Woodlawn has been a part of Naughty But Nice Kettle Corn Co.’s business story in one way or another since its founding. Voted Birmingham’s favorite snack by Birmingham Magazine, this 2015 Big Pitch finalist has made a big splash in the Magic City since getting started in 2014. REV sat down with owner and founder Tanesha Sims-Summers to talk about why she chose to root her business in Woodlawn and what she loves about the neighborhood.
Q: Why did you choose to locate your business in Woodlawn and how has the neighborhood helped you grow your business?
A: I was spending a lot of time in Woodlawn—going through BIZ 1.0 and being at REV’s offices for business coaching, going through Co.Starters. And then my cousin lives in Woodlawn; I found myself a lot of times supporting things she was doing.
When Naughty But Nice started looking for a space to sublease, we reached out to REV’s Ben Wieseman and it just so happened that Piper and Leaf was looking to sublease their Woodlawn space. For us, it was originally between downtown, UAB and the Southside area. But Woodlawn is not far from where I live, and my children attend school in Avondale. When I started thinking about owning a business and that work-life balance, it made sense.
Plus, we’ve been vending at Woodlawn Street Market just about as long as we’ve been in business. The last one we did—it was so cool to be just around the corner from our store. All of those connections made it feel comfortable and familiar as if we’ve already been a part of Woodlawn.
Q: Why popcorn?
A: I always say God, Number 1. He gives you vision and purpose. Also, my aunt. I was raised by my aunt in Fredericksburg, Virginia, for a portion of my life. She knew of my passion and desire to one day have my own business. Kettle corn is very popular in the Virginia area. My aunt was working for an older gentleman who people would travel from the tri-state area to get this kettle corn. She was like, “People just love it!” She suggested that I look into it.
Five years ago, after I’d just given birth to my daughter, is when Naughty But Nice was birthed. I was looking to build something that resonated with the community and learn about the product and use it as a platform to encourage and inspire other sustainable small businesses. Kettle corn is cool. It was just straight to the point —fun and delicious.
Q: How would you describe Woodlawn?
A: I would say it’s progressive. It’s community-oriented. I think it’s full of support. It’s a good community that has great growth potential. It’s positioned close to downtown, so you still have that convenience, but it’s its own community. Even with whatever stigma people had in the past, you see growth in diversity, business and in culture and race. All of those things are important to build healthy communities where everyone can live, work and play together.
Q: How can Woodlawn build on its momentum for future success?
A: I would say that because it’s an older community that’s gone through various cycles, it’s taking a turn for the better. One thing that could be done is making sure that all of the businesses in the community are contacted on a regular basis. There’s a community activist that says, “put the neighbor back in neighborhood.” I think some of the more legacy businesses need to understand and be involved in what Woodlawn is trying to do because businesses really make a community.
Q: What Naughty But Nice Kettle Corn flavor do you suggest that first-timers start with?
A: You’ve got to try them all. The great thing about us is that we don’t have an exorbitant number of flavors that overwhelm you. We have just enough to keep it interestingly different. All of our signage says to start with a free sample. Start with the classic kettle corn; it builds up to all these amazing flavors. If you ever stop in, we want you to try everything that we have available to try!
Naughty but Nice is open Tuesdays-Thursdays from 10:30 a.m.- 2:30 p.m. by appointment at 5363 1st Avenue North. Call 205-915-2528 to make an appointment to stop by!