From Rob: “Since completion in 1913, The Ponce has shared its place in Atlanta History with the Georgian Terrace and later the Fox Theater. The Ponce’s rooftop with its sentinel lions, balustrade, and ornamentation is amazing. The ...
By Shirley Gouffon, Senior Vice President, Selig Enterprises and Midtown Development Review Committee Member Restaurants and retailers alike have been evolving over the last several years, but the pace of evolution has been decidedly robust since and during the recent COVID pandemic. There are some “silver linings” to be found within the pandemic, not the least of which is the transformation of the retail experience, particularly in Midtown, Atlanta. For the last decade or so, at the mere stroke of a key, the consumer has had many options available for both consumables and disposable products. Restaurants, particularly, pivoted during the pandemic and many of Midtown’s food and beverage establishments implemented take-out and delivery programs that were previously not widely employed, if at all. Delivery and curbside pick-up is here to stay, however, it should be noted that the desire for in-store retail experiences is on the rise with over 50% of Millennials claiming that much of their spending goes towards experiencing related products and services. Midtown Atlanta is a wonderful example of an urban environment which has been thoughtfully planned to attract “feet on the street” with its expansive sidewalks, lush landscaping and approachable storefronts. Moreover, experiential retail is becoming increasingly relevant in today’s consumer market. Creating a memorable shopping or dining experience through customer engagement is essential. Many brands with “flags” in Midtown, have very successfully transformed their businesses by offering “retailtainment” and immersive retail and dining experiences. Café Intermezzo, the European-inspired coffee house located in the heart of Midtown at Peachtree and 11th Streets, has long been considered an industry leader in creating authentic and memorable experiences for its patrons. Brian Olson, the CEO & Founder of Café Intermezzo, is considered an industry pioneer and was really on the cutting edge of experiential retail going back nearly 30 years. The Café Intermezzo experience transports the patron to a beautiful coffee house in Europe from the moment you enter. This experience has been thoughtfully executed through Brian’s discerning choice of décor, music, food presentation (a la “dessert tours”) and even foreign language instructional tape broadcasts. This proven formula has lured the patron back to Café Intermezzo for decades and is a shining example of the experiential retail phenomenon. Whether a resident, visitor or tourist, one has access to a host of memorable experiences unique to Midtown. An afternoon spent in Midtown today within a one-block radius may include: A leisurely walk down a beautiful tree lined street, lush with planters full of vibrant, cascading flowers, ripe with “Instagrammable” moments! Stopping in DryBar for a blow-out while sipping a chilled Rose’, followed by an indulgent and relaxing mani/pedi at Sugarcoat next door. A tour of the historic Margaret Mitchell House followed by a mid-afternoon stroll and people-watching from Café Intermezzo’s perch along Peachtree Street. Lastly, ending the day, as the sun is fading, atop Bulla Gastrobar’s scenic patio overlooking Midtown’s vibrant Crescent Avenue while feasting on a delicious array of tapas and enjoying a refreshing Sangria. We are all, at heart, social beings. And it is through Midtown’s commitment to promoting the pedestrian experience that the area will continue to thrive as Atlanta’s premier walkable experiential destination. This is sponsored content.
MARTA and the City of Brookhaven have approved the terms of an agreement for a new City Hall to be built on MARTA-owned property adjacent to Brookhaven rail station on the Gold Line in DeKalb County. “MARTA is excited to partner with Brookhaven to establish a transit-supportive City Hall, one of only a few in this country located at a rail station. This project will inspire future development around the station, increase ridership, and improve pedestrian and bicycle connectivity, and makes a powerful statement about the centrality of transit,” said MARTA Interim General Manager and CEO Collie Greenwood. The 1.24-acre property on Peachtree Road is currently used for long term parking which will be relocated to the eastern side of the station, and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessible spots will be moved closer to the rail station entrance along Peachtree. The ground lease agreement states Brookhaven will lease the almost $3 million property for 50 years before purchasing. “This is the result of a collaboration with MARTA which has been ongoing for five years,” said Mayor John Ernst. “We were all seeking a transit-friendly live-work-play solution that meets the current and future lifestyle needs of residents and our greater regional community. I am looking forward to continuing the partnership with MARTA as we create a permanent City Hall.” Brookhaven will oversee planning, financing, and construction of the building. Prior to the start of construction, MARTA will continue to accommodate long term parking at its current location. A timeline for the work is still being established. This is sponsored content.
