Naughty But Nice Kettle Corner co-owner Tanesha Sims-Summers is hoping to lead by example through COVID-19 with one simple phrase—People over profits.

“At the end of the day, if this hasn’t shown us anything, it’s shown us that the team that you have is critical and vital to the success and growth of your company,” she said. “I don’t care if it was a large company or a multi-million dollar publicly traded company. They’re nothing without the workers that they need to keep their production going.”

Going forward, staff will earn a $15 an hour minimum wage, which Sims-Summers said is about investing in people beyond a paycheck.

“We have been thinking through what does it mean to empower our people from the time they walk through the door,” she said. “So, from mental health, people are coming into work and they’ve dealt with something harsh before that. Anger management, people don’t know how to deal with the stress of their lives. They’re working jobs that don’t support them in the way that they need, financially, mentally, or maybe they don’t feel the companies they work for are investing in their growth. It doesn’t matter that you only have a high school education. How can we get you to see your worth, your power and your influence?”

She said that they will concentrate on “growing the full person” by offering through mentorship and promoting financial awareness.

Sims-Summers said measures she took to adhere to the shelter-in-place order gave her and her husband time to take stock of how to effectively run their business in the ‘new normal.’ Even the difficult decision to let staff go led to lessons about readjusting certain aspects of the business.

“It’s allowed us to kind of revisit,” she said. “You start getting disconnected because you start doing other things and it’s important to sometimes retouch and revisit your operations. It’s kind of like the TV show, ‘Undercover Boss.” It’s a very strong model that every business should take the time to revisit their chain of operation.”

While the couple has been busy fulfilling orders, she said that they have also been taking advantage of some of the resources available to small business owners.

They’ve participated in a contactless market in the Ross Bridge community, attended several webinars offered by organizations such as REV and Create Birmingham and were chosen as one of four small businesses by Congresswoman Terri Sewell to discuss navigating through the COVID-19 pandemic. Sims-Summers said they applied for funding through sources such as PPP and the #BhamStrong fund.

They also refined their business pitch and were named a semi-finalist and winning $500 from TruFund’s virtual pitch competition.

Naughty But Nice was also able to donate snack packs of its delicious kettle corn to essential workers.

“For us, we exist to make relationships sweeter, she said. “We were intentional with finding various locations to donate to. We felt this really engaged the community. We wanted to lead with giving.”

The company also launched gifting options for teachers and nurses.

Sims-Summers said they will stick to curbside orders for now as the state opens up.

“For us, I’ve realized that I can still generate revenue and we can really implement systems that make us more efficient and effective. And, we can be safe—that’s our No. 1. priority. You can be selective with how you re-open and what’s best for you.”

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