During National Black Business Month, Regions Bank is highlighting Black entrepreneurs and organizations like Inner City Capital Connections (ICCC) helping entrepreneurs build long-term success. Here, we spotlight basketball legend Tamika Catchings’ unexpected path in discovering that small business is indeed her cup of tea.
Tamika Catchings has transformed many of her dreams into reality.
WNBA Champion and league MVP, NCAA Champion and nonprofit founder – check, check, check and check.
And now, tea shop owner.
“Every single night it came up in my dream,” recalled Catchings of the two-week period before she purchased Indianapolis small business Tea’s Me Café in 2017. Catchings had initially explored other investor options with the former owners after learning the couple planned to move and close the quaint spot she frequented. But that nightly dream kept leading her back to the idea of taking her first shot at being an entrepreneur.
“We grew up drinking tea; it’s always been part of our family,” Catchings said. “I just loved the intimacy of the space, the ambience of this place. This is my own little oasis. To this day, I still lose track of time here.”
And these days, you’re just as likely to find Catchings behind the counter at Tea’s Me as in front of it.
“I will mop, I will sweep, clean the counters, whatever I can do,” she said. “I’m not going to ask my team to do anything I’m not doing as an owner.”
Small-business owner – Catchings’ newest title – offered the opportunity to take advantage of Inner City Capital Connections in Indianapolis. Regions Bank brought the tuition-free, “mini-MBA on steroids” business training program to the Circle City for the first time in 2022 to empower entrepreneurs whose businesses are in or near urban or economically under-resourced neighborhoods. Topics ranging from business strategy, to marketing, employee retention, access to capital and more are covered. Mentorships are formed. Coaching continues as long as the business owner wants it.
The next city where Regions is taking ICCC? Nashville, Tennessee, this September.
For Catchings, the ICCC workshop was a business day well spent.
“Being able to meet and see people in your own field was really beneficial,” she said. “It was a chance to discuss dealing with the same things I’m going through – good and bad. I also loved the marketing and finance sessions and the speakers.”
But, true to Catchings’ athletic roots, it’s ICCC’s post-workshop one-on-one coaching that’s made the greatest impact.
“Having someone to bounce ideas off of has been so valuable,” she said about her coach, who’s based in New York. “And the ICCC team regularly checks in to see how alumni are doing. They want to make sure the program is working and that you have the right mentor.”
ICCC is part of the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City (ICIC), which was founded by Harvard Business School Professor Michael Porter to sow seeds of investment in America’s cities. CEO Steve Grossman said training programs like the one Regions is taking to Nashville intentionally match entrepreneurs with coaches who can provide the most meaningful insights.
Being able to meet and see people in your own field was really beneficial. It was a chance to discuss dealing with the same things I’m going through – good and bad.
“Soon after the program’s opening seminar, we interview participants to learn about their unique pain points and how a mentor can help address the roadblocks they’re facing,” said Grossman. “Whether it’s the need for a marketing plan, an internet strategy or help with employee relations, we’re able to foster valuable relationships that help accelerate the business owner’s profitable growth.”
Catchings will be the first to tell you that to be successful, the coaching relationship is a two-way street.
“If you’re going to do it, 60 percent is you,” she said. “The coaches are there to help, advise and guide, but it’s really up to you. Those relationships will go as you go. Everything is only going to go as far as you allow it to go.”
Catchings applies that same all-in approach in coaching Tea’s Me’s team members.
“Coming in, what I learned from basketball is what I’ve tried to implement here,” she explained. “It’s like locker room management and really being able to lead. It’s ensuring we have a system set up for success by doing the little things that go a long way like showing up on time. We’ve already set you up if you follow the system. We are preparing our team members for the rest of their lives.”
Another aspect Catchings has promoted among Tea’s Me team members? A positive atmosphere.
“I think our culture is one of a servant mindset in everything we do,” she said. “It involves teamwork, passion, fun and being inclusive. Similar to sports, you can’t allow one person to bring your whole team down. My expectation is that our team is excellent.”
That inclusive spirit is something customers feel each time they walk in Tea’s Me’s doors.
“My motto is that everybody belongs here,” said Catchings.
Anything worth having, you have to work for. But it’s a blessing. I just love what we do.
Despite the challenges many small businesses have faced since 2020, Tea’s Me recently expanded to three locations. It’s also established a shipping model to distribute products nationwide and began bottling their Tea’s in-house. Tea’s Me’s five flavored varieties are making their Indiana State Fair debut this month.
It’s proof Catchings’ latest dream is coming true.
But don’t think it’s all come easily.
“Anything worth having, you have to work for,” she said. “But it’s a blessing. I just love what we do.”
And Catchings has some advice for her fellow entrepreneurs following her experience the past six years.
“Scale your business according to what you really can do,” she said.
And for anyone considering applying for the Nashville ICCC program?
“The question is why wouldn’t you do it rather than asking why should you?” she said.
You can nominate an entrepreneur or apply for your small business to participate in the ICCC Nashville cohort.