By Donnell Suggs
Sandwiched between Georgia Tech, The Coca-Cola headquarters and the Bank of America building, The Gathering Spot on Northyards Boulevard is the perfect place for someone as eclectic and entrepreneurial as Joey Womack, co-founder and executive director of both Goodie Nation, a non-profit, and its for-profit spinoff Amplify 4 Good. Womack believes in the idea of ideas.
Goodie Nation is on a mission to be the pre-accelerator for the many ideas that – if properly cultivated and nurtured – become the world’s many applications and solutions. “We provide a role for all people to play in order to solve the world’s toughest problems,” says Womack. The Mobile, Ala. Native and Florida A&M University alumnus was preparing for an evening in conversation with three other Atlanta-based tech business owners and executives as part of a series sponsored by Hypepotamus, an Atlanta-based company that covers the local tech scene.
“Everybody has a skill and everybody has a role to play,” he adds. “Everybody can contribute something.” Womack believes Atlanta has the potential to be considered the Silicon Valley of the South and maybe even move beyond that to becoming the go-to place for tech in the country. “Atlanta has the potential to be a top five market in the country because we have talented people and a huge supply of incoming talent from the local universities. But most importantly we are already doing well and we still haven’t figured ‘it’ out yet when it comes to diversity.”
Goodie Nation and Amplify 4 Good are attempting to even out that imbalance for Atlanta and the rest of the country and world. “Atlanta is great for innovation in social impact because we’re at the epicenter for social change,” says Womack. “People are trying, but the minority communities are still behind. When they start to realize their potential, Atlanta will take off.”
The idea for Goodie Nation came from the same place all ideas come from: necessity. Womack’s zest for social impact didn’t start in college; originally, he went to school to study accounting. “I never thought I’d be doing this. Both sides of my family were involved in social impact,” says Womack, referring to his mother who grew up in Montgomery, Ala., and family members who were involved in the civil rights movement. Womack approached that spirit of freedom in a more technological way, looking to create a safe and constructive place for an online community of black entrepreneurs and local business owners. “We look to help people come up with ideas for tech solutions and then bring in skills-based volunteers to help them with their idea, plans, revenue and model.”
Launched in 2009 as a Facebook message group, Goodie Nation eventually began hosting hack-a-thons where computer programmers, software designers and others involved in tech came together to build on ideas and projects.
Goodie Nation also offers Heroes Therapy, a meeting of the minds on a smaller scale – usually between 10 to 12 people, according to Womack – that transpires exactly how it sounds. “We talk about their issues and let them know that they are not alone on their journey,” says Womack. The idea of having ideas can be a difficult task but there’s a place for those who chose to take that trip. Innovative training programs and support groups like Founder’s Therapy, Teacher’s Therapy and Goodie Bootcamp see to it that the mission stays on course. In March, they held the first Teacher’s Therapy session, and Womack believes there will be another because of how successful it was. “Teachers have their own set of issues and they are definitely heroes. Helping teachers deal with their problems helps us with our youth program,” he says. “It makes sense when you start to pull back the layers.”
Then there’s Goodie Nation’s Hack Daze for the youth. “We are there to help kids come up with apps that come up with solutions for problems; more importantly these events help the kids learn to be leaders,” says Womack. One app is attempting to target solutions for bullying. Another participant has already patented an application that will work to make the blue light security system on Georgia State University’s campus more effective. The idea of improving ideas has become a movement and is being passed on and that is exactly what Womack is looking to continue to do. “Atlanta is great for innovation in social impact because it’s at the epicenter for social change. Between the civil rights movement and global health leaders like the Center for Disease Control, Emory, and the airport making the world more accessible, we have all the resources. When you think about the caring nature of our population, we can change the world.” How’s that for an idea?