The Connect Magazine is a quarterly lifestyle publication and online media source committed to engaging our diverse audience through empowering and impactful stories of entrepreneurs, young professionals, and businesses on the pursuit of positively changing the world, through efforts large and small.
Forward-thinking. Topical. Relevant. Multi-cultural. Conscious.
Eric Jordan, founder, publisher and CEO of “The Connect Magazine,” is a civil leader, entrepreneur and political activist. He is also a man of strong faith, a devoted husband and loving father of four – a role he treasures most of all. His deep understanding of the importance of family and connectedness only serves to fuel his passion for bridging communal gaps, celebrating diversity and empowering others through all personal and professional endeavors.
The quintessential community-builder and networker, he is a most passionate member of society – from serving as board member of the Northwest YMCA to being an avid mentor for Boy Scouts of America and local athletic leagues.
Lacey Johnson is an award-winning writer and celebrity journalist based in Nashville, Tennessee. She is a graduate of Belmont University, and her work can be read in a variety of print magazines and digital media sources including Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, Woman’s Day, Mirabella, MSN, POPSUGAR, as well as her own brand, The Wonder Report. She has also appeared as a featured guest for a variety of Altare Publishing’s wellness podcasts.
With a passion for ruffling feathers, serving up inspiration and smacking her readers in the face with the truth, she is a tenacious researcher who writes and reports boldly about topics ranging from (but not limited to) culture, relationships, spirituality, holistic health solutions, women’s issues and the nuances of successful living. She often drives her point home with a wink, a whisper and a sprinkle of wit, however – occasionally – only a lion’s roar will do.
Toni Lepeska’s diverse career in journalism spans 27 years and includes coverage of the criminal justice system, community growth and development, and business start-ups and expansions. After a temporary stint at USA Today, she worked at The (Memphis) Commercial Appeal, primarily writing about government and neighborhood issues in Olive Branch, Miss., identified as the fastest-growing city in America in 2011. Toni is currently a freelance writer who enjoys human interest stories that inspire readers to persist toward great things. She blogs about her own personal journey of healing and the transformative impact of grief at www.tonilepeska.com.
Director of Videography
Chris Hollo is an award-winning photographer and filmmaker based in Nashville, Tenn., and has a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Tennessee. He has been a self-unemployed creative for more than 25 years, and has captured innumerable stories all across the world – specifically in all but five states in the US!
He serves as chapter president and board member of the ASMP, a national photographers trade association, and has taught both photography and video production at the college level. Hollo has been the official house photographer for the Grand Ole Opry for more than 17 years.
Barbara Birnbaum Potter is a “people” photographer – from acting head shots, to wedding days to corporate functions to CEO’s. She calls both Nashville, Tenn. and Seattle her homes, though she has been blessed to travel across the world with her photography.
An active member of the Professional Photographers of America, she serves as Treasurer on the executive board of The Professional Photographers of Washington. Having recently earned her AFP Degree, she has won several first place and best in various portrait category awards.
True to Nashvillian form, Potter is most passionate about photographing artists – especially musicians. Her most recent and beloved accomplishment is contributing images in Lillie Mae Rische’s “Forever and Then Some” album insert – a Third Man Records artist, produced by Jack White.
Her favorite quote is: “Vision without action is merely a dream.” – Joel A. Barker
Director of Business Development
Dawn Mason brings more than 20 years of experience in strategic planning, negotiating and project management, with an ability to weigh risk versus reward to her role as Director of Business Development for The Connect Magazine. She brings professionalism and leadership, a mindset of service and advocacy, an exceptional business acumen and a passion for empowering others to realize their purpose.
As a strategic thinker, her contribution to the magazine aligns her personal goals with the core objective of the publication. With a focus on tactical alliances and business development, she will prospect and identify opportunities for partnership, assist in building new business relationships, evaluate operational issues to determine effectiveness and assess the competitive landscape to continually enhance the publication’s impact on its readership.
Mason holds a degree in business management from Hampton University, and a master of business administration from Middle Tennessee State University. She resides in Nashville, Tenn. with her husband and five boys. In every issue, you can find an essay contribution from Mason, often exploring the trials and triumphs of family and relationships.
