For the second year, our readers voted for Jewish Atlanta’s top entrepreneurs. This time, 11 nominees received nearly 2,000 votes, and the top three are your finalists. These finalists will have a separate vote, between Nov. 15 and Dec. 15, to determine the Entrepreneur of the Year. The final three are: Matt Bronfman (35.35 percent), Sandra and Clive Bank (30.7 percent) and Sara Blakely (11.75 percent).
Get to know the top three finalists here:
Matt Bronfman is the CEO of Jamestown Properties who was instrumental in the re-imagining of Ponce City Market into the bustling place it is today.
Originally from Overland Park, Kansas, Bronfman studied at Tufts University and then Northwestern University Law School. After graduating from law school magna cum laude, he clerked for a federal appellate judge and then went to work for Holland & Knight in Atlanta practicing real estate and corporate law.
He joined Jamestown in 1998 and has now worked there for over 20 years. Acquiring billions of dollars of real estate in the last decade, it has been a driving force behind ongoing redevelopment of some of Atlanta’s most iconic scenes, including The Shops Buckhead Atlanta and Ponce City Market.
2019 has been a banner year for Jamestown, Bronfman explained, as they have completed over a billion dollars of real estate purchases and are expanding their business into new places, especially in Europe, and also purchased Levi’s Plaza in San Francisco, Jamestown’s biggest deal of the year.
“We’ve been keeping very busy. In Atlanta, we purchased The Shops Buckhead Atlanta and launched a community engagement campaign to help guide our vision for the property. … We furthered our commitment in the technology and innovation space, making direct investments in promising startups,” he said. “These are just a few of the many highlights that will help set the stage for an exciting 2020 and beyond.”
Bronfman credited his economic spirit to his father.
“My dad started his first business while in college and was an entrepreneur his entire life. He always taught me that it is not what happens to you in life but how you respond to it,” he said. “As someone who has been part of multiple economic cycles and worked on challenging projects, those words of wisdom have been very valuable.”
Bronfman serves on the board of Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta and was previously on the boards of The Epstein School and The Weber School.
He explained that if he were to be named Entrepreneur of the Year, it would be due to his invaluable support.
“It would be an honor and a true reminder of how fortunate I have been. I have great partners (at work and at home); work alongside a tremendous team at Jamestown; won the lottery by having great parents and a Dad who taught me about business; and have the opportunity through my good fortune to give back to the community,” he said.
Sandra and Clive Bank
Natives of South Africa, Sandra and Clive Bank are the owners of Added Touch Catering, which has been a fixture of the Atlanta culinary scene since 1996.
Added Touch is headed by Sandra, who first developed her love of food in South Africa cooking for her parents’ dinner parties, and further developed her skills upon moving to Atlanta, working as a private chef and for caterers and restaurants.
“I believe both the spirit and the secret to success in any business is being passionate about what you do,” Sandra said. “I love entertaining and creating unforgettable experiences for people.”
She also explained that she strives for perfection in every order, whether that be a pick-up order at A Healthy Touch, their café at the Marcus JCC, or “a 500-person gala.”
“I truly believe we are only as good as our last party,” she said. “Because so many of our clients are Jewish Atlantans – there are some weeks where the same group of people may be eating our food at two or three different events – to keep it exciting, I am always pushing the envelope to create new and unique menu items and presentations.”
Among the reasons 2019 was exciting for Added Touch was the JCC Maccabi Games, which were hosted in Atlanta over the summer.
“We served over 9,000 meals in four days for the JCC Maccabi Games,” Clive said. He added that they work with a number of Jewish organizations and fundraisers and travel to cater kosher events throughout the Southeast.
“We feel very rewarded, looking back on this year, to know that we have elevated kosher [food] in this city,” he said.
Sandra noted that she is especially thrilled at seeing people with whom she worked take on larger roles in the Atlanta culinary and events world, especially women.
“It makes me very proud to look around and see so many successful young women in the Atlanta food and events industry whom I’ve had the pleasure of mentoring, who first got their start at Added Touch,” she said.
Sandra explained that the list of nominees consisted of a lot of familiar faces.
“The irony is that I have either worked in the kitchens of or catered events for almost every one of my fellow 2019 Entrepreneur of the Year nominees,” she said. “I feel very blessed and have gratitude to be recognized among this incredible group of people.”
Sara Blakely is the billionaire owner and founder of Spanx, a widely popular women’s undergarment line, and a minority owner of the Atlanta Hawks.
Born in Clearwater Fla., Blakely grew up planning to follow in her father’s footsteps as an attorney. She graduated from Florida State University but bombed the LSAT twice and took it as a sign the law may not be for her.
“In my mind, the universe was now telling me to drive to Disney World and audition for the role of Goofy,” Blakely told Gillian Zoe Segal, author of “Getting There: A Book of Mentors,” earlier this year. “That’s literally how I responded to my defeat. But [Disney World] only auditioned people for the character roles every once in a while, so in the meantime, I got a job at Epcot.”
After working at Disney, she returned home and began selling fax machines door to door, something she knew she had a knack for. During that time, she thought about what she wanted to do with her life.
“I knew I was good at selling and that I eventually wanted to be self-employed. I thought, instead of fax machines, I’d love to sell something that I created and actually care about,” she told Segal.
Finding herself without the right apparel one day in 1998, Blakely took a pair of scissors to a pair of pantyhose — the genesis of her business.
Going into production in 2000, Spanx has seen enormous growth over 19 years, and Blakely skyrocketed to business superstardom. In 2012, at 41, Forbes named her the youngest self-made woman billionaire. Spanx has since expanded beyond just the original footless pantyhose and into all facets of the women’s apparel market.
Blakely is also the founder of the Sara Blakely Foundation, which since its inception in 2006 has donated millions to charities around the world that uplift underserved women and girls.
In 2013 Blakely was the first self-made billionaire to commit to Melinda and Bill Gates’ and Warren Buffet’s Giving Pledge, vowing to donate at least half of her net worth to charity.
She and husband Jesse Itzler are co-owners of the Atlanta Hawks and have four children. She is a guest judge on Shark Tank and remains Georgia’s only female billionaire.
Cast your vote for AJT’s 2019 Entrepreneur of the Year Nov. 15 to Dec. 15, at www.surveymonkey.com/r/2019BizVote