Women-owned small businesses focus of 2019 SBDC Day

Budding entrepreneurs heard sage advice from successful women-owned small businesses during Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Day March 20 at the Whitehaven Center.  The Tennessee Small Business Development (TSBDC) hosts the yearly event that promotes the economic impact SBDCs have on communities across the nation. 

“This year we decided our panel would focus on women-owned businesses to showcase how they achieved their unique business goals through the free resources we offer,” TSBDC Executive Director Rory Thomas said.” According to the latest U.S. Census Survey of Business Owners, Memphis leads the nation’s largest cities in female-owned business growth.

LaTanya Channel, SBDC Day Rising Star winner Kelsey Loebel, and Rory Thomas.

LaTanya Channel, SBDC Day Rising Star winner Kelsey Loebel, and Rory Thomas.

On a local level, the event shines a light on the accomplishments of an outstanding small business owner through the Rising Star Award.  This year’s winner is Kelsey Loebel, owner of Miss Muff’n by Confections and Connections.

Loebel has been baking since she was 10 years old.  She started Confections and Connections based on the cookies and cupcakes and bars she used to make, churning her hobby into a life-time passion. “I knew I was good at baking and so I said let’s see where this goes,” said Loebel.  “Now, I can’t believe I’m being recognized and that people see my potential.  I am truly honored to receive this award.”

Loebel gives back to the community, too. Ten percent of her profits every quarter are donated to a local non-profit organization. “I like to give to the small non-profits that people may not be aware of. It’s my way of helping to promote them and where I can make the most impact,” Loebel said.

Passion, drive and a leap of faith were the shared trademarks of each of the SBDC Day panelists. “I left FedEx to start my business and wouldn’t trade what I’m doing for the world because I found my calling,” said panelist Summer Owens, a national author, speaker, success coach, university professor and owner of S.O.What!, an organization that offers personal and professional development coaching, motivational programs; and, a literacy, life-skills and education curriculum.  

Among the other panelists were: Brandy Bonner Aden, President of A & B Construction Company, a leading commercial and industrial general contractor in Tennessee; Rose Conway, owner of Nautilus Pottery, a national manufacturer of handcrafted pottery and essential oil diffusers; and Nubian Simmons, owner of The Pink Bakery, Tennessee’s First Big 8 Allergen-Free Bakery.

Simmons ventured into baking from a design background, and said she thought baking was the business. “I realized quickly that business meant income statements, cash flow and marketing, things TSBDC taught me with exceptional guidance,” she said.  

She credits – as do all the panelists – the staff at TSBDC for giving her the tools she needed to be successful and for their peer-to-peer support. “I received all this training and advice free – they even connected me with bankers and human resources experts.  They really care about you and want to see your business grow.”

Panel facilitator and U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Tennessee District Director LaTanya Channel asked an interesting question of her panel: What has been the most unexpected thing for you as a small business owner? Nautilus Pottery owner Conway said she didn’t expect to connect with her customers on such a profound and personal level. “Because I’m in an essential oil diffuser jewelry business, a lot of my customers are passionate about their health and wellness and that requires getting to know people on a more personal level.”

A & B Construction Company President Aden followed up with a perspective on her own customers’ expectations.  She’s had to face her own unique challenges as a woman in a male-dominated industry. “Eighty percent of my work is with the government and airport authority, so I have grown through my network and connections.”

Simmons summed up the panel discussion to a resounding yes from the audience when she said, “Women are magic…our multitasking IQs are through the roof! We are educated and deserve income equality, especially if we have the skills and the desire to succeed. That’s why so many of us take the leap to advance ourselves.”

The Tennessee Small Business Development Center (TSBDC) is located at Southwest and has provided free small business assistance to tens of thousands of individuals starting and growing small businesses in Shelby County since 2004.   Last year was a banner one as the agency provided assistance to more than 2,900 small business owners, entrepreneurs and individuals with a business idea in Shelby County. 

Read more about Rising Star Award winner Kelsey Loebel featured in the Daily Memphian.

SBDC Day panelists Brandy Bonner Aden, Summer Owens, Nubian Simmons and Rose Conway with Rory Thomasf

SBDC Day panelists Brandy Bonner Aden, Summer Owens, Nubian Simmons and Rose Conway with Rory Thomas.

A packed room of participants for SBDC Day at the Whitehaven Center.

A packed room of participants for SBDC Day at the Whitehaven Center.