Collaboration and Partnerships: As I stated earlier its critical for you to forge collaborations and partnerships with organizations and individuals who share your purpose. By leveraging their expertise, resources, and networks, you can amplify your impact and reach a wider audience. Collaborative efforts can lead to innovative solutions and shared knowledge.
In today’s competitive business landscape, the race for profits often takes center stage. However, there are some leaders who also prioritize a mission-driven purpose. They use their business to make a positive social impact and recognize that success isn’t only about making money. In this interview series, we are talking with some of these distinct leaders and I had the pleasure of interviewing Toney Greer.
Toney Greer is a dynamic and visionary entrepreneur, renowned for his ownership of three thriving enterprises: The Royal Society of the United States, Taste of Italy, and The BLÜM CO. His journey to success is marked by resilience and transformation, as he turned the devastation of a burned-down restaurant, Blum North, into a flourishing humanitarian based government contract firm. However, Toney’s impact extends far beyond his business ventures. He embodies the spirit of empowerment, carrying on his family’s legacy of service by uplifting both the federal government and underprivileged communities. Toney Greer is not just a businessman; he is a catalyst for change, inspiring others to reach their full potential and make a lasting difference in the world.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us your “Origin Story”? Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
Toney Greer’s origin story begins in 1991 in Nashville, Tennessee. He grew up in a loving and close-knit family environment, with his parents Anthony Greer and Gloria Chatman, and his brother Shane Bingham. Toney’s extended family also played a significant role in shaping his upbringing.
To understand Toney’s journey, we need to look into his family’s lineage. As early as the 50s, 60s and 70s, Toney’s great-great aunts and uncle, Elizabeth Thompson-Beaver, Rosey Lee Handy-Thompson, William Handy “fat Handy”, Ann Handy, and their first cousin Rev. J. T. Patton, all served the Tennessee communities in various ways. Their contributions have left a lasting impact on Tennessee for several generations. Elizabeth Thompson-Beaver was renowned for her soul food cooking and extravagant parties for noteworthy individuals and organizations while working for a high-profile, high net-worth overseas family based in Nashville who owns a chain of furniture stores that still operates today. Ann Handy and Rosey Lee Handy-Thompson served as lifestyle and home managers for prominent families and those in need. Their brother, William Handy “Fat Handy” founded Nashville’s original mobile Farmers Market, bringing fresh, healthy foods to local neighborhoods. Rev. J.T. Patton, their first cousin founded one of the oldest historically black funeral homes in Tennessee, the Patton Brothers firm still operates today.
In the 1980s, Toney’s grandmother, Elizabeth Deloris Chatman, became a community hero. Known for her exceptional cooking and event planning skills, she, alongside her sister Deborah Thompson, hosted extravagant parties and provided support to those in need, just as their mother Rosey Lee Handy-Thompson did. Toney’s grandmother instilled in him the values of strength, love, and genuine connection with people.
Toney’s parents, Anthony and Gloria, were hardworking individuals dedicated to their family and serving others. His father worked in home healthcare, while his mother and aunt Norma owned a home healthcare company serving anyone in need. Toney learned the importance of caring for others, hard work, and perseverance from them.
Toney’s journey in the entertainment industry as a singer and actor began in the mid 1990s as an adolescent. However, in 2014, he discovered his true passion for business and entrepreneurship. He attended a non-traditional school where he took college courses in place of high school, graduating at Nashville State College. After graduating, Toney founded his lifestyle management company, The Royal Society of the United States, and realized that he was following in the footsteps of his ancestors, carrying the torch of service within him.
Toney now stands as an entrepreneur and owner of three prominent Nashville companies — The Royal Society of the United States, Blum, and Taste of Italy. He is committed to finding sustainable solutions to address hunger, poverty, and education deficiencies in America. Through his businesses, Toney creates new jobs and raises awareness of disparities faced by millions. He collaborates with influential individuals to extend his impact to underprivileged communities.
In the future, Toney envisions establishing a private foundation to revolutionize the American system nationwide and internationally, continuing his humanitarian efforts and empowering those in need to reach their full potential.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?
Certainly, one of the most interesting stories that happened to me since I began leading my company occurred quite unexpectedly. I was randomly scrolling through my Instagram feed one day when I stumbled upon a unique MBA program from One Day University.