It’s official: the FIFA World Cup is coming to Atlanta. The 2026 FIFA World Cup will be the largest edition of the world’s most popular sporting event yet, with 48 teams vying for soccer’s biggest prize in matches hosted across the United States, Mexico and Canada. The three nations won the right to host in 2018 after a yearlong bidding process. This unprecedented scale brings more attention to the already immensely popular competition, which has traditionally been contested by 32 teams and hosted by a single nation. Twenty-two cities across the three North American host countries competed for bids to host matches, with 16 receiving the nod. The Atlanta Sports Council (ASC) led the bid effort, collaborating with state and local governments, Arthur M. Blank Sports + Entertainment, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Georgia World Congress Center Authority to win the bid. “We have the pleasure of celebrating Atlanta’s selection as a host city of the 2026 FIFA World Cup, because of our strong, bipartisan public-private partnerships and many who have been working for years to put Georgia on the map since we hosted the 1996 Olympics,” said Governor Brian P. Kemp. “This premiere event will have a positive impact on so many hardworking Georgians. Hotels will fill with guests from around the world; restaurants will provide visitors a taste of the South they will not soon forget; attractions across Georgia will welcome those seeking to experience all the Peach State has to offer; and in each interaction, people will see Georgia’s Southern hospitality on full display. The world will be watching as we meet this moment, and we’re proud of all the entities who worked so hard to get us to this point.” “Atlanta is a soccer town, and we’re excited to bring the game’s best athletes to the world’s best city,” said Mayor Andre Dickens. “Atlanta has already been home to the Super Bowl and the Olympics, and through our strong collaboration with the State and our business community, we will welcome folks from all over the world to fill every seat in Mercedes-Benz Stadium in 2026.” Hosting World Cup matches will bring an economic boost to the city: an impact analysis by the Boston Consulting Group during the initial bid process in 2017-18 found that the 2026 World Cup is forecasted to contribute $5BN in new economic activity. Of that, $415 million alone is estimated in net economic benefit for Atlanta, which is becoming renowned for its support of soccer after the recent successes of Atlanta United in Major League Soccer. “This is an incredible opportunity for the city of Atlanta to continue to show the world what we have to offer,” said Arthur M. Blank, Owner and Chairman of The Blank Family of Businesses, including Mercedes-Benz Stadium. “Our stadium was built to host world-class events, and we would be honored to continue that tradition in 2026 with the World Cup,” Blank continued. “I want to express my sincere gratitude to the Atlanta World Cup Bid Committee, especially the Atlanta Sports Council, Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau and our AMBSE leadership team, for their diligent work over the past few years that has led us to today’s announcement. There is still more work to be done, and I look forward to working with our public and private partners, FIFA and our local community to bring these spectacular global games to Atlanta.” “We are thrilled to bring the world’s biggest sporting event to Atlanta,” said Dan Corso, Atlanta Sports Council president. “Combining the assets of the state’s best public organizations and private companies has been a recipe for success here in Atlanta. We truly believe our city is the country’s premier location to hold a major sporting event and look forward to working with FIFA to create a remarkable experience for all involved.” This model of public and private collaboration has been successful in the past, with the Atlanta Sports Council utilizing its partnerships across the city to put on high-profile sporting events including Super Bowl LIII, the 2018 College Football Playoff National Championship and multiple NCAA Men’s Final Fours. Each match Atlanta puts on is expected to generate roughly $4.6 million in global media exposure. The rounds that the city will host will be announced by FIFA at a later date. About the Atlanta Sports Council The Atlanta Sports Council (ASC), a division of the Metro Atlanta Chamber, facilitates the growth and development of sports in metro Atlanta by serving as a recruiter for major regional, national and international sports events. The organization plays an important role in improving the quality of life for residents in the region through sports, working to drive economic growth and visibility and acting as an advocate for area teams and annual sports events. For more information, visit https://www.metroatlantachamber.com/councils/atlanta-sports-council. This is sponsored content.
