We spoke to several leading ladies around Cobb and beyond to find out what the women of the Atlanta metro are up to lately — and the answer is, a lot! From running busy companies and nonprofits to raising families and connecting with their communities, these powerhouse individuals are raising the bar for us all, in a good way.
Dr. Cristi Cheek
Owner, Cheek Dental
Dr. Cristi Cheek has known since second grade that dentistry was her calling. While daydreaming of a career, her mother always assured her she could become and achieve anything. “It never occurred to me that any goal could ever be out of reach because of my mom instilling that belief,” Dr. Cheek says.
After attending the Medical College of Georgia and receiving a degree in Dental Medicine, Dr. Cheek worked as an associate for a local practice for two years before opening her current practice, Cheek Dental in East Cobb. “We have grown to a team of 14, including myself, my associate Dr. Kristy Chandler and some really talented staff members,” she says. “I have found that if you truly care about people, people recognize and appreciate that, and your business will naturally grow!”
“The practice embodies our six core values, two of which are ‘a servant’s heart’ and ‘honesty and integrity,’” she adds. “We love serving our community, delivering excellent service while making each visit as pleasant — and even as fun — as possible! We want our patients to feel that they are among friends here … friends who truly care about their needs and wants and who treat them like family. One of my greatest rewards is knowing we have earned the complete trust of a patient.”
While running her busy practice and raising three kids alongside her husband of 20 years, Dr. Cheek always finds time to advance her profession by taking hundreds of course hours to further her skills in cosmetic dentistry, implant procedures, sleep medicine and more — and she shares her knowledge with other dentists.
She feels deeply that helping those less fortunate is important and has been involved in mission trips to Haiti and Alaska through her church and served in the Mission of Mercy, providing free dental services to underprivileged Georgians. “I’ve also always supported our local schools’ sports and band programs through sponsorships from Cheek Dental. I know those programs are beneficial to our kids, and I enjoy conversing with fellow marching band parents at my son’s performances and at my daughter’s volleyball games,” she says, smiling.
Owner/Co-founder, Tumble & Dry
Sarah Churilla has worked in laundry and dry cleaning from the young age of 14 — and, as a native of East Cobb, she started at Crown Cleaners. After graduating from Georgia Southern and working for a health care laundry company called ImageFIRST, which served hospitals and surgery centers throughout Atlanta, Sarah became one of the co-founders of Tumble & Dry, a modern laundry service that makes everyone’s life easier.
Sarah has always been inspired and encouraged by the women in her life — from her mother, sisters and aunts to her mother-in-law and close female friends. “I'm lucky to be surrounded by strong, dynamic women,” she says. “My mom has always been a voice of reason, encouraging me to push toward my goals. My sisters Jen and Morgan, my soon-to-be sister Emily and my aunts Judy and Gerry have been supportive along this journey. My mother-in-law, a "Laundry Fairy," has helped set the bar high for our quality standards. Finally, my dear girlfriends have helped to promote T&D locally. I am so grateful for their support and love.”
She’s also swift to credit her husband, Andrew, and 5-year-old son, Drew, who is on the autism spectrum, for T&D’s success. “My goal is to build a business where Drew can one day find employment and a sense of purpose. He is my joy and my own ‘north star’ every day in growing this brand. I’m also having lots of fun along the way!” she says.
“As a new business, our current focus is establishing a strong foundation and strategic partnerships,” she adds. “Coincidentally, my business partner also has a son named Drew who is on the spectrum, and one of our long-term goals is to create opportunities for adults with disabilities to find work in our laundromats.”
Sarah believes that having a luxury such as laundry care can alleviate daily stress and allow for more time to enjoy the richness of life. “In today's world, we are overloaded with responsibilities but not time,” she notes. “By letting T&D handle the task of laundry, our clients can spend more time with their families doing what they enjoy. We provide time, efficiency and freedom — not just a laundry service.”
Executive Director, City Springs Theatre Company
Natalie DeLancey, executive director at City Springs Theatre Company, helped launch the theater company as a managing director in 2017. Before that, she held a number of esteemed roles in the arts — as well as produced and directed the Shuler Hensley Awards, receiving a Southeast Regional Emmy. “For as long as I can remember, performing arts have been a part of my life, including training and studying musical theater through high school at Pebblebrook High School’s Cobb County Center for Excellence in the Performing Arts,” she says. “I received my bachelor’s in Theatre and Performance Studies from Kennesaw State University’s College of the Arts.”
