A Client Story | Organic Brilliance

 

What inspired you to start Organic Brilliance?  

I am always inspired to create healthier products to help a loved one in need, and I create products that don’t currently exist on the market in a pure, beneficial and healthy form.

Rich & Thick HAIR is my first hair care product line for our new company, Organic Brilliance.  I was inspired to create this product line because my mom was using a product that I felt was harmful to her hair and scalp.

My mom had used harsh chemicals on her hair for many years and her hair was thinning. She showed me a product she was using to topically fill in her thinning hair and make her hair look instantly fuller.  The product was a powder made with keratin (wool shavings), DMDM hydantoin (formaldehyde), ammonia, and dyes, etc.

After searching on line and in stores, I was very surprised that I could not find an instant hair powder or hair thickener in her hair color that did not contain harmful ingredients for hair and scalp.

I created Rich & Thick HAIR initially in the Light Blonde shade for my mother, and that inspired me to go on to create the entire line of healthy instant hair filler fibers in several hair colors. I named our parent company Organic Brilliance as I hope to create many more high performance, pure and healthy hair care products.

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What makes Organic Brilliance different?

Our flagship product line, Rich & Thick HAIR is a fine powder made only with 16 Certified Organic botanicals, 3 Wild Harvested botanicals, and naturally sourced silk peptide proteins.  It is an instant, topical, dry hair styling product.

Rich & Thick HAIR is a perfect dry shampoo in your hair color, it is a truly healthy root touch up, it adds fullness and body to limp hair, and it effectively and naturally fills in thinning hair.

Rich & Thick HAIR is offered in 16 hair colors, and the colors are made from the botanicals themselves with NO dyes!

It is a dry fine powder that resists sweat, wind and rain. Rich & Thick HAIR is so unique and innovative that it is now Patent Pending.

Are you a Nashville native?

I am not a Nashville native.  My family lived in foreign countries an traveled the world as my dad was in the Air Force.

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

I love Nashville because it is an international city.  People from all over the world visit our city, and we are changing and growing in amazing ways. I love our rich heritage of music and the arts.

What would you say has been the biggest aha moment during your business journey, so far?

There have been so many aha moments for me in this business. I would say that the biggest ones had to do with realizing that prayer, asking God for help every step of the way, kept me on track to finding the answers I needed in choosing the ingredients that went into the final formulas.  Also, I prayed for years to be able to make a bigger difference in the lives of children who are hurting. I think another big aha moment for me is when I realized that this could be the answer to my prayer to be able to give much more.

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

  1. I think that the first and best thing about the NBIC is our Executive Director, Angela Crane-Jones. Angela has wisdom, knowledge and insight into business development and has been very helpful to us from the moment we met her.
  2. Another thing we love about the NBIC is the way the resident businesses are so helpful and friendly.  We are like a family, and we all reach out to help each other in various ways.
  3. We are very proud to be a part of the NBIC, and we have found that the program has a great reputation in the city.

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

Honestly, it would be to surround yourself with professionals of integrity and knowledge in your type of business, stay humble and open to learning, and never give up on your dream.

You researched and tested your product for over 2 years, what was the biggest thing that kept you motivated during this time?

I think every little discovery that a botanical actually worked better than harmful chemicals and looked beautiful was very rewarding each time it happened. Creating a product and starting a business around it is a marathon, not a sprint.  You have to celebrate each little step of progress and not grow discouraged because there is a lot of unglamorous work involved.  It also takes courage.  Growing up in a military family, I have always been aware of the risks taken by our soldiers, sailors and airmen.  I have always pushed myself to have the same kind of courage in any endeavor.

Lastly, what can Music City expect from Organic Brilliance in 2016?

Now that we have our Patent Pending status, Music City can expect us to become much more visible in local salons, on social media, and on radio, etc.   We are just now launching our product Rich & Thick HAIR and expect to expand rapidly through the hair and beauty industry.  Nashville is a fabulous community and part of what makes it that way is the giving nature of the people who live here.  When our neighbors face a crisis, we jump in and help.  We absolutely want to do our part in giving back.  And we plan to begin moving forward with our goal of helping children in crisis.

A Graduate Story | U-Kno Catering

What inspired you to start U-Kno Catering?

I started out on the restaurant and meat & three side of food-service while doing catering out of my home with my family. I knew I could do this on my own and decided to open my own meat & three business which had a catering arm.

Once I learned my true passion was catering, I officially launched U-Kno Catering in 2005. My initial thought was to target corporate clients vs. social clients. This focus is what brought a lot of the growth into the business.  Meharry and Vanderbilt were some of my first clients. I also joined different organizations along with getting certified by TMSDC (Tennessee Minority Supplier Development Council).

Now, only 15% of my business is social, from weddings, church events, baby showers and non-profit organizations.  I am not a wedding caterer but I do, do weddings.

