Meet Our Entrepreneurs


Community Commercial!

“If I stop by your office, can y’all be in a commercial?”

This DM hit our inboxes from a recent Academy Alumna, and we knew we had to join in on the fun!

Kayla Hall-Ransom, the owner of The City Juicery, is a Spring 2023 Academy Alumna and the recent star of a commercial all about her business. 

“The commercial was a spontaneous opportunity. Pinnacle Bank sponsored The City Juicery to set up under their tent during the Black on Buchanan event Hosted by The Nashville Black Market and The Equity Alliance. We passed out juice samples and business cards, and later we got an email with the opportunity to record a commercial!”

When Kayla told us this, we got even more excited – we LOVE each of these local organizations! To see one of our Academy Alumni tapping into different networks we’ve partnered with was super cool.

“It was so much fun to drive all around Nashville, connect with so many people in my community, and even just walk up to strangers and ask, ‘Hey do you want to drink this juice and be a part of our commercial?’”

She stopped by the Corner to Corner office and Amanda, our Academy Specialist, got her very own moment of fame alongside Kayla in the commercial!

“I was so glad that I took advantage of this chance because, in the end, I found a videographer who truly believes in me and my business. He’s passionate about recording history as it’s being made, and he feels that The City Juicery is making history, building a community here in the greater Nashville area! Shout out to Ty T.V.!”

This commercial is a shining example of what can be accomplished when a community comes together. From the organizations behind it to all the neighbors that participated in getting The City Juicery’s name out there, it was a team effort!

“My business wouldn’t be where it is today without Corner to Corner, The Nashville Black Market, Pinnacle Bank, and the support of my family and friends and all the local communities.”

Building our community and connecting with neighbors on a deeper level has been at the heart of what we do since our very first cohort of The Academy way back in 2016. It brings our whole team great joy to hear Kayla’s words and to see her own business embodying the same principles of connection.

When we asked her what advice she’d offer to the next generation of entrepreneurs to go through The Academy, she shared some straight wisdom.

‘Are you creating a job or running a business?’ That’s a quote that I think of daily because anyone can cut apples and juice them into a bottle, but not everyone can get grants and connect with community members and share our mission ‘to be available to all people all over the city’. 

“So many times, there are business owners who are grinding and succeeding for three months, and then we never hear from them again. I think that’s due to burnout, from this focus on hustling and grinding and not prioritizing rest.

“I disagree with that. I think that taking the time to delegate, to ask for help from friends and family and within your network like The Academy is key to seeing persistent growth and not facing burnout.

As a nonprofit that has had hundreds of Black entrepreneurs complete our 10-week training program, The Academy, we have heard a lot of different pieces of advice on entrepreneurship.

Kayla’s perspective really stuck out to us.

We can’t wait to see what Kayla accomplished with The City Juicery. Make sure you watch her commercial by clicking below!

Connect with The City Juicery on Instagram!

Disrupting Luxury

2021 was a rough year for Jessica.

On top of being locked down due to Covid-19 for the majority of 2021, Jessica was also struggling with mental health issues, fertility issues, and a ruptured Achilles. She was stuck in the house, going a little stir-crazy, when she remembered that she had purchased a candle-making kit a while back. 

“I thought, ‘Well, I’m not doing anything else, let me get the kit out.’ And it was all she wrote! As soon as I got the kit out and made my first candle, I was hooked. It was very therapeutic. I’ve pretty much been making candles ever since.”

With a 14-year background in healthcare, this was a new adventure for Jessica. But she decided to go for it because she was truly passionate! The Black Candle Company was born! 

“It is a luxury home fragrance collection, specializing in affordable luxury. We offer over 8 different products and 6 different captivating scents. I also have an interior design company, Jessica Doaks Interior Design,  that I run alongside this candle company. So that’s kind of where my passion for affordable luxury stems from.”

For the latter half of 2021, Jessica threw herself into learning how to run a small business.

At the end of a rough year, Jessica attended an event to support her friend, Alisha Davis. That event was The Academy Graduation, where Alisha was graduating with her nonprofit, Happy Hearts Smile. “I sat and watched her pitch and I was just like, ‘Woah! This is just amazing!’ The atmosphere of graduation was a vibe. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and then I talked with her and she gave me a little Cliff Notes version of what Corner to Corner did, specifically their program, The Academy. And I knew I had to join. I had already started my business, but I felt like I could definitely benefit from what Corner to Corner had to offer.” 

Jessica enrolled in the following cohort, Spring 2022.

As horrible as 2021 had been for Jessica, 2022 flipped the switch! She worked on strengthening and expanding her business through The Academy for the first part of the year. And then, at her very own graduation, she placed first in our Compassionate Pitch Contest – The Black Candle Co. took home thousands of dollars worth of cash and prizes to help her continue to grow.

“The pitch competition was great for me. It was an opportunity for me to present my business in front of hundreds of people. To this day, I feel like a lot of people that I see out in the streets will be like, ‘Ohh you’re the girl who won the pitch competition!’ So I get recognized for that! That’s a step for my brand, and that’s really exciting.

She also built up a relationship with West Elm, and has had four Black Candle Co. popups in their store – with more on the books for November!

“I’m really excited about that relationship with them. I fostered a great relationship with the managers and the staff at the store, and they enjoyed my products and my presentation, and how I interacted with customers. And the same with Pottery Barn – I’ve been there twice now. I was set up in West Elm one day, and the manager from Pottery Barn came by, saw my setup, and invited me over to Pottery Barn!”

Pretty soon though, Jessica will have a more permanent place to call home.

I just recently moved into my first brick-and-mortar (which was a huge goal of mine!) I have a small space in the Creative Hub, which has about 150+ suites with other businesses. I’m now able to have my own candle studio and also a storefront where people can come in and purchase candles. So that’s a goal that I can check off – and I’m pretty excited about it!”

The Black Candle Co is only a little more than a year old, but Jessica’s growth has been explosive. Her next goal?

“I’d love to get a distribution deal with a large major retailer, like West Elm or Pottery Barn, or even Crate and Barrel. Someone of that stature. I want to get my products into one of those storefronts and kind of disrupt the luxury brand of candles and home fragrances.”

If 2021 Jessica was able to look into the future and get just a glimpse of 2022 Jessica, we think she would be immensely proud – we know we are! Seeing our Academy Alumni flourish and bring their passions to the city of Nashville is why we do the work we do.

For our future entrepreneurs and for those who are on the fence about signing up, Jessica has one piece of advice.

“If you’re passionate about what you’re doing, don’t let someone’s ‘No’ or someone’s slight keep you from achieving your goals. Because you’re gonna hear people tell you no. People may not like your brand or what you’re doing, and that’s fine. If you truly enjoy doing whatever it is that you’re passionate about, and you wanna make your business successful, don’t let anybody stop you. Keep going, keep working toward your goal. And you may think, ‘Oh that’s so cliche’ but it’s so true, though!! If you legit just keep following your dreams and pursuing your passions, everything else will fall into alignment.”

Visit The Black Candle Co. to learn more about Jessica’s businesses!