Welcome to the Connecting Cookeville Podcast where we spotlight business owners, entrepreneurs, thought leaders, and local influencers. It’s our hope that this podcast enables you to feel the pulse of what makes our community great!
Episode 60: Shawn Simono (Fire & Ice)
Raised by her father, Shawn Simono moved to Cookeville as a young girl. With a passion for health and wellness, Shawn pursued a career in that industry. Like many new businesses are born, she saw a gap in the medical spa niche that needed to be filled. Partnering with Dr Michael Casal, Shawn open Fire & Ice Med Spa earlier this year, and it has exploded! In this episode, Shawn discusses the power of positive thinking, the intentional pursuit to do what scares her, and the health scare that empowered her to chase her dreams.
Episode 59: Marlene Massa
Marlene Massa’s adventure into the world of retail began when her daughter started school. Unbeknownst to her at the time, working a variety of jobs and climbing the retail ladder was on-the-job training to eventually establish what is now The Market on the Square. Marlene’s contagious energy, larger than life personality, and creative genius make her one of Cookeville’s most fun entrepreneurs! In this podcast, Marlene takes us along her personal journey, sharing reminders about playing the long game, the importance of a good team, and working social media in your 60s. Full of laughs and intensity, this episode is chock full of wisdom nuggets for business owners old and young alike.
Episode 57: Bob Bell
Tennessee Tech University brought Bob and Gloria Bell to Cookeville in the 1970’s, and Tennessee Tech is what has kept them here. Bob Bell began his tenure as a professor, climbing the ranks of higher education, becoming Tech’s 8th president in July of 2000. While accumulating many accolades and setting numerous records at the helm of the university, Bell shares that his best memories of his time at Tech involve the relationships he’s made along the way. In this episode, Bob talks to us about his time at Tech, he and Gloria’s role in our community, and the tragedy they experienced when their home burned to the ground this summer. An integral part of the growth of our community, Bob Bell continues to serve in many capacities from the Boy Scouts to the chairman of Cookeville’s Industrial Development board, and as a mentor to many.
Episode 56: AARF
Ariel Marengo and Brittany Robbins from AARF (All About Rescue and Fixin), stop by to talk to us about the important role that animal fostering plays in our community. While they don’t have a dedicated facility, they oversee the care of over 150 dogs and cats in our area. In this episode, they share about the need to spay and neuter, the unique need that fostering fills, and the specific ways that individuals can help advance AARF’s mission in the Upper Cumberland.
Episode 55: Brad Sells
Born and raised in Cookeville, Brad Sells credits his life in the Upper Cumberland for making him the artist he is today. Through shop class at Cookeville High School and making wood toys for children as a part of community service as a teenager, Sells quickly discovered a love for working with his hands. Nationally recognized and highly acclaimed, Brad still lives and works here in his hometown. In this episode, Sells shares about the struggles of a “starving artist”, the work ethic necessary to fuel your passion, and the process of creating his stunning works of art. One of the more poignant interviews we’ve had, Brad shares openly about his journey to “the red path” and the secret to how we all can achieve our dreams.
Episode 54: Tracy Swack
Tracy Lee Swack, a Cookeville native, shares her story of how her passion for philanthropy is met through her career with Soles4Souls. With an entrepreneurial spirit and a big heart, Tracy is responsible for 33 bins in our area that collect clothes and shoes for the less fortunate. Whether partnering with local non-profits in our town or helping strengthen the local economy of third world countries, Tracy finds a way to daily make a difference. In this episode, she shares a moving story of pushing through tragedy to find your purpose, overcoming obstacles, and giving back to the community that made you.
Episode 53: Dr Keith & Angie Nichols
An entrepreneurial drive brought Dr. Keith and Angie Nichols to the Cookeville area and their passion for preventative medicine led them to open Tier 1 Heath and Wellness. Dr. Nichols is quickly gaining national attention as an expert in bioidentical hormone replacement therapy. In this podcast, Keith and Angie discuss their personal struggles that led them to discover HRT, the lack of preventative medicine available, and our broken medical system. Although quite controversial, Keith and Angie believe that their form of treatment is restoring the art of medicine and restoring health and vitality for their patients. A very thought provoking and educational episode!
Episode 52: Matt Swallows, Swallows Insurance
An Overton County native, Matt Swallows moved to Cookeville to help expand the family business, Swallows Insurance. A third generation company leader, Matt understands the insurance business, but even more so, the people business. Swallows watched his father and grandfather build their company’s foundation on integrity and relationships. Now at the helm, Matt talks to us about the intricacies of working in a family business, the important role that his family has in his life, and reason he came back here to live and work. Swallows shares about the healthy growth of our community, a few of the things he sees on the horizon, and about his “selfish” reasons for wanting to see our city prosper.
