If anybody doubts the truth about that old song lyric, the one about life being what happens to you while you’re making other plans, Cynthia Daniels would like to have a word with you.
This Atlanta native parlayed a job loss about a decade ago into a gamble on the Bluff City, the place where she decided to relocate in 2009 after doing some research and deciding that Memphis was as good a place as any to basically start over. So that’s what she did.
She decamped to Memphis and started her own event planning consultancy, eventually helping put on major events like Memphis Black Restaurant Week, the professional development-focused Level Up Conference as well as events for her own private clients.
She fell in love with the city, the way transplants often do after approaching a place with fresh eyes and a blank slate. She immersed herself in the culture here, as well as the city’s entrepreneurial community — leaning on organizations like Epicenter to help her navigate the ins and outs of being a woman business owner in a city where the name of the game is the grind and the grit that goes with it.
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And now she’s adding a new entry to her resume — podcast host. Cynthia is hosting a new podcast called “Grindset” powered by the Kudzukian podcast network and presented by Epicenter.
“Having women that come on and talk about their stories, their challenges, what makes them successful and what keeps them going — you’re going to find that when you listen to Grindset,” Daniels said.
The purpose of the podcast, according to Epicenter president and CEO Leslie Lynn Smith, is to amplify and elevate the stories of local business owners — entrepreneurs like Daniels — and especially women and founders of color.
The first few episodes of the podcast have been posted and feature conversations with women including Andrea Johnson, the founder and CEO of the bath and body boutique Bubble Bistro. Such interviews will be a core of each episode of the podcast, which is accessed through the Kudzukian Network, Apple podcasts, Stitcher, YouTube and Linkedin.
Joining Cynthia is co-host Williams Brack, a business development officer at First Tennessee Bank, who will talk about aspects like the startup costs entrepreneurs need to know about and the investment that’s required from them.
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“It’s Grindset because it’s a mindset. You have to have the right drive to really become an entrepreneur. We want to let people know right from the beginning that you have to have that grind, and it’s also a play on the grit and grind in Memphis. Everybody grits and grinds here to make it,” Daniels said.
The team at Epicenter knows that as well as anyone. Entrepreneurs are at the center of its mission to be a hub of the city’s entrepreneurship ecosystem, which encompasses everything from fundraising to — as the podcast shows — storytelling.
“One of Epicenter's roles as an entrepreneurial hub is to be a storyteller of Memphis-area entrepreneurs, so we may encourage investment of money and time in their companies and also inspire our community members who are thinking of starting a business,” Smith said.
“We’re thrilled to partner with Kudzukian and [Kudzukian founder] Larry Robinson, an entrepreneur himself, who has been instrumental in bringing this podcast idea and vision to life. And our dynamic hosts, Cynthia Daniels and Williams Brack, are able to effortlessly draw out authentic stories from entrepreneurs — some who you’ll recognize, and some who we’re excited to help you discover."
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Another of the just-posted episodes of the new podcast features a conversation with Nubian Simmons, the owner of The Pink Bakery, which produces tasty treats that anyone can enjoy, even people with food allergies. Its products include desserts and mixes for people especially with food allergies and only use organic, non-GMO, gluten-free, Fair Trade and responsibly sourced ingredients.
Daniels, meanwhile, has learned enough from her own journey that she’s now in a place where she’s able to share that knowledge and to lift up stories of other entrepreneurs like her, to help a whole new crop of talent.
“One of the things I like to tell especially women is that there’s never going to be that perfect time to start a business," she said. Don’t wait for lightning to strike, in other words.
“Memphis I look at as a place for opportunity,” she said. “I think a lot of people move here and say Memphis doesn’t have X, Y and Z, but when you’re an entrepreneur, you should be about wanting to create solutions. That’s the beautiful thing about Memphis. You can do that here.”