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Trailblazing 10

Produced by Allison Mitchell | July 21, 2015 | Articles

Phipps Plaza’s award-winning GM is leading the overhaul of a shopping icon.

For most, the mall is an escape to shopping paradise; for Dewayne Herbert, it’s what he calls the office. “As a teenager I thought malls were pretty cool,” recalls the Lafayette, Ind., native. “I grew up in a community where the mall was the central hub of all things—what you should be doing, what you should be wearing, a lot of different pop-culture [norms].” And thus the 34-year-old began a lifelong love affair with the retail industry.

The Brookhaven resident got his start as an intern at Tippecanoe Mall in Lafayette while studying at Purdue University back in 2002. Tack on five more gigs with the Simon brand spanning Indiana to Florida, and Herbert was a bona fide mall rat when he joined Atlanta’s Lenox Square team in 2004, serving as the area director of marketing over both Lenox and Phipps Plaza.

Now, as the award-winning general manager of Phipps, Herbert is taking on his biggest challenge yet—helming the overhaul of Phipps’ exterior and interior. Recent improvements include ugraded LED lighting, supple luxury seating, lounging areas with Wi-Fi connectivity, outlet charging stations and more. What’s more is Herbert’s answer to Phipps’ Peachtree-facing exterior, where he aims to upgrade shoppers’ dining and retail experiences with whimsical faux storefronts of beloved boutiques Jeffrey, Tiffany & Co., Gucci, Armani and Versace, to name a few, plus more alfresco patio areas. “We’re giving [the shops] an opportunity to design storefronts with their own look so it creates that streetscape identity that a lot of luxury brands really enjoy,” he reveals.

And for those who just can’t bear to leave the luxury wings of Phipps, you’ll soon be able to shop staycation-style—or move in next door. Phipps’ residential project on Wieuca Road, dubbed Domain at Phipps Plaza, will boast 319 mid-rise, urban-style apartments for rent. Meanwhile, millennial visitors to A-Town will lust over the new AC Hotel by Marriott. “The hotel will have 160 rooms and be W-like in experience,” says Herbert. “I think it’s going to be a big hit right off the bat.” Prep for a grand-slam opening next spring.

While this retail royal is itching to continue his streak in project development, he’s also reveling in bringing the city’s see-and-be-seen fashion event to Phipps on Aug. 31. “We’re [excited to be] hosting Jeffrey Fashion Cares,” says Herbert, who’s been instrumental in bringing the event to a retail environment. “We love Jeffrey. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do and it’s great to finally find the right [time] to make it happen.” Expect bites and cocktails from Phipps restos; a live auction; and top fashions from Dior, Valentino, Balenciaga, Saint Laurent and more, all benefiting Susan G. Komen and the Atlanta AIDS Fund. “We’re working to [bring in] some of our brands as well and really make it fun,” adds Herbert. “If you like fashion, you probably love Phipps. I’m lucky that I get to work in a lively atmosphere and interact with a lot of awesome people.” We’d say he’s hit the jackpot. @shopphippsplaza –Allison Mitchell

Georgia Tech grad Jasmine Burton is revolutionizing global hygiene.

During her freshman year at Georgia Tech, Jasmine Burton attended a women’s leadership conference with no idea it would lead her to her life’s calling. After learning about the lack of sanitation in developing countries, the Dunwoody native set out to put an end to this worldwide problem. “A lot of countries don’t have restrooms in their schools,” says Burton. “So most girls end up dropping out of school when they hit puberty, which keeps women from becoming fully educated.”

Fast-forward to 2013. The industrial design major and her team invented the SafiChoo toilet—a mobile sanitation solution designed to decrease the spread of disease related to unsanitary water and poor hygiene in an inexpensive and sustainable way—and entered it in Georgia Tech’s acclaimed InVenture Prize, the largest undergraduate invention competition in the U.S. In addition to winning the People’s Choice Award, the all-female group took home the top prize, earning them a total of $25,000 and a U.S. patent.