This wasn’t just any MBA program; it was specifically designed to help entrepreneurs develop their businesses from the ideation stage to full operational success. It was a serendipitous find, as I was at a crucial stage of developing my company, BLÜM.
I decided to enroll in the program, and it turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve made for my business. The program provides me with invaluable insights and tools that have significantly contributed to the growth and success of BLÜM.
What’s more, I am able to earn my MBA degree while actively applying what I learned to my business. This experience has not only been interesting but also transformative for both me and my company. It’s a testament to the power of continuous learning and the unexpected opportunities that can arise from something as simple as scrolling through social media.
We often learn the most from our mistakes. Can you share one that you made that turned out to be one of the most valuable lessons you’ve learned?
Certainly! One of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned from a mistake was when I first started developing my business. I had a unique concept, but I struggled with wanting to do everything on my own because no one else fully understood it at the time. I took on responsibilities ranging from business strategy to actually running the business, which became overwhelming and unsustainable.
Additionally, I didn’t know how to properly price my products or services, often resulting in breaking even or taking a loss. This lack of understanding affected the financial stability of my business.
Eventually, my passion for the business and its growth led me to push myself to the point of a health crisis. I had no choice but to take a step back and reevaluate my approach. It was during this break that I realized the importance of building a talented team around me.
I learned the valuable lesson that I couldn’t be a superhero and handle everything on my own. I needed to recognize the skills and expertise of others who were just as passionate about their work as I was about the vision of my company. This realization led me to actively recruit talented individuals who could contribute to the success and forward progression of the business.
By surrounding myself with a dedicated team, I discovered the power of collaboration and the benefits of leveraging the strengths of others. This experience taught me the value of teamwork, delegation, and acknowledging that success is not achieved alone.
As a successful leader, it’s clear that you uphold strong core values. I’m curious what are the most important principles you firmly stand by and refuse to compromise on. Can you share a few of them and explain why they hold such significance for you in your work and life?
There are several core principles that I firmly stand by and refuse to compromise on; however there’s a few principles that I hold great significance for me in both my work and personal life. Here are a few of them:
1. Integrity: Integrity is at the top of my list. I firmly believe in conducting myself with honesty, transparency, and ethical behavior in all aspects of my life. I strive to lead by example and ensure that my actions align with my words. Building trust and maintaining strong relationships is crucial to me, and integrity is the foundation of that.
2. Respect: Respect is another principle that I hold dear. I believe in treating every individual with respect, regardless of their position or background. Creating a culture of respect fosters collaboration, open communication, and a positive work environment. It is important to me to value the opinions, ideas, and perspectives of others and create a space where everyone feels heard and valued.
3. Continuous Learning: I firmly believe in the power of lifelong learning. The world is constantly evolving, and to stay relevant and successful, I continuously strive to enhance my knowledge and skills. I encourage a culture of learning within my team and organizations, promoting professional growth and development. Continuous learning allows me to adapt to new challenges, embrace innovation, and make informed decisions.
4. Excellence: Although I’m not perfect I have a very strong commitment to excellence in everything I do. I believe that striving for excellence leads to exceptional results. I encourage my team to set high standards and pursue excellence in their work as well. By setting the bar high, we push ourselves to achieve our best and deliver exceptional quality to our clients and stakeholders.
These principles are non-negotiable for me because they serve as my moral compass and guide me in making decisions and taking actions. Upholding these principles not only help me in my work as a leader but also in living a fulfilling and meaningful life. They contribute to building a strong and sustainable foundation for success and personal growth.
What inspired you to start a purpose-driven business rather than a traditional for-profit enterprise? Can you share a personal story or experience that led you to prioritize social impact in your business?
What inspired me to start a purpose-driven business rather than a traditional for-profit enterprise was a personal experience that had a profound impact on my life. In the early 2000s, my father separated from us, which drastically affected our household and the feasibility of our situation. As a result, I had to grow up quickly and take on the responsibility of ensuring that everything got done, while also making enough money so that my mom didn’t have to work as hard.
During this challenging and tumultuous time, I became acutely aware of how difficult it is for individuals and families to provide a simple, decent life for themselves. It made me think about all the other people out there who must be struggling just to make ends meet, much like my own family. This realization sparked a deep desire within me to find a way to help others in similar situations.
