Cobb In Focus July August 2022

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Contents Vol. XVIII, No. 4 JULY/AUGUST 2022


Saved Energy Is The Best Energy U.S. Energy Solutions of GA helps to provide complete freedom as clients navigate through the solar landscape.



Find out what’s going on throughout Cobb County with our news updates and calendar of events.


Yalo, one of Cobb Chamber’s 2022 Top 25 Small Businesses of the Year winners, succeeds by doing things differently.


Working with a knowledgeable health insurance agent makes navigating the system much easier.


Connect with a local leader who strives to make Cobb County a better place.


Moore Tutoring is an elite tutoring boutique with one mission: to connect the most driven students with the best tutors.


Learn about the art of an organized home or office with Artisan Custom Closets, which recently was named the TOP 2022 Small Business of the Year by the Cobb Chamber.


Credit Union of Georgia is partnering with Relocal Move to allow specials mortgage incentives for buyers and sellers..


Can we go back in time — to cheaper gas?

On the cover: Kyle and Alisha Crump of U.S. Energy Solutions of GA help home owners and businesses save on their energy consumption. Photo: LaRuche Photo 4


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New South Publishing Inc. President Larry Lebovitz Vice President John Hanna Publisher Jamie Ryan Account Executive Sherry Gasaway Editor Cory Sekine-Pettite

Just over five years ago, I started my journey with New South Publishing and Cobb In Focus magazine (among other publications we produce). A great deal has changed for our county over that time. I have had the great pleasure of reporting on much of this change, watching Cobb grow by leaps and bounds and establishing itself as a major economic force in the state. For example, we are now home to more than 26,000 private-sector employers, including some of the largest companies in Georgia. Cobb’s population has grown 18 percent in the last decade. Our colleges and universities have gained national prominence, particularly Kennesaw State University. We are now the home to the Atlanta Braves, and Marietta boasts the home fields to Major League Rugby’s Rugby ATL team and the practice facilities of Major League Soccer’s Atlanta United FC. Additionally, the local community improvement districts (Cumberland CID, Town Center CID, and Gateway Marietta CID), and business associations throughout the county have worked tirelessly on infrastructure and other improvement projects, charitable contributions, business development, and scholarship programs. There’s never a shortage of businesses to explore, people to profile, local projects to discover, and government programs to tout. We hope that you get as much joy out of reading these stories as we do in producing them. For example, in this issue we bring you a cover feature on a local energy provider, a profile on a unique marketing firm, a look into two insurance agents who guide clients through the maze of health insurance, an interview with a woman who has turned home organization into an art form, and much more. Join us on this journey, and then share with us your own stories. We want to hear them! Reach out to me at the email address below.

Photo by LaRuche Photo

Contact Cobb in Focus We want to hear from you! Share your story ideas and comments with our editor. Visit or send your suggestions to: or New South Publishing, Attn: Cory Sekine-Pettite 9040 Roswell Road, Suite 210 Atlanta, GA 30350

Associate Editor Amy Meadows Graphic Designer Jack Simonetta Contributors Lindsay Field Penticuff, Writer Alexandra McCray, Writer Jennifer Morrell, Writer LaRuche Photo, Photography Production Coordinator/Circulation Amy Fine Controller Marilyn Walker @cobbinfocus Cobb in Focus™ is published six times a year by New South Publishing Inc., 9040 Roswell Road, Suite 210, Atlanta, GA, 30350. Direct all editorial queries to (770) 650-1102, ext. 100. Direct all circulation queries to (770) 650-1102, ext. 130. Direct all advertising queries to (770) 650-1102, ext. 142. All information herein has been checked for accuracy to the best of the publisher’s ability. No responsibility is accepted for deletions, omissions, errors and/or inaccuracies. Material in this publication may not be reprinted without written permission from the publisher. Copyright 2022 by New South Publishing Inc. All rights reserved. Printed in the U.S.A. For address changes, email


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Sharper Focus Here’s a snapshot of what’s going on in your community. Cobb Chamber celebrates Cobb’s Top Small Businesses Each year, the Cobb Chamber celebrates the achievements of small businesses with its Top 25 Small Businesses of the Year. For 2022, the Cobb Chamber named the 2022 Small Business of the Year, the Top 25 Small Businesses of the Year, the Businesses to Watch, Next Level of Excellence, and Community Service Excellence award winners. Congratulations to the 2022 Winners:

Credit Union of Georgia participates in National Volunteer Week Credit Union of Georgia participated in National Volunteer Week during the week of April 18. Amanda Arnold, VP of marketing & business development, and Farrah Dale, marketing specialist, visited and volunteered with Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. The two gathered the requested donated items, put together bags, and delivered them to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta’s Outpatient Care Center.

• 2022 Small Business of the Year: Artisan Custom Closets • 2022 Business to Watch: Sundial Pools, LLC • 2022 Next Level of Excellence: North Georgia Staffing • 2022 Minority-Owned Business of the Year: HR Knowledge Source • 2022 Woman-Owned Business of the Year: Proda Technology, LLC Small Business Hall of Fame: CROFT & Associates

The Extension’s Building Solutions campaign launched with a lead matching gift of $1 million from AssuranceAmerica

For the complete list of winners and finalists in all categories, visit small-business-of-the-year.html

The Extension breaks ground on new building .

VanHoozer named Cobb’s Chief of Police

Stuart VanHoozer has taken the reigns of the Cobb County Police Department after a 32-year career with the department. “We’re very proud to say … we strongly believe we have chosen the most qualified, best-suited police chief for the county,” County Manager Dr. Jackie McMorris said. “We believe he will take Cobb and our police department to 21st century policing.”

Shari Martin wins Woman of Distinction Award Cobb Chamber’s Cobb Executive Women (CEW) program named Shari Martin, president & CEO of the Cobb Community Foundation, the winner of the 2022 Woman of Distinction Award at the Chamber’s June Marquee Monday event. The Woman of Distinction award is given annually to recognize a woman who has demonstrated exceptional leadership through her professional endeavors, community involvement, and social responsibility in the areas of diversity, equity and inclusion thereby supporting and advancing her community and her field.

City Thrift opens new location in Marietta

A new Marietta location of City Thrift opened in May in a newly remodeled space located at 1140 Roswell Road. “We are so excited to make Marietta the home of our second Atlanta-area store,” says VP of Store Operations Buddy Grimmett. “Thrifting is so much fun, and we provide our customers with beautiful, clean stores for an awesome shopping experience.” City Thrift is part of a chain of over 25 thrift stores located throughout the southeastern United States and Texas. 6


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This past spring, The Extension celebrated the groundbreaking ceremony for its new men’s campus in Marietta. The facility will include a 56-bed dormitory with meeting rooms, recreational areas, and a cafeteria. The building is scheduled to be completed in the fall of 2023 and will increase The Extension’s capacity to help men struggling with homelessness and substance abuse in our community by seventy percent.

Chattahoochee Tech honors Board of Trustees Chair Mark Goddard Chattahoochee Tech recently honored Mark Goddard for his outstanding service as the college’s Board of Trustees chair. Under Goddard’s leadership, the Chattahoochee Tech Foundation awarded over $100,000 in scholarships and grants to deserving students during the previous academic year. Goddard is the director of commercial marketing for Cobb EMC and will continue serving as a member of the college’s Board of Trustees.

