By Shelly Robertson Birdsong – CEO|Publisher Robertson Media Group, LLC
As we celebrate the ladies in our May issue and as a female entrepreneur myself, I thought it only fitting to recognize some amazing fellow female business owners in our community. We asked for your nominations, and when I read the names, these women could also be called a list of my own professional mentors and personal examples of success. So many unique stories to tell. So many individual perspectives and yet the common denominator among them being that they are fiercely dogged in their dedication to their business – and a how that defines their role in the community and personally. All of them recognize the breadth of what they have accomplished but acknowledge, they couldn’t have done it alone. Success is defined by our ability to create a team and allow their talents and skills to enhance and showcase our own, and your dream – your business. Congratulations to my fellow ladies for taking your dream to the top and continuing to work at it, all the while making relevant contributions to the community around you.
Attorney, Ausbrooks Law Office
Dana opened her own law firm in February of 2012. She works as a Tennessee Criminal Defense Attorney, DUI Attorney and a general practitioner of law. She also serves as an adjunct professor in the criminal justice department for Columbia State Community College. And, in her “spare” time, she serves as a County Commissioner for the 12th District of Williamson County. Her story of going in to business for herself might sound familiar. “I confess that in my past, I worked for a horrible boss and accepted the petty and jealous remarks she made on a near daily basis. When I finally figured out my worth and asked for it, the consequences were life changing. I found the courage to open my own business. I became an independent woman, a woman who could run her own life, and I am now working for the best boss ever, myself,” she says. Besides helping others daily in her work, Dana also makes time to contribute to the community at large. These include BrightStone and Williamson County Animal Center (where she adopted her four-legged child, Atticus). “I serve on their board because giving a voice to those who can’t speak for themselves is a powerful feeling,” she says. Her advice for anyone wanting to find success? “It is easy to win and succeed. If you really want to know someone, watch them get back up after a fall,” Dana says.
Owner, Southern Events Party Rental
Jill Cole is celebrating her 10th year of business, but she remembers when she and her husband, Chip, started their event rental business out of their garage. “Back in those days, it was he and I setting up events and doing late night pickups on our own. We used to wash the dishes, press linens – you name it, we did it. Years later we have grown to over 25 employees,” she says. Jill understands that hard work will eventually equal success, but that there is more needed in a thriving business. “Successes are ongoing and I don’t count one big milestone as our greatest success. To me the growth that we have made year after year is incredibly rewarding,” she says. She also knows that work ethic alone and assumptions that the road is easy, are not the way real, locally owned businesses thrive. “You will work harder than you can ever imagine. The idea of a 40 hour work week? Well, throw that out the door. Be prepared for years of hard work and be prepared to put your heart and soul into it. It is 24/7 non-stop when it’s yours and if you don’t love it you won’t grow your business. You have to have a passion for it and that can’t ever die,” she explains.
Lisa Culp Taylor
Realtor, Parks Realty
Lisa Culp Taylor has been in real estate since 1996, inspired at an early age by her realtor father, Ken Culp. “I always loved going to work with him, being at open houses with him and enjoyed the idea of helping people find a ‘home’,” she explains. In addition to real estate, Lisa is passionate about various charities for the four legged variety! “Snooty Giggles is devoted to helping dogs with medical needs, and elderly and terminally ill dogs. They also help the various local shelters to find homes for homeless dogs in our area. Through this organization, I have adopted two dogs and helped foster many others. By far, I have gained so much from the involvement; more than I ever expected and it has changed my life for the better in so many ways,” she says. Lisa has had her share of successes and road blocks in business, but overcomes with a positive attitude. “I have certainly had challenges, successes and defeats – but the best lesson I have ever learned is not to dwell on any of these. Every day is a challenge to do better than the day before and if you focus on a one great success, you may never have a bigger success,” Lisa says. “ Equally, anytime you dwell on a negative experience, you are holding yourself back far more than if you learn from the experience. Tuck it away and move forward knowing you will be more prepared in the future.”
Owner, CJ’s Off the Square
CJ Dickson is the owner of an all-inclusive wedding and event venue in historic downtown Franklin. CJ has always loved hospitality and throwing parties for friends and family. “I just love bringing people together to celebrate. I also love music, which is what originally brought me to Nashville from Southern California,” she says. “I had the idea for what would become CJ’s Off the Square in 2004, while planning my own wedding. I found it difficult to plan a wedding and pursue my demanding career at the same time. There were just so many details and decisions to be made. I wished for a place that could do all of that for me. As I spoke with friends about the whole process, I found that I was not alone.” CJ’s Off the Square was recently named one of the top 20 garden wedding venues in the United States by the editors of WeddingWire.com. “This was a huge honor and completely unexpected,” CJ says. “We are also the highest client rated wedding venue of any kind in the state of Tennessee. This kind of recognition comes from years of hard work and dedication to giving our clients an incredible experience.” CJ explains that the biggest lesson she has learned through owning her own business is: “There is no single path to success. I have found a good rhythm that works for me. But that does not mean that my way is the be-all-end-all way to do things. It is important to stay flexible, be open to new ideas and never stop seeking ways to improve what I do.”
Founder, AILA Cosmetics
Dr. Cary Gannon is a board-certified podiatric surgeon at University Foot and Ankle Center and the founder of AILA Cosmetics. AILA is a physician developed, 8-free, TPHP-free, paraben-free, gluten-free, cruelty-free, vegan and made in the USA. AILA is the result of a culmination of things. How did she end up with her own business? A patient had asked about the ingredients in a product that Cary was selling at her office and when the manufacturer refused to disclose the ingredients to her after asking repeatedly, she decided to just do it herself. “I was motivated to become an entrepreneur because I felt like there was something lacking in existing available products. So, I decided to make my own. For me, it’s about doing what I can to help women who highly prioritize conscious consumerism. I’m committed to women who care about what they put on their bodies,” she explains. Her conviction is paying off and in a healthy way. As an entrepreneur, she has faced the struggles of startup, but sees the silver lining in the challenges. “I think the greatest challenge women in the workplace face is giving themselves permission to say ‘no.’ As women, it’s in our nature to serve, nurture and resolve problems. At some point though, we have to acknowledge our limitations,” Cary says. “As women, we often compare our success to the success of others, and we need to stop doing that. Success is not singularly defined by any one thing, and the more women broaden their vantage point about success, the more supportive we’ll be of each other and the more peace we’ll have about ourselves.”
Ashlyn Hines Meneguzzi
Founding Principal, Bristol Development Group
Ashlyn’s company was founded in 1999 and primarily develops high-end urban in-fill locations throughout the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic. She started out in her career as a leasing consultant. With 30 years under her belt – she is definitely an expert in the field. Balancing work and a personal life is a challenge, which she and many women in her same position experience. But she does find time to give back to her community in a variety of ways, working with groups such as the Heritage Foundation, Franklin Tomorrow and O’More College of Design. “It is very important to me and to our business that we are actively engaged in the community in which we live – if we can use our skills for a positive impact in the community we want to know,” she says. Ashlyn encourages all entrepreneurs to go for it: “Do what you love and it will probably work out. Always hire people you think can do your job better than you and give them the tools for personal success – that will bring success to you.” As a woman in business she says, “It is so important for women to support each other both in the actual work place and as encouragers to other women taking the step to be an entrepreneur. If we can help one woman get started and benefit from some of our experience, then we are making a difference.”
Owner, Grumpy’s Bail Bonds
Not only is Leah Hulen a former Miss Tennessee, United States Army Officer and published author, but she is also the well-known face seen throughout middle Tennessee on the Grumpy’s Bail Bonds billboards. Leah started Grumpy’s Bail Bonding, LLC in 2001 in the basement of her house. “I had a vision to help people in need. I created Grumpy’s upon the principles of love and compassion while also holding people accountable. My job is to allow people their constitutional right to bail while also ensuring their appearance at court so that justice can be served,” she explains. Leah definitely knows the power of marketing. “I love the creative aspect of marketing and I create all my own commercials, billboards, radio spots, etc. I create them to be attention grabbers! Some people love them some; some people hate them. Nonetheless, when people have the misfortune of going to jail, they remember Grumpy’s Bail Bonds.” After 15 years in the business, Grumpy’s Bail Bonds now serves 35 counties, has nine office buildings and fifteen employees. In 2003, Leah also created Grumpy’s Enterprises, LLC, which is a small company that owns and manages commercial buildings that she has bought and restored. Leah’s most recent business endeavor has been the creation of Arcadian Wrestling Association (AWA), which is a sports entertainment promotion company based here in Williamson County. AWA hosts live professional wrestling events throughout middle Tennessee and chooses various charities in which to benefit, including We Heart Babies, 501 c3.