I began to contemplate how I could make a difference and provide support to those in need. It was during this period of reflection that the idea of starting a purpose-driven business took shape. I realized that by creating a business with a strong social impact focus, I could not only generate income but also contribute to improving the lives of individuals and families facing similar challenges.
The experience of helping my mom through our difficult times served as a catalyst for my inspiration. It ignited a passion within me to make a positive impact on the lives of others, just as I had done for my own family. I wanted to create a business that would not only be financially successful but also have a meaningful purpose at its core.
This realization became the driving force behind my decision to start a purpose-driven business. It is my sincere hope that through my business endeavors, I can make a difference in the lives of individuals and families who are struggling, just as I once did.
Can you help articulate a few of the benefits of leading a purpose-driven business rather than a standard “plain vanilla” business?
Meaningful Impact: My companies allow me to make a meaningful impact on society and contribute to causes and missions that aligns with my values. This sense of purpose goes beyond financial success and provides a deep sense of fulfillment and satisfaction.
Employee Engagement and Loyalty: My companies have attracted and retained passionate employees who are motivated by more than just a paycheck. When employees feel connected to a greater purpose, they are more engaged, committed, and willing to go the extra mile to contribute to the business’s success.(one of the valuable lessons I learned!)
Enhanced Reputation, Customer Loyalty, and Innovation: Because my companies are purpose-driven they’ve been steadily building a positive reputation by aligning their mission with social or environmental causes. This reputation attracts customers who prioritize supporting businesses like mine with a positive impact. As a result, my companies are cultivating strong customer loyalty and a distinct brand image. Moreover, the focus on making a difference has fueled innovation and creative problem-solving, enabling my businesses to adapt to changing market demands and seize new opportunities.
Personal Fulfillment and Well-being: Leading purpose-driven businesses has offered me personal fulfillment and a sense of well-being. Knowing that I am making a positive difference in the world brings a greater sense of happiness and purpose to my own life.
Overall, my purpose-driven businesses offers not only financial success but also opportunities to create a positive impact on our society, engage employees, build customer loyalty, foster innovation, and enhance personal fulfillment.
How has your company’s mission or purpose affected its overall success? Can you explain the methods or metrics you use to evaluate the impact of this purpose-driven strategy on your organization?
Sure! Here are some methods/metrics I use to assess the impact of our purpose-driven strategies.
Can you share a pivotal moment when you realized that leading your purpose-driven company was actually making a significant impact? Can you share a specific example or story that deeply resonated with you personally?
Throughout my journey leading BLÜM, there have been several moments that deeply resonated with me and reaffirmed the significant impact we were making as a purpose-driven company. One particular instance stands out vividly. We had partnered with a local nonprofit organization to address food insecurity in our community.
During a visit to a food distribution event, I had the opportunity to interact with individuals and families who were benefiting from our efforts. I remember speaking with a single mother, let’s call her Lisa, who shared her story of struggling to provide nutritious meals for her children. She expressed her gratitude for the support she received through our initiatives, which had alleviated some of the financial burden and ensured her children didn’t go to bed hungry.
Listening to Lisa’s heartfelt words and seeing the relief and hope in her eyes was an incredibly powerful moment. It made me realize that BLÜM’s work was not just about numbers and contracts, but about positively impacting real people’s lives. It reinforced the importance of our mission to address societal issues like hunger and poverty.
Lisa’s story deeply resonated with me personally, as it reminded me of the responsibility we have as a company to make a difference in the lives of those who need it most. It fueled my passion and commitment to continue leading BLÜM and expand our efforts to create a lasting impact in our community and beyond.
Have you ever faced a situation where your commitment to your purpose and creating a positive social impact clashed with the profitability in your business? Have you ever been challenged by anyone on your team or have to make a tough decision that had a significant impact on finances? If so, how did you address and reconcile this conflict?
Yes there’s one situation that comes to mind where I was presented with an opportunity to expand our services into a new market that aligned with our purpose and had the potential for significant social impact. However, the financial projections indicated that it would require a substantial investment and might not yield immediate profitability especially since BLÜM is a new startup company.
