Some of North Georgia’s best business leaders were honored Wednesday for their expertise and ingenuity in their fields.
The Featherbone Communiversity, in partnership with Lanier Technical College and Brenau University, hosted the fifth annual Entrepreneurs: Masters of Innovation event.
Featherbone founder Gus Whalen said the event, part of the “Masters Series,” is an opportunity for area students to learn from masters of a certain craft or field.
“Our academy students go to all the Masters events, plus an entrepreneurial event that BB&T sponsors in the winter,” Whalen said. “It’s a great year we have together.”
Jonathan Collins with BB&T, the event sponsor, thanked the honorees for their work in the community and encouraged students to learn from their example.
“Your impact on our community cannot be measured,” Collins said to the eight business leaders honored. “We very much appreciate the role that you play in our community here in Hall County.”
The honorees included Debbie Lawson Davis of Lawson Air Conditioning and Plumbing, Britney Vickery of Initials Inc., Jimmy Adams of the Adams Cos., Phuong Le of Atlanta Seafood Market, Beverly Hope Jackson of Live Data, Martha Cunningham of CDS Sales Inc., Ron Breakstone of Refrigiwear and Brian Daniel of Carroll Daniel Construction.
Jackson, who took classes at the communiversity before starting her system-monitoring business, credited Featherbone for the work it does in the community to create new business leaders and entrepreneurs.
“This facility is a tremendous opportunity for people who think they want to be an entrepreneur,” she said. “There are so many good programs here and so many people who can support you as you walk through the process.”
Many of the honorees, including Adams, the president of his family’s 111-year-old company, gave advice to the students in attendance. Adams said future entrepreneurs will have to adapt more quickly to changing markets than his family did when it started the business.
“Customers change,” Adams said. “Demands change. Today we have so much more technology than we did years ago. You’ve got a different market and the market is changing faster today for you guys than it ever did for me or my father or grandfather.”
Davis advised young people to know their strengths and weaknesses without being defined by them.
“Give yourself every opportunity to recognize your potential,” she said.
Along with the eight honorees, the first Global Entrepreneur Award was presented to Dr. Bill Lightfoot, Brenau professor and one of the founders of the Masters of Innovation event.
Whalen said Lightfoot will move to Africa in January to serve as managing director of a microcredit organization.
The company is working to help unsustainable villages in Africa use entrepreneurship to stabilize themselves, according to Whalen.
“You remember the Chinese proverb, ‘Give a man a fish, he can eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he can eat for a lifetime,’” Whalen said. “That’s what he will be doing.”
Linda Barrow, vice president for adult education at Lanier Tech, said Lightfoot will help locals develop skills to create infrastructure and economic development in their villages.
“He is a true hero,” Whalen said. “And he is a real social entrepreneur.”