meet our team


operational

Jonathan Hosseini (Founder and CEO) stirs up creative change and weaves together ideas for a living. Over the last 20 years he has led change in a diverse range of organizations, from multibillion dollar corporations to UNICEF to local and national government agencies to innovative startups. He has been branded as “the innovationeer”. Over the last 10 years he served as Vice President of Global Strategic Alliances and Vice President of Operational Perfection at Southwire Company and Director of Strategic Initiatives for Beaulieu Group. From a young age he has passionately believed in the mobilization of communities through investments in Agriculture, Education and Health. He is an engineering graduate of Worcester Polytechnic Institute and University of Pennsylvania and holds an MBA from Emory University. His business outlook spans work and travel in 43 countries and over 452 cities and towns. His agricultural experience started with work for a contract gardener at the age of 12 and includes 3 years tending his own flock of 1000 free range laying hens in Southern Africa.

 

Michael Meyers (CFO)  has a professional record spanning three decades of senior executive experience including seven as CFO in public, multi-national high tech & software companies and four as CEO in high tech startups. He brings a highly relevant background of delivering results in the USA and internationally in food retail, technology startups and green technologies. Michael and his family are passionate good food advocates.

 

 

Zia Khan (Co-Founder) is a strategist. Since 1994 his consultancy has served clients such as AT&T, Coca-Cola, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, Home Depot and Mohawk Industries, on engagements ranging from brand identity to stakeholder communication. In his 20-plus years as a designer, Khan has traveled to 16 countries and his firm’s work has been nationally recognized for excellence in the industry. An ardent believer in integrative thinking as a winning strategy for business success, he currently serves on the national board of the AIGA – the professional association for design. Strongly motivated by the Gandhian ethos of being the change that one wishes to see, he relishes disrupting the status quo. Having grown up in an old-world culture he has seen first-hand how local food fosters a tighter, healthier and sustainable community.

 

 

advisory

Kevin Nickels (Technology Partner) has over 30 years experience in high technology, and has worked in startups since 1989.  He is a known and respected entity in web based technology circles. As CEO of Netmosphere, he was a pioneer in web based collaboration technologies until the successful sale of the firm in 2000. Kevin has deep domain expertise in Cloud Computing, Service Oriented Architectures, Business applications of Social Networks and business models. Most recently Kevin led a team of developers to create the FatFractal cloud computing development platform which is opening the door for proliferation of new distributed computing technologies.

 

Mike Holst (Technology Partner) is one of the top Java developers in the world and has over 25 years of experience. He has been working with startup companies since 1995 when he joined Netscape as a Senior Software Engineer. His background ranges from deep information retrieval expertise and algorithms to enterprise shrink-wrap software to large scale commercial web sites. Mike’s focus the last five years has been the development and scaling of service oriented architectures using Java and related technologies.

 

Tahiri Merkel (Retail Systems) is a veteran food and beverage retail professional. She is the co-founder of tahCha, a popular and growing community-focused tea house brand in Atlanta. She has 7 years of retail management experience with Trader Joe’s, an international specialty grocery store, with extensive involvement in all aspects of opening up new regions and rolling out new stores, as the company expanded across the US. She also brings 15 years of experience in the restaurant beverage industry, including working in and managing two different tearooms. Tahiri directs her energies to the development and execution of food retail business models that respect the symbiotic relationship with the Earth’s natural ecology. She and her husband Kris have a long history of urban farming. They are avid gardeners with a love of all things organic, preferring to eat only what they can grow.

 

Udaiyan Jatar (Brand Strategy) brings to the table over 20 years experience in food brand strategy and innovation. He has worked for companies like Coca-Cola, Procter & Gamble and Grey Advertising, launching new brands in Asia, Latin America, Europe and North America. At Coca-Cola, Udaiyan led the $400m Global JV between Coke and Nestle, he led international brand launches for Sprite and Powerade. As Coke’s Global Vice President for Innovation in Brewed Beverages he founded a sustainable intrapreneurial venture, Far Coast Coffee and Tea projected to grow into a billion dollar business. He left Coke in 2008 to found the Blue Earth Network, a transformation agency, with a mission to drive holistic transformation in both the non-profit and for profit sectors to create social impact. Udaiyan teaches Disruptive Innovation and Iconic branding at Bainbridge Graduate Institute and Georgia State University. He serves on the Board of the Georgia Center for Nonprofits where he is engaged in creating scalable social innovation. A sought after speaker at events like Net Impact, he was one of 20 US delegates invited to President Obama’s Global Summit on Entrepreneurship.