Following the big win, Burton traveled to Kakuma in Kenya with the CDC and the Norwegian Refugee council, in collaboration with ATL-based Sanivation, to research sanitation issues in refugee camps firsthand, as well as how to make her sanitation systems fit Kenyan culture. “No matter how hard we try to make something right, we’re still American and don’t know their experiences,” says Burton. “How can we work with their beliefs and still make something, from a public health perspective, that’s sustainable?” she asks. Burton spent her summer working on an answer. She found that the toilet needed to be narrow to allow for squatting; that the waste could be separated via funnels and treated via Sanivation’s solar waste treatment techonlogy; and that a manual bidet is necessary, because the majority of refugees are accustomed to washing.

Following her trip to Africa, Burton is looking forward to a bright future for the SafiChoo. The Midtown resident started her own social-impact organization, Wish for WASH, with the goal of providing sanitation innovation through research, design and education to cultures spanning the globe. With more and more organizations looking into the SafiChoo system, Wish for WASH has begun manufacturing products locally and hopes to expand into mass production within the next year. Up next, the 23-year-old is moving to Zambia for a year to pursue a job as a design specialist in the Society for Family Health through a Global Health Corps fellowship, all while working to bring restrooms to more schools. “Yes, I’m an American, and I’m biracial and all these things, but I consider myself a global citizen,” says Burton. “And I want to help as many people of the world as I can.” @wishforwash –Jess Charmoli

When it comes to special-needs education, Lindsey Turner is breaking down the walls one biz at a time.

Hugh Hefner’s birthday party—that’s where Special Needs Certified founder Lindsey Turner’s life changed. “I remember I saw a celebrity who looked absolutely miserable,” says the 35-year-old Roswell native who now calls the Kennesaw area home. “It made me question whether or not fame and money were really all that they were cracked up to be. I began thinking about how I could have a greater impact on people and the world during my life.”

And that was the beginning of the former software and music industry vet’s work with the special-needs community. A Kennesaw State grad, Turner got his feet wet in the world of nonprofits by majoring in health and human services in college. So, founding The Golden Soldiers, a nonprofit that hosts events for children and families with special needs, was a natural first step. Then, after about seven years of listening to the families he worked with tell him about how they were mistreated in day-to-day life, Turner decided he needed to do more. “One morning, I was sitting at a coffee shop, and it came to me: I could educate people on how to treat those with special needs better,” he says. “Special Needs Certified is the only social enterprise that trains businesses, cities and organizations on how to better treat individuals with special needs and disabilities.”

Since the biz launched in October 2014, employees at Moe’s, State Farm, and even the cities of Alpharetta and Decatur have been trained by Turner, learning everything from how to interact with people in wheel chairs to what not to say when talking to people with special needs. There’s also an online component to the service that allows folks with special needs to find certified organizations and share feedback with others—think Yelp for people with special needs.

So what’s up next for Turner and his nonprofit know-how? His goal is to certify all cities in the state of Georgia by the end of 2015 and to have Special Needs Certified businesses based in all 50 states. “It’s so satisfying when a mom asks to meet with me, and she just hugs me and starts crying and saying, ‘Thank you,’” he says. “Knowing I’m making other people’s lives more enjoyable and educating people about how to treat everyone with love and acceptance is pretty awesome.” @sncertified –Amelia Pavlik

With $500 million in luxury real estate sales already under her Hermès belt, this powerhouse is gearing up for her biggest sale yet.

Over her 12-year real estate career, Atlantan Karen Rodriguez has sold nearly half a billion dollars in luxury condominiums, earning her the most regal of titles from Realtor magazine. In fact, this top-selling Dorsey Alston associate broker is preparing to sell the highest-priced condo in Atlanta history: a 9,000-square-foot, two-story Buckhead penthouse for approximately $8 million.

“I own the luxury high-rise niche in Atlanta,” the 30-something Alabama native says confidently. “No one has more projects. No one sells more. That’s why I started Group Kora,” she notes of the all-female company she formed in June.

