Emanuel Roland was intent on going to the Air Force after graduating college. Unfortunately, his zoned high school did not have Air Force JROTC, so his father drove him to Hixson High School 30-minutes outside of Chattanooga every day. Upon graduation, as a freshman at Tennessee State University, Emanuel spent the first two years at TSU in ROTC. But after a medical diagnosis changed his plans, he turned his focus to finishing up his degree in business management. Come Junior year, at the suggestion of a friend, Emanuel enrolled in a photography class to satisfy an elective requirement. What he thought would be an “easy A” turned into an opportunity to earn a little extra money on the side. As fate would have it, a class assignment to draft a business plan minted Emanuel’s new hobby, providing a framework for what is now Roland’s Photography.

But photography wasn’t new to Emanuel. “My father has always been a photographer or hobbyist. He always had a camera,” he shares. “I had never taken an interest in it until that point, however.” As a child, Emanuel was very artistic, often spending the day drawing. So, when his interest in photography was piqued, it was another creative outlet for him.

During his time at TSU, he was introduced to The Nashville Business Incubation Center as an intern for Mass Media, a local marketing company, who used Emanuel to take pictures for client campaigns. This opportunity enabled him to establish relationships with local corporations, who would later call on him to shoot headshots and highlights from business events. These connections helped him grow the business early on, even as he shifted his focus to wedding photography.

“I wanted to be the prominent Black wedding photographer in Nashville.” And his client roster grew quickly the first couple of years. But, concerned with the trajectory he was on, Angela Crane Jones, Executive Director of NBIC at that time, helped Emanuel narrow his focus, counseling him on how to redirect business operations away from an overreliance on weddings to the occasional wedding and more corporate photography. “I was doing 15 to 20 weddings a year, sometimes two weekends every month.” He came to realize that not only was he burning himself out but his wife as well, who was tasked with tending to their two young children while he was away, sometimes on location out of the city.  Angela encouraged him to evaluate where he was personally to better understand what he wanted for his business, which was financial freedom and independence.

“She was adamantly trying to get me to focus, redirecting me to the corporate side. For me, I just couldn’t see the money side of it. I didn’t feel like there was enough money in it compared to what I was making with the weddings.” Until Roland’s Photography started getting the right clientele, beginning with Meharry Medical College. Metro General Hospital, Tennessee State University, Urban League of Nashville, Cable Foundation, Kroger, the Nashville Airport, Delta Dental, Studio Bank, and many other recognizable brands followed.

But there was an unrealized goal for his business that he’d envisioned in his college business plan. “I wanted a mobile business. I didn’t necessarily want to be stuck in one location, per se. I never really wanted to be a studio photographer.” That vision for a mobile studio has come to fruition in the form of a 36 ft. Class A motor home retrofitted for photography. The Roland Experience Mobile Portrait Studio is currently the largest of its kind in Middle Tennessee with the ability to meet clients where they are. “Not only do we offer the studio experience, but we are also able to provide amenities like beverages and changing spaces, so clients don’t have to use public restrooms when shooting on location.”

Investing in the Roland Experience was a leap of faith. What started as a $500 deposit on eBay turned into a $40,000 eight-month renovation. But because Roland’s Photography was an NBIC client, Emanuel was prepared.

“Having the studio at NBIC early on was a blessing. Before moving Roland’s Photography into NBIC, I worked at UPS nights for health Insurance and ran the photography business during the day. After being accepted into the Mighty Oak program at NBIC, I was able to quit UPS and go completely full-time as a photographer.” In addition, the convenience of being based at NBIC, which at that time was located across from the TSU Avon Williams campus downtown, gave Roland’s Photography easy access to the tier of clients it was catering to.

Emanuel also attributes the financial stability of the business and the ability to fulfill the vision of owning a mobile business to NBIC programming and counseling. “I would have never felt like I was financially stable enough to do the Roland Experience had I not gone through the NBIC program. When it came time to purchase the motor home, I didn’t hesitate to get a business loan because I had business credit, and my paperwork was in order. It was simple.”

“Just having the opportunity to learn how to keep up with financials, required insurances, and networking with other business owners was great.”

Emanuel applied some of what he learned for the business to his family’s personal finances, enabling them to move into a new home debt-free.

When compared to other small business assistance programs, Emanuel has this to say, “NBIC digs a little deeper. They try to understand the long-term objective, not just from a financial standpoint but also from a personal one to ensure the two align. For me, it’s not about making this a $1M company. It’s about having a business I can sustain and fulfilling the needs I need for it to, helping me structure and prioritize the areas I need to make it work for me. NBIC keeps you accountable to what you say you want to do. You either follow the guidelines or keep it moving.”

Little known fact. Emanuel worked as the Student Services Manager for Children’s Entrepreneurial Opportunities Academy after graduating from TSU. He helped inner-city kids from elementary to high school learn how to start home-based businesses. “I would sit and think, ‘I’m being hypocritical telling the kids I’m a photographer but never stepping out to see if I could make this work financially. So, I resigned and have been pursuing photography full-time ever since.” 

Share the Post:

Read More

Tanzye Hill: Tanzye Hill: From Educator To Community Changing Advocate

Determined to make a difference, Larry dove headfirst into community service upon his release. He spearheaded annual Thanksgiving dinners and Christmas coat drives. He also penned a thought-provoking book, “What’s Your Excuse?” This powerful work challenged readers to take responsibility for their potential. Larry shared his story of how he transformed his prison experience into a springboard for financial success – saving up a staggering $100,000 in just 5 years!

Read More

Larry Turnley: From Behind Bars to Beyond Limits

Determined to make a difference, Larry dove headfirst into community service upon his release. He spearheaded annual Thanksgiving dinners and Christmas coat drives. He also penned a thought-provoking book, “What’s Your Excuse?” This powerful work challenged readers to take responsibility for their potential. Larry shared his story of how he transformed his prison experience into a springboard for financial success – saving up a staggering $100,000 in just 5 years!

Read More

Emy Parham: From Passion Project to Environmental Powerhouse

Emy Parham, President of Trutta Environmental Solutions, understands the isolation that can come with running a small business. Shouldering the responsibility of managing Trutta’s finances alone, Emy yearned to streamline the financial aspects of her firm. This would allow her to effectively reach her goal of focusing more on Trutta’s core environmental consulting services.

Read More

become a sponsor

Fill out the form below, and a member of our team reach out regarding your sponsorship.