Nashville is being called the “It” city…why are you loving Nashville, right now? I feel the growth has helped many small businesses in Nashville, not just in the food industry. I think it has complemented everyone.

You celebrated a pretty awesome milestone last year, your 10-year business anniversary. What would you say was the biggest aha moment you experienced during this time?

Well, I guess my aha moment would be, when we were awarded our first contract with NES and went from catering to cafeteria management. It wasn’t my initial focus but definitely a part of my career history. The opportunities were out there for minority businesses to go into this aspect of the food industry and I was able to position our business to gain this contract. We were awarded the contract in 2009 for 5 years and renewed our contract for another 3 years. Having this contract on our resume allowed us to obtain other cafeterias in the state of TN. We went from one to four cafeteries in less than 5 years.

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

  1. They taught me how to be a successful entrepreneur. I knew catering and my kitchen but not the whole aspect of the business side. I needed that mentorship to understand what I was doing and NBIC helped with that.
  2. I don’t know everything. If you go in thinking you have it already figured out, you will not succeed. But you need seasoned people in the corporate environment and people to listen to you and help find solutions. That is what NBIC provided for me.
  3. Financing. I was going up for a contract and had never been bonded before. This was a huge component to winning this contract and NBIC helped me with getting the finances to get bonded. This was a major piece of getting our first contract with NES.

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

NBIC is a great resource! Tennessee State University (TSU) is also a good resource, as I interned at NBIC while attending the University.

Everyone is a foodie these days but the food industry is probably one of the hardest for many to become profitable and have longevity? What is one barrier that you faced and how did you make it work for your good?

Strong competition. I was able to sustain my business over the years by providing the same quality meat & three, southern with a twist style product. I didn’t change, I may have upgraded but I kept our consistency the same. Like food trucks, they have one product they stick with and do it very well. I am not trying to compete with other food businesses out there. I am doing what U-Kno Catering does best.

For those looking to get into the food industry, which startup entry would you suggest? Personal Chef, Catering, Food Truck, Restaurant? 

I would suggest they start out job shadowing within the restaurant business. You are allowed to see all aspects of the food-service business. Catering has a lot of moving parts, but the restaurant business allows you to learn the front of house, back of the house and how to treat customers.

Lastly, what can Music City expect from U-Kno Catering in 2016?

We want to restructure our business for continued growth. I want to focus more on the cafeteria side of the business. Our clients currently, include TN Tower, Dept of Labor, IRS Building Cool Springs, and of course NES. Our goal is to gain more contracts so we can work smarter not harder.

A Client Story | Spring Clean Cleaning Services

Interested to know how a company grows and lasts in Nashville for over 20 years? You have come to the right place! Spring Clean Cleaning Services, a current NBIC (Nashville Business Incubation Center) client, is a great example.

Darren and Karla Frieson, the husband and wife team behind the janitorial company, are continuing to make residential and commercial properties shine. NBIC sat down with Karla Frieson to learn about their business beginnings, why NBIC was their best choice, and their recommendations for business resources other entrepreneurs can incorporate. There are definitely a few aha moments below that you should check out!

Fun Facts About Spring Clean Cleaning Services:

  • They are a 20+ year-old minority and service-disabled veteran janitorial company offering cleaning, upholstery, and landscaping to their commercial and residential clients, along with carpet cleaning to residential clients.
  • They were honored as a 2014 Nashville Business Journal Small Business Awards as a finalist.
  • Some of their clients include: Department of Veteran Affairs, Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, Tyson McGhee National Guard, ITT Technical Institute, Metro Southeast, Veterans Administration, Bridgestone/Firestone and The City of Berry Hill.

Why NBIC?

We wanted to grow. We needed processes and wanted to learn the best advertising options to put in place. NBIC was the natural choice to get us there.

 

As a Nashville born business, what do you think about your new “It” city?

My husband and I are actually Nashville natives and grew up in East Nashville. It is really unbelievable to see all of the growth happening in the city. I am also a real estate agent that survived the housing market crash and now can experience the benefits that the growth of the city has to offer.

So, you guys are a husband and wife team taking the janitorial world head on, was that always your plan to work together?

I didn’t think we would be working together, but I saw a need that I could help Darren fulfill. He was constantly out in the field on projects and I knew I could help with the the back-end/operations of the company. The ability for me to step in to this role just made sense and it is history from there. It is also a lot of hard work, but worth it!

We know you celebrated your 20 year business anniversary in 2015. What was the biggest “aha” moment you have experienced since starting your company?

The biggest “aha” moment we learned from Angela Crane-Jones, and it includes one simple word…NETWORKING! We truly realized how important making connections with the people you meet on your business journey and that it is a huge necessity.  Being at the right events, getting your name out there and establishing relationships goes a long way to reaching your business goals.

