Telisa Franklin: Driven by ambition to succeed as an entrepreneur
By Wiley Henry
Good fortune seems to find Telisa Franklin at every turn on her journey to entrepreneurial success. For those who subscribe to Christianity, “good fortune” could be interpreted as “blessings” from God, which Franklin can attest.
In June 2021, while the country was commemorating Juneteenth as a national holiday, Franklin, president of the Memphis Juneteenth Festival, orchestrated a move that caught the attention of media types: She moved the 28-year-old festival from Robert R. Church Park on Beale Street to Health Sciences Park (formerly Forrest Park), where a slave owner and trader – Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest – and his wife were buried.
“Our purpose was to reclaim the park for freedom and to eliminate the negativity surrounding the park and what it once stood for,” Franklin said. “So it is our mission to move forward to freedom with mind, body and soul.”
Prior to rebranding Juneteenth and following its successful move, Franklin launched radio station WAVN the Trend on FM 104 and AM 1240 in the fall of 2020. The launch was replete with radio personalities playing trending music and offering talk and conversation from a cultural perspective to various topics via the Ricky Smiley Show (the No. 1 morning show) and the Telisa Franklin Show.
While Franklin was busy rebranding a festival and spreading music and good cheer via the radio station, her day-to-day business – Flowers and More – continues to thrive and thus brings the proprietor a measure of success that adds to the flower shop’s bottom line and the livelihood of the women and men in her employ.
Franklin is a supercharged businesswoman, an entrepreneurial powerhouse, with ties to the Memphis community and beyond. Her plate is full most of the time, but she manages to pile on more whenever an idea crosses her mind to advance her business interest or when a cause dealing with the community tugs on her heartstring.
That was the case in 2012 when Franklin and a team of volunteers fed more than 500 people during the Thanksgiving holiday. This effort brought out the upper echelon of Memphis, the community at-large, and the news media, which took notice of the work that Franklin had been doing to feed the needy since 2008. Feeding the needy, she said, is her way of giving back to a community that is beset by one hardship after another, a community she knows so well.
Hundreds of people on any given day in Memphis go hungry and as many of them don’t have a place to call home. Franklin is passionate about helping those who’re less fortunate and feels compelled to lend them a hand. Why? She grew up in a home in the Douglass community that reminds her of the daily grind to survive.
She was raised in an environment where crack addiction was all too common. Her father was brutally murdered, and her grandparents, who did not graduate from school, did their best to provide for her and protect her after they became her guardians.
“My grandparents saved me from becoming a statistic and a prey to the evildoers in my environment who sought to destroy me,” Franklin said.
Despite having to overcome those extreme difficulties, Franklin would go on to achieve some of her goals. But the path she’d traveled to get to where she is today was meandering — not a straight path, that is before the viccitudes of her life convinced her to take a faith walk.
She’d incurred hardships both as a child and as an adult, but her determination to succeed, despite the odds against her, was much stronger than the negative forces that tried to snuff out her dreams before they could come true.
A 1993 graduate of Craigmont High School in Memphis, Franklin’s innate skills didn’t come from academia. In fact, it was her fluency of speech, radiant personality and her bulldog determination that keeps her focused on obtaining the brass ring of success. She credits much of what she’s been able to accomplish thus far to her grandfather, a Baptist preacher, and her unwavering faith in God.
“If it weren’t for my grandfather teaching me to choose God first, to work hard, I am not sure where I would be or what I would be doing now,” said Franklin, who chose to fight (figuratively speaking) to survive rather than give up like so many others had done in similar circumstances.
Although Franklin’s childhood memories are bittersweet, the experience only fueled her desire to overcome her wretched circumstances. But dreams do come true, and this determined warrior from the Douglass community is now seeing some of them come to fruition after years of toiling.
After trial and error and a few hopes and dreams dashed along the way, the circumstances didn’t stop Franklin from reaching within and discovering what she is really made of: strength, character, fortitude, integrity and the uncanny ability to overcome obstacles.