Poised and perfected in her sleek Buckhead office, right down to her shining mani-pedi, Rodriguez recounts her big break at The Ritz-Carlton Residences, where her team sold every unit for a grand total of $100 million in just two and a half years—and during a housing crisis, to boot! “Everyone told me it was crazy, that no one was buying million-dollar condos in Atlanta anymore.” She was readying for a much-needed vacay when the owner of the Mandarin Oriental approached with an offer she couldn’t refuse.

“They gave me complete creative control. I was involved from the ground up… every decision, branding, marketing, floor plans, finishes,” she explains. Not against mixing glam and gritty, she’s even known to don her Manolos and Jimmy Choos on construction sites.

And by digging in her heels, Rodriguez helped revive a property that sat virtually dormant for five years prior. The nearly 40 high-design units she commissioned, starting at a cool $2 million each, have proved irresistible to modernists—especially those from NYC, L.A., Europe and beyond. Media mentions (think HGTV, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times) consistently confirm Rodriguez’s clout, while her tightly controlled branding and communication continue to clinch deal after deal.

“It’s important to be ‘on’ 24/7,” says the self-admitted Type A with a sharp snap of her fingers. “I can’t be half in, half out; I always have to do that one little extra thing.”

Big on presentation, Rodriguez has groomed and mentored her six-member team on all the tricks of her trade. Gen Y-ers, all, they understand social media and trends but still boast the polish to impress elite older buyers. And although real estate represents a mid-50s fallback field for most, Rodriguez and the empowered women she employs are fast changing that. “We’re the new breed of real estate agents,” she notes. “We chose this career right from the beginning.” And with that, they’re knocking the old boys’ club from the top. @group_kora_ –Kate Abney

Sports aficionados Kevin McGuire and Michael Perrett tackle the football industry head-on.

It’s like Jerry Maguire meets the A—minus the whole angsty “who’s coming with me” thing. Enter Kevin McGuire and Michael Perrett, supersuccessful 30-somethings who branched out from their posts as established A-Town SportsTrust Advisors to co-create NFL agency Element Sports Group last July.

Hardly rookies, the go-getters opened the playing field with 18 athletes—including gridiron-greats Marcus Lattimore (49ers), Geno Atkins (Bengals) and Gwinnett County boys Cameron Heyward (Steelers) and Bradley Roby (Broncos)—moving agency from STA. “They felt our passion, our drive, and knew we had the experience—[25 years combined]—to get the job done,” says McGuire.

Both partners earned degrees in finance, “in case the sports thing didn’t work out,” says McGuire, who graduated from the University of Florida and also has a J.D. from St. Thomas University School of Law. Southern California boy Perrett’s sheepskin is from UGA. They met in 2005, when McGuire landed an STA internship with an agent he knew from law school—an internship that, he admits, “did not yet exist” and his acquaintance was not authorized to create. Perrett had come to STA three years before that, after an intern-to-hire stint at powerhouse IMG, where he worked for super-agent Tom Condon (now at CAA Sports—hey, Peyton Manning!).

With a shared entrepreneurial spirit—“Both our fathers are entrepreneurs, so we [always] had the itch to start our own thing,” says McGuire—the pair has negotiated their way, literally, from the bottom to the top of the field. “We walked away from an established agency and bet on ourselves,” says McGuire. “In our industry, agents change companies all the time, but they rarely start their own thing—they usually opt for the safer bet and just join another established agency.”

Exploding to 27 clients, with huge success in the 2015 draft (dealing players to the Broncos, Steelers, Jaguars, Panthers and more), their drive is already paying off. “In addition to the [initial] 18, we signed seven for the 2015 NFL draft [six are SEC!] and have signed a few other veterans,” says Perrett.

The formula? “Being an agent at Element is not a typical 9-to-5 job,” says Perrett. “We travel a lot; we live on our cellphones; we work days, nights, weekends and holidays. It’s definitely a lifestyle around here, not a job.”

