Small Biz Superstar: Culture Shift Team partner, Robert Wilson, shares thoughts on diversity and persistence

Small Biz Superstar: Culture Shift Team

1. Why did you start Culture Shift?

Culture Shift Team was the brainchild of my partners Anne Gillespie and Marcela Gomez. I actually hired them to do some multicultural outreach work when I was leading multicultural outreach at Nissan. Ann had a great model for connecting brands with fast growing and hard to reach demographic segments through authentic community engagement. Marcela handled direct PR and marketing for the project. We made some dramatic breakthroughs and when I decided to depart Nissan they were the first people I called. I believed that by joining forces, our passion and complimentary talents and could create real value for our clients.

2. What was your proudest moment at Culture Shift?

What makes me most proud to be a part of Culture Shift Team are my two partners. As a local diversity practitioner, my eyes have opened to the obstacles women face rising to the executive ranks in our city. Watching Marcela and Ann overcome these obstacles and mentor and support young women executives and entrepreneurs on their journey reminds me of why I do this work: to ensure we live in a city where everyone has an equal opportunity to contribute and succeed.

3. What was the very first business you started?

My interest in creating value through community partnerships is no accident. In college I founded two organizations, one of which raised money for emergency scholarships targeted to other first generation college students. I realized how hard it is to navigate the financial burdens of college alone, so I did something about it. The second organization I started helped other ethnic minority student organizations collaborate more easily on campus and create more opportunities for students to engage and feel at home. That experience inspired my founding of the Tennessee Diversity Consortium.

4. What do you do to invest in our community?

One of the super unique things about Culture Shift Team is that all three of us have these community focused “side gigs.” Marcela was the long time president of the Tennessee Latin American Chamber of Commerce and is still very heavily involved with helping Hispanic women entrepreneurs via the Ella program. Ann is co-founder of the Futuro program, which helps first generation Latino students navigate college and prepare for the professional world. I am the co-founder and executive director of the Tennessee Diversity Consortium, which connects local diversity practitioners and helps us skill-up so we are better equipped to drive change within our organizations. 

5. Why do you think the Nashville region is a great place for Culture Shift?

I grew up and Detroit and I am still very passionate about my hometown. Unfortunately, when I was coming of age in Detroit, the city was in a really difficult place. Nashville’s rapid growth is bringing excitement and opportunity and we have a front row seat. That’s rare.  Anyone can go to one of the coasts, but here- you  have the opportunity to be part of the story and create something unique to our culture and community.

6. What advice do you have for fellow Nashpreneurs?

My advice is that if you truly believe in what you are doing and you’ve come up with a sustainable business model, don’t give up, no matter how difficult it gets. Entrepreneurship is about talent, passion and timing. Own your journey, have faith in yourself and the work you are doing and you will eventually be successful. The successful people are the ones who don’t give up when everyone else does.

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