The sixth annual Professional Women's Conference was held Thursday, November 5, 2015, and offered a day of networking and learning through keynote speakers, panel discussions and small group meetings with industry leaders, female executives and mentors.
2015 Speaker Bios
Morning Keynote Speaker
Founder, Erin Condren Design
In an age where technology and social media have infiltrated every aspect of life, Erin Condren turned to "old-school" paper products to help make every day a bit more organized, stylish and colorful.
It started in 2005, when Condren, then a stay-at-home mom, designed a line of note cards and birthday gifts she hoped would bring joy to friends and family. The response led her to create ErinCondren.com, which has evolved into a dynamic company that ships thousands of packages across the world. With two state-of-the-art printing and fulfillment centers in Los Angeles, and Austin, Texas, the company prints bold designs and fun color combinations on LifePlanners™, notebooks, stationery, canvases, acrylics and much more.
Founder, Kate's Club
Vice President, ChooseATL
Kate Atwood is an entrepreneur and a community leader who has built her career on heading-up social impact initiatives in both the non-profit and for-profit sectors. But her favorite title, bestowed upon her by former President George W. Bush, is "a soldier of compassion."
At 23, Kate founded Kate's Club, a nationally-acclaimed not-for-profit based in Atlanta that provides support to children and teens facing life after the death of a parent or sibling. What Kate started in the summer of 2003 with just six kids is today a thriving sustainable community organization that serves thousands of children, and their families through year-round social and therapeutic support programs.
Following a successful founder transition in 2010, Kate left her post at Kate's Club and went on to serve as the Executive Director of the Arby's Foundation. While at the helm of the Arby's Foundation, Kate refocused its efforts on a new strategic mission that more closely aligned with the Arby's brand. During her tenure, Kate helped the organization contribute more than $18 million to ending childhood hunger in the United States.
In September, Kate joined the Metro Atlanta Chamber, as Vice President of Marketing, to lead the recently launched ChooseATL campaign. In this newly created role, Kate will be responsible for focusing the region’s narrative to showcase all that metro Atlanta has to offer with the purpose to attract and retain top talent.
Kate has participated in her fair share of media along the way. She has been featured in People Magazine, Real Simple Magazine, Huffington Post, and has had appearances on the Today Show, the Meredith Vieira Show, CNN and ABC-TV’s The View. She was recognized in the Atlanta Business Chronicle's feature "Up and Comers: Top 40 under 40", and was honored by Georgia Trend Magazine as one of Georgia's "40 under 40." In 2013, she was named to GOOD Magazine’s global "GOOD 100" list for her commitment to helping others.
Kate remains involved with Kate's Club as its Founder, serves on the Share our Strength Leadership Council and on the 11Alive Community Service Awards Board of Governors. She has been featured in six books as a thought-leader on personal giving and social enterprise, and often contributes to media as a leading voice for grieving children. She resides in Old 4th Ward and has actually kissed the BeltLine in gratitude for all the joy it is bringing to her and our city.
Breakout Session Speakers
"It’s Hard Work but it’s Worth It: What it Takes to be an Entrepreneur"
Michelle Blue is an Atlanta native and a graduate of both Southwest Dekalb High School and the University of Georgia. In 2011, during the summer of her sophomore year as a marketing and fashion merchandising major, she took a trip to Ghana for a study abroad program. Forever changed by the experience she shared with the girls there, she launched Bené — a collection of scarves inspired by the Ghanan culture. The company is committed to providing an education to girls in Ghana by sponsoring tuition, books, supplies and uniforms for the girls to continue their education and fulfill their dreams.
Co-Founder, Borrowing Magnolia
Founder & CEO, Once Like a Spark Photograph
Cali Brutz is dedicated to innovation within the wedding industry. Shortly after graduating from the University of Georgia in 2008, Cali launched her first company, Once Like a Spark, a wedding photography brand with more than 40 teams of photographers nationwide. The time spent building Once Like a Spark revealed another opportunity to address an unmet need of the modern bride, and in 2014, Cali launched Borrowing Magnolia, a national e-commerce retailer for wedding dress rentals and sales. The innovative Borrowing Magnolia model allows women who have wedding dresses collecting dust in their attics to capitalize on their asset by renting out or selling their gown to brides looking to wear their dream dress without breaking their budget. Cali also holds a J.D. from the University of Virginia School of Law, and now calls Athens, GA home.