Capital City Bank welcomes Betsy Madrerohon

Capital City Bank announces Betsy Madrerohon has joined a growing team of bankers serving the commercial and business lending needs of the greater Atlanta metro area. Madrerohon joins Cobb County President Ron King at 192 Anderson St. Northeast, Suite 250, just off the square in Marietta.


Editor’s note: Due to evolving community needs, these events are subject to change or cancellation.

7/12 Town Hall Meeting Cobb Commission Chairwoman Lisa Cupid will be visiting the South Cobb Community Center to share some highlights of what is going on in our county. More info:


BASSH 2022

The 4th annual Business Association Summer SHowdown! BASSH! will be held on July 15 from 1-4 p.m. at Swift Cantrell Park. More info:


Celebrity Ballroom Dance Studio presents MUST’s own “Dancing with the Stars” event, benefiting programs that help people escape poverty and homelessness. More info:

Town Hall Meeting

Cobb Commission Chairwoman Lisa Cupid will be visiting the Sewell Mill Library and Cultural Arts Center to share some highlights of what is going on in our county. More info:

Smyrna’s July concert will take place in front of City Hall at the corner of King & Bank St. from 7-10 p.m. Admission is free to see the rock band The Free. More info:

7/23 Outdoor Movie Series The free Outdoor Movie Series concludes with “Sing 2” at Swift-Cantrell Park at 6 p.m. Attendees are welcome to bring blankets, chairs, etc. for their own comfort. More info:


Summer Classic Car Cruise

Main Street in downtown Acworth will be lined with classic cars from days gone by and some of today’s best-looking cars. More info:

8/5 – 10/7 First Friday Concert Series From 7-9:30 p.m., the community is invited to stroll through the Historic Downtown Kennesaw and enjoy an evening of shopping, dining, and live music. More info: first-friday-concert-series



Dog Days Run

The East Cobb Rotary Club’s 16th annual Dog Days 5K Run starts and finishes at the East Cobb YMCA. More info:


8/13 Hearing Children’s Voices

MHC Collections Manager Christa McCay, M.H.P., will discuss her research, methods, and preservation efforts in the Marietta City Cemetery. More info:

SafePath’s 19th annual Hearing Children’s Voices event will be held at Truist Park from 6-10 p.m. This year’s theme is “A Night of Bond: Casino Royale.” More info:

On Doing History

8/19 Concerts & Cocktails The Cowan Historic Hall in Acworth will host a live music evening dedicated to veterans. This event is free of charge for all veterans and $10 for non-veterans. More info:


Pigs & Peaches BBQ Festival

Now in its 21st year, the festival at Adams Park in Kennesaw features two days of non-stop music, good eats, cold beer and interactive family-fun. More info:

Get to Red Hare Brewing for pup-inspired cocktails, live music, and great food with proceeds benefiting Atlanta Lab Rescue. More info:

7/16 July Concert

MUST Dance 2022


7/16 Dog Days of Summer

8/20 Pop-In For Family Fun Pop-In’s provide children and their families the opportunity to interact with the museum through themed activities and crafts. This month’s theme is Summer Crafts. More info:

7/23-24 Career Fair

The Cobb County Sheriff’s Office is hosting a Career Fair at the Cobb County Safety Village. More info:

7/30 Cobb Idol at The Strand Cobb Idol is a live concert competition featuring the best voices in Cobb! More info:

8/7 Georgia Bridal Show Held at the Cobb Galleria Centre, brides can conveniently plan everything from the photographer and wedding gown, to the DJ and honeymoon. More info:


Rescuing Hope, Inc. 5th Annual Gala

This year’s theme is “The Time is Now,” and will be held at the Cobb Galleria Centre beginning at 6 p.m. More info:


Glover Park Concert Series The Marietta community will again be “dancing in the street” during the Glover Park Concert Series. The series features local and national acts on the last Friday night of every month through September. More info: COBB

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Standing Out From The Crowd How one of Cobb Chamber’s 2022 Top 25 Small Businesses of the Year winners succeeds by doing things differently.



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By Alexandra McCray


hile listening to a certain song, you may have thought to yourself, “If my life had a theme song, this would be it.” Or, “This song is my workout anthem.” However, you probably haven’t considered, what’s the one song that personifies the soul of a project I’m undertaking at work? But that’s exactly what Arnold Huffman and the “tribe” he leads at his marketing and branding company, Yalo, want you to do. The “Soul Song” is, as Huffman explains, the company’s signature part of an industry mainstay — the creative brief, which includes the goals and desires a client has for the final product, be that a digital marketing campaign, new website, brand overhaul, or something else. “We build a playlist

in Spotify, and we debate the songs on that playlist with the client,” he says, explaining that after the client listens to the playlist, “Then, they come back, and we discuss and narrow that playlist down to one specific song to be the driving force going forward for what we do creatively. So, it’s the attitudinal and emotional centerpiece for what we’re trying to deliver.”

Doing Things Differently Music is but one of the unique elements the agency incorporates into its work. Art, sports, and film also are brought into play — the goal being not only to use them as inspiration and a form of interpretation, but also as tools to bring down walls surrounding conversations and ideas, both with cli-

ents and the audiences they’re trying to reach in order for those conversations and ideas to feel approachable and relatable, says Huffman. The company’s use of a football field analogy is another prime example of this approach. Huffman says, “Most marketing people talk about the customer journey as a funnel. However, here at Yalo, we look at the customer journey on a football field. On the left side of the field are the prospects that don’t know your brand. The goal is to move prospects across the field, left to right, by applying a series of marketing tactics and content — a series of ‘plays.’ This exercise helps our clients really visually understand what they need to do to be successful with their marketing.” COBB

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Business Recently, Yalo was named one of the Top 5 Small Businesses of the Year among the Cobb Chamber’s 2022 Top 25 Small Businesses of the Year, and Huffman understands the importance of differentiation in a saturated market. “There’s no shortage of small agencies like us,” he says. “I heard a stat somewhere in the last 18 months or so that Atlanta alone has 300 marketing agencies. And that’s a stat based on you having to be two or more people. You can’t just be an independent contractor.” And differentiation can be found in nearly all aspects of the company, which Huffman started in 2013. Its name comes from the language of a country he fell in love with many years ago after taking a vacation there with his wife. Meaning “soul” in Fijian, Yalo expresses what is at the core of the company and its work, says Huffman. He has also been as dedicated to doing things differently with his team as he has been with clients and how the company presents itself publicly (think textured and eye-catching business cards in the shape of the logo and featuring an icon personally selected by the team member carrying it to represent themself). Roughly five years ago, when Huffman’s tribe was just 10 employees — compared with the team of 40 he has now — he had the foresight to hire three employees crucial to the company’s current growth. He needed someone to manage the more administrative side of operations, he needed a salesperson, and a senior business development person. Huffman says, “I think it was pretty unique for a small agency

Huffman’s prized Prince album. 10


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2022 marks the fourth year Yalo has been honored among the Cobb Chamber’s Top 25 Small Businesses of the Year.

like us, rather than me doing it all. Because there’s a finite capacity of people I know and how many I can talk to at any given time and deals I can work on. So, we made that investment to expand the acreage of the farm, if you will, with more farmers to find more opportunities.” In 2020, the company continued to differentiate itself from the inside out and launched a Concert Benefits program, which reimburses employees for the cost of tickets to attend concerts in their free time. “Having our team members out actively engaging in these shows and these experiences makes us stronger together because

we all share the same love of music, albeit very different types of music,” says Huffman. “One week we have people at a [Justin] Bieber show and the next week we have someone at a punk rock show and the next, a blues show. So, it’s just another piece of our diversity as well.”

