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.

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.


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 Client Story | Meet Roland’s Photography

Emanuel Roland is the photographer and all around guy-next-door behind Roland’s Photography.  Originally from Chattanooga, TN, he is a family man; husband, father, deacon at his church and avid cyclist. Roland’s Photography is synonymous for snapping beautiful wedding and corporate photos around town. As this growing small business nears completion of NBIC’s incubator program, we wanted to catch up with him to learn more about his early beginnings and why weddings may not be in his future!


What inspired you to start Roland’s Photography:

I started back in college at Tennessee State University. I began taking some elective photography classes which turned into me shooting pics for other classmates on campus.  I then had a class project that involved writing a business plan and I though this would be an ideal opportunity to see what a photography business would look like.

So, did you head right into the entrepreneurship game right out of college?

Yes and no. I actually worked for a non-profit right out of college, teaching youth as early as Kindergarten how to start and manage home-based businesses.  I did that for four years while still doing photography in the afternoons and on weekends.  The program actually pushed me to go after my own dreams, as I was feeling hypocritical connecting with these kids on entrepreneurship, yet still working for somebody else.  So, I turned in my resignation and begin working on photography business full-time. I would take on various part-time jobs from the TV station to substitute teaching and UPS.  Then, I entered into the incubation center which propelled me even further.

What brought you to NBIC?

I actually interned at NBIC in 1999 during my time at TSU, which was made possible through the College of Business (plus NBIC is an outreach of Tennessee State University). The intern paired me with a multimedia company which honed my skill set and my work was utilized a lot during this time for client billboards and collateral. Some of my work was published on a local and national level, and I still have a working relationship with the company and owner. It’s funny, because the studio where I completed that internship has been my studio during my time at NBIC. Talk about full circle!

Tell us the 3 things you love about the NBIC program:

  1. The initial push to be a full-time entrepreneur. When I moved in, I said this was my opportunity to see if this business could sustain itself and support my family. This was a business, not just a job anymore.  I would get up everyday and grind, making a point to be at the Incubation Center there early and leaving at a decent hour, based on my appointments. Making an intentional effort to go to my incubation space everyday to work was key. Consistency is everything, from timeliness to my go-to uniform of khakis and my Roland’s Photography polo. I am representing my brand Monday through Friday when I step foot into the NBIC doors.
  2. The push to take care of daily operations, daily. Rent, utilities and bills are the less talked about side of business, but tremendously needed. NBIC helped me put an accounting system in place. I didn’t have Quickbooks setup or anything, and didn’t really know what I was making or if I was setting my prices right. By working with NBIC, I was able to get a better sense of time management and the true value of my time. With Quickbooks setup, it allowed me to review and analyze every job that came through. It also allowed me to gain a better understanding of why I am doing this, which is to build relationships and finances.
  3. Accountability. Having a business a coach was a great resource and allowed me to have somebody besides myself to throw around ideas and guide me in the right direction. At NBIC, I really had somebody else that wanted the best Roland’s Photography and provided a different perspective. Having an outside perspective on things was also a benefit, as you can sometimes become laser-focused on one way to grow your business and not think through all the different strategies in front of you. I thought I would be the best black wedding photographer in Nashville, but with the help of NBIC, I realized corporate photography was something I really enjoyed that allowed me to have weekends for family time. Now, I am in a much better position as far as finances, time management, flexibility, etc. I don’t have to commit to every wedding, event that comes around without feeling bad about it.

So, you mentioned creating a business plan back in college that was the initial start to your photography biz? How did you start and complete this process? Do you think all entrepreneurs full or part-time should have a plan?

Yeah, I mean you have to have some type of foundation, which is why NBIC is so great. A business plan is a part of the program. People, aka your customers, have to know that your business is viable. Anyone can pick up a camera and say they are going to do photography. I think my business background also helps. My initial business plan was slightly different than it is today, but again, the foundation was there. For example, I did not originally plan to have a studio space; I thought I would shoot on-location. I think entrepreneurs must remember pivots and changes will always occur because initially you are throwing ideas around to see what will work for you. In the beginning, I wasn’t sure of the path I wanted to take in photography. I shot everything that sounded good and would make me some money. The only thing I knew I was probably never going to do was add-on services like videographer, dj and/or the Olan Mills route.  I was always going to be a photographer…Roland’s Photography is my brand.


How long did it take before you were profitable? When did you start paying yourself?