Natalie is inspired by her grandmother, Barbara Williams, who was a passionate proponent for a strong arts presence in Cobb. “Since I was a little girl, I have admired the way she connected with the community,” she says. “I knew my career was destined to continue the work that she began. While my work has taken me to Sandy Springs, the community continues to be the driving force behind what we have built and is what fuels me to build a robust arts community.”
A believer in the importance of loving one’s profession, Natalie treasures her role with City Springs and the opportunity to bring high-quality theater to patrons throughout Atlanta. She also takes an active role in building key relationships. “I’ve prioritized getting to know as many of our donors, subscribers, conservatory students and parents as possible,” she notes. “At every performance, I’m present in the lobby to greet people during intermission and after the show. I speak to our donors daily, and I get to know the parents who wait for their child while they take a voice lesson at our studio space.”
In the wake of the pandemic, Natalie urges those who value the arts to return to the theater. “Live theater is continuing to rebuild, and we need the community’s help,” she says. “If you are able, please consider supporting your favorite arts organization by seeing shows, purchasing season tickets or making a tax-deductible donation. City Springs Theatre Company was born out of the community, and we have been intentional in engaging its supporters on a deeper level.”
Assistant Vice President, Operations & Transformational Excellence
Wellstar Health System
Victoria Dune-Chari works diligently to ensure the systems of Wellstar are efficient and provide high-quality care for each patient. She has led two hospitals to achieve the Governor’s Sterling Award and the Georgia Oglethorpe Award, and her scope of experience includes Ancillary & Support Services; Site Lean Transformational Excellence; Logistics and Patient Planning; Service Excellence and Emergency Management; and acting as Wellstar’s System Clinical Operations Liaison.
“I have helped health care teams improve performance to achieve top decile patient experience and top decile team member engagement, and I’ve led multiple high-dollar capital projects that improved access for those we serve,” she says.
Victoria owes much of her success to her mother, Yedzai Ruwadzano Dune, whose story continues to inspire her. When Yedzai passed away at 57 years of age after a six-year battle with end stage renal disease, Victoria was humbled by meeting the many people her mother had touched. “She believed in helping people help themselves. She was an educator, starting her career as an elementary school teacher and ending as the principal at a school for children with disabilities,” Victoria says. “My mother made sure my sisters and I understood that a woman must be able to stand on her own two feet — and she emphasized the importance of a good education.”
A woman of strong Christian faith, Victoria believes she is in the right role – taking care of others is the brand promise of Wellstar, and she feels passionately about their mission. “We believe in personalized care that values every person as an individual,” she notes. “I have two sons, and their preferences when they see the doctor are different — what is most important is that they receive care tailored to their needs at Wellstar.”
Those inspired by Victoria are in luck; she loves to encourage those interested in a career in health care. “I love that my career connects me to a clear purpose,” she remarks. “I’m always excited about the opportunity to talk to an early careerist because of the many different career trajectories available. I began as a Nuclear Medicine Technologist, working with radio-pharmaceuticals, and now I work with all Wellstar facilities on Quality, Safety and Operational Excellence initiatives.”
Owner, Simply Fresh Market
Dolores Svensson grew Simply Fresh Market from 500 square feet to a whopping 3,000 square feet with an onsite kitchen, wine, gifts and more. Her secret lies in love for global flavors, dedication to quality and inspiring people in her life. Born in Philadelphia to Italian immigrant parents, Dolores was the middle daughter among seven. “My mom was my inspiration. She was the Italian Martha Stewart of our neighborhood: grew her own fruits and vegetables, made breads and pasta and hosted the most heavenly Sunday dinners!” she says.
Dolores now brings her same passion for food to working with customers. “I love my business and my customers; they’ve truly become an extension of my family,” she says. Although her two daughters have significant careers of their own, they continually offer their insights and bring a fresh perspective to current trends.
The food at Simply Fresh Market is fresh, seasonal and convenient, and the shop is beautifully curated with seasonal décor. The home accessories are unique and functional; there is something for everyone’s tastes and budget. Stop by and meet the owner herself — she not only meets expectations, she surpasses them. Simply Fresh is an East Cobb gem, not to be missed.