So what’s the future look like for these primetime players? “Stay tuned,” says McGuire. But, spoiler alert: “The best is yet to come for us and our clients,” adds Perrett. “We’ve only scratched the surface.” @element_sports –Melissa Howsam

Musician and resto owner Doria Roberts makes it big by giving back.

“I’m definitely a worker bee,” says Doria Roberts. “I like to have my hands in as much as possible.” As an award-winning musician, restaurant owner, event producer and advocate, she seems to have everything covered.

Born and raised in Trenton, N.J., Roberts, now 43, attended the University of Pennsylvania. As the first in her family to go to college, “there was a lot of pressure on me [to succeed],” she says. “I was doing East Asian studies with a concentration in Japanese language and culture,” but that career path didn’t seem right to her, so she turned to music. That’s when everything clicked.

Strumming in her dorm room turned into a gig at her school’s spring fling, which caught the ear of someone at the college radio station, who then played her songs, which were heard by a venue booker, and before she knew it, she had landed her first show. “Songwriting is a way for me to communicate,” Roberts says. “When I looked at an audience, I loved that I had that kind of reach—even if it was just 50 people, it felt universal.”

After college, Roberts came to ATL to help a family member who’d just had a baby, and when she won $1,000 at Eddie’s Attic’s open-mic competition, she decided to stay. Here, she met chef Calavino Donati. They fell in love hard and fast, and got married in 2007.

Roberts was working at Donati’s restaurant, Calavino’s Oakhurst, when the recession hit, and the spot shuttered. That’s when they decided to take the leap into a new business by opening Urban Cannibals Bodega + Bites in the same space. Now, just a few years later, the resto-slash-grocery has sprung fresh opportunities, and the couple will open three new ventures this summer: Tipple + Rose Tea Parlor & Apothecary, Madre + Mason (a Latin-inspired Southern eatery) and an upgraded Urban Cannibals Bodega + Bites in Midtown (featuring an expanded menu). “The concept is a necessary one: making healthy food accessible and affordable,” Roberts adds.

In the meantime, she’s also spent years traveling the world and being recognized for using music to raise money and awareness for communities in need. Most notably, she created the grassroots tour Queerstock, which raised funds for LGBT youth; and Farm to Ear, a local music and food tour benefiting food banks and local economies.

With a slew of professional accomplishments, an album re-release in the works and no end to her creativity in sight, it’s impossible not to be inspired by Roberts’ drive. Her advice? “Listen to the voice telling you, you can do it,” she says with conviction. “If it’s something you’re passionate about and you can’t live without, there’s no sacrifice too big or small to get it done.” @doriaroberts –Caroline Cox

Watch out, Shark Tank! Atlanta Tech Village’s founder David Cummings knows when to invest.

In the heart of the Buckhead financial district you may find the unassuming CEO and founder of Atlanta Tech Village David Cummings working among 800 members and 240 businesses that call ATV home. The Tallahassee-born and Duke-educated Atlanta resident spends his days fostering and watching new startups blossom and graduate in his vision. Cummings majored in economics in college and leveraged that knowledge into creating his first biz, Hannon Hill, a content management and strategy company, which took off with accolades, including a spot on Inc. magazine’s fastest growing companies list. Cummings’ second business, marketing automation software firm Pardot, which was acquired by ExactTarget for a cool $100 million, soon followed. So when the opportunity to purchase the ATV building arose, it was a no-brainer for this hardworking entrepreneur to throw the dice on his next big project. “I wanted to build a place where like-minded tech entrepreneurs could come together in a unique environment,” says the 30-something. And with his vision, financial prowess and voice in the community, he made this dream a reality with ATV now recognized as the largest center of its kind in the Southeast and one of the top 10 in the nation.

Adding clout to Cummings’ creation is ATV’s recent renovation, which includes 10,000 square feet of meeting space, 63 private offices, 44 multiroom suites and space for up to 800 individuals, giving entrepreneurs immediate access to a network of peers and thought leaders dedicated to supporting and working with them. This amazing space displays open-air industrial design complete with five levels of glass offices, common kitchen areas fortified with unlimited Octane coffee, white board-lined walls and even vacation-themed nap areas, which gives more than 240 startups a place to thrive. In fact, there is a two-month-long wait to get into these digs. But moola is not the only requirement for renting space here. “Each business must be nice, dream big, pay it forward, work hard and play hard,” explains the dapper owner.

