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New Partnership Creates a $300 Million Tech Fund, The Largest in The Southeast

Dr. Paul Judge, serial entrepreneur, investor, and co-founder of TechSquare Labs, has spent nearly 20 years developing and launching new tech companies in Atlanta. Yesterday, it was announced that he and Marik Buffington, CEO of Atlanta’s BIP Capital, have partnered to form Panoramic Ventures.

Panoramic Ventures is an Atlanta based venture capital firm that focuses on diverse founders and university startups located in the Southeast, Midwest, and other regions across the country where high-potential companies are often overlooked. The firm plans to open new doors for overlooked founders, giving more entrepreneurs access to capital to build leading tech companies.

The goal for its first fund is $300 million, according to the partners, and will focus on funding startups from their seed stage to Series B.

Judge, a Morehouse and Georgia Tech grad, is also the co-founder and executive chairman of Pindrop, co-founder of Purewire (acquired by Barracuda), and CTO of CipherTrust (acquired by Secure Computing).

Panoramic Ventures
Paul and his wife, Tanya Sam, director of Partnerships at TechSquare Labs

He recognizes that “the thing that’s missing is a meaningful venture capital firm that’s anchored here and that’s really active across multiple stages.”

“[If we] put our efforts together we could make a new firm that really fills that gap and is there to support everything that Atlanta and the Southeast really deserves to be over the next decade,” Judge added. “The $300 million size is really intentional because we can be active at the seed stage but we can also lead Series As and lead Series Bs.”

“After years of building companies as an entrepreneur and angel investor, I felt that I could have a greater impact by working with more founders, which is why we created Panoramic Ventures,” said Judge. “As a minority who has built companies outside of the traditional tech hubs, I know what it is like to be an overlooked founder. From Atlanta to Miami, from the Southeast to the Midwest, Panoramic wants to back promising founders and extend capital opportunities that may not have previously existed.”


Tony O. Lawson

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National Black Bank Foundation To Refinance a $35 Million Loan For The Atlanta Hawks

The nonprofit National Black Bank Foundation and its investment unit, the Black Bank Fund, were formed in 2020 to uplift Black-owned banks and the communities they serve.

On Wednesday, the  National Black Bank Foundation announced that it has organized a syndication team of 11 banks that will refinance a $35 million construction loan for the Atlanta Hawks basketball team.

National Black Bank Foundation

According to the team, this is the first time a professional sports franchise has had a “significant loan” underwritten exclusively by Black banks.

Georgia-based Carver State Bank served as the syndicate’s lead arranger. Other banks involved were Carver Federal Savings Bank, Citizens Savings Bank, Citizens Trust Bank, Commonwealth National Bank, Industrial Bank, Liberty Bank & Trust, M&F Bank and Optus Bank.

“By selecting an all-Black bank syndicate to provide this financing, the Hawks are strengthening all of our banks. What we earn from this loan strengthens our collective ability to provide even more loans and financial services to Black small businesses and consumers, and we are able to show our ability to pull off a large, sophisticated loan transaction. Tony and his team are real allies in the movement for racial equity,” said Robert E. James, II, President, Carver Development & Chairman-Elect, National Bankers Association.

National Black Bank Foundation
The National Black Bank Foundation general counsel Ashley Bell

“Because Black-owned banks are so starved for capital, they’ve previously not been able to compete with major commercial banks or scale to meet the unique needs of borrowers of color, who are rejected for credit at twice the national rate,” said National Black Bank Foundation general counsel Ashley Bell.

Through this agreement, the Hawks are using their strong credit rating to “bolster the capital cushion for Black banks so that they can better serve their traditional customer base,” the team said in a news release. They’re also “trying to demonstrate that Black banks can compete with money center banks for commercial loans.”


Tony O. Lawson

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Black Owned Vegan Spot in Atlanta Offering Free Food For a Day

Black-owned vegan fast-food spot, Slutty Vegan, is well-loved by locals and celebrities alike. This week, Lala Anthony, Ludacris, Chris Paul, and Gabrielle Union-Wade have teamed up to buy out the restaurant’s offerings for a day, when “free food will be [given away] in support of Pinky Cole’s business, and her community impact.”

