What We Do

Leaning Local is solely dedicated to working with and supporting the independent small business. With a goal of “affordable support” we can offer a number of plans that best fit each individual entrepreneur. With a combined 60 plus years of experience in retail, cooperative membership services, owning small businesses, consulting and providing financial services, we have the ability to make an immediate positive impact to your small business.

What makes us different than any other Digital Solution Provider is we connect all the dots leading to your success. We take a one size does not fit all approach. Small business owners are all different and have different needs. Yes, one common element to success is lead generation, but we do much more than that.

Our approach begins with a free business consultation discussion that helps shape our strategy to best fit the individual needs of each business. Whether it’s cost control, backend services, digital or social marketing advertising, graphic design, customer engagement and retention or lead generation, we can help.

For back-end and expense support, we offer a member services package either included in one our bundle programs or a la carte where we offer significant discounts on hard hitting expense items like credit card or consumer finance fees.

In addition, we advertise all of our members on a dedicated Leaning Local listing page where we apply a considerable amount of resources each month to drive customers to support their local small businesses.

What makes us affordable is our packages start at a incredibly low monthly rate, or you can even take on our services a la carte.

Who We Are

Mike Cherico

My personal experience includes opening my own 2 store retail chain in Buffalo, NY in 1988 at only 30 years old after working for a competitor for 9 years. In 1993 I moved to Atlanta and was presented with the opportunity to work with a national retail floor covering company as Director of Membership and then moved on to become Vice President of Marketing for CarpetMax. In 1998, I was named President of GCO (Georgia Carpet Outlets).

I then came to work for CCA Global in 2001 as Senior Vice President of Buying. In 2003, I was promoted to President of Lighting One, the largest independent group of specialty lighting stores. In 2007, I became President of the Outlet division, overseeing CCA Global’s Floor Trader, GCO Flooring Outlet, and Stone Mountain’s Flooring Outlet, while continuing my role as President of Lighting One. I have also become active in many industry associations including a board membership for the World Floor Covering Association.


Bruce Dearing

My dedication to true customer service and business experience are a perfect fit for Leaning Local. I began my career in a bank training program that paved the way for a highly diverse career in financial services. The majority of my time was spent in leading commercial lending teams and in business development roles, almost all of which was focused on the locally owned, locally operated business. This experience gave me a keen understanding of the complexities, challenges and energy needed to develop and operate a small business venture. I have a high entrepreneurial drive that led to assisting in the formation and operation of a community bank at the executive level. My last role in banking       was focused on building and leading a team in the disposal of problem assets at a regional bank. A few years ago I left banking to pursue a role in business consulting focused on small businesses in the Atlanta area. I am a life long resident of Cobb County and believe in being active in my community. I have served on the Boards of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and the Fishermen’s Net (a faith based charity supporting at risk youth) and am a graduate of the 2006 Leadership Cobb program.


Jen Starks

As the Director of Sales for Leaning Local, my top priority is connecting with local businesses owners to learn what type of support they need to succeed. I am passionate about strengthening the community and building up a support network for the local business to thrive together with other businesses.I am a native of the Midwest and received my B.A. in Psychology at Indiana University with an outside concentration in music. I then received my Masters in Social Work from Florida State University. After having my first child in 2007, I started a business (Ecological Babies) providing the community with both sustainable parenting products and education. I operated and grew the business for almost 6 years before selling it in 2013. I moved to the Peach State in 2014 when my husband took a position as a professor at Kennesaw State University. I decided to start homeschooling my then 3 children and had a fourth child before starting up a new business called SendOutCards. Through this company, I advise businesses on how to cultivate and manage their networks, generate loyalty and repeat business from their clients, and show appreciation to their employees, in order to increase referrals, retention, and profitability.

Leaning Local is a natural extension of all my experience serving the community and building stronger connections because when we focus on small businesses, we can make a big impact on the entire community!