Groundbreaking broadcaster Monica Kaufman Pearson delivers 2019 Holmes-Hunter Lecture

Monica Kaufman Pearson

Monica Kaufman Pearson delivers the 2019 Holmes-Hunter Lecture in the Chapel. (Photo by Dorothy Kozlowski/UGA)

The UGA Chapel was filled with joy, anger, sadness, and, ultimately, hope when the University of Georgia welcomed back alumna Monica Kaufman Pearson (MA ’14) to deliver the annual Holmes-Hunter Signature Lecture on Thursday, Feb. 7.

Named for Dr. Hamilton Holmes (BS ’63) and Charlayne Hunter-Gault (ABJ ’63), UGA’s first African-American students, the lecture series began in 1985 and, each year, invites a distinguished scholar or public figure to speak on race relations, aspects of higher education with implications for race relations and black history.

“We recognize that our collective backgrounds and experiences unite us and they enrich the living and learning environment for our students and for the entire campus community,” said Arthur Tripp, Assistant to the President, introducing Pearson.

“It is our goal to continue to foster a vibrant exchange of ideas by bringing speakers to campus who champion a diversity of thought, ideas and who challenge us to think critically about the pressing issues of the day.”

Pearson’s illustrious career includes being Atlanta’s first woman and first minority to anchor daily news programs. Her reporting has garnered over 30 local and regional Emmys, her long-running “Close-Ups” series has profiled national celebrities and world leaders and she was named a UGA Distinguished Alumni last year, having graduated magna cum laude following her retirement in 2012.

Pearson opened the lecture with several bars of an old spiritual song, then laid bare the history of black oppression in no uncertain terms—a history that stretches into the present day.

“The seed planted was slavery, fertilized by the Civil War, watered during Reconstruction with Jim Crow laws, then pruned and reshaped after the Civil Rights Act of 1964,” said Pearson. “And then finally, with the election of the first black president in 2008, some claimed the roots of racism were uprooted and destroyed. That was a lie.”

Monica Kauffman Pearson with Mary Frances Early

Monica Kaufman Pearson (center) speaks with Mary Frances Early prior to the lecture (Photo by Dorothy Kozlowski/UGA)

Pearson documented abuse after abuse, asking “how do the roots of racism continue to grow like kudzu and how do we change that?” At the heart of her solution was action rooted in honesty.

“We must educate people, awaken their sensibilities,” said Pearson. “Speak up, ladies and gentlemen, when you see racism and when you hear racist conversations and you hear horrible jokes from your coworkers, your family and your friends. Speak up.”

Pearson noted that although conversations around race can be uncomfortable, they are necessary. Those in positions of power must examine their prejudices, Pearson said, and those who have been victim to oppression can’t let their ambitions suffer as a result.

“Don’t be afraid to be the first person in your family to do anything,” said Pearson. “Don’t be afraid of being the best you can be. Don’t let other people define you. You define you. Build up your self-esteem. Be the first in your family to go to college, to get a master’s degree, to get a doctorate. Become the first woman president of the University of Georgia.”

Pearson closed with a message of hope, quoting from remarks made by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and positing that prosperity for all relies on intersection, cooperation and communication.

Honored guests at the event included family members of the late Dr. Holmes, UGA’s first African-American graduate, Mary Frances Early, and students from Athens-area and metro Atlanta middle and high schools.

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The hope in Pearson’s message lives at the heart of the Holmes-Hunter Lecture and was the driving force in the creation of the Black Alumni Scholarship Fund. Give today to honor the memory of trailblazers like Early, Holmes, Hunter-Gault and Pearson by opening doors for tomorrow’s scholars.

University of Georgia achieves 96 percent career outcomes rate for second year

University of Georgia achieved 96 percent career outcomes rate for the second year in a row.

University of Georgia graduates, for the second year in a row, are employed or attending graduate school within six months at a rate of 96 percent—11.7 percent higher than the national average.

Of those students:

  • 63 percent were employed full time;
  • 19 percent were attending graduate school; and
  • Approximately 12 percent were self-employed, interning full time or were employed part time.

“UGA students continue to excel in their post-graduate endeavors, and the consistency of statistics from last year to this year demonstrates that the university is providing career readiness skills through professional programming, academics, and experiential learning,” said Scott Williams, executive director of the UGA Career Center.

