When two strangers decided to start a business serving community nonprofits, they had no idea it would become one of the most sought after, minority-owned businesses in Memphis
In August, Kingdom Quality Communications (KQ) celebrated a decade in business. Despite the eminent success, co-founders Renee Malone and Terrell Gatewood said there is still more work to do.
“We don’t feel like we’ve made it,” Malone said modestly. “But we are definitely working towards providing something better for our community and our families.”
During a time when many minority-owned businesses in Memphis are struggling to bring in enough revenue to sustain their companies, KQ’s team has managed to defy the odds. The award-winning business, which employs 16 full-time employees, provides marketing, public relations and creative services to small businesses and nonprofits. Their team of communication professionals has worked with notable organizations, including Shelby County Schools, Shelby County Government and Chick-fil-A.
“We’re thankful for our clients who have given us a shot,” Malone said. “It’s difficult for any business, but especially for black-owned businesses. We have to work harder to prove our competency. But we don’t use it as a crutch; we use it as motivation to push us harder to provide excellence every day.”
Malone, who oversees most of the company’s public relations, has been dubbed by many as the city’s very own Olivia Pope; but she isn’t quick to accept the comparison to the character on the hit ABC show “Scandal.”
“We have worked on a lot of projects that required intense crisis communications, so that’s where the comparison to Olivia Pope may have come from,” she laughed. “But other than that I don’t think we share other similarities.”
Malone’s business partner explained why others might have affectionately given his colleague the Pope title.
“She’s awesome when it comes to handling crisis. And she knows how to address a situation head-on when it happens.”
Gatewood, who focuses more on the creative side of the business, admitted that he and Malone’s personalities are vastly different, allowing them to work well together and thrive as partners.
“We complement each other in a great way,” he said. “I’ve learned from her the etiquette of business; and then I’m so light-hearted that I remind her that we can relax a little and enjoy this work and not take it so seriously at times.”
Spirituality is a commonality they both share. It’s also the binding mission of their organization.
“Our faith is who we are,” Malone asserted. “We can’t think about if the world thinks our spirituality helps or hinders our business, because it’s who we are.”
Gatewood agreed. He credits God for his creative talents and encouraged other entrepreneurs to work hard at their gifts.
“I don’t consider myself to be unique,” he said. “I’ve spent a lot of time trying to perfect the talents that God has given me. With hard work, faith and dedication, it can happen for anyone.”
While faith has served as the driving force for the KQ duo, they both admit it hasn’t always been easy. Malone said in 2011 she was on the verge of giving up when her husband fell critically ill, almost to the point of death.
“When he was in the hospital, I was thinking that I couldn’t go on without him and work this business with two small children,” she recalled. “I thought I had to give up.”
Malone’s husband eventually made a full recovery, and the team began rebuilding their business.
“It’s become part of the story of KQ,” Gatewood said. “It’s one of those things that made us a stronger and more efficient company after making it through.”
Though the company lost clients during that time, they were quickly able to bounce back and have seen continuous growth since then. Last year, KQ opened a second location in Atlanta; and while the team said they allow God to order their steps, they’re not shying away from the possibility of more expansion.
“We want to continue to maintain our footprint in Memphis, because this is home,” Gatewood assured. “But we also keep our eyes open for new opportunities in different locations, like Texas and other southern cities.”
With 10 years down, and no plans of slowing down anytime soon, Malone and Gatewood said they are driven by their love of what they do.
“God has provided us with good mentors, staff and other working relationships that are spiritually led,” Malone said. “We know that our steps are ordered by him. So we just plan to keep on this path and see where God leads us.”