The List November/December 2015
Kara Anne Beatrous
Born and raised in the community, Kara Anne Beatrous has always had a special place in her heart for Montgomery. After graduating from Auburn University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in graphic design in 2012, Kara Anne returned home to work for a local design firm. During this time, Kara Anne enjoyed working in the corporate world; however, she felt a pull toward the more creative side of the profession. She says, “I always felt there was something more that I could or should be doing, wanting to take a hands-on approach direct with clients, specifically with custom stationery and wedding paper designs.” What was a small dream became a big reality in January of 2014, when Kara Anne Paper, a custom stationery and design studio specializing in custom wedding suites and calligraphy, was established. Opening her own business was a huge step for Kara Anne, but she gives her husband, William, credit for encouraging her to never settle when it came to her talents. Perhaps some of her biggest fans are her rescue dogs: Sadie, Zeller, Petunia (“Tuna”) and Rex. She says these special friends encourage her on the late nights of designing. When not running her own business, Kara Anne enjoys playing tennis, horseback riding and painting. She is an involved member of the community and currently serves as a member of the Junior League. Kara Anne says, “I feel it is important to give back to the community that has given me so much.”
Kayla Farnon is not one to miss out on an opportunity. After interning for Governor Robert Bentley her last year of college, she was appointed as the communications specialist for the governor. With three years of experience on Capitol Hill under her belt, she took on the new role as press secretary to Alabama's Secretary of State John Merrill this past August. Kayla takes great pride in the state of Alabama. She says, “The thing I love most about my career is serving the men and women of this great state and playing a vital role in making our state be the best it can be.” She attributes her success to her mother and Yasamie August, press secretary to Governor Bentley. She says, “Above all, each of these women have taught me to put God above everything and always stay humble, which I think has largely attributed to my success at such a young age.” Around the community, Kayla can be found leading a small group with her local church, mentoring at Brantwood Children's Home, or sponsoring a club at her Alma Mater, Faulkner University.
Loyalty is one word that describes Robert Gardner when it comes to his support of the River Region. Born and raised in Montgomery, Robert attended Trinity High School. Now, Robert is the vice president of Gardner Carpet One Floor and Home. From hardwood floors to rugs and from churches to kitchen floors, Robert and his business are behind many of the beautiful floors in the area. Robert says the driving forces behind him are his parents. “My parents are without a doubt my biggest influences. I owe my work ethic to them.” His family has always played a huge role in his life. Two other family members have made a very big impact on his life—his nephews Gardner and Fred, the faces of the family business. Not only does Robert hold his family close, he also considers the people of the community very important. He says, “The loyalty of the people of Montgomery to our family business has been crucial in our success.” In fact, the customers are what keep Robert motivated. He says, “My favorite thing about this job is the feeling I get when a customer loves what we have done inside their home.” When not serving the community, this young business owner is still a kid at heart. Robert can be found hanging out on the river, riding his tractor, hunting and playing with his dog Red.
Broadcasting live from Montgomery, Hannah Hawk has been sharing stories about the city and state since 2009. In search of a college after high school, Huntingdon College caught Hannah's eye and brought this reporter to the capital city. Dancing her way through college and majoring in communications, Hannah served as captain of the dance team and can still be found dancing on the set in between broadcasting. After college, Hannah had great dreams of leaving Alabama, but she fell in love and married Caleb Hawk, another young professional in town. Throughout her life, many told Hannah that her dreams were too ambitious, but it was her faith, family and especially Caleb who encouraged her to stay focused on her goals. Now, she serves as a reporter and anchor at WSFA Montgomery. On the side, Hannah and Caleb are videographers for their co-owned business, Two Hawks Production. Hannah loves her job and especially meeting the people in the community. She says, “The people here are wonderful, providing stories and honestly just making my job fun.” Currently, Hannah and her husband are active members of Centerpoint Church. Hannah also stays involved with the community as a member of the Junior League. Over the past ten years, she has had the opportunity to watch this town transform, all the while transforming herself into the lovely young professional she is today.
An activist, philanthropist, entrepreneur and world traveler, Natilee McGruder wears many hats in the community. On a daily basis, Natilee can be found overseeing her family business, McGruder & Associates. She gives her parents and Howard University credit for her success. Her late father taught her to never let anyone steal her joy and Natilee has certainly taken these words to heart. She says, “I had to overcome the fear and stigma of having obtained a Juris Doctorate from the University of Alabama yet choosing a path that, so far, does not include being a practicing attorney.” This has not deterred her, but only strengthened her in her profession as the director of the River Region Food Policy Council. She also invests her time in the youth of our community. She says, “As a product of Montgomery Public Schools, I am compelled to create youth programs around conflict resolution and peace building, like the dynamic sessions I facilitated with the city during the 50th Anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery marches.” Natilee is changing the city of Montgomery with events like Peace Within MGM and her upcoming Youth Summit featuring the U.S. Institute of Peace, honoring the 60th Anniversary of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. These events are a direct reflection of her time spent as a Rotary Ambassadorial Fellow, obtaining a Masters in Peace and Conflict Studies from the University of Sydney. She has also visited or lived in fourteen countries and counting. Who knows where life will take Natilee next?
