Meet Our Entrepreneurs
How an Elevator Pitch Can Get You Published
Denise Knowles wears many hats: wife, mother, grandmother (known as Hunny), medical case manager for Street Works, roller-skater, published author, Empowerment Speaker, relationship coach, entrepreneur, founder of The D.U.E Over Coach, and Academy Alumna.
Denise was a part of our first “pandemic cohort” of The Academy in 2020. To keep our community safe, we transitioned our program to be 100% virtual via Zoom for the first time ever.
“Me and the world alike had to adjust to a different way of learning, communicating, and definitely a different way of living. I was amazed that [Corner to Corner] cared enough and was innovative enough to create a means to service its clientele, especially in times like we faced. My instructors (Carlos Partee and Honey Simmons) went above and beyond to create a space as close to normal as possible. ”
Even though The Academy looked a bit different, we still focused on the same values and taught the same curriculum. One of the key factors of our 10-week entrepreneurial program is keeping it community-led. Carlos and Honey are Academy Alumni themselves, who continue to see impressive growth since graduating from our program.
“One thing that was very vital to my experience was being taught by people that once sat in the same seats as us. It was an assurance that they understood and had compassion for the endeavors we were embarking on. It created a safety net that we were not alone.”
Even with that support, though, Denise encountered obstacles. She’s a people person, and the isolation brought on by the pandemic was extremely tough for her. On top of that, she’s not “at the top of the game in technology”, so learning a new skill while simultaneously learning all about entrepreneurship was a lot to take in.
But she persevered and graduated from The Academy in the fall of 2020!
As an author and speaker, Denise learned a lot about the power of words, and how she could use that power to further her entrepreneurial journey.
“People remember experiences, not just words spoken, but how the words make them feel. Creating an experience is what stays with them. My favorite thing is being authentic in all I write and speak, not trying to be like the next person but being who I am best at being which is unapologetically me.”
The #1 thing she learned from The Academy is an evergreen practice: “When it comes to your business, always be ready to share what you do in an elevator pitch. Being able to paint a picture in a short amount of time opens the door to networking and building relationships.”
And Denise would know! Back in 2014, she met professional speaker Mark Wiggins. During that short encounter, she said he would become her own speech coach one day. In 2020, right after she graduated from The Academy, that intention became a reality!
On top of that, in early 2021 Mark launched his brand new magazine Off the Bench and asked Denise to be a contributor. “I was one of the featured writers selected [for the magazine], and my book, Love Roll Lifetime, was also showcased in one of the first issues. Mr. Wiggins has provided me with so many opportunities to be on his platform on an international level – these are not opportunities that are granted every day!”
After her feature in the 2021 launch, Denise has continued to be featured in Off the Bench, including a summer partnership that featured her writing in July, August, and September 2022 issues.
You can read her work by subscribing here.
After overcoming the hardships of 2020, it brings us so much joy to see entrepreneurs like Denise achieving success and seeing continual growth in their businesses!
From Notary to Nonprofit
Tawana Mitchhart loves to have a plan. After working for Marriott and Southwest for years, she decided she wanted to start her own business. She attended esthetician school, got licensed, and opened her own practice in 2020, even with the hardships of the pandemic.
But God had a different plan for her. After just 2 months of running her own business, Tawana was diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer in December 2020. She was forced to close her esthetician business as she fought against this extremely rare form of breast cancer, undergoing chemo and radiation throughout 2021. After feeling stuck at home and wanting to get back out there, Tawana found Corner to Corner on social media, and more specifically, she found Adrienne Bowling.
“I saw you featuring Adrienne’s story and I felt motivated. I wanted to follow in her footsteps and become a notary, too.” So Tawana got a new plan: enroll in The Academy, become a notary, and make some money. When she walked into class on the first day to meet her fellow entrepreneurs and facilitators, she was shocked to see Adrienne herself up front. “I just randomly picked this class to attend, without knowing that Adrienne was going to be my facilitator!” Tawana was thrilled to be learning about the notary business from the person who had sparked her interest in the first place.
But as she sat down to listen, God changed up her plans once again. Adrienne, and her co-facilitator Jelly, welcomed Tawana and her peers to The Academy and got right down to business. “They were so encouraging, telling us to tap into our passions, asking us if our business ideas were what we truly wanted to do. And on that first day of class, I went in with the idea of becoming a notary and walked out with the inspiration for my nonprofit, The Pinky Mobile Skin Coach.”
