Nolensville business leaders talk success and community
By Kerri Bartlett, Assistant Editor
MelissaHall, Darlene Bobo and Stephen Prince spoke at the Williamson County chamber meeting Thursday. Photo by Kerri Bartlett
Three Nolensville business leaders told about their triumphs, mistakes and passion-driven businesses Thursday at the Nolensville Area Business Council Quarterly Meeting at Nolensville Town Hall.
Williamson, Inc. hosted the event for Williamson County business chamber professionals catered by Martin’s Bar-B-Que – a tasty incentive participants said that drew an audience of dozens.
Business owners Darlene Bobo of Butterfly Meadows Inn & Farm, Melissa Hall of Mama's Java and Stephen Prince of Card Marketing Services shared the ups and downs of owning a business from the joy of serving coffee and restoring a 100-year old farmhouse to the experience of near bankruptcy.
Chamber COO Cindi Parmenter asked the three panelists about their experiences heading a business.
The three agreed that entrepreneurs must have a deep passion for their work before starting a business and must surround themselves with the right “team players” to reach success.
“It’s not for everybody,” Prince said.
He emphasized that one must love their work and desire to work for themselves.
“It never worked when I worked for others,” Prince said.
“I don’t have bad days. I have always loved what I did. If I didn’t, I left. If it’s not working, don’t do it. Stick with what you are good at. No one is good at everything. Most of us are good at a few things.”
Prince learned this lesson in 1999 and 2000 when he almost went bankrupt after a few business missteps in trusting the wrong people he said. He downsized from 62 to 6 employees and cut his production of selling multiple products to selling only gift cards, which has proven to be one of the most positive business decisions he’s ever made.
Bobo agreed that passion and drive are key.
Inspired by a bed and breakfast overnight stay during an unexpected delay while on vacation, Bobo decided to start the inn in the Bethesda area.
“We wanted to share the scenic peace and quiet with others,” she said. “I’m from Atlanta so I know how difficult it can be to find peace and quiet.
“At Butterfly Meadows, you can see from the Triune area to Franklin to Thompson Station. You can see every star in the sky.”
Bobo said that people have found a beautiful refuge for relaxation at the inn including authors, songwriters, those grieving a loss and even couples and families on vacation.
“Sometimes when an idea takes hold of you, you can’t do anything but roll with it,” she said.
Hall emphasized that business owners have to be open to learning, growing and changing with the times especially concerning technology and latest trends no matter the field.
From 60 to 1,400 to 3,000 square feet, Hall has moved her business three times in Nolensville to accommodate its growth over the past four years.
A coffee-capitol, Seattle transplant, Hall said that she could not exist without her coffee.
“When I couldn’t find it here, I decided to create it,” she said.
“It’s a 24/7 job." Hall said that she had to make sure that she enjoyed the business enough to incorporate family life with long hours.
The community has seen her four school-age children grow up – even sitting in the “time-out chair” at the shop, Hall shared.
“I love the community feel in Nolensville. Even though we are big, we still retain that small town atmosphere that people love so much.”
Panelists also spoke about the unique location of Nolensville as the homebase for their businesses.
Prince moved his business to the town to escape the hustle and bustle of Cools Springs when he downsized, whereas Hall desired great coffee in her new town, and Bobo discovered a scenic gem of a house-turned-inn that she couldn’t refuse near Nolensville lines.
Hall said that the town is a perfect compromise between her and her husband – a city that incorporates a country feel.
Some say the town explodes with growth – almost tripling its population of over 6,000 in the last 16 years and serves as the breaking ground of a soon-to-be-constructed K-8 and high school in the next few years.
The town also houses a three-year-old $4 million town hall, an approximately $5 million plan for walking trails that will soon connect the town’s schools, town center and recreation center – to be renovated this summer – for the purpose of creating a community foot path for residents. Mostly local businesses abound absent of McDonald’s golden arches and other large chain businesses.
Hall owns one of only two drive-through windows in the town where Sonic, considered a walk-up restaurant, is one of the only national eateries around.
The panelists expressed contentment with their spots in Nolensville and also noted the importance of giving back to the community.
Prince, who a part of a green space preservation group in Brentwood, supported the Nolensville walking trail project and was instrumental in securing about 80-acres for the 400-acre Smith Park in Brentwood. Also, Hall started Nolensville Help for Hope, which aids families with clothes, food and items for Christmas.
“If you want to own your own business, don’t give up,” Hall said.
“You have to love it,” Bobo said. “It will help you get through the tough times.”
Posted on: 1/16/2014