What it’s like to run a business in Georgia right now

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The Plaza Theatre in Atlanta, as seen from Google Street View in 2017.

Georgia’s governor Brian Kemp decided last week to allow several businesses to reopen, such as barbershops and fitness centers. This week, restaurants, theaters and private social clubs will also be allowed to welcome customers. 

Source of the Week is spotlighting local business owners of color who will have to choose to either start up business again or stay shut, as deaths caused by COVID-19 in the state continue to increase.

Ryan Wilson (CEO) and TK Petersen (COO) are co-founders of The Gathering Spot, a membership-only club that provides workspaces and networking opportunities in Atlanta. The club has hosted events with brands such as Spotfiy, Coca-Cola, Google and Netflix. The co-founders were college roommates. After graduating, they realized there weren’t a lot of local spaces where they could connect with new people. The pair raised $3 million to launch the Atlanta-based business in 2016.

Ryan Wilson is an Atlanta native. He was named the Atlanta Business Chronicle’s 2017 Small Business Person of the Year. He was featured on The Root magazine’s 2018 “Root 100” and Ebony magazine’s “Power 100,” which feature influential African Americans in a variety of fields. He’s a graduate of Georgetown University and Georgetown University Law Center. 

TK Petersen manages the club’s operations. He graduated from Georgetown University and previously worked in the financial sector. The pair have been featured in Fast Company’s story on black tech entrepreneurs, and interviewed in USA Today and Bloomberg Businessweek on the growing number of black entrepreneurs in Atlanta.

Contact information: 

Email: rwilson@thegatheringspot.club and tpetersen@thegatheringspot.club

Phone: 678-232-7076

Listen to Ryan Wilson speak on the Atlanta Small Business Show.

Chrisopher Escobar is the owner of The Plaza Theatre, which he says is the oldest movie theater in Atlanta, and one of the only independent theaters in the area. The Plaza was shut down because of COVID-19 on March 19, the longest closure in the theater’s history. Escobar said the theater stayed open through World War I, 9/11 and the AIDS epidemic. 

Escobar is a first-generation American. He is the first minority executive director of the Atlanta Film Society and produces the annual Academy Award-qualifying Atlanta Film Festival. He has been named a “40 under 40” and “CFO of the Year” by the Atlanta Business Chronicle, among other recognitions. He graduated from Georgia State University with an M.A. in Moving Image Studies with a concentration in production. 

Listen to Chris Escobar on Hybrid Atlanta. 

Contact information: 

Email: chris@atlantafilmfestival.com

Phone: 678-698-9048 (c)

Mother and daughter pair Ellen and Lana Ector founded Gymnetics Fitness, a private fitness studio in Atlanta. They offer personalized nutritional advice, weight loss programs and workout regimes. During the shutdown, they have been offering live daily workouts on Instagram and streaming fitness videos on their website portal. 

Contact information:

Email: info@gymneticsfitness.com

Phone: 678-468-7968

Listen to the Ectors on Fox 5 Atlanta

Last updated: April 27, 2020

 

Aditi Pai

Aditi Pai is an Associate Professor of Biology at Spelman College. She is an expert on genealogy and evolutionary biology, focusing on sexual selection.

Pai piloted Spelman’s Genetic and Genealogy Program, where students track their genes, their history, and their relatedness to other humans in the world.

In 2018, she was selected for the year-long Governor’s Teaching Fellowship by the Institute of Higher Education at University of Georgia, Athens.

Pai has served as Vice Chair of Biology and is currently co-director of Spelman’s Teaching Resources and Research Center.

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Areas of Expertise: Genealogy, Evolutionary Science, Science Education

Location: Atlanta, GA

Contact Info:

     Email: apai@spelman.edu

     Phone: (404) 270-5778

     Twitter: @AditiPai1

She can be heard here:

Dorothy Brown

Dorothy A. Brown is an Asa Griggs Candler Professor of Law at Emory University. She is a nationally recognized scholar in race, class, and tax policy. She is a nationally recognized scholar in the areas of law school reform, and race, class, and tax policy.

