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UGA Small Business Development Center clients recognized on 2015 Bulldog 100 list

Amanda Crook Pawtropolis-h
Amanda Crook

Athens, Ga. – Of the 100 fastest-growing businesses recognized by the University of Georgia Alumni Association this year, 21 have received assistance from the UGA Small Business Development Center, a unit of the office of Public Service and Outreach.

The 2015 Bulldog 100 ranks the annual growth of businesses owned or operated by UGA alumni. This is the sixth year that the alumni association has sponsored the recognition program.

“Business owners like those in the Bulldog 100 think strategically and plan for growth,” said SBDC Director Allan Adams. “The SBDC provides ongoing educational resources to help business owners like these enhance their chances for success.”

More than 450 nominations were submitted this year. Companies were evaluated and ranked based on a compounded annual growth rate during a three-year period. The final list includes businesses of all sizes representing a wide range of industries from technology services to sustainable farming and everything in between.

SBDC client Liberty Technology, owned by Ben Johnson and located in Griffin, has been recognized as part of the Bulldog 100 since 2013. The company was also ranked in 2013 and 2014 on the INC 5000, a program that recognizes the fastest-growing private companies in America. Johnson initially came to the SBDC in 2010 to attend a FastTrac-now GrowSmart-class, and has worked with consultant Alisa Kirk since.

“Ben is never content for his operations to stay the way they are. He’s always looking for ways to improve and expand. Of course he’s managed to not only survive, but to flourish,” she said.

Since receiving SBDC assistance, Liberty Technology has grown from 9 employees to 24 and provides a full spectrum of IT outsourcing services to more than 70 clients around the world.

Pawtropolis, a pet boarding facility and training facility located in Athens, and an SBDC client since 2002, was also recognized on this year’s list. More than 12 years ago, SBDC consultant Carol McDonell assisted Pawtropolis owner Amanda Crook in developing an initial business plan.

“I thought I was doing great…but it was a joke,” said Crook. “I knew what I wanted, but [McDonell] helped me get to the concrete numbers that would make my dreams a reality. We put the plan down on paper and showed the bank that this was going to be a reliable business.”

With McDonell’s help, Crook acquired a $1 million small business loan to purchase land and build the first Pawtropolis. In just five years, Crook had 25 employees and the facility was filled to capacity on a regular basis. In 2012, Crook again turned to the SBDC to attend the GrowSmart program in Athens. McDonell helped her create projections for a $2.2 million loan that Crook used to build a larger, second Pawtropolis facility.

“Many people think we only help businesses at start-up, but most of the businesses we work with are existing,” said McDonell. “We help when they are in the process of expanding and growing.”

As a land and sea grant institution, UGA has as part of its mission to help Georgia grow and prosper. The SBDC and other units in the Office of Public Service and Outreach work with communities throughout the state to help create jobs, develop leaders and address critical challenges.

Other SBDC clients recognized on this year’s list include White Oak Farms in Early County, and Infinity Network based in Macon. For the full list or to learn more about the Bulldog 100, see

Honorees will be recognized at an awards ceremony on Feb. 7 at the Atlanta Marriott Marquis. Hala Moddelmog, President and CEO of the Metro Atlanta Chamber, will be this year’s keynote speaker. For more information on the event, contact

The UGA SBDC has 17 locations throughout the state to assist small businesses and entrepreneurs. The 2015 GrowSmart program will begin in Athens on Feb. 13 and in DeKalb/Atlanta on March 27. For more information on the program, see