Reinvestment Fund recently announced $22.6 million in financial assistance awards to 134 projects through the 2021 round of America’s Healthy Food Financing Initiative’s (HFFI) Targeted Small Grants Program. Funding for the HFFI grants program is provided by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill. The program provides one-time catalytic investments in projects that will improve access to fresh, healthy food by creating and expanding fresh food retail and food enterprises. The 2021 round is the largest since the program launched in 2018. The 2021 Request for Applications (RFA) originally made $4 million available through the program. The pool was expanded to $22.6 million by the USDA, as a result of the $155 million in additional resources for the HFFI program announced by Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack in early June under the USDA’s framework for transforming the food system. With this investment, the HFFI program will work with stakeholders toward realizing the expanded vision for the program that begins to address the complexity of food access in communities across America. “The Biden-Harris Administration and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack are committed to creating local and regional food systems that benefit all Americans, from farmers and ranchers to small businesses and families who currently have to travel a long way from home to find fresh, healthy food,” said USDA Rural Development Under Secretary Xochitl Torres Small. “USDA is proud to partner with Reinvestment Fund to ensure that these resources reach the communities where they are needed most, so people can find nutritious food options wherever they live.” As the National Fund Manager, Reinvestment Fund administers the HFFI program on behalf of USDA. The public-private partnership aims to provide capacity building and financing resources to stimulate food business development at scale and build a more equitable food system that supports the health and economic vibrancy of all Americans. “The legacy of racist policies like redlining and the resulting disinvestment continue to harm communities in so many ways, including through the lack of access to healthy, affordable food,” said Don Hinkle-Brown, President and CEO of Reinvestment Fund. “We are honored to work with the USDA to address some of these historical injustices through the HFFI program by investing in food systems assets that not only increase food access in underserved communities but improve health, strengthen local economies, grow wealth and quality jobs, and develop essential community anchors.” Awardees were selected through a competitive process that was open to eligible fresh food retail projects and food enterprises seeking financial assistance to overcome the higher costs and initial barriers to operating in underserved areas. The program received 566 Letter of Interest submissions to the RFA in December 2021. Based on eligibility, 359 applicants were invited to submit full applications in January 2022, with 294 final applications received by the deadline in March 2022. Awardee projects are located 46 states, in addition to Puerto Rico and Washington DC. Of the 134 grant awardees, 45% serve rural communities and 81% are owned or led by people of color, women, and/or native people. Of the awardees, 69% are grocery retail projects. Another 31% of awardees offer alternative retail models including mobile markets, CSAs or food boxes. Awardees include four projects in Georgia: Atlanta Harvest, an urban farm and retail market serving the greater Atlanta region. Located in Ellenwood, Clayton County, Atlanta Harvest plans to use its HFFI grant to support the Bring Farms Back project, to build a brick-and-mortar retail food store, and expand mobile delivery of a variety of fresh and affordable food. Clinch Memorial Hospital (CMH) is a 25-bed critical access hospital serving rural southeast Georgia. To overcome barriers to healthy eating and increase access to fresh produce in pockets of extreme poverty countywide, CMH will partner with Retaaza on an innovative model to connect residents experiencing hunger and food insecurity to local surplus produce that would otherwise be wasted. HFFI funds will help support the launch of a mobile market that will sell “just in time” staple and perishable food to underserved rural areas. UGROW, Inc is a non-profit organization that connects people to food and empowers them to live healthy lives. UGROW will build a Food Innovation Hub to increase access to fresh local food, facilitate food-centered education programs, and become a catalyst for innovative entrepreneurship opportunities for the Columbus community, especially the underserved as an expansion of UGROW’s current work. An HFFI grant will support part of the overall construction. West Georgia Farmer’s Cooperative (WGFC) is a 50+ year old agricultural co-op in West Georgia that has traditionally consisted of Black farmers. WGFC members work to build opportunities through local food systems and wealth through cooperative economics. HFFI funds will help expand WGFC’s current operations through the construction of a new co-op grocery store and commercial kitchen in an underserved area of Troup County. It will also support upgrades to WGFC’s existing food hub. The 2021 HFFI program offered financial assistance in the form of one-time grants to food retailers and food enterprises that aimed to strengthen, expand, and innovate within the food retail supply chain. The program assists a variety of organizations, business models, and capital needs of ventures that process, distribute, aggregate, market, and sell healthy, fresh, and affordable foods to underserved communities and markets. To learn about the HFFI program and see a full list of awardees, please visit www.investinginfood.com. This is sponsored content.