Episode 51: Laurin Revere Wheaton, Vice Mayor
Although a recent Cookeville transplant, Laurin Revere Wheaton decided that there was no better way to get connected in a new place than to jump in with both feet. Inspired by the desire to keep Cookeville a vibrant place to raise a family, Laurin threw her hat in the ring for this year’s city council race and was elected vice mayor. In this podcast, we discuss the importance of your tribe, life in public service with two small children, and the direction that Wheaton hopes our community is headed.
Episode 50: Larry Stone, Stonecom Radio
Larry Stone fell in love with the Upper Cumberland area while doing Titans Caravans in our community. A dream that began early in life grew into a very successful radio career, and has culminated into Stone owning his own cluster of stations, Stonecom Radio. In this powerful episode, Larry shares his earliest childhood radio memories, some of his favorite moments as host of Titans’ Radio, and the ever changing nature of technology and its effect on his business. Stone reminds us all of the importance of hyper local content, how crucial it is to be involved in the community you serve, and the necessity of remaining nimble in an ever changing world. While pundits might question the future of traditional radio, Stone knows that they are here to stay.
Episode 49: GoKnee
It’s oft been said that necessity is the mother of invention. Sometimes, it’s what’s necessary for others that births a great idea. On this week’s podcast, local physical therapists Sonya Briggs and Shehla Rooney share with us about their incredible device (invented and developed right here in Cookeville!!), GoKnee, which is revolutionizing knee replacement rehab. Along with Nikki Orazine, the three ladies operate MotusX, a private, movement based, physical therapy practice. In this episode, Sonya and Shehla shed light on the genesis of their invention, the struggles they have experienced (and help they have found) as budding entrepreneurs, and the passion they share for their patient’s health which is the driving force behind all that they do. This is a must listen for anyone starting a business, one who has an invention, or those who are looking for ways to improve the health care system.
Episode 48: Chris Peterson, Mossy Oak Pro Staff
Chris Peterson moved to the Upper Cumberland after meeting his wife, Dianne. He was determined to get involved in the community, and has quickly become a vital member of many local organizations. Whether serving in his local church’s jail ministry or taking area youth on hunting trips, Peterson truly embodies a service over self mentality. In this podcast, he shares about the upcoming Jake’s Day at Mustard Seed Ranch, his involvement with Mossy Oak, and his passion for seeing the youth get outdoors. Chris has a contagious joy and likable nature that makes you feel like you’ve made a fast friend. In addition to that, he brings to this episode some real, practical wisdom about how to succeed in life
Episode 47: Kevin Christopher, Patent Attorney at Ridgeline Venture Law
Kevin Christopher moved his young family from California to Cookeville to be closer to family and to put down some roots. A patent attorney and principal of a growing law firm, Ridgeline Venture Law, Christopher works largely with businesses and intellectual property law – patents, trademarks, trade secret protection, biotech, digital tech, and socially aligned businesses. Besides being an incredibly intelligent guy, he also has a passion for poetry, rock climbing, entrepreneurship, the environment, and social empowerment. In this episode, he shares a different perspective of our community from a transplant viewpoint, highlighting some of the Upper Cumberland’s greatest hits – the presence of the University, cultural exposure, community events, and the power of our ecotourism. Kevin also shares his personal story of transformation from troubled kid to successful attorney, husband, and father.
Episode 46: Michael Aikens, Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, the Director of the Center for Rural Innovation, Head of Tech Tomorrow
Michael Aikens moved to Cookeville to work at Tennessee Tech University where he now serves as the Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, the Director of the Center for Rural Innovation, and just recently named the head of Tech Tomorrow, TTU’s strategic planning body. In this episode, Aikens shares the vision behind Tech’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship department – promoting problem solving, creativity, and a hands-on approach to learning. Aikens also dives into the honest reality of working alongside millennials, the challenges that many of his students face, and the marriage that can exist between entrepreneurship and the higher education system. Fantastic listen for anyone looking to be challenged in their mindset and growth potential!
Episode 45: Laura Wolf, CityScape
Laura Wolf moved to Cookeville when her late husband, Scott, was recruited by Averitt Express. She immediately fell in love with the community and put down deep roots. After volunteering with CityScape, Laura knew that she wanted to be there full time. CityScape’s mission is to establish a partnership between the public and private sectors that are dedicated to revitalizing Downtown Cookeville with an emphasis on community livability, economic restructuring and historic preservation. In this podcast, Laura shares the way that CityScape is impacting our area for the good, the way that individuals can get involved, and the various local activities that are on the horizon in Cookeville
Episode 44: Marty Maynord, CEO of American Bank & Trust of the Cumberlands
Hailing from neighboring Overton County, Marty Maynord, CEO of American Bank & Trust of the Cumberlands, got his start in the banking business in high school. A self proclaimed “bank nerd”, Marty loves the numbers, deal structuring, and operations of the finance world. In this episode, you’ll also hear from the man behind the old school hp calculator and quickly discover that his still waters run deep. Marty shares with us what he loves about his work, the value he places on having a strong team, the entrepreneurial spirit of a local bank, and the importance of being involved in the community. This was a fun one with cool insight into the banking space!
