas and not to wait to go into business until they are older.

"I want you to know that you have the power to do things and make it big. Don't ever think your youth is a dilemma to entrepreneurship," Daniel said.

Several students from East Hall High School attended the awards ceremony. They listened intently as the award recipients shared their secrets to success.

Luisa Munoz, 14, said she was inspired by the discussions.

"They all look like they enjoy what they do and that's why they're so successful. I felt inspired because they show perseverance when times got hard," Luisa said.

It was perseverance that spoke to Courtney Woodard.

Though she doesn't know if business is a career path she would want to take, she said she was impressed by their perseverance.

"(Hearing) everything they came from and all of the things they've overcome and yet they're still doing it and they enjoy it," Courtney said.


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