As a member of the Buckhead Coalition and the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, and a full-time Atlanta Ventures investor, Cummings continues to collect feathers in his cap and aims to make ATV the city’s centerpiece for all things tech. This self-taught programmer has already invested in 14 companies (including the booming apps Yik Yak and SalesLoft) and plans to invest in two more each year. “I am envisioning creating 10,000 jobs in the next 10 years by way of 100 companies graduating from Atlanta Tech Village,” Cummings reveals. With a jam-packed résumé, we have no doubt he’ll get there. @davidcummings –Elissa Rosen

Salute! Lawrence Ervin II is using his medical and military background to make a difference in the lives of veterans.

When Lawrence Ervin II sees an unmet need, he doesn’t ignore it; he does something about it. That’s why in February the 32-year-old, whose friends call him LC, founded Ari Home Wellness, which provides in-home care for seniors of Metro Atlanta, as well as free services for qualified veterans and their spouses.

“I really love Atlanta,” he says. “And being from Clayton County, I know there’s a lot of things that can be done. People need assistance.”

Working hard comes naturally for the Jonesboro High School alum, who helped out as a janitor during his junior and senior years to earn some extra money. A football scholarship led him to Tuskegee University in Alabama, and from there Ervin completed his post-baccalaureate at The University of Georgia and earned his doctor of pharmacy from Auburn University before joining the Air Force.

Ervin found the inspiration for his business while serving as pharmacy and radiology director for the base in Columbus, Miss. “During my last years in the military, I started seeing a lot of elderly people coming in who needed help—not just with their medications, but with getting around and to appointments,” he explains. “I thought: I really want to get into home care and help out where I can.”

When his stint in the military was over, Ervin backpacked across Central and South America, volunteering at medical clinics and with an organization called Earthship to help build a children’s music school on Easter Island. The experience only deepened his desire to make a difference back home.

“It made me think that if I can travel to these places to help people… what is it that I can do to develop and help my community? That’s what really pushed me to come back and do all the philanthropic work I do now, in addition to my business,” he says.

That work includes an upcoming role on the board at Jonesboro, where he will focus on the vocational program, speaking to veterans’ organizations and at school career days, and visiting elderly care centers to train seniors how to be more interactive with their health care providers.

When this philanthropic go-getter isn’t promoting his business, volunteering or working overnight as a pharmacist, he loves indulging in Sunday brunch at Republic Social House, salsa dancing at Fernbank Museum and hanging out at Piedmont Park. But giving back remains his true passion.

“There are so many things that I still want to accomplish,” he says. “Everything I’ve done so far is great, but there’s so much more that I want to be able to do—and just continue to grow and develop myself and the community around me.” –Kelsie Allen

Lindsey Epperly is taking over the travel industry one trip at a time

As the owner of Epperly Travel, Lindsey Epperly creates luxe, personalized itineraries for her clients. But she didn’t always have such a clear route for her career. “I wandered into a travel agency for a brochure and walked out with a job planning honeymoons,” says the ubersuccessful 26-year-old. “I was a college student—not vying for a career path—but something bigger than I could’ve ever imagined was set into motion.”

And though her original road map did not include a stop in the travel industry (she graduated from UGA with a B.A. in English), it didn’t take long to discover that it was her dream destination.

“All it took to fall in love with travel consulting was to help my first honeymoon couple book a getaway that fit them perfectly,” she gushes. “I will never forget that feeling; I still get it when clients return from a vacation that we’ve put together and thank us for an experience that they couldn’t have achieved on their own.”

