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Masters of Innovation: A salute to entrepreneurs
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A filled Whalen Auditorium at the Brenau University East Campus watches the Masters of Innovation presentation.

Masters of Innovation

Rear Adm. Patricia E. Wolfe

Business: U.S. Navy and small business consultant

Business philosophy: “My personal vision as a business consultant has been to give back to help others succeed.”

Zack Thompson

Business: Pro Touch Landscape

When it started: 1997

Business philosophy: “We are dedicated professionals offering guaranteed results.”

Doug Magnus

Business: Conditioned Air Systems

When it started: 1983

Business philosophy: “We need to treat all customers the way we want to be treated.”

David Hodges

Business: Plant manager for Packaging Specialties Inc.

When it started: Hodges started working for the company in 1983

Business philosophy: “The employees are the ones who know how to make improvements. The guy with his hands on the machine knows how to do it best.”

Molly Hubbard

Business: Shape Innovations Inc.

When it started: 2010

Business philosophy: “We try to put out as high quality a product as we can. We work as a team and take care of our customers.”

Barclay Rushton

Business: Rushton and Co.

When it started: 1981

Business philosophy: “I think the hallmark of our business is integrity and concern for our work quality and our client.”

Rick Boyd

Business: Chattahoochee Marketing Group

When it started: 1992

Business philosophy: “I try to run my business on the Rotary four-way test.”

Forrest Graves

Business: JumpinGoat Coffee Roasters

When it started: 2008

Business philosophy: “Embrace tools, resources and community.” He said it’s important to learn from other businesses and then turn around and help others grow, too.

Adam Shepherd

Business: Sheer Imagination LLC

When it started: 2005

Business philosophy: “We want to have a positive impact on our community and give back to the community.”

Davis White and Kris Nordholz

Business: Full Media

When it started: 2008

Business philosophy: “We want to have a positive impact on everyone we come in contact with,” Nordholz said.

Starting a small business and keeping it open takes tenacity, courage and a whole lot of support.

“Your level of success is directly related to your willingness to ask for help,” said Kris Nordholz, CEO of Full Media.

Nordholz and 10 other local entrepreneurs were honored at the annual Masters of Innovation ceremony at the Featherbone Communiversity in Gainesville on Wednesday morning.

The ceremony is part of the communiversity’s Masters Series. The series also has ceremonies affirming the work of teachers and nurses and will begin a new series honoring craftsmen this November.

Students from Featherbone Academy attended and took the opportunity to ask for the advice of successful entrepreneurs.

Several of the masters stressed the importance of finding not just one but several mentors to help guide young people through their careers.

They also encouraged young entrepreneurs to seek out community resources and tools that could help foster business growth and success.

“Embrace tools, resources and community. When you have those you can drive innovation through commitment and passion,” said Forrest Graves, one of the masters.

After being laid off from a major computer company, Graves used the training and skills he learned to jump-start his own business, JumpinGoat Coffee Roasters.

He said the beginning of a new business is a “matter of survival.” In order for the business to survive, entrepreneurs should be ready to adjust to a life of sacrifice.

“Sacrifice can also be an opportunity,” Graves said.

In return for his sacrifice of cable television, Graves found hundreds of extra hours to dedicate to his new business.

Many of the entrepreneurs were forced to innovate or reinvent their businesses after the recession began in 2008.

In 2010, Molly Hubbard, owner of Shape Innovation Inc. and one of the masters, took over the company her father started nearly 20 years earlier.

The company manufactured architectural foam products for the stucco industry and the decline in the housing market brought the business to a standstill. Rather than let the company her father built fall apart, Hubbard gave the company a new name and new focus. Today Shape Innovation Inc. creates foam products to be used as movie props, cake dummies, trade show and event props.

While many of the businesses were able to not only survive but thrive on change brought about by the recession, the masters stressed the importance of good character and honest business.

“If you don’t have integrity, compassion and concern, it doesn’t matter if you have a great product,” said Barclay Rushton, master and owner of Rushton and Co.

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