MED Week 2017
Nashville 35th Minority Business Achievement Award winners

Female Business of the Year winner Kia Jarmon of MEPR Agency (c), with Mistress of Ceremony Vicky Yates (l) and host Marilyn Robinson, executive director of Nashville Minority Business Center, in masquerade. (photo by D. Culp)

Female Business of the Year winner Kia Jarmon of MEPR Agency (c), with Mistress of Ceremony Vicki Yates (l) and host Marilyn Robinson, executive director of Nashville Minority Business Center, in masquerade. (photo by D. Culp)

The annual Minority Business Achievement Awards recognize the accomplishments made by minority owned enterprises in the Nashville-Metropolitan area. Awards are given in the following categories: Minority Business Advocate, Minority Business Award and Corporate Partner Award.

Awardees are minority individuals who have made significant economic contributions in their industry and the community.

The Corporate Partner Award is given to established enterprises that have made supplier diversity an integral part of the way that corporation does business. This year’s Corporate Sponsor of the Year award was given to Messer Construction, having shown a deep commitment to providing opportunities for all businesses.

Messer specializes in managing, developing and performing complex commercial construction in the communities in which their employees live and work, and deliver value to their clients through quality construction experiences. Founded in 1932, Messer’s track record of success can be traced to past and present architectural icons and institutions located across the Midwest and Southeast that foster healing, learning, service, and innovation. Innovation is one way to describe the company’s approach to diversity.

This national corporation is focused on ensuring diversity in its projects so that its work teams are reflective of the diverse communities they serve. Through Messer’s Economic Inclusion Dept., Supplier Diversity Leadership team, and its commitment to actively engage qualified suppliers, the company has doubled down on its promise to implement diversity initiatives that support and uplift minority businesses within the communities they operate, including Nashville. In 2016, nearly 16% (or $170 million) of Messer’s external purchases were spent with small and minority owned businesses. The company has also earned national acclaim for its efforts. Messer Construction is ranked 8th nationwide for supplier diversity excellence, is among seven Fortune 500 companies, and the only construction company on Diversity Inc.’s list.

The Minority Business Advocate of the Year award is given to a community leader who champions small businesses and works to ensure their success. This year’s award was given to Premiere Building Maintenance based on a solid reputation as an organization that is committed to business mentoring and supplier diversity.

Mark T. Isom is the founder, president, and CEO of Premiere Building Maintenance Corporation, a facilities maintenance and management company. Since 1996, he has guided the company from a modest start-up to gross sales of more than $22 million in 2016 with projections to reach more than $25 million in 2017. Isom’s pursuit of service excellence and customer satisfaction has established Premiere as a nationally recognized company with a reputation for quality service and dependability.

Mark attended Carson Newman University in Jefferson City, Tenn., where he was a proud member of two NAIA National Championship football teams. He was also a two-time member of the All-American Football Team, and he was inducted into the Carson Newman University Athletic Hall of Fame in 2013. He graduated with a degree in business management and has since completed executive training at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College. He is also a ‘certified building service executive’ and ‘registered building service manager.’

As a business leader, he is a board member of the Appalachian Electric Cooperative (AEC), the Knoxville Area Urban League Loan Review Committee, and Innovation Valley, Inc. Mark has a passion for mentoring small, disadvantaged and women-owned businesses during their start-up and growth phase by offering management, technical assistance, or financial assistance via subcontracting opportunities. That assistance is provided free of charge, and it has helped many of them become more successful in the free market system.

SBA recognized Premiere as the 8(a) Contractor of the Year for 2003 and Isom as the SBA Small Business Person of the Year in 2004. Premiere received the Tennessee Minority Supplier Development Council’s Impact Award in 2007; the Music City Center Vendor of Excellence Award 2016; the Volkswagen Passion for Diversity Award 2016; and most recently, TMSDC Supplier of the Year, Class 3 Award in 2017.

Isom recognizes that small businesses have always played and will continue to play a pivotal role in creating jobs thereby strengthening the local, regional, and national economies. In his view, large businesses can help with this task, particularly if they recognize their unique position to assist growing companies in scaling up.

In his own philosophy, “nothing can give mid-to-late-stage entrepreneurs a better leg up than connecting them to business executives and companies that can help them develop to the next level.”

The Innovation award is presented to a minority business that has broken new ground. This year’s award was presented to Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack.

