On Thursday, January 19, the Cherokee Office of Economic Development (COED) announced the first North Atlanta Venture Mentoring Service (NAV) Mentor of the Year Award.

NAV is a program made possible through the Cherokee By Choice initiative – a five-year results-driven public/private partnership aimed at reinforcing Cherokee’s role as a leader in economic development. NAV has proven to be successful primarily through the expertise of its mentors with proven skills and experience to guide startups and scaling businesses toward success.

NAV is based on the belief that a venture is far more likely to thrive when an entrepreneur can draw upon the wisdom of a team of mentors with proven skills and experience. With over 25 mentors, ventures have access to a diverse range of expertise. Seventeen (17) ventures have participated since the inception of the program in 2019 and ten are currently active, meaning seven have ‘graduated’ from the program.

In celebration of the program’s success in 2022, COED decided to implement a Mentor of the Year Award to thank one mentor who has gone above and beyond expectations to help our scaling businesses. COED asked the ventures to nominate a mentor who has made a significant impact on the success of their personal and professional growth. For the inaugural year, NAV Mentor, Tom Kupec was selected. “It is really an honor for this recognition, especially given all the great mentors that volunteer their time. I do appreciate it and am motivated to do even better,” said Tom Kupec.

Since volunteering to participate in NAV, Tom has mentored an array of different business from DAM Coolers (Alpharetta), Bizarre Coffee (Canton), and Suite Sciens (Holly Springs). Tom has almost 30 years of experience in the medical device industry with extensive experience in driving global growth via new products, acquisitions, and sales. As a retiree and with family living in Cherokee County, Tom doesn’t mind making the commute from South Carolina to Woodstock for his mentoring sessions. He is dedicated to seeing others succeed.

“Owning a small business isn’t a job, it is a personal calling. But, we must recognize when we have exhausted our own knowledge and could use additional support. This support isn’t always readily available as an entrepreneur,” said Misti Martin, President & CEO of COED. “This is why NAV was created. Through NAV, we witness our mentors’ desire and commitment to foster a culture of entrepreneurship, by actively educating, inspiring, and guiding scaling business owners. NAV is successful because of our mentors. We thank not only Tom Kupec, but all dedicated mentors.”

Headquartered in Cherokee County, the North Atlanta Venture Mentoring Service represents Georgia’s first entrepreneur mentorship program principled and trained by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Venture Mentoring Service (VMS). MIT VMS has a proven 20-year track record operating its program and has shared its mentoring model with organizations in 23 countries. NAV represents the 90th sister program of MIT VMS. Anyone interested in being a part of NAV, albeit mentors or ventures, can visit the website to apply and learn more at northatlantavms.com.