HELPING SMALL BUSINESSES WIN WITH THEIR FEDERAL CONTRACTS

Do you currently have a federal contract or seeking to win one? If so, then Ruffin Consulting a recent NBIC graduate is a company you should know. They are on a mission to help small businesses manage and win with their federal contracts.

Describe Ruffin Consulting in one sentence?

A niche firm that specializes in providing accounting and consulting services to Federal contractors.

What inspired you to start Ruffin Consulting?

The desire to own a firm that would assist small businesses in becoming both responsible and reliable Federal contractors.

What makes Ruffin Consulting unique?

Our staff is dedicated to our clients and take a genuine interest in the developmental process of each business.

Nashville is being called the “It” city…tell us why you are loving Nashville, right now?

I really like seeing the growth and expansion of Nashville. The city is attracting a diverse group of individuals and businesses to the city which is providing increased business opportunities.

3 things you love about NBIC that others may not know? 

  • Exceptional personnel that possess the necessary skill-sets to assist with business growth
  • Provides access to a business network that could be essential to the foundation and/or business structure needed for future success.
  • One-on-one attention via monthly meetings and trainings that provide the necessary guidance on how to be the “Executive” of your business, not an employee.

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

Know your cost! Also, properly develop and document all of your operating procedures.

Is there one significant success/win over the last 6 months to a year that you would be able to share?

Contract extension to provide management and technical assistance to small businesses throughout the United States.

Lastly, what can Music City expect from Ruffin Consulting in 2017?

Consistent growth and a continuation of providing superior services to our clients that exceed expectations.

TWO OREGON NATIVES IN NASHVILLE ARE DISRUPTING THE LIGHTING INDUSTRY IN A “GREEN” WAY.

CandleRay_at_Nissan_Stadium

Co-Founders Clay Wraith and Eric Enright

What is CandleRay?

We are a company built on the enrichment of life and space through creative application of energy-efficient technology.

What inspired you to start CandleRay?

It was a combination of things. We both had personal goals to create a company that would have a positive impact on sustainability.  Eric previously worked for both a solid-state lighting manufacturer, and a consulting firm, giving him a unique appreciation for lighting design applied to the built environment.  We talked regularly about the lighting industry and the impact it has on so many different aspects of our day-to-day success.  After a while he would mention some issues that frustrated him such as low quality products, misinformation, and poor lighting system designs. We both felt there was a better way to maximize financial and aesthetically benefits for end-users.  This concept inspired The CandleRay Way: CandleRay’s core principles of effective design practice.

What makes CandleRay unique?

The short answer to that is the CandleRay Way.  It guides a lot of our decision-making process. When designing a lighting system there are so many factors that need to be considered. Whether it’s a new building or retrofitting an existing structure, lighting can shape a space, change perspective, and define the architecture. This integral part of the building design process is often treated as an afterthought, and our goal is to educate our clients and facilitate the implementation of inspiring lighting ecosystems. The fundamental technological shift requires more demand for experienced designers.  We want to encourage the industry shift from a biased manufacture perspective to a perspective focused on the end-user and final product.

Are you a Nashville native?

We both grew up together in a small town called Brookings in Southern  Oregon.  I first moved to Tennessee in 2005 to marry my beloved wife Dana who is from Carthage, Tennessee in Smith County about an hour east of Nashville.  We spent a few years in San Francisco before we moved back to Nashville in 2009 to finish my Law degree at Vanderbilt.  Once we got to Nashville we loved it.

Eric lived in Portland, Oregon and moved down in 2012 once we got CandleRay up and rolling. He is a big Music guy so he loves Nashville.

Nashville is being called the “It” city…tell us why you are loving Nashville, right now?

Well we both have a passion for music so it’s easy to fall in love with Music City. On a deeper level, I truly believe it is an important and unique place to be at this time during history. There are people from all over the world here everyday. People move here from all over.  Bringing their own unique combination of business expertise, culture, art, religion, ingenuity. It has created a really amazing moment and I feel truly blessed  to be a part of it.

CandleRay is an environmentally friendly company, what lead you to going green within the lighting industry?

We’ve always been really compelled by opportunities that create positive shifts in our society while also conveying a lot of monetary benefits.  Most people that work with buildings realize that efficiency is a good idea, saves money, reduces maintenance expenses, increases the market value, etc.  Lighting is a great place to start, but it can also lead to a lot of problems. CandleRay works with architects, end-users, and contractors to create functional and inspiring lighting environments for new construction.  For major renovations, we will also conduct energy analysis and provide financial incentives for the TVA’s EnergyRight program.  We are proud to be part of the TVA EnergyRight solutions program dedicated to helping businesses pay for new equipment that decreases their energy consumption. We work with similar incentive programs all over the country and although each is a little different they all have the same goal, lets help make smart choices that have real monetary benefits and significantly reduce our nation’s energy consumption.