During this time, there were discussions and challenges from members of my team who were concerned about the financial implications and the potential strain it could put on our resources. It was a tough decision to make, as we had to balance our commitment to our purpose with the financial sustainability of the company.
To address and reconcile this conflict, we took a collaborative approach. We engaged in open and transparent discussions with the team, allowing everyone to express their concerns and perspectives. We analyzed the potential social impact, long-term sustainability, and financial risks involved.
Ultimately, we decided to move forward with the expansion, recognizing that the short-term financial impact might be challenging. We developed a detailed plan to mitigate risks, optimize resources, and seek additional funding opportunities. We also communicated the decision to the team, emphasizing the long-term vision and the potential positive social impact that outweighed the immediate financial considerations.
Throughout the process, we maintained a strong focus on financial discipline, continuously monitoring and adjusting our strategies to ensure a sustainable balance between purpose and profitability. This experience taught us the importance of aligning our purpose with sound financial management and fostering a culture of open communication and collaboration within the team.
What are your “Top 5 Things You Need To Know I Order To Create A Highly Successful Purpose-Driven Business.” If you can, please share a story or example for each.
My advice to upcoming entrepreneurs who wish to start a purpose-driven business is to first define your personal and business purposes clearly: Take the time to identify and articulate the specific social or environmental issue you want to address. This clarity will guide your decision-making and help you stay focused on your mission. Do this before starting your journey as an entrepreneur.
Align your purpose with a viable business model: ensure that your purpose aligns with a sustainable business model. Find ways to create value and generate revenue while making a positive impact. For example, if your purpose is to reduce plastic waste, consider creating eco-friendly products or offering recycling services.
It’s very important to build a strong network and partnerships: so don’t be afraid to put yourself out there, surround yourself with like-minded individuals and organizations that share your purposes. Collaborate with nonprofits, government agencies, and other businesses to amplify your impact. For instance, if your purpose is to provide education to underprivileged children, partner with local schools and NGOs to leverage their expertise and resources.
It’s critical to express and communicate your purpose effectively: Clearly communicate your purpose to your target audience and stakeholders. Craft a compelling narrative that resonates with people’s values and inspires them to support your business. It’s helpful to use storytelling techniques to share the impact you’re making. For instance, if your purpose is to empower women through fair trade, share stories of the artisans you work with and how their lives have improved.
Although it can be easier said than done, please stay committed and adaptable: Building a purpose-driven business can be extremely challenging, but please, please stay committed to your mission. Be open to learning, adapting, and iterating your strategies as you navigate obstacles. Always embrace feedback and continuously seek ways to improve your impact. For example, if your purpose is to provide clean energy solutions, stay updated on technological advancements and adapt your offerings accordingly.
1 . Authenticity: Be authentic in your purpose and values. Ensure that your commitment to making a positive impact is genuine and deeply ingrained in who you are and your business. Customers and stakeholders can sense authenticity and are more likely to support and engage with both you and your purpose-driven business.
2 . Market Demand: Understand the market demand for your business. Conduct thorough market research to identify your target audience, their needs, and their willingness to pay for your offerings. This knowledge will help you create a sustainable business model.
3 . Measurable Impact: Define metrics and indicators to measure the impact of your purpose-driven business. Establish clear goals and track your progress regularly. This data will not only help you assess your impact but also communicate it effectively to stakeholders.
4 . Collaboration and Partnerships: As I stated earlier its critical for you to forge collaborations and partnerships with organizations and individuals who share your purpose. By leveraging their expertise, resources, and networks, you can amplify your impact and reach a wider audience. Collaborative efforts can lead to innovative solutions and shared knowledge.
5 . Adaptability and Innovation: Embrace adaptability and innovation as you navigate the evolving landscape of your businesses. Stay informed about emerging trends, technologies, and best practices. Continuously seek ways to improve your offerings, processes, and impact. Adaptability and innovation will help you stay ahead and create a highly successful purpose-driven business.
I’m interested in how you instill a strong sense of connection with your team. How do you nurture a culture where everyone feels connected to your mission? Could you share an example or story that showcases how your purpose has positively influenced or motivated people on your team to contribute?
