The DeKalb Difference Blog

From $325 to $1M: Clarke Builds ATL Search Firm Into Staffing Powerhouse

Clarke’s ATL Search Firm helps connect minorities with employers

Six years ago, people thought Lisa Guadalupe Clarke was crazy when she started her own staffing company with just $325 in seed money.

But during her first year, when Clarke rented a small space at the Georgia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in Buckhead, she billed over $1 million for services. In the five years since then, her company, ATL Search Group, has continued to take off.

“We are a full-service, award-winning staffing company. We focus on bilingual placements,” said Clarke, who founded ATL Search Group after spending over 20 years working for other staffing companies.

ATL Search Group connects employers with talent they need to fill their jobs, offering services for employers and job seekers, plus temp benefits. Five years ago, Clarke moved her office to Peachtree Corners. Although it’s located in Gwinnett County, less than a mile from the DeKalb County border, she said about 30 percent of her clients are DeKalb residents or businesses.

“I started my company because I saw the disconnection between minorities, especially in the Latino community, [and] corporations. And I wanted to be the vehicle for helping solve that problem,” Clarke said.

Tapping into DeKalb’s ‘Melting Pot’

Born on Long Island, New York, she moved with her family to El Salvador, where they are from, when she was less than a year old. She and her family moved back to Long Island when she was 14 to escape the civil war in the Central American country.

Clarke, who now lives in north Brookhaven with her husband and three daughters, has lived in DeKalb for 19 years after moving from Long Island to Atlanta.

“I love DeKalb County because it’s such a melting pot of cultures with the diversity and the opportunity for growth,” she said. “I’ve seen it. When we first moved here, I wanted to make sure I was able to have access to different cultures, and as you know, Buford Highway has an amount of restaurants and culture and supermarkets where you can pretty much find anything you want from around the world. … And it’s growing tremendously.”

Today ATL Search Group, where Clarke is the CEO, has four employees reporting to her. It’s become the go-to staffing agency for businesses interested with jobs seeking to hire – and the search firm always has a high number of minority job candidates.

“Latinos are the fastest-growing community, and it’s important to reflect that when it comes to diversity in your business,” Clarke said. “A lot of folks like to do business with people who look like them and understand the culture. So I think it’s important to diversify your workforce as you begin to expand your horizons.”

When she was in high school, Clarke’s business class teacher, Steve Lombardi, encouraged her to go to college and helped her get a partial scholarship. She earned her business degree at Briarcliffe College.

“I was born on Long Island, New York, and grew up in El Salvador during the war. So I have experienced everything that an immigrant experienced, but I always feel blessed because I have the golden ticket. I was born here, so I didn’t have to fight the red tape to become a U.S. citizen,” Clarke said.

Rising into a Staffing Leader

As her status in the staffing industry has grown, Clarke has become a leader in her field. She’s the only Latina business owner sitting on the Georgia Chamber of Commerce’s 400-plus-person board of directors, which leads an organization that has nearly 50,000 members across the state. Clarke also serves on the University of Georgia’s Small Business Development Center advisory board and the Hispanic Scholarship Fund’s Atlanta Advisory Council.

And she’s the staffing chair of the Minority Business Enterprise Input Committee for the Georgia Minority Supplier Development Council, an organization that certifies minority business enterprise firms.

Local and national media and organizations have taken notice. Last year Clarke was named to Georgia Trend magazine’s 2023-24 Georgia 500 list of Georgia’s Most Influential Leaders, and in 2022 she was one of 75 people selected to the Association for Latino Professionals for America’s Women of ALPFA Latinas to Watch list.

Last year she founded Latinas Rise, an organization that backs Latina-owned businesses by offering access to educational programs, mentoring, networking and business opportunities. On Feb. 13, it hosted a fundraiser in which it donated more than 100 business suits to high school boys and girls to use in job interviews and gala dresses for high school girls to use at proms and other events.

“The reason I started Latinas Rise is I got sick and tired of hearing [people say], ‘We can’t find Latina-owned companies.’ But we’re here. People just don’t see us,” Clarke said. “The whole idea is we’re having educational workshops, and we are aligning with other organizations that have paid employees because we’re all volunteers on my board. So what we do is we bring in educational workshops in English and Spanish for women who have a minimum of three years in business and $250,000 or more in revenue. Everyone is welcome [at] our workshops.”

ATL Search Group is open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. It is located at 7094 Peachtree Industrial Blvd., Bldg. 2, Suite 225, Peachtree Corners, GA 30071 470-545-0256. For more information, visit ATL Search Group.

Feeling inspired? If you have a business you’d like to locate in DeKalb County, please contact Decide DeKalb to find out more about how businesses thrive in DeKalb.