Personal Ties The President and CEO is not only an avid concert attendee but also a vinyl collector. His list of all-time favorite artists includes Prince, Bob Marley, Public Enemy, Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, Kiss, the Beastie Boys, Neil Young, Everclear, and Queen.

Since 2013, Yalo has grown to a staff of 40 creative team members.

One of his most beloved records is a rare Prince album that was never meant to be released widely. It turned out not to be a live recording from a night club like Huffman thought, but an album — “Piano and a Microphone” — that wouldn’t be released until 2018. “It’s printed on purple vinyl, which was pretty unique at the time. It also has a typed sheet of paper with the track list glued to the front, which notes that only 1,000 were printed,” he says. “It includes an eclectic mix of early versions of great songs like ‘17 Days,’ ‘Purple Rain,’ ‘Mary Don’t You Weep,’ and ‘Strange Relationship.’”

Another aspect of the company driven by Huffman’s personal connection to it is a focus on diversity. Yalo is 100-percent owned by Huffman, who is Korean American. “My dad was in the Army and got sent to Seoul, South Korea. That’s where he met my mom. I’m 50-percent Korean and 50-percent German,” he explains. Hence, Yalo is also 100-percent minority owned. As part of his dedication to promoting diversity, Huffman had the company commit to The A Pledge, a mission among Atlantaarea marketing and advertising agencies to actively pursue diverse hires and work to, by 2030, have staff that is representative of the population of Atlanta. Having grown up in a small town in Ohio, Huffman says he knows what it feels like to be on the outside. He explains that he and his younger brother were the only Asian children in their elementary school when their family relocated to the area. “It was definitely challenging growing up dealing with that and persevering through name-calling and that sort of stuff, which carried on, shockingly, even into college,” he says. A longtime basketball player along with his brother, Huffman says it was later the Black community that embraced them, a connection forged through the shared reality of often being neither welcome nor understood by the majority around them. Experiencing more diversity and acceptance also helped Huffman embrace his identity as an Asian basketball player. “My brother and I were very much accepted by the Black culture,” the former Case Western Reserve University basketball player says. “…

Bocce Ball makes for a great team-building exercise at Yalo.

And so, I always had an affinity for Black culture and Black people. So, that all feeds into my expectation for my organization that we’re going to be as accepting of diverse people as they were for me when I was younger.” Currently, Yalo’s tribe makeup is 22 percent minority and 38 percent female. The company’s continually growing group of talent certainly seems to be getting things right. 2022 marks the fourth year Yalo has been honored among the Cobb Chamber’s Top 25 Small Businesses of the Year (SBOY). Though Yalo isn’t based in the county — Huffman decided to join the Chamber after connecting with Wayne Dodd and other members — the company is highly involved in the Chamber and supporting the community. “We’re Chairmans’ Circle members. We’re sponsoring the golf tournament coming up. We’ve sponsored that for a few years now. We’ve sponsored the SBOY awards for the last two years, so we’re pretty involved, pretty engaged with the Chamber and proud to do so,” Huffman says. Yalo also has garnered Digital Marketing Agency of the Year awards from the Technology Association of Georgia (TAG) over the years. Additionally, it won Best in Category for Experimental/New Technology from the Horizon Interactive Awards in 2021 for unique concepts it created for clients earlier in the pandemic. In terms of what’s next for the company, it’s in the process of putting the finishing touches on its first-ever office space, which it moved into in September 2021. The company has employees throughout the country, but Atlanta and Cleveland, Ohio, serve as central locations. “We decided having a home base for our younger team members and for our leadership to collaborate, especially as we continue to grow, was the right decision. Even though most companies were moving the other direction, we zigged when others zagged and created a new environment for our people,” Huffman says. As part of efforts to make the space as inviting as possible, a new name other than “the office” is currently in the works as well. Additionally, the Yalo logo will soon have a new look as the company works to freshen up its own branding. But Huffman notes that though the look may change, Yalo’s pursuit to “bring soul to your brand and expand and elevate your brand by finding its soul” remains the same. n COBB

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An Agent Can Make All The Difference Working with a knowledgeable health insurance agent helps navigating the system much easier.



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By Lindsay Field Penticuff


avigating health insurance can be difficult, frustrating, and costly. Period. But it doesn’t necessarily have to be, especially if you work with a professional health insurance agent who can help you negotiate and figure out the best healthcare plans for you and your family. “People don’t need to be frustrated, though. They just need to find someone who cares about them,” says Susan SmithHopkins, owner of Your Best Choice Insurance Services in Marietta. “My main goal for my clients is to make sure that no one loses their financial stability due to a medical injury or illness.”

Benefits of working with an agent Smith-Hopkins, who has been an agent since 2016, knows firsthand what it’s like to struggle with figuring out health insurance as a client. Her husband got very ill

in 2009 and she became his caregiver for about six years until he passed away. “We experienced real financial blows because of the healthcare industry,” she shares. “He was on about three different group plans and, in the end, he was actually on Medicare disability. But we still almost lost everything due to medical bills.” Throughout the process, Smith-Hopkins kept saying to herself, “There has to be something better than this.” So, about a year after her husband passed, she lost her corporate job and decided to go back into the insurance business — she had previously worked in Medicare supplements and annuities in life insurance between 1999 and 2003. The benefit of working with an agent like Smith-Hopkins is having someone who can help guide your family through different service lines for group plans or individual coverage. “People often don’t understand that even if something says, ‘major medical,’

it’s not necessarily going to be a good plan when it comes down to the nitty-gritty,” she says. “I have read specimen policies until I’m blue in the face, but that’s what I do. Before I offer something to [a client], I will read the specimen policies that the company puts out there for the agents to review.” She adds that the healthcare industry is very fluid, but there are many gray areas. Her goal is to educate clients and be as transparent as possible. And SmithHopkins works with a variety of clients, from people who left a corporate job or are recently retired to those who are divorced, widows, or widowers. She also works with several carriers and is dedicated to customizing packages to meet any client’s needs. “The healthcare industry is not a one-size-fits-all by any means,” adds Smith-Hopkins. Upon bringing on a new client, she’ll work backward, she explains. First, she’ll

A.G. Rhodes is embarking on a landmark effort. We are building a new home that will protect our most vulnerable seniors.

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Health ask who their current doctors are, then she’ll find out if any of those doctors are providers a client absolutely must keep. “The challenge these days is that there are so many networks and not every doctor wants to be a part of every network because it’s just more paperwork,” she says. “That is the biggest challenge; having people set up on plans that I know their providers will take, because that changes all the time.” She also says people will look at plans because a co-pay is so low, but they should not be worried about how much it costs to go to the doctor. “What they should worry about is how much it’ll cost if they are diagnosed with cancer. That’s what people don’t think about,” Smith-Hopkins says. “I’m always saying, ‘Let’s get the best coverage for what if the worst occurs.’ People these days need to realize that you never know what’s around the corner.”

