Entrepreneurial Spirit

It takes a special kind of person to be willing to put everything – and we mean everything – on the line to step out on their own to create something magical.

Grit, determination, and an unwavering but humble confidence are all requirements, not to mention a willingness to listen and value feedback, change course, and ask for help. These 5 entrepreneurs have done just that, and they’re letting you in on their process.

 

By Lucy Morris  |  Photography by Creative Revolver

 

 

Dr. Shevonda Sherrow of innovative women's health specialists

 

Dr. Shevonda Sherrow

Founder & Physician | Innovative Women’s Health Specialists

For Dr. Shevonda Sherrow, who credits her mother for passing along an entrepreneurial spirit and go-getter attitude, starting her own practice meant getting to do things her way and by her rules. While the process was tough, she believes the setbacks and detours are all a part of reaching your full potential, and she continues to enjoy the journey day after day.

CS: How did the idea for Innovative Women’s Health Specialists develop?

SS: I was working in a private practice in Iowa when my mother passed away and my dad became sick. My husband and I were having to travel too much, and Chattanooga put us in closer proximity to both of our families and felt like the best fit. After working in academics and private practice, I decided I wanted to open my own little sugar shack [laughs]. I did the wild and crazy thing that everybody tells you not to do and opened my own medical practice.

CS: What is it like starting your own venture when you’re not sure if or when it will be successful?

SS: I think it’s important to understand how you personally define success. Is success to you making a lot of money? Doing something your own way? Following your own vision? Success comes over time. If you think you’re going to be successful in just a few months, you shouldn’t even do it. So, it’s scary, but anything that’s worth having is worth the risk.

CS: Have there been times that things didn’t go quite as expected, or you had to pivot in some way?

SS: The first year of opening a business is eye-opening. You have your beautiful dream about how it’s going to go, and then there’s reality. And there are a lot of roadblocks. Navigating through licensure, human resources, setting up accounts for medical supplies, accounting – the list goes on. It’s a lot more than just hiring a receptionist and getting an exam table. But some of the detours have been wonderful; it’s a journey.

CS: What are some of the greatest challenges entrepreneurs face?

SS: Encouraging yourself every day to keep following your vision, but then also being practical about that vision and about the timeline you’re setting. You can’t compare yourself to everyone else because if you’re opening your own business, there’s something unique that you are trying to put out there. It can be tough to balance feedback and trust in what you’re doing. It’s important to have your own advocate and cheerleader along with the people who say absolutely don’t do it.

 

 

Craig Fuller of freightwaves

 

Craig Fuller

Founder & CEO | FreightWaves

Coming from a family of entrepreneurs (his father started U.S. Xpress, and his uncle started Covenant Transport), it’s no surprise Craig Fuller wanted to run his own company. FreightWaves, which he describes as “if ESPN and Bloomberg had
a baby in the back of a semi,” launched in 2017 and is the first company of its kind. His journey to success was not without roadblocks, but he learned from each misstep to become the success he is today.

CS: What was your first entrepreneurial venture? What did you learn from it?

CF: My first opportunity to really build something was when I worked for U.S. Xpress. I created Xpress Direct, which provided trucking capacity on demand within six hours. It’s easier to build a business inside another. My first outside business was Transcard, a digital payment solutions company. It was much more difficult, and I made a ton of mistakes along the way. I didn’t understand the importance of a success-driven culture, marketing – frankly, I didn’t understand much. And I learned the hard way.

CS: How did the idea for FreightWaves develop?

CF: After I left Transcard, I spent two years day trading to keep myself occupied. I was a horrible employee – I’d never hire myself [laughs]. But I became enamored with the stock market and trading as a business. Given my experience in the freight arena, I became intrigued with the idea of combining stock market trading with freight news, and the concept really grew from there.

CS: Have there been times that things didn’t go quite as expected, or you had to pivot in some way?

CF: In the fall of 2017, we had zero cash and were basically living off credit cards. At the time, we had seven employees, and everyone had to take a drastic pay cut. It was just enough to keep the lights on until we picked up our first venture fund. If you look at almost every successful startup, there is a moment when the company could’ve died. There were days I’d get physically sick because I was so scared we were going to have to shut down. As a founder, the thought of having to disappoint the people who trusted you, and the humiliation of having to shut down, that drives you.

CS: What’s the best advice you have for current or future entrepreneurs?

CF: One suggestion I would make – founders shouldn’t raise money from family and friends if they can get it from outside sources. When you get money from family and friends, you aren’t as forced to fail – you’re almost enabled to make mistakes. With outside financers, you have a responsibility to answer to them. I’d also say don’t dwell on mistakes. You have to be willing to make them. Successful founders make those mistakes but learn through the process what works and what doesn’t.

 

 

Chris Cummings of Pass it Down

 

Chris Cummings

Founder & CEO | Pass It Down

When his mother was diagnosed with early-onset dementia in her 40s, Chris Cummings set out to hire a biographer to detail her history and stories. Cost prohibitive for Cummings, who at the time was just a teenager, it sparked an idea: digital storytelling. Pass It Down launched in 2015 with the intention of allowing individuals to preserve memories of loved ones. The platform has since grown and pivoted to capture stories of communities and share them in interactive and engaging ways in libraries and museums across the world.

CS: Where do you think your entrepreneurial spirit comes from?

CC: From my dad’s side of the family. My dad is an entrepreneur, and my grandfather founded Progressive Bank based in Louisiana, where my uncle currently serves as president. Everyone on that side seems to be the type of person to make that crazy leap. I’m deeply rooted in the arts too, because of my mom and grandmother. So, I think both sides have been influential in who I am and what I’m doing today.

CS: What does entrepreneurship mean to you?

