Twende kicks off

Originally published for the Nashville Entrepreneur Center blog on Nov. 14, 2019

The EC’s newest program, Twende, has launched with 17 founders, all coming together to prepare for a year of learning and growth.

Twende, named for the Kiswahili word meaning “let’s go,” is a new program with the mission of helping founders of color scale their businesses. Initially, Twende was a one day summit in April focusing on access to capital for founders of color. The success of that event showed the desire for greater attention for founders of color, and this latest program was born.

“There were few supports in the city addressing the specific needs of entrepreneurs of color scaling their businesses, especially from a tech perspective” said Brynn Plummer, Twende’s portfolio manager and the EC’s VP of Inclusion and Community Relations. “There’s great stuff that’s out there, but we also felt that we had a density of advisors in the tech space, advisors who can help with systems, operations and processes, anyone who wants to seek investment capital – we have a concentration of people here who know that world.”

Twende is supported by Asurion, Wells Fargo, and LaunchTN, who have all partnered with the EC to add value to these founders’ experiences. The program also features two Entrepreneurs in Residence, Shani Dowell and Bill McCleskey, both of whom went through the EC’s Preflight program and are now some of the biggest names in the Nashville business space.

The 17 businesses selected for the inaugural cohort run the gamut with some focusing on B2B strategies, some with product focuses, others with tech solutions, and much more. Twende’s founders are all early stage businesses. Many are already growing their presence organically, with cohort members United Street Tours and REDG Children Photography having making it onto the Nashville Scene’s 2019 Best of Nashville list and cohort member Mintech Agency receiving the Rising Star Award from the Nashville Black Chamber of Commerce earlier this month.

At the kickoff event, Moore Suds founder Andreall Moore presented her organic soap company to her cohort members, talking about her journey to creating a product that Brynn said is as focused on health and wellness as it is on creating a user experience.“I think most of the teams are trying to solve problems that they’ve experienced in their own lives, like most entrepreneurs, but there’s also an explicit component that faces back to the community, which I think gives entrepreneurs of color a competitive edge,” Brynn said. “For example, Andreall wants everyone to have access to high quality, pure ingredient soaps, because that’s a part of her wellness journey, but she also wants to do so in a way that is culturally affirming, culturally relevant, and joyful.”

In addition to its focus on entrepreneurs of color, Twende is filling a need for resources for businesses that are trying to scale.

“A big part of why we developed this program and cohort is that it’s important to bring value to our community and in looking across the ecosystem in Nashville, nearly all the resources available for entrepreneurs of color tend to be concentrated on the start up stage – creating and launching businesses,” says Jane Allen, CEO of the Nashville Entrepreneur Center. “There is a real gap for people of color when it comes to programming to help scale businesses.”

Over the course of the next year, the Twende 2019 cohort will attend 12 workshops, 6 CEO lunches, 6 Founders’ Boards, 12 one-on-one check-ins and as many advisor meetings as they need. As with other EC programs, the Twende cohort will have access to the EC’s mentor network, coworking space, Slack, and other benefits. The program will also feature a showcase and summit event to connect the founders to even more resources and provide access to capital.

While the 2019 cohort is currently underway, applications for the 2020 cohort will open next summer.