“Don’t be afraid to invest in your idea. Do something like CO.STARTERS or try to be around someone who can show you the proper steps to starting a business.”

–Tanesha Sims-Summers // Naughty But Nice Kettle Corn Co.

Supported by Create Birmingham

“Don’t be afraid to invest in your idea. Do something like CO.STARTERS or try to be around someone who can show you the proper steps to starting a business.”

–Tanesha Sims-Summers // Naughty But Nice Kettle Corn Co.

Supported by Create Birmingham

Friends are starters.

When Tanesha Sims and Tiffany Turner were childhood friends, they started a popsicle stand. “We would set up a little wooden table outside of Alabama/Auburn games at Legion field and run from car to car selling popsicles for 50 cents,” recounts Tanesha. “It was the most exciting thing ever as a kid.”

Over the years they thought up different ventures together, but never really stepped out with any until they stumbled upon the kettle corn idea. Thinking back to the interactivity and fun of their popsicle stand, they decided they wanted to do something that gave people an experience. Kettle corn is an all-American, universal food that is more versatile than trendy. “It’s lightly sweet and lightly salty and that’s how we came up with the name Naughty But Nice,” says Tiffany.

They saw an opportunity in the Birmingham scene. Tanesha explains, “After doing some market research we realized there were little to no offerings for kettle corn. It’s kind of unique so we decided to fill a void.”

“We always wanted to start a business,” says Tanesha. “It took a while for the timing to be right, but here we are 20 years later with an actual business.”

The co-founders took their idea through a CO.STARTERS business training program hosted by Create Birmingham, where they fleshed out their business plan. The process helped them craft a clear elevator pitch—who they were, what they were about, and how they could fill a need for their customers. 

“I think that’s the biggest thing I got out of CO.STARTERS. “Not just describing what we do, but really what the benefit is for our customers.” –Tiffany

Tanesha adds, “We talked about a lot of simple principles that you learn in school, but more of the application of those principles. It forces you to do the work. Actually having a business and being able to apply those principles to different scenarios was really helpful. It helped us be more aware of who our customer is and really find the benefits of our product for the customer.”

The duo has spent a lot of time fine tuning the backend part of the business—working on logistics and finding the best ways to get their products in the customer’s hands. For the first year they both worked full-time jobs in addition to the business.

Tiffany’s advice for aspiring entrepreneurs: “Just be patient and really hit the ground running with your idea. It really helps to test out your business model. That’s what CO.STARTERS really helped us with. Don’t get discouraged if your idea doesn’t work right away.”

“Don’t be afraid to invest in your idea. Do something like CO.STARTERS or try to be around someone who can show you the proper steps to starting a business. All you can do is try and the worst case scenario is that it doesn’t work. If you surround yourself with like-minded, driven people they will encourage you and inspire you.” –Tanesha

They are both thankful they took the leap, building a business around a seemingly simple food concept which has made a mark on Birmingham’s food scene and positioned them as culinary leaders.

“It’s critical to involve yourself in some kind of structure or real education,” Tanesha encourages other aspiring starters. “It doesn’t have to be a four year college. Just get started. Just do it.”

Story and photos adapted from a Q&A with Create Birmingham.

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