THE IDEAL EXIT: FROM COO TO BOARD CHAIR

 

Ira Weiss is the co-founder of BioDtech and now serves as the company’s Board Member.

What inspired you to start your business?

We started at Scripps Clinic on the research side of things. We were a part of their startup in San Diego. One of the initial scientists approached me in 2003 wanting to do another bio tech startup. Their goal, was to save 50,000 Americans that were experiencing bacterial based diseases. They wanted us to lead the testing for endotoxins in order to develop a therapeutic drug, then license the technology. We decided not to go that route, and instead pursued the septic shock arena.  We ended up pursuing the research side in order to create a 3rd generation of synthetic peptide. Along the way, we developed our own technology, an enhancing booster which provided better quantifiable results for pharma companies during their testing process.

Why Nashville? 

We started in Nashville at NBIC and it still holds a special place in our company’s success. We are now located in Birmingham, AL.

Why was NBIC been the best option for your business? 

NBIC offers a great incubation program and has really not received the recognition it truly deserves. The incubation process really gives companies a step up to being successful. Being a part of NBIC gave us exposure to various components of how a business runs successfully, from mentorship to finding the right resources needed for your business success.

You exited your company and are now a board member, how did you handle the transition?

I had the opportunity to help start and grow a 35 million dollar business in San Diego and then launch BioDtech. Throughout my experiences, I gained a vast knowledge and resource base that I did not want to keep to myself. I wanted to help others, as I believe giving back is only the right thing to do. Once I was able to create a successful exit from BioDtech as COO and become a board member, I realized this was an ideal time to pursue creating my own advisory services.

You are now pursuing creating your own accelerator program, tell us about this new journey? 

After joining the board, I created my advisory program to help entrepreneurs address several problems, including one of the biggest – having an idea but then needing the money to perfect it. I decided to create a way for investors to have a 360 degree look at a potential venture from pre-seed, seed to the first round of capital. We also help them find resources and develop a successful pitch deck.

 

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A PR Firm Helping Organizations Put Their Brand First

Jennifer Gamble is a Chicago native who has called Nashville home since graduating from Fisk University. She is a non-profit executive turned entrepreneur and founder of Nelson PR + Communications (her maiden name is Nelson, in case you are as inquisitive as we are:). She is paving her own path in corporate communications and we are excited to share her client story.

What inspired you to start your business?

I was working as the CEO for Prevent Blindness TN, raising funds, hiring staff, managing an annual budget of $400K, you name it. During this time, it hit me that I was essentially learning how to run my own business and I officially launched Nelson PR + Communications in 2012. Launching my firm allowed me to get back into my passion of promoting programs and brand building for public entities. Working with clients like the TSU Athletics Department on a daily basis continues to be a rewarding part of my journey.

Nashville is being called the “It” city…. Why are you loving Nashville for your business? 

As an entrepreneur that believes family comes first, I could not see raising my children anywhere else. Nashville is where I began my collegiate journey, met my husband (a TSU grad, go Tigers!) and developed expertise in driving real results for corporations and non-profits. This city provides a nurturing home for small businesses and has city leaders that recognize, appreciate and support a thriving local business economy.

What was the biggest aha moment you have experienced during your business journey?

Discovering my niche in helping government and public organizations. Many times, public organizations do not have the resources, time and/or see the importance of building a strong brand presence. I am able to provide a cost effective way for them to build, manage and grow their organization in order for them to devote more time to their civic and mission driven work.

Why has NBIC been the best option for you and your business? 

I love the use of my convenient and functional office space, beneficial business development services and information that I receive along with the opportunity to network and establish peer-to-peer relationships with other small business owners. NBIC was actual pivotal in helping me develop my accounting system. This was one area I needed help in and of course, as a small business I could not go out and hire an accounting firm initially. Having the opportunity to gain this insight through NBIC was priceless and has helped in the sustainability of my company.

Name a barrier you faced during your business journey and how did you make it work for your good?

Of course, there are societal perceptions in being a minority, women-owned business. However, I never try to avoid it, but instead, utilize it as a positive. I take pride in my uniqueness and the different perspectives that I bring to a client relationship that may not be found in general market agencies. I can reach broader audiences. I can create tailored strategies that advance public awareness and diverse community outreach. I can add value and drive the results my clients needs.  My goal is to always meet my position and identity head on. I go out there and focus on #winning; there is no time for hiding.

“I go out there and focus on #winning; there is no time for hiding.”

 

Is there one business resource or tip you would give to NBIC readers just starting out in their business? 