Please Select Sponsorship Level:
Abigail DaSilva
Abigail DaSilva is the marketing coordinator at NBIC, channeling her passion and creativity to support the organization’s mission of leveling the playing field for entrepreneurs. A proud graduate of Tennessee State University, Abigail holds a degree in design, which fuels her artistic sensibilities and impeccable eye for aesthetics. Before joining NBIC, Abigail embarked on her own entrepreneurial journey alongside her brother, where she spearheaded the sales and marketing efforts of their own venture. This experience honed her skills in strategic promotion, customer engagement, and marketing media. Abigail has played a crucial role in the company, transforming their media marketing strategies, specifically towards a more video-driven approach. Recognizing the power of visual storytelling, she has created compelling content and innovative campaigns that have amplified NBIC’s reach and engagement, strengthening their online presence and impact. Outside of her professional endeavors, Abigail is an avid art buff, frequently visiting museums and exploring immersive experiences that combine technology and creativity. She also has a deep love for travel, shopping, and anything that allows her to utilize her creative mind. With her unwavering commitment and broad range of experience, Abigail is a valuable asset to NBIC. She remains eager to push boundaries, elevate engagement, and empower entrepreneurs through her exceptional marketing expertise.
Anne-Marie Tanner
Anne-Marie Tanner is the Programs Coordinator at NBIC. With a Master’s degree in strategic marketing from Midway University and a Bachelor’s degree in design from University of Kentucky, she brings a unique blend of business experience and creativity to her work. Prior to joining NBIC in March of 2023, Anne-Marie worked as a small business and startup consultant, where she gained valuable experience in guiding entrepreneurs through the challenges and opportunities of launching and growing their businesses. Her expertise in strategic planning and her ability to quickly grasp new concepts makes her a strong asset to the NBIC team. As the Programs Coordinator at NBIC, Anne-Marie manages multiple components, including Foundations, E-Myth, Framework, and Groundwork. Anne-Marie values collaboration and strives to align her work with the vision and expectations of her colleagues. Beyond her professional career, Anne-Marie has a wide range of hobbies and passions. She is an accomplished Olympic weight-lifter. Additionally, with her husband, she started a medical clinic in Martin, TN, a brewery and events center in Paris, TN, and an airbnb property. Their goal is not only to build successful businesses, but also to provide economic stability and job opportunities to as many people as possible. With her extensive background in business, her entrepreneurial spirit, and her commitment to personal growth, Anne-Marie Tanner is an extremely valuable asset to NBIC. Her diverse skill set and positive mindset make her a catalyst for success, both for herself and the new businesses she assists.
Saturnie Antoine
Saturnie Antoine has been a part of NBIC since November 2021, serving as the R.I.S.E. UP Program Manager. She holds a Bachelor’s degree and has obtained a professional certification in coaching skills. With a diverse background in corporate work spanning over 15 years, Saturnie has worked in various sectors. As the R.I.S.E. UP Program Manager, Saturnie oversees the entire program. Her responsibilities include structuring the curriculum, sourcing speakers, and organizing the launch campaign. Additionally, Saturnie provides personalized professional coaching to the program participants, offering guidance and support to help them scale their businesses to $1 million plus level. Since the commencement of the program in March 2023, under Saturnie’s leadership, R.I.S.E. UP has witnessed numerous accomplishments and successes. Additionally, the program’s focus on emotional intelligence has helped participants navigate internal challenges and overcome obstacles inhibiting their growth. Outside of work, Saturnie values personal time spent with her family and loved ones. Her true passion lies in her role as a professional coach, where she finds fulfillment in assisting women on their journey towards personal and professional growth. Saturnie’s commitment to her clients and her extensive experience, coupled with her excellent coaching skills, allows her to provide comprehensive support to program participants, enabling them to achieve their goals and reach new heights. Under Saturnie’s leadership, the R.I.S.E. UP Program continues to flourish and make a lasting impact on the lives of female entrepreneurs.
Leroy Cunningham
Leroy Cunningham currently occupies the role of Community and Capacity Building Manager at NBIC. He holds a major degree in Business Administration from Carroll University in Waukesha, Wisconsin, along with minor degrees in Accounting and Economics. Leroy’s prior engagement with business development consulting brings great strength to the NBIC team. He has worked at three of the largest market capitalization companies in the world – Emerson Electric, General Electric, and Berkshire Hathaway. In his current role as the Community and Capacity Building Manager at NBIC, Leroy wears many hats. One of his primary objectives at NBIC is to increase the number of small minority-, women-, and veteran-owned businesses qualified to undertake contracts from prime contractors and government entities. By fostering relationships with community partners and engaging with prime contractors and government entities, Leroy works tirelessly to bridge the gap and provide opportunities for these businesses to flourish. Additionally, Leroy dedicates his time to consulting with business owners, providing them with valuable insights and guidance. By helping businesses at their current stage and empowering them to reach their goals, Leroy greatly contributes to the growth and success of NBIC’s clients. Outside of work, Leroy indulges in his love for reading, sports, and travel. With his vast knowledge, dedication, and passion for community empowerment, Leroy is committed to making a meaningful impact at NBIC. His wealth of certifications and global business experience lends a unique perspective and expertise to NBIC’s initiatives, which will undoubtedly drive the organization forward.
Octavia Wilson-Simmons
Octavia Wilson-Simmons is the Special Project Coordinator at NBIC. With a background as a tank storage broker, Octavia acted as a vital liaison between storage terminals and cargo owners, facilitating contracts for the transportation and storage of products. Prior to NBIC, she also worked as a chemical operator at a chemical company, further enhancing her expertise in the industry. Joining NBIC in early 2022, Octavia initially served as an assistant to Angela before transitioning to her current position as a Special Project Coordinator. In this role, Octavia plays a crucial part in various projects, including MNAA and Elevate 615. She also provides invaluable support to the team, assisting with grants and streamlining processes to ensure efficient collaboration and coordination. Outside of her professional endeavors, Octavia is extremely family-oriented and cherishes family outings and spending quality time with her loved ones. Octavia is also a dedicated DIY enthusiast and seeks to immerse herself in various projects. Octavia embraces the opportunity to collaborate with the NBIC team, support Angela, and contribute to the company’s mission. Having witnessed the growth of businesses firsthand gives Octavia special insight into the entrepreneurial world and the hard work that goes into operating and expanding your business. With her extensive background in the oil industry and her unwavering dedication to assisting others, Octavia continues to make a positive impact within NBIC, among her peers, and within the entrepreneurial community as a whole.