By Stacy Funderburke Atlanta rose in the ranks from 49th to 27th on the Trust for Public Land’s 2022 ParkScore Index®— the most complete and in-depth ranking of parks in our nation’s 100 largest cities. The rise is largely due to the recent increase of acres conserved for parks and greenspace in the last year. In 2020, we purchased the Lake Charlotte Nature Preserve, which protected over 200 acres of intact old-growth forest inside the city of Atlanta and became an official park in 2021. Although we are moving the needle toward progress, Atlanta still has much work to do under one of the newest ParkScore qualifiers: Equity. At The Conservation Fund, we’re rolling up our sleeves to assist the City of Atlanta increase equitable park development efforts. Since 2001, we have partnered with the City of Atlanta to convert blighted properties into new parks and greenspaces. In recent years, the majority of these acquisitions have been in communities that lack investment in and access to parks. When the topic of equitable park investment was raised at the latest CY23 Budget Briefings meeting, District 5 Council Member Liliana Bakhtiari noted that the City should invest more into the Parks department, which will ultimately allow Atlanta to rank higher among cities. “In the short time that I’ve been [an Atlanta City Council Member], it feels to me that the City depends on a lot of other people to carry their water when it comes to greenspace, and I think it’s about time that we put more investment into our parks and actually set [the Parks Department] up to succeed,” said Bakhtiari. This commitment to greenspace expansion in Atlanta requires investment in new parks, like the Mattie Freeland Park opening soon in English Avenue and investment in underserved communities. The Conservation Fund is uniquely positioned to support equitable development because of the authentic relationships that we have built with community leaders, city officials and across organizations in the public and private sectors. Our latest acquisition speaks directly to the City’s efforts of conserving Atlanta’s greenspace with more equitable outcomes in mind. Securing this site would not have been possible without The Kendeda Fund and community leaders like Donna Stephens who stepped in to ensure that this newest greenspace was protected despite its troubled past use. So where is this site? Nestled between the Chattahoochee River and I-285 sit 77 acres filled with a legacy of pain and racial injustice formerly home to the Chattahoochee Brick Company. At Chattahoochee Brick, hundreds of convicts, mostly African American men, were forced to labor against their will after being accused of petty or baseless crimes. The site will now become the City of Atlanta’s first park with direct access to the Chattahoochee River and it will uplift stories of the people wrongfully subjected to convict leasing labor during the turn of the 20th century. Protecting sites like this ensures that troubled parts of our nation’s past are not forgotten and moves us one step closer toward more equitable park conservation efforts in Atlanta communities lacking park space. Read more about how today we are one step closer to creating a new park for Atlanta and supporting the platform that Descendants of the Chattahoochee Brick Co. have long fought to bring to the forefront. This is sponsored content.
Financial Literacy for All (FL4A) co-chairs, Operation HOPE Founder, Chairman, and CEO John Hope Bryant and Walmart CEO Doug McMillon co-wrote an op-ed piece for TIME entitled “Financial Literacy Education Could Help Millions of Americans”. The article lays out the case for a private sector push in creating a national framework for embedding financial literacy into the fabric of our society. Research shows that only about a third of Americans have a working understanding of interest rates, mortgage rates, and financial risk according to the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. And this measure of financial literacy has fallen 19 percent over the past decade. The American public is in need of a massive culture shift in regard to financial education and it’s going to take all of us to steer the ship and correct course. The need is so great that we cannot afford to leave it squarely in the hands of the government and public sector to provide a solution. The private sector must get involved and many of them have through the Financial Literacy for All (FL4A) movement. Financial Literacy for All is an inclusive, business-led movement aimed at helping more Americans reap the benefits that come from making more informed financial decisions. We have collectively made a 10-year commitment to reach millions of youth and working adults, providing them with the necessary tools and life experience to become more confident in making those critical economic choices. To date, FL4A has had 30 of some of the biggest names in business sign on the movement, signifying their affirmation and belief in our mission and their willingness to lend their talents and expertise in creatively reaching our lofty, yet obtainable goal. Some of these include the National Football League, The Walt Disney Company, Delta Air Lines, and several other leading financial institutions. Recently, FL4A announced investment services giant Edward Jones as the latest company to join the movement and we’re looking forward to many more commitments in the coming weeks and months. It’s time to make financial literacy a foundational stepping stone to achieving the American Dream, and we need everyone to be involved. To learn more about Financial Literacy for All or to join the movement, visit fl4a.org. This is sponsored content.
