by Mollee Harper, Senior Editor
Georgia Film News sat down with Larry White and Bernadette Boas to learn about the Atlanta-based Ritz Group, and their upcoming Creative + Investor Summit to be held at Eagle Rock Studios Atlanta on June 8. Ritz Group is a capital community networking group bringing creatives and investors together in support of Georgia’s booming entertainment industry.
White serves as CEO and President of the Ritz Group and overseas operations to bring early stage entrepreneurs together with private equity capital from Angels. Boas is the Entertainment Industry Leader for the Ritz Group and the Host of the 2017 Creative + Investor Summit, as well as CEO of Ball of Fire Media.
During our time together, White and Boas shared details about the Ritz Group, their focus on growing Georgia’s economy and entertainment business specifically, and preview of the upcoming Creative + Investor Summit.
Ritz Group Snapshot
The Atlanta-based Ritz Group is a non-profit organization founded 32 years ago and is dedicated to connecting early stage entrepreneurs with private equity capital. The Ritz Group is a pro-active supporter of the Georgia entrepreneurial ecosystem and has created multiple industry-centric programs to connect government programs, corporations and universities with inventors, entrepreneurs and students in Georgia.
White shared, “Ritz Group is a 501(c) non-profit organization founded 32 years ago in Atlanta to foster and connect startups in the State. Founder Whit Blakeley continues to serve on the Ritz Group Governing Board, along with 20 Advisory Board/Ambassadors and Industry Group Leaders.”
“In 2017, I realized we needed to take our organization to the next level. We were doing a great job of connecting folks, but need to do more to ‘make’ funding happen. This is a difficult drill as today’s investors are very sophisticated. They know what works and their ‘sweet-spot’. We defined a brand new model called Ritz Group 3.0 providing five additional programs designed to address today’s seed and bridge round investment GAP.”
White continued, “We introduced Shark Attack, a take off from NBC’s Shark Tank, to introduce ICON investors and leaders to our networking community. At Shark Attack, we don’t have panels, we have sharks that evaluate, critique and make recommendations regarding the ‘second date’ to secure funding. We showcase three startup companies a month. Since 2012, we’ve featured over 70 ICON Sharks and 130 companies connecting entrepreneurs with investors for Seed and Series A Round funding. “
White described, “We are looking for several things. First, we want talent and companies that have a disruptive value proposition and can operate as a scalable business. Second, we want companies that are focused on doing business here in Georgia to grow our industry and create jobs. Third, we want companies that can provide a ROI to investors.”
”We discovered early on investors tend to invest in industries where they made their money. If they were successful in sports, they invest in sports ventures. So we found industry leaders to serve the Georgia’s key industries, like entertainment, food & beverage, consumer goods, medical, real estate and technology.”
White affirmed, “Bernadette is a great example of an industry leader. She shepherds members in her vertical. Her expertise is in entertainment and this is her third year in this role. While we work with five industries, we are becoming strong in entertainment because of Bernadette and the team she has assembled.”
“As a screenwriter and entertainer she understands the importance of connecting talent with real capital as well as networking opportunities to connect with other industry professionals to move their careers forward.”
Boas shared, “I am a screenwriter, and the reason I originally got involved with the Ritz Group in 2009 as an entrepreneur. Being a creative myself, I realized early on that I needed help getting connected in the industry.”
Boas continued, “In Georgia, we have a lot of great infrastructure in place for our industry with the Georgia Production Partnership (GPP) who provides education and lobbying support. We also have the Georgia Film Office, WIFTA, SAG, and many other groups that provide networking, collaboration and educational opportunities.”
Boas concluded, “Ritz Group really provides creatives with a year round network and support system that helps them, learn, connect, and grow with key members of Georgia’s financial sources; banks, funds and investors in the entertainment industry. In 2014, Larry asked me to serve as the Entertainment Industry Leader engaging these groups, planning events, initiatives and mentoring. ”
White added, “The Ritz Group is unique in that our Innovation Stars Program provides a virtual Match Market Accelerator infrastructure enabling entrepreneurs to ‘connect’ with investors, corporations, organizations, and service providers based on NEEDS. The goal of Innovation Stars is to connect Georgia’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. We are the only city and state to do this for five vertical industries including Entertainment.”
