She now represents all the businesses at the Business Incubator and the Innovation Center located on the Cleveland State Community College campus. The Innovation Center is dedicated to promoting and developing “green” products, which is what Barker does.
“As soon as I opened up my business,” she said, “I started building relationships with the other tenants. I want to build a networking system that promotes, works with, supports and mentors all clients.”
She felt it was important the two physically separated Business Incubator buildings — one on either side of the campus — would feel more as one if she, as an occupant of the Innovation Center, was representing the original Business Incubator building as well.
Barker opened up her own “green” business — using all natural products — in Suite No. 1050 in the Innovation Center. It is called SerendipityCB and opened in March.
“When I saw it was my chance to start my own business,” she said, “I knew this was the place I had to be.”
And rather than the “CB” standing for Cheryl Barker, it actually stands for the “Creative Botanicals” products Barker has developed for natural skin care, such as aromatherapy blends, body scrubs, body butter, lip balm, salves and additional homeopathic remedy items. As a licensed massage therapist and an esthetician (or skin care specialist), Barker specializes in botanical skin care products, massage and body therapy, and aromatherapy.
“A lot of people are looking for alternative therapies,” Barker said. “And I’ve always wanted to take care of others and this is how I am going to do it.”
Even the materials Barker has used to decorate her offices and create her rooms come from reclaimed wood from a barn on her nephew’s family farm that was originally milled by the family years ago.
“We did a lot of nail pulling,” she remembers, giggling painfully at the thought. Even the cabinets, 2-by-4s and doors are made out of recycled wood Barker got from a renovation project at her sister-in-law’s church.
Lisa Burnette, owner of Noggins Salon, is one of Barker’s massage clients.
“Being a hairstylist,” Burnette said, “is hard on my back, neck and shoulders. Standing in one spot for an extended amount of time is also wearing on my legs and feet. Massage has proven to provide great relief. I can visit Cheryl with my neck and shoulders in a knot and leave pain-free. The relaxation that comes with the relief is also a bonus. In this economy there are some things I've had to give up, but because of the amazing benefits of massage, my visits to see Cheryl are a must.”
Barker has heard this type of reaction many, many times before, and she has been backed up by her other clients, as well as medical science.
“Studies show the benefits of massage are just tremendous,” she said.
Here’s why David Lloyd of Mumblin' Moon Studios chose Barker as the Incubator’s current tenant representative:
“When I first met Cheryl and her husband, Charlie, I knew we would have another ally for the incubator. Cheryl is very interested in promoting community and small business. As a new business owner, she has the passion and determination to make not only her business thrive, but the drive to help promote the local services and businesses in this area. I knew that, given the opportunity to be the tenant representative of the Cleveland Bradley Business Incubator, Cheryl would go above and beyond the call to make sure that we had every advantage that a new small business could receive. In her first months as representative, we have already seen the benefits. We are very fortunate that she is here and willing to do all she can to help promote the businesses and interests of the Cleveland Bradley Business Incubator and the Cleveland Bradley Innovation Center.”
Jessica Carrasquillo of Social Security Advocates LLC voted for Barker because:
“I’ve been very impressed with Cheryl as the new tenant representative. She is very professional, organized and has brought fresh ideas to the Incubator. As former tenant representative, I understand the responsibility that this position calls for. I voted for her because, from the onset, I knew that she would be able to handle any situation with grace and poise. In just a few months, she has made quite the impression around here.”
And Dana Teasley, consultant with Economic and Community Development, summed up her reasons for choosing Barker as follows:
“I really liked the thought of having a new tenant as representative. I felt Cheryl could bring some fresh ideas to the table. But what really won me over was her eagerness and enthusiasm to step up and serve.”
“After I was laid off in 2008, it was a blessing in disguise,” Barker said. First, she went to esthetician (skin care) school, after which she went to massage school. “My own business ... kind of fell into my lap when I found the Innovation Center,” Barker said.
So, when fate stepped in and gave her the chance, she took it. Her studies and expertise in skin care have inspired her to develop “greener” and more natural products.
“Things happen for a reason,” she said.
Both Barker and her husband are Tennessee natives. She was born in Knoxville and raised in Sevier County. Her husband is from Cleveland. The couple now lives in Riceville. In addition to her bachelor’s degree from East Tennessee State University, Barker has experience working as an administrative assistant, quality assurance representative and in human resources at a manufacturing plant. She has a son and a stepson. Lots of her relatives still live in the Knoxville area, but her mom died when Barker was just 5 years old.
“It was tough growing up without a mom,” she said. Her dad and her stepmom raised her, and it’s her stepmom she credits with who she is today.
“Maybe that’s why I want to take care of others. ... It’s my nature. ... And I realized, after leaving home, that a lot of this drive I have, my independence, my strength, I owe to her.”
On Thursday, Aug. 30 at 1:30 p.m., Barker will be holding a ribbon cutting, sponsored by the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce, of which she is a member. During the open house that follows, clients can sample some of her products. Barker also plans on providing desserts, as well as staying open later in the evening for people who want to visit after their own workday is done.
Also later this month, on Saturday, Aug. 25, Barker will be setting up an information booth on the CSCC campus representing the Business Incubator and all its tenants for the Freshman Frenzy event, as well as on Wednesday, Aug. 29, for the school’s Back-to-School Bash. On Friday, Sept. 21, the women entrepreneurs at the Business Incubator are going to the Tennessee Women’s Summit in Chattanooga. The day before, Hurley Buff, executive director of the Business Incubator, will be hosting tours for the Tennessee Board of Regents.
“I’ll be providing complimentary massages that day,” she said.
On Wednesday, Oct. 31, she and other Business Incubator tenants will set up booths, also on the CSCC campus, for the October Fest event. More Business Incubator clients, including Barker, are planning to set up booths at the Apple Festival this year.
Barker’s hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, or by appointment. For more information about Barker or her company and its products, call 423-559-7805 or 865-803-6421; or, email email@example.com. Her website may be accessed at www.serendipity-cb.com.