Tackling Medicare benefits at 65 Bob Smith, an independent health and life insurance agent, representing multiple major health insurance carriers, has experienced many of the same challenges as Smith-Hopkins — no relation. His office is headquartered in Tucker, is a member of the East Cobb Business Association with Smith-Hopkins, and serves clients in Cobb County and throughout Georgia and South Carolina. He’s been working in the health insurance industry since 2009. Smith’s specialty is guiding clients 65 and older through the Medicare process and it is estimated that 10,000 people age into Medicare nationally every day. “I think the number-one issue for folks looking into Medicare options is confusion … and what’s added to the confusion is technology,” Smith says. “There

“The healthcare industry is not a one-size-fits-all by any means.” –Susan Smith-Hopkins, Owner and Health Insurance Specialist, Your Best Choice Insurance Services

are companies out there that know when people are approaching 65, and people are getting inundated with solicitations by mail, phone and TV commercials.” Medicare is comprised of three components: original Medicare, Parts A and B; Advantage plans, which are private plans operated by insurance companies with contracts with Medicare; and Medigap. “Where it’s changed significantly over the years, especially with Medicare Advantage plans, is that more benefits have been added to the mix,” says Smith. Because of the confusion multiple Medicare plan benefit options can cause at the time of signing up, Smith recommends working with an agent like himself and starting the process about six months before turning 65. “When somebody is turning 65, they can choose their Medicare plan three months prior to their birthday month with the chosen plan effective the 1st day of that month. Being proactive and aware of an individual’s options six months prior is better, especially now with the way Social Security is,” Smith says. “It’s always better to give more time than less when trying to apply for Medicare.” The job of any agent to help guide someone through this process is to know a client’s needs, such as what doctors they

“A lot of people have a misconception that Medicare covers everything, and the fact is, it does not.” –Bob Smith, Health and Life Insurance Advisor, BobCaresForYou 14


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use, what medications they take, and what potential medical issues may be on the horizon. It’s also important for Smith to work with a client and determine a person’s sense of risk. “A lot of people have a misconception that Medicare covers everything, and the fact is, it does not,” he says. Using a cancer diagnosis as an example: A cancer drug like chemotherapy would be covered under Medicare Part B, which means Medicare will pay only 80 percent of the cost, leaving the remaining balance for the beneficiary to pay. “To protect clients, I share with them cancer plans that will either provide a lump sum or a cancer plan itself that will cover the range of what can happen with a cancer diagnosis over the life of the cancer, even including transportation and lodging if they need to go to one of the national cancer centers like MD Anderson in Houston, Texas” says Smith. Having real-world conversations with clients about their family health history is incredibly helpful. Smith also discusses long-term care and in-home care options with clients, because with Medicare, longterm care is not covered and it’s gotten expensive. “I try to show folks that there are different options,” he says. “Not everyone goes into a nursing facility, so to control the costs, you can get plans that will pay for in-home services. It’s another arrow in the quiver to help protect folks from out-of-pocket expenses.” And that continues to be a part of Bob’s professional goals — showing clients what’s available to help protect them from out-of-pocket expenses. “I like to use two words to frame the conversation: price versus cost,” he says. “Everybody may think they know the price of everything, but maybe not the real cost.” The price is the premium, but the real cost

About Bob Smith “Bob’s knowledge enables him to break down the complex decisions about Medicare coverage choices into more manageable pieces, and to present options tailored to individual need without pushing an agenda. I am most appreciative of his work with me, which provided me with critical coverage a few months later when I found myself facing an ER visit and overnight hospital stay with a large array of needed testing. I most highly recommend him to anyone looking for help with health insurance questions.”

is, God forbid, if something happens and you’re not covered sufficiently.” He also reminds clients not to necessarily focus on the lowest price, but rather coverage that will protect them from future potential costs. “You’re dealing with people’s lives, and it’s important to develop a trusting relationship with clients — someone who they can feel comfortable about picking up the phone and asking questions, and knowing they are going to get a call back,” concludes Smith n

About Susan Smith-Hopkins “Susan personifies professionalism. She evaluates your specific needs and presents the options with clarity and the strengths of each policy based on your specific requirements and needs. She shows great kindness, empathy and obvious caring for those she is working with which shines through. I highly recommend using Susan. You will be glad you did.”

Bob Smith, Health and Life Insurance Advisor

Susan Smith-Hopkins, Health Insurance Specialist

Bob Cares 404.593.9663

Your Best Choice Insurance Services or 770.861.1172


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Special Section

Leaders of Cobb


ince its establishment more than 180 years ago, Cobb County has been defined by its people. Some of these individuals have made their mark by becoming pioneers of business, captains of industry and heads of state. And if you’re reading this, you likely know why Cobb is attractive to so many. It hosts exceptional schools, is within close reach to the world’s busiest airport, has all of the convenience of proximity to the



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big city and is fertile ground for entrepreneurship. The list goes on, but it always comes back to the people who have built this county into what it is. On the following page we have profiled an individual who is among Cobb’s premier leaders. We wanted to find out about his job, delve into his personal life, and gain some words of wisdom. And of course, we asked: Why have you picked Cobb County?

Leaders of Cobb THE STORY: I grew up an Army brat and moved around often, having lived in California, New York, Kansas, Germany, and Texas, where I call home. I went to high school in San Antonio and graduated with a bachelor’s in economics from the University of Texas at Austin. There I received an ROTC scholarship and commissioned as an officer in the Army upon graduation. I served four years on active duty. I served in the 82nd Airborne Division and deployed to Iraq for 15 months in 2007 during “The Surge.” I also served in the 75th Ranger Regiment with a special operations deployment to Afghanistan. After my military service, I moved to the D.C. area and worked in defense consulting while pursued an MBA from the University of Maryland where I also served as portfolio manager for the Global Equity Fund, a student-managed investment fund on behalf of the Maryland Endowment. Upon earning my MBA, I moved to Atlanta and began a career in the investment industry, where I served six years at Merrill Lynch’s Private Banking and Investment Group, eventually becoming a vice president. I also earned the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation. Then I joined NovaPoint Capital, an independent Registered Investment Advisor (RIA) in Atlanta, as a managing director. In 2022, I launched my own RIA, Wright Wealth, LLC. People find and work with me when they are seeking expertise, integrity, initiative, and leadership. Often, I work with senior executives, military veterans, and special needs families because I am a member of all three of these focus groups. Additionally, I am a co-founder of 550 Capital Partners, a veteran-owned venture capital firm that invests in veteran-led startups. I am active in the community; I serve as the president (as of July 2022) of the U.S. Army Ranger Association and as an elder at Piedmont Church in Marietta. I am a past director of the Northeast Cobb Business Association (NCBA) and was awarded Business Person of the Year in 2019. WHY I CHOSE TO LIVE IN COBB: My wife is from Kennesaw, and my family lived in Marietta before moving to Woodstock. I love Cobb County, and Wright Wealth LLC is headquartered in Cobb County at The Battery Atlanta. WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT YOUR JOB? I love my job because I help people achieve their goals and dreams. Yes, financial planning and investing are a part of that, but money is a resource to enable living. My mantra is to serve others not as a task, but as a purpose. So, I take a servant leadership approach to financial management by helping

Jeff Wright Founder & President, Wright Wealth LLC

people define their goals and providing the hope and direction for them to achieve them. LEISURE TIME: In my free time, I am either spending time with my wife, Laura, and our two children, Kaitlyn and Jacob, or I’m working out in the gym or at a triathlon. BEST ADVICE: Know what your vision for yourself is and bet on yourself to get there. Almost every good life and career move I’ve made required somewhat of a step back to make three steps forward later on. WHAT’S NEXT? Next is to continue to build a team and culture of servant leadership in financial and investment planning at Wright Wealth.