By Charles Redding, MedShare CEO & President The current infant mortality rate in Nigeria is 56.68 deaths per 1000 live births, compared to 5.6 deaths per 1,000 live births in the United States. This means that a child born in Nigeria is 10 times more likely to die than a child born in the United States. To address these challenges, MedShare launched the Safe Birth Initiative (SBI) in partnership with Coca-Cola and the Ministry of Health of Nigeria. SBI aims to support the attainment of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals related to disproportionately high maternal and newborn mortality rates. This ambitious initiative focuses on strengthening the capacity of selected public hospitals through the provision of vital maternal and neonatal medical equipment and supplies; the training of biomedical engineers, technicians, and end-users to improve equipment maintenance and usage; and the reactivation of a large stock of abandoned medical equipment wasting away in public hospitals. The Nigerian Ministry of Health identified 15 public hospitals as SBI participants, including Federal Medical Center Ebute-Metta. Prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, MedShare had significantly upgraded 9 of the 15 hospitals by providing over $6 million of biomedical equipment and supplies with a focus on much-needed diagnostic and imaging equipment. Another key component of SBI involves the training of technicians, engineers, and hospital staff in order to take full advantage of the donated equipment. Highly trained biomedical equipment technicians (BMETs) are essential to the installation, maintenance and repair of this critical medical equipment, and the training of hospital staff on its correct usage. With specialized training in healthcare technology management, BMETs provide a sustainable solution to keeping medical equipment functional. Despite the delays due to COVID-19, and thanks to the incredible efforts of MedShare’s Director of Biomedical Engineering Training & Technical Services, Eben Amstrong, we have continued to make significant progress. On Eben’s most recent trip to advance the SBI objectives, he reported the following: The installation and training exercise for both technicians and end users have been fully completed for Federal Medical Centre, Ebute Meta, Lagos. 2 Heart and Lung machines were delivered and fully installed at the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital, and the biomedical engineers end users were thoroughly trained. The hospital is now equipped and trained to begin treatment of infants born with cardiovascular disease. In all, about 55 technicians have been trained on the SBI equipment, with over 100 others trained to repair broken equipment. 8 Cardiothoracic Surgeons were also trained on the heart and lung machine — the first of its kind in Rivers State, enabling open heart surgeries to be carried out in the state. Certificates were handed over to the trained engineers and technicians. Eben will be proceeding to FMC Owerri with the Coca-Cola Nigeria team for the installation and training of end users for the donated heart and lung machines which will also be the first in Imo State. This will be followed by the installation and training exercise in Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital in Kano State. With Nigeria losing 2,300 children below the age of five and 145 women of childbearing age every year, this life-saving equipment and critical training are at the heart of the Safe Birth Initiative — building health system capacity to improve health outcomes and ensure that both mom and baby go home alive and well. This is sponsored content.
Westside Future Fund (WFF) is excited to be supporting thought leadership in the SaportaReport on Atlanta’s Historic Westside. At the October 15 Transform Westside Summit we announced the Westside Future Fund (WFF) PRI Program! A program-related investment (PRI) is low-cost capital that not-for-profit organizations can use to spur community development. Thanks to charitable support from Truist and PNC banks, WFF will provide low-cost loans to small, minority-owned businesses based in or serving the Historic Westside. This program builds on a pilot initially funded by AT&T and the Beloved Benefit. Our goal is to mobilize people with current, historical, or aspirational ties to the community to organically support the Westside’s economic development. The October 15 Transform Westside Summit highlighted the importance of economic empowerment of African American entrepreneurs with three special guest panelists – Courtney Smith from PNC Bank, Paul Wilson, Jr. from the Russell Innovation Center for Entrepreneurs (RICE), and Keitra Bates of Marddy’s Shared Kitchen and Marketplace. A common theme from the panelists was the need for equity in access to capital for Black business owners. Keitra Bates noted that white startups have access to $100,000 from family, on average, while for black startups, it’s only $11,000. In June 2020, PNC Bank announced its bold $1 billion commitment to playing a role in combatting racism and discrimination. During the Summit, Courtney elaborated on PNC’s commitment to the Westside by helping end systemic racism by donating to WFF for program-related investments. Keitra Bates is a recipient of a WFF PRI that she used to renovate and expand her shared kitchen. Marddy’s focus is on economic inclusion, business development, and growth opportunities for local food entrepreneurs with their primary service groups of people of color, women, and other marginalized populations. With the help of RICE, the PRI recipients will have access to resources to innovate, grow, create jobs, and build wealth. Part business generator, innovation lab, and museum, RICE invests in African American entrepreneurs, strengthens businesses, and creates community. We have many miles to eliminate the wealth gap between white and black startups. Thanks to our panelists and the organization they represent, we are making progress and hopefully serving as models for others! Check out our newsletter to learn more about the October 15 Summit. This is sponsored content.