For the next nine weeks, Tawana pursued that passion and brought The Pinky Mobile Skin Coach to life. “Our mission is to literally meet people where they are in their cancer journey. After my cancer diagnosis, I went through aggressive breast cancer treatment – chemo, meds, radiation. I noticed the radiation was tearing my skin to shreds and discoloring it. As a cancer patient with complications like that happening often, we have to continuously get up and go to the radiologist, and go to the doctor for even more prescriptions.
I was just over it, it’s exhausting.
So one day, after treatments, I looked up and asked ‘God, what do you want me to do?’ Because I was ready to go back to work and open up my esthetician shop again. Well I woke up one day, and I knew it was nothing but God, He told me, ‘You’re not supposed to go back to work and charge people, you’re supposed to help people.’”
And that’s exactly what The Pinky Mobile Skin Coach has done. They provide free skin care, facials, products, and cancer coaching to people in active cancer treatment, meeting them where they are, in their homes, or at vendor events. “I deal with the aftermath of what you’re going through. They may want a facial or skin treatment, or maybe they just need to talk with someone. And the good part of this is that I’ve been in the trenches where those people are.
The doctors treat you, but now you need somebody, one-on-one, who knows exactly what you’re going through. I want to be that person, who knows where they are physically, mentally, and spiritually. We have cancer navigators, and they provide wonderful services, but they have so many people they need to care for. This is a one-on-one, unique, intimate experience, just myself and the client I’m with. They don’t feel like just a service or just a number.”
Recently, Tawana’s nonprofit got some much-deserved spotlight. The Pinky Mobile Skin Coach was featured on News Channel 5, in multiple states. Since then, she’s had a handful of women from other states reach out only to realize her services are only in Nashville… for now.
“I’m trying to network with other estheticians in those states to get free facials for those cancer patients there. I want to take this all over the world! We’re currently working on getting a camper vehicle and converting it into a mobile skincare unit.” And Tawana won’t stop there – she has BIG plans now, big dreams, and passions to bring this service to every cancer patient who needs it.
“I don’t want it to stop just at skincare. I want to offer therapeutic massages, nail services, barber appointments, wigs; a whole network of individuals who come together to support and lift up cancer patients.”
“This is the mission God gave me.”
Tawana not only found her passion for her nonprofit through The Academy; She also found a network of supportive Black women entrepreneurs to tap into. “My favorite part about The Academy was the camaraderie and sisterhood. I grew up in a very tight-knit family, and never really had a group of girlfriends. But I found that support system at The Academy. And that’s another thing Corner to Corner has helped me do. I was never the person to ask for help or reach out. I would struggle to do it on my own, but now I know I have this network of people I can reach out to for help if I can’t do this on my own. And I’m grateful to Corner to Corner for that.”
Tawana and her class still have a group chat going where they ask questions, offer advice, and lend support whenever it’s needed. They go to each others’ events, spread the word about their businesses, and are always there to cheer each other on.
“I would suggest Corner to Corner 10 times over because it’s not just about helping you grow your business – they help you with so many other aspects of your life, it’s so much more.”
Her advice to our incoming cohort of Academy students?
“Corner to Corner is going to do everything it needs to do in your business life and then some.”
“Leave what you think you know on the table and give it a chance. We go in with all these preconceptions about what other people have taught us or what we’ve come up with in our own minds. You need to shake that off and allow God, the facilitators, and these other individuals to pour into you. Take that wall down and shed the negative things you came in with. If you do that, Corner to Corner is going to do everything it needs to do in your business life and then some.”
Make sure to keep an eye out for The Pinky Mobile Skin Coach on social media, and stay tuned for Tawana’s special feature on News Channel 4 in October in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month! If you’d like to learn more about The Pinky Mobily Skin Coach, follow her on Instagram @Pinky_MobileSkinCoach
Follow Tawana’s story
Happy: Joseph’s Journey
What started out as a support system for LaTonya Winfrey’s son with autism, Joseph, has since flourished into its own nonprofit. The original purpose of this support system was to hold a t-shirt sale in order to raise money for Joseph’s speech therapy costs. It takes a village to raise a child, and Joseph’s village is incredibly supportive and encouraging. So much so, that LaTonya felt she could do more for individuals with autism.
Last year, LaTonya decided to take the leap and enroll in The Academy to learn how to make Happy: Joseph’s Journey an official nonprofit organization. “Corner to Corner taught me to take advantage of all resources that are available to me, whether I can currently use one or not, the information is always helpful.”