Two Ballpark Center, 800 Battery Avenue SE, Suite 100, Atlanta, Georgia, 30339 • 470. 607.0441 • COBB

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Moore Tutoring Local company helps students get more from their education Reprinted from the Sept/Oct 2021 issue.

By Cory Sekine-Pettite


any of us know from experience that even the most successful, academically inclined students can see the future of their education derailed by a poor exam score. Grades alone do not assure students access to their preferred university or graduate school. Good entrance exam scores (SATs, ACTs, LSATs, etc.) are crucial. That is where a company, such as Moore Tutoring, can be of service. Moore Tutoring ( is an elite tutoring boutique with one mission: to connect the most driven students



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with the best tutors. Founded by Marietta natives Preston Moore and Mary Lauren Moore, the company says that its students can expect more. While, yes, it is a play on the name of the company, it’s also how Moore Tutoring operates. The company’s tutors are in college or recently graduated, they have recent experience with the exam they tutor, and can give other students the edge they need to get into their dream schools and reach their dream scores. “We wanted to offer tutoring from the absolute best schools. We know there are a

variety of other tutoring companies around the country, but we wanted to offer students the best of the best. This is why we only hire the top 1 percent of tutors,” said Mary Lauren. “Our goal isn’t to be the biggest tutoring company in the nation — our goal is to be the best,” added Preston. The couple started their company in July 2020, continuing a service Preston first started while attending Harvard Law School. Throughout school, Preston, who also is a practicing attorney for Jones Day Law Firm, tutored the LSAT (law school

Photo by LaRuche Creative

–Mary Lauren Moore

on the test to which they tutor, whether that be LSAT, SAT or ACT. So, what are the advantages of seeking out exam assistance from Moore Tutoring? The couple says they regularly have students who already are scoring in or near the 99 percentile, but they come to Moore Tutoring because they want to score a little bit higher. Sometimes it’s because they are great test takers but might have a lower GPA, or they are not comfortable with their admissions writing sample. They want to focus on one area where they do excel and push further to stand out from the competition. Students don’t have to be struggling on either test to ask for help, the Moores say; they just need to want more. Here is how it works: Moore Tutoring offers packages from 3-30 hours with 10 hours of tutoring being the most popular option. Some students will purchase by the hour, as well as purchase multiple packages

Photo by LaRuche Creative

entrance exam) and found fulfillment in helping others succeed. From starting with the LSAT, Moore Tutoring has grown to also offer SAT and ACT tutoring. As the company continues to grow, the couple says they will expand to help students with the GRE (graduate school entrance exam) and MCAT (medical school entrance exam). All sessions are taught via Zoom. Moore Tutoring’s tutors and students are located throughout the United States, Canada, and various countries in South America, Asia, Africa, and Europe. “You don’t have to want to go to Harvard, but you deserve the education and service from people who know the test like the back of their hand to help you reach your goals and start your law school journey,” said Preston. Aside from the obvious advantage of having a Harvard-educated lawyer and an educated marketing professional (Mary Lauren) at the helm, what other benefits can you expect from employing Moore Tutoring’s services? Well, the Moores say good tutoring companies hire tutors that scored in the top 10 percent of all test takers. Great tutoring companies, on the other hand, hire tutors that scored in the top 1 percent of all test takers. Moore Tutoring hires only tutors who have graduated from, or are currently attending, the top colleges in the country. Every tutor they hire — currently, they have 17 on staff — has exhibited excellence on the LSAT, SAT or ACT and ultimately, in his or her law school or post-secondary career. The company has three principles that it says sets it apart. 1. Moore Tutoring plan better. Students are assessed from the beginning of their time with the company. 2. Moore Tutoring has a better method. Most companies will send every student the same books and materials when they sign on. That means, regardless of if a student’s goal is a 140 or a 175 on the LSAT for example, they all receive the same “boxed” approach to studying. Moore Tutoring, however, helps students diagnose and develop a realistic path for where they are to where they want to be. 3. Moore Tutoring hires the best tutors. Its tutors have a dedicated history of success

“We know there are a variety of other tutoring companies around the country, but we wanted to offer students the best of the best. This is why we only hire the top 1 percent of tutors.”

over the course of several months. Once students purchase a package (pricing is available at, they receive a welcome email with a student intake form. The purpose of that form is to get background information about the student’s experience, or lack thereof, with the test they want to take. From there, they are paired with a tutor who will schedule a consultation and begin working on their individualized study plan. The student and tutor also will establish a session schedule. During and after each session, the tutors update the study plan and share it with the students. Currently, the company averages about 50 students tutoring each month; and its services are offered year-round. If you or a family member want to get a leg up on your upcoming SAT, ACT, or LSAT, Moore Tutoring could help. For additional information on Moore Tutoring, visit n

“You don’t have to want to go to Harvard, but you deserve the education and service from people who know the test like the back of their hand to help you reach your goals and start your law school journey.” –Preston Moore COBB

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Cobb EMC Awards Positive Energy Scholarships Juliana Brown of Cherokee High School and Bentley Huff of North Cobb High School both received a $1,000 Positive Energy Award scholarship from Cobb EMC in June during the Positive Athlete Georgia awards ceremony at the College Football Hall of Fame. The Positive Energy Award is given to local studentathletes based on character and the posi-

tive energy they can bring to every practice and competition. “Juliana and Bentley both have amazing stories and are passionate about helping others,” said Kris Delaney, vice president of marketing and corporate communications at Cobb EMC. Brown, a junior at Cherokee High School, is a multi-sport athlete who competes in Varsity Flag Football and Track and Field, while serving as an athletic training student aide. Brown also volunteers at local food pantries. Huff is a senior at North Cobb High School where he excels in Cross Country, Swim and Dive, Track and Field, and the Tidal Wave swim teams. With a 4.5 GPA, Huff manages to make time for other school activities such as photo editor for the yearbook, secretary of the National Honors Society, and Vice President of the UGA Heroes Club.

This year, over 5,000 nominations were received by Positive Athlete Georgia from coaches, principals, athletic directors, teachers, and parents representing all Georgia public and private high schools. Former University of Georgia and Pittsburgh Steelers star, Hines Ward, and local businessman Scott Pederson created Positive Athlete nine years ago as a movement for more positivity in youth sports

Cobb EMC Community Foundation Awards $70,000 in Scholarships The Cobb EMC Community Foundation announced this year’s winners of the Cobb EMC Community Foundation Scholarships. Fourteen scholarships in the amount of $5,000 each were awarded to area high school seniors with a primary residence served by Cobb EMC.