I would tell any entrepreneur to make sure they are taking advantage of the local business resources provided in their city. Nashville has a lot of great organizations such as NBIC, the Mayor’s Office of Economic Development, and the Nashville Entrepreneur Center that offer free and membership style services to help in growing your business. There is a learning curve for many new business owners and you just don’t know what you don’t know.  Seeking out resources, networking and attending informational meetings is a good way to shorten the learning curve and avoid making crucial beginner mistakes.

 

Lastly, what can Music City expect from your company in 2017?

I am a part of the NBIC’s current Mentor Protege and Emerging Contractors program and will actively be pursuing federal contracts along with local government opportunities this year. Receiving a federal contract would be next level for my business and I am looking forward to making that happen in 2017.

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A CHAT WITH AL COLVIN, FOUNDER OF NRG MANAGEMENT SOLUTIONS

 

al-colvin-nrg

Al Colvin is the founder of NRG (Energy) Management Solutions,Inc. is an electrical contractor company that provides electrical services for commercial and industrial construction projects.

1.    Describe the mission of NRG Management? 

Our mission is to provide our employees with an honest and helpful working environment, where every employee, individually and collectively, can dedicate themselves to providing our customers with exceptional workmanship, extraordinary service, and professional integrity.  We will strive to implement a long term relationship with our clients based on safety, quality, timely service and an anticipation of their needs.

2.    What inspired you to start NRG Management Solutions? 

Well, I had an opportunity to start the company as a vendor to one of the largest electrical distribution companies in the world; however, once they realized the amount of revenue that could be generated by self-performing start-ups and commissioning, it was brought back in-house.  I, then, ventured into new construction and the rest is history.

3.    What makes NRG Management Solutions unique and different than other electrical contracting firms? 

We care about people first.  This is a culture that starts with the company and emanates outwardly to all of our customers.  I want EVERYONE to feel important and appreciated.

4.    Are you a Nashville native? 

No, I am originally from Ohio but have been in Nashville off and on for almost 21 years.  Transferring to TSU (Tennessee State University) was the reason for coming to the Music City, but I fell in love with the Southern hospitality and felt as though this was a stable environment to raise children.

5.    Electrical contracting is a specialized field that is very important for any construction project; could you describe a typical on the job day? 

We start off the day with a safety briefing, because I want everyone to return home in the same condition in which they came.  Afterward, there is an assessment of job status as it relates to scheduling as well as checking for material and tooling needs for the upcoming days.  We are always trying to be proactive instead of reactive. 

6.    How long has your company been in the NBIC program?

We are going into our 3rd year at the NBIC.

7.    Could you share 3 things you love about NBIC that others may not know? 

  • The staff has been excellent throughout our tenure.  They are all dedicated to the growth, development and overall success of the companies in the program.
  • NBIC has enabled us to enroll in free business development opportunities through various entities such as MNAA and SBA.  These programs are invaluable for businesses looking for sustainable growth.
  • Lower rent helps companies maintain lower overhead in order to be more competitive in the market place and save money for their own facility upon graduation from the program.

8.    Is there one business resource or tip you would give to readers just starting out in their business?

A popular misconception amongst people wanting to start a business is thinking since you are able to perform the work, you are able to run a business.  Unless you understand how to operate a business, you are going to find it extremely difficult to grow and sustain your business without the right assistance.  The NBIC has helped me tap into various resources in order to grow exponentially.

9.    Is there one significant win you have received over the last 6 months to a year that you would be up for sharing with the NBIC community?

Over the first year at the NBIC, I was fortunate enough to generate revenue through another business and as a result the electrical company suffered.  Angela Crane-Jones personally challenged me to put more effort into the electrical and I accepted.  This year we have already surpassed sales from all of our previous years combined.

10.  Lastly, what can Music City expect from NRG Management Solutions in 2017?

We are steadily looking for ways to improve our employee and customer experience.  I want the company to be better than the day before and never allow success to make us comfortable.

A CHAT WITH MICHEAL WEISS, FOUNDER OF MEDFORWARD

 

Michael Weiss is the founder of MedForward, a digital marketing firm focused on helping medical businesses, including private practicing physicians, hospitals, and healthcare companies grow their businesses.

What inspired you to start your business?

I was inspired to start my business out of the desire to help other medical businesses and patients and make a lasting positive impact.
Nashville is being called the “It” city…. Why are you loving Nashville right now for your business?

I am originally from Baltimore and our primary reason for moving to Nashville was to join the Nashville Business Incubation Center in 2012. It is an affordable and very business friendly city. It’s the center of the medical industry which aligns with our vertical and also relatively geographically centered in the U.S. which helps us do business across the country.
What was the biggest aha moment you have experienced during your business journey?

There’s not a specific aha moment, but we always learn that one of the most important things to do is to hire the best people.
What are three things that you love about your NBIC experience?

1) The affordability of the space as we grew our business.

