Mary Ellen McClanahan / Georgia Department of Economic Development
Director, Entrepreneur & Small Business
As Director of Entrepreneur & Small Business Development for the Georgia Department of Economic Development, Mary Ellen McClanahan helps find solutions and effective ways to build an entrepreneurial environment to support small business through mentoring, professional development, strategic planning and resource awareness. She also connects with Georgias business and community associations so that thousands of businesses, local leaders and practitioners are aware of resources and opportunities. She also directs any size businesses to the specific resources they need. Mary Ellen is also 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. She also works closely with the local economic developers with their existing industry support efforts.
During her 18 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, Adv
Zaheer Faruqi / Aventure Aviation
Founder and President
Zaheer Faruqi has been president of Aventure Aviation since he co-founded the company in 2001. He has more than 35 years of aviation experience, having worked in the engineering and maintenance departments of several major international airlines for more than 20 years before co-founding Aventure. Zaheer is responsible for the success and strategic direction of the company. He oversees the company’s operations, taking great interest in ensuring that the right staff are hired, and that they are provided with the proper training and facilities needed to make their jobs challenging and fun. His favorite part about working at Aventure is forming relationships with customers, to ensure that he understands their specific parts requirements. He also takes great satisfaction in training the Aventure staff to better serve their customers. Zaheer was first attracted to the aviation field by his childhood love of airplanes.
When not working, he enjoys reading business books, volunteering in the community, and helping those in need improve their daily lives. Zaheer holds a Masters in Administrative Management, and a Bachelor of Science in Aircraft Maintenance Engineering Technology. He has FAA airframe and power plant licenses, and has completed multiple courses from Airbus and Boeing.
Spencer Nix / Reformation Brewery
Reformation Brewery out of Woodstock, Ga. employs 10 people and is redefining what local beer should be. “We built our entire business model on this concept of enjoying well made beer as a gift and sharing that gift with others,” said Spencer Nix, CEO of Reformation Brewery. And Nix wanted to enjoy the process. Many breweries obtain a lot of capital and skip to the largest equipment they can afford, but Reformation did the opposite and started with a few investors and opened a production brewery on a 1-Barrel Brewhouse. They’ve since scaled that equipment to a 3-Barrel Brewhouse, a 7-Barrel Brewhouse, and recently installed the first High Efficiency Brewing System (HEBS) in the State of Georgia.
Since starting in 2014, the company has gone from zero paid employees to ten and saw $700,000 in sales in 2015. But its impact on people and the community is what fuels their business and has launched them into the new phenomenon of “beer tourism.” The brewery has drawn visitors from as far away as Michigan, and theKeeping Room welcomed 12,000 visitors to its downtown Woodstock location in its first year.
So why start a brewery in Georgia? “Because it’s home,” Nix says. “Home to a growing population relocating from other parts of the country. Home to great small communities where small business thrives. Home to world-class resources the city of Atlanta attracts. And home to where I’m from, and all meaningful adventures start at home.”