Meet … Rhonda Howlett Carroll
Rhonda is founder and principal broker of Clocktower Realty Group, which she launched as an independent firm in 2017. Clocktower has quickly grown to employ 68 agents, with offices in Shockoe Bottom and Midlothian. The company name reflects Rhonda’s deep love for Richmond, specifically Main Street Station, which she remembers fondly from childhood trips to the capital city during the Christmas season.
Walking into Clocktower is quite different from most realty companies, and Rhonda set out to make it that way. The original Shockoe Bottom office is quintessentially Richmond, with its exposed brick walls, decorative tin ceilings, and original skylights. The conference room has a mural of Christopher Wallace, painted by Richmond artist John Price, and private offices feature pictures of hip-hop legends including Jay-Z and the Wu-Tang Clan. As a direct result of Rhonda’s leadership and relentless diligence, Clocktower agents enjoy many benefits, including group health insurance, which is rarely offered to those in real estate.
Rhonda lives by the motto, “Go big or go home.” She says, “If you’re going to do something, knock it out of the park, or don’t waste your time.” She also internalized parental advice to “always take care of those around you” – a focus she extends not only to her agents, but also for her community, as reflected in Clocktower’s extensive charitable work.
Instagram: @clocktower_rva, @rhonda_howlett_realtor
Words I Live By
"Take the Leap!" Too many people float through life in comfort zones. It may not always work out, but it beats sitting on the sidelines wondering "what if" ….
What I'm Obsessed With
- Being on the water
- Music. All genres, all eras
- Quality time with family and friends
What I'm Listening To
Triumph, Wu-Tang Clan
Otis, Jay-Z & Kanye
Liquid Swords, Gza
Take Me to the Top, Motley Crue
#1 Stunna, Big Tymers
I Can, Nas
Steamed crabs, Pearl's gluten-free cupcakes
COVID has led to many a Zoom call with him snoring in the background!
Instagram: 5,740 total (1,214 personal, 4,526 business)
Facebook: 6,057 total (3,233 personal, 2,824 business)
Meet … Polly White
Polly is a serial entrepreneur, business consultant, community leader, author, columnist, and sought-after speaker. Her current endeavor is Gather, Virginia’s premier flexible office space, where she is a founding partner and COO. Gather provides private office space to business professionals looking for a place to get their work done, network with others, meet, and grow personally and professionally. Polly likes to say, “At Gather, we build caring communities.”
Gather has four locations in RVA, including Arts District, Scott’s Addition, Short Pump and the newest location, 14321 Winter Breeze Drive, Midlothian. Gather also has locations in Norfolk, Newport News and Virginia Beach. Gather provides collaborative and creative workspace to more than 1,100 members.
Polly is known nationally and internationally for her columns in Entrepreneur.com, Richmond.com, CNN Money, and Fox Business, among others. She has written two award-winning books with her business partner and husband, Doug. Together, they have taught thousands of entrepreneurs and small businesspeople to grow their businesses profitably.
Polly holds a BBA from Averett University and an MA in human resources development from The George Washington University. Polly gives back to the community through her work with nonprofits, chambers of commerce, foundations, and boards. She is the incoming chair of ChamberRVA.
What I’m Reading
I read to my husband while we drive to our different Gather locations. I am his books on tape! We’re working our way through the New Testament with the help of The Wiersbe Bible Commentary – currently studying Ephesians.
Also: The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile
The “Polly Special” at our local bistro, Toast. They prepare a special dish for me: grilled salmon, white rice, and whatever green vegetable they have in the kitchen!
Words I Live By
“If you don’t like the way your life is going, you can change it. It might take you five years, but you can completely change your path.” – Karl Klawiter, my stepfather – he helped me to change my path
What Drives My Success
My love of small business has been behind everything I have done since I transitioned from corporate work to entrepreneurship in 2002.
