3 Reasons Mom & Pop Businesses Are Still Cool

Mom + Pop’s are the bootstrapped businesses that have made it work for generations across all cities including Nashville. They are not closing their latest round of funding, launching a hot new app, or building a new AI device instead they are ensuring the buildings you walk in each day are safe, you have proper lights to see and a clean place to conduct your affairs. Just the little (big) stuff. They are the ones behind the scenes making the IT in Music City happen. They are the firms laying the bricks for those new condos and high rises, they are running the electric, ensuring we can communicate and protecting assets when the rest of us are sleeping. They are the backbone of Nashville economy and a mainstay in NBIC’s portfolio of businesses. They are why we do what we do.

When NBIC started in 1986, small business and entrepreneurship wasn’t a “cool” term or one that people were running out in droves to do.  When you look back for a while, big box retailers and Fortune 500 companies seemed to be the dominant players. However, mom and pop’s have always played a major role and are making a comeback according to Forbes, by generating over 50% of the US Gross National Product (GNP).  As Nashville continues to grow, we wanted to share a few reasons why mom and pop’s are still endearing and a critical part of the city’s make up.  

  1. A Personal Experience. When you think of your local small businesses, store front or restaurant, there is probably a favorite person you enjoy seeing when you visit or that one person that knows exactly what you need when you walk in the door. You can’t beat a personal relationship or business where everyone knows your name.
  2. Real-time Response. Online shopping is great and of course has it’s place, however there is nothing like being able to touch and feel the products, food, apparel, etc. you are looking to buy. Plus, the ability to ask questions directly to the people who are supplying the goods and services is priceless.
  3. Local Economy Driver. Small businesses are still the backbone of Nashville and other cities. They employ the youth to retired veteran and help cultivate community each day. According to News Channel 5 via Paychex, one of the nations largest payroll providers, Tennessee ranked number one in the nation in small business employment with a 1.2 percent growth last year.

We’re Official & A Big Thank You!

Last Tuesday, NBIC revealed it’s new home in Germantown. It was so great to see our partners, sponsors, graduates, clients and friends come together to celebrate our new center space. Thank you for always being the support NBIC continually needs to help fulfill our mission of growing businesses “from tiny acorns to might oaks”.

Our new center move will allow us to focus on helping “mom and pop” businesses grow by meeting them where they are. Through our new co-working space addition, dedicated desks, and workshop series we will be able to address barriers encountered by women, minority, and veteran firms.

Also, a special thanks to the Nashville Chamber for presenting the ribbon cutting. We are especially thankful for two of our Alumni, Brenda Odom of U-Kno Catering and Emanuel Roland of Roland’s Photography for their generous donations.  Ms. Odom provided all of the delectable appetizers and homemade tea (that should be bottled and sold, asap). While Mr. Roland brought out The Roland Experience and allowed guests to take a tour of his mobile headshot experience. Additionally, thanks to Kirbee Miller of Kinimi Kitchen for providing her famous Cajun Pop Popcorn.

See event gallery for a complete look back:




Latda Vaughn and Corey Jones are the founders of Diamond Restoration, a construction firm specializing in exterior cleaning and concrete accommodations. The two met while working in very separate arenas, Corey was on the exterior cleaning industry and Latda was the controller for a national promotional products brand in Nashville.

What inspired you to start your business?

Corey: We started Diamond Restoration in 2010. I was always inspired to be an entrepreneur. After being in the exterior cleaning industry, I started venturing to understand the business and what other opportunities were available to me. I was then able to connect with Latda who was working as a controller for a successful brand in the area.

What makes Diamond Restoration different from other construction companies? 

For one, we do not have a cap on jobs we perform. A job could be $1,000 or  $1 million dollars. We pride ourselves on being very honest with each client on our capabilities and if we can or cannot take on a job size.  Partnering and teaming up with other firms to get the job done is one of our strengths. Being able to collaborate with others really helps us expand our opportunities.

Why Nashville?

Definitely the growth. It has brought more opportunity for small businesses. Now with a boom in construction, it is bringing more outside companies into Nashville. Businesses are looking to work with smaller companies, which forces people to work together in the city.

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

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

What advice would you give to others who may be intimidated by getting into government contracting as a minority business?

I would definitely share that you can’t get good at it until you start doing it. Once you start getting involved, reaching out and going online to feel out the proper documents, you will begin to find a comfort level. Don’t let fear hold you back from an opportunity.

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

Latda: Make sure you have your books together and have a separate business account, so you are not commingling expenses.

Corey: Understand what it is that you are trying to achieve with your business. Make sure you are finding out about different programs. If there are opportunities to participate in any building block programs, make sure you are attending.

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

We will start work on a first project with Skanska on the JW Marriott. The bidding process and paperwork were a huge fete and we are now excited to showcase all that we can do.

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

1.    Describe the mission of NRG Management? 

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

2.    What inspired you to start NRG Management Solutions? 

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

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

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

4.    Are you a Nashville native? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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.