By Mike Rouse, community outreach ambassador and Will Sellers, executive director, Wholesome Wave Georgia Wholesome Wave Georgia increases access to fresh, healthy, locally grown fruits and vegetables for food and nutrition insecure families – who we refer to as our neighbors – across metro Atlanta and throughout Georgia through our community partnerships with 78 participating farmers markets, farm stands, mobile markets and brick-and-mortar stores. Wholesome Wave Georgia works behind the scenes to help our neighbors purchase more fresh, healthy, locally grown fruits and vegetables through the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (“SNAP”), formerly known as food stamps, by matching SNAP spending on local produce. That means $5 worth of SNAP benefits turns into $10 worth of fresh, healthy, locally grown fruits and vegetables. With the help of the American Heart Association, we moved from a behind-the-scenes nonprofit to an on-the-ground nonprofit because more than one in four City of Atlanta residents rely on the SNAP program to purchase food. To ensure that our nonprofit met the needs of our Neighbors, Wholesome Wave Georgia had to engage differently. Local people doing local work In partnership with the American Heart Association, we developed the Community Food Ambassador role to engage neighbors using the SNAP program. We learned that flyers and yard signs were not enough to bring neighbors into our network. We recognized that we needed a leader who lives in and understands the community we seek to serve. By working with talented local community leaders, like Mike Rouse, we increased our impact by learning from the community’s lived experience to increase farmers market engagement and expand civic involvement. Since we launched the Community Food Ambassador role in 2021, Wholesome Wave Georgia witnessed a 24% increase in SNAP shoppers at farmers markets, farm stands, MARTA markets and at our brick-and-mortar partner within the City of Atlanta. Bread crumbs of engagement A key innovation resulting from our transformation was the Heart Healthy Porch Chat: a one-on-one conversation, in-person or virtual, designed to build relationships with community members for authentic conversations on SNAP access, utilization and enrollment to move families from food insecurity to food and nutrition security. The Heart Healthy Porch Chat builds a relationship with neighbors to allow for deep, rich storytelling on the resilience of our neighbors using the SNAP program. To combat the stigma associated with SNAP use, we worked with an artist to create editorial illustrations based on a neighbor’s story. The neighbor’s name is not used to protect their privacy and to treat them with dignity and respect. The example below illustrates how we share our neighbor’s stories to inspire. Wholesome Wave Georgia remains rooted in increasing access to fresh, healthy, locally grown fruits and vegetables in concert with our community partners. We know that as Georgians experience inflation at a four-decade high, the need for food is great and growing. Wholesome Wave Georgia is evolving into a nonprofit that works with community leaders to engage our neighbors to expand SNAP access, utilization and enrollment by using a patient, engaged approach to advance food and nutrition security. About Wholesome Wave Georgia Wholesome Wave Georgia believes that all Georgians should have access to fresh, healthy, locally grown food choices. Founded in 2009, Wholesome Wave Georgia strives to strengthen local food communities by empowering networks of farmers to facilitate access to and awareness of healthy food choices. By increasing the affordability of healthy, locally grown foods, Wholesome Wave Georgia makes healthy, nourishing choices accessible for Georgia’s food-insecure population. Learn more about our work at wholesomewavegeorgia.org, Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. This is sponsored content.