What I’m Obsessed With
Playing music and singing in church. I play the guitar, ukulele, and cello. Recently, I’ve sung in-person and played at First Baptist Church in Petersburg, Joy Fellowship in Hopewell and virtually at Bon Air Christian Church.
Squeak and Thomas
Two feral cats Polly domesticated 12 years ago
A partially domesticated feral cat who lives in Polly’s back yard and will sometimes come inside
Meet … Jenn Hart
Jenn is a residential Realtor serving clients under the personal brand Hart & Sold, which falls under the Coach House Realty umbrella. A former school administrator and teacher for 14 years, Jenn is dedicated to educating clients and demystifying the real estate process.
Jenn is a graduate of James Madison University, where she earned her B.A. in English and master’s degree in education. She earned a doctorate in educational leadership in 2006 from the University of Virginia.
Jenn is married to her high school sweetheart, PGA golf pro Scott Graber; the couple will celebrate 25 years together next year and are preparing to send their first child to college. When not working, Jenn loves to travel, stay fit on her Peloton, catch up with friends, and cheer on the sidelines of FC soccer games.
- Selling homes to former students is one of Jenn’s favorite “full circle” moments.
- When she transitioned to real estate, she blogged for local homebuilders, and continues to blog on her website Hart & Sold.
- She taught high school English and wrote curriculum guides for Random House’s young adult division.
- She won Oxford University’s teacher scholarship to study Shakespeare at The Globe, where she trained in 2002.
- Jenn runs a weekly networking group, River City Resources, which she started in 2018.
Pippin Hill in Charlottesville
A good cup of coffee and a nice craft cocktail. Tazza’s Redwood is a favorite.
Words I (Try to) Live By:
Work hard and exceed expectations.
Bella, 17, JRHS Leadership Center, UVA 2025
Zoë, 14, & Liv, 12, Robious Middle School
Daisy, yellow lab
What I’m Obsessed With
- Totally obsessed with training our new sheepadoodle puppy!
- Planning a really great post-pandemic vacation
- All things renovation and interior design (check out my blog!)
- Real estate (yes, really!)
- Remain genuine and think for yourself.
- Be confident in who you are and what you’re good at.
- Listen carefully and ask good questions.
- Take risks; it’s the only way to grow.
Meet … Laurel Otey
Laurel is the owner of Layered Living, a holistic wellness practice. She serves families and businesses worldwide as a certified health coach, international wellness educator, celiac disease advocate, and corporate speaker. All services are available online and by video-call.
Laurel transforms lives through the way we eat and live. Her clients eliminate unpleasant health symptoms and reduce their dependency on medications, resulting in decreased health-care expenses. By alleviating unnecessary suffering, they gain a higher quality of life.
She was inspired to begin her health coaching practice when faced with her child’s health problems. At the time, Laurel’s concerns were dismissed as those of a worried first-time mom. Out of necessity and frustration, Laurel began researching in an effort to become a more informed and effective health advocate for her daughter. In the end, it was identified that her daughter has celiac disease.
This experience showed her that there is still a huge gap in knowledge and support around celiac disease and related conditions in our medical community. Laurel returned to school and graduated from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. She now serves as a necessary bridge between patients and doctors.
- The Four Tendencies: The Indispensable Personality Profiles That Reveal How to Make Your Life Better (and Other People’s Lives Better, Too) by Gretchen Rubin
- The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld
- Eating Gluten Free with Emily: A Story for Children with Celiac Disease by Bonnie J. Kruszka
Homemade curry made by husband Greg.
Words to Live By
“Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live.” - Jim Rohn
1 small avocado
2/3 cup maple syrup
2/3 cup cocoa powder
1/8 tsp sea salt, finely ground
2/3 tsp vanilla extract
Blend all in a food processor until creamy. Serve and enjoy!
What I’m Obsessed With
- Delicious gluten free and allergy friendly food!
- Great sleep. Everything is better when I’m well-rested.
