Dec. 13, 2012 14:28 UTC

Prominent Tennessee Business Leaders to Select Top Pitch in Young Entrepreneurs Contest, Drive Local Economic Growth

BRENTWOOD, Tenn.--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- Churchill Mortgage, a leader in the mortgage industry providing conventional, FHA, VA and USDA residential mortgages across 26 states, today announced the eight prominent Tennessee business leaders who will comprise the selection panel and name a winner of the Young Entrepreneurs program.

Panelist George H. Armistead III is the CEO and founder of Answers By Armistead, which partners with local and national firms to decrease the length of typical sales cycles and connect with decision makers. Armistead has also been a partner with the Revenue Source Group for more than 22 years, providing clients with utility rate audits and property tax appeals. An active community member, he is involved with several Nashville organizations including the Kiwanis Club and Nashville City Club.

“As a business owner, I have a deep respect for entrepreneurs and their unique approach to success,” said Armistead. “I anticipate learning from younger business leaders, what creative concepts they wish to move forward that will not only further their individual career, but spur continued economic growth for Tennessee and encourage their peers to do likewise.”

The Young Entrepreneurs program also welcomes Claude E. Blankenship, CPA, to the panel, founder and chief manager of Blankenship CPA Group, PLLC. Blankenship has more than 45 years of experience providing tax, audit and consulting services. In addition to serving as chairman and senior partner to the firm, he is a member of the Council of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), as well as the AICPA's Executive Committee for Private Companies Practice Section. Blankenship is a past president of the Tennessee Society of Certified Public Accountants. In addition to being active in Christian ministry for many years, he has also served on numerous boards of directors of non-profit organizations in Middle Tennessee and as a director on the board of a NYSE publicly traded company.

“At Blankenship CPA, we are dedicated to providing financial advice and guidance to our local community, and I’m excited to continue that commitment as a panelist for this program,” said Claude E. Blankenship. “This is truly one of the most intriguing opportunities for our community’s next generation of employers.”

Also joining the panel is CJ Blankenship, CPA, director of Operations at Blankenship CPA Group, PLLC, where he is responsible for tax and client services. With more than a decade of management experience, Blankenship previously worked with Crowe Chizek and RSM McGladrey, Inc. He is also the president of Christian Recovery Houses, Inc., where he consults with several non-profit boards.

According to CJ Blankenship, “One of the biggest hurdles in starting your own business is being able to clearly identify your goals and outlining how you will achieve them. Throughout my career, I have found there is no substitute for thorough planning and hard work, and I’m excited to see a young entrepreneur rewarded for this.”

Steve Hardwick, managing director of Morgan Keegan, brings 25 years of financial industry experience to the panel. Hardwick provides high net-worth individuals with investment, retirement, education and estate financial planning services. A Belmont University graduate, he previously served as the regional manager of First American National Bank’s trust company and brokerage division, manager of the retirement services division and was instrumental in the establishment of the company’s financial planning division.

“Small, locally-owned businesses have the power to contribute to a community’s economic growth and employment,” said Steve Hardwick. “Through the Young Entrepreneurs program, we are helping young minds turn innovative ideas into winning businesses that will support growth and development in Middle Tennessee. I’m thrilled to be a part of it.”

Linda Hilliard also joins the panel, bringing more than 15 years of program development and financial planning experience. Currently the director of Stewardship and Business Development at Christ Church in Nashville, Hilliard previously served as the church’s executive director. She earned certifications from both Emory University and Indiana University and is an active member of the Southeast Nashville Recovery Board and Flood Recovery Board.

According to Hilliard, “Being a part of this panel is an honor. There are so many bright and talented young individuals in Middle Tennessee, and it’s important that we listen to their ideas to help cultivate a strong community and economy. I’m eager to hear their business pitches.”

Cecil Kemp, CEO and founder of The Wisdom Company, a faith-based organization that empowers individuals to be successful in their everyday lives, also joins the panel.

Kemp is also an author, life coach, business mentor and motivational speaker, regularly speaking at schools, businesses and associations.

“The Young Entrepreneurs program is unique for two reasons: it offers individuals an opportunity to flourish during a time that has been extraordinarily challenging, and it provides more employment opportunities to drive local economic growth,” said Kemp. “I look forward to participating on the panel and taking part in the start of a local business that will help boost our economy.”

The Young Entrepreneurs program also welcomes Chris Thomas to the panel, who serves as Director of National Advertising for “The Dave Ramsey Show,” a nationally syndicated radio program heard on more than 500 radio stations across the nation. Prior to joining The Dave Ramsey Show, Thomas was a project manager for Nashville-based Imagination Branding.

“After recently celebrating our 20 anniversary, ‘The Dave Ramsey Show’ continues to provide life-changing financial advice to more than 5 million listeners, including business owners,” said Thomas. “Our philosophy is centered on financial freedom and stability, and being a part of this panel was a natural fit. I’m honored and excited to participate, and I look forward to listening to these new and creative ideas.”

Since 2010, panelist Judy Williams has been the number one producing Real Estate Agent for Crye-Leike Real Estate Services in Middle-Tenn. Before joining Crye-Leike, Williams was president of Sales and Marketing for Washington D.C.’s WJLA, ABC News Channel 7 and its sister station News Channel 8. She was also the first business development manager for Washington D.C.’s WRC-TV, NBC News Channel 4, where she was instrumental in developing and launching the television program “Working Woman Magazine,” in partnership with New York-based Working Woman Magazine, in 84 markets.

According to Williams, “It is great to see Churchill Mortgage celebrate their 20 anniversary by giving back to the community, and I’m honored to listen to young and spirited professionals that have the business ideas and drive to further job growth.”

Aimed to educate, train and recruit young, local professionals and encourage business development in Middle Tennessee, Churchill Mortgage is accepting business pitches until Dec. 31, 2012 from individuals 29 years old and under. Entrants’ businesses must be from or plan to headquarter in the Middle Tennessee area, and presentations must be a new or existing business that has been in operation for no more than 18 months. Winners will receive more than $35,000 in cash and prizes to help fund a new business.

“With more than a century of combined professional experience, our Young Entrepreneurs panel is a knowledgeable and talented group of Tennessee’s most influential leaders,” said Mike Hardwick, president of Churchill Mortgage. “We are honored to have these strong minds involved and look forward to their guidance as we help drive local business and economic growth.”

To enter the contest and submit a business idea, please visit

About Churchill Mortgage

Founded in 1992, Churchill Mortgage is a prominent and financially sound leader in the mortgage industry, providing conventional, FHA, VA and USDA residential mortgages across 26 states. Unique within the industry, it is the only mortgage lender endorsed by nationally syndicated radio personality and personal finance expert and author, Dave Ramsey. Through its consultative approach to lending and strong commitment to local communities, the lender focuses on the right loan product for each borrower, providing the education and tools necessary to ensure borrowers’ financial stability. For more information about Churchill Mortgage, visit or follow them on Twitter @ChurchillMtg and Facebook at


For Churchill Mortgage
Mary York Cox, 678-781-7217
Michael Touchton, 678-781-7215

Source: Churchill Mortgage