Today, Tuesday, June 30th, the Atlanta location will be free all day thanks to the generosity of these celebs, who rallied around the founder Pinky Cole after her establishment was targeted and false online reviews claiming negative experiences were posted in response to her charitable deed a couple of days ago.

Last week, Cole decided to set up college funds alongside Clark Atlanta University for the children Rayshard Brooks, a Black Atlanta resident who was fatally shot by police at a Wendy’s on June 12th. Brooks is survived by four kids, who range in age from 1-years old to 13-years old. These college funds will cover the full cost of tuition and room and board for each of his children and are valued at $600,000 each.

Cole’s generous deed received praise online, but also quickly became a target of a negative online harassment campaign, as “Slutty Vegan’s Yelp and Google Business pages became inundated with false and negative reviews along with one-star ratings, claiming they had poor experiences at the establishment.”

black owned vegan

In response to this, loyal customers quickly came to Cole’s rescue, flooding the Yelp and Google Business pages with accurate, positive reviews, receiving over 18,000 positive Google reviews within a 72-hour time span.

To add to this push for positivity, a press release announced celebrities were also rallying around Cole: “This free food giveaway is LaLa Anthony, Ludacris, Gabrielle Union-Wade, and Chris Paul’s way of standing behind the popular brand that has done so much for the community since it’s inception in 2018.

“Slutty Vegan is located at 1542 Ralph David Abernathy Blvd SW. Free food items will be provided on Tuesday from 12noon – 7:30 pm. Social distancing will be encouraged and enforced.”

Source: The Beet

Related: Meet the Owner of Slutty Vegan, Atlanta’s Hottest Vegan Spot

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Atlanta man assembles portable hand washing stations for homeless

Terence Lester is bringing portable hand washing stations to people experiencing homelessness throughout the city.

Lester, one of the organizers of Love Beyond Walls, a group that supports the needs of homeless residents, said he came up with the idea to create hand-washing stations last week as more updates related to coronavirus were being released.

Terence Lester
Terence Lester

“I started wondering how homeless people would keep their hands cleans, it’s already difficult,” Lester said.

And when the Center for Disease Control told the public to go into social distancing, it heightened his concern for people without access to clean water.

“The reality is some people are going to live on the streets and be on the streets,” Lester said.

Lester got on the phone and started contacting RV manufactures, who could use technology that helps build portable hand washing stations.

Within a week, 15 portable machines have been donated to Lester, each holding between 5 and 10 gallons of water.

Members from Love Beyond Walls will be taking the machines throughout the “heart of the city,” according to Lester.

During our phone interview, Lester revealed he experienced homelessness as a teenager.

“When I was experiencing homelessness being out there, you would have to go a mile or two to wash your hands or go to the bathroom,” Lester said. “I wanted to make sure we put stations in parts where people are under bridges, just in case someone wants to stop and wash their hands.”

Lester says he hopes to help other organizations throughout the country give the homeless freshwater resources.


Source: 11Alive


Meet the Owner of Slutty Vegan, Atlanta’s Hottest Vegan Spot

What do you get when you mix the growing popularity of vegan food with brilliant marketing and a great product? A line of people, several blocks deep, outside your business on opening day. This is the “problem” that Atlanta’s newest vegan eatery, Slutty Vegan had when they opened on January 14th.

We reached out to owner Pinky Cole to find out more about her and her business.

Slutty Vegan
Slutty Vegan owner, Pinky Cole (credit: Ty Pleas)

What inspired you to start Slutty Vegan?

Slutty vegan was created summer of 2018 in my small two bedroom apartment. I was lying in bed late in the evening and had a serious hankering for vegan junk food.

At the time, there was no place here in Atlanta at had what I needed. I figured it was time to satisfy that need. Boom! Slutty Vegan came to life.

Photo credit: Ty Pleas

What has been the most challenging and the most gratifying thing about owning a business thus far?