3 things you love about NBIC that others may not know? 

  1. First, we really enjoy our office space.  We have a unique combination of requirements for CandleRay HQ. We set up some pretty advanced lighting demos and need tall ceilings, but we also prefer a professional setting to deliver C-suite presentations.  NBIC could provide that for us in a very accessible   part of Nashville.
  2. Second, we have really benefited from the accountability aspect of the NBIC program. Our mentors here have pushed us to follow up on goals and tasks that we have wanted to achieve. Having to stay current on all our internal financials has also really helped us understand what’s working and where we need to be to get to the next level. We’re enthralled in lighting design and our projects.  The NBIC forces you to take another look at the business. Neither one of us has an MBA. So, we’re not professionals at starting a small business, we’re professionals at the lighting environment. The NBIC makes sure our business grows with us along with our professional skills. There is also accountability from our neighbors. We do business together and I get inspired by learning their stories. It’s really motivating to see entrepreneurs taking real strides towards achieving their goals.
  3. Finally, in the morning when we come into work, there is usually an amazing aroma of coming from The Grilled Cheeserie.  I guess it’s some kind of crazy combination of bacon, cheese, and secret ingredients.  I love it.

 

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

Make sure you get your ducks in a row. Especially legally.  I know from my experience as an attorney that a lot of young companies don’t pay enough attention to their contracts, corporate formalities, state and federal regulatory requirements. Usually it isn’t a problem until it’s a big problem and the worst part is that often times it could have easily been avoided.

 

Is there one significant success/win over the last 6 months to a year that you would be able to share?        

Recently we completed two highly successful full-scale lighting projects. Del Webb at Lake Providence is a resort-style active adult community where we designed a 25,000 square-foot clubhouse and several acres of common area outdoor lighting.  Scepter Inc., an aluminum recycling plant in Waverly, TN, received a $99,000 incentive check from the TVA and they dramatically improved the light levels in their demanding, hazardous work space. When you can make a work place safer, help the environment, and make your customer a whole lot of money, it’s a success.

 

Lastly, what can Music City expect from Candle Ray in 2017?

We plan on continuing to grow with Nashville and raising our profile within the building and construction community. Our company has a lot to offer and we really look forward to getting involved with projects that can benefit from the CandleRay way.  We also look forward to continuing our educational work with schools and non-profits. We believe that raising awareness about the ways lighting can benefit our community is an essential part of our mission.

The Green Truck Moving Company

green-truck-movers-owners

NBIC chats with co-founder, Emanuel Reed of The Green Truck Moving Company. A NBIC Graduate company. Pictured above (l-r) Founders: Derrick Moore and Emanuel Reed, Clinton Gray (not pictured).

What inspired you to start your moving company?

We were inspired by the desire to create change. We wanted to be examples of what can be done via teamwork, innovation, and overall determination. The three of us are all risk takers and value leadership and problem solving so entrepreneurship fits right with our core values.

What makes your business different?

As part of problem solving, we wanted to come in and say what could we do to improve the industries we operate in. We’ve taken more of a people focus in each of our businesses which has allowed us to retain more employees and offer a better service than our competitors. In addition, we believe in branding and building repeatable processes. We also differentiate via sustainability.

Are you a Nashville native?

I was originally born in Akron, OH but moved to Nashville at the age of 7. Derrick and Clinton are both native Nashvillians.

Nashville is being called the “It” city…why are you loving Nashville, right now?

I believe Nashville is making a great push to increase diversity. While Nashville, like the rest of the country, has a long way to go we are behind this positive momentum. We meet entrepreneurs and other business professionals from all walks of life on a regular basis that are doing amazing things in their fields. We have a restaurant opening soon so, we’re also loving the growing restaurant scene. Clinton thinks he’s the next big chef in the city lol.

3 things you love about NBIC that others may not know?

1. The NBIC is like a community. The business owners share experiences, knowledge, resources, and connections.

2. The staff is invested in your success. I originally had no idea how large the International Incubator community is. Our business, by way of the pushing and help from the NBIC, was awarded as one of the Incubator clients of the year by the National Business Incubation Association.

3. Clients will leave with a thorough understanding of the business essentials like insurance, accounting systems, HR, taxes, and compliance. These overlooked things are perhaps the most important because they are what can put you out of business. The NBIC, Angela in particular, would regularly stress the importance of one of these almost daily.

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

The hardest step in business is actually deciding to take that risk. Stop talking about it. Just do it!

What are a few eco-friendly tips you can give to readers looking to be more sustainable in their local living?

