Tennessee is a destination like no other. It offers beautiful sights, incredible histories, and vibrant cultures. From the bluesy bluffs in Memphis to the scenic views of the Smoky Mountains, LEO’s home state is an excellent backdrop for any event.
As a certified women-owned business, LEO seeks to support other minority-owned businesses as part of our good-faith commitment. We hope to bring actionable insights and authenticity to this commitment by featuring Black vendors and their stories.
LEO spoke with a few Black-owned event businesses in Memphis, Chattanooga, and Nashville. We asked them about their biggest influences, what excites them most in their careers, and how they deal with adversity. Get to know them here.
“I was born in the Boogie Down Bronx in the Sedgwick Projects down by the Harlem River. I was the type of child who would cling to my mother’s apron, literally, but when I was five, I saw “The Nutcracker” and decided that I wanted to be a ballerina. I didn’t realize that the desire to be a ballerina would change me from being an extremely shy person to someone who wanted to be on stage. I did tours in college and ended up staying in the industry because it was a place I could thrive.
What moves me is waking up every day and never knowing who I will meet. By the time the tour is over, something has happened, a connection has been made. I get to teach them about things they have never heard of, largely as a result of miseducation in our country as it relates to African American history.
Because of the pandemic, we began to offer the Memphis Caravan tour, which allows people to explore Memphis from their car. We connect via Zoom, and visitors can follow the van around the city. It is still the same experience, but completely contactless. Something that could have wiped me out gave me a chance to expand in ways I never thought of.”
Carolyn Michael-Banks is the owner of A Tour of Possibilities, a tour operator service created to share the historical and cultural gems that African Americans have contributed to Memphis, TN.
Find her on social: @atopmemphis
“I love to use yoga and meditation to show people what is possible for themselves – it is my biggest passion. That can be physical possibilities or even a new pattern of thinking or breathing. To see someone who may feel that they don’t fit into the perception of yoga and be able to show them that they fit in just the way they are, lights me up.
Before becoming a yoga instructor, I worked in the political field doing fundraising. That experience has helped me in my pursuit of teaching corporate yoga classes. It felt natural for me to create a space for business people to enjoy the practice for the benefits to their physical and mental health. I partner with companies to deliver a transformative practice wherever they are, and it is truly my greatest joy.
When we realized that COVID wasn’t something that would go away quickly, we paused and pivoted, and that pivot was virtual meetings. When the weather was nice, I would hold some socially-distanced outdoor classes, but there was no travel for conferences and no large events happening in Nashville. The pandemic has shown people how important it is to practice some type of physical and mental expression throughout their day.”
Dana Taft is the owner of Dana Taft Yoga & Lifestyle in Nashville, TN. She offers private and group yoga classes. Dana led a virtual yoga and meditation session during a show for our partners at Acquia.
Find her on social: @mrstaft
“I got into health coaching because, at six months old, I was diagnosed with adrenal disease. I started reading health books when I was 17 or 18 years old, and that is how my interest grew. I later attended the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in New York. I always wanted to help people, and once I learned about health, wellness, food, and diet, I knew I needed to go into health and wellness coaching.
I have learned to look at life from different perspectives, which has led me to try different things. I am now creating an online digital course on overcoming physical challenges like diabetes, adrenal diseases, and cancer through nutrition, exercise, mindset, and meditation. The course is called The Five-Step Blueprint to a Healthy Mindset, Body, and Balanced Lifestyle.
Educating people on nutrition is very important to me. I got my health coaching certification, but I wanted to learn more about education. I ended up going back to school and got my master’s in public health. I love teaching and helping people with food and diet – it’s just my thing.”
Find her on social: @simplywithdawn_health
“My cinematography career began when I finished school and came back to Memphis. I decided to do something I love, and I wanted to shoot my shot to see if I could make my way in life doing something I’m passionate about. It started with music videos for friends, but it grew exponentially from there.
I like to socialize and meet new faces, and I am always interested in working with new ideas and clients. It’s never a dull day, and no project is similar to the last. Brands and individuals are so unique, so I strive to show that through creative video.
I am currently working on a project called #HERmemphis. The goal of the 6-part project is to highlight Black women in Memphis and their stories. I have also recently partnered with My Sistah’s House, which is an organization that supports the transgender community in Memphis. Among other things, they launched a Tiny House Project that helps remove people from abusive homes and place them somewhere safe. I am grateful for the trust they have provided by granting my team and I the creative freedom to bring their mission to life through film.”
Jason Thibodeaux is a cinematography producer and owner of Millennium Media Label in Memphis, TN.
Find him on social: @MMediaLabel
“Music has a way of bringing people together, regardless of race, gender, and age differences. There’s nothing better than looking on the dance floor and seeing a very diverse group of people having fun. I get the opportunity to bring people together, and that deserves a celebration.
My pastor Dr. RJ McCowan has always been my biggest influence when it comes to how I conduct myself, not only as a Christian but also as a businessman and leader in my community. I focus on keeping my confidence high and representing my culture and race with excellence.
As a self-motivator, I have learned to defeat doubt. I intentionally wake up and speak blessings over my day with my wife, and I go out and handle business.”
Keenan MillionDollaMan Daniels is a professional DJ, host, and entertainer and is CEO and owner of KD Productions LLC.
Find him on social: @themilliondollaman
“I started my career at the Peabody Hotel in Memphis, TN. Since then, I’ve worked in restaurants in Memphis and San Diego before becoming a private chef for athletes and entertainers. Two years ago, the Dixon Gallery and Gardens in Memphis asked me to operate Park + Cherry, a full-service café located in the main gallery. For them to invite me to help collectively change the culture of the industry touches me more than anything else.
My goal now is to create more French-Asian cuisine. It’s extraordinary to think about how the two can be combined, and I’m hoping to bring something unique to Memphis. I get to meet so many people, and I believe that I live through what I do. That’s the part of my job that makes it feel like I’m never working, even when I am working. I build relationships and networks, and that’s what food is to me – an experience. That’s what it’s all about.”
Phillip Dewayne is an esteemed private chef and owner of Park + Cherry at the Dixon Gallery in Memphis, TN.
Find him on social: @chefphillipdewayne
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