2) Networking with the other businesses in the center and attending NBIC sponsored events was a benefit.

3) Mentorship opportunities were very beneficial. Angela Crane Jones helped in coaching me on my business along with an introduction to the TN Small Business Development Center and connecting me with a NBIC board member who runs a similar company.

Name a barrier you faced during your business journey and how did you make it work for your good?

One barrier we faced was coordinating as a team. We implemented a ticketing system which really helped address this problem.
Is there one business resource or tip you would give to NBIC readers just starting out in their business?

I’d recommend that they don’t give up and keep trying. Make sure to keep an open mind towards your strategy and pay attention to market demands to pivot if necessary if at first you don’t succeed.

What would you say has been one of the challenges you faced starting a tech driven small business in Nashville and how did you overcome it?

I wouldn’t say this was one of our challenges but I have heard raising capital can be challenging outside of a Silicon Valley environment. Since our model focuses on selling directly to healthcare providers and Nashville is such a healthcare mecca, we did not see this as an obstacle for our business growth.
Lastly, what can Music City expect from your company in 2017?

MedForward will be growing, hiring in Nashville, and continuing to innovate by adding new features to our secure online medical forms and online medical marketing software.

A Moving Company Betting On Quirky Branding and People First

move-on-founders

Co-Founders Bryce Adkins and Toddy Caldwell

Move On has been a part of NBIC for almost a year and a half after purchasing a local moving company. Founded by two Nashville transplants, their fun approach to moving is refreshing. They also  believe investing in their employees’ lives is a natural thing to do which in turn provides a great experience for their customers. They are betting on their quirky branding and people loving skills to succeed in this industry and we are excited to share their story.


Describe the mission of Move On?

Move On’s mission is to provide a great career opportunity for our employees. We want to provide the best company culture and work atmosphere possible while providing the highest quality service. In short, we want to positively impact as many lives as possible.

What inspired you to start Move On?

We had a great opportunity present itself when a moving company went on the market for sale. Seeing the current market atmosphere and the need for a moving company to operate at a high level of service and integrity inspired us to create Move On.

What makes Move On unique and different than other moving companies?

Move On is heavily invested in its employees. We are always trying to better their lives through their work at Move On. Our clients will always receive the best customer service and a personal touch to their move.

Are you a Nashville native?

My business partner, Toddy, and I are both from other states. Nashville is definitely home for both of us, but Toddy is from Mississippi and I am from Seattle. Nashville for me was a choice to call home because of the music scene. For Toddy, it was a city he felt that really fit him. The people here are great and you get that small town feel in a big city.

Move On has done a great job of developing a fun, quirky brand. Why did you make it a priority to focus on branding and messaging for your small business as it is sometimes overlooked when starting a business?

Our identity is very important to us. So when we considered marketing and branding ourselves, we wanted to be true to who we are personally. We have a sense of humor here and some great personalities and we want that to be conveyed in our branding. While we take Move On and our reputation very seriously, we do not take ourselves seriously. We have a lot of fun doing what we do and we want people to understand that. It’s important for people to know that we truly care about serving and running a great company, but have fun while doing that. Branding is something that anyone can do; from the logo, to your name, to the personality. This can all be conveyed in multiple affordable channels. Social media is the obvious and easy way to show people who you are.

What initial steps did you take when creating your brand look + feel?

When we were building the foundation of our branding, we solely focused on finding out who we were as a company. We looked at the moving industry and how dull and boring it was. We are not dull and boring and we want to market ourselves with our personality deeply rooted in that brand. We wanted very early on for people to know who we are regardless of if they have used or needed our services. For us it’s quite simple, we stay true to ourselves and who we are and I think when you do that people connect. Everything you see is a direct extension of our personality and who we are.

Why NBIC? 

NBIC provides great resources for the businesses that are affiliated. It has helped foster our growth tremendously. The location is amazing, but the faculty, support and resources gives any business a leg up while fostering growth.

For the reader just starting up their business, what is one tip you would provide?

Having a detailed business plan is great. But, knowing who you are and focusing on operating with the highest level of integrity and customer service will work for anyone and have the biggest impact on your reputation and growth.

What has been one of your biggest wins since launching?        

The biggest win I would say we have had, outside of our reputation, would have to be the employees we have. We are very proud of our employees. Our customers love them and we love having them work for us. It’s great seeing our folks become friends and spend time together outside of work. When you develop a team that is tight knit, your business will operate on another level of awesome.

Lastly, what can Music City expect from Move On in 2017?

Nashville can expect some pretty epic marketing from Move On in 2017. We are working on some very exciting things that we hope people will enjoy and identify with. Our service is always being improved in every aspect. I doubt we will ever be satisfied with how good we are. We always want to be better, and will continue to grow together in being the best we can be.