- Asking questions and getting answers. Why settle for solvable problems?
- My amazing family! My husband and our three girls inspire me every day.
"At the start of my Health Coaching Program, I was on 17 medications. By the end of the program, I was down to 4! My seasonal allergies, joint pain, reflux, nausea, and bloating are gone. Food is fun! This is a huge relief mentally, physically, AND financially.” ~ Nicole M.
Meet … Michelle Bettin
Michelle started dancing when she was 3. “By 8 I was dancing ballet, jazz, tap – you name it. My school did dance competitions. I was told I needed more ballet training to get higher scores. At 8, I found ballet boring. My mother found a classical ballet school where I saw my first male dancer and heard the most beautiful classical music.
“Going to my first ballet, I didn't know what to expect. It was Sleeping Beauty at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. When the prima ballerina took her bow in her gorgeous tutu, people gave her a standing ovation and threw roses at her feet. I decided, at age 10, this is what I wanted to do! What other job could you have where people throw roses? Since then, I’ve performed professionally and yes, had roses thrown at my feet!”
- Danced with Ballet Theatre of Maryland, Columbus Dance Theatre, and Manassas Ballet Theatre (where she met husband and dance partner, Jack Bettin).
- At 19, named semi-finalist in the XII International Ballet Competition, Trujillo, Peru.
- Academy Director for the nonprofit Metropolitan Ballet Theatre; on faculty with The Washington School of Ballet, Maryland Youth Ballet, and Joy of Motion
- Certified as a personal trainer
"And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it." - Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist
- Food: Tacos!
- Cocktail: The Picante Margarita from Casa Del Barco
- Spirits: Champagne, but anything with bubbles will do!
Mishka (the name means “baby bear” in Russian)
Samba, Alaskan Klee Kai
What Inspires Me
- My daughter's imagination.
- Nature. Finding feathers brings me joy. They are like little gifts from the universe.
- Fairy gardens. Every spring, my daughter and I create a new one, different from the year before.
- Sitting by a fire pit and telling ghost stories that end up really humorous.
What I'm Obsessed With
- Creating an amazing syllabus for our students. I believe the quality of education and inspiration are essential for children and young adults.
- Understanding how to market and advertise.
- The pandemic has made me re-watch my favorite ‘90s shows from beginning to end, like Star Trek: The Next Generation. It's now an addiction.
Instagram followers: 2,300
Richmond Academy of Ballet
413-C Branchway Road, Richmond VA 23236
Meet … Kimberly “Kay“ Baker
Kay has lived in RVA for 25 years but she’s originally from Missouri and a graduate of the University of Maine, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education (with a minor in sociology). With this background, she taught first, second and fourth grade for about a decade while also coaching junior varsity girls’ basketball. After a period as a stay-at-home mom raising sons, she career-switched from education to business, first owning a martial arts school and then a local embroidery shop, It’s Letter Perfect.
For the last five years she’s owned and operated Sassy Bee, a boutique offering gifts, apparel, jewelry and more. “I get to combine the creativity of teaching with the business sense of owning a shop,” Kay says. “Owning a shop is both art and science – the art is curating the right selection, making it beautiful in the shop and ensuring that our clients always have a wonderful experience, while the science is the business of managing inventory and running our little hive.”
In just five years, Kay and Sassy Bee have developed a real local following. “I love what I do, and I love our community in Midlothian. They’ve truly supported us, and because of their support, we’ve grown every year. We feel the love every day!”
What I’m Obsessed With
- Balancing the art and science of running a small business
- Spending time with my family
- Home décor and design
Words I Live By
"Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice, and most of all, love of what you are doing." - Pele
Tessa, teacup chihuahua
Shachtzi, miniature dachshund
Once you find your passion and love what you do, never stop studying, learning and growing in it!