Now, Happy: Joseph’s Journey consists of a strong village of autism advocates, for those on the spectrum, their families, and communities as a whole. The organization offers educational services, like online seminars and classes for families, and works to enrich the lives of community members by hosting activities that promote awareness. On top of this, Happy: Joseph’s Journey is also here to celebrate! The annual Bowling for Austin Awareness event brings the community together.
Just a few months ago, LaTonya announced something incredible: Happy: Joseph’s Journey is officially trademarked! “In order to keep our brand name, we made a decision to begin the trademark process in June 2020. One month later, the city was placed on lockdown, which allowed us to focus on our organization, [but] it was an extremely long waiting period for approval. In June 2021, Happy: Joseph’s Journey® was approved for the trademark.”
The Academy helps individuals plan, start, and grow their business dreams, and sometimes that dream is a non-profit! Consider becoming a donor today to support the creation of more nonprofits.
As part of National Business Women’s Week 2021, we’ll be featuring some of our Academy Alumna and their stories on this blog page. First up is Kenya Adams, owner and founder of PantyBuddy and our recent first-place winner of the Lipscomb BAM x Corner to Corner Pitch Contest.
Kenya signed up for The Academy in February 2020 with only an idea. “The facilitators in my class literally pushed me every step of the way to turn my idea into a reality. They encouraged me to officially establish PantyBuddy as an LLC, to get a website, secure social media handles, and helped me to gather my thoughts around my product pitch. I always say that signing up for the Academy was the best thing I ever did because it not only gave me the knowledge and the tools I needed to become an entrepreneur, it gave me the support system I needed.”
Since graduating in May 2020, Kenya has been getting the word out about PantyBuddy and expanding her business. Just this past month, in September of 2021, she participated in the Lipscomb BAM x Corner to Corner Pitch Contest. Alongside six other Academy Alumni businesses, Kenya pitched her business and how it has impacted the community. As our first place winner, she walked away with $5,000, a MacBook, a pair of Air Pod Pros, and a lot of emotions!
“I was proud, surprised, excited, but most of all I was extremely honored. The Pitch Contest featured some of the best and brightest businesses to come out of The Academy, many of whom I personally look up to and really admire. To share the stage with these peers was a complete honor to begin with, and then to come out on top was an extreme confidence booster. It made me feel like ‘Ok Kenya, you can do this!’”
As a woman in business, there are more hurdles to jump through and more obstacles to overcome. Kenya’s biggest tip? Rely on your support system!
“I wear many demanding hats; I am a wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, etc. But as a female business owner, one of the most important things I’ve learned is that it is okay to prioritize my desire to excel in business. Sometimes that means I’m on the road to a trade show on the weekends, or that I’m up late at night, or that I’m taking an evening meeting, and don’t have time to cook dinner. So, when my husband sees I am caught up in PantyBuddy work, instead of asking what’s for dinner, he’s gotten really good at picking up the phone and ordering pizza LOL! Seriously, the biggest lesson I have learned is to lean on my support system and ask for help when I need it.”
We are so honored to have women like Kenya in our Corner to Corner community! To support women in business, invest in entrepreneurs like Kenya; Invest in Corner to Corner.
Black Business Boom
As part of National Business Women’s Week 2021, we’ll be featuring some of our Academy Alumna and their stories on this blog page. Let us introduce you to Danielle McGee, owner and founder of the Black Business Boom and our recent second-place winner of the Lipscomb BAM x Corner to Corner Pitch Contest.
Danielle McGee created The Black Business Boom to increase the digital footprint of Black businesses by lending digital marketing resources and education to Black-owned businesses. They also offer social media support to help make businesses more accessible to a wider audience – and they definitely know what they’re talking about! Black Business Boom has over 50k followers on Instagram and *thousands* of likes and follows on Facebook. In addition to supporting and educating businesses in our community, Black Business Boom has also started a cashback rewards program, called The Bloc, for supporting Black-owned businesses.
Before Black Business Boom was a resource for our community though, it was just an idea that Danielle had dreamed up. Enrolling in The Academy helped turn that dream into a money-making reality.
“The Academy helped me to take a step back, get foundational principles and strategize before launching my business. The Academy made me slow down and do things the right way when launching Black Business Boom. The alumni support has also been instrumental in the growth of my business.”
Creating a continued program for support and encouragement for our Academy Alumni is a crucial part of our programming; we believe in showing up for our neighbors time and time again. One of our favorite ways to showcase our alumni and their impact on our community is through Pitch Contests, like the one we put on in tandem with Lipscomb’s BAM Conference. Danielle pitched Black Business Boom to a panel of judges and walked away with second-place, $2,000, and a pair of Air Pod Pros. But it was about more than the cash prize for Danielle.