That is kind of tricky. Since, I started over 17 years ago, those first 10-12 years I am not sure as I didn’t have all the necessary resources in place to accurately know. I was using the money as it was coming in, and not keeping count of what was coming in re: expenses. I would say probably over the last 2-3 years I started writing checks to myself and since I started the NBIC program I have been able to see my profitability. They helped me with Quickbooks and other resources allowing me to have a better idea of time management and my value.  Before it was like whatever it took to get the job the done and it didn’t matter if I spent 30-40 hours dealing with ONE wedding job. However, now I am spending a quarter of that time, as I have fine tuned my editing and processes.

You are an entrepreneur with a growing family? Do you think this added motivation on you to hustle hard each and every day?

Yes, for sure. I mean, my family is the reason I buckle down and take each and every day seriously. I am more proactive regarding figuring things out and making it all work.

How do you separate work from home life? Is your wife a part of the family biz?

By making my family first. If you don’t make family a priority than they won’t be. You can still be an entrepreneur and work set  hours, give your clients the best service while conveying your boundaries. My family will always be the #1 priority.  I have also been intentional with not having my wife in the day-to-day aspects of Roland’s Photography. Of course she is part owner, but I felt our kids could suffer if we were both in it full-time, especially when it came to weekends and shooting weddings.

rolands-photography-cycle-group rolands-photography-deacon-ordination rolands-photography-family

You were also recently ordained as a deacon at your church? Congratulations! Does your faith play a huge part in how you operate your business and build relationships?

It does, I don’t necessarily say that every client has to be a Christian but there are times where I will not do certain things if it does not fit within the scope of who I am as an individual and what I believe. I do feel some of the decisions I make regarding donating my services and giving back is also a part of my faith.

To learn more about Roland’s Photography visit


NBIC Honored at Salute to Excellence Awards!

Executive Director Angela Crane-Jones and NBIC were honored on October 22, 2105 at the Center for Nonprofit Management’s (CNM) Salute to Excellence Awards, winning the prestigious Frist Foundation Revenue Development Award.
Through revenue diversification and program and contribution changes, NBIC increased revenues by 53%, and contributions and grants increased by 797%.  The new revenue mix has significantly decreased dependence on service fees.
CNM’s Salute to Excellence is the largest nonprofit awards event in the country, presenting 13 awards, $279,000 to organizations, and celebrating the successes and leaders of nonprofits across Middle Tennessee.
CNM Frist Group PHoto
The Frist Foundation Awards of Achievement recognizes exemplary leadership in three categories:  Innovation in Action, Revenue Development and Team Building.  Each winner receives an award of $25,000.  NBIC was honored to be recognized as a finalist for The Frist Foundation Revenue Development Award along with the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, and Project Return PRO Employment.
NBIC Executive Director Angela Crane-Jones accepted the award and will use the monetary award to continue to help micro enterprises grow and succeed in support of NBIC’s mission to cultivate the growth and development of small businesses.
Frist NBIC Group
Left to Right: GENI Board Member and Marketing Executive at UPS David Wilson, Chair of the GENI Board of Directors and Vice President of Business Development at Skanska USA Mendy Mazzo, NBIC Executive Director Angela Crane-Jones, GENI Treasurer and Senior Vice President Financial Advisor at Pinnacle Financial Partners Charlotte Peacock, and NBIC Assistant to the Director Allyson McIntyre

NBIC Makes Headlines in the Tennesseean

The Nashville Business Incubation Center is making headlines in the Tennessean for “quietly fostering companies’ growth.” The author, Jamie McGee, does an excellent job of depicting what NBIC really is: practical. It highlights companies that have been successful during and after doing business with NBIC. Check out the article below!

Nashville Incubation Center quietly fosters companies’ growth

The incubation center’s Angela Crane-Jones talks with Charlie Tambellini of Further Foods. (Photo: John Partipilo / The Tennessean )

The incubation center’s Angela Crane-Jones talks with Charlie Tambellini of Further Foods. (Photo: John Partipilo / The Tennessean )

On my visit to the Nashville Business Incubation Center, Executive Director Angela Crane-  Jones walked me through a 30- year-old Tennessee State University building that has a  loading dock in the back, long bare hallways and very few windows.

“We’re not sexy,” she said matter-of-factly.

It’s true.