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What is the one business tip you would give to new entrepreneurs starting out in Nashville?

Do things the right way in the beginning by connecting with an incubation program like NBIC or other business support organization. It is more than just getting a business license; you need to know about insurance, finding the right accountant and proper bookkeeping system, paying your taxes and much more. If you can connect with the right organization in the beginning, some of those hard learning lessons can be avoided.

Okay, so what would you say are the top things you love about NBIC?

  1. Angela Crane-Jones: (the superwoman behind NBIC, in case you are one of only a few that didn’t know). She really helped us with so many different aspects to grow our business and made us be accountable to our business and vision. Whatever she said was “gold” in our eyes and I did each task without hesitation, because I trusted her and saw the passion she had for helping small businesses.
  2. Relationship Building aka Networking: As I mentioned before, we really learned a lot about connecting with potential customers and other businesses. Creating genuine relationships are an integral part to any businesses success.

What’s next for Spring Clean Cleaning Services in 2016?

We are looking to diversify; offering other services and expanding into other states.

To learn more about Spring Clean Cleaning Services visit – http://springcleanllc.com/

A Graduate Story | Adtec Digital

We chatted with Ron Johnson, President of Adtec Digital; a contribution broadcasting company (aka they make viewing TV commercials and digital messages way easy). Adtec was founded by Ron Johnson, David Cook and Andre’ Ancelin in 1986. The company continues to create cutting edge equipment and initiallt proposed the way commercials are currently inserted into commercial broadcasting. 

Ron currently resides in Goodlettsville with his wife, and has two sons.

What inspired you to start Adtech:

Myself,  David Cook,  and Andre Ancelin attended  Tennessee Tech together and after graduation decided to start a tech company. I was the sales and marketing guy, David was the cool, customer service guy made sure the client experience was great, and Andre was head designer and basically formulated our concept.

So, who was your first customer?

During our last year in school, we made a playback piece of equipment for Tennessee Tech and, in turn, they become our first customer after we incorporated. The equipment was text based and would play content back automatically to share current happenings around the campus. After Tennessee Tech signed on, we realized it would be a great idea to provide this type of equipment to other universities. Then, it was like a domino effect as universities and hotels starting requesting our equipment.

We now provide equipment and services to universities, hospitals, hotels, cruise ships, theme parks, casinos and all major TV broadcasters. A lot of our staff and equipment was used for the Democratic and Republican National Conventions. With so many networks reporting live, we were called on to ensure they reached all of their audiences.

So, the Olympics are another big event that many networks report live, will Adtec play an integral part?

Yes, the Olympics are one of our big clients. We actually started sending equipment down in February, and will have staff on call in Rio de Janeiro  throughout the event to ensure viewing runs smoothly. We train people who are actually down there to be able to help out if need be, standby to provide technical support if need, still need to be available for the next several weeks. Plus, as a company that stays on the cutting edge, we will be introducing a new product, Afiniti which is a line of encoders and decoders that provide more robust audio and video solutions.

What brought you to NBIC?

My father-in-law saw a write-up in the newspaper about the opening of the incubation center, and thought it would be good for us to participate. If I am not mistaken, I think we were like the 2nd or 3rd business in the program.

Tell us the 2 things you gained from your NBIC experience?

  • Big salaries on the front end, don’t equal success: We participated in development clinics during the NBIC program and noticed participant business plans would include paying themselves extremely high salaries. We decided to do the opposite; as we knew 90% of all businesses failed after the first 5 years and we wanted to be extremely frugal. My total take home for the first year was $780!
  • Take the advice given: One of our advisers during our time in the program was Phil Bredesen (previous Governor of Tennessee). He told us that we should join the American Hospital Association in order to gain access to their hospital contact database. Very quickly after joining the American Hospital Association, we passed the 1 million dollar mark and hospitals quickly became one of our largest revenue channels. Now, every hospital in the US has some type of Adtec equipment. So, when you are preparing for a procedure or surgery, and they ask you to watch a video before seeing the nurse or doctor, there is a high chance you are watching on our equipment.

As a native Nashvillian, what do you think about the growth of Nashville?

It’s a good thing; providing jobs for people and opportunity. My one beef is the big push to drive everything and everyone downtown. I would love to see more investment into the pockets of area outside that city, like Lebanon, Wilson County and Goodlettsville.

 

A Graduate Story | Kathy Ware, Owner of KS Ware and Associates

Kathy Ware is the driving force behind one of Nashville’s successful engineering firms, KS Ware & Associates (KSWA). A South Carolina native, Kathy attended Clemson University and moved to Nashville in 1992. She also had a front row seat as Music City has grown into the new “It City.” Her company was well positioned to take on unique environmental projects both locally and nationally. If you have driven around Nashville, across any bridges or construction sites, KS Ware & Associates may have been one of the leading firms on these large-scale projects.  They help government, municipalities and other large enterprises manage their projects effectively, and one woman decided to take this journey into small business ownership almost 20 years ago. Learn more about how she created this multi-million dollar brand and her time at the Nashville Business Incubation Center (NBIC).