“My favorite part of the Pitch Contest was stepping on stage and conquering my fear. I have always been scared to pitch my business in a live competition. The pitch competition allowed me to step out of my comfort zone and out of my own way.”
Now that she’s conquered her fear of public pitching, the world better watch out! As a woman in business, Danielle has learned many invaluable lessons. Her advice to other women entrepreneurs and business owners?
“The most important thing I have learned is how important it is to pivot and go with the flow. Things change and that is okay. It’s okay to reinvent yourself and your business, as much as you have to until you get it right. Be committed to adapting until you find the business model that fits your vision and your life.”
Having women role models such as Danielle in our local business community is priceless. When you invest in Corner to Corner, you’re investing in the continued support of role models like Danielle, and the opportunity for others to become role models for the next generation. Invest today.
As part of National Business Women’s Week 2021, we’ll be featuring some of our Academy Alumna and their stories on this blog page. Meet Chiquita Green, owner and founder of Sweet Ruby’s Bakery, Academy Alumna, and a dedicated Academy Facilitator.
Chiquita always had the passion for baking and creativity, but she wasn’t sure how to take that passion to the next level and start her own business. “The Academy provided me with the basic needs to build a sturdy foundation for my business. From name, business structure, pricing and marketing, they helped me move in the right direction and become a profitable business.”
In 2020, Sweet Ruby’s hit a major hurdle alongside so many other small businesses: Covid-19. The pandemic brought uncertainty and hesitancy to our community. “Having a public-service-based business during Covid was hard. The fear alone kept my customers from wanting to host parties, and me from wanting to serve those parties.”
As an Academy Alumna, Chiquita had access to our program The Academy Amplified. This program is focused solely on offering continued support to our alumni. That support can come in many different forms, from small business loans to video marketing classes to more. For Chiquita it came in the form of a business loan through The Academy Invested. “The loan provided me with the funds to get my business back on track. Speaking with my mentor helped me realize that while my prices were sufficient, for my quality of work, I should have been charging more.”
As she continued to learn about running a business, she realized she wanted to get more involved with the Corner to Corner community. “I loved the thought of being able to give what I was once given. I measure my success not only by how much money I make, but also by how much I give back to others. Facilitating at The Academy allowed me to help others build the foundation that The Academy helped me to build.”
As she helps other women take their business ideas and turn them into money-making realities, she has one major suggestion: “Starting small isn’t as bad as it sounds. In order to build a successful business, it takes time. Oftentimes, we want it all right now and by moving too fast, we make mistakes and often cheat the process.” Chiquita is a perfect example of our motto “Start small, start now!”
To invest in the continued support of and success of our local entrepreneurs, invest in Corner to Corner today.
Full Sport Press
Jeff Easley was great at his job (crushing it), but when the economy took a hit he was let go. Walking out to his car he had a revelation –
He would give himself his own job because he would NEVER fire himself. And just like that, he was on his way to becoming an entrepreneur.
Jeff is now the co-host of the Full Sport Press podcast, a weekly podcast for all the consummate sports fans out there. His podcast covers all sports news and events, so you’re never out of the loop! He is his own boss and gets to do what he loves!
Taking the leap to being your own boss can be a bit intimidating at first. Jeff wanted to make sure he was asking the right questions and had all the info he needed first. “The Academy answered all my questions, like ‘what’s my legal structure?’ and ‘how do I market my business?’. Plus it was actually affordable!”
A1 Mobile Notary
One of our graduates, Adrienne Bowling, recently reached out to let us know that she has more than doubled her income after graduating from The Academy and starting her business, A1 Mobile Notary. We were over the moon to hear about her growth.
When we asked her what the increased income meant to her, she shared this:
“My daughter is five years old, and I am her sole provider. In the midst of such a challenging year – when it seems like everything has gotten harder – doubling my income has meant stability for me and my daughter. It has felt like God’s care for us, and it has removed so much of the pressure of the day-to-day.”
Marcus Buggs is a 2016 graduate of The Academy. As a Nashville native, he has a passion for connecting new residents of the city with historic Nashville food in a way that brings the community together. He embodied our “Start Small and Start Now” philosophy by launching a catering business to test his recipes and grow his clientele.
After growing his business organically for a few years, he launched his brick-and-mortar restaurant, Coneheads, on Dickerson Road to rave reviews.
It’s going so well (even during the pandemic) that Marcus paid it forward and covered the cost of five food entrepreneurs to go through The Academy.
