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How two small business owners partnered, found success in Birmingham

When Tanesha Sims-Summers and Yogi Dada met during a Minority Business Network entrepreneurial event in 2017, there was an immediate connection.

Sims-Summers, founder and CEO of Naughty But Nice Kettle Corn Co., said of Yogi Dada, “I loved everything she represented. Her vibe and energy are contagious and rather amazing. She broke out her earrings, … I saw those beautiful designs, and I knew immediately that we had to partner in some kind of way one day.”

Yogi Dada, multifaceted artist, said of Sims-Summers, “Her work ethic is crazy. That was the first thing I noticed about her, and I was immediately amazed by the magic this woman had. The ideas she has, the love for the community she has … I knew there was something special about her. Plus, I’m a sucker for kettle corn.”

The two would then go their separate ways on their entrepreneurial journeys. Sims-Summers went on to continue building Naughty But Nice Kettle Corn Co., and Yogi Dada continued making an impact with her artistry in the Birmingham area.

The duo recently reconnected through a collaboration that showcases Yogi Dada’s artwork, which resembles a face composed of many different colors, on the labels of bags of Naughty But Nice kettle corn to promote Black History Month. The theme is “Nguvu: The Strength of a Woman.”

Naughty But Nice Kettle Corn packaging with Dada artwork. (Amarr Croskey / The Birmingham Times)

Stronger together

“Nguvu is a Swahili word that means strength,” said Yogi Dada, born Yolonda Carter. “It is also one of four designs from my limited-edition series of exquisite Dadas,” the moniker for her hand-painted earrings.

A gift box available through Feb. 28 features nine assorted mini snack bags of Naughty But Nice Kettle Corn Co.’s hand-crafted kettle corn and earrings from Yogi Dada’s limited edition collection. Boxes can be purchased in person at 5831 First Ave. N. Suite 200, Birmingham, or online at

“I reached out to Yogi Dada over social media last year, and it took off from there,” said Sims-Summers. “We definitely had a blast creating this together. … We feel it is a great homage to Black History Month, and we hope to continue impacting the community together.”

‘Find your passions … give back’

Partnerships have always been important to Sims-Summers, and she makes it a priority to collaborate with others.

“We’ve had partnerships with other small business in the area, like the special edition hot chicken flavor of Eugene’s Hot Chicken (in 2016) and the internship program we have established with The Birmingham Promise, (which provides tuition funds and work experience for Birmingham City Schools students). It’s important that we serve our community, which serves us.”

Artist Yogi Dada, left, and Tanesha Sims-Summers, founder and CEO of Naughty But Nice Kettle Corn Co., have established clear identities for their businesses and recently enjoyed an opportunity to team up on a special offering for Black History Month. (Amarr Croskey / The Birmingham Times)

Sims-Summers, 40, said she wants to give to the community that has given to her. “It’s been a long journey, and the community has been along the whole step of the way. (We are) looking to continue the work we are doing, and we want to thank everyone from the bottom of our hearts that has been involved in our journey.”

Naughty But Nice Kettle Corn Co. was founded in 2014.

“We’ve been in business for almost eight years, and it still amazes me every day the impact that we have had on the community and, hopefully, will continue to have,” she said. “We have a fun, unique spin on sweet and salty kettle corn, hence the name Naughty But Nice.”

For Sims-Summers, the impact on the Birmingham community is one of the main goals of her business, which is “Popping with a Purpose.”

“It is so crucial to be purposeful in your life. Find your passions, use them and give back,” she said. “Small businesses must make community, collaboration and education part of growing our ecosystem. God was able to take a product like kettle corn to allow me to grow a purposeful company that encompasses everything I stand for. I am dedicated to mentorship and being mentored. So, it’s not just popcorn with us — we exist to make relationships sweeter.”

Relationships like the one with Yogi Dada, whose mission is similar to Sims-Summers’.

“My gift is to share my story and the stories of the people, particularly women, for whom I create jewelry,” Yogi Dada, 51, said. “I wear my stories proudly — the lessons, the pain and the love. I hear the stories of different women from all walks of life, and so many of them have felt the same things I’ve felt. I don’t want to be the ‘Black girl making earrings for Black people.’ I want to be the artist creating beautiful things for all humans. I want to make people who have felt beaten down at some point in their lives feel powerful and important. I create art for the human condition. I create art for humanity.”

Creating art and finding ways to help others is just something Yogi Dada was born to do, she said.

“(I asked myself), ‘What if I just did what I was created to do?’ I thought about what it would be like if I had been born with scales and gills. Well, I’d live in the ocean. … Fish don’t overthink where the next meal is going to come from; they don’t question their purpose or get caught up in the distortion of their own identity or value. They just swim. … That has become my mantra: ‘Just swim.’ I know I am doing what I was created to do, and my spirituality guides that philosophy, as well.”

Positive representation

The two are also mindful of what they’ve come to represent.

Yogi Dada said, “It is very important that I am able to present a positive representation of Black women to young girls. It’s best to show that representation early. We know kids love snacks like kettle corn, so why not combine education and a sweet or salty snack?”

Sims-Summers said, “I want my daughters to be able to see something like this collab because I need them to know that they are capable of anything and everything. … Alongside me serving as an example, I need them to know that they are strong and can put their minds to anything that they want to do.”

Naughty But Nice Kettle Corn Co. is located at 5831 First Ave N. Suite 200, Birmingham, AL 35212. For more information, visit, or check out the company on Instagram and Facebook.

For more about Yogi Dada, visit her website here, and follow her on Instagram and Facebook.

This story originally was published by The Birmingham Times.