Startup Stories IV

On Monday February 29th, Four Athens hosted the fourth Startup Stories event in the Rialto Club at Hotel Indigo, bringing local business founders to the stage to share the story of their unique entrepreneurial journeys with the Athens community.



Speakers answer questions from the stage after sharing their individual stories

The first speaker of the evening was Brittney “Naala” Laryea of The Dorm Room Beautician, a startup launched via the UGA Idea Accelerator in the Fall of 2015. Ms. Laryea spoke of her own experience fashioning hairstyles for women of color on campus, and identifying the need for a scheduling and payment platform as a result. As a full-time student set to graduate at the end of this semester, Ms. Laryea shared some key points along her journey toward choosing to start the company with her co-founders (involving an unexpected visit to a psychic in New York), and the support she received along the way from UGA resources and the Four Athens startup community.


Shayna Hobbs, co-founder and Creative Director of Athens-based artisan carpentry team Sons of Sawdust, shared the intensely personal tale of her and co-founder husband Matt’s path from being forced to close their professional photography business, through various family trials, and ending up scraping by with the support of parents and friends in the Athens area. With the arrival of Matt’s brother Ben and their inspired construction of the now famous farm-style dining table from reclaimed barn wood, Sons of Sawdust was founded by the trio (and luckily aptly named by Ms. Hobbs– their other name was “Bearded Woodsmen”). Applying her photography and storytelling talents, along with impressive social media savvy, Ms. Hobbs established an impressive Instagram following in a very short time, bringing the Sons of Sawdust brand acclaim from across the country.



Creature Comforts CEO Chris Herron shows his previous business ventures to the audience

Finally, Chris Herron, CEO of beloved local craft brewery Creature Comforts, shared parts of his entrepreneurial journey, starting as a would-be national team soccer player, through various iterations of some colorful business plans over the years (our favorite: Magnetisements), to recognizing the right opportunity to realize his dream of working in craft beer through a fateful introduction to the co-founders of Creature Comforts Brewing Company. Mr. Herron’s accompanying presentation was titled The Purpose of Failure, an eloquent theme of building upon important lessons from failures big and small across one’s life in order to truly recognize when the right opportunity emerges.



Brittney Laryea, Shana Hobbs, and Chris Herron answer questions from the audience

Rachel Watkins of children’s literacy project Books for Keeps, and Events Director at Classic City’s favorite book store Avid Bookshop, served as MC for the evening, introducing each speaker and deftly facilitating a brief Q&A session with the audience toward the program’s end. During the Q&A, all three speakers stressed the importance of having a community of support and working with the right team as critical to the success of their ventures.


Ms. Watkins summed up the tone of the evening during her closing remarks by commenting on the inspiring nature of the stories shared by these Athens business leaders, and noting the number of engaged members of our community in attendance to hear them.


The Startup Stories speaker series is a unique opportunity for the community to hear true stories of entrepreneurship and startup experiences directly from real sources. Previous Startup Stories speakers have included founders, CEOs, and UGA Alumni from companies such as, Cogent Education, EvoShield, Scoutmob, Insightpool, and Yik Yak, among others.


We sincerely thank everyone involved– our speakers and partners, and the supportive Athens community at large– for making this another successful Startup Stories event. We hope to see you at the next one coming in Fall 2016!

Tamara Neff
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