As the leader of BLÜM, nurturing a strong sense of connection with my team and fostering a culture where everybody feels connected to our mission is a top priority for me. I strive to achieve this by sharing my vision and values by ensuring that our mission, vision, and values are clearly communicated and understood by every team member. We hold regular team meetings where we discuss our purpose, the impact we aim to create, and how each person’s role contributes to that mission. This shared understanding creates a sense of unity and connection.
Although final decisions are mine to make, I employ collaborative decision-making because I believe in involving the team in decision-making processes whenever possible. By seeking their input and involving them in shaping our strategies and initiatives, they feel a sense of ownership and connection to our mission. This collaborative approach fosters a culture of inclusivity and empowers everyone to contribute their ideas.
I prioritize the continuous growth and development of my team members. We provide opportunities for training, workshops, and skill-building sessions that align with our purpose. I believe by investing in their professional and personal development, I show my commitment to their growth and reinforce the connection between their individual aspirations and our mission.
Another thing that’s important to me is recognition and appreciation. I make it a point to recognize and appreciate the efforts and contributions of each team member. Whether it’s through public acknowledgment, personalized notes, or team-wide celebrations, we celebrate milestones and achievements. This recognition reinforces their connection to our mission and motivates them to continue making a positive impact.
Imagine we’re sitting down together two years from now, looking back at your company’s last 24 months. What specific accomplishments would have to happen for you to be happy with your progress?
These accomplishments would indicate that we have made significant progress in terms of financial growth, market expansion, innovation, customer satisfaction, team development, social impact, and industry recognition. They would demonstrate that we are on track to achieve our long-term goals and fulfill our vision for the company.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that
would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
Wow I greatly appreciate that I am just a man with a purpose to help make our world a better place to live amongst one another. If I could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, it would be centered around addressing the root causes of social inequality and creating opportunities for upward mobility. I believe that by focusing on education, economic empowerment, and social support systems, we can make a significant positive impact on the lives of millions of individuals.
The movement would aim to provide equal access to quality education for all, regardless of socioeconomic background. This would involve advocating for educational reforms, investing in schools and resources in underserved communities, and promoting lifelong learning opportunities.
Additionally, the movement would focus on economic empowerment by bridging the gap between economic inflation and income wages. This could involve initiatives such as advocating for fair wages, supporting entrepreneurship and small businesses, and providing resources and training for individuals to acquire in-demand skills.
Furthermore, the movement would prioritize the creation of robust social support systems to address hunger, poverty, and other basic needs. This would involve collaborating with governments, nonprofits, and businesses to develop sustainable solutions that ensure everyone has access to nutritious food, affordable housing, and healthcare.
By addressing these fundamental issues, we can create a society where everyone has an equal opportunity to thrive and succeed. This movement would require collective action, collaboration, and a commitment from individuals, organizations, and governments to work together towards a more equitable and inclusive future.
While the specific prototype service for mortgage and landlord providers that BLÜM is developing cannot be discussed in detail due to security concerns, our commitment to supporting the US Federal Government as a resource to help remedy hunger, poverty, and educational deficiencies aligns with the broader vision of this movement. Through our efforts, we aim to positively impact millions of Americans and contribute to a more just and prosperous society.
How can our readers further follow your work or your company online?
Readers can stay connected with your work, gain insights into your industry, and be informed about the latest developments from both your personal and business endeavors by following these online channels:
Regarding me, Toney Greer
Regarding my businesses, BLÜM and THE ROYAL SOCIETY, readers can follow to learn more about my company’s mission, services, and the impact I aim to create by following our channels:
THE ROYAL SOCIETY
This was great. Thanks for taking time for us to learn more about you and your business. We wish you continued success!
A bout the Interviewer: Chad Silverstein is an accomplished entrepreneur and visionary leader. He started his first company, Choice Recovery, Inc., while attending Ohio State University and grew it to become an industry outlier before selling the business after 25 successful years. With the launch of his second venture, [re]start, a career development platform, Chad aimed to help people find meaningful career opportunities. Under his leadership, his team was recognized as a “Top Workplace” award winner for over a decade, twice being ranked the #1 small and medium-sized business to work for in Central Ohio. Chad sold [re]start in 2023, enabling him to focus on building an online community of high-performing leaders and continuing to make a positive impact in people’s lives.