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GETTING DOWN TO BUSINESS: Women talk entrepreneurship at Epicenter Memphis

So you’ve dreamed of escaping cubicle hell and you think you’re finally ready to take the bold leap and start your own business. You want to be an entrepreneur.

But where to start? You know nothing about things like branding or finding startup capital. And how do you hold it all together?

Those topics and more were addressed Nov. 19 when five women of color – all business owners – took the stage for a special live taping of “Grindset,” a Memphis-based podcast that focuses on entrepreneurship.

The event was hosted by Epicenter Memphis and Kudzukian, the Memphis-based media company that records, produces and markets “Grindset.” Late last year, Epicenter enlisted Kudzukian to help tell stories of entrepreneurs in Memphis via podcast.

To celebrate the anniversary, “Grindset” brought together a powerhouse panel of women to talk about their adventures in business in front of about 50 people at Epicenter’s offices in Midtown. Some highlights:

Nubian Simmons, The Pink Bakery:

Nubian Simmons, The Pink Bakery (Photo: Lee Eric Smith)

Simmons, whose bakery specializes in allergen-free foods, began developing recipes because of her own food allergies. Now she seeks out opportunities to target that niche.

“I know exactly where I’m going to advertise because I know where my market is,” Simmons said. “ I’m targeting exactly people that have food allergies. I’m looking at specific magazines. I’m connecting with (allergen specialists).”

Dr. Dena Granger, The Chiro Place:

Dr. Dena Granger, The Chiro Place. (Photo: Lee Eric Smith)

Granger is unique in that few African American women practice chiropractic. So a big part of her marketing is simply education.

“Meet them where they are. Educate them on their level,” she said. “If I’m talking about spinal alignment, and I see they’re lost, I go back and say, ‘I’m gonna pop your neck and your back.’ If we keep it real, then we can continue to grow.”

Dana James Mwangi, Cheers Creative:

Dana James Mwangi, Cheers Creative

Mwangi, a branding expert, stresses the importance of realizing you already have a brand.

“What we do is put a visual face to that brand,” she said. “Who is your audience? How are you making people feel and and all those other things. The art of branding is the art of storytelling. And it never ever stops.”

Carlee McCullough, McCullough Law:

Carlee McCullough, McCullough Law (Photo: Lee Eric Smith)

McCullough stressed the importance getting your legal status established early to protect from liability. This also goes for churches, who sometimes make the mistake of not filing nonprofit papers with the state. She told of a church that was exposed when a person stumbled while being baptised.

“Here comes the litigation,” she said. “The board of directors could be held personally liable. So that’s a prime example of why you want that corporate structure.

Kayla Graff, Sweetbio:

Kayla Graff, Sweetbio (Photo: Lee Eric Smith)

Graff moved from California to take advantage of a favorable environment for her biotech startup, Sweetbio.

“In Memphis, you’re like one degree away from the person who can open a door,” Graff said. “That doesn’t happen everywhere. That’s part of what makes Memphis great for startups.”

The live episode will be available for download soon, said Kudzukian founder Larry Robinson. Previous episodes featuring extended interviews with each entrepreneur are already available.

To access “Grindset,” download the Kudzukian app on iOS or Android. You can also find “Grindset” via your favorite podcast provider.

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