Nashville is synonymous with hot chicken largely due to the efforts of the Prince Family. Today hot chicken can be found as part of sushi and other delicacies. It’s roots lie in the height of the Great Depression.

Thornton Prince knew how to have a good time. He enjoyed the nightlife and had a well-earned reputation as being quite the ladies’ man. Of course, one person who was not too thrilled with that reputation was his steady girl. While we don’t know if Prince came home one night with a faint hint of perfume or a smudge of lipstick on his collar, we do know that after another one of Prince’s nights out, his scorned lover wanted revenge. And using Prince’s love of fried chicken as bait, she concocted the perfect recipe.

Instead of a lecture the next morning, Prince awoke to the sizzlin’ smell of fried chicken. The trap set, Prince’s jilted lover served up a plate of homemade fried chicken. Without noticing the devilish amount of peppers and spices she had sprinkled on the chicken, Prince dug in. Much to her dismay, Prince didn’t fall over weeping in pain. Nope, he asked for seconds, and, at that moment, the legend was born.

Prince perfected the recipe for hot chicken and opened up a restaurant, Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack. Nearly 100 years later, a lot has changed in Nashville—but not Prince’s. Thorton Prince’s great niece, Ms. Andre Prince Jeffries, is still serving the legendary dish that Nashvillians and people around the world crave. The hot chicken trend has caught on like wildfire throughout the South and other parts of the country, but Prince’s Hot Chicken is the original and remains the gold standard for hot chicken.

The Minority Business of the Year award is given to a business owner who has made significant strides as both an entrepreneur and a community leader. This year, the award was given to a male and a female owned business.

The Female Minority Business of the Year award was presented to the MEPR Agency, founded and led by Kia Jarmon, is one of the fastest growing strategic communication and community engagement firms in Nashville.

MEPR has the distinction of being the only public relations firm that has played a role in developing every major strategic plan for government agencies in the City of Nashville in the past five years. Some of her projects include: community engagement strategies for nMotion, Nashville Next program, Nashville Farmer’s Market, Nashville Community Education, and currently Transit for Nashville.

Jarmon has been steadfast in her resolve to ensure her seat at the proverbial table is an entryway for others to obtain success. She has graduated more than 20 college students from her company’s signature mentoring program, The Mentorship Project, where she trained aspiring public relations students on the ins and outs of the communications industry. She has committed to ensuring small businesses like hers become small giants through her management and technical assistance program, a curriculum she launched while serving as the ‘entrepreneur in residence’ at the Nashville Business Incubation Center in 2016.

As a result of Jarmon’s commitment to helping others succeed, she has been recognized by the Middle Tennessee Diversity Forum as the ‘Woman to Watch.’ Additionally, she has received the Nashville Business Journal’s ‘Top Forty Under 40’ and ‘Women of Influence’ award in the Entrepreneur category. She serves on the Metro-Nashville Beer Permit Board, the Metro Human Relations Commission Support Fund Advisory Board, and is a member of the Hugh O’ Bryan Youth Leadership corporate board. She is a also a mentor for the Arts and Business Council and serves as Diversity Chair for the Nashville Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America.

A graduate of Belmont University in Nashville, Jarmon was the first Ingram Achievers Scholar and received a bachelor’s degree in business administration.

The Male Business Of The Year award was presented to SRS, a multi-million dollar company concentrating on delivering a diverse array of high quality projects and services to the federal government and commercial marketplace.

From its inception, SRS has rapidly expanded into one of the pre-eminent program management, facilities support services, construction management and disaster recovery organizations in the United States that just so happens to be minority owned and managed. SRS began operations in November of 2001 by merging three previously distinct and diverse business backgrounds to forge a strong and versatile executive partnership.

SRS’ executive leadership has more than 200 cumulative years of project management, disaster recovery services, construction, business management, and customer service experience. It has earned a reputation of excellence in the management and execution of federal, state and private sector contracts. The company has been awarded over 300 federal, state and private sector projects with contract values totaling more than $1 billion.

SRS was founded and is led by Dewayne Scott. Scott brings 15 years of Fortune 500 corporate management experience. In 1999, Dewayne’s entrepreneurial side took hold when he started TDS & Associates LLC, a real estate investing company that has successfully purchased, renovated and sold over 60 properties since its inception.

Scott holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in economics from the University of Tennessee Knoxville, and serves on the board of the Black Chamber of Commerce.