Since its creation, like all businesses, Slutty Vegan has run into its fair share of challenges. Most challenging, surprisingly, has been been keeping up with the demand from the city.

Pinky and Uncle Snoop

Because of our sensational growth we have had to learn how to grow at an exponential rate while making sure we have excellent customer service and every customer is satisfied.

Crazy lines on opening day (Credit:Westview Atlanta)

However great this difficulty, we appreciate and love the community support. Interestingly enough, that challenge has been one of the most gratifying aspects. Imagine me, a young single mom from Baltimore jump starting the vegan movement here in Atlanta!

Tha crazy growth has been nothing short of inspiring and the pleasure I get knowing the culture and health shift I’m at the forefront of is so humbling. I am so thankful for the opportunity and pressure.

The Slutty Vegan crew

In the past 5 years, what new belief, behavior or habit has most improved your life?

Having faith and striving to attain goals that previously, I would have been afraid would have failed. In the past 5 years my prayer life has shifted my outlook, perspective, and approach to life. Prayer has removed said fear and I can step out of faith regardless of imminent outcome. “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t shoot.”

What is one thing about you that may surprise most people?

I think it surprises people that I’m truly an HBCU ride or die regular or maybe not so regular girl.

I attended Clark Atlanta University where I pledged, pageanted, and excelled. Atlanta has truly adopted me, and most would even think I’m from here; sometimes it even feels like that.

#TBT Miss Clark Atlanta University

What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?

If I had to give any advice to aspiring entrepreneurs, it would be to write every idea and thought down and to stay consistent and persistent. Most small businesses take years to see profit and the millennial generation is microwave and expect overnight success.

Opening day

Generally, this won’t happen, and successful businesses are grown from “long game thinking.” Understanding and planning for long term success and preparing yourself to be persistent on the journey there will make the difference.

Where do you see your business in 5 years?

In 5 years, I see Slutty vegan country wide providing vegan experiences in communities where they would have otherwise never had that opportunity. We are here for the community.


-Tony Oluwatoyin Lawson (IG@thebusyafrican)

Address: 1542 Ralph David Abernathy Blvd SW Atlanta, GA 30310
Phone number (470) 869-0707

Website: Slutty Vegan

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Tyler Perry Just Sold His Former Studio Lot For $18.5 Million

In 2007 Tyler Perry purchased his first studio lot. A year ago, the property was put for sale (for $25 million), so that the company could move to a larger studio on the grounds of an old abandoned Army base (Fort McPherson) located just outside Atlanta. The studio reportedly sold for $18.5 million and closed on Dec. 13, 2018.

tyler perry
Former TPS listed the studio in July for $25 million

The property was purchased by Ozzie Areu, former president of production of Tyler Perry Studios, and his brother, Will Areu. To purchase the complex, the Areu Bros. raised $4.5 million in a recent funding round, according to an SEC filing. According to an Areu Bros. release, they will be the first Latinos to own and run a major film and television studio in the United States. Will Areu will continue to work for Tyler Perry Studios as president of production.

Previously the world headquarters for Delta Airlines, the lot in the Greenbriar area of Southwest Atlanta sits on 60 acres and includes five sound stages, four office buildings (126,000 square feet) with executive offices, post-production facilities, a theater, a commissary, and fitness center.

The studio also has a back lot consisting of a suburban neighborhood with eleven homes and a city street.

Ozzie Areu,(R) former president of production of Tyler Perry Studios, and his brother, Will Areu (L)


Tyler Perry Studios at Ft. McPherson


-Tony Oluwatoyin Lawson (IG @thebusyafrican)



Nashville’s Slim & Husky’s Pizza is Opening Two Atlanta Locations

North Nashville’s hip-hop-inspired Slim & Husky’s Pizza Beeria is opening two Atlanta locations in 2019. In addition to 581 Metropolitan Parkway in Adair Park — announced in January — owners Clinton Gray, Derrick Moore, and Emanuel Reed will also open a Slim & Husky’s in the former One Rooster space (née Real Chow Baby) at the corner of Howell Mill Road and 11th Street in Westside. That location should open in late February or early March.

