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The first-ever regular season game for Music City Icons, Nashville’s semi-pro women’s basketball team, is coming up on May 20 against the Alabama Reign. This matchup, as well as the existence of the team itself, may not have happened had it not been for a chance conversation and one woman’s lifelong love of basketball.
“I was teaching an entrepreneurship class and one of my participants told me about her basketball career and that the semi-pro basketball team she was playing with had folded,” says Renee Bobb, a long-time entrepreneur most known for her entrepreneurial development courses and self-published books. “Because of her story and her passion for the game, I realized that there was an opportunity to give her and others like her an opportunity at a second chance at basketball.”
Bobb met with the previous owner, and then acquired the team that was relaunched to become the Music City Icons, as part of the professional development Women’s Blue-Chip Basketball League. Since acquiring the team in 2017, Bobb has held four tryouts, created a roster of 14 players, and hired head coach Tom Kelsey, who brings over 30 years of basketball experience to the team.
Renee Bobb may be the team owner, but she has her own extensive history with basketball herself.
Her love of basketball started in middle school on Staten Island, as part of the basketball team of PS49. She received accolades as the four-year star player at Curtis High School, which led to attending Cheyney State University and playing Division 1 basketball there.
Bobb became the first in her family to serve in the military when she joined the United States Navy in 1989, right after college. At the time, she saw the military as an opportunity to travel around the world and seek new experiences. Her decision to serve also “gave my mother so much joy. By joining the military I became that role model for so many young girls, and proving to them that they can do and be whatever they desired.”
She served as a telecommunication operator, and she also got to play NATO basketball during that time, taking her to places like Iceland, Scotland and London. Her basketball career seemed to come to a close when she completed her service in 1995. Upon departing from the military, Bobb lived in Virginia for 16 years where she first began to build her company, RBI Enterprises. She was the recipient of the Women in Business Champion of the Year Award from Virginia’s Small Business Association chapter, but she felt that she needed a fresh start. Nine years ago, she made a decision to move to Nashville be closer to her parents’ home in McKenzie, Tennessee.
For Bobb, Nashville has been the land of many opportunities. “I have been able to build a very successful training and development firm, volunteer in the community, serve on two awesome board of directors and empower many women in business and careers.”
She learned about Bunker Labs when she had hosted her Nashville women’s empowerment workshop at the Nashville Entrepreneur Center. It is there that she met Blake Hogan and Nate Carden, who shared with her the Bunker Labs mission and opportunities in joining the EPIC cohort. 20 years had passed since Bobb launched her first business, but she recognized that the Music City Icons venture was not only new, but nothing like she’s launched before. “I wanted to go to the Bunker Labs to receive the support and guidance I needed to make sure I had everything I needed in place to really launch a great company.”
And Bobb certainly did come across some unique challenges that she had never faced before. Recruiting and maintaining talent was one of the first issues she encountered. “All of the players have other things that take up their time to include working full-time jobs and some of them are full-time parents,” says Bobb, also a mother. “The challenge for them is finding time to practice, play games and maintain their other obligations.”