I’ll name three. 1. Use reusable water bottles versus non-reusable water bottles. 2. Go paperless in both your personal and business life. 3. Plant some trees.

You guys started a moving company and have now transitioned to also opening a pizza restaurant. Do you think continually evolving and adding different verticals as an entrepreneur is important for sustainability?

Absolutely. We’re fortunate to have three partners with a common goal. This gives us a bit more flexibility to diversify into different areas. The number one objective of wealth building is diverse revenue streams. It has always been our goal to use our first business ventures as springboards into other things that we are each more passionate about.

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

Nashville can expect our businesses to continue to grow, employ more people, and innovate the markets that we serve. We also have some other cool ventures planned for next year. We are very excited about next year and appreciate all those who we’ve had the pleasure to serve and do business with. Slim & Husky’s will be open January 2017 so people can expect a great atmosphere, great pizza and beer, and an overall great experience.

 

A Client Story | Michelle Perry, Founder of Emerald Resource

Michelle Perry is the founder of Emerald Resource, an electrical low voltage contractor that designs, engineers and installs customized telecommunications networks including Telephone Systems, Audio Visual, VTC, CCTV, Access Control, and ISP/OSP Cabling and Fiber solutions to meet standard and enhanced telecommunication services. In layman terms, this veteran, woman-owned business is responsible for bringing power, light, and communications to buildings and communities across the state of TN and beyond. The amazing part is that Emerald Resource started out as a technology staffing firm! So, now you are wondering how do they go from a staffing firm to a major player in the electrical contracting space….they capitalized on the opportunities given. Michelle’s story is really one that shows no matter what you put your mind to, you can definitely achieve it.  Check out her story below and how her Nashville Business Incubation Center membership is currently taking her business to the next level.

Tell us how you started Emerald Resource? 

I was an IT recruiter for a fortune 500 company. The organization just went through the whole Y2k fiasco and began making internal changes along with purchasing companies from overseas. By 2003, I had enough and turned in my notice, however, they were determined not to let me go for 6 months so I worked so many hours during this period. After this time, I started getting back to me and what made me happy. Then, Thanksgiving rolls around and my Mom was like “what are you going to do” and I was like “Well, maybe I will just start my own company.” I received a check from my Grandmother that Christmas for $5,000, I also received calls from old clients during this time needing referrals for their business needs. I realized people needed to pay me for my advice and started my company at the beginning of 2004.

Your aha moment?

It started after receiving my first staffing opportunity with Beacon Technologies, a telecom business also at the Nashville Business Incubation Center.  I meet with the owner when he needed a proposal written but he didn’t want to pay it for it. In exchange, he agreed to give me a percentage of the job if they won (and they did!).  During the time working with Beacon Technologies, I got to learn what they did and gleaned basic knowledge. Having an undergraduate degree in Finance and my MBA I was able to see opportunity in spite of my lack of on-the-job electrical contracting experience. I knew I could build teams and provide the business acumen to make money.  Fast track to 2008, when I landed my first federal contract on the implementation side and I have grown sustainably ever since.

 

So, what has your growth entailed from the type of clients to number of employees? 

Well, in 2009 I moved to NBIC, and this was really the jump start I needed to begin meeting new contacts to help go after the right jobs. Our client list now includes: Department of the Army, Department of Energy, Department of the Air Force, Department of Forest Service, TN Army National Guard and the Air National Guard to name a few. We have also grown from a team of three to now 25 employees.

You mentioned that NBIC is playing a role in the growth of your company. For those entrepreneurs considering NBIC right now, what three things are you loving about your experience thus far?  

 

  1. Brainstorming and Ideation: The ability to walk in and bounce ideas off other business owners and the NBIC team is great. I’m a little different, I have ideas that I know could make money and Angela Jones is like my sounding board. I can schedule time to meet with her and get out all the things I have in my head. It is great to get out your thoughts out so you can then re-focus. Many times, Angela will listen, talk through the idea with me and then help me to not forget my core goals and the best way to stay on track. For me it comes down to the guidance, refocusing me and given me the opportunity to voice my ideas. They may not always come to fruition, but at least I had a knowledgeable source there to listen.
  1. Comraderie: At NBIC, every company is different but we all face many of the same problems, from logistics, cash flow, etc. I can recall on several occasions, taking a coffee break outside and sharing almost identical stories with another electrical manufacturing company that is also in the program.
  1. Processes, Processes, Processes: So, I already had Quickbooks but I did not have the other operational processes in place. I didn’t have an employee handbook and standard operating procedures for example. To be honest, I didn’t think they were necessary at the time. I was trying to run the business and bring in sales. However, the day came where I needed these processes in place. It was more painful to stop then and get it handled.

 

In such a male-dominated industry, do you notice any resistance from clients or counterparts?

