Finding Inspiration

“I believe that the most innovative organizations can strive for excellence while strengthening their community around them.”

– Sheldon Grizzle


Every successful leader inspires others with their vision, dedication, and innovation – especially entrepreneurial leaders who have taken risks and built something from nothing. But from where did their inspiration come? We asked local innovators who or what has inspired them the most.


Photography by Lanewood Studio


greg a. vital Co-founder & President, Morning Pointe Senior Living chattanooga businessman

Greg A. Vital

Co-founder & President, Morning Pointe Senior Living

I owe a tremendous amount to the mentors who inspired me early on in my career. My first mentors were my parents, who taught me the values of hard work, perseverance, and respect. They encouraged me to always make a positive contribution, no matter what I was doing. As I progressed in my career, business mentors also pushed me to strive for excellence, to give back at every opportunity, and to view obstacles merely as stepping stones toward a greater goal. The wise words of these mentors inspired me to create a company dedicated to the service of seniors, where high-quality care and well-crafted life enrichment programs were not simply lofty goals, but the very foundation of what was expected from every campus. My love of the land and passion for conservation also inspired me to create a model of senior living that would honor and preserve the legacies of seniors for future generations. Twenty-five years later, I remain committed to making a positive contribution in all my endeavors. Just as my parents and early business mentors inspired me and fueled my own passion for excellence, I now seek to inspire and mentor others.



jennifer stone Licensed Quality Grader, International Coffee Group chattanooga business woman

Jennifer Stone

Licensed Quality Grader, International Coffee Group

I was originally inspired by the cafés of Spain and Mexico, and the enlightened conversations I had that seemed to always be accompanied by a cup of coffee. Wanting to share that connection with as many people as possible, I created my first café in 1997 and haven’t looked back. Since then, inspiration has come in many forms – from brilliant, caring coffee producers such as my friend St. James in Kenya, to my quest to find the best flavors in every bean. Providing excellence in the cup is my responsibility as the coffee provider to clients all across the country, and knowing that I’m representing the work of the farmers and producers is an honor. 

Most recently, I’ve found that bringing my faith into business is a catalyst for progress; it’s like having a secret weapon, and the words of Peter, James, Paul, and David never fail to urge me on. The foundation of providing something worthwhile to others is gratifying and perpetuates the next metamorphosis. Now that I’m 22 years in, I am seeking the next level of giving back, how I can serve, and leveraging the years of ups and downs for results in true innovation.



johnny o'brien Partner & Director, Contemporary Healthcare Capital Co-Owner, High Point Climbing and Fitness chattanooga businessman

Johnny O’Brien

Partner & Director, Contemporary Healthcare Capital Co-Owner, High Point Climbing and Fitness

I have been extremely fortunate to have worked with two incredible mentors who have provided me with insight into what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur.

First, I had the opportunity to work very closely with Forrest Preston, founder and owner of Life Care Centers of America. I was appointed his personal asset manager when I was only 30 years old and became President of Life Care at 36. I gained immeasurable experience in these positions, interacting with Forrest on a daily basis. One important lesson I learned from him was you need to have trust in your partners and associates. Another point I took away from Forrest was to focus on quality in every aspect of business and do whatever it takes to ‘wow’ your customers. 

Next, I joined Byron Defoor to build a health care company. Byron is a successful real estate developer, and we formed several companies in the senior housing space. The most important principle I picked up from Byron was to dream big and push the envelope. It’s uncomfortable at first, but once you’ve had success with this philosophy, it’s hard to stay in the middle of the road. High Point Climbing has been nationally recognized for our innovative gyms, and it’s Byron’s mantra that has pushed me to think outside the box. Both Byron and Forrest are risk-takers and passionate about their pursuits, and I’ve been blessed to work so closely with these two inspirational leaders.