What I’m reading
- The Happiness Advantage, by Shawn Achor
- Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, by David Allen
Meet … Mary Ellin Arch
Mary Ellin is editor of Midlothian Lifestyle magazine. She also owns P46 Communications, specializing in strategic communications for businesses, with clients including Siddall Communications, Talking Monkey Media, CreativeMKTGroup, Media Lab, and more.
A journalist by training, Mary Ellin worked for The Associated Press, Richmond Times-Dispatch, and Gannett Co. Inc. She holds a master’s degree in strategic public relations from Virginia Commonwealth University and worked for 10 years in corporate PR. With her newspaper experience, Mary Ellin is a natural at writing blog and newsletter articles, and she’s succeeded at winning media exposure for clients, like getting Bloom Matchmaking in Style Weekly in February 2021 and The Shaved Duck Restaurant on Virginia This Morning in 2019.
- Mary Ellin was Virginia AP news editor during the 2002 sniper shootings, and the Times-Dispatch’s online editor during the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre.
- She was profiled by The New York Times in 2011 as an example of a downsized journalist who career-switched into public relations. (Google “A Career Detour” and Mary Ellin’s name to find the article.)
- The P46 in her business name comes one of her favorite scriptures: “Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)
- The Girl Who Smiled Beads: A Story of War and What Comes After, by Clemantine Wamariya & Elizabeth Weil
- False Light, by Eric Dezenhall
- Radical Kindness: The Life-Changing Power of Giving and Receiving, By Angela C. Santomero
Chai tea, lox & cream cheese on an everything bagel, anything chocolate chip cookie dough
Words I (Try to) Live By
“Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” Philippians 4:8
Prefers people to other dogs, never met a chew stick he liked
What I’m Obsessed With
- Books: Belongs to 2 reading groups. Capable of reading 3 or 4 books at a time.
- Star Trek: Grew up watching TOS in the ‘60s. One of “those people” who recites dialogue from memory.
- Faith: Currently a fan of The Chosen, the first multi-season TV show about the life of Christ.
- Grammar: Hates autocorrect. Sighs audibly when people use an apostrophe to make nouns plural.
Read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. It’s for everyone, not just business leaders. My favorite habits: #2 Begin with the End in Mind, #4 Think Win-Win, #5 Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood.
Meet … Emily Alwood
Emily got hooked on photography taking pictures of her American Girl dolls in the ‘90s with a film camera. Her dad, a photographer, sometimes took her on assignments, and Emily loved seeing him in action and picking up tips. In college she studied to become a teacher, but soon afterward, while living in Dominica, she started photographing landscapes. Her first published photo appeared in a local news outlet on the Caribbean island.
She started taking on photography clients part time in 2014, then moved to Florida and later, to Los Angeles, where she continued her photography part time. In 2018 she moved to Richmond and started her business, EmmiClaire Photography, full time. Her husband, Ben, is a licensed drone pilot, allowing her to offer aerial photography as part of her service. She’s taken photos for Midlothian Lifestyle since 2019.
One of Emily’s biggest “claims to fame”: Her appearance on the popular TV game show The Price is Right, where she was selected as a contestant and ACTUALLY WON A BRAND-NEW CAR! Emily tells the story of her big win in her blog, emmiclaire.com/2021/02/05/the-price-is-right/.
Words I Live By
“Don’t worry, be happy!” - Indian mystic Meher Baba, popularized by American singer Bobby McFerrin
What I’m Listening To
- Mumford and Sons
- Florence & The Machine
- Glass Animals
- Bon Iver
- Taylor Swift
Sushi, avocado toast with Everything but the Bagel seasoning, ramen, any kind of pizza
What I’m Obsessed With
- Homemade latte
- Crime podcasts
- Sleeping in with no alarm
- Walking and hiking with my husband, Ben, while capturing personal photos
Establish a good work ethic, advocate for yourself and ask for help when you need it. Also, don’t work non-stop. When I first went full time, I answered business emails at 10 p.m. Now I schedule email time into my work week.
Always a willing photo subject, loves agility training