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“Each year, we are excited to honor these students and are grateful to our members that participate in the Operation Round Up Program, which makes these scholarships possible,” said Cathy Lane, member of the Cobb EMC Community Foundation Board To be considered, candidates had to be accepted to an undergraduate degree program at any accredited two- or four-year university or any accredited vocational or technical institute. Additionally, applicants also were required to write a twopage autobiographical sketch, and submit an essay highlighting their future plans. “These scholarships help area students continue their education and position them for future success,” said Mark Justice, director of education and community relations at Cobb EMC. “We’re excited to hear about all of their accomplishments as they move on to college or a technical school.”

The Cobb EMC Community Foundation Scholarship recipients for 2022 are: • Leah Caldwell – Wheeler High School • Mira Eashwaran – Milton High School • Avery Bayes – North Cobb Christian School • Ryan Lofland – Etowah High School • Ansley Wallace – North Paulding High School • Kunling Tong – Walton High School • Alaina Cothran – Sequoyah High School • Ethan Sinon – McEachern High School • Kate Newman – Johnson Ferry Christian • Karthik Valiveti – Wheeler High School • J.T. Hudson – Blessed Trinity • Grace Hamrick – River Ridge High School • Preston Diller – Allatoona High School • Breka McLaughlin – Fellowship Christian

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Wickham Financial & Insurance Services Wickham Financial Financial Group, Group, Inc. Inc. is is a a Registered Registered Investment Investment Adviser. Adviser. This This brochure brochure is is solely solely for for informational informational Wickham purposes. Advisory Advisory services services are are only only offered offered to to clients clients or or prospective prospective clients clients where where Wickham Wickham Financial Financial Group, Group, Inc. Inc. purposes. Wickham Financial Group, Inc. is a Registered Adviser. ThisPast brochure is solelyis and its representatives representatives are properly properly licensed or orInvestment exempt from from licensure. Past performance isfor noinformational guarantee of of future future and its are licensed exempt licensure. performance no guarantee purposes. Advisory services are only offered to clients or prospective clients where Wickham Group, Inc. returns. Investing involves risk and possible loss of principal capital. No advice may be rendered by returns. Investing involves risk and possible loss of principal capital. No advice may be renderedFinancial by Wickham Wickham and its representatives are properly licensed or exempt from licensure. Past performance is no guarantee of future Financial Group, Inc. Inc. unless unless a client client service service agreement is in in place. Financial Group, a agreement is place. returns. Investing involves risk and possible loss of principal capital. No advice may be rendered by Wickham Financial Group, Inc. unless a client service agreement is in place.

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Saved Energy Is The Best Energy U.S. Energy Solutions of GA helps to provide complete freedom as clients navigate through the solar landscape.



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By Jennifer Morrell


hen Kyle Crump and his wife, Alisha, opened an electrical business, Bulldog Electrical Contractors, Inc., it was simply for the purpose of making a living. Both lifetime Cobb County residents, Kyle has worked hard to make a name for himself, while Alisha ran the operations. Success was realized right away, as the company grew every year — mainly due to the trusty method of word-of-mouth.


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“Our mission is to offer sustainable energy to our customers by a local, family-owned company that will stand by their work.” — Alisha Crump

Being in the electrical/construction/ utility industry, over the years Kyle and Alisha heard so much buzz about “solar” and what was happening as large corporations falsely represented what solar power could do for their customers. Kyle took an instant interest in learning about solar technology, not only to educate himself, but to educate his clients. He wanted to bring a local, reputable solar company to the Cobb County area. Thus, U.S. Energy Solutions of GA was formed as a sister company to Bulldog Electrical Contractors, and it has been an intense, but incredibly rewarding, adventure. “Our mission is to offer sustainable energy to our customers by a local, familyowned company that will stand by their work,” Alisha says. “It’s simple, really! The choice of energy supplier has a major impact on procuring energy for businesses at the most favorable terms. Since energy suppliers and utilities are not all

the same, our energy management services are designed to help clients navigate through the entire energy landscape.” A legitimate question may be whether homeowners are open to the use of sustainable energy. Alisha says the costs of power from the power companies are rising every year. It usually takes about eight to 10 years, on average, to break even on a business’s system. No one really knows what the cost of power will be then, but you have a paid-for system producing power. It is quite interesting and can save the customer an ample amount of money, she says, especially if that customer is staying in his or her home long-term.

Is it attainable? An ongoing narrative is that people living in the West may be losing power more so than the rest of the country. Alisha says the selling points for “going solar” are clear. “Currently, there is a federal tax rebate that helps pay for the system, instantly saving money on their power bills,” she says “Systems with batteries can add security for power outages. This also reduces air pollution and is low in maintenance and easy to maintain. We do monitor; however, we also offer a maintenance program if a homeowner feels better about that!” Regarding addressing potential clients about the perception that solar energy is expensive — both to set up and to implement — Alisha asserts that there is a significant investment. “However, it is an initial investment that you will see back,” she says. “As a matter of fact, we have some financing programs and, in a lot of cases, the loan payment with no money down is no different than if the customer were paying the power company. The savings pays the loan, while making them more self-sufficient. Consider the difference between renting and buying a home.”

Teamwork = Dreamwork

Alisha and Kyle Crump



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U.S. Energy Solutions of GA has a strong relationship with Cobb EMC that results in a win-win situation for both companies. Kyle says that Cobb EMC is a fantastic partner, and collaboration is seamless. “They offer net ‘metering,’ which credits your account for unused power you produce,” he says. “They really make it easy and as solar installers, once we are done with our portion, and they never make us

jump through hoops to get our clients connected. We are proud to be one of their solar preferred contractors.” The company mostly works with homeowners and caters to residences. When they work with businesses, the systems are most often paid for in cash, says Kyle. “We have options that range from 3.99 percent for 25 years, down to 10 years,” he says. “We try to find a program that they feel comfortable with and even lets them re-amortize their loan, once they get their tax credit back to lower their monthly payments.”

The dealmakers As it turns out, a lot goes into customizing energy procurement options for a homeowner. U.S. Energy Solutions of GA’s sales representatives design a system based on the customer’s wants, needs, and budgets. However, a definitive process is in place to help this go smoothly. “We have programs that show us how much sun a customer’s roof gets and if the panels would perform at peak level,” Kyle says. “We review the customer’s past electric

bills and try to come as close as possible to the sizing that home needs.” Most any company you ask will tell you that what separates them from their competitors is customer service. While this is absolutely true for U.S. Energy Solutions


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A great deal of planning goes into customizing energy procurement options for a home-owner.

“We grew our entire company by referrals. Without doing quality work, that doesn’t happen. And when mishaps do happen, we rectify them immediately.” —Kyle Crump



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of GA, the company’s focus is on quality, rather than quantity, and as a local provider, the company is proud to serve Cobb County. “This is, hands down, why we are different from the rest,” Kyle says. “We grew

our entire company by referrals. Without doing quality work, that doesn’t happen. And when mishaps do happen, we rectify them immediately. We personally design a system that will fit each customer’s needs.”

