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Women Of Midtown

Meet 5 Midtown Women Who influence Our Community

Article by Sean O'Keefe, Sue Baldani

Photography by Christopher Gaines

Originally published in Midtown Lifestyle

Paula Wallace:  President and Founder of SCAD:

Paula Wallace, the president and founder of Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), believes she owes her success to the women who influenced her as a child. “I learned resilience from my mother, May Poetter, who earned two university degrees in the 1950s while raising two daughters. I acquired diligence from Peggy Mayfield, who taught me classical piano for many years, and I discovered the sheer joy of teaching from Tilly Beard, my Latin teacher. These women equipped me with all I needed to create SCAD—now with 60,000 alumni and students the world over,” she said. “A dream come True”

A native of Atlanta, Paula was never afraid to confront challenges, and her determination to overcome them has made SCAD what it is today. “I don’t so much face challenges as make them” Her commitment to prove that creative professions can be just as viable as other professions led to the school’s rallying cry of “No starving artists!”

“Creative professions are now premium, because the world has woken up to the fact that creative education is fundamentally about invention and entrepreneurialism—two virtues prized by every organization and business,” she said. 

The past two SCAD graduating classes have achieved a remarkable 99% employment rate. The college is also a boon for Midtown; for 42 years, SCAD’s had a positive economic impact on the area. Midtown alone is more than $150 million annually.

“I’m an educator, and my goal has always been to provide each student a lifelong profession,” said Paula. “The rewards are seeing their lives and families and futures transformed by a SCAD diploma. Watching graduates at commencement brings me boundless joy and not a few tears of profound gratitude.”

Her advice to other women: “Let nothing deter you from your goals and love freely. The universe rewards love.”

Meredith Regains: Executive Director Georgia Lawyers for the Arts

Finding a balance between your work and pleasure is typically very hard to accomplish for the best of us, but; for Meredith Regains, who has served as the Executive Director of Georgia Lawyers for the Arts since 2013, it is a balance that she lives every day!  “It is unbelievably gratifying to give back to Georgia’s arts community in such a unique way,” said Meredith. “I have absolutely zero artistic talent, which means that I am strictly a patron of the arts. To be able to give back to the artists is the reason I do what I do.” Georgia Lawyers for the Arts provides pro bono legal services to our state’s artists, arts organizations, and inventors.

Along with its legal staff and more than 1000 volunteer attorneys, Georgia Lawyers for the Arts provides more than $3,500,000 in pro bono legal services to artists of all disciplines, including fine artists, musicians, graphic designers, dancers, writers, and actors.   Meredith remembers two of the most influnecial people in her life with great fondness. “My Uncle, Charlie Lester who is a retired partner at Sutherland, Asbill, and Brennan (now Eversheds Sutherland), inspired me to move from private practice to the not-for-profit world.  I can never remember a time when he did not have five or six pro bono cases at one time,” said Meredith.   Her  grandmother, Mary Simmons, preached and preached about the value of education throughout her entire life; “my grandmother pushed me every day to do my best in school and that one day it would pay off!” 

And pay off, it did indeed!  After graduating from Emory University and Mercer Law School, Meredith clerked for the Honorable G. Ernest Tidwell of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia prior to working at Robins Kaplan, where she was in the Commercial Litigation practice group for over twelve years.  Amongst her many accomplishments Meredith was awarded by the State Bar of Georgia with its Pro Bono Project Award for her outstanding work with pro bono clients.  Doesn’t it seem like Meredith and Georgia Lawyers for the Arts were meant to be together?   Today, in addition to her work with Georgia Lawyers for the Arts, Meredith is an adjunct professor at Emory Law School where she teaches contract drafting.  Meredith also regularly lectures at Georgia State University College of Law and Georgia Tech on intellectual property related projects. Georgia Lawyers for the Arts and Meredith Regains are busy preparing for two of the organizations most innovative and fun fundraisers.  Bourbon and Bites, an annual event that partners four bourbons, each uniquely paired with four delicious appetizers will be held in August at W Hotel Midtown.  There is also the Annual Charity Gala and Art Auction!  The organization auctions over 100 works of art most of which are donated by artists who have received pro bono legal services from the organization.  “We love that our artists/clients continue to support our organization in this important way”, exclaimed Meredith; “if you are looking for art from Georgia’s best artists, this is a must attend event!” 

