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Masters of Innovation share lessons theyve learned
Nine entrepreneurs were honored Wednesday morning by Featherbone Communiversity at the Brenau University Downtown Center during the Masters of Innovation program. From left, the honorees are Katie Dubnik, Wendell Starke, Jack Hough, Abit Massey, Amanda Wilbanks, Dr. Ron Wilson, Jeremy Lord, Zach Nix and Matthew Rider.

Masters of Innovation

Katie Dubnik

Business: Forum Communications

Quote: “Life is a journey and you never know where it’s going to go. You think it’s going to go up and up, but it zigs and zags.”

Wendell Starke

Business: Invesco

Quote: “Don’t get hung up on the short term. What is the long-term value in everything you see?”

Jack Hough

Business: MSE Branded Foods

Quote: “You have to start a foundation. You’ll learn something from everything you do.”

Abit Massey

Business: Georgia Poultry Federation

Quote: “Reach to your full potential and encourage others to do the same.”

Amanda Wilbanks

Business: Southern Baked Pie Co.

Quote: “There are a lot of bumps in the road. It would be odd if you didn’t have those (with a new company) … Everyday is not a super easy day. There will be challenges. You have to act quickly and face them.”

Ron Wilson

Business: Wilson Orthodontics

Quote: “I don’t want to be remembered as the guy who instills pain. I want to be remembered as the guy who gave back to his community. We have given 60 scholarships and we hope to continue to do that.”

Jeremy Lord

Business: MedPort

Quote: “Patient care is the key to success. We pride ourselves on it.”

Zach Nix

Business: MedPort

Quote: “As long as you enjoy what you’re doing, nothing is too hard. If you do what you love, you don’t work. You want to be happy to get up in the morning.”

Matthew Rider

Business: MedPort

Quote: “Having partners, people you can rely on, is very important.”

An entrepreneur creates something, whether a physical product like Amanda Wilbanks’ pies or something less tangible like Wendell Starke’s Invesco, one of the nation’s largest investment management firms.

Nine entrepreneurs were honored Wednesday at the Masters of Innovation program presented by Featherbone Communiversity at Brenau’s Downtown Center theater.

Honorees Katie Dubnik, Jack Hough, Abit Massey, Starke, Wilbanks, Ron Wilson, Jeremy Lord, Zach Nix and Matthew Rider shared their successes and failures with local high school students and community members.

Hough said he saw early success in his first two restaurant business ventures, which would be the start to his MSE Branded Foods. But the next two were flops.

“Not everything you’ll do will be successful, but learn from your mistakes,” Hough said.

The late Gus Whalen founded the masters program to honor good work and help others learn from it, including the entrepreneurial spirit of Wednesday’s honorees, according to Suzanne Erickson, dean of College of Business and Mass Communications at Brenau.

Students and other attendees were able to ask advice of the business owners, which were broken up into three groups.  The “pillars” were Dubnik, Hough, Starke and Massey; the “intermediates” were Wilbanks and Wilson; and the “newbies” were Lord, Nix and Rider.

They all started their own businesses or worked their way up from the lowest rung.

“You have to have a passion when you start out,” Erickson said. “You have to wear all the hats. You have to take out the trash, do all those things.”

Lord and Nix, the founders of MedPort, were examples of this tireless dedication to their businesses, spending sleepless nights and long days transporting people to and from the hospital without stopping.

“We knew that’s what we had to do,” Lord said.

State Sen. Butch Miller, R-Gainesville, general manager and vice president of Milton Martin Honda in Gainesville, handed out the awards. He started off with a joke: “I feel like a terrible underachiever.”

“The common thread (between the businesses) was providing a service of value, of putting your company first,” he told them.

Another thing they had in common was a strong support system.

“It’s a very rewarding career,” said presenter and previous honoree Tony Paramore with the Gainesville Design Center.