How it works U.S. Energy Solutions are energy saver experts, creating comprehensive solar packages to help a resident’s home energy consumption. Since the sun provides free energy every day, it’s a logical way to harness energy for one’s home. Solar panels are roof-mounted to the home. Specially designed aluminum racks attach the solar panel array to the roof. The solar panel array then converts sunshine into electricity. A monitor allows the homeowner to see how much energy the system is making, via a web-based component. A utility grid is installed on the side of the home, and with net metering, unused energy goes to the grid. This spins the meter backward. An inverter converts DC power from the solar panel array into the AC power used for the home. Ground mounting also is an option. Solar panels can be mounted on the ground as well. The savings can be significant, since so much energy is used in a home — probably more than most homeowners realize. Energy is used for cooking, lighting, refrigerators and freezers, other appliances, stand-by power, heating and cooling (a larger portion) and water heating (also a large portion). Homeowners also can take advantage of a 26-percent Federal Tax Credit, and financing is available. U.S. Energy Solutions of GA is an approved contractor for Cobb EMC, an accredited business of the Better Business Bureau, and a member of the Cobb Chamber of Commerce. U.S. Energy Solutions has installed many systems in Cobb County already. But the company works across the state. “We are personally Cobb EMC customers, and when we put solar on our home, our power bill most months is just $37, which is the connection fee,” Kyle says. “In the heat of the summer, it can be around $65 to $70, but we have significantly reduced our energy needs on the power company.” U.S. Energy Solutions also can connect the homeowner with Icynene Spray Foam Insulation. The impact of insulation can be a savings of up to 50 percent over the lifetime of the home. Spray foam is a cost-effective investment that is breathable, eliminating condensation; energy efficient, since the boiler room

doesn’t work overtime to keep the home at a comfortable temperature; and a provider of extensive health benefits, since the home is protected against allergens and airborne pollutants. As Alisha says, U.S. Energy Solutions is your one-stop source for energy savings and is eager to meet with any interested homeowner to provide more education and information. Saved energy is the best energy. n

U.S. Energy Solutions are energy saver experts, creating comprehensive solar packages to help a resident’s home energy consumption. Since the sun provides free energy every day, it’s a logical way to harness energy for one’s home.

Blake Bradley, sales representative


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A rts & Recreation

Master Closets, Garages and Everything In Between By Lindsay Field Penticuff


The art of an organized home or office with Artisan Custom Closets 28


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t was by happenstance that Lisa Carlquist, president of Artisan Custom Closets in Marietta, fell into the closet business altogether. “I came to it as most great things happen, completely by accident,” Carlquist says. “I met someone in a dry cleaner, believe it or not, and started a conversation, and he said I should come to work for him selling closets.” Carlquist admits that she didn’t really know what that meant at first, but after accepting another meeting, she started working for him. “I stayed there about six months — it was a national franchise — until I discovered that I loved the business, but I wasn’t at the right company. So, I left and went to work for a local company, where we had much more creative flexibility than the franchise,” she says. Carlquist worked for the local business for about 14 years until they sold to a larger company, then upon realizing that she didn’t really know how to do anything else, she decided to connect with a friend — and now business partner, Thomas Tatzel — and they started Artisan Custom Closets. Originally, Artisan began as a division of another company in March 2011, but they broke off and formed their own corporation in January 2014. “Most of our business is master closets,” Carlquist says. “That’s what people think of when we first start a conversation, whether it’s in their existing home or they are building a new home.” And while she says the name can be a bit deceptive, Artisan actually custom designs spaces for pretty much any storage space, and always has, including closets, offices, pantries, garages, entertainment centers, wall beds, laundry rooms and craft rooms. The second-largest space they custom design is garages. “Garages are huge, especially in the South and in Atlanta,” Carlquist

says. “In the spring, our garage doors are open all the time, your neighbor can see in and when you have a complete neat garage full of garage closets, people stand up and take notice.” Something Carlquist says she often tells customers when they are thinking about getting their garage designed: “It’s the last thing I see when I leave home in the morning and it’s the first thing I see when I get home in the afternoon, so it leaves a big impression of what the rest of your day and your house feels like. If it’s all completed and organized, it just feels better and looks better.” And Carlquist and her team do their best to streamline the process for customers. All parts are manufactured locally at their warehouse off Wylie Road in Marietta, and it’s about six to eight weeks to installation after a client signs their contract. The design process is five steps: 1. People call and Artisan does a free, in-home consultation. They will send one of their 24 designers to a client’s home or business, where they share samples, measure the space, and take an inventory of everything a customer wants to store. So, whether it’s a pantry, master closet or garage, they are measuring, taking inventory, and writing everything down so that they can come up with the perfect plan for each client. 2. They create customized computer-aided design (CAD) designs, which have very realistic renderings so that customers can get an actual feel for what their designed space is going to look like. 3. Once designs are complete, Artisan tries to get customers to come into their showroom off Wylie Road in Marietta so they can see, touch, and feel what the space may look like when complete. This is their opportunity to make changes and do whatever a customer wants to make sure the space is exactly what they want. 4. Artisan also offers to prep and paint a space before closets are installed. In a master closet, for example, they’ll go in and tear out everything in a customer’s current closet, patch all the holes in the walls and put two fresh coats of paint on it. This is a separate service. 5. Depending on the size of the

“It was a great surprise and is a huge honor to be recognized by the Cobb Chamber.” –Lisa Carlquist, President, Artisan Custom Closets

job, Artisan will send up to five installers to help install closets. If it’s a whole house, it could take five installers a whole week to complete the job. But for the average master closet, one installer can complete an install in one day. With a total staff of 89, Artisan can support customers from start to finish within a 100-mile radius of metro Atlanta. Carlquist says they also do a lot of business at Lake Oconee in Greensboro, so she has two sales reps there. “The biggest difference between us and other closet companies is that we are not a ‘one-call close,’ where we come see you, draw it up and push you to sign on the spot,” she says. “We are much more about educating our customers about the process and how it works. It’s why we encourage people to come to our showroom so they

can see, touch and feel the products, and see what we have to offer.” It’s this hands-on approach and the incredible work by Artisan’s team that got them recognized by the Cobb Chamber of Commerce this year as the 2022 Small Business of the Year. “It was a great surprise and is a huge honor to be recognized by the Cobb Chamber,” Carlquist says. “We had been in the top 25 the last seven years in a row but had never won.” The honor is based on an on-site visit to the business, in addition to a company’s growth, culture of their business, the length of time employees are at a business, and how a company is giving back to the community. “We’ve worked for several years with Calvary Children’s Home in Powder Springs,” says Carlquist when asked about their community involvement, “but we’ve also volunteered and donated to MUST Ministries. This past year, we also worked with Cobb Christmas, which we collected about 200 gifts for.” Giving back and supporting the community has always been important to Carlquist. “When I started this business, I didn’t have anything. I had lost everything from the last business. My husband had passed away, and I was kind of starting over. So, it is just really important as we’ve grown and become successful to share not only with the community, but with my employees,” she concludes. n

Artisan Custom Closets 600 Wylie Road Marietta, GA 30067 770.790.5368


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In Your Community

The Wild West Of Real Estate Credit Union of Georgia and its new partner help buyers and sellers in this hot market. By Cory Sekine-Pettite


ou likely are aware that the real estate market in Georgia has been robust for the past few years, and it is expected to keep growing due to the number of jobs in Atlanta. Around 1.2 million jobs are expected to be added to the Atlanta metro area by 2050, according to the Atlanta Regional Commission. The low housing inventory also will keep it a seller’s market for the foreseeable future.