“Our uniqueness is not only in our networking, training and education, but also our focus on industry groups, events, and portal technology to connect entrepreneurs with resources. Our Angel Cub monthly luncheon for Accredited Angels insures we are engaged with the latest trends and needs from this key funding resource.“
White continued, “Another thing that makes us unique is our proactive pursuit to create an entertainment fund. That will be huge. We also have efforts underway to create an entertainment accelerator where entrepreneurs can receive mentoring on how to take their idea into a real business, along with the investment needed to launch. I think we are close to launching both the fund and accelerator for the entertainment industry in Georgia.”
“Our theme for 2017 is ‘Let’s not just connect, let’s make funding happen’.”
White concluded, “The Ritz Group is working hard to support Georgia’s entertainment industry as an advocate, and adding in critical aspects in raising capital. We want to engage the community and provide a venue to bring all entertainment professionals together. We don’t care if we follow or lead. We just want the entertainment community to come together here in Georgia to create more competitive production advantages for our State.”
“Ritz Group’s rule is simple. We want to be a catalyst. We want to make a difference. We are actively putting entertainers together with investors who can help them take their trade or craft to that next level. That’s the valuable message we want to get out to creatives.”
2017 Creative + Investor Summit
On June 8th, 2017, Ritz Group will hold its 3rd Annual Entertainment event and Creative + Investor Summit at Eagle Rock Studios in Atlanta, Georgia. The purpose of this Summit will be on educating and elevating the entertainment industry in Georgia. This half-day event will showcase six film, television, gaming and new media projects during a signature Shark Attack showcase, along with valuable networking, mentorship, exhibitions, and more.
Boas serves as Co-Host of the 2017 Creative + Investor Summit, along with Matchbook Media Group principals, Taylor Owenby and Noah Scammon.
Boas described, “We moved this event to Eagle Rock Studios because we were at-capacity at the City Club Buckhead for our last two annual events. The program will start with studio tours at 1:00 pm as attendees arrive. Eagle Rock Studios Atlanta has an unbelievable operation and is the largest studio under one roof.“
Boas continued, “We will have speakers from the legislation side, Ric Reitz from Georgia Production Partnership, better known as GPP, the Georgia Film Office, as well as many other entertainment leaders that will provide a ‘State of Georgia’s entertainment industry’, highlight the new bills that help with tax credits, where the industry is going, and the changes the industry is bringing to our state,” she said.
“Eagle Rock Studios Atlanta’s conference center atrium will house our exhibitor marketplace where numerous industry businesses and creatives will display their talent, products and services. We also have educational panels to cover relevant issues including diversity in the industry and the business of the business. Then we go into a pitching workshop to help educate creatives on how to pitch the value of their investment. They know how to pitch their story or talent, but often they don’t know how to pitch the value of the investment to really connect with investors or other funding sources.”
Boas added, “Throughout the day there will be designated time for networking, and then we will showcase our Shark Attack model. There will be six companies who will formally pitch to a panel of industry icons. The room will be full of executives, creatives, investors, other funding sources and industry experts. This gives everyone an opportunity to see what’s working, and what investors look for in concepts and processes in order to make a successful submission. We wrap up with an investor focused panel on finance and distribution, and additional networking.”
“Everything about this event is focused on educating the creative and financial institutions on the value of the entertainment industry to the economic development of Georgia.”
Boas concluded, “Pre-registration is important. We really want people showing up with tickets in hand as they will be walking onto a studio lot that is in operation. We have a lot packed into this half day and are really excited to host this event.”
For more information or to register for the Ritz Group 2017 Creative + Investor Summit, visit: http://ritzgroup.org/summit/. For more information on the Ritz Group visit their company website at: http://ritzgroup.org/.
Bernadette Boas founded Ball of Fire, Inc. in July 2010 and serves as its CEO as well as Mindset Leadership Coach, Keynote Speaker, Writer/Screenwriter, and Radio/TV Host. For more information on Ball of Fire Consulting, and Media visit their company website at: http://balloffireconsulting.com/.