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.

Adopt-A-Family 2016

To celebrate the giving spirit of the holidays, we here at the NBIC, with help from our friends at the Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency, have decided to show some love to a local MDHA family. A wonderful family will receive gifts hand wrapped by our very own with love. We admire the determination and tenacity of each family we connect with each year.

The recipient of our Adopt-A Family program is a  mother of five children and full-time (M-F) nursing student accepted into the September 6, 2016 Practical Nursing Program at Tennessee College of Applied Technology Nashville. This responsible mother is also afforded the opportunity to work part-time at Mary Queen of Angels with the help of a wonderful grandmother. Her strong drive to capture a dream and secure a better life for her children is very evident. Sponsoring and assisting with a hand-up was met without pause for this deserving family.

MDHA Social Service Coordinator, Yvette Moore states, “I have worked very closely with the families supported by NBIC each year and sponsoring them means the world to our organization!”

Happy holidays!


2016 Global Entrepreneurship Week Event Gallery

Global Entrepreneurship Week was held November 15-17, 2016 in partnership with UPS Connect.

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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.

Five Must Haves to Expand Your Business Into a Global Market

Written by Ashley Northington:

Establishing a successful business in your hometown or where you reside is an amazing feat. Expanding that successful business to a national base is even more impressive. Moving into an international marketplace may be even more impressive and exciting.

While the excitement and potential for success may move many entrepreneurs in this direction, it is critical to have certain pieces in place before completing the global expansion puzzle. In order to effectively move your company from domestic to international, there are a few factors you’ll need to consider in order to have a smooth transition.

To that end, here are five must-have pieces you’ll need before expanding your business to a global marketplace.

Customer Base.

Obviously, having customers who want your product or service is critical for any business. When considering expanding your domestic operation into international territory, make sure you conduct your due diligence to ensure there is a demand for your product or service in the country in which you wish to market.

A product that sells well in your hometown many not perform well statewide or nationally. Likewise, a product that sells well nationally may to sell well in another country. Before you make the leap, spend time researching potential foreign markets.

Experts advise small businesses to start moving globally by looking for markets that are similar to the one in which you currently operate. This may lead you to a foreign or international market to sell your wares.

Translation Services.

Once you identify your potential international target, it will be critical to have individuals on your team who are familiar with the culture and language of the country in which you wish to market. From communicating with decision makers to consumers to web sites and other marketing pieces, it will be critical for you to ensure you not only understand any documents put before you, but that you also create documents and information that are aligned with the appropriate culture and language.

To ensure you are communicating successfully, it may be prudent for you to hire a staff member or two who can handle this aspect, or contract with a translation service or global marketing company who can manage this part of the work.

Exporting Services.

If you plan to sell products to another company, it is critical to have an exporting service that can effectively handle your needs. UPS, the world’s largest package delivery company and a provider of supply chain management solutions, would make for an ideal exporting partner.

Getting the packages to your target country is one thing, but making sure your business is compliant with all of the exporting rules and regulations is a different game. It may be wise to spend time researching rules and regulations on in advance of shipping products internationally.

You can learn more about exporting during Global Entrepreneurship Week, held November 15-17, hosted by the Nashville Business Incubation Center. You can also learn more about how UPS can help you export your goods at the UPS Export Challenge held on November 17.

Payment Processing.

Before you begin to do business internationally, you’ll need to ensure your payment processing system is set up to handle international transactions. In some instances, PayPal or Stripe may be sufficient. In other situations, a service provided by your bank or some other third-party payment processor may be necessary. The key is to do the research and select the right one for your business and your new global customers.

Rules & Regulations.

This one is obvious, right? When you begin expanding your territory into foreign markets, there will be new rules and regulations you will have to follow – especially when it comes to fees and exporting requirements. There are several resources, such as and UPS’s TradeAbility that can help you along the way. You may also want to check with international trade attorneys, such as those at Frost, Brown, Todd to be sure you’re meeting all the requirements.


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 and follow her on Twitter and Facebook @ashnorthington. Learn more about her company at and follow the company on Twitter and Facebook @DENORPR.