Five years later, the honeymoon connoisseur has become Atlanta’s go-to guide for 4- and 5-star luxury leisure trips across the globe. She set out on her own in 2011 to create Vacations by Lindsey, then rebranded her biz as Epperly Travel last year. As a national affiliate of Century Travel, her swanky empire is racking up awards and accolades from the likes of Forbes and Travel Agent, but Epperly is staying as grounded as ever.

“I started Epperly Travel because I saw a need for transparency in the industry,” she says. “I was constantly faced with clients who were afraid of hidden fees and unethical practices—oftentimes rightfully founded. I built my business by doing the opposite of what I saw less ethical travel agencies doing, and that resonated with clients.”

To help match those clients with their perfect destinations, Epperly has done her research. “I’m humbled by the travel opportunities I’ve received, from wine tasting in the vineyards of Tuscany to waking up to baboons jumping on the roof of my villa in South Africa.”

The company recently partnered with New Story, an Atlanta-based organization dedicated to rebuilding homes in Haiti. “We’ve pledged to donate proceeds from every trip we book until we’ve built a home there. I can’t wait to share with our clients what a difference their travels have made in the lives of others!”

Epperly has also expanded into new markets, including Nashville, Tenn., and her hometown of Columbus, Ga..

“I grew up having conversations at the dinner table about ethics and best practices that have firmly influenced the way I do business,” she says. “My parents poured into me the values that I live by today, which, mixed with my own untamable drive, have made me who I am. There are days when being an entrepreneur and leader are the hardest roles, but I know I’m the best version of myself when I’m in them, focused on watching my team succeed and turning dream vacations into a reality.” @lindsey_epperly –Alison Abbey

Used car shopping shouldn’t be such a pain. Ben Huston agrees.

In a world where the Internet has revitalized the way we get around town (seriously, when was the last time you booked a yellow cab over using your Uber app?), it was only a matter of time before the used car game went beyond Craigslist and Carmax.

If you haven’t heard of Carvana already, you will soon. Here’s how it works: Log on and poke around for your lovingly used set of dream wheels, whether it’s a 2010 Camry or a 2014 Tesla. Once you’ve got the model selected, your ride will be home-delivered, or will be on standby at Carvana’s “car vending machine” in West Midtown. The coolest part? You get seven days to drive before paying a dime. If you like it, buy it for less-than-Blue-Book value. If not, no hard feelings. No sales pitch, no pressure, no scouring the city. No need to even leave the couch.

Carvana’s witty co-founder and A-Town resident Ben Huston always liked a good idea when he saw one. As a Stanford University grad and a Harvard Law-educated attorney, the San Diego, Calif., native worked in corporate law for some brilliant upstarts before being bitten by the entrepreneurship bug himself. Before too long, he decided to get into the act. His contribution: to streamline the convoluted used car purchasing process.

“We asked ourselves, ‘Why is the whole used car experience so unpleasant and confusing?’” says the 32-year-old. “We thought that an online platform would be a good way to fix a lot of those problems.”

Carvana’s meteoric rise has operated on a few basic principles: high-quality vehicles and extreme convenience, with a dash of novelty—necessary qualities when it comes to breaking ground in an industry that’s long-cultivated skeptical consumers.

“There’s this trifecta we’re fighting,” the COO laughs. “You’re in used cars, which is an industry nobody trusts; we’re online, which terrifies a lot of people who are about to make a purchase of this size; and we’re a brand-new company that only a few people know about yet.”

But execution is key, and the idea has taken root. Word of mouth is a powerful ally, but in the two years since Carvana went online, the accolades have been rolling in alongside the revenues: This year, Forbes tacked the upstart at fifth place on its “Most Promising Companies” list.

The goal now, Huston says, is careful, quick growth. Carvana has spread to five markets already, with more to come in the months ahead and is currently raising $300 million to make it happen. And then? Let’s just say you may never need to visit a used car lot again. @carvana –Austin Holt

Photography assistant: Naomi Smith
Makeup assistant: Andrea Brooks, The Green Room Agency
Shot on location at W Atlanta – Buckhead, W Atlanta – Midtown, Whiskey Blue and Whiskey Park


Photography by: