By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA
Mayor John Cooper of Metropolitan Nashville and Davidson County declared yesterday as “Nashville Black Innovation & Entrepreneurship Day,” and the Nashville Entrepreneur Center (EC) jumped on the announcement to host a special commemorative event that also celebrated “Black History Month.”
In a hybrid event that was hosted at the EC with about 70 attendees and also available via Zoom to a statewide audience of about 40 people, the program was divided into two parts. The first included a panel featuring: (1) Marcus Whitney, Co-Founder of Jumpstart Health Investors and its affiliates, including the newly announced Jumpstart Nova; (2) Victoria Butler, Founder and Master Blender of Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey, a nearly five-year old spirits brand based in Shelbyville, TN; and (3) Courtney Hale, Chief Hope Dealer at Super Money Kids Company.
“There are limits to what can be done without capital,” Whitney said in response to a question about urgent needs. “We need to be laser focused on that. We need money going into entrepreneurs in these communities, and those entrepreneurs need to think big.”
Butler, a long-time member of the Metro Nashville law enforcement community, shared the history of Nathan “Nearest” Green, a formerly enslaved man who taught a young Jack Daniel the craft of distilling. Now, more than a century after his death, the fast growing company has its products sold in all 50 states.
“We started in partnership with Brown-Forman,” she said of the parent of Jack Daniel’s. Uncle Nearest created its own pipeline of people of color and will soon graduate the first two individuals from its apprenticeship program.
Later, she reminded attendees that “you have to believe you can do it.”
For Hale, there were two key points that we captured. “Think bigger than whatever you are thinking now,” he said early on in the panel discussion. Later, Hale stressed the importance of supporting local education and taking care of youth.
After the panel discussion moderated by Brynn Plummer, the EC’s Vice President of Equity, Inclusion and Community, four start-ups participating in the EC-founded “Twende” program that recently was expanded to Black start-ups around the state offered elevator pitches. They were: (1) Dream Life, a 10-year old Memphis, printing company that is launching a mobile service; (2) Inspire Me with Fe, a Nashville-based start-up who seek change in their wellbeing; (3) Jades Elevation, a small family urban farm in Memphis that focuses on providing the best hemp products from seed to experience; and (4) Machine Mob Labs, another Nashville-based start-up that automates the sales funnel process for Black business owners.