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SBDC Day highlights women-business owners with a panel discussion

By Paula Anderson

Courtesy Photos Of Tennessee Small Business Development Center

Local entrepreneurs and small business owners gathered on Wednesday, March 20 for the annual SBDC Day at Southwest Tennessee Community College (Whitehaven Campus).

It opened with remarks from Rory Thomas executive director of the Tennessee Small Business Development Center and Dr. Robin Cole, dean of business and technologies at Southwest Tennessee Community College.

Thomas said, “SBDC Day is a national proclamation of the success of America’s Small Business Development Centers in assisting the nation’s dreamers, innovators and doers – which are America’s small business owners.  We are thrilled that Southwest Tennessee Community College is the host institution for the Tennessee Small Business Development Center program serving Shelby and Fayette Counties.”

Representatives from the The City of Memphis and U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen read proclamations for SBDC Day.

Latanya Channel, Tennessee District Director of U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), served as the moderator for the panel which consisted of Summer Owens, Nubian Simmons, Brandy Bonner and Rose Conway.  

Each shared candid experiences about entrepreneurship, challenges and obstacles.

Nubian Simmons shared her story about moving from a career in graphic design to baking with no prior background.  Her baking interest started with a problem she wanted to solve for her food allergies.

Simmons said, "Anything I venture into I do it with a strong spiritual connection. When I started The Pink Bakery in 2012, I kept hearing, "they are waiting for you." I would especially hear this when I wanted to give up and was mentally drained from trying to figure out how to bake without the Big 8 foods (eggs, fin-fish, milk, peanuts, shellfish, soy, tree nuts and wheat). I never saw "their" faces but my heart knew what that meant. "They" were just like me, someone with food allergies looking to have "normal" life experiences."

Summer Owens started out as a corporate executive, but later decided to pursue her passion to help encourage women and girls about overcoming obstacles.  She is the author of “Life After Birth: A Memoir of Survival and Success as a Teenage Mother.”

Rose Conway talked about her love for pottery and jewelry and she was able to turn that into a business model. Her products can be purchased online through Etsy.

Brandy Bonner, president of A & B Construction Company, shared her experience in a male dominated field and that she learned the business from the ground up.

The event included entrepreneurs, small business owners, and aspiring entrepreneurs.

Ryan Pierce, UofM student and co-founder of Compass said, “SBDC Day was amazing! There was information about SBDC, a network of entrepreneurs in attendance, and a diverse panel of relatable business owners that spoke on their experiences. There were many upsides to the event, but what resonated the most with me was the sense of support and enthusiasm that exuded from SBDC’s leadership.”

“As an aspiring entrepreneur, it’s difficult to find resources when your new to the entrepreneurial ecosystem but the event showcased the numerous opportunities for small business owners with myself. After the event, I definitely left with more confidence!,” added Pierce.

Another highlight from the event was the TSBDC Rising Star Award to Kelsey Loebel, owner of Miss Muff’n by Confections and Connections.

Loebel said, “As a young entrepreneur hoping to build a successful small business, the SBDC has been a wonderful asset that I’m glad I took advantage of. Their support and genuine investment in my success has been extremely valuable. It was a true honor and inspiring push of encouragement as they presented me with this years Rising Star Award. I feel very grateful and look forward to continuing my relationship with the SBDC in the years to come.”

The program concluded with networking among other entrepreneurs.

To learn more about the Tennessee Small Business Development Center, contact Rory Thomas at

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