Although the aforementioned attributes were pillars that she leaned on to survive a difficult childhood, they have essentially become the hallmarks of her success as an entrepreneur, floral designer, motivational speaker, philanthropist, TV talk show host, radio host, author, minister, owner of her own TV network, president of the Memphis Juneteenth Festival, and now the owner of her own radio station.
It was Aug. 11, 2013, when Franklin officially launched her TV network on Comcast Channel 31 seven days a week. It was arguably the first female-owned African-American network based in Memphis that serves African Americans in the coverage area of Arkansas, Tennessee and Mississippi, according to Franklin, president of TFC Media.
A Christian-based radio, television and social media platform, TFC Media is Franklin’s foray into communications, having owned and operated several businesses that eventually gave birth to her newest venture as the owner of radio station WAVN the Trend.
“I have devoted time and energy to making my businesses successful,” said Franklin, adding the following about Comcast: “The network on Comcast Channel 31, which entrepreneurs and business owners can utilize to fulfill their dreams, is another project, or business, that I hope will bring those involved on the ground floor a measure of success.”
Franklin and her team have since worked long hours to create an impact in the communications industry.
“I’m determined to be somebody and leave an inheritance for my children’s children. That’s what the Bible instructs us to do,” said Franklin, who doesn’t mind being called a role model. “When I see young people looking like I looked as a child, where I had been earlier in my life, I don’t want them to see me give up. I want them to be able to see a good image in me.”
As an entrepreneur, Franklin has owned several businesses prior to the launch of her cable television network – including “That’s Love Florist,” “That’s Love” and the “Royal Pavilion Event” facilities. In 2005, she was the recipient of “Bust-A-Move Monday” (BAMM), an initiative launched in June of 2001 by Dr. Kenneth T. Whalum, senior pastor of Olivet Baptist Church, to spend money with African-American businesses.
Over the course of her professional career, Franklin has either owned a business, operated one, or worked in various capacities for a couple of banks, a car dealership and a videographer. In 2012, Glenn Johns Reed, founder of the long-running Juneteenth Freedom and Heritage Festival in Douglass Park, tapped Franklin to succeed her as the festival’s executive director.
The Juneteenth Freedom and Heritage Festival would eventually morph into the Memphis Juneteenth Festival, and Franklin would take it to another level, where audiences, near and far, would attend from various walks of life, no matter one’s creed or color.
Franklin has an affinity for young people as well. She motivates them to dream big and to work hard, just like she’d done from 2004 to 2008 as producer of the “Prom Show Expo,” a trade show that exposed high school students to school proms, graduation, college and career training.
“I believe children should have an opportunity to be successful in life, but the leaders of today must prepare them for their destiny,” said Franklin, who organized a Christian youth group in 2008 called Memphis Youthful Praise of Douglass, which promoted positive activity for the youth and young adults in the community.
Franklin is a licensed minister and evangelist who champions the ideas of the young and stands in the gap for seniors despite her rigorous schedule as a formidable businesswoman. As her own ideas percolate, she finds a way to bring them to fruition.
So what is Franklin’s ultimate goal? “I want to be able to make senior citizens’ dreams come true,” she said. “They don’t have enough money to do what they want to do. I want to build a home for them. It will be like a permanent retreat.”
She added that while children have opportunities to be successful, “older people are thrown away. They’re sometimes forgotten.” Oh, and she also hopes to grow her TV network into a mega communications outlet.
Franklin didn’t forget about her three younger brothers. Although she struggled in her early years to survive, did not pursue higher education, worked tirelessly to make ends meet, she didn’t want her brothers to follow in her footsteps. So she paid for them to attend college.
One of her brothers graduated from Mississippi Valley State and earned a master’s degree in criminal justice. Another one works for the City of Memphis. The youngest brother graduated from Mississippi Valley State as well and received a master’s degree.
“My brothers all know that failure is not an option,” said Franklin, who went on to matriculate at the former Crichton College in Memphis and earned a bachelor’s degree in Biblical Studies. She also received a master’s degree in Biblical Studies from Brewster Theological School, also in Memphis.
“I just want them to succeed in life,” added Franklin, the mother of a 15-year-old son, Charles Edward, whom she is grooming as a young entrepreneur. “That’s why I stepped in to provide a foundation from which to launch a successful career.”