The partners had hoped to open on Metropolitan Parkway this year. The plan was to build several commercial units there, in addition to Slim & Husky’s. However, those plans have been restructured to only include the restaurant. Metropolitan Parkway should open next summer.

“We wanted to open something in Atlanta in early 2019 so, when the Howell Mill space became available in our search, we liked it,” Gray tells Eater Atlanta. “It’s a turnkey project and gives us the opportunity to be in a busy area like Howell Mll, as well as in a more underserved community, like Metropolitan Parkway and Adair Park.”

Demolition has already begun on the Howell Mill outpost. Gray is actively looking for Atlanta artists to produce pieces for the restaurant. The partners see the potential foot traffic from residents of the future mixed-use apartment complexes under construction between 14th and Marietta Streets and from visitors to existing area attractions, like Westside Provisions District and the Northside Tavern, as a big plus.


The menu for both Atlanta locations will be the same as their three restaurants in Nashville. Most pizzas are named for songs by various hip-hop and R&B artists — the Rony, Roni, Rone!, for instance, is named for the group Tony! Toni! Toné! and includes three types of pepperoni.

Slim & Husky’s just introduced a new meat lovers pizza to the menu, the Cee No Green. Gray and his partners fed Atlanta’s Goodie Mob and the pizza’s eponym, CeeLo Green — the crooner from the group — before they performed in Nashville last month. Apparently, the members of Goodie Mob and CeeLo loved the pizza.

Gray says Slim & Husky’s ATL vibe will be felt most in the artwork throughout the restaurants and the beers offered from local Atlanta and Georgia breweries. Dine-in and take-out are planned for both locations. A take-out window is being installed at the Metropolitan restaurant, which is staying open later in the evening to better serve students attending Morehouse, Clark-Atlanta University, and Spelman.

And, this won’t be the last Atlanta locations. There are plans to expand Slim & Husky’s to other areas around the city.

“We really feel like Atlanta will be a great city for Slim & Husky’s. Opening here is big for us. I know our friends from Hattie B’s are finding success in Atlanta,” says Gray. “We hope to be the next Nashville restaurant to find success in Atlanta. We’re excited to be in the ATL.”

1016 Howell Mill Road, Atlanta; 581 Metropolitan Parkway SW, Atlanta.


Source: Atlanta EATER


The only Black Owned Bank in Texas Opens Atlanta branch

Unity National Bank, the only Black owned bank in Texas, has opened its first out-of-state branch in Atlanta. This is happening in a time when the number of Black owned banks in the U.S. is on decline.

The expansion caps recent years of financial growth at Houston-based Unity, driven in part by the bank’s continued commitment to its Third Ward neighbors, and recent social justice movements. Unity is the only Black owned bank in Texas.

black owned bank

In September 2017, the bank reported assets of more than $98 million, up from $84 million in the same period a year earlier. Between 2015 and 2017, it reported an 18.4 percent increase in assets making it one of the top-performing Black owned banks in the U.S., according to a report from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

Unity’s financial success is an outlier, said William Michael Cunningham, D.C.-based economist and banking expert.

In 1994, there were 55 African-American-owned banks in the U.S. By 2010, that number dwindled to 34. Today, it’s less than 30.

Unity also was able to avoid taking up any government bailouts after its board members and shareholders invested their own capital into keeping the bank open. They weren’t willing to let go of its historic and symbolic significance, Brooks added.


Banks like Unity popped up across the nation during the 1960s civil rights movement. African-American small business owners, denied financing at white-owned banking institutions, opened their own banks within their neighborhoods. They served as a means to build their own capital, and as a symbol of black economic power.

Unity was originally founded in 1963 as Riverside National Bank, led by local doctors and lawyers.

Cunningham said that often these founders had no plan of succession, leading to bank closures by the next generation.

