Nashville is home to many amazing and resilient small businesses founded by bright and brilliant entrepreneurs of all backgrounds. Today, we want to shine the spotlight on five local businesses that are owned and run by Black women. We need to do a better part of being an ally to our Black women neighbors and entrepreneurs. Meet these five amazing women, learn more about their businesses and find out from them how their businesses have changed in the past two weeks as the country’s focus has turned to the very important topic of racial equity in America.
Autumn Shelton of Honeyed Lips and Skincare
Honeyed Lips and Skincare came about after owner Autumn Shelton struggled with eczema and dry skin for years. After attending countless dermatologist appointments and trying different skincare products, Autumn took matters into her own hands. “I started doing my own research and learned about my body and specific needs. I was tired of the steroids and irritants in the skincare products I was using and wanted to head in an all-natural direction. That’s when I started crafting my own stuff, and it worked for me,” she says.
Today, Autumn’s store offers body scrubs, soap, deodorant, moisturizer and other basic skincare products. “The best part of my job is helping other people with similar needs and struggles. I love telling others what has worked for me and helping them pinpoint the issue they’re struggling with. I have learned a lot during my skincare journey, so being able to pass along effective information makes me feel good,” says Autumn.
Yet being a Black female entrepreneur doesn’t come without struggles. Autumn admits Black women-owned businesses have been neglected for a long time, but the recent climate has caused a surge in business. “Within these last few weeks and everything going on, my business has seen a huge increase within different ethnicities, and I honestly love it,” Autumn tells us. “I hope my brand continues to grow and touch the hands of many.”
LaKeithea Nicole of For Us. The Agency
After attending New York Fashion Week as a fashion design student, LaKeithea Nicole fell in love with the work going on behind the scenes. Seeing brands participate in such a major event inspired her to help Black-owned businesses get to the same level of success — and so began For Us. The Agency.
With a love for storytelling and public relations, LaKeithea has spent the last few years building the influence of Black brands. “The goal of For Us. The Agency is to hyperfocus on expanding the Black reach. There are only a few agencies outside of the big cities that focus on amplifying Black talent and brands,” LaKeithea says. “Smaller locations get left out of funding and exposure opportunities, so every day I work to get Black brands onto a national and global scale, and most importantly, to inspire EVERYONE to buy Black.”
And now — more than ever — awareness for Black-owned businesses is changing. “Two weeks ago, we were still feeling voiceless, battling with COVID and seeing many small Black businesses having trouble staying afloat with less funding. In the last few days, we’ve had more people reach out in support of Black-owned businesses,” explains LaKeithea. “People are turning to Black women entrepreneurs in their respectful industries, and they’re listening, supporting, showcasing and showing up for us. I hope we can continue this energy when things start to calm down.”
To support LaKeithea and For Us. The Agency, follow their talent on Instagram, purchase from the agency’s Black-owned brands and attend events hosted by the agency.
Mignon Francois of The Cupcake Collection
You’ve likely heard of the highly popular local business The Cupcake Collection. Yet the beginning of Mignon Francois’s famous business was an unexpected one. Mignon admits baking was not always her strong suit, and it was years of drowning in debt that inspired her to make a change in her life. Using the last $5 in her pocket, Mignon bought some baking ingredients and has been creating award-winning cupcakes ever since.
Beyond her bakery doors, however, Mignon also serves as a self-proclaimed cheerleader for her Nashville community. She sits on numerous leadership boards, including the Nashville Convention and Visitors Corporation, the Nashville Entrepreneur Center, Pathways Women’s Business Center and Lipscomb University’s College of Business. She is also the founding member of the Nashville Business Journal’s Leadership Trust team. Through these positions, Mignon mentors entrepreneurs looking to follow in her footsteps, especially females.
“The future is female. Once you get a seat at the table, pull the chair up for another woman. You do not have to bar someone else out. If you leave your foot in the door for someone else, it can help propel us all. Empower each other to know that together, our voices can be heard,” Mignon says. “In community, we are truly better together, and you can learn from the mistakes and experiences of your sister to the left and right of you. Nurture someone else that wants to follow your footsteps. I am not trying to be successful on my own. I want to make sure the women around me are successful as well.”
To support Mignon and The Cupcake Collection, place an order for next-day curbside pickup, and follow them on Facebook and Instagram. They are always looking to connect and collaborate with other local businesses as well.
Rena Doss of Clemmie Jewelry
Rena Doss credits fear for the creation of Clemmie Jewelry. She didn’t want to find herself stuck at a 9 to 5, regretting never pursuing her passion for design. Now — four years later — Rena is running her own line of handcrafted jewelry, offering earrings, bracelets and necklaces made from sterling silver and 14K gold-filled materials. “I love being an entrepreneur because it helped me to be — and continue to be — the best [version of] me. When you have the opportunity to do whatever it is you love and the freedom to do it your own way, that brings the best in you out. And the best part of it all is I get to create,” Rena says of her business.
And now — between the pandemic and our nation binding together for racial equality — Rena has noticed a shift in the focus on Black-owned businesses. “Black businesses have always been low on the totem pole. As someone who studied fashion, I understand style was rooted in my culture and still derives from it today. It’s sad it took a tragic event to cause an uprising for Black businesses to have our products and services noticed. I can only pray Clemmie Jewelry and other Black-owned businesses continue to see an uptrend in the support and recognition we are seeing right now,” she says.
Jessica & Simone of TNT Goods
Jessica and Simone of TNT Goods met in college while they were both involved in a club for creatives. Both artists and lovers of art, the best friends set out to create functional artwork — something people can wear. “TNT Goods began a little over a year ago as a means to expand the concept of art beyond the gallery,” says Jessica. “Sometimes art feels so unattainable or limited to a painting on a wall. We wanted to add art everywhere — on your key ring, your dining room table, your nightstand, your denim jacket and even in your shower.”
And in just a year later, these two young women are already experiencing a massive amount of success. Offering handmade home decor, keychains, hand-pressed buttons, and their newly launched jewelry line, Jessica and Simone are experiencing a sense of joy they never expected. “The best part of our job is getting to see how our products make people feel. Whether it’s our handmade coasters or a piece of jewelry, we love getting tagged in videos on social media of people wearing and using their new goods,” Simone explains.
With the current climate of the world, the two women can’t help but reflect on what the past few weeks have taught them about being business owners. “Two weeks ago, we were a Black women-owned business, and two weeks later, we are still a Black women-owned business. Being Black, being women and being business owners — we juggle a lot. That hasn’t changed. If anything, it has been more physically and emotionally exhausting, trying to function as business owners and process the pain of these tragedies simultaneously,” Jessica and Simone explain.
We’ve only just begun to scratch the surface of local businesses owned and operated by Black women. To see even more, visit nashblackchamber.com.
All images submitted unless otherwise noted.
Read more interviews with our inspirational FACES in our archives HERE!