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Posted: Wednesday, October 17th 2012 at 2:02pm

'Masters of Innovation' honored in Gainesville

By Rob Moore Editor
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Lula Town Councilman Norman Harrop congratulates Molly Hubbard of Shape Innovation, Inc., during a break at Wedneday's Masters of Innovation ceremony in Gainesville. Also shown is Mayor Milton Turner. (Photo/Rob Moore)
GAINESVILLE – On Wednesday, 10 north Georgia entrepreneurs were honored at a morning event at Featherbone Communiversity in Gainesville.

This event is one of a series of Masters events established in 2009 by Featherbone Communiversity, including Masters in Teaching … ”Life Changers at Work,” Masters in Nursing … ”Healers Among Us,” and, on Oct. 17, the third consecutive presentation of Entrepreneurs … ”Masters of Innovation.”

“The Masters series started actually five years ago with Masters of Teaching,” says founder Gus Whalen, president of the Warren Featherbone Foundation. “The idea from the very beginning was to honor true masters – initially it was in teaching – to learn from them how they do what they do, and to encourage young people to become masters in that field or whatever field that they’re in.”

“This has grown to four programs, and today’s is called ‘Entrepreneurs … Masters of Innovation,’” Whalen said. “We will be honoring 10 outstanding entrepreneurs from north Georgia. We will honor them, we will learn from them – they will share with us their story, how they do what they do, why they do it most importantly – and we’ll have nearly 100 high school students with us today that are coming to this event so they can learn, so that they can be masters in their fields.”

Honorees Wednesday included:

* Rear Admiral Patricia E. Wolfe of the U.S. Navy – Admiral Wolfe has served as a leader in the U.S. Navy for several decades. During this time, she has had to lead change, coming up with innovative solutions in support of large deployments of military personnel globally.

When not serving in the military, she also is a small business consultant on a personal mission to assist small business owners, in particular young women, successfully work with the U.S. government.

* Zack Thompson of Pro Touch Landscapes – Thompson has leveraged his business development goals with his interest in landscaping to build a successful commercial landscape business.

* Doug Magnus of Conditioned Air Systems – Magnus started Conditioned Air Systems in 1983 and has guided its growth from a small, family business into a regional powerhouse. Today, he oversees the major departments and helps keep the company’s “big picture” in focus.

Prior to opening the business, he worked in the HVAC industry for 20 years, giving him more than 40 years of combined experience in the industry. In addition to his direct involvement in the company, he invests his time and resources in the community, working with a number of charitable and civic organizations.

* David Hodges of Packaging Specialties, Inc. – “Busy Being Better” is Packaging Specialties Inc.’s slogan. As plant manager, Hodges is constantly working to make the company more productive and prosperous.

Hodges has used his innovation and skills as a manager and motivator to continuously improve the plant’s productivity through the ability to respond to all customers’ needs and to get all employees engaged in what they are trying to do, and through the implementation of lean manufacturing. During the poor economy of the last four years, they have broken sales records in three of those years.

* Molly Hubbard of Shape Innovations, Inc., in Lula – The original company Shape Formation, Inc., started in 1989 in response to a need for smaller, custom foam products and architectural foam products primarily for the stucco industry. The company’s experience in foam production led to branching out to stage and movie props; however, by 2009m with the economy in trouble and construction slowing, the original company started slowing down and eventually closed in 2010.

Molly Hubbard saw that there was still a need and niche for foam products and started Shape Innovation, Inc., at the existing location in Lula. She started diversifying the products offered as well as updating the business practices.

“We create everything and anything you can imagine … :” foam cake dummies to create the popular crazy cakes, trade show and event props, movie and stage props, an oversized iPhone, and more.

Hubbard has a passion for creativity and utilizes that creativity to manufacture interesting items out of foam.

* Barclay Rushton of Rushton & Company – More than three decades ago, Rushton had the vision that Gainesville/Hall County had the potential for an economic boom due to its convenient location to Atlanta and the home of beautiful Lake Lanier. Because of this opportunity for growth, he had the vision of opening a CPA firm to meet the needs of a growing community. He founded what we today is known as Rushton & Company, LLC, which has grown to the largest CPA firm in Northeast Georgia with more than 30 employees.

