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Meet Jamestown Invest Investor, Sawyer Williamson

Tell us about yourself, your involvement with Williamson Bros. BBQ, and how the pandemic has impacted your businesses.

Our family moved to Atlanta from Alabama right after I was born to support my father's ambitions as an entrepreneur. It wasn't easy for my family to leave everything behind and start over a new life. What I cherished most about the experience of watching my father and uncle set up the business was observing their work ethic and perseverance as they overcame many challenges. I recall one time in 1994 when our restaurant caught on fire we were operating out of a stall in a Kroger grocery store for 3 months. For them it was like starting over again. Growing up in that environment and having conversations around business at the dinner table helped fuel my desire to follow the same entrepreneurial path. I started working at our restaurants at sixteen years old. Even at that age, I was negotiating contracts with our vendors, structuring partnerships with corporate accounts and procuring items needed for the restaurants to function.

Sawyer Williamson

I maintained my involvement with the family businesses throughout college and even started an apparel company with two friends. After a few years, we sold the clothing business, and I refocused my entire efforts on the family business. My current role is Vice President of Operations at Williamson Bros. BBQ, where I’m responsible for spearheading initiatives to drive profitability and growth.

Despite the Federal government stimulus, sadly, the pandemic has forced many restaurants around us to shutter permanently. It was a tough time for us and we are forever grateful for the support of our patrons and dedicated staff. It is because of them that we are still here today. I would describe the time during the pandemic as running ten marathons back-to-back. We are thankful to have survived and are now happy to be turning the corner. The Williamson Bros. BBQ business is centered around bringing people together, family, and enjoying each other's company while sharing great food.

What does proper asset allocation look like for you? How do you look at alternative investments as part of overall portfolio diversification?

Williamson BBQ

While investing is personal to an individual's circumstances, I'm looking to invest more in private investments as part of my allocation strategy. I have some of my portfolio weighted to public equities, which I believe are great for potential return long term, but I also want to touch my investments.

Additionally, my family's real estate portfolio offers ongoing cash flow and upside potential if sold. Actively managing the rental properties has given me a genuine appreciation for the effort required to service tenants’ requests. Real estate is tangible and gives me the confidence to know that I can drive up to and touch the asset.

Lastly, I believe that not putting all your eggs in one basket is one of the most basic investing mantras. I see investing in alternative investments as a way for me to reduce risk by diversification and gain exposure to non-correlated markets.

Why do you invest in commercial real estate?

My family has always maintained an investment “fly-wheel” whereby cash flow generated from operating our food and beverage businesses funnels into real estate acquisitions. My belief is real estate is stable, has tax advantages and historically has appreciated over time.

I also think a lot about our current economic policies, and I fear the possibility of inflation. This has implications for my cost of goods sold for our barbeque business. Our real estate, specifically contractual leases, accounts for future inflation through annual rent increases. Our rents and property values may outpace inflationary growth if the properties are successfully positioned or improved.

The adage of "they're not making any more of it" is also part of the reasoning for our family to continue on the path of adding real estate to our portfolio.

Having lived in and managing a business in Atlanta for the past few decades, you must have witnessed the growth of the city firsthand. Is this one of the reasons which has compelled you to partner with Jamestown on investments locally?

I'm obtaining my MBA from Georgia Tech with a concentration in real estate. Ponce City Market and the adjacent Atlanta BeltLine are both prominent case studies in adaptive urban redevelopment. It’s incredible to see the explosive growth within the Old Fourth Ward area. Not only has the BeltLine benefitted from economic development along the trail, but it has also revitalized and connected many communities. Having followed Jamestown as the manager of creative adaptive reuse projects for a while, I credit the company with playing a significant role in this transformation.

I frequent Ponce City Market and am also impressed by the transformation right across the street at Southern Dairies. In short, I plan to allocate more dollars towards investments in Atlanta as I believe the area is thriving!

Sawyer Williamson - Jamestown Invest
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