Feeding a Million People by 2030

How does one get into the grub business? For Akissi Stokes, entrepreneur and Atlanta MBDA Business Center client, it was the combination of her ample background in business, childhood experience on her grandfather’s farm, and her travels to areas suffering from food insecurity that led her to seek out alternative and sustainable nutrition solutions. After initially looking for ways to add low-cost and sustainable protein additives to easy-to-make meals, Ms. Stokes soon discovered the international use of bugs as protein rich entities. Although Ms. Stokes initially considered farming crickets, a handful of experimental trials soon led her and her partner to begin working with grubs.

Although Ms. Stokes originally sought out to tackle food insecurity with her grub-based protein additives, she soon began to explore the benefits of expanding her product and its low-cost entry to larger aspects of the supply chain. With this in mind, WUNDERgrubs was established in 2016 as a social franchise which offer a high-quality, alternative protein used as an input for food, feed, fertilizer and manufacturing by-products, and for the first several years in business, WUNDERgrubs focused on rebranding bugs and insects as a nutritional product opposed to the general view of pests.

By 2019, WUNDERgrubs had been producing chocolate chip cookies supplemented with a grounded grub protein powder to help change public perception of insect-based protein, but the company was looking for an opportunity to pivot as a supplier. Returning to the initial emphasis to eliminate food-insecurity, WUNDERgrubs began exploring ways to develop and farm their product that could then be incorporated into a plethora of foods and recipes. By 2020 and the unforeseen Covid-19 pandemic, WUNDERgrubs’ influence stood out as a nutritional alternative when global supply chains were shut down in a matter of months. Today, WUNDERgrubs continues to distribute their protein powders, but they are also establishing public containers and grub hatcheries throughout Atlanta to showcase the resiliency and stability of their grub farming solutions as well as partnering with local bakers to incorporate their product.

Ms. Stokes noted that she first came into contact with the Atlanta MBDA Centers in 2018 after sitting on a panel with program manager, Brandy Nagel. After speaking with Brandy on a follow up phone call, Ms. Stokes registered WUNDERgrubs as an Atlanta MBDA Business Center client and immediately began engaging with the programs and seminars offered by our group.

“There is an intentionality behind the people who are hired at the Centers. There is an incredible breadth of background and expertise amongst the people. It’s important as an entrepreneur to know that the people you are using for business know certain things about your industry. It saves you a lot of time and frustration, and it helps that when you’re sitting down with your business plans and goals that they’re able to understand you.” Akissi Stokes

After the various relationships built through the Atlanta MDBA Centers and connections with Georgia Tech, WUNDERgrubs was soon introduced to the Capstone program at Georgia Tech. Through this program, WUNDERgrubs was assigned a group of graduating Georgia Tech seniors in the Computer Science program to help them develop an application for the company to collect data. WUNDERgrubs will also be returning as a Capstone sponsor this year in search for a social innovation capstone team.

The next few years are looking bright for WUNDERgrubs. As they continue to grow, Ms. Stokes noted that they are focusing on establishing a greater number of holder farms, focusing on rural areas in Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi as well as in Ghana and Nigeria. WUNDERgrubs is also positioning themselves to influence the classification of the insect industry in Georgia. At this time, micro-livestock is not classified by the state of Georgia, so federal funding and agricultural relief aid, such as the ones distributed for the covid-19 pandemic, are not accessible for companies such as WUNDERgrubs. In addition to regional development and policy work, Ms. Stokes also noted that they hope to continue to expand their product options and retail space.

All in all, WUNDERgrubs’ goal is to influence – influence policy, health trends, and market perception towards the future of protein rich insect supplements. To learn more about WUNDERgrubs, make sure to visit their website, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

 

Construction Focused on Social Responsibility

Born in Boston but raised in Colombia, Guiomar Obregon returned to the United States to receive both an MBA and Master of Civil Engineering degree from Georgia Tech. In partnership with her husband, Ms. Obregon opened Precision 2000, a civil-infrastructure construction firm, in 1998, and together they took on their first project at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Over time, Precision 2000 continued to be contracted on projects with Hartsfield-Jackson as well as additional projects with the city of Atlanta and other private companies. Today, Precision 2000 has been one of the few Hispanic female-owned companies to work on the expansion of the Atlanta airport.

Ms. Obregon first came into contact with the Atlanta MBDA Business Center when she was pursuing an 8(a) certification for Precision 2000 in 2002. After her initial application for the certification was returned, Ms. Obregon noted that the guidance and expertise offered by the centers allowed her to refile the application and accurately and effectively navigate through the paperwork to achieve 8(a) certification. Since her initial contact with the Centers, Ms. Obregon has participated in a handful of matchmaking events, roundtables, and meet and greets offered through the Atlanta MBDA Centers.