Principal,C3 Informatics, LLC
Dr. Kelley Chester is an experienced informatics professional with 15 years experience in the healthcare, public health and population health fields. She is the Principal of C3 Informatics, which provides consulting on public and population health informatics specializing in business process analysis, requirements gathering and enterprise architecture approaches to evaluating the design and implementation of informatics-based solutions.
Chester received a doctorate in public health with a concentration in public health leadership in 2010, her master’s in public health concentrating in biostatistics in 2007 and her bachelors of business administration in finance in 1993, all from Georgia Southern University. She also holds a professional certificate in public health informatics from the University of Illinois at Chicago. She is an adjunct faculty member at both the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University and the Jiann-Ping Hsu College of Public Health at Georgia Southern University.
Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Smartsy LLC
Ashley Edmonds founded Smartsy with her husband in 2012 to provide innovative solutions to everyday problems — big or small, silly or serious. Smartsy's products include Lilywrap, Beer Greetings, The Vortex and Pink Drink Camouflage. Lilywrap reusable gift wraps, the company's flagship brand, has worked with such prominent companies as the American Heart Association and Bourbon and Boweties to create custom branded wraps.
Prior to founding Smartsy, Edmonds served as the director of marketing for the University of Georgia's Terry College of Business MBA Programs. Her recent honors include being named to the UGA 40 Under 40 Class of 2015, receiving the SPANX Leg Up Award recognizing "amazing women entrepreneurs" from founder Sara Blakely, and winning the QVC Sprouts contest, which gives "budding entrepreneurs a chance to grow their dreams."
Edmonds is a graduate of the University of Georgia where she has earned BA, ABJ, and MBA degrees. She resides in Brookhaven with her husband and two daughters, where she is involved at Buckhead Church, the Junior League of Atlanta, and Ronald McDonald House at Scottish Rite.
Nancy Wright Whatley
Executive Director, IgniteHQ
Nancy Wright Whatley serves as executive director of IgniteHQ where she is charged with providing strategic planning, recruiting entrepreneurs, budget management, fundraising, and facility oversight. As a whole, Nancy is focused on supporting the economic growth of Cobb County, the metro region and the state of Georgia by promoting entrepreneurship and business growth through IgniteHQ's partnership with Kennesaw State University.
Nancy brings first-hand knowledge of Georgia's small business ecosystem to IgniteHQ after establishing and running VantagePoint Staffing Solutions, a certified Women’s Business Enterprise. During her time as CEO and managing partner she netted contracts with corporate powerhouses throughout the region, including Cox Communications, Georgia Power, Turner Broadcasting Systems and more. Before successfully selling the company in 2010, Nancy was twice recognized as a finalist in the NAWBO-Atlanta Women Entrepreneur Awards in the "Rising Star" category.
"Brand YOU: Using Social Media to Build Your Personal Brand"
Owner, The Burnette Agency
Arielle Burnette is the owner of The Burnette Agency, a public relations and social media firm based in Atlanta. Her unique perspective and personalized approach has landed clients on NBC Nightly News and CBS Evening news, as well as helped them execute social media tactics that have increased their brand awareness and revenue.
Burnette graduated from Florida State University with a B.S. in Public Relations and minor in English. Her experience with some of the top communications firms in New York and Atlanta provided her with a strong foundation and the opportunity to work with some of the world’s largest brands. She currently resides in Atlanta with her husband, Christopher Burnette.
Owner, ME Marketing Services
Mandy Edwards is the owner of ME Marketing Services, a social media marketing company that provides consulting, management and training to businesses of all sizes. A Terry College of Business alumna, Edwards has 12+ years of sales and marketing experience, having worked in print advertising sales and local store marketing for Chick-fil-A and Bruster’s Ice Cream.
Edwards is involved in her community through Professional Women of Statesboro, the Statesboro Chapter of the UGA Alumni Association, the Tyson Foundation, and First Baptist Church. She is a contributing writer to Steamfeed, Business 2 Community, Social Media Today, Millennial CEO and the Southern Coterie.
A graduate of Leadership Bulloch, Edwards was named to the Statesboro Herald’s Top 20 Under 40 for 2013. She has also been mentioned in Crain’s Chicago Business, Forbes and the Huffington Post. In 2015, she was named to StatSocial’s Top 100 Social Media Power Influencers list. She is married to prosecuting attorney Ben Edwards and is the proud mother of two redheaded daughters.
Marketing Director, Go Creative Go!
After graduating from college with a degree in medieval history, Mallie Hart tackled a variety of jobs — from selling garbage (recycled fibers) to selling pork bellies (as a licensed commodities broker) to redesigning financial statement layouts at an accounting firm. She decided to step away from finance to focus on her love of design and marketing in 1998.
Digital marketing and design requires Hart to research, write about and promote a wide variety of topics while staying true to brand integrity. Leveraging sites like Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Pinterest, she creates targeted and engaging marketing campaigns for businesses.
Anna Ruth Williams
Anna Ruth Williams founded AR|PR in 2012, having previously managed communications for national and international B2B and B2C accounts as well as high-profile political figures. Under her leadership, AR|PR became the Southeast’s fastest growing technology PR firm, and was recently named Small Agency of the Year by a panel of national journalists. In 2015, Williams was awarded Business Person of the Year in the early stage entrepreneur category by the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce.
Williams has a record of executing strategic marketing campaigns and securing media coverage in some of the nation’s biggest outlets, such as CNN, Fast Company, Forbes, Mashable, TechCrunch and The Wall Street Journal. When she’s not pitching journalists, she loves leading media trainings for clients and representing them at industry tradeshows.
Wlliams is a 2013 graduate of Leadership Atlanta’s LEAD program and a founding member of the organization’s alumni association. An active member of the Technology Association of Georgia, she is also a graduate of the Atlanta Technology Angel’s LaunchPad2X class – an exclusive women entrepreneurship program.
"Wellness in the Workplace"
Wellness Programs Manager, Chick-fil-A
Elizabeth Dixon was hired in 2004 to create a wellness program for the Chick-fil-A Corporate Headquarters in Atlanta. An Orlando, Florida native, she graduated from Liberty University with a degree in exercise science. Since her hiring, Chick-fil-A has been recognized annually as the Most Fit Company in Atlanta.
In 2004, Dixon founded the Atlanta Wellness Professionals, a network representing over 30 companies. In 2008, she created the Atlanta Challenge, in which nine major Atlanta companies engaged in a wellness competition. Successful results provided the impetus to launch the U.S. City Challenge, providing the opportunity for major corporations to compete within their own cities.
Dixon and her husband, John, have a 2-year-old son, David, and baby girl, Ansley.
"Giving Back: The Importance of Social Responsibility & Volunteerism"
Director of Corporate Citizenship, Kilpatrick Townsend LLP
Whitney Deal is the director of corporate citizenship for Kilpatrick Townsend, a full-service international law firm. In 2004, she created the firm’s first employee volunteer program and has since developed IMPACT, an award-winning corporate citizenship initiative. Deal is responsible for the strategic integration of the employee volunteer program, diversity and inclusion, philanthropy, community leadership and sustainability.
Deal was named one of the Atlanta Business Chronicle’s 40 Under 40 in 2014, Georgia Trend’s 40 Under 40 in 2010 and a Business to Business Difference Maker in 2011. She is the immediate past Board Chair for VOX Teen Communications and now serves as the Chair of their Advisory Board. She also serves on the Advisory Board for the Center for Civic Engagement at Oglethorpe University. She is a member of the Leadership Buckhead Class of 2015 and is an active alumna of LEAD Atlanta (’09). Deal is also the Past President of the Board of Directors of the Corporate Volunteer Council of Atlanta and past board member of the Dekalb PATH Academy.
A graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Deal is passionate about education-related issues, specifically those impacting low-income students. She has been an active reading mentor with Everybody Wins Atlanta for over a decade and is a member of Young Professionals for Educational Equity. She is also a member of the global missions team at Peachtree Road United Methodist Church. In February 2013, she returned from her second mission trip to Kenya focused on providing access to clean water for people living in Internally Displaced Persons camps.