Nearly 3,000 unique employers hired UGA graduates from business to government, nonprofit to education. Some of the top employers for the Class of 2018 include Amazon, Delta Air Lines, The Home Depot and Teach for America.

Of those full-time professionals, 58 percent were employed before graduation, a three percent increase over the Class of 2017, and 98 percent were hired within six months of graduation.

Graduates landed in 47 states and 31 countries in the six months after graduation with 69 percent accepting employment within the state of Georgia. Top out-of-state destinations span the county and include cities like Austin, Texas and New York City.

Top 10 out of state destinations for the University of Georgia based on Class of 2018 career outcomes.

Of the 19 percent of graduates who are pursuing additional education, some of the top graduate or professional schools they will attend include Georgetown University, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Vanderbilt University and Columbia University.

The UGA Career Center calculates the career outcomes rate each January by leveraging information from surveys, phone calls, employer reporting, UGA departmental collaboration, LinkedIn, and the National Student Clearinghouse. The preceding data is based on the known career outcomes of 8,130 graduates from the Class of 2018.

To check out the UGA Career Center’s website highlighting the Class of 2018 career outcomes.

Learn more about hiring UGA graduates.

 

A Bulldog Love Story: Glenn and “Susy” Taylor

Barbara "Susy" Nell Davis (BSHE ’48) and Glenn Lewis Taylor (BSED ’49) in front of their home.

Barbara “Susy” Nell Davis (BSHE ’48) and Glenn Lewis Taylor (BSED ’49) in front of their home.

At the end of World War II, there was a large influx of returning veterans to the University of Georgia campus, and Glenn Lewis Taylor (BSED ’49) was one of them. Glenn can’t remember if the year was 1946 or 1947, but the moment he met his future wife is one he’ll never forget. When they met, Barbara Nell Davis was pursuing her Bachelor of Science in home economics at the university after transferring from West Georgia.

Glenn Lewis Taylor (BSED ’49) sitting in Myers Quad.

Glenn Lewis Taylor (BSED ’49) sitting in Myers Quad.

One evening, Glenn and a friend were standing in line at Snelling Hall behind two attractive young ladies, so they started up a conversation. As Barbara liked to tell the story, back then, proper young ladies did not give their names to male strangers; so when they were asked, both she and her friend gave false names. She told her future husband that her name was Susy.

Barbara "Susy" Nell Davis (BSHE ’48) on the University of Georgia campus.

Barbara “Susy” Nell Davis (BSHE ’48) on the University of Georgia campus.

 

Several days later, Glenn and “Susy” ran into each other again in Snelling Hall. Glenn told her that he knew Susy was not her real name because he couldn’t find anyone on campus with the name she had given. She confessed, and they became friends. Six months later, they began to date, however, Glenn continued to call her Susy–as did their friends! Before long, she was known on UGA’s campus as Susy. They dated for about six months then decided to stop, but that only lasted for about a week before they got back together. Once they were back together, they started a serious relationship that eventually led to 54 years of marriage. Until her passing in 2004, Glenn and her friends called her Susy–a memory of that fateful day on the University of Georgia campus that brought them together.

 

Holmes and Hunter-Gault: They followed their dreams

Original article posted on Feb. 4, 2019 by Krista Richmond on UGA Today.

This story is part of a series, called Georgia Groundbreakers, that celebrates innovative and visionary faculty, students, alumni and leaders throughout the history of the University of Georgia—and their profound, enduring impact on our state, our nation and the world.

Hamilton Holmes simply wanted to become a doctor. Charlayne Hunter simply wanted to become a journalist. And in doing so, they also became inspirations.

Both agreed that the University of Georgia had the classes they needed to reach those goals. But when they graduated from Henry McNeal Turner High School in Atlanta in 1959—Holmes as valedictorian and Hunter (now Hunter-Gault) as third in their class—it wasn’t quite that simple.

“Pursue your dreams—whatever it takes. Don’t give up despite what might be in your way,” Hunter-Gault said in a recent interview. “It was our determination—mine and Hamilton’s—to follow our dreams at the place that was best suited to help us fulfill them.”

