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08.20.2013

40 Under 40 Spotlight: Ron Holt (BSA ’97)

When Ron Holt (BSA ’97) left his job with Micromeritics Instrument Corporation in 2003 to invest his savings in a fledgling maid service in Pensacola, Fla., his friends and family members thought he was crazy.

Ten years later, those friends and family members think he’s anything but crazy. The UGA alumnus is now the founder and president of Two Maids & a Mop, the largest, privately owned residential cleaning company in the country.

When when Two Maids & a Mop opened its doors in Pensacola in April 2003, it didn’t take but a few weeks before it became obvious that Holt needed to reinvent the residential house cleaning business model.

He did this by first striving to change the way consumers viewed housekeepers. Holt acknowledged that consumers expect a certain degree of unprofessionalism with a cleaning company and that a housekeeper wasn’t expected to “think big.” Holt rejected that notion and implemented a structure that not only directly died compensation to customer feedback, but he fostered a culture of upward mobility. Not many businesses offer individuals the opportunity to go from scrubbing toilets to opening a new business – Two Maids & a Mop does just that.

Holt also revolutionized the manner in which Two Maids & a Mop promoted itself. Instead of relying on paid advertising, the business capitalizes on social media, search engine optimization and word of mouth marketing. Today, Holt’s company operates in 12 cities in five states (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee) and employs more than 150 team members.

Holt and his business have been recognized with a number of awards and honors in recent years. In 2013, Holt was a semifinalist for the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award. That same year, his business debuted on the UGA Alumni Association Bulldog 100 at No. 57. In 2013, Inc. included Two Maids & a Mop among the 5000 Fastest Growing Businesses in America (No. 1156) and the ninth fastest growing company in Alabama. The company rose to No. 13 on the Bulldog 100, and will be profiled in an upcoming issue of Georgia Magazine.

With all this success, Holt hasn’t lost track of what matters. In 2012, Cleaning for a Reason named Two Maids & a Mop the 2012 National Maid Service of the Year for providing more than 2000 free house cleanings (the most of any company in the country) to women undergoing cancer treatment. In addition, Holt volunteers as a UGA Alumni Association Birmingham Chapter leader and participated in the UGA Alumni Association’s 2013 thinc Entrepreneurial Week panel on campus.

I can’t say enough good things about Ron Holt and am so glad to see him recognized in the 40 Under 40 Class of 2013. He is certainly deserving of this great honor.

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11.20.2014

Alumna Spotlight: Cheri Leavy (BSED '97)

After a childhood of frequent visits to Athens, Cheri Harden Leavy (BSED ’97) couldn’t resist the pull of the Classic City. During college, she transferred to UGA from Ole Miss and has been bleeding red and black ever since. Today, she is the founder of Bulldawg Illustrated, Guide2Athens and The Southern Coterie, three publications that cover the modern South.

UGA Alumni Association Assistant Director of Communications Jamie Lewis (AB '12, AB '12) spoke with Cheri about her experiences at the university that helped shape her career:

You started college at Ole Miss. What are your connections to UGA and what made you return to Georgia?

My father, Mac Harden (BBA ’77), graduated from UGA and his mother grew up in Watkinsville. We spent a lot of time on the family farm in Oconee County when I was growing up, so I have always loved the area and cheered for the Bulldogs. Generations of our family bleed red and black. I loved my time at Ole Miss; my father says I built my resume on classes that were interesting, but didn’t fit a degree (like "Anthropology of the Blues" and "Faulkner Studies"). I transferred to UGA and got serious. I stayed on the Dean’s List until I graduated from the College of Education, where I participated in the pilot year of the Collaborative Inquiry Teacher Education Program. I taught high school for several years, then joined The Brunswick News where I launched a Newspaper in Education program to showcase local student writing. 

Along with your husband Vance (AB '94), you’ve started Bulldawg Illustrated, Guide2Athens and The Southern Coterie. Explain a little bit about what those are, the inspiration behind them and how your time at UGA prepared you for an entrepreneurial career.

Vance and I created Bulldawg Illustrated, a print newspaper and website that covers UGA sports and the Bulldog lifestyle. Now in its 12th year covering the South’s beloved tailgating and football, it is still a ton of fun. Six years ago, we created Guide2Athens. The pocket-sized square book and blog captures the people and businesses that make America’s best college town so culturally rich. We have loved getting involved in the Athens community and have had a home here for the last five years. When Athens isn’t beckoning, you can find us at home in St. Simons with our two golden retrievers.

  

I founded The Southern Coterie with my friend Whitney Long; it is a resource for the entrepreneurial South. Designed to offer a community of passionate business owners the opportunity to connect, collaborate and create, the “Southern C” network is capturing the South’s entrepreneurial renaissance one post at a time. The Southern C Summit brings the online content to life with a unique multi-day conference where attendees network and connect with the best and brightest names in Southern business and branding. 