By Michelle Hiskey After a semester of research and analysis, the 24 students in Goizueta Business School’s Venture Capital and Minority Entrepreneurship class announced the first three investments for the Peachtree Minority Venture Fund (PMVF). This student-run venture fund is the first of its kind to make equity investments for U.S.-based and underrepresented Black, Latinx and An integral part of The Roberto C. Goizueta Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation, the $1 million fund recently announced its first round of capital opportunities. Funding unique ventures An award of $25,000 was granted to CommunityX, a mobile-first social app that unites like-minded change-makers around shared causes. The app leverages traditional social media algorithmic thinking to be able to connect people and calls to action, such as petitions, events, donations and more. CommunityX also has received funding from TechStars “When our team found out that we were going to be a part of the Peachtree Minority Venture Fund portfolio, we were very excited for all the obvious reasons,” says founder and CEO Chloë Cheyenne, who describes herself as a multiracial young woman with Chicago, Illinois, roots. “Hearing firsthand from all of the Goizueta staff, students and founders about how much thought and intention went into building this fund, we are totally humbled to be a part of this community.” Ecotone Renewables of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, earned a $15,000 award and is the maker of Soil Sauce, a liquid plant fertilizer organically produced from food waste. By making sustainable food and agriculture systems more accessible and prevalent outside the industrial scale, Ecotone is dedicated to building the tools necessary to empower communities to redevelop and grow through sustainable food practices. “We produce renewable energy through the extraction of biomass, as well as an organic, sustainable fertilizer,” said Ecotone Renewables CFO Elliott Bennett. “That fertilizer is our main focus as we look to empower communities. This is part of a sustainable form of agriculture because it allows new plants to grow. And really, it gives people the ability to be sustainable in the way that they plant, whether it’s on a farm or the garden.” An award of $15,000 also went to Atlanta-based FundStory, which helps finance teams access and manage nondilutive capital. This type of capital does not require a business owner to give up equity or ownership and is often essential to launching a startup. FundStory offers all-in-one workflow management software to help finance teams evaluate risk, automate funding options and manage financing into maturity. “I’m really appreciative for the opportunity and the commitment, and we’re excited,” FundStory CEO and co-founder Bobby Gilbert says. “We like to think of it as the operating system for not a lot of capital. Entrepreneurs don’t wake up and decide they’re going to go into debt. Prior to funding through us, they have to map out a plan, choose the right partner and manage financing into maturity. We set out to build a FundStory with a thesis of helping founders for each stage of their journey.” Reflecting on key takeaways The three entrepreneurs spoke at a reception for Goizueta Business School alumni, faculty, administration, staff and the students who operated the fund as managing partners and associates. The reception was hosted by the five managing partners who operate the fund alongside teams of senior associates and analysts. “We went through a lot of debate, and at the end of the day we made the most informed decisions we could,” says Humza Mirza, an MBA graduate and the fund’s managing partner for marketing and recruiting. “Did we get the right answer? Only time will tell. We are all taking a lot of learnings from getting the Peachtree Minority Venture Fund started.” The class is part of a new diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) concentration for full-time MBA students, focusing on understanding factors that contribute to the gap in venture capital funding to underrepresented minority entrepreneurs and how this challenge might best be addressed. Students split into six teams, each assigned to find minority-owned startups in one sector: consumer products and goods, energy, fintech, health care technology, information technology and manufacturing. “Each of our teams worked tirelessly to make sure we have a strong pipeline going forward,” says Jack Semrau, an Evening MBA student and the fund’s managing partner for deal sourcing and portfolio management. “We worked through a very traditional process of what you see in other VC firms, to make sure that we find exceptional founders who showcased their know-how and their specific industry and product so that we could proceed to actually make an investment,” Semrau continues. “We couldn’t be happier to make the first round of investments that are part of the Peachtree Minority Venture Fund.” The fund grew from the work of Goizueta alumni who learned from local underrepresented entrepreneurs that access to capital was a major pain point and wanted to do something about it. But “As students, you can only do so much; you have to have a faculty or staff member that really believes in the idea,” says Goizueta alumnus Willie Sullivan. He joined the current MBA students in thanking supporters “who really believed in this and believed in our ability to make this happen.” One of those supporters is Robert Kazanjian, academic director of The Roberto C. Goizueta Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation. “We are really good at finding interesting ways to take what might be a straight theoretical issue in the classroom and then having students experience it in a real setting,” Kazanjian says. “This is a big challenge for professional schools, how to manage that tension between theory and practice. I see this venture fund as absolutely working and think this is a great example of what Goizueta does well.” This is sponsored content.