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Despite that fact and the fact that interest rates are rising because of inflation, demand for housing remains strong. According to industry data, in Cobb County, housing prices are up more than 10 percent year-over-year with the average home being sold after about 30 days on the market — and for 3 percent above asking price, on average. Buyers are attracted to our schools, employers, and plentiful

amenities. So, if you’re “in the market” and you’re a member of the Credit Union of Georgia — or are considering joining — then continue reading about a new program they’re offering for home buyers and sellers. Credit Union of Georgia is partnering with a local company, Relocal Real Estate (Relocal Move) to allow special mortgage incentives for both buyers and sellers. They

are providing a 20-percent cash back program when financing with the Mortgage Department at Credit Union of Georgia. The Credit Union’s Senior Mortgage Originator, Joe Menna, calls it a full, one-stop mortgage shopping experience. “Our mission is to help our members in every stage of their life,” Menna said. “We want to be a resource for our members to not only finance their home, but also assist them with the home buying process by pairing them with a trusted realtor with Relocal Move. We are essentially one call away to assist in partnering with a realtor, listing their home, selling their home, finding a new home and securing financing — we’ll handle the entire process for them from start to finish.” Credit Union of Georgia has fully vetted Relocal Move and considers the company a trusted advisor for its members. Bacari Nelson, Mortgage Originator with Credit Union of Georgia, said, “Oftentimes, members don’t know where to start when they want to sell their home or buy a new home. The Credit Union wants to help remove guesswork.” “Credit Union of Georgia has been the premier Credit Union in Cobb County for years as determined by the residents. That is why we sought them out as a partner for our company,” says David Griffith, Relocal Move President & CEO. Relocal Move provides home sellers and buyers with access to relocation-like benefits when they are making any real estate decision. According to Griffith, the company’s motto is: Across the street or across the nation, every move is a relocation. “We introduce our members to relocation agent professionals in all 50 states who will help them sell their home, buy their home, or both,” he says. Relocal Move returns 20 percent of the commission earned back as a rebate after they close. That rebate amount is averaging more than $2,300 per transaction side as of May 2022, Griffith reports. “When a partner’s member both sells and buys, they are receiving over $4,600 in commission rebates just for being a member of the Credit Union of Georgia,” he says. Credit Union of Georgia and Relocal Move launched their partnership in early June of this year. In addition to the rebate incentives, Credit Union of Georgia is

offering members $1,000 off their closing costs as an added benefit. “We’re hoping our members and the Community will think of us first for purchase, not just refinance,” says Menna. Griffith is sure the program will be a success. “We have no doubt that the message will resonate with Credit Union of Georgia members and the Community as it has with over 4 million association members nationally that are currently in our system,” he says. According to Griffith, the benefits to those who work with Credit Union of Georgia and Relocal Move include the following: 1. Access to the most professional realtors in the Northwest Atlanta market, and throughout the nation. According to the National Association of Realtors, 87 percent of homeowners or buyers do not have a Realtor they trust. Relocal Move provides clients with that trusted advisor. 2. Access to the most lucrative real estate commission rebate in the country. 3. No Intangible Tax – saving Members on average $3 per $1,000 financed 4. No Cost Pre-Approvals 5. Availability to speak with an experienced mortgage professional day or night, at your convenience. 6. The combination of Credit Union of Georgia’s mortgage pricing, closing cost incentives and Relocal Moves rebate is unbeatable in today’s competitive market.

“We at Relocal Move are very excited that the Credit Union of Georgia is our first Credit Union partner in the Southeastern United States, and look forward to a long and prosperous relationship,” Griffith says. “[Their team] are fantastic at what they do and are even better people. That combination of professionalism and humanity is what makes our partnership gel so well.” Credit Union of Georgia was founded in 1960 to serve local teachers and school employees and later expanded their membership to those who live or work in Cobb County and an additional 12 counties in Northwest Georgia. It is a not-for-profit institution, which means that earnings go right back into member programs and services. The Credit Union offers seven branch locations, with four right here in Cobb County as well as multiple shared branches and shared ATMs. The institution offers online educational programs on topics such as Credit Reports and Scores, Budgeting Basics, Home Buying and Auto Buying. Plus, there is a wealth of blog posts, webinars, and other resources for anyone looking to further their financial education. Anyone interested in taking advantage of these educational tools can do so. One does not need to be a member of the credit union. The free resources are available at n

Real Estate Rewards in Four Easy Steps 1. S chedule a 10-minute phone call with Relocal by going to 2. R elocal Move will connect the member to a terrific agent in their area for an interview. 3. T he member gets to interview the agent before deciding to move forward. 4. I f the member moves forward and closes on a purchase or sale, or both, they will receive 20 percent of the commission earned back as a rebate after they close. The average rebate in 2021 was $2,100 per transaction!


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Final Focus

? S A G R E P A — TO CHE By Cory Sekine-Pettite

B “

ack to the Future” is one of my favorite movies. It’s a classic film, so I’m going on the assumption that you’ve seen it at least once. In the scene in which Marty (Michael J. Fox) meets his family for the first time (in the past), he tells his future Uncle Joey (then a

baby in pen) to “get used to these bars, kid,” because he would be spending his adult life in prison. I often think of this funny moment when pondering gas prices. Get used to the prices, kids. A year ago, the national average price of regular unleaded was $3.07 per gallon,

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J U LY / A U G U S T 2 0 2 2

according to travel website AAA. As of June 22, 2022, it’s $4.96. Metro Atlanta is a commuter city with a major car culture, so we’re all taking a hit to our wallets on this — unless you own an EV, in which case, you’re likely paying more for the power coming into your home to charge your vehicle. If you’ve been driving for more than a few years, you’ve seen prices at the pump fluctuate; it’s just what they do, based on several factors largely to do with the decisions made by OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries). But we’re currently seeing unprecedented costs, breaking the previous record set way back in the summer of 2008 when the national average was $4.11. Industry experts attribute our current costly gas to several global issues, including the Russian invasion of Ukraine, pent up demand following the pandemic, and a demand that still is outstripping supply. Typically, their response to high gas prices in the summer months would be to wait until fall when prices will start to, well, fall. This year, they’re not so sure. Some even say that only a recession would crimp demand. That doesn’t sound like a great solution. So, what can we do? Well, until we get our plutonium-powered flux capacitors, use apps to find good prices, skip the premium if you can, drive less or share rides, and use a fuel rewards program. n

SAVE ENERGY THIS SUMMER At Cobb EMC, we know that small changes can lead to big savings. Practicing good energy efficiency habits can lower your electric bill by 15-20%. The best place to start saving energy in your home is with the thermostat. Home cooling takes up a big chunk of your electric bill. In the summer, set the temperature to an energy-efficient 78 degrees and keep drapes and blinds closed to stay cool while you save. Find more DIY tips at At Cobb EMC we’re proud to power your lives.

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