Director of International Programming, LeadAbroad
Courtney Doran is dedicated to international education, community development and leadership. Her passions became a profession when she helped launch LeadAbroad, a study abroad company based in Atlanta (formerly Global LEAD), in 2008. As the Director of International Programming, Courtney is responsible for the logistics, negotiations and budgets for all programs, as well as the management of the international leadership team. She has worked with experts from across the globe to create a leadership and service-learning curriculum that is incorporated on all LeadAbroad experiences. In addition, she has developed enrichment programs in primary schools on five continents. In 2011, Courtney was honored as one of Atlanta's Power 30 Under 30 for her innovation in international education. When Courtney is not traveling, you can find her riding her bike, hosting a dinner party or taking photographs around town.
Director of Volunteer Services, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta
Chris Jones is Director of Volunteer Services for Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, a not-for-profit pediatric healthcare system celebrating its 100th year of service to the community this year. Children’s operates three hospitals managing nearly a million patient visits annually. As Director of Volunteer Services, Jones oversees one of the largest volunteer in-service programs of any pediatric hospital in the country, which includes three hospitals: Egleston, Hughes Spalding and Scottish Rite. She is responsible for more than 1,000 in-service volunteers at the three hospital campuses, as well as 25 neighborhood locations throughout metro-Atlanta. In this position, Jones recruits, screens, trains and supports all Children’s volunteers. Additional responsibilities include managing all aspects of in-kind donations, special visitors and community group programs, as well as representing Children’s at community functions to speak about the importance of volunteerism and related issues. In addition Jones oversees many unique volunteer programs including: the Explorers Program for high school students; a VolunTEEN Program for teens aged 15-18; and Canines For Kids, a unique animal assisted therapy program comprised of eight full-time service dogs on staff aiding the clinical teams in their daily mission to serve patients.
During her 20 years of service, Jones has led the program to become a benchmark for pediatric hospital volunteer programs nationwide. She has served Children’s in many capacities, including the merger of volunteer groups from the Egleston and Scottish Rite campuses, developing “Friends” and implementing new community programs with a volunteer focused base. She oversaw the opening of Seacrest Studio at Egleston, the first broadcast studio of its kind in the nation.
Jones is an active member of the Junior League of Atlanta, Special Olympics, American Cancer Society, Leadership DeKalb and was a participant in the volunteer program at Egleston Children’s Hospital from 1981-1995.
Jones is a graduate of Emory University. She is an Atlanta native and resides in Morningside with her husband.
Final Plenary Session Speaker
Senior Training/Coaching Consultant, Accelerated Leadership Group
Jodie Williams is a Senior Training/Coaching Consultant. She is a dynamic speaker, an accomplished trainer and a skilled coach who approaches her audiences with enthusiasm. Her areas of expertise are leadership, coaching, sales, diversity and communication skills. With over 15 years of experience as a consultant, she has interacted with professionals in many industries. Her clients include Novartis, Cisco Systems, USAA, Kimberly-Clark Corporation, SunTrust Bank, Turner Broadcasting System, McKesson Corporation, the Environmental Protection Agency, UCB, AirTran Airways and AGCO Corporation.
Williams’ professional work experience includes a variety of management positions at Marine Midland Bank, People Express Airlines and Ortho-McNeil Pharmaceutical Corporation. Williams earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from Bowling Green State University in business and psychology. Community service work is at the core of her life. She is a dedicated Big Sister for Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Atlanta, a volunteer supervisor for Habitat for Humanity and served on the Board of Directors at The Bridge (a group home for troubled teenagers).
Williams is a member of the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council, The American Society of Training and Development and has been a mentor for Women-Unlimited. She has also pursued her talents as a comedian and is a graduate of the Jeff Justice Comedy Workshoppe.
Networking Reception Presenting Sponsor
- Ernst and Young
- Beecher Carlson
- Bennett Thrasher
- Coca-Cola Enterprises Inc.
- Georgia Power
- Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton
- Ted McMullan
- Seacrest Partners
- Aon Risk Solutions
- Atlantic Realty
- Danette Beck
- Dixon Hughes Goodman
- Duke Realty Corporation
- Genuine Parts Company
- Georgia Transmission
- Houston International Insurance Group
- Tom & Valerie Usilton
- Nancy Fischer
- ME Marketing Services
- UGA Alumni Association