Charlayne Hunter and Hamilton Holmes walk up Broad Street in Athens on Jan. 9, 1961, to enter the UGA campus to become the first African Americans to attend the university.

Charlayne Hunter and Hamilton Holmes walk up Broad Street in Athens on Jan. 9, 1961, to enter the UGA campus to become the first African Americans to attend the university.

Eventually Hunter and Holmes became the first African American students to attend UGA, but that is just the beginning of their stories. Both went on to have a lasting impact in their chosen career fields and on generations of students.

Their latest legacy: a new endowment, launched by Hunter-Gault and her husband, that inspires UGA students to pursue a more just society.

Desegregating UGA

Both Hunter and Holmes applied to UGA for the fall 1959 quarter but were denied. Holmes was accepted to Morehouse College, and Hunter enrolled at Wayne State University in Detroit, but they continued to submit applications to UGA each quarter.

“You can’t ever take your eyes off the prizes of freedom, justice and equality,” she said.

In September 1960, their legal team filed for an injunction seeking to prohibit UGA from “refusing to consider [Holmes’ and Hunter’s] applications and those of other Negro residents of Georgia for admission to the University.” Their request was refused, but a full trial was later held in Athens in December 1960.

On Jan. 6, 1961, Judge William Bootle issued his ruling, stating that Holmes and Hunter “would have already been admitted had it not been for their race and color,” and they were immediately admitted to UGA. Three days later, they became the first African American students to enroll in classes.

Creating a legacy

Their first steps into the Academic Building left a lasting footprint on the UGA landscape.

That same building now bears their names. It was renamed the Holmes-Hunter Academic Building in their honor to mark the 40th anniversary of UGA’s desegregation. And as part of UGA’s bicentennial in 1985, the university created the annual Holmes-Hunter Lecture, which is sponsored by the Office of the President and focuses on race relations, civil rights and education.

Their influence was felt early on during their time in Athens. Mary Frances Early, a fellow Turner High alumna who knew both Holmes and Hunter, was so inspired by what she saw that she decided to transfer from the University of Michigan to UGA to help them integrate the university. In August 1962, Early became the first African American to graduate from UGA.

A year later, it was their turn to walk across the stage.

Hamilton Holmes and Charlayne Hunter after they received their diplomas from UGA.

Hamilton Holmes and Charlayne Hunter after they received their diplomas from UGA.

“He opened the doors not only for African Americans to attend UGA, but also for everyone who wanted to attend,” said Holmes’ son, Hamilton Holmes Jr., who graduated from UGA in 1990. “My father was an excellent student and graduated cum laude while dealing with all of the distractions related to being one of the first two black students to integrate the university. He wasn’t looking for fame. He simply wanted to get the best public education from the flagship university in Georgia.”

In the fall of 1963, Holmes became the first African American student admitted to the Emory University School of Medicine. After starting a residency at Detroit General Hospital and serving in the military, he returned to Emory to complete his residency. Later, he became an assistant professor of orthopedics and served as an associate dean at Emory.

In addition, Holmes also worked as chief of orthopedics at the Veterans Administration hospital in Atlanta, opened a private practice and became medical director and eventually head of orthopedic surgery at Grady Memorial Hospital.

Holmes passed away at his home in Atlanta on Oct. 26, 1995.

As Holmes Jr. pointed out, the path toward their degrees wasn’t always smooth.

On Jan. 11, 1961, two days after they registered for classes, a crowd gathered outside Hunter’s dorm after a basketball game, smashing windows with bottles and bricks. Holmes and Hunter were suspended, and the Georgia State Patrol escorted them back to their homes in Atlanta that night. A new court order was issued, and they returned to campus and resumed their classes.

Charlayne Hunter-Gault in her office at the PBS “MacNeil/Lehrer Report” in 1983.

Charlayne Hunter-Gault in her office at the PBS “MacNeil/Lehrer Report” in 1983.

After Hunter’s graduation in 1963, she took a job as an editorial assistant at The New Yorker, where she eventually became the first African American staff writer. She then worked as a television reporter and evening anchor for the local NBC station in Washington, D.C. She returned to print media in 1968, establishing The New York Times’ Harlem bureau. From 1978 until 1997, she worked for the MacNeil/Lehrer Report, which became PBS NewsHour. In 1997, she became chief correspondent in Africa for National Public Radio. She left NPR in 1999 to join CNN, where she served as bureau chief and correspondent, based in Johannesburg, South Africa, until 2005.

