During National Black Business Month, Regions Bank is sharing the powerful difference Black entrepreneurs make in our communities. We recently highlighted small-business owner Wayneisha Walker’s journey to expand Inherent Wellness, a mental wellness center. Here, we spotlight a second Texas entrepreneur’s quest for knowledge to grow her company while also serving her community. See how Tennille Johnson is achieving greater heights thanks to PeopleFund and discover how the Regions Foundation, a nonprofit initiative primarily funded by Regions Bank, is elevating entrepreneurs like her.
It’s where fashion flair and function meet. Stat.
“I wear scrubs every day to work, and I have a passion for fashion,” said Tennille Johnson, founder of Scrubs To The Rescue, a medical uniform and accessories business based in Houston, Texas. “I have a philosophy that when you look good, you feel good, and that means you can perform better at work.”
While inspiration came easily, securing capital to grow her small business proved more challenging – a common hurdle for entrepreneurs.
“We start our businesses because we have a passion for it,” Johnson said. “You soon learn there are 20 other things you don’t know. But PeopleFund has been instrumental. They’re amazing with the resources they provide.”
Those resources include loans and grants, educational programs and more. As a community development financial institution (CDFI), PeopleFund supports underserved small businesses across the Lone Star State. In 2021 alone, the nonprofit provided more than $45 million in loans and grants.
The Regions Foundation, a nonprofit initiative primarily funded by Regions Bank, is a supporter of PeopleFund, most recently backing PeopleFund’s Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) Small Business Accelerator. Johnson graduated from the BIPOC Accelerator after learning about the program from her mentor.
“The BIPOC Accelerator empowers small-business owners with coaching insights they can immediately apply toward running their day-to-day operations,” said Marta Self, executive director of the Regions Foundation. “The program also offers the opportunity to hear from fellow entrepreneurs with years of experience – people who understand firsthand the challenges they face.”
Anthony Lopez, a small-business specialist with PeopleFund, makes it his mission to help small-business owners build long-term results. That includes helping entrepreneurs re-evaluate items like their business plans and strategies.
“When Tennille presented her original business plan, it reflected a pre-pandemic environment,” said Lopez. “COVID drastically changed the way we conduct business, so Tennille’s business plan needed to be updated to reflect a new approach to commerce.”
Johnson’s aha moment to start her company occurred while she was working as a hospital pharmacist. During a May 2018 event, she learned her employer struggled to find a company that could sell uniforms to campus staff that went beyond the bland and sometimes ill-fitting options.
“I thought to myself, ‘There’s a need here,’” explained Johnson. “I want to bring trendy fashions to others like me. I knew there were entrepreneurs in the world, but I had never really thought it would be something I could do until then.”
She did her research, and by that December, she was hosting mobile sales events. In 2019, she and her two co-owners, also from the medical field, opened their first retail location. In early March of 2020, Johnson made the leap of leaving her full-time pharmacy job after 25 years in the field.
“It was a whirlwind,” she recalled.
And we all know what happened later that month. Lockdowns. Shutdowns. And a huge need for personal protective equipment (PPE) to guard against COVID-19. The “To The Rescue” part of the company name quickly took on more urgency as Johnson and team handstitched facemasks when they were in high demand and short supply.
While her company was still new, giving back was not. The year before, Johnson donated 200 brand-new scrub sets to people experiencing homelessness through her involvement with the Houston Area Young Professionals Urban League.
“The pride and joy I felt being able to help someone personally and through my business was priceless,” Johnson said.
Lopez encouraged Johnson’s community commitment as a differentiator during their coaching sessions.
“Tennille has an energetic personality that shone through even over Zoom,” said Lopez.
“Her positive nature is part of her brand, and the support she’s showing the community is more important than ever for businesses.”
“I’m a lifetime learner,” Johnson added. “I’m constantly trying to improve my business, to improve myself. I decided when I started the business that if I’m going to do this, I’m going to do this right.”
Johnson credits the BIPOC Accelerator – and Lopez – with offering valuable insights on how to do just that.
“From the beginning, this program seemed like a really exciting opportunity to continue to learn and grow my business,” she said. “Anthony is awesome; he really cares and wants us to do well. Beyond our sessions, he’s still thinking about me and my company. He actually inspires me to be like that with people I’m around now.”
Johnson launched an online scrubs subscription service, and she has exciting things in store – literally – for her retail location following a recent PeopleFund loan approval.
“I’m hiring a marketing coordinator and a sales manager to help run the stores and assist with group sales,” she said. “And now that I have a good handle on what people want and need, the goal is to manufacture my own line.”
Johnson is also exploring opening a second retail location in 2023.
So much learned in such a short time. What has Johnson realized about herself during the past four years?
“I’ve learned that in me helping others, others want to help me as well, especially as a small-business owner,” she said. “I don’t know if this is the best place to be in the world for small businesses, but it sure feels like it.”
More Resources for Growth: Houston Entrepreneurs Can Apply through Sept. 26 for Tuition-Free Training:
In addition to being a PeopleFund BIPOC Accelerator graduate, Johnson is also an Inner City Capital Connections (ICCC) alumna from the 2021 ICCC Houston event that Regions Bank sponsored. Regions Bank is bringing ICCC back to Houston in the fall of 2022. This tuition-free program is designed to help entrepreneurs like Johnson take their business to the next level of success.
Applications for the 2022 ICCC Houston event will be accepted through Sept. 26. Small-business owners interested in applying may complete this online form.
People can also nominate small businesses for consideration. The deadline to do so is Sept. 9. Get more information about ICCC.