Invest Atlanta hosted its annual Excellence in Entrepreneurship Awards on Wednesday, October 30 at The Gathering Spot to recognize the people behind some of the City of Atlanta’s most successful and promising small businesses, startups, and creatives.
“This annual gathering celebrates the spirit of entrepreneurship and the impact that Atlanta small businesses make everyday in creating jobs for residents and economic investment across the city,” said Dr. Eloisa Klementich, President and CEO of Invest Atlanta. “Behind every small business there is an entrepreneur with a dream. I am proud that for more than 40 years, Invest Atlanta has helped so many entrepreneurs fulfill their dreams through our programs. These programs help level the playing field for economically disadvantaged entrepreneurs and invest in people bringing new business activity to our communities.”
Invest Atlanta began hosting the Excellence in Entrepreneurship Awards, formerly named the Excellence in Small Business Awards, in 2017 to showcase Atlanta’s entrepreneurial community and provide an opportunity for both aspiring and established entrepreneurs in the city to connect. This year, the program was expanded with additional awards and recognized the role that small businesses play in fostering equity in Atlanta communities.
“I don’t think there’s a better place to be than Atlanta,” said Ryan Wilson, CEO and Founder of The Gathering Spot. Wilson was the keynote speaker for the event, and offered advice to other current and aspiring entrepenerus at the ceremony in a Q & A style keynote with Councilmember Andre Dickens. “Small ideas will keep you small. Get the best possible versions of your ideas out there.”
“Small businesses contribute much more than the products, services, and jobs they provide. They bring communities together and shape the identity of our neighborhoods. They are examples of economic opportunity and a pathway to wealth creation,” said Lonnie Saboor, Director of Small Business Development at Invest Atlanta.
The 2019 Excellence in Entrepreneurship award recipients are:
- Commercial Development Excellence: Regenia Marble
- Community Favorite: Burk’s Jewelers (District 5)
- Community Favorite: Profile Enterprises (District 11)
- Excellence in Longevity: DJP Properties
- Forever I Love Atlanta Award: Atlanta Influences Everything
- Franchise Excellence: JRC Monger Inc. d/b/a JR Crickets
- Manufacturing Excellence: Cultured South
- Media Excellence: Story First Creative Agency
- Shining Startup: Steady
- Southside Champion: System 5 Electronics
- Trailblazer Award: Goodr
- Woman of Influence: Skylar Security
In addition to the awards ceremony, the event featured a live pitch competition for four local startups. Participants included Backyard ATL, Pelooc, Mid City, and Musicbük. The winner, MusicBük, was selected through audience participation and received a $5,000 prize courtesy of Atlanta Emerging Markets, Inc., LISC Atlanta, and Wharton Law. Winning startup MusicBük uses artificial intelligence to connect music instructors to students, and is projected to generate $16 million in revenue by 2021.
“The idea of ‘Excellence in Entrepreneurship’ embodies more than just a successful business. It recognizes the hard work, determination, courage, and leadership that it takes to be an entrepreneur,” said Klementich. “Invest Atlanta is often a last resort for business owners who’ve been turned down by banks unwilling to believe in them. But we believe every small business idea can be a big opportunity.”
Invest Atlanta has grown its direct loan programs for small businesses from one program with a loan limit of $15,000, to nine programs with a loan capacity of up to $100,000. Since 2001, Invest Atlanta has invested more than $13 million in 216 small businesses in the City of Atlanta, leveraging an additional $42.3 million in capital.