CC: The best way to describe entrepreneurship – you have to be so passionate about changing whatever little piece of the world you really care about and believe in what you’re doing. No matter the ups and downs, you continue forward. Maybe even to an irrational standard. You truly have to believe that there’s a problem you need to fix, but you also can’t be so in love with your idea that you don’t listen and hone to what the market needs.

CS: Have you had any mentors or people who were influential along the way?

CC: I’m very lucky to have been guided by some of the best, kindest, and brightest minds. I’m lucky that I grew up in a family where I could learn from my dad and grandfather. When Pass It Down was accepted into Techstars in Austin, I had the chance to work under the director, Amos Schwartzfarb. He is wickedly smart. I have check-ins with my directors multiple times a month, and they’re always giving advice and guiding. They don’t tell you what you want to hear but what you need to hear.

CS: If you could go back, would you change anything?

CC: Everything in retrospect is different. Like most entrepreneurs, there are multiple times when my life got out of balance. I was either working too many hours, not spending enough time at the gym – essentially moments where I felt really burnt out. I’ve never met an entrepreneur who hasn’t had those. But I pay more attention to balance now, and it’s just a lesson I learned along the way.

 

 

Kelly Brock of the good patch

 

Kelly Brock

Co-founder & Head of Distribution | The Good Patch

After opening Natural Body Spa and Shop more than 20 years ago, Kelly Brock was bitten by the entrepreneurial bug. Recognizing the success of the retail side of the business, she followed her intuition and opened a boutique, Verde, with her eldest daughter, Mary Alice, in 2013. Proving to be a good team, she and Mary Alice launched a CBD distribution center in town soon after and started setting sales records. Always up for a new challenge, Brock partnered with her sister-in-law Betsy Scanlan and friend David Nicholson to launch her current venture, The Good Patch, in 2018.

CS: How did the idea for The Good Patch develop?

KB: I had the idea that we could do a skin patch with CBD and other natural ingredients to help relieve some common complaints I heard regularly from clients, like poor sleep and stress. I called my sister-in-law, who was working on patches for chemotherapy, and she thought it was a great idea. The two of us then partnered with my friend David, who is a marketing genius. And my youngest daughter, Summer, came on as head of sales. Today we have 12 patches and are available in about 1,600 storefronts – everywhere from Barneys to Neiman Marcus, Anthropology, and Urban Outfitters, in addition to 18 stores locally. It started with just three of us, but we now have a warehouse in Cleveland, a sales team, and offices here and on the West Coast. It’s grown quickly.

CS: Have you had any mentors or people who were influential along the way?

KB: I follow Sarah Blakely [the founder of Spanx] on all social media platforms. She does everything well, and she is so raw and real. I’ve always been intrigued by people that do something and show you the good, the bad, and the ugly.

CS: What are some of the greatest challenges entrepreneurs face?

KB: Getting the right staff. I’m lucky because in all of my businesses I’ve hired people who believe in the product, get as excited as I do, and invest in the vision. In terms of other challenges, there’s always the fear whether you did something right – is the packaging right? Is it going to sell? You’re waiting for someone to say, “I love it!” and then you can breathe a little sigh of relief. As an entrepreneur, there are always little challenges – we once ran out of our best-selling patch because we didn’t give our manufacturer enough time – but you learn from each one.

CS: What’s the best advice you have for current or future entrepreneurs?

KB: Do it! If you really, truly believe in what you are doing, you’ll make it. It feels like jumping off a cliff, but if you have passion and drive, it’s worth taking the risk. Of course, you’ll make mistakes – I’ve made every one of them – but I have always believed the saying, “This too shall pass.”

 

 

Nathan Lindley of Public House, The Social, and Il Primo

Photo by Emily Long

 

 

Nathan Lindley

Owner | Public House, The Social, Il Primo

Nathan Lindley’s career started off with a bang when he opened his first restaurant, St. John’s, at the age of 26. With an entrepreneurial mindset that melds his desire to work for himself and his passion for teaching others, he continues to push the envelope when it comes to creating culinary concepts customers love.

CS: How have you developed the concepts for your restaurants?

NL: The concept is always driven by who I think the customer would be and why I think they would come to my restaurant. Sometimes it takes a while to develop. Public House was met with a lot of confusion its first year and a half. In other cases, like with Il Primo, the demographics of the neighborhood helped guide the concept, and it seems to be what people wanted.

CS: Have there been times that things didn’t go quite as expected, or you had to pivot in some way?

NL: Definitely. In my professional career, I reached what I thought was a comfortable spot, then the recession hit, and I left Nashville and came back to Chattanooga. It was a difficult three years where I had to adjust to keep a restaurant open with half of the revenue I thought it’d bring in.

CS: Have you had any mentors or people who were influential along the way?

NL: Frank Stitt, who I trained under at Bottega in Birmingham, has had a huge influence on me. I learned from him decorum. He carries himself with such an ease and grace, and that carries over to his business. Everything about his restaurants matches his style and attention to detail.

CS: What are some of the greatest challenges entrepreneurs face?

NL: Funding is always a challenge. Getting other people to buy into your passion can be a challenge. The biggest challenge I’ve faced is learning how to work with people. In my early days, I was a terrible manager. I’ve learned a good manager is someone who can lead by example and also adjust to truly taking care of their coworkers along with the customer.

CS: What’s the best advice you have for current or future entrepreneurs?

NL: The main thing is to make sure you have a plan. You also can’t try to trick yourself into believing something’s going to work when it’s not. So many restaurants fail, and almost always you can tell the owner is passionate about it, but it’s not what the market or customer wants. You have to be willing to walk away, or it’ll kill you. A lot of people open restaurants out of passion but realize after six months they’re not going to make money or take a day off, and it stops being fun. CS

 

 

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