In 1985, the bank’s name changed to Unity National Bank. Four years later, Unity was acquired by a new set of minority leaders who continued the bank’s legacy of serving lower-income residents in Houston’s Third Ward, going to so far as to offer financial literacy services to customers denied loans at other banks. Workers at Unity continued to sit down with customers, walking them through why they were denied and helping them brainstorm ways to improve their financial standing to qualify.

Unity National Bank CEO, John Scroggins

For all its efforts, Unity was losing higher-earning clients to larger banks such as Wells Fargo that offered more resources.

By 1998, Unity opened its first branch in Missouri City where it attracted black customers from a higher income bracket, as well as a greater variety of customers including Latinos and Asians.

Brooks noted that as Unity continued to serve its community, this time as a regional bank, there was some question over whether the community appreciated Unity’s services and history.

In 2016, the bank got its answer.

Following the police shootings of black men across the country in 2016, including Alton Sterling in Louisiana and Philando Castile in Minnesota, rapper Killer Mike offered an alternative to protests. At an MTV and BET town hall meeting, as an extension of the Black Lives Matter movement, he called for 1 million African-Americans to deposit $100 in black-owned banks. It would be a means to heal by strengthening the community’s power, specifically its economic power.

The movement #BankBlack took off. Unity was taken by surprise.

More than 350 people opened new accounts at Unity days after Mike’s announcement. They waited in line for hours, some traveling from out-of-state where their black-owned banks had closed.

Across the nation, Mike’s million goal was met and banks like Unity experienced a revival that some academics, including Cunningham, cite as potential for these banks to grow in size rather than shrink as projected

“In history, movements pop-up that change the trajectory of a given industry,” Cunningham said.

Sherifat Lawal, assistant vice president of lending at Unity, said that the push from #BankBlack is still being felt today with residents from across Texas and out-of-state asking for new branches to open.

The expansion into Atlanta this year, Lawal added, was in part driven by the public support in 2016.

Kase Lawal, local billionaire and chairman of Unity, had been interested in having Unity enter the Atlanta market since 2007 because it’s the so-called “mecca” of black business. Opportunity opened up in 2017 after one of Atlanta’s prominent Black owned banks closed, leaving a void Unity could fill.

Billionaire Kase Lawal and wife Eileen Lawal

More than 500 guests attended the grand opening ceremony on March 26 at the corner of Peachtree Street and M.L.K. Jr. Drive, including U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., and Atlanta’s Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms.

“By providing opportunities to achieve financial success, businesses like Unity National Bank help build equity into the fabric of our community,” Bottoms said in a statement. “Having a bank that understands the needs of the unbanked and that specializes in serving Black entrepreneurs is an essential part of my administration’s goal to build one Atlanta.”

Back at the Houston branch, a sign announcing the Atlanta expansion greets clients.

“They’re excited about their bank going to Atlanta,” Brooks said. “Everyone wants pride of ownership, and our customers own the bank with us.”

Unity continues to be a supporter of Black people in the Houston region, including members of the Greater Houston Black Chamber of Commerce.

To further tap into the renewed public interest in Black owned banks, Unity is set to launch a full online banking service by year-end so residents from across Texas and the U.S. can open accounts electronically.


Source: The Chron


Couples Inc. : Kahran and Reg Run a Family Photography Business

Creative Soul Photography is an Atlanta based business run by husband and wife team, Kahran and Reg Bethencourt.

With almost a decade of working with hundreds of children, families and brands, they specialize in lifestyle photography and authentic, visual storytelling.

Recently, photos from their “Afro Art” series went viral worldwide. We wanted to find out more about them and how they they make marriage and business work.

SB:How did you meet each other?  

Kahran: We met in an urban graphic designer forum in 2004.  We were both learning graphic design at the time so we both had a common interest and community.

Unfortunately we were on two different coasts, so we dated long distance for a year and a half before coming together. “Photo dates” helped us through the long distance period and gave us something to look forward to until our next meeting.

 SB:What inspired you to start a business together? 

Kahran: When we moved to Atlanta in 2006 Reg decided to major in photography in college.  My mom helped us to get a few clients and we started our business in my mom’s garage while he was still in school.