During her career, Hunter received numerous awards, including two National News and Documentary Emmy Awards and two Peabody Awards.

“The view of the world that I developed and refined as a student at UGA helped me become a successful journalist and person,” Hunter-Gault said.

But for both Holmes and Hunter, their legacies go far beyond their time at UGA and their distinguished careers.

“I’m calling for a coalition of generations so that the things that were important achievements in my generation are looked at so that they can be built upon in the next generation,” Hunter-Gault said.

Giving Voice to the Voiceless

At the 2018 Holmes-Hunter Lecture, Hunter-Gault passed the proverbial baton to the next generation.

“It’s truly time for every citizen, no matter your age, to get woke,” she told the crowd. “And that means helping keep our democracy safe, and it means doing the hard work of digging for good information with a variety of sources.”

She spoke about her time at UGA and what students today can learn from it.

Charlayne Hunter-Gault meets with students from Cedar Shoals and Clarke Central high schools outside of the Chapel before delivering the Holmes-Hunter Lecture in February 2018. (Photo by Andrew Davis Tucker/UGA)

Alumna Charlayne Hunter-Gault meaning with a group of local high school students from Cedar Shoals and Clarke Central High School outside of the Chapel before delivering the Holmes-Hunter Lecture.

“I want to share a little of my life with you today in the hope that you will be inspired, or further inspired, to make sure that your armor is fitted and polished so that you can help bind wounds and defeat the kind of divisions that are tearing at the fabric of our nation,” she said to those in attendance, including members of Holmes’ family.

To that end, she and her husband, Ronald Gault, started the Giving Voice to the Voiceless endowment, which provides grants to university students to promote social justice and global understanding.

“I wanted to do something that would help inspire young people,” she said.

The first grant recipients were announced recently, and their projects reflect Hunter-Gault’s legacy of courage, bravery and fearlessness.

Abha Rai, a doctoral candidate in the School of Social Work, received a grant to study domestic violence within South Asian immigrant communities.

“I want to be that voice for my community. I want to understand domestic violence and maybe even someday help end domestic violence,” she said. “This project is the perfect opportunity for my own voice to be heard in an area of research where people are understudied and not much is known about them.”

Steve Armour, an archivist with the University Libraries, received a grant to create an oral history with African American alumni who attended the university in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The interviewer for the project will be a student who will conduct background research on what that time was like at UGA in order to develop the right questions.

“These are students who attended UGA in the years following the desegregation of the university,” Armour said. “We often hear about the experience of Charlayne Hunter-Gault and Hamilton Holmes, but there are generations of students who followed them that this project is going to focus on.”

For Armour, it’s about continuing the conversation.

“They [Holmes and Hunter-Gault] reached these amazing heights that I think in turn have inspired subsequent generations,” he said.

Kyla Brinkley, who graduated with degrees in public relations and English in May 2018, continues to feel Hunter-Gault’s impact.

“Charlayne Hunter-Gault is a prime example of black excellence and what you can do to have an impact on people around you,” she said. “The fact that she still chooses to give back to students at UGA and continues to fuel minority students to pursue the things that she was able to pursue is really powerful.”

Brinkley was the first Charlayne Hunter-Gault Intern for Chess and Community, a nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering youth.

For their part, this generation of students and alumni have been an inspiration to Hunter-Gault.

“They are the giants, now, on whose shoulders the next generations will stand,” she said. “Even though they are quite young, they’ve demonstrated that they have a consciousness about the values in our democratic promise. Everywhere I look, I see them working to ensure that.”

Farthest Bulldog 100 Company: SunnyBoy Entertainment

The Greatest Showman.

Now You See Me.

Fantastic Four.

Pacific Rim: Uprising.

SunnyBoy Entertainment has worked with some of the most popular movies to date.

UGA alumni Harold Hayes, Jr., (ABJ ’01) and Craig Phillips (ABJ ’02) knew they had a knack for the art of video, but as the Emmy nominations and CLIO awards indicate, they are living their college dream. Harold gave us some insight into his journey to becoming the co-founder of a successful, full-service creative studio based in California. The West Coast location makes SunnyBoy Entertainment the Bulldog 100 company farthest from Athens.