Susan Vanderbilt studied social science, speech and hearing science at Tennessee State University in Nashville, Tenn. before becoming a communication specialist. Passionate about helping people grow and connect, her transition to business development and diversity inclusion was an organic progression. With encouragement from project executives of several local, national and international construction management firms, Vanderbilt started Entrée Savvy in 2013. She has had the pleasure of performing as the diversity inclusion manager on the construction management teams for Music City Center Project, the Nashville Sounds Ballpark Project and, most recently, the New Nashville Criminal Justice Center Project.
Her natural leadership is evident, as she was awarded a 2017 Nashville Business Journal Woman of Influence, a 2016 Nashville Black Chamber Rising Star and is a member of the SBA Emerging Leaders Class of 2017. Personifying her belief that “Service is the Greatest form of Leadership,” Vanderbilt contributes in the community as a member of various organizations, including AEC Power Women, Habitat for Humanity of Greater Nashville and many others. Grateful for her innate ability to connect people to others who bring reciprocal value, Vanderbilt does so in an unapologetically authentic style.
In her free time, she enjoys being with her husband, children, family and friends, practicing hot yoga, as well as reading books and material that broaden her perspective. She also finds great pleasure in mentoring young adults and other small business owners.
Keelah Jackson is an award-winning writer, educator, singer-songwriter, mixed-media artist and motivational speaker based in Chattanooga, Tennessee. She is a full-time educational consultant who also enjoys creating content to her inspirational blogs, The Runaway Diaries and Teenage Love, in her spare time.
Director of Community Engagement
Carolyn McHaney Waller was elected President of the Nashville Black Chamber of Commerce for 2013-14. A member of the chamber since 2009, her prior responsibility as a board member and Development Committee Chair was to develop and implement a strategic plan to revitalize the organization. “I am committed to the mission of the [Nashville Black] chamber and will work diligently to further the vision of empowerment, education, and economic development of our community,” says Waller.
She is currently an Affiliate Broker and Accredited Buyer Representative with Zeitlin and Company Realtors, Nashville’s premier real estate company. Prior to joining Zeitlin, she worked for 25 years in the commercial insurance industry as a Marketing and Underwriting Specialist for Aetna Casualty and Surety, CNA Commercial, Harleysville Mutual, and Trinity Universal. In recognition for her leadership abilities for two consecutive years “1995 to 1996,” and in 1998 she received the Chairman’s Award for Excellence in sales growth and territorial management.
Having an entrepreneurial spirit, Waller owned and operated Premier Art Decor and Designs Art Gallery in Nashville, Tenn. It was through her passion for art that she introduced many local and national artists to the community. With her daughter Alexis, they are currently revitalizing art energy through their new company Cultural Visions Art. She is a member of the Faculty Breakfast Club representing Fisk University, Meharry Medical College and Tennessee State University.
Waller holds a BS degree in Marketing and Business Management from Union University in Jackson, Tenn., where she earned an athletic scholarship and played for the championship basketball team.
Copy Editing Intern
Madison Yauger is from Jacksonville, Florida, and is currently studying at Wake Forest University. A journalism student with an impeccable editor’s eye, she loves to to write even more than she loves traveling and exploring the world – a passion that allows her to discover people’s stories along the way.
Inspired by powerful and thoughtful minds such as Maya Angelou and Nelson Mandela, her goal is to make a difference in the world, and she firmly believes the written word is one of the most impactful tools to promote positive changes.
Director of Marketing
Linzi Martin is a marketing strategist and consultant from Boca Raton, Florida. After graduating from Lynn University at the top one percent of her class in 2014, she began working in the digital marketing industry. Martin currently serves as a digital marketing consultant for entrepreneurs and small businesses through her company, Launch Media Group.
Her personal portfolio includes numerous start-ups, real estate agencies, tech companies, medical practices and local small businesses. Regularly noted for using social media and content marketing to create brand affinity, she has worked with multiple small businesses to increase their online engagement, generate leads and enhance overall brand awareness. Her impressive skill-set is focused around four key components: content writing and curation, social media strategy, email marketing and online reputation management.