A popular speaker in the legal academy, she has appeared on CNN’s Starting Point, Need to Know on PBS, and NPR’s Tell Me More. The New York Times, National Law Journal, CNN, Forbes, and Bloomberg have published her opinion pieces.

She received her law degree from the Georgetown University Law Center and her LLM in Taxation from New York University.  She began her career in law teaching in 1991 and permanently joined the faculty at Emory in 2008.

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Areas of expertise: Law, tax law, law school reform, race, class and tax policy

Location: Atlanta, Ga.

Contact Information: 

Email: dabrow7@emory.edu

Phone: (404) 712-8218

Twitter: @DABrownlawprof

Speaking for Emory University:

Dorothy Brown on the importance of having a public voice

Featured on PBS: Need to Know: Cleaning up the tax mess

Jerry Gonzalez

Jerry Gonzalez is the founder and current executive director of the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials (GALEO) and the GALEO Latino Community Development Fund. Gonzalez has been named one of “Georgia’s 100 Most Influential” by Georgia Trend Magazine. GALEO’s mission is to increase civic engagement and leadership development of the Latino/Hispanic community across Georgia.

Previously Gonzalez worked with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) as a Legislative Policy Analyst, focusing upon immigrants’ rights issues at the Georgia General Assembly and in several local jurisdictions across the Southeast. Through his efforts, DeKalb County became the largest municipality to accept the Mexican Matricula Consular ID card as a form of identification for Mexican nationals in DeKalb County and he worked towards the passage of a new Georgia flag without the confederate battle emblem.

During the 2010 Census, Gonzalez advocated for strong participation of the Latino community in Georgia, which ended up having a 96% increase, representing 28% of the state’s overall growth. In voter engagement efforts, the Latino electorate has grown to well over 150,000 from a mere 10,000 in 2003. In addition, the Latino voter participation rates in most jurisdictions in Georgia during the 2008 election out-performed the national Latino voter participation rates.

Most recently Gonzalez and GALEO have been actively fighting passage of Georgia’s HB 87, an Arizona-style anti-immigration legislation. After the passage of HB 87, Gonzalez worked with community leaders and lawyers on a lawsuit that sought to halt its implementation and filed an Amicus Brief in support of the litigation to stop HB87 which resulted in the judges halting the “show me your papers” provisions of the law.

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Founder, Executive Director of Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials

Areas of Expertise: Latino Issues, Immigration, Politics, Latino Vote, Latino Politics,Leadership Development, Civil Rights, Voting Rights, Gay Rights, Marriage Equality

Location: Atlanta, GA
Contact Info:

Office: (404) 745-2580

Email: jerry@galeo.org

Twitter:@GALEOorg

Featured on FOX5:

Beverly Tatum

Beverly Tatum is the president of Spelman College, a historically black liberal arts college for women in Atlanta. Before becoming Spelman’s president in 2002, Tatum was a professor of psychology at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts. Prior to Mount Holyoke, Tatum taught psychology at Westfield State College and was a lecturer in black studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Tatum’s research interests include black families in white communities, racial identity in teens, and the role of race in the classroom. She has written three books, including 2007’s Can We Talk About Race? And Other Conversations in an Era of School Resegregation.

President Barack Obama appointed Tatum to the Advisory Board for the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Tatum received the Brock International Prize in Education in 2005 for her leadership and academic contributions.


President of Spelman College

Areas of Expertise: Higher Education, Clinical Psychology, Race Relations, Race, Racial Identity

Location: Atlanta, GA

Contact Information:
Phone: (404) 270-5822 (o) | (404) 569-2789 (c)
Twitter: @BDTSpelman

You can also email or call the President’s Office at Spelman:
Email: presidentsoffice@spelman.edu
Phone: (404) 270-5001

Or you can contact Tomika DePriest or Terrilyn Simmons:

Tomika’s Email: tdepriest@spelman.edu
Phone: (404) 270-5060

Terrilyn’s Email: tsimmons8@spelman.edu
Phone: (404) 270-5822 (o) | (404) 569-2789 (c)

Heard on NPR: For a complete list, click here.

Tell Me More: Spelman And Other HBCUs Cut Back