“I’ve always had an interest in film, and I’ve always been an artist. I did some plays in high school and starting getting into video in high school. However, I started [at UGA] as biology pre-med major and then decided to put my energy into something I would enjoy for the rest of my life. I love science and was good at it, but I would rather spend my days influencing the world through entertainment.”

SunnyBoy Entertainment has won both gold and silver CLIO awards for its behind-the-scenes work on Fox’s “The Greatest Showman.” Both Harold and Craig write for the “R.L. Stine’s The Haunting Hour,” which has also won a Daytime Emmy for Best Children’s Show. SunnyBoy Entertainment works on everything from promotional featurettes to vertical reality videos and games.

What’s it like working alongside legendary directors and artists? “It’s been like the ultimate film school. We get to go on these sets and be close to these filmmakers practicing their craft and you get into candid conversations with people about the world, how they see it and their work.”

Harold said the most influential professor was Alan Stecker from the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication. “Stecker gave me a long leash to make a lot of videos and check out equipment whenever I wanted. I checked out video equipment three to four times a week, and I pretty much always had a camera in my hand.”

Relive your glory (Glory) days!

Even though Harold confessed he broke some cameras, Stecker offered him a job at his company, ASV Productions, after graduation. “At ASV Productions, I got to learn how to operate a small company in Atlanta and learn the fine arts of being a director of photography and editor. I learned a lot.”

Clearly, the lessons stuck. As innovators in their industry, Harold and Craig now own one of the fastest-growing companies owned or operated by Bulldog alumni.

Interested in seeing the other Bulldog entrepreneurs and culture shapers? Check out the full Bulldog 100 list.

Female Run Bulldog 100 Company: A Signature Welcome

In 2013, Lindsay Bissell Marko (BBA ’07) was moving from New York City to Charleston, South Carolina, to join her husband in the South. She was soon to be the maid of honor for her best friend, Emily Howard Slater (BS ’07). Lindsay was given the opportunity to help create welcome gifts for the wedding guests. As she collaborated with Emily to create those gifts, a unique business idea was born.

In 2014, A Signature Welcome emerged as a luxury wedding welcome gift company. Five years later, A Signature Welcome is now a thriving gifting company that curates gifts for any celebration, domestically or internationally.

“We curate gifts that celebrate,” said Lindsay, “We like to say, anything wedding, corporate, or everyday, we’re here to help with any gifting need.”

A Signature Welcome packaged and sent more than 6,000 gifts in 2018. It continues to grow in gifting numbers and clients. Some of the company’s most notable gifting projects have included custom gifts for the Carolina Panthers, U.S. Secretary of Treasury Steve Mnuchin’s wedding, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s inauguration and the wedding of Martha Stewart’s niece. A Signature Welcome has recently been chosen to curate VIP welcome gifts for the 2019 NBA All-Star weekend in Charlotte. A Signature Welcome also has been named a 2019 Bulldog 100 company, meaning it is one of the 100 fastest-growing businesses owned or operated by a UGA alumnus this year.

Relive your glory (Glory) days!

Emily claims the experience and lessons from mentors are a large reason their business has been successful.

“Working under inspiring managers in the past, seeking mentors, and both of us having seven years of work experience under our belts were important things that we brought to A Signature Welcome,” said Emily. “Lindsay’s corporate experience blended with my small business background provided a unique dynamic to developing our company’s culture.”

After serving on the Terry Young Alumni board, Lindsay praises the Terry College alumni network as an aid for learning how to successfully run their company. “Through those four years on the board, I met so many incredible people,” said Lindsay. “I still keep in touch with some, both personally and professionally.”

As their gifting company continues to grow, these alumni encourage students and future entrepreneurs to understand what it means to be an entrepreneur and not to be discouraged about making mistakes. “It is super important to let your mistakes empower you,” said Emily. “Never take for granted the opportunity a mistake makes for you to grow as a business and as a leader.”

Looking to give a special someone a gift? Check out A Signature Welcome’s website to start the process of a finding that special, curated gift. Check out the Bulldog 100 website to see what other alumni-owned businesses made the list this year.

Relive Your Glory Days: Decades photos

Are you planning to relive your glory days as a part of Alumni Weekend? In honor, we are going to be sharing throwback photos of alumni around campus from the 1960s, 70s, 80s, 90s, and 2000s.

Condor Chocolates: Local Bulldog 100 Company

Condor Chocolates storefront location in Five Points.

Condor Chocolates storefront location in Five Points (Photo: Peter Frey)

Condor Chocolates’ reputation is growing every day with every shipment. The company is the brainchild of Peter Dale (ABJ ’99) and Nicholas Dale (BSA ’04). Walking into its 1,100-square-foot storefront location in Five Points, you can smell the quality of the chocolate before even trying it. The first bean-to-bar chocolate producer based in Athens, the establishment is truly a labor of love.

“The story began on a bus in Ecuador. Our dad was backpacking and met our Mom, a local. Sparks flew. On their honeymoon, the newlyweds packed up a green VW bus and moved to Athens, Georgia.”

The quote leads Condor Chocolates’ story page and goes onto explain that through returning to Ecuador to visit family during their childhood summers the brothers were exposed to delicious food and, most importantly, to chocolate. Peter says his first memory of chocolate was actually that of La Universal, an Ecuadorian brand of chocolate he used to enjoy as a child. He likens the taste to Condor Chocolates’ bars now.

Relive your glory (Glory) days

 

Condor Chocolates’ process of producing bean-to-bar chocolate is extremely labor intensive since the cacao beans are sun-dried in Ecuador and then shipped to Athens to be transformed into chocolate bars, truffles, and sipping chocolate. The Dales have capitalized on access to college students and have hired several who come to their factory, a location they expanded to due to demand, at various times to sort the cacao and prepare the beans for roasting.

 

Truffles from Condor Chocolates in Athens, GA

Truffles from Condor Chocolates in Athens, GA (Photo: Peter Frey)

Labor doesn’t stop with hand-sorting. It is followed by roasting, grinding and tempering – you can read about the whole process and look at illustrations. But what’s not pictured are the artistic touches on their truffles, which are known for their beauty as much as their amazing flavors. The designs have been created by several of Condor Chocolates’ employees who started hand-painting each truffle.

Starting food ventures is not new to Peter who has started several others– including the award-winning restaurant The National with chef Hugh Acheson. The most difficult part of the chocolate business? Selling the products wholesale. In Athens, Peter is known for his restaurant work, but wholesale brings him into contact “with clients or potential clients who may not know anything about us,” he says. The most rewarding part of wholesale is that “it is an Athens experience that can go elsewhere. People know Athens, which gives us a leg up.”

 

The question on everyone’s mind is: what is the current favorite truffle flavor for Peter and Nick?

Peter: Caramel truffle, which has a liquid caramel center. I also love the passion fruit, which is a seasonal flavor and strong flavor. It has a jam center that is an actual layer of jam.

Nicholas: My favorite is the smoked sea salt chocolate- we use a sea salt from Charleston called Bulls Bay.

Want to order your own taste of Athens and Condor Chocolates? Shop their online store or stop by their café if you’re in town for Alumni Weekend. Check out the other alumni-owned or operated businesses who are leading the way on the 2019 Bulldog 100 list.

 

Inspect-All Services: Most Years on Bulldog 100 List – 9th Straight Year

University of Georgia alumni and siblings Brian Lunsford (AB ’02) and Brandon Lunsford (AB ’02) both graduated with Political Science degrees and now own and run Inspect-All Services, the company with the most years on the Bulldog 100 list. Inspect-All Services provides high-quality termite, pest and wildlife control, as well as home inspection services for real estate transactions, and other home services. They offer their services in metro Atlanta and the surrounding region, as well as in the Jacksonville, FL area. Learn how the Lunsford brothers grew their company by a mind-boggling 4,000% in just over a decade and how Inspect-All Services continues to be one of the 100 fastest-growing businesses owned or operated by UGA alumni each year.

First, tell us a little bit about your UGA experience, what did you love about it?

Brian: I have so many wonderful memories at UGA.  From the fun college town of Athens itself, to the friendships, the football, Larry Munson, tailgating, downtown, Guthrie’s, my classes, The Red & Black—just to name a few!  The summer of 2001 when I studied at Oxford University in England with my fellow UGA students still stands as one of my favorite periods of time in college.  I gained perspective on life that only an experience like that affords.  I’ll always be grateful for my time at the University of Georgia!

Brandon:  My time at UGA and in Athens was unforgettable.  I’ll always cherish the memories including UGA football games, north campus, downtown nights, intramural sports, cramming for exams, concerts and hanging out with what would become lifelong friends.  My biggest regret is that I did it all in just four years instead of taking longer!

How did you get started with Inspect-All Services?

Brandon:  After graduating college, I decided to join our dad’s small pest control company part-time prior to jumping into a “real career”.  It started off as a way for me to take life easy for a bit, work a little, but mainly it gave me the flexibility to take time off to travel.  Once I was exposed to the business aspect of the industry, I began to take it more seriously and eventually realized I could possibly make a great career out of it.  Brian soon joined me full-time and we began the process of taking the reins and growing the business.

Brian: Before becoming an entrepreneur and while still attending UGA, I was a sports producer at FOX-5/WAGA-TV in Atlanta.  While television was fun, I decided to shift my career into the exciting world of business.  When Brandon and I acquired the company from our dad, we were the only two employees and wore a lot of hats.  We were our company’s techs, salesmen and office staff (answering forwarded phone calls from customers on a cell phone in the truck).  Good times!  We started to realize that showing up on time, treating people right and providing outstanding service, led to more business.  That part was simple for us because our mom and dad instilled those values in us as children.  Before we knew it, it was time to hire our first of many employees as business owners.  Doing things the “right way” made it easy for customers to trust us and want to continue to do business with our company.  Those early lessons learned in life and in business laid the foundation for our success and still has an important influence on our company to this day.  We now have around 100 dedicated team members who show up on time, treat folks with respect and provide excellent services to our loyal customers.

What steps did you take early on to begin the explosive growth?

Brian: When Brandon and I were able to leave the field and get in front of our computers, the growth really took off.  Our first major change was bringing technology to the company. We created a website and made sure we were on reputable consumer sites such as Angie’s List, Yelp and Groupon. We understood the importance of taking risks, especially early on as business owners.  For example, we aggressively implemented a “loss leader” approach by running discounted offers for our services on deal sites, then providing those customers with such a high level of service that they would decide to use our company long-term.  We were one of the first pest control companies to send emails to customers the day before service containing a photo of the technician scheduled to arrive. While our competitors were putting lots of energy into face-to-face meetings with other business owners, setting up company booths at local festivals and mailing out flyers, we opted for a more far-reaching strategy by making our online profile paramount.  We built that online presence by ensuring that our reputation was impeccable.

Brandon:  We saw an opportunity and pounced on it, mainly by focusing on things that other companies in our industry were not doing at the time.  Many pest control and home inspection companies are pretty cookie-cutter, and we were naïve to all of that—which ultimately benefitted us because we used a new common-sense approach rather than traditional thinking. We asked questions like, “Why are they doing it like this?” “Doesn’t this other way make more sense?” We were fresh right out of college with an analytical mindset, and we were determined to find better ways to run our business.  I would say most of the technological advancements and digital marketing we did in the early years were self-taught, and in turn gave us a huge advantage over our competitors. We were at UGA in the late 1990s to early 2000s so we got really familiar with computers through our work in college. That technological knowledge gave us an advantage since most of our competitors were run by folks who were a generation older than us and who wouldn’t have had the exposure to computers and technology we had at UGA. We also believe being graduates of UGA gave us credibility to others and validated that we were going to run a legitimate business and provide a great value to our customers.

Inspect-All Services team

Inspect-All Services team

Inspect-All Services has been on the Bulldog 100 list every year since 2011, what do you attribute to your continued success?

Brian: Creating and then sustaining a climate of honesty met with highly efficient communication–both with our customers and internally with our team–has been very important to our success.  Also, implementing innovative ways to do things has reaped huge benefits for our customers and our team.  Technology’s role within our company is to create convenience and peace of mind for our customers, while at the same time making our team members’ jobs easier.  For instance, using infrared cameras to expose hidden pest issues behind walls, deploying drones to survey roofs during home inspections and emailing digital proposals and reminders to our customers.  In the end, it’s a win for both our customers and our team.

Brandon: Hard work and dedication for sure, but most importantly, our unwavering desire to provide our customers with outstanding service and value.  We haven’t tried to conquer the world in one swoop and have always taken good care of each and every customer.  We’ve grown very quickly without any acquisitions or mergers by building our business one customer at a time.

What has been the most surprising thing about owning your own company?

Brian: We are constantly amazed by the high volume of positive customer feedback our team receives.  According to our Angie’s List rep, we have more positive customer reviews than any other pest control and home inspection company on Angie’s List in the United States.  Across all platforms, we currently have thousands of A+ verified online customer reviews, which speaks to our company’s core value of integrity.  This continuous cycle of outstanding customer care met by glowing customer reviews, creates a wonderfully dynamic feedback loop that ties directly to our growth rate.  Prospective customers read these reviews and often attribute the positive customer feedback from their peers as the primary reason they decided to hire our company.

Brandon: I think owning our own company has been more gratifying than we thought since we have the ability to provide so many jobs and a good quality of life for our employees. We have close to 100 employees now, and are largely responsible for them owning cars and buying homes. Being a part of that is surprising, and we are grateful to help them achieve their dreams. We have grown 4,000% in about a 10-year span and averaged around 40% growth per year.

What has been the most challenging thing about owning your own company?

Brian: One of our biggest challenges in the early years was the hiring process.  Learning better ways to acquire and then properly vet candidates has been key to our company landing talented professionals.  Our management team has created an outstanding environment for new hires to flourish.  Therefore, we are fortunate to not have too much turnover.  Once folks are here, they typically do not want to leave.  We take pride in the fact that along with the growth, comes the opportunity to enrich the lives of our team and give back to our communities through volunteer work and charity.  Over the years, we have been fortunate to run a fast-growing company, and our people are the key to that success.

Brandon: I think keeping up with the growth has been the most challenging. We have the difficult job of maintaining a balance between a healthy company and a fast-paced company. Sometimes you can outgrow yourself, and if you don’t have the systems in place to handle the growth, it can be difficult.

Do you have any advice for future Bulldog entrepreneurs?

Brian: Adhere to your core values in everything that you do and make sure your team maintains that standard as well.

Brandon: Think different to grow quickly.  Status quo is not the road to take if you want to stand apart from your competition.

Q&A with UGA Alumna Ebonie Medious

Alumni Spotlight: Ebonie Medious (AB ’17, AB ’17)

My name is Ebonie Medious and I graduated from UGA in 2017 with a Bachelor of Arts in communications studies from Franklin College and a Bachelor of Arts in international affairs from SPIA. I also minored in global health. I’m originally from Hampton, Georgia, and almost attended LSU. However, I ultimately chose the University of Georgia after spending a weekend with Georgia Daze, an overnight campus visitation program. I loved every moment of being on campus so I had to come to UGA! I started getting involved with the Alumni Association while I was still a student by donating to the Student Alumni Association.

I currently live in San Francisco and work for LinkedIn as an associate program manager in inclusion recruiting. I’m thankful for UGA and the Alumni Association as it’s given me opportunities to stay connected and feel at home in a brand-new city. When I moved to California, I sought out the Bay Area Alumni Association as a way to meet new people who had something common with me.

 

Q&A with Ebonie

  1. What was your favorite class at Georgia?

Foreign Policy Decision Making

  1. What advice would you give to graduating seniors and recent graduates?

Be open to all opportunities that come your way and connect with your classmates on LinkedIn!

  1. Describe Athens in three words.

Southern, Hospitality, Charming

  1. Describe UGA in three words.

The Arch, Tailgates, Tate

  1. What is your favorite thing to do in your current city?

Visit the wineries in Napa Valley.  

  1. What did you think you would be when you grew up? Do you still have plans to become that?

I thought I was going to be a corporate attorney. But, I don’t think I have it in me to go through another round of school again.

  1. What is the most important lesson you learned in college?

Getting a C in a class is not the end of the world!

  1. What do you know for sure? What will you never understand?

The University of Georgia is by far the best institution to attend! I will never understand what makes other institutions’ alumni think that their school is better than UGA!