Kanyatta Walker Vice President, Client Product Support

Originally from Greenville, MS, and now working in Atlanta, Kanyatta Walker feels that her heritage is a constantly reminder to work hard in order to be able to reap rewards. And work hard she has.

With over 20 years of experience as a technology leader, a B.S. from the University of Southern Mississippi, and an MBA from Emory University Goizueta Business School, she has overcome many obstacles in order to obtain the high goals she’s always set for herself.

“As an African-American female, I am often discounted,” said Kenyatta. “I am often reminded or told that I cannot do something because of others’ inability to understand my true value/skills.”

Fortunately, her parents never placed limits on what she could accomplish and always referred her to Matthew 19:26 in the Bible that states, “…with God all things are possible.”

Here is Kanyatta’s advice to other women when it comes to pursuing goals:

·       Dream BIG - I am inspired by Mae Jemison’s quote: “Never limit yourself because of others' limited imagination; never limit others because of your own limited imagination.”

·       Don’t let fear or someone else stop you from doing something - I consider God to be the source of my strength. I follow 2 Timothy 1:7: “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”

·       Lift as you climb – Once you have achieved or accomplished your personal goals, reach back and help someone else to achieve their goals.

Mary Moore:  Owner, The Cooks Warehouse

Mary Moore grew up on a farm where she and her family raised pigs, chicken, cows and vegetables.  Being surrounded by powerful female influencers such as her mother, grandmother, and great aunts who all loved to cook, it is easy to see how Mary Moore would become a leader the burgeoning Atlanta culinary community.  “We did a lot of planting, tending, harvesting, and cooking as a family”, said Mary.  “These amazing women were an incredible influence to me not only for cooking but also for how to live and make the most of life through good deeds, hard work, and determination.”

It was many years ago as the then Director of Research and Development for Harry’s Farmer’s Market and; while on a trip to New York City, Mary discovered Bridge Kitchenware; a playground for everything culinary.  She knew instantly that she was going to open a store like it in Atlanta! “Since opening The Cooks Warehouse on March 14th, 1995, for 25 years I have been selling great tools and teaching people how to cook. My passion then and today is to give everyone in Atlanta every excuse to cook.” Mary has been living her passion ever since, serving Atlanta as the founder and CEO of The Cooks Warehouse.

Mary remembers very special birthday dinners as her family gathered around her grandmother’s table. “Great Aunt Edie’s cheese biscuits were always a part of the menu and I made hundreds with her as a child.” Today, Mary is making culinary memories for others by celebrating with her friends and family by treating them to some of her favorites.  “One of my specialties and most requested meals for entertaining is Paella, I love the rich and complex flavors but it is hard to beat a delicious sous-vide tenderloin with red wine sauce”, said Mary.

To Learn more about Mary Moore and the Cooks Warehouse check out the website; cookswarehouse.com

Stacy Griner. Owner, Kika Stretch Studios Midtown

As a child growing up in East Orange, NJ, Stacy Griner and her family survived with the help of public assistance. Now, many years later, Stacy has retired from a successful legal career and is the owner of Kika Stretch Studios in Midtown, which she said allows her to be able to give back.

“I feel proud of myself, I have to say,” said Stacy. “I think about where I started, how I grew up, and how resourceful I’ve been pretty much my whole life, to get to this point. I’m actually helping others in terms of giving them opportunities, giving them jobs as well.”

The switch from working for someone else to starting her own business, though, was not easy.

“I had never been in business before and I’m still learning a lot,” said Stacy. “I leaned on my project management skills, but the challenge for me was understanding all the steps involved in starting a business and how long everything can take.”

There were also the financial challenges of launching a business. She overcame these obstacles by being creative and doing a lot of research to find alternative funding options so she can open even more studios.

Despite the difficulties, Stacy’s glad she persevered and encourages other women to follow their dreams.

“Life is short, and they should just go for it,” she said. “I really do believe that. If you bet on yourself, and you believe in yourself, and you really do put the work in, anything is possible.”

Q&A pull quote:

What advice would you give other women about starting a business?

“Life is short, and they should just go for it.”

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