Episode 43: Nancy Knowlton, The Cookeville Pregnancy Clinic
Nancy Knowlton moved to Cookeville to attend Tennessee Tech University. She began her working career in education, has owned her own business, has sold advertising, and now runs a large non-profit, the Cookeville Pregnancy Clinic. Nancy has a personal connection with and honest compassion for women experiencing crisis pregnancies. In this podcast, Nancy shares a raw and vulnerable story about brokenness and restoration. Her vibrant personality and passion for ministry shines through everything she does. Nancy shares the role that the Cookeville Pregnancy Clinic plays in our area and all the many avenues that they are making a difference and serving our community.
Episode 42: David Darnell and Beau Cunningham of Turdcules Toilet Elixirs
David Darnell and Beau Cunningham of Turdcules Toilet Elixirs moved to the Upper Cumberland just a couple of years ago. Being best friends forever, it was a pretty seamless transition to business partners, and the guys now own three ventures together, complimenting and challenging each other along the way. In this episode, the Turdcules team talks about how small business friendly that Cookeville has been, the support they have found at The Biz Foundry, and the secret to overcoming the variety of challenges that budding business owners face on the daily. These guys bring comedic relief and a relatable authenticity to the entrepreneur space. If you’re wondering what Turdcules is (and admit it, you’re wondering) or needing a breath of fresh air for your grind, take a listen!
Episode 41: Ricky Shelton, Mayor of Cookeville
Mayor Ricky Shelton returns to Connecting Cookeville to update the citizenry on the latest and greatest happenings in our community. From the impressive job creation numbers to cool quality of life events, there’s a lot to be proud of in our town. Shelton also opens up about why he loves being mayor of his hometown and what he sees is in store for this area in the not too distant future.
Episode 40: Hannah Davis, Marketing and Public Relations Specialist at Cookeville Regional
Hannah Harris Davis was born and raised in Cookeville and is a TTU grad. She enjoyed working as a publicist in Music City, but decided to put down roots back in the Upper Cumberland. As the Marketing and Public Relations Specialist at Cookeville Regional, Hannah has the privilege of promoting the services and accolades of our local hospital. In this podcast, Hannah shares some of the impressive highlights of CRMC and the role the hospital plays in our community. Hannah also has three small children and a husband in ministry, so we wanted to talk to her about balancing a busy career and a growing family. She encourages other mommas to do what is right for their family, maintain a positive attitude, celebrate each other’s successes, and “just do it”.
EPISODE 39: Steve Tiebout, Minister at River Community Church of Cookeville
Steve Tiebout moved to Cookeville from West Tennessee to attend Tennessee Tech. He followed the call on his life for ministry and moved back to the Upper Cumberland after seminary to plant a church, which is now one of the largest congregations in the area, River Community Church of Cookeville. In this episode, Pastor Steve shares his heart for this community, the miracle story of the huge cross you see coming into town, and his own personal testimony. This podcast is full of encouragement about not giving up on your dreams, staying real in the midst of real life struggles, and the value of an abundance mentality. Be sure to listen to Steve’s passionate story about reaching and serving our community!
EPISODE 38: Jason McCormick, Owner of R-Cubed Environmental Solutions
Jason McCormick moved to Cookeville in Junior High when his mother took a position with Averitt Express. If you talk to him for more than ten seconds, you can immediately sense that he’s never met a stranger. McCormick got his start in the corporate world at Averitt as well, learning valuable traits that serve him well today. A entrepreneur at heart, McCormick jumped at the chance when the opportunity presented itself to acquire R-Cubed. In this episode, Jason shares with us about practical sustainable living, new technology that is rocking his market, the importance of work/life balance, and the school of trial and error for a business owner. Jason has an infectious passion to inspire others and make our world a better place in more ways than one.
EPISODE 37: Don & Dave Sergio, Owners of Calf Killer Brewery
A large Catholic family from the midwest, the Sergios moved to the Upper Cumberland when Don and Dave were kids. Growing up with parents that owned their own construction business, the guys learned the merit and muscle needed to be your own boss. A mutual love for beer grew into a hobby of home brewing for the Sergio brothers. As others would partake in their concoctions, that love was spread – first to family and friends, and now all across the state of Tennessee. In this unorthodox podcast, Don and Dave share their entrepreneurial journey of navigating legal red tape and overcoming doubters to have the incredible business that they have today. This episode is full of the levity and joy that the Sergio brothers, and their beer, is known for (mild language included). Cheers!!
EPISODE 36: Jennifer Wilkerson, Child Advocacy Center Director & Circuit Court Clerk Candidate
Born and raised by small business owners in Cookeville, Jennifer Wilkerson has a rich history of hard work and community development. Jennifer began her career in public service as a Communications Officer for the Cookeville Police Department. She eventually took a position with the District Attorney’s office and saw firsthand the need for a local Child Advocacy Center to help child victims of severe abuse. Now open for 15 years, the Child Advocacy Center serves almost 1000 children a year. In this episode, Jennifer shares the sobering reality of abuse in the 13th Judicial District, how the CAC intervenes on behalf of innocent children, the incredible work the center is doing in the community, and how the next chapter in her life has led her to run for public office.
EPISODE 35: Jaden Flynn, Entrepreneur
Jaden Flynn moved to Cookeville as a toddler and started his entrepreneurial journey shortly thereafter. A natural salesman and born leader, Jaden thrives in a entrepreneur’s environment. He started his meal prep business, The Iron Kitchen, in his mother’s house, and is now in his second commercial kitchen. As a millennial business owner, he credits his business success to social media exposure and the daily grind. In this podcast, he shares some of his tips for marketing, the value of learning how to fail, and how he pushed through the first year. This episode is full of raw and vulnerable truth about the trenches of business ownership and the value of being your authentic self.
EPISODE 34: Michael McDearman, Grillmaster
Michael McDearman first discovered his love for cooking when the sweet smell of a grilled steak captured his attention while delivering newspapers as a young boy in Cookeville. Like many of us in the South, McDearman was raised around good cooks and great food. That developed into a passion that opened doors for him to pursue a career in the food industry. After travelling all over the world, McDearman returned home to his roots to share his love of cooking with his local community. In this episode, he shares what he enjoys about teaching all things food, his favorite failure, the joys of doing what you love (“follow your love, and the money will come”), and Cookeville connections that have been woven through his adventures around the world.
EPISODE 33: Becky Davidson, President and Executive Director of Rising Above Ministries
The vision for Rising Above Ministries was birthed through Jeff and Becky Davidson’s experiences raising their son, Jon Alex, with profound special needs. When Jeff passed away in 2017, Becky not only became a widow and a single mother, she also became an author, speaker, and the leader of the couple’s ministry. In this episode, Becky talks about how “typical” families can embrace their friends and loved ones with a special needs child, the way Jeff’s legacy lives on, the role that Rising Above plays in our community, and how she refuses to allow labels to define her in this next stage of her life. This podcast is full of inspiration for anyone experiencing transition and change, especially if that is as a result of circumstances outside of your control.
EPISODE 32: Melinda Keifer, City of Cookeville Economic and Community Development Coordinator
Born and raised in Cookeville, Melinda Keifer has a rich heritage of community service in the Upper Cumberland. She is on the front lines of development at the city of Cookeville with her job, but she has lived it her whole life as business owner, farm girl, WCTE’s “Live Green Tennessee” host, former City Scape director, and long time employee in government service. In this episode, Melinda shares about how she has seen Cookeville change, the challenges that come with economic and community development, and she encourages us to engage our interest, get involved in the process, and connect the dots in our community. This podcast is a manifesto for community development, enrichment, and sustainable growth and a must listen for any curious and committed Cookevillian.
EPISODE 31: TJ Overstreet, Discipleship Pastor at FBC & Casey Overstreet, AdvoCare Independent Distributor
Certain that they crossed paths at YMCA day camp as kids, they made it official in junior high school and have been together ever since. Growing up with a strong work ethic instilled, TJ & Casey experienced a variety of job paths and decided that business and entrepreneurial ventures coupled with ministry and service was what inspired them. In this episode, they discuss the value of hard work, the discipline of working for yourself, their heart for adoption, and their view on community servanthood.
EPISODE 30: Erin Hawkins, Owner of Fringe Salon and Co-Owner of The Alsup Mill
Erin Alsup Hawkins moved to Cookeville in middle school when her mother randomly chose this community as their next landing spot. Working through the Cosmetology program at Cookeville High School, Erin was able to accelerate obtaining her license and go on to earn a degree in Business Marketing from Tennessee Tech. While successfully operating a full service salon, Erin joined her sister, Amy, in also opening an online boutique that bears their maiden name: The Alsup Mill. In this episode, Erin shares the journey of navigating changing business models, the challenges of balancing home life and business, and the power of always moving forward. Fantastic listen for momtrepreneurs and multiple business owners!