R. Craig Holley Chattanooga Chairman, Pinnacle Financial Partners Founder, CapitalMark Bank & Trust chattanooga businessman

R. Craig Holley

Chattanooga Chairman, Pinnacle Financial Partners Founder, CapitalMark Bank & Trust

Although the source of my inspiration is fueled by many things, such as relationships, competition, and problem solving, I find my innermost source of inspiration simply in the process of building something from nothing. I worked the first 26 years of my banking career for the same financial institution. It was a great ride and helped me establish a very solid foundation of banking skills. During that time, I was inspired by the prospects of one day building a better bank. Along the way, I would make mental notes of things I would do differently if I were in charge. That opportunity came with CapitalMark. I was inspired by the possibility of creating a better work environment for associates.  I was inspired by creating a different banking model that eliminated the irritants clients deal with at the big banks. And I was inspired by the opportunity to establish a new bank that created new jobs and provided shareholders with a sizable return on their investment.

Inspiration comes in many different forms at many different times in our lives and can lead us to do amazing things while at the same time helping everyone around us.



Betsy brown CEO, Pendleton Square Trust Company Partner, The JumpFund chattanooga business woman

Betsy Brown

CEO, Pendleton Square Trust Company Partner, The JumpFund

I am inspired each day by my JumpFund partners and entrepreneurs as they build, innovate, challenge, succeed, fail, and celebrate – all with passion and grit. Their energy and excitement was an impetus for me as our team built our dream service model, Pendleton Square Trust Company.  

The roots of my inspiration come from my family and faith. My mother started a small retail business when I was a child, and from her, I learned about serving families, employees, and the community. My father taught me the power of positive thinking. He was a huge fan of motivational speaker and author Zig Zigler and would write me notes with Zigler quotes like, “Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude.”

When I turned 40, I reflected on my experiences and career. I asked myself, how can I use the spiritual gifts God has given me? By listening and serving families as trustee or executor, I am utilizing the gifts of service, discernment, and administration. As a wife and mother, I hope to be an example of hard work and passion to inspire our children to seek joy and serve others. Both personally and professionally, I am convinced that families matter, and I will always strive to strengthen families wherever possible.

My advice for finding inspiration: Surround yourself with passionate people.



Sheldon Grizzle Co-founder & President of Chattanooga Football Club, Founder of Co.Lab chattanooga businessman

Sheldon Grizzle

Co-founder & President of Chattanooga Football Club, Founder of Co.Lab

As a child, I have fond memories of my dad presenting me with ideas or challenges and asking, “How can this be done better?” So I guess I’ve always had a creative, entrepreneurial outlook on the world around me. Now, it’s second nature to jump into hairy problems and try to get things moving in a good direction.

My faith has always been an important part of my life as well, which helps drive me to make the world a better place. There is so much more to life than just making a profit or just winning soccer games. I believe that the most innovative organizations can strive for excellence while strengthening their community around them.

I continue to be inspired by the people and place of Chattanooga. Chattanooga has been such a wonderful place to live, but not for all our people. We have a lot of work to do to make Chattanooga a more hopeful place for all of its residents. It will take a lot of innovative and entrepreneurial thought and action to make that happen. I hope that Chattanooga Football Club can help inspire Chattanoogans to be more creative in how they engage the community around them.



Alnoor Dhanani CEO, The Double Cola Company chattanooga businessman

Alnoor Dhanani

CEO, The Double Cola Company

In my life, I have been blessed to have encountered people who are innovators and disruptors – inspirational people who have made a profound impact on me. Today though, I want to say that what truly amazes and inspires me is none other than the United States of America.

I have been fortunate to have lived in and visited a number of countries around the world, and I can say with conviction that this nation is a blessed nation. Our economic system, our political system, our civil society, our freedoms, and our opportunities all have come together to uniquely enable us to be free-spirited in our thoughts, in our actions, and in our vision. Don’t get me wrong: We are no utopia, and we certainly have our challenges. But it is not an accident that we are world leaders in so many fields. As I mentioned above, I travel out of the U.S. on and off, and I have an enormous regard for other countries and peoples – but I must confess that every time I land back on U.S. soil, I take a deep breath, smile, and count my blessings for being a part of this wonderful, kind, accepting, innovative, progressive country.



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