What is your most memorable UGA experience? Favorite UGA sports experience?

Meeting Herschel Walker for the first time at Vince Dooley’s home was pretty surreal. The Leavy Family/Brunswick News Publishing endowed a scholarship and we had brunch at the Dooley’s before the game. Vance, his brother, his brother’s wife and I went on the field that day to be recognized. Since we are all UGA graduates, that whole experience was pretty incredible. Herschel was on our Christmas card that year!

Since graduating, you and Vance have stayed involved with the university. Why do you think it’s important for alumni to stay connected to UGA once they’ve graduated?

Staying involved with the university provides you with an invaluable resource of connections to continue to support your growth personally and professionally. Vance and I enjoy supporting the philanthropic side of UGA. I attended the UGA Studies Abroad Program in Cortona, Italy, and now serve on the Georgia Museum of Art friend’s board. We also support our vibrant athletics programs.

I give back to students that are up-and-coming at the university. We have 15 interns from Grady. They bring me a tremendous amount of joy and I learn from them as much as I hope they do from me. I give them a great deal of responsibility and I have high expectations, but if they work hard, they can count on me after graduation.

I traveled recently to the West Coast and to Memphis, where I spent time with former interns. One even visited on her “engagement tour,” where she was introducing her future groom to family. We felt honored to be a stop on her travels. They turn into amazing friends as they get older and I couldn’t be prouder of their successes. The internships certainly feed the teacher side of me that was fostered while studying at UGA. I may not formally be in education any longer, but I am still using that skill set.

Can you give us a hint of what’s next for you?

Oh my goodness, there is no telling.

  

Vance and Cheri Leavy with Uga IX

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11.19.2014

From the Desk of Provost Whitten: Food for Thought

This blog was sourced from Written by Whitten, Provost Whitten's blog. Click here to read the original post. 

Food and food processing are big business in Georgia, so it should come as no surprise that the University of Georgia is using its expertise to strengthen one of the top growth industries in the state.

Recently, UGA broke ground on the UGA Griffin Food Technology Center, a state-of-the-art facility that will house the university’s Food Product Innovation and Commercialization (FoodPIC) Center. FoodPIC is a unit of the university's College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences that assists new and existing companies in product development, packaging, food safety, consumer acceptance and marketing. It is staffed by faculty from the department of food science and technology, as well as research chefs from within the university and from private industry.

Food processing is the state’s leading manufacturing sector—with an estimated $3.5 billion in annual wages—and it is a rapidly growing industry. Over the past six years, 7,400 jobs in Georgia were created by new and expanding food processing companies, according to data from Georgia Power’s Community and Economic Development division. Large companies that have moved to Georgia or expanded their operations here include household names such as Kellogg’s and Starbucks, and FoodPIC has helped farmers and small companies produce niche products such as frozen desserts made from Georgia fruits as well as sauces and ethnic foods.

FoodPIC is the only project of its kind in the Southeast, and it is one of many examples of the role that UGA plays in economic development. The UGA Griffin Food Technology Center is strategically located just 30 miles south of the world’s busiest airport, and it will help attract food-related businesses to the nearby Lakes at Green Valley Industrial Park.

The entire campus community is grateful to Governor Nathan Deal, the General Assembly, University System of Georgia Chancellor Hank Huckaby, the Board of Regents, the Griffin-Spalding Development Authority and the U.S. Economic Development Administration for their support and partnership on this important project.

UGA's faculty in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences have helped make Georgia the nation’s top state for blueberry production, and FoodPIC is putting Georgia on course to become a national leader in food processing.

  

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11.18.2014

Classic city sound from television to the silver screen

If you enjoy competition singing shows, you've probably been unknowingly serenaded by Knox Summerour (MM ’06). Summerour is a trumpeter, vocalist and composer whose performance skills have been featured on network hits like Fox’s "American Idol" and NBC’s "The Voice." His work has also been featured on ABC Family’s “Switched at Birth”, CBS’s “Rules of Engagement” and PBS’s documentary,“Pancho Barnes,” which he co-scored and won a Los Angeles Emmy.

Although he occasionally provides background music for television’s hopeful contestants, Summerour is an acclaimed vocalist in his own right. In 2011, Summerour had two of his original songs used in Paramount Beijing’s remake of “What Women Want." His instrumental pieces have been used in both domestic and international films, as well as video games. Most recently, Summerour’s work can be heard in Jeff Dunham’s animated film “Achmed Saves America," released earlier this year.

While at UGA, Summerour trained under the late Fred Mills. Mills’ legacy lives on through the work of incredibly talented students such as Summerour, who take on the world one song at a time. 

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