Owner, Jones Therapy Services
Ginger Jones is the founder of Jones Therapy Services, a primarily pediatric therapy clinic that offers Speech-Language, Physical, Occupational and Feeding Therapy. Ginger became a Speech-Language Pathologist because of her parents, who have both been deaf since infancy. “I saw how their SLPs had such a positive effect on their life, and I wanted to make an impact like that on people and my community,” she says. Ginger also wanted to enable others to do the same. In the last 6.5 years, Jones Therapy Services has grown to seven locations across Tennessee with over 60 employees at this time. “Growing my business to have all the locations we do, all the employees we do, and to bring in over two million dollars in revenue without borrowing any money has been my greatest success as an entrepreneur. I’ve been able to watch patients take their first steps or say their first words; all of the amazing things I’ve seen happen here because of what we do, are my greatest personal and professional successes.” An integral part of the culture at Jones Therapy Services is giving back. “We are always discussing how we can serve the under-served and how we can make our mission providing resources to those who would not have them otherwise – that’s what we’re about here, that’s why we do what we do,” says Ginger. “I believe most people get out of bed in the morning really wanting to do more and be better. I hope that I’ve created an environment for people where they can find their passion and purpose come together.”
Owner, PLA MEDIA
Pam moved here from NYC where she was working in cable TV, and started her own company in 1985. “I had always wanted to have my own business. Freelance and consulting turned into hiring a staff. From there I continued my PR firm then partnered in artist management for many years enjoying success there,” she says. The challenges still exist, including hiring and keeping good employees who are not only great team players but, have integrity and are fine, ideally fun people. “You spend more time with the people you work with than you do your friends and family, life is short so, it is cool bonus when you really like them,” she says. “Starting a business can be a scary proposition, you need to be in it for the long haul and have the tenacity, discipline and intestinal fortitude to persevere and succeed,” she says. She says success can be defined by happiness. “I know people who hate what they do and live in a very stressful dog eat dog environment, so again I am most thankful that I found something I am pretty good at and enjoy.” Part of doing something she loves comes from giving back. Pam is an active participant in many local organizations and events, including Bridges of Williamson County, the Tennessee State Museum Foundation Board, Franklin city government- mayor appointed commissions such as the Battlefield Commission, Housing Commission and the Tennessee Preservation Trust Board. She says, “I have always heard to those much is given much is expected. Besides, it feels great and is good karma. What you do, how you live speaks measures. This is your brand.” Words to live by.
Founder, Forest Home Media
Nancy McNulty, along with Dana Tucker, founded Forest Home Media, which is a PR and integrated marketing company specializing in the home lifestyle industry and home and garden related businesses. “Forest Home Media represents an innovative integrated marketing direction for us and our team of creative partners who take great personal pride in helping grow the success of others,” explains Nancy. “My parents always instilled in me a desire to leave this world knowing you gave more than you took and it is part of the fabric of how I try to live my life. One way in which Forest Home Media has tried to impact our community was the establishment of a Nashville Influencers group of home lifestyle bloggers, designers and media who encourage and support one another,” says Nancy. She loves that there are so many female heads of media companies now. “I love the impact they have on living, loving and raising a family in this incredible Williamson County community.”
Owner, Kelly Spalding Designs & Interiors
Kelly Spalding had always dreamed of opening a home décor retail shop and now has a storefront in downtown Franklin. “My heart and soul are poured into this small business and when customers stop in and tell me how much they love shopping here it makes it all worth it,” Kelly explains. Along with being an entrepreneur, Kelly has always wanted to make a difference. The event she is most proud of is The Pink Gala. “I lost my mom to breast cancer in 2009 and wanted to find a way to honor her memory and to help women in my community who were diagnosed with breast cancer. I was introduced to the Breast Health Center of Williamson Medical Center and decided that I wanted to make them the benefactor of the Gala.” Kelly says the relationships she made while working on the Gala were the reason she was able to diagnose and make knowledgeable treatment decisions about her own breast cancer. She plans to bring back the Gala for New Year’s Eve 2016. Kelly says that starting your own business isn’t for everyone. “You will work harder and longer for so much less money than any job you have worked before,” she explains. The best advice she received? “Work on your strengths and hire others to take care of your weaknesses.”