By GEEARS Last week, parents and caregivers celebrated as the COVID-19 vaccine was authorized for children under age five. This was a huge and happy step for millions of families. It’s been a long, long wait for vaccine access for Georgia’s youngest children, during which working caregivers had to continue contending with child care disruptions, employment uncertainty, and other stressors that accompany COVID vulnerability. At GEEARS: Georgia Early Education Alliance for Ready Students, we’ve been studying these phenomena, particularly their impact on working parents’ child care experiences. Last month, we released the report, “It Kind of Broke All of Us.” Navigating Child Care and Employment in the Era of COVID-19: Parents and Caregivers Tell their Stories. The report is the result of a series of focus groups GEEARS commissioned in the fall of 2021, a follow-up to a statewide parent survey we conducted the previous summer. In one of the survey’s most significant findings, one in three caregivers (34%) said they or someone in their family had to quit a job, not take a job, or greatly change a job in the previous 12 months because of problems with child care, up from one in four (26%) in 2018. In addition, more caregivers reported opting for some type of home-based child care than they had before the pandemic started. The focus group participants shared the stories behind these statistics, and many others. Here are some takeaways… Many of the focus group respondents felt weary and demoralized, expressing ongoing concern about their children’s safety in child care situations. “Kids are not going to wash their hands. Kids are not going to wear masks. Kids are going to lick stuff and eat things and they’re going to share germs. I think it would be more convenient to keep him home and not have to deal with the inconsistencies. But that’s not necessarily what’s best for him, nor is that what he wants…it’s definitely a complicated decision to make as a parent.” —A mother from Columbia County COVID’s disruption and constantly changing landscape hampered parents’ ability to plan and work. Beyond worrying about COVID infections, caregivers also had to worry about more lasting disruptions like the closure of a child care center or resignation of a caretaker. “At first, they closed it, then they open it back up. But when a child gets sick, they’ll close it again. So, I might have to stay at the house and then I might not have to stay at the house. Just depends on the daycare.” —A mother from DeKalb County “The employer wasn’t understanding whatsoever. They said, ‘Well, you said you had an area without distraction.’ And I said, ‘Well, yeah, because I thought I had a sitter. She canceled. She bailed on me.’ And the employer wasn’t forgiving at all. They just said, ‘Oh, well, you lost the job.’” —A mother from Hall County Sometimes, parents changed their child care choices, not because they wanted to, but because the pandemic interfered. “I have other friends that sent their kids to daycare just because they had to, because of their job. It was just impossible to work from home with [their children] home, and they had to work. They had no choice.” —A mother from DeKalb County Parents found themselves turning to their children’s grandparents or other relatives, both as a source for child care and as a factor informing their child care decisions. “That’s been the biggest change—just having a friend leave Atlanta to go where they grew up because they need that right now. And they feel more comfortable having their mom or dad or family member help out, instead of staying in Atlanta, where it’s just them, and having a sitter, or nanny or whatever.” —A mother from Fulton County This report provides a meaningful accounting of the pandemic’s unique effect on working caregivers with children under five. But it also illuminates a theme: Last month in the Saporta Report, we discussed the historic infant formula shortage. This month, we’re talking about the child care difficulties that have accompanied the pandemic. We can’t help but wonder—what crisis will families with young children face next month or next year? This shouldn’t be such a perennial question. The most rapid period of brain development occurs before age five. During the baby and toddler years, every experience can reverberate through a child’s future. Building a strong foundation from the start is the key to lifelong health and success. This is why GEEARS focuses like a laser on Georgia’s youngest children and their families. We know they deserve less crisis-hopping and more acknowledgement and inclusion when it comes to policy decisions, educational structures, and societal values. The good news is, anyone can help us advocate for these kids and their families (because they do matter to all of us, whether or not you have young children in your family). To learn more about GEEARS’ many approaches to making Georgia the best place to raise a child, visit our website. This is sponsored content.