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How did you initially launch your engineering firm?

I originally worked right out of college with a large engineering firm in Tampa and Jacksonville. Then, I was promoted to branch manager by that firm which brought me to Nashville. In February of 1997 I left; a little burned out, but thankful for the great opportunities given to me.

I thought I was going to stop for a while and focus on being a mommy to my 2 and 5 year-olds but that lasted about 3 days (as she laughs). I left in February and started KSWA in March. I decided to continue working with a mission to stay engaged in the engineering community while working with friends. I worked hard and was very blessed to have wonderful people around me. I wouldn’t say I had any great plans, I just wanted to continue to do what I knew how to do with friends and professionals peers.

Kathy, I love your humble spirit and endearing way you reference your clients as friends. Do you think this is what sets you a part from other firms? 

Our business philosophy is simple, we are a small business that wants to enjoy what we do for a living and we want the people who hire us to feel it is a pleasant experience. We do that by establishing long-term relationships, not contractual ones. We believe integrity is essential, if we make a mistake we will fix it and make it right. Innovation is also key by providing new tools to save money on behalf of our client and help increase growth.

So, for the non-technical people reading this, how would you describe what KSWA does?

We provide geotechnical services on large environmental structures. Basically, everything you see around you is supported by soil or rock and our firm is responsible for handling projects that incorporate these types of earth materials. Our typical clients are leaders of government agencies and municipalities, as smaller companies are traditionally not building large water treatment plants.

Side note: think about those infamous highway and interstate projects you see while driving or those large building infrastructures popping up in Nashville. Now, you can put a face to the name of some of the people that make it all it happen. Our typical clients are leaders of government agencies and municipalities, as smaller companies are traditionally not building large water treatment plants.

Wow, these are some heavy hitting services you offer, who was your first client and how did you find them?

Our first client, was Metro Water Services in 1997, on the original overflow abatement program, the predecessor to Clean Water Nashville. We tested all of the plastic pipes being installed around the city in order to rehab below-ground piping and we helped to ensure quality control. Next year, will be 20 years old and Metro Water is still our client. Many of the people we started working with are still making decisions.

So, would your services be inline with some of the problems we see happening in Flint, MI?

There are many different aspects to piping systems. In the case of Flint, drinking-water piping was installed and lead leached into the water over time, which caused the water to be undrinkable. We do not work on the drinking-water supply side. We handle the sewer and storm water side of things.

You mentioned earlier that when you left your job, you were going to take time off for family. How did you learn to master the work/life balance?

It is a kind of an easy answer. My family is more important than my business. I have always put my children before my business. You can’t have it all or do it all, so you have to prioritize. You have to pick and choose what is most important to you. Are you going to get up on Sunday and go to church, or go into the office?  Once you decide what you are going to do, you are going to take the other things off the list. I am not going to have my garden, go to the gym and take up photography. I think having it all is a fallacy. Working hard at what you prioritize is the game-changer.

What three things did you love about your NBIC experience?

  1. The inspiration of seeing other entrepreneurs: It was such a benefit and inspiring to see others in the NBIC program who are ahead of you and have figured it out. It is the hardest thing to start your own business, so when you can drive into the NBIC parking lot and see all of the other people there working and moving up is a true inspiration.
  1. The discipline of understanding the bookkeeping side: When I was working for someone else, I knew I was responsible for the P & L statement. However, it is different when it is your own business. You need to know where your money is going at all times. You can’t survive if you do not have a good bookkeeping system and NBIC helped me to get that in place.
  1. The relationships built: There are still people that I meet in the incubation center that I still keep up with. Darrell Freeman with Zycron, Ben Edwards with the Smart Card, and the list goes on. Life is really made of an accumulation of relationships over time. There were just a lot of really cool people and a diversity of industries at the center.  The diversity of the industries that got started over at NBIC is amazing and they have a great come one, come all motto.

NBIC really allowed you to learn and figure things out without tremendous overhead. I hope other people will hear about NBIC because it is about survival, and figuring out the best way for you to stay in business.

Lastly, since your office is located in the midst of all the Nashville growth, tell us why you are loving Nashville right now?

Yes, so our office has been in the downtown Nashville area since 1997 and to look at the sky and see all the cranes, is pretty amazing. I think Nashville has improved (minus the traffic). The Nashville economy is quite diverse and becoming less dependent on healthcare. When my Mom recently visited, it was great to take her down to a live event at the Ryman. I think a lot of people want to be a part of the downtown vibe and we are committed to being in the downtown area…I think it is worth it.