The incubation center is gritty, unglamorous and starkly contrasts against the new, sparkly Entrepreneur Center on the south side of downtown, which is outfitted with sleek meeting rooms and a Turnip Truck cafe and is often hosting events with big-name entrepreneurs and investors.

But the incubation center is not about being shiny and it’s not about venture capital. The  entrepreneurs working out of the 21 office spaces have come there to bootstrap and grow  their company without having to give up an equity stake. Through the center, a nonprofit,  companies get a downtown location offered at far below market rate, subsidized  accounting and legal services and access to zero-interest loans that can help them make the leap to bigger contracts.

Companies often come in as a mom-and-pop business, often in low tech sectors, and the goal is to grow them to a larger, job-creating company. But, instead of venture capital allowing them to scale quickly, they grow with revenues generated. As a result, the focus is on products and customers, without having to worry about finding investors.

“A lot of small businesses that are bootstrapped are creating a lot of jobs and have kept on going through this recession,” Crane-Jones said.

Take Zycron, for example. The company went through the center in the late 1990s. Now, it has six offices across the U.S. and in London generating more than $40 million in annual income and was named a top 100 fastest-growing inner-city company by Fortune last year. Other alumni include The Christie Cookie Co., Beacon Technologies, The Grilled Cheeserie and engineering firm K.S. Ware & Assoc.

“Just about every business in there is profitable; most are profitable from day one,” said J.J. Rosen, a mentor at the center and founder of Atiba. “It has a very practical aspect to it.”

The problem many small companies run into is they have landed a deal but need capital to produce enough goods to see the deal through. They can’t get a bank loan until they have two years of revenue under their belt, and they are reluctant to bring in an investor and share company ownership. The incubation center can loan $25,000 — or in some cases more — for three to six months, charging no interest.

In Crane-Jones’ 11 years at the center, she has not had one company default. Just like smart people don’t loan to unreliable friends, the center is very selective when choosing its companies, she said.

“By your second anniversary you can go to the bank, if we’ve done our job well,” she said.

And while the companies’ founders don’t owe interest or don’t have to share a stake, they do have to meet certain requirements that are aimed at helping them further. They must meet with an adviser every two weeks, and they must come to monthly meetings during which industry experts share advice on relevant topics such as marketing, accounting, legal issues and human resources.

Long list of alumni

While touring the building on 10th Avenue North, I was introduced by Crane-Jones to a commercial cleaning and infectious control company, Diamond Restoration, which had just moved in. Its chief financial officer was sitting on the floor of a small room with her laptop resting on paint cans while the other executives painted the office walls.

A few doors down, Charlie Tambellini showed me around his spice and sauce manufacturing plant, pungent with notes of garlic, paprika, cayenne, dill and celery. His company, Further Foods, makes the sauce according to recipe for several local restaurants — The Southern, Acme Feed & Seed, Edleys Barb-B-Que, etc. While he works on building a new site on a 100-acre farm, he is taking advantage of good rent near his clients.

“Everything comes with the place — trash, water, loading docks,” Tambellini said.

For that, he pays $1,500 a month for 2,000 square feet near many of his clients. As Crane-Jones explains, the more companies can save on costs, the more they can invest in their own company. In the two years Tambellini has been at the incubation center, Further Foods’ revenue has climbed to $700,000 from $20,000 and he has been able to hire five employees.

Further down the line, Michael Weiss operates MedForward, a company that does website design for physicians. In place of a window, he works under a picture of a cloud-filled sky.

What’s interesting about Weiss is that he came to Nashville from Baltimore because of the incubation center, having discovered it online. He pays $500 in membership fees that include his office space and access to business advisers, who recently coached him on the finer points of hiring employees. He has since made a company handbook and hired nine full-time staffers and subcontractors.

Crane-Jones has a long list of alumni companies generating several million in revenue and creating hundreds of jobs in Nashville and other cities. Weiss, Tambellini and founders of the 19 other companies at the center hope to join their ranks.

The incubation center is hungry for more mentors who can share their expertise with these small businesses. Just as local business leaders have rallied around new accelerator efforts through Jumpstart Foundry, the Entrepreneur Center and LaunchTennessee, they can support these bootstrapping companies as well. The companies — and their offices — aren’t necessarily glittery and they aren’t aiming to be the next Twitter or LinkedIn, but they are an important part of the city’s entrepreneurial network, bringing more jobs and more economic strength to Nashville.

Reach Jamie McGee at 615-259-8071 and on Twitter @JamieMcGee_.