I thank the MBDA Centers who promote and support minority contractors. Its a huge help to know where to go when you need support or a connection. They are always available to help. Its really great advice and at a great value. Im extremely grateful weve had the opportunity to work with the Atlanta Centers.” – Guiomar Obregon 

Ms. Obregon noted that her education from Georgia Tech has helped propel her forward in her career as an entrepreneur and civil engineer. To continue to inspire the next generation of students from Colombia as well as to promote engineering education, Precision 2000 established the Precision 2000 Inc. Fellowship at Georgia Tech’s School of Building Construction in December of 2017. With an initial commitment of $40,000, and a pledge to increase the fellowship funding to $100,000 in 2021, Precision 2000 continues to invest in the future of a greater, global community. To learn more about the fellowship, click here.

Precision 2000 strives to be the leading civil infrastructure construction company, known for innovation, reliability, and excellence. With a reputation as a respected airport general contractor, it continues to tread forward despite the unprecedented times of the last year. Noting that Precision 2000 survived the 2008 recession and has now survived the 2020 pandemic recession, Ms. Obregon’s positive attitude and leadership style has helped her company navigate the unique circumstances needed to not just rebuild, but excel in their work.

To learn more about Precision 2000, make sure to visit their website and follow them on Facebook and LinkedIn.

 

Pandemic. Pivot. Profit.

Sanquinetta Dover, a South Carolina native, received her undergraduate degree from Spelman College in economics.  One of her first positions after graduation was in New York City.  Ms. Dover began working as a Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) bank liquidator. She noted that she quickly climbed the rankings in her group, travelling around the country helping to close and liquidate failing banks. Soon after relocating to Chicago, she realized that there existed no more opportunities for growth or upward mobility in her work, and after taking advice from some of her career mentors, Ms. Dover became an entrepreneur in Chicago in 1984.  She later moved to Atlanta in 1996 and founded DoverStaffing.

DoverStaffing provides full-service staffing solutions within Georgia and the Southeast Region. Today, DoverStaffing is one of three groups that operate under the Dover Brands alongside human capital management consulting firm DoverSolutions and workforce training group Dover Training Institute. DoverStaffing and the other Dover Brand groups have had continuous success over the years, securing an official, state-wide contract with the State of Georgia in 2008 to provide staffing services for Georgia state government agencies and University System of Georgia operations.

Ms. Dover stated that her relationship with the Atlanta MBDA Centers began after participating in a number of events through the National MBDA. She later became a client of the Atlanta Business Center in 2005, and she has participated in a number of programs offered by both Centers including yearly attendance in the advanced manufacturing summit, attendance on trade missions to South Africa and China, and participation in financial round table discussion with other clients.

“One thing about the workshops and the seminars that I have been able to attend is that they’re a great way to learn overall… This will be our 5th year [attending the manufacturing summit], and I always learn something new, inspiring, and innovative that I can bring back and share with my team.”

Sanquinetta Dover

Most recently, Ms. Dover has capitalized on the assistance offered by the financial team at the Atlanta MBDA Centers on the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Loan Forgiveness Application. Ms. Dover observed that the loan forgiveness application process was very convoluted and that she specifically employed the knowledge and expertise of the Atlanta MBDA Centers to help her through the process. According to Ms. Dover, the advice and direction offered to her by the Center’s staff changed her understanding on various portions of the application process and guided her in the right direction. After receiving funding for the first round of PPP, Ms. Dover sought assistance from the Atlanta MBDA Centers when she needed to complete her application for the second round of PPP.

The future looks bright for DoverStaffing! After sustaining themselves through a global pandemic, Ms. Dover felt the drive to reevaluate the operations and services provided by her brands. As a lifelong learner, Ms. Dover constantly looks for new ways to pivot for her brands to stay current and relevant. After the mass online shift as a result of the pandemic, Ms. Dover began exploring opportunities to provide more training services online and other ways to shift into a virtual environment.

DoverStaffing is currently staffing remote/work from home call center positions that provide information on rental assistance programs. They are currently looking for individuals who speak English and bilingual Korean, Mandarin, Spanish, or Vietnamese. For details on this position and to register for future opportunities, please go to Find a Career at www.doverstaffing.com

To learn more about DoverStaffing, make sure to visit their website and follow their Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram.