"Get to know your fellow small-business people so you can grow & problem-solve together."
Much like television’s beloved Cheers Pub, NSBA Leadership Council Member Niesha Wolfe has built a local eatery where “everybody knows your name.”
In doing so, Ms. Wolfe has built a name for herself even beyond her home state.
During its nine years in business, Ms. Wolfe’s Gingham Café has become a beloved community staple, serving neighbors, passers-by, and even Tennessee’s highest-powered politicians – each served good food from the heart and as if they were family.
Ms. Wolfe operates what she describes as her “companion-style” café with the mantra of using food as a facilitator of fellowship. To Wolfe, her business is more than a café – it’s a bridge for people and a vehicle for community leadership.
In 2021, Ms. Wolfe brought together local spots in Clarksville, Tenn., to form the Independent Restaurant Owners Association, which helped keep dozens of area restaurant doors open and hundreds of community members employed at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Starting in April 2020, Ms. Wolfe also partnered with Clarksville’s Mayor and Community Health Foundation to deliver free meals to community members in need.
Away from her restaurant, Ms. Wolfe has been a titan of local advocacy for decades. A CPA by trade, Ms. Wolfe taught business at local Austin Peay State University and volunteered at the local U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Development Center on-campus for over 16 years.
Ms. Wolfe’s previous accounting business also gave her the opportunities to serve as a delegate from Tennessee at the 1995 White House Council on Small Business and to present her published position paper on the impact of woman-owned small businesses to the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee. For her efforts, Ms. Wolfe was named the woman chair of the Clarksville-Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce and was a recipient of Clarksville’s Athena Award for women for who excel in their field.
Recently, Ms. Wolfe has dedicated her advocacy efforts to fighting for a more prosperous small business climate with NSBA. In September, Ms. Wolfe was recognized as a finalist for NSBA’s Advocate of the Year Award, which is given annually to a small business leader who embodies success and service in and out of the office – or, in this case, kitchen. Since September, Ms. Wolfe has also hosted her member of Congress, Rep. Mark Green (TN-07), at the Gingham Café and has met with Sen. Marsha Blackburn to discuss small business issues.
Aside from making Senator Blackburn’s favorite pimento cheese dish, Ms. Wolfe has one key tip for small business owners looking to be effective advocates:
“Get to know your fellow small-business people so you can grow & problem-solve together.”