Vice President, HNTB Corporation
Lisa Thompson, a lifelong resident of Georgia and graduate of the University of Georgia, is vice president of HNTB Corporation, where she has successfully grown the firm by more than $250 million. Describing herself as a “glass half-full” kind of thinker, Lisa fosters the belief that she can achieve goals and meet any sort of challenge with the proper focus, drive and determination – and she gets this belief honestly from the key people of her life who inspired her: her mother, Marie Roberts; her grandmother, Hallie Locke; and two career mentors, Freddi Hagin and Mary Jane O’Meara.
“I believe in treating my clients and colleagues as extended family,” she says. “With this attitude, you pour your heart into making sure their needs are met, and, most of the time, you find that behavior to be reciprocated.”
Lisa gives back to the community in myriad ways. She has served on the boards of Women in Transportation International and the International Bridge, Tunnel & Turnpike Association Foundation, and she currently serves on the American Public Transit Foundation’s board of directors. In 2022, Thompson was honored with the Living in Legacy Award by Atlanta’s WTS chapter and was a 2023 Dress for Success Atlanta honoree.
“It’s important to get involved in third-party organizations to expand your knowledge and network,” she says. “I firmly believe that to whom much is given, much is expected. That’s why I volunteer, mentor younger colleagues and donate both time and money to nonprofits and foundations that I believe are truly making a daily difference. I invest in the fortune of others, especially women and children.”
Mary Jane and Nanci Reilly
Co-owners, Reilly Resort Representatives
Mary Jane and Nanci Reilly are a mother-and-daughter “dream team” as owners of Reilly Resort Representatives. The firm serves over 540 hotels across 90+ countries, and the owners have over 30 years of experience with renowned hospitality brands such as Vail Resorts, Preferred Hotel Group and more. “We bring a wealth of expertise to our company,” says Mary Jane. “My mom brings knowledge and experience, while I bring fresh, innovative ideas to the table.”
Both daughter and mother agree their roles are always shifting and evolving — in better ways than they ever expected. “We chuckle about how many of us just stumble into the hospitality world. But now, my mission and fresh obsession is to ignite a spark in budding pros and show them the magic of this industry,” Mary Jane comments. “If your heart's set on luxury travel, here's the inside scoop: Tap into your network, and be ready for anything because you never know where it'll take you.”
Because the travel industry requires staying ahead of the curve, Mary Jane and Nanci are always building relationships and researching trends. “Our industry boasts a robust, closely connected community that has helped propel our company to its current success,” Mary Jane notes. “To maintain these invaluable relationships, we attend various industry conferences and events and even organize our own roadshows where we journey to our key markets every quarter. By doing so, we stay in the loop and keep our fingers on the pulse of our industry.”
Founder and Owner, Page & Carl Henry Group, Harry Norman Realtors
Page Henry’s passion for real estate began at a young age, accompanying her father on drives around town to check out family-owned properties, listening to stories about his love for the industry. Later, Page would pursue a degree in Textiles and Design, obtaining roles with Vick’s Pharmaceutical Company in Atlanta, then Hanes Corporate in New York. “Those roles taught me the value of in-depth research and attention to detail,” she says.
This same tenacity ended up serving her well when she forayed into real estate. Starting as an assistant to a successful Realtor in the Harry Norman Buckhead office, Page learned “the real estate ropes” from the woman she calls “a wonderful mentor.” “She taught me about constant perseverance in the field, especially when it comes to listening to your clients and being able to find them a real estate opportunity that meets their wishes. She was . . . an amazing real estate professional, and I will always be grateful to her.”
Today, as co-founder of the Page & Carl Henry Group alongside her husband, Page is “always moving forward with purpose.” A runner and an early riser, she believes health and wellness are true keys to success – as well as spending time with family, friends and clients who “fill her with joy.” “One of the highlights of my career was being the recipient of the Harry Norman Realtors President’s Award, for the associate who has distinguished themselves in the community and industry,” she says. “In addition, serving on the Atlanta Woman’s Club Board of Trustees — one of Atlanta’s oldest nonprofit women's organizations in Atlanta — has been a truly rewarding life experience.”