In his teenage years, Stephen Poff dreamed of being a rock star. In a sense, Stephen did hit it big with the many opportunities that came from this time of his life. Through his band, Stephen learned many skills such as marketing, graphic arts and the art of sound engineering. Working in and around New Orleans in his early twenties, Stephen gained experience in many studios as an engineer and record producer before switching gears and doing work as a graphic artist and photographer for magazines and newspapers along the Gulf Coast. While in the band, Stephen had a friend who gave him the encouraging words and tools to open many doors in his life. One of these great doors opened in 2004 when Stephen wrote and directed a feature film called, “Songs About Your Girlfriend.” I n 2006, Stephen and his family moved to Montgomery. Stephen says, “What I like about Montgomery is that it's a little big town. It's big enough to be progressive and high-minded, yet small enough that I can know all the movers and shakers. People here challenge me to do good things.” Stephen is doing great things at Stamp, a local advertising agency, where he works as a photographer and filmmaker. He hardly considers his job work. Stephen says, “My job is different everyday. I get to work with lots of creative folks and am surrounded by successful people every day. It's a lot of fun.”
At the age of 16, this Prattville native entered the world of fashion and hasn’t left since. Upon graduating from high school, Alethea Ross was given the opportunity to model professionally in Atlanta, Georgia for Kash Models Management. Alethea modeled for over a decade as a print, hair and runway model. With years of experience, Alethea returned to Montgomery to create her own business - Kouture Kidz and AR Performing Arts Agency. What she loves most about Montgomery is the historic downtown and the great restaurants and family entertainment the city has to offer. Away from the business, Alethea loves spending time with her husband, Carl Ross, and their 5-year-old daughter, Karlie Ross. This model turned entrepreneur has made great strides since opening her business in April 2015. She says, “It’s been five months since this amazing business has taken off and the sky is the limit. There were 12 young ladies from AR Kouture Kidz that were selected to attend NYC Kids Fashion Week in Jamaica Queens.” Through the help of the supportive community and sponsors, Kouture Kidz is providing kids in the city of Montgomery and surrounding areas with a platform to showcase their amazing talents and be discovered from right here in Alabama.
Dr. Quesha S. Starks
Whether it is a church congregation, the classroom, or a school community, Dr. Quésha S. Starks will likely be found leading the group. A Montgomery native, Quésha has taken advantage of all the educational benefits this city has to offer. Quésha graduated with honors from Huntingdon College, where she received her Bachelor of Arts in English with minors in music and communication studies. She has a Master of Education with an endorsement in school administration from Auburn University Montgomery. She also earned an education specialist degree from Samford University; however, Quésha did not stop there. She received her doctorate in educational leadership, policy and law from Alabama State University. Her teaching career began in the Bullock County Public School System. She eventually moved to the Montgomery County Public School System in 1998. Quésha has served as an administrator at Brewbaker Technology Magnet High School, Loveless Academic Magnet Program and Walter T. McKee Junior High School. Since 2004, she has served as the principal at Booker T. Washington Magnet High School. She says, “I love seeing students discover their gifts. I love to see great teaching - teachers who can make the most challenging concepts make sense to students.” When not in school, Quésha can be found leading Vacation Bible School, directing weddings, or conducting workshops for K-12 educators across the state. Quésha is also an accomplished musician having served as pianist for her church since the age of 12. Quesha gives her family, teachers and the community of Montgomery credit for who she is today.
Born in Butler County and raised in Montgomery, Griffith Waller has been given many unique opportunities to grow as a person and a professional. As a young boy, Griffith was exposed to many government events surrounding our state's capital, which fueled his interest in politics, media and speech writing. His interests sent him to the University of Alabama where he double majored in political science and public relations. After graduating, Griffith moved to Washington D.C. to begin his career in public affairs. Finding his niche with the Civil War Trust, this job allowed him to travel the country fighting for the preservation of Revolutionary War and Civil War battlefields, while meeting board members like Trace Adkins and Georgia Bulldogs legend Vince Dooley. After three years, Griffith moved home and currently serves as the public relations specialist for the city of Montgomery. Griffith says, “Serving my friends and neighbors by providing important information about city projects and policies, while working to attain our vision for an even greater Montgomery is truly an honor.” while working to attain our vision for an even greater Montgomery is truly an honor.” Griffith stays involved in the community by serving on various boards and will soon graduate from Leadership Montgomery’s Torchbearers class. Griffith says, “There’s such an excitement in the air – whether it’s rapid growth and redevelopment in every part of town, our community’s dedication to volunteerism and service,supporting ourexcellent food scene, exploring the burgeoning art and music scene or partnering to assist in creating and unleashing the tech infrastructure here – that excitement and that buy-in from the entire community is my favorite thing about Montgomery.”