Yea, I have a lot less now, however I am not going to lie. I just always remember, I did this on my own and can continue to push through any obstacle.

I could imagine your schedule is very demanding, how do you manage your work/life balance?

That’s one area I don’t do so well in.  I am a single Mom, and when I started in 2004, my daughter was 14. There was private school, extracurricular activities and it was difficult for the first the couple of years until she got a drivers license. However, with me having my own company, it has instilled in her a great work ethic as she was able to work on job sites during the summer.

I would say I still have to work on mastering the work-life balance but I love what I do, so it doesn’t feel like work.

Lastly, what’s next for Emerald Resource?

Stay fully staffed, fully busy and getting in more specialty projects, like our recent large excavation job.  I will also be obtaining my general contractor license. I have always wanted to erect my own building and I am on my way to doing so.

12 Social Networking Sites You Should Know to Help Your Business Reach an International Audience

Written by: Ashley Northington

Social media provides businesses with an opportunity to reach more people than ever before. Not only can businesses reach local audiences, social networking can also be used to reach a global market. Social media profiles with thoughtful, culturally appropriate content can help increase brand awareness among consumer groups in the country in which you wish to market.

However, global social media marketing goes beyond Facebook and Twitter. In fact some countries, like China, have restricted or banned residents from accessing Facebook and Twitter in favor in their own networks.

There are dozens of social media sites native to countries all over the world. To help you along, we’ve listed 12 social networking sites that may help you reach an international market.

Facebook

Facebook is the world’s largest social network. It has nearly 2 billion users worldwide. This includes approximately 70 million users in Brazil, 60 million in Indonesia, 26.5 million in Japan, and 22 million in both France and Germany.

Twitter

Twitter has 1.3 billion users worldwide, with 79 percent of accounts being held outside of the U.S. More than 80 percent of the world’s leaders are on Twitter.

XING

Xing is a social network for business professionals (think: LinkedIn). It is a platform where professionals from all kinds of different industries can meet up, find jobs, colleagues, new assignments, cooperation partners, experts, and generate business ideas. Based in Germany, Xing has nearly 11 million users in this market. It has approximately 200 million users worldwide.

Viadeo

Viadeo is a social network for business professionals (think: LinkedIn). It is a platform to help users boost their careers, find new contacts, and uncover new opportunities. Based in France, Viadeo has approximately 10 million users in this market. It has approximately 65 million users worldwide.

Twoo

Twoo bills itself as the ‘fastest way to meet new people.’ It is a social networking site that focuses on chatting, sharing photos and meeting new people. Twoo, based in Belgium, is available in more than 200 countries and in 38 languages. It has approximately 180 million users worldwide.

Vkontakte

Vkontakte, known as VK, is the largest European online social networking service. It is similar to Facebook. Based in St. Petersburg, Russia, it available in several languages, and is especially popular among Russian-speaking users

Weibo

Weibo is a microblogging network. It is similar to Twitter. In fact, the name ‘weibo’ literally translates into microblog in Chinese. Weibo is used by more than 22 percent of the Chinese Internet population of almost 540 million people.

Renren

Renren is a Chinese social networking site. It is similar to Facebook and is popular among college-age students. Renren has an estimated 150 million registered users and 31 million active users per month.

Mixi

Mixi is an online Japanese social networking service. Mixi users now exceed 27.1 million and has expanded into a communication platform that leverages voice, pictures, messaging, GPS, calendars and other functions to connect users.

Yonja

Yonja is Turkey’s largest social networking site. It has more than 31 million users in 15 countries.

Tuenti

Tuenti was the most popular social network in Spain, from 2009 to 2012, with over 15 million registered users. At that time, it was referred to as the ‘Spanish Facebook.’ Today, Tuenti offers mobile telephone and messaging that are accessible on any device via cloud.

GoldenLine

GoldenLine is Poland’s professional networking service. It is similar to LinkedIn. The network allows users to create business contacts, search for jobs, and find potential clients. It has more than 2 million users.

Your target country’s social media network could become one of your best marketing tools, provided you employ the right messaging and develop relevant content to distribute on that network.

The opportunity is huge.

LEARN MORE ABOUT HOW TO EXPAND YOUR BUSINESS INTO A GLOBAL MARKETPLACE DURING NBIC’S GLOBAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP WEEK. REGISTER FOR TICKETS AT NBICONLINE.COM.

Ashley Northington is a marketing communication professional and entrepreneur. She is the founder and agency director at DENOR Brands & Public Relations. Learn more about Ashley at ashleynorthington.com and follow her on Twitter and Facebook @ashnorthington. Learn more about her company at denorbrands.com and follow the company on Twitter and Facebook @DENORPR.