We already loved capturing portraits of people and knew that we wanted to be able to document kids, love and connection.

SB: Natural hair plays a prominent role in alot of your work. Is that intentional and why?

Reg: Yes, definitely.  We feel that it is so important for kids of color to be able to see positive images that look like them in the media.  Unfortunately the lack of diversity often plays into the stereotypes that they are not “good enough” and often forces kids to have low self-esteem.

We try to combat these stereotypes in our photography by showing diverse imagery of kids who love the skin they’re in, their own natural curls and their culture.  We think that these stories are important to show in order to shatter the current standards of beauty.

SB: Describe your individual personalities. How you blend them in order to make the business work?

Reg: Kahran is a left-brain/right-brain type who has a love for data/technology as well as the creative side.  She is often the customer facing side of our business and helps to keep the business running.

Kharan: Reg is the “magic maker” and helps to create the magic on set – from props to backgrounds, lighting, camera equipment and more. Although we both shoot, we separate our other roles in the company to give us a little space and freedom to have our own “lanes”.

SB: What advice do you have for couples that are in business together or thinking about it? 

Kharan: The biggest thing that helped us was figuring out our lane and staying in it!  Reg is much better at some of the technical things that I am (such as lighting, prop making, retouching etc.)

I’m much better at the client side of things, business and marketing so we try to stay in our own lanes which gives us a sense of personal ownership even though we both own the business.  It has also helped us avoid lots of arguments!  ?

SB: Where do you see the business in 5 years?

Reg: We have slowly started to grow our business into an international business.  We’d love to continue expanding internationally so that we can take what we do to countries around the world.

SB: What is the most important business skill a photographer need to learn or develop in order to have a successful photography business?

Kharan: Coming from a marketing background, I’m a huge advocate of photographers having some marketing skills.  I believe that this is really important when it comes to photography.

A lot of photographers struggle with this and it makes it hard for them to get their work noticed.
-Tony Oluwatoyin Lawson (IG: @thebusyafrican)


Alonzo Herndon, Atlanta’s First Black Millionaire

Alonzo Herndon was an African American entrepreneur who founded and was the first president of Atlanta Life Insurance Company.

Born in Walton, Georgia on a farm near Social Circle, to Sophenie Herndon, a slave. His father was Frank Herndon, a white farmer to who owned his mother.

After moving to segregated Atlanta, Herndon opened several barbershops including the upscale Crystal Palace in 1902. In 1905, he purchased a small mutual aid association that eventually became the Atlanta Life Insurance Company.

Headquartered here on Auburn Avenue, it grew into one of the country’s most successful black-owned businesses.

The Alonzo Herndon historical marker is located in front of the Georgia State University Honors College at 100 Auburn Ave.

The historical marker reads:

“Alonzo Herndon

Alonzo Herndon was born into slavery in Walton County, Georgia, in 1858. After moving to segregated Atlanta, Herndon opened several barbershops including the upscale Crystal Palace in 1902. In 1905, he purchased a small mutual aid association that eventually became the Atlanta Life Insurance Company.

Headquartered here on Auburn Avenue, it grew into one of the country’s most successful black-owned businesses. A founding member of the National Business League organized by Booker T. Washington in 1900, and of the Niagara Movement (forerunner of the NAACP) organized by W. E. B. Du Bois in 1905, Herndon became noted for his involvement in and support of local organizations devoted to advancing African-American business and community life.

One of Atlanta’s most important twentieth-century entrepreneurs, Herndon died in 1927 and is buried in South-View Cemetery.”

Herndon’s residence is already a tourist destination and historic site in Atlanta. The Herndon Home, 587 University Place NW, is an ornate Beaux Arts house built in 1910.

The house was built exclusively by African American craftsmen and largely designed by Herndon’s first wife, Adrienne.

The Herndon Home was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2000.

Funding for the Alonzo Herndon marker, which was dedicated Oct. 27, came from the Georgia Historical Society, Georgia State University, Atlanta Student Movement Veterans of the 1960s and District 2, Atlanta City Council.