Mary Ellen McClanahan / Georgia Department of Economic Development
Director, Entrepreneur & Small Business Project Manager, Global Commerce
As Director of Entrepreneur & Small Business Development for the Georgia Department of Economic Development, Mary Ellen helps find solutions and effective ways to build an enabling environment and support small business through mentoring, professional development, strategic planning, processes and resource awareness. She connects with Georgia’s business and community associations so that thousands of businesses, local leaders and practitioners are aware of resources and opportunities. She also directs any sized businesses to the specific resources they need.
Mary Ellen is an Existing Industry Project Manager within the Metro Atlanta region. She calls on growing companies, making them aware of state resources and incentives, and provides assistance with their growth plans and decision-making process. Mary Ellen also works closely with the local economic developers with their economic development efforts.
During her 19 years with the department, she helped develop and grow its regional economic development program, the “Entrepreneur Friendly” Initiative, and acted as legislative liaison. Prior to that, Mary Ellen was the economic developer and president of two rural South Georgia chambers of commerce in Dodge and Sumter Counties.
Originally from Erie, PA, and in Georgia since 1973, Mary Ellen serves on the boards of GEDA (Georgia Economic Developers Association), GACCE (GA Association of Chambers of Commerce Executives), Georgia Mentor Protégé Connection, and the DeKalb Workforce Investment Board.
She is a 1997 graduate of Institute for Organization Management and Leadership Georgia, and a 2000 graduate of EDI (Economic Development Institute).
Carrie Burns / Atlanta Movie Tours
Founder /CEO and Chief Movie Buff
The film industry is booming in Georgia, with over 700 movies and 20 television shows filmed here since 1972. Atlanta has been fortunate to play a key role in many, including Ant-Man, Driving Miss Daisy, The Vampire Diaries, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Ride Along, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Parts 1 & 2 and The Walking Dead. Since 2012, Atlanta Movie Tours has been providing a whole new way to see the city for visitors and locals alike. Atlanta Movie Tours tour guides are experienced actors who have worked on set, giving you fascinating behind-the-scenes stories you won’t hear anywhere else.
Mallory Sofferin / Sweet Grass Dairy
Sweet Grass Dairy currently manufactures six different artisan cow’s milk cheeses. Sweet Grass Dairy also has a small cheese shop and a full service restaurant in historic downtown Thomasville. Sweet Grass Dairy is dedicated to producing high quality, flavorful cow’s milk cheeses that are a true expression of their unique terroir. They purchase milk from the family’s dairy farm located 30 miles from the cheese plant. The Little family is dedicated to farming sustainably in a New Zealand rotational grazing method, and to upholding the highest level of humane animal husbandry.
Sweet Grass Dairy is located in the only area of the United States where cattle can graze 365 days a year due to mild winters and unlimited water from the Floridian aquifer. Sweet Grass Dairy does not even have a barn to house their cows. The company’s goal as cheese makers is to make cheeses in an old world style to let the true flavors of the grass based milk shine through to the final product. Sweet Grass Dairy is trying to change the American perspective on food, and is dedicated to educating the American public on the importance of knowing how our foodstuffs are grown, raised or made.
Brandon Pelissero / Ecolink
Chief Value Officer
Ecolink is a 25-year industrial chemical manufacturer and distributor with an environmental mission of less and safer chemicals for workers and their communities. Ecolink is among the earliest pioneers in formulating with citrus terpene oil (citrus fruit skins) as alternatives to toxic and hazardous chemicals which are being banned, or phased out, due to environmental (ozone depleting potential, SMOG) and health & safety reasons (carcinogenicity).
100% of Ecolink’s branded solutions were developed in collaboration with customers. Often times the customer will determine the packaging and labeling, even naming the product in some instances. Ecolink leverages digital marketing in very big ways (Ex: 10 clicks have converted into more than $10M of lifetime revenue). Ecolink is committed to educating the next generation. Starting in 1999, Ecolink funded environmental education with leading national programs and currently invests in high schools, businesses and marketing programs throughout Georgia. Ecolink ships the same/next day. This is very uncommon for the industrial chemical industry, especially for under $500 or 55 gallons. Ecolink recently (10/3/16) celebrated its 25th anniversary and is very pleased to report minimal losses. Ecolink is thankful for doing good while delivering good.