The ‘preferred’ way: Business Cumberland sees growth in niche field (sponsored content)

Business Cumberland HS
Irene and Steve Blackburn.

All it took was one trip. One trip and Irene Blackburn fell in love with Tennessee. Hard. So much so that she and her husband, Steve, abandoned their previous retirement plans in Petoskey, Mich., a coastal resort community along Lake Michigan, for the friendly confines of Fairfield Glade instead.

That trip, a golf vacation, changed their plans “180 degrees,” she says, but no worries. “We found our heaven.” There was just one problem. Like many out-of-staters that settle in the Glade, Blackburn said, the couple had a hard time weeding out quality businesses in which to patronize.

Blackburn’s solution? Start her own company.

In 2010, Fairfield Glade Resource Directory, known today as Business Cumberland, a local advertising company that promotes only “preferred” clients, was born. The concept is a fairly simple one: In order to be considered preferred, a business must provide testimonials of satisfied customers or, in the case of a financial-related outfit, for example, have been vetted by a professional association or organization.

“It was such a challenge determining which local businesses to use that were of high quality. That was the catalyst for Business Cumberland,” Blackburn said. “And for the residents of Fairfield Glade, it met a need that they had. For many of the out-of-towners who move there, the obvious thing was to go to the big cities and purchase things, when actually there’s a lot of local talent. ‘Buy local’ is really important for our economy, so it’s a mission of mine to accomplish that.”

Suffice to say Blackburn has accomplished her goal and in a short amount of time. Business Cumberland expanded into Putnam County about three years ago, and now operates an office there at 528 N. Willow Ave. in Cookeville. While there’s more competition as far as advertising dollars, Blackburn said there’s a larger pool of businesses and business professionals. Both Irene and Steve are members of respective Business Network International (BNI) chapters in the area. And Business Cumberland has secured clients outside the Upper Cumberland’s borders, including Nashville, Knoxville, Harriman and others, although those businesses still must serve this area.

“We have been happy with our growth,” she said. “We’re at the point where we could use more help in order to grow more, but we can’t afford to pay any additional workers, so I’m basically working seven days a week at this business.”

Business Cumberland promotes its clients in a variety of ways. First, on the organization’s website, which can be accessed via as well as new landing page coming soon, On the site, each client is profiled with testimonials included. If there’s a complaint about a preferred business, Blackburn follows up with the company, but problems thus far have been minimal, she says, since the companies are vetted up front. There’s also regular e-newsletters; more than 1,200 subscribe. And an annual print resource directory. Blackburn says the directory traditionally has 40-50 listings in categories like home maintenance, building and remodeling, cleaning and health and fitness. A total of 10,000 copies are distributed.

“We distribute those copies all year long, really, in a number of ways,” Blackburn said. “Golf outings and different places in the community, it goes out to all the addresses in Fairfield Glade, and it will be an insert in Upper Cumberland Business Journal in May.”

Business Cumberland also holds regular home and health fairs, and for the first time in its five-year existence, will be holding a Spring Home and Health Fair in Putnam County on Friday, May 8. The event, to be held at DelMonaco Winery in Baxter with catering by Cookeville’s WestSide Deli, will connect business owners to other business professionals as well as potential customers. Blackburn is currently working on soliciting vendors. Each fair has a charitable recipient, too, and this event’s benefactor will be the American Cancer Society.

“If a vendor is not a client of ours, then we validate that they have at least three satisfied customers before they can participate in the fair,” she said. “Obviously (vendors) should be home or health related, but this venue also allows for space indoors and outdoors, which would be ideal for nurseries and auto dealerships (for example). We always donate a few booths to non-profit organizations as well, and there will be door prizes, free massages and entertainment. We hope everyone will come out and enjoy the event ”

Besides linking businesses with consumers, the home and health fairs are a key means to drumming up new clientele. Blackburn says Business Cumberland will continue to expand its presence in the region, reaching out to even more counties.

“When I hear from the vendors that they’ve met over 100 potential customers the day of the fair, and months latest, have received calls from those same people that turn into real business, then I am happy,” she said. “I really feel like I’m helping the community find quality businesses, and I’m helping businesses find the customers that they want. It’s been a very good thing.”


Irene Blackburn is the founder/owner of Business Cumberland, located at 528 N. Willow Ave., Cookeville. Business Cumberland will be hosting a Spring Home & Health Fair in Cookeville May 8 and a Fall Home & Health Fair in Fairfield Glade Sept. 11. For more information, call (931) 338-0751 or visit This is sponsored content. For more information about sponsored content or UCBJ advertising, email


Liz Engel is the editor of the Upper Cumberland Business Journal. She can be reached at

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