 

Lana Axelrod (Business Systems). Lana brings 8 years of experience in raising financing in the private and public markets as well as corporate strategy, marketing, and consumer finance. She is a Product Manager at American Express, where she oversees the Starwood and JetBlue credit cards. Her prior roles include positions at Goldman Sachs, Credit Suisse, The Carlyle Group, and Scientific Games. At Credit Suisse, Lana worked on the $11 billion leveraged buyout of The Nielsen Company and the $250 million Initial Public Offering of RiskMetrics Group. Lana is passionate about healthy food education and increasing access to quality food for more people. She holds an MBA from Harvard Business School and a B.S. in Finance and Accounting from NYU Stern.

 

Robert Smiles (Legal Counsel) is an attorney and local farm advocate. He has practiced law for over ten years in a variety of fields in Georgia, West Virginia and Maryland. Bob’s prior practice focused on real estate, property development and business law. On the property development side, he has handled many projects involving environmentally-challenging conditions, including wetlands and contaminated soil.  As a local farm advocate, Bob works on local organic farms, coordinates farmers’ markets, plans local farm festivals and promotes the expansion of farm-to-school programs.

 

Sarah Harman (Community Systems) A mission-driven approach to real estate and community empowerment underlies Sarah’s professional focus on housing affordability and sustainability. She was development partner and director of sales for RiverClay, the Rocky Mountain Region’s first condominium to earn LEED designation. Drawing on prior work in curriculum development, training, and media, education and communication are also a large component of her real estate practice. Sarah attended Oberlin College, holds an honors degree in Cultural Criticism from University of Texas at Austin, and an MFA from University of Colorado at Boulder. She has held membership in Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio. With an early awareness of food quality and nutrition, Sarah has been reading ingredient labels since she was a child. She delights in kitchen science and experimenting in her street-front garden and backyard apiary.

 

Saba Long (Community Systems) is a hands on community systems professional, active in the tech and political communities of Atlanta. She brings her strengths in neighborhood level communication and social media to the team. Saba serves on the board of the Atlanta Downtown Neighborhood Association. She is a key team member working on The Atlanta Way, a documentary about urban renewal in Atlanta currently in post-production. In her spare time, merging her tech and political interests, she is co-organizing the Atlanta CityCamp – an unconference focused on innovation for municipal governments and community organizations.

 

Larry Colton (Intellectual Property) Larry’s practice is dedicated to assisting technology and brand owners and developers in protecting their intellectual property, aiding venture capital sources in due diligence matters relating to intellectual property, and acting as the US representative to companies and law firms outside of the US in protecting intellectual property in the US. He received his Doctor of Law degree With Distinction from Emory University, where he served as an Editor of the Emory Law Journal, and his Bachelor of Science degree in Chemical Engineering from Tufts University.

 

Natalie Rogers embraces her roles as wife, mom and Georgia PTA’s Nutrition Advocacy Specialist. She represented the PTA while testifying before the USDA about recommendations that could help improve the Child Nutrition Act. She has also been seen recently on Capitol Hill, advocating for S934 and HR1324 (also known as the “Competitive Foods Bill”). A proud co-author of our nation’s first State PTA Resolution Encouraging Healthy Fundraising, Natalie hopes this can be a catalyst for “culture shift” that will make “healthy and non-food fundraising” the norm, rather than the exception. Natalie has experienced tremendous success helping schools all over Georgia to become more effective at delivering nutrition curriculum to their students via the implementation of school garden programming. She is an Atlanta native and a graduate of the University of Georgia.

 

Lew Oliver is founder and CEO of Whole Town Solutions, a firm that provides builders and developers with the tools they need to create profitable high-quality towns and neighborhoods with but one source while enriching the landscape and fostering a model of healthy and sustainable growth. His work can be found in New Urbanist towns and communities across the U.S., including Rosemary Beach, Celebration, Vickery, Clark’s Grove, Lost Rabbit, and I’on. He is Town Urbanist of Vickery, a four-hundred-acre new town, which won BALA’s 2007 Community of the Year award, and Serenbe, the nation’s largest eco-community. He is Town Urbanist of Norcross Downtown and Woodstock Downtown, and is also involved with the creation and design of McDaniel Glenn, Briar Rose, Glenwood Park, downtown Marietta, and historic Roswell, where he served for many years on the Historic Preservation Commission. His current international projects include towns in Tornagrain, Scotland; Batan, Ecuador; Isla Pedro Gonzalez, Panama; and Arcos de la Frontera, Spain.

 

Ra Broaddus knows that running your business can be tougher than surviving at sea in a lifeboat – he’s done both. With an accounting/finance degree from the University of South Carolina, Ra served his military obligation as a Naval Officer in the Vietnam War. For the next ten years he traveled the world as a Merchant Marine Officer. Ra began in business as a turnaround manager in 1983. He incorporated nine years later, changing his focus to CEO advisory work. He currently serves as business advisor to twenty companies – coaching CEOs and senior teams, and leading seminars and corporate retreats.