l-r; James Bradley, Monique Ivory and Taiisha Bradley. Photos by Ashley Benkarski

By Ashley Benkarski

MURFREESBORO, TN — Taiisha Bradley knows how to connect the dots. She saw a need for local minority businesses to connect with each other and promote their brands, so she created the Rutherford County Black Business Network.

The group held its inaugural showcase Sat., Feb. 2 at Patterson Park Community Center

Toya Griffin holds a sample of her body butter at the RCBBN Inaugural Showcase.

featuring  vendors specializing in a wide variety of professions. From self-described “popologist” Kaneisha Scott of KB Popcorn—whose gourmet popcorn spans a variety of flavors—to Toya Griffin’s Mo’ Scrubs natural beauty line featuring lip scrubs, body butter and bath salts, the event brought these local businesses and the community together.

Bradley is a celebrity publicist and event curator with almost two decades of experience in nonprofit and corporate public relations. She’s now pursuing her entrepreneurial goals and helping others pursue theirs.

“One thing I like to do is give back to the community, especially the black community that I’m a part of,” Bradley said. She noticed a disconnection between local black businesses and wanted to close the gap. “I have lots of family members who are black entrepreneurs and it’s just something that was kind of really instilled. And so, the Rutherford County Black Business Network actually started off as an idea for a black business directory.” That’s when the group took shape on social media, starting with Facebook. The platform allowed businesses and business-minded folks to network, get more clients and put on social events.

Vendor Monique Ivory, who runs her business Grandma’s Hands Bakery from her home, found herself sold out of items before the event ended. That’s a good thing—Ivory is a federal employee with the Treasury Department of the IRS in Franklin and was a furloughed worker during the recent government shutdown. Unsure of how she was going to pay utilities and other bills, Ivory put on a bake sale for two weekends and managed to scrape by. By the end of Saturday’s event, Ivory only had three cinnamon rolls left. 

Though the shutdown has ended, it may only be temporary—if Trump and the House don’t reach a deal, the next shutdown is scheduled for Feb. 15. Ivory is hoping folks on Capitol Hill can empathize with furloughed workers and consider the consequences they face. “Everybody is not the same. Everybody is not rooting for us,” she said. “And so if they were on our side they would understand when you live paycheck to paycheck, it’s hard. So, just a little bit more compassion about stopping our paychecks and stopping the government, you know, because this is not a benefit. It’s hurting everyone.”

Bradley said she received more applications from vendors than she could host, but hopes to have a similar, bigger event this fall so she could accommodate and network more local businesses. 

The RCBBN will present an educational program geared toward educating entrepreneurs on their deductions Feb. 21. The event, titled “Treat Yo Self: Tax Deductions Every Entrepreneur Deserves,” will feature Valerie Stewart of Accurate Tax To Go and will take place 6 p.m. at the Technology Engagement Center located at 306 Minerva Drive. 

Bradley is also co-curating the Hot Chicken and Art Show with event planning company Craft Trap on Fri., April 12 from 6-10 p.m. Featuring artists, a marketplace, vendors, live music, celebrity guests and a VIP event, the show is free to the public and part of the Boro Art Crawl at Middle Tennessee Expo Center on Middle Tennessee Blvd. Bradley invites entrepreneurs who are interested in being a part of this event to apply at crafttrap.com.

To join the RCBBN, simply like the group’s page on Facebook, request to join and answer a few questions, Bradley said. Once accepted, you’re free to network, post specials, and take part in events aimed at providing entrepreneurs with the tools, resources and support needed to grow a successful business. 

For more information on Mrs. Bradley’s events and company list, visit taiishabradley.com.