As with any business, honesty, integrity and dedication are important ingredients in the recipe of success. Those who have spent time with Rushton soon realize there is more than just the desire to succeed personally that is driving him. His passion for partnering with his clients to ensure their success surpasses his duties as a CPA.

Rushton learned early in his career that investing in the community he lived and worked in was not just a good business plan but the honorable thing to do. He has served as a board member on many non-profit organizations throughout his career as well as consulted with visionaries on how to turn their dream into the reality of a business and quite often donating his time and energy.

* Davis White and Kris Nordholz of Full Media – Full Media has defined its niche in the business world and works to excel in customer service. Both White and Nordholz are big on values, and they want the company to reflect those values. As a result, Full Media has been involved in community service, and celebrated its anniversary with a day of volunteering at Challenged Child and Friends.

* Rick Boyd of Chattahoochee Marketing Group – Boyd is the founder and president of Chattahoochee Marketing Group, the largest promotional products distributor in Hall County and one of the largest embroidery operators in the Southeast.

Boyd started Stitchtech, Inc., in 1992 and moved the company to Gainesville in 1993 as a direct result of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce Red Carpet Tour hosted by Gainesville–Hall County that year. Over time, the company grew to operating three shifts five day per week, with more than 38 full-time, and 24 part-time employees in 1998.

In 2004, Stitchtech reorganized to provide embroidered apparel, screen-printing and promotional products. At that point, Stitchtech became Chattahoochee Marketing Group and now has eight embroidery machines on site, a 1,500-garment-per-day capacity and seven full-time and 24 part-time employees. The company has expanded its technology to now provide customized uniform programs for all facets of the medical industry by supplying scrubs, lab coats, etc.

Boyd, along with his wife Susan and their son Mack, have been long supporters of the community and served on the board of directors of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce since 1995.

* Forrest Graves of JumpinGoat Coffee Roasters – Graves has overcome diversity to build an outstanding company that is growing more than 100 percent per year. He has been recognized on ABC and CNN, as well as in several other media outlets. His story is one of great challenge, graciousness, drive, and optimism.

* Adam Shepherd of Sheer Imagination, LLC – In a few short years, Shepherd has taken his business from a small, online toy retail start-up to a multi-million-dollar, profitable, international business which employs more than 13 employees.

In accomplishing this, he has shown the business community that he has the creativity to define his vision, the perseverance and hard work to overcome obstacles along the way, and the passion to realize his dream.

During a break in the presentation, Hubbard said she was pleased to receive the award.

“It kind of came out of left field,” she said. “I didn’t expect it. I am so young in my business career really. I was really honored, but I think it’s just neat because I’m not a traditional kind of person I guess.”

“I think it’s neat that they recognize we’re just women in manufacturing, which is something that’s not very common,” Hubbard said. “Even in a down economy, you can reinvent yourself and do what you need to to make things happen.”

“The people who nominated me, the chamber of commerce, they have been so good to me,” Hubbard said. “And there are so many support resources. I’m really honored. I think it’s just great, and I’m really excited to be able to talk to the kids … I got really excited to be able to share my story, that it’s not real traditional and they don’t have to know exactly what they’re doing or where they’re going, that things just kind of unfold and if you’re motivated you can kind of make anything you want happen.”

Hubbard’s recognition didn’t go unnoticed by Lula officials. Mayor Milton Turner and Councilman Norman Harrop attended Wednesday’s event in Gainesville.

“That was great,” Hubbard said. “I didn’t expect them to be here, so I appreciate that very, very much.”

Featherbone Communiversity is north Georgia’s collaborative learning community supported by Brenau University, INK (Interactive Neighborhood for Kids), Lanier Technical College, The University of Georgia Small Business Development Center, Georgia Tech Enterprise Innovation Institute, Gainesville City Schools, Gainesville State College, Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce, Hall County Schools, and North Georgia College & State University.
Associated Categories: Homepage, Business News, Local/State News

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