Dr. Ming Wang
Dr. Ming Wang is a uniquely qualified corneal refractive surgeon. He holds a Harvard Medical School and MIT degree (magna cum laude, 1991) as well as a doctoral degree in laser physics. He is both an accomplished scientist and a talented artist.
As the founding director of the renowned Wang Vision 3D Cataract and LASIK center in Nashville, TN, he excels in his profession as a compassionate ophthalmologist who cares deeply about his patients and continues to strive to give them the best eye care possible.
As an accomplished research scientist, he has made worthwhile contributions to various areas of molecular biology (see Nature, 360, 606, 1992) and ophthalmology including being a principle investigator of an NIH grant on amniotic contact lenses and the biotech company that he cofounded with Vanderbilt, EyeVU.
As a talented artist, passionate about ballroom dancing and music, he brings to people around him a sense of joy for rhythm and movement, the appreciation for fine art and many romantic and beautiful melodies of life.
Contributor | Business & Leadership
Joe Scarlett spent nearly 30 years in leadership roles with Tractor Supply Company, most as president and chairman. Today, he spends his time engaged in teaching and writing about leadership, working in the family foundation and striving to improve Tennessee.
In 1982 Scarlett played a key role in the initiative to return the company to profitability through improved customer service and focused product selection as part of a classic leveraged buyout. He was instrumental in developing the company culture which today is admired and often copied. In 1994 he led the successful effort to take the company public.
Tractor Supply Company was honored by Forbes as one of the “Best Managed Companies in America” and Scarlett was recognized as Ernst & Young’s Southeast Entrepreneur of the Year.
Presently engaged with The Scarlett Leadership Institute, which he co-founded in 2006, he is passionately committed to improving business leadership skills with a strong emphasis on ethical behavior.
He is also Vice-Chairman of the Beacon Center of Tennessee, a nonpartisan research organization advocating for limited government, free markets and individual liberty at the state level.
These days you can find Joe coaching business and community leaders, teaching, and giving speeches on Tractor Supply Company, business leadership and ethical behavior . (Also, traveling and goofing off!)
Contributor | Empowerment
Graham Honeycutt is a husband and father of four children, as well as a life coach and motivational speaker based in Nashville, Tenn. He helps Christian entrepreneurs start, run, and grow their businesses so they can realize their God-given potential. His personal mission is to create and foster deep relationships, to inspire and influence, and to leave a legacy of positive impact on every person he meets.
Honeycutt’s writing and coaching journey began when he started writing a blog in 2013 about his journey with his oldest daughter, Mikayla. She was born with a rare congenital brain malformation called Dandy-Walker Syndrome and has significant special needs. Mikayla was his first coach and her life continues to teach him important lessons, as do his other children. People resonated with his blogs and began inquiring about coaching services.
He would love to connect with you about your values, dreams and passions. Check out his website: www.grahamhoneycutt.com.
Tori Tate Thomas
Contributor | Branding & Marketing
Tori is Marketing Director for Massey Group in Alcoa, Tenn., where she has honed her skills as a jack-of-all-trades. She specializes in strategic brand planning, social media marketing, copy writing, graphic design and event planning. She earned her degree in broadcast journalism from The University of Tennessee where she also took the opportunity to live and study filmmaking in Cyprus, fueling her passion for adventure. Additionally, she serves on the communications committee for United Way of Blount County.
When she’s not scheming up her latest marketing plan, she enjoys painting, exercising, cooking and cheering on the Vols with her husband, Sam.
Contributor | Diversity
Mi’Shon Landry is the CEO & Founder of Culture Consultants, a woman-owned business that focuses on leading inclusive change in today’s organizational culture. She is extremely passionate about diversity, effective and inclusive leadership, relationship-building and STEM Initiatives, and enjoys facilitating workshops around the key traits and behaviors that produce sustainable outcomes for individuals and organizations. She is also a self-proclaimed “foodie,” is faith- and family-oriented and loves giving back to her community.
Born and raised in Nashville, Tenn., Thomas Sheffield’s journey toward mastering sustainability began when he experienced personal failure in the window covering business. It was that place of failure which led him to earning his master’s degree in sustainability from David Lipscomb University. He continues to evolve in his learning, while spreading his knowledge to various media sources.