World of ReptiGurl
Our Academy Alumna, Honey Simmons, has created quite a unique mobile business: a reptile and insect petting zoo! World of ReptiGurl started as a passion project and after much encouragement from friends and family, Honey enrolled in The Academy and took her love of animals and children and turned it into a successful business!
So what does the World of ReptiGurl actually do?
“We bridge the gap between the natural world and urban world by teaching about reptiles and insects and how they are vital to our ecosystem and life. We have shows, animal encounters, and community outreach opportunities everywhere we go.”
Honey absolutely adores sharing her animals and vast knowledge with those around her. She offers private event bookings for things like birthday parties, and also does pop ups throughout the community. She loves to see people’s reactions when she does her thing, and when they get to meet her animals.
Since turning her passion into a consistently growing business, Honey has learned and experienced a lot. “The Academy taught me not to sell myself or my business short, to see the worth in it and believe in it. Without The Academy, I wouldn’t be where I am now in my business, nor would my business be as successful as it is today.”
To support the growth of unique and valuable businesses like Honey’s, consider investing in Corner to Corner.
The Peacock Apothecary
Grace Kelly loves to help people heal. As a nurse of 20+ years, she has dedicated her career and life to helping others. But at home, she saw her daughter and husband suffer ongoing skin irritation, and the store-bought stuff just wasn’t helping. After she read the ingredients in the products they were using, Grace decided to ditch the chemicals and start making all-natural skincare products to heal her family. Along the way, a business was born!
Grace says starting The Peacock Apothecary was like “answering an inner calling I have felt for a long time, and I was tired of working in corporate America. I didn’t want to get old and regret never taking the chance.”
In order to take her business to the next level, though, she needed some help. That’s where The Academy stepped in. “The Academy broke down the behind-the-scenes processes that are necessary when owning a business, such as a business plan and how to define my target audience. It also connected me with other business owners, many of whom I am still working with today.”
With a growing list of clients and AMAZING products, she most recently launched her storefront in Murfreesboro. In addition to Grace’s holistic products and natural remedies, she also hosts eight other small local businesses by providing them a space in the storefront to house and sell their products.
GlamHER Hair Addiction
We recently had an Academy Alumna reach a HUGE career milestone that we were all so excited to celebrate!
Ja’Quesa Hayes-Finney began her journey when her daughter began showing signs of eczema on her scalp, which caused hair loss. Doctors wanted to prescribe steroids, which could potentially lead to even more hair loss down the line, but Ja’Quesa was determined to find a more natural, longer-lasting solution for her daughter. From this quest, GlamHER Hair Addiction was born in 2019. This all-natural hair care line focuses on helping women of color with hair loss and moisture retention and uses products like aloe vera and natural oils for a healthier scalp.
In June of 2021, GlamHER Hair Addiction products became available in Walmart! You can find the Deep In Her Conditioner and the Leave-In Her Daily Glam detangler online, and check out her website for ALL the raving testimonials about these products!
To support our incredible Academy Alumni as their businesses expand and grow, please consider becoming a monthly or one-time donor. Invest in our neighbors.
Micheala Angelena, the founder of DrawnLovely is an entrepreneur and a visual artist who currently loves to work with acrylic paints. After graduating from college with a degree in business, she enrolled in The Academy.
“It took a lot of the concepts I learned as a Business major and helped me actually apply them to my business.”
In 2019, she put on her first solo art show titled Beauty Supply. She created art pieces that represented everyday beauty items and paired that with highlighting Black-owned beauty shops across the country. The cumulation of this resulted in the Beauty Supply art show.
“Projects like this are extremely important to me because I believe that in a world that tries to shrink and shame us, we should celebrate our beauty, creativity, and ingenuity. That’s why it was so important for me to contact these stores and share them with anyone I could reach. Their feedback and appreciation are what encouraged me to continue these themes throughout my work. I definitely plan to do similar projects on a bigger scale in the future.”
More recently, she has launched her first-ever online print shop! Throughout college, she would sell her artwork to friends to help support herself. Once she started to see her artwork decorating dorm rooms, though, she realized she wanted to share her creations with others, and make her art more accessible. As a result, DrawnLovely.com was born, and she’s even added clothing merchandise, too!
“It’s amazing to see all of the places my art has shipped to. Working on new ideas and getting feedback from my collectors has shown me that I really enjoy creating outside of just painting. This year I launched my first t-shirt and hoodie. I loved every step of planning, from translating my paintings into apparel to designing custom packaging. It’s really grown into so much more than your typical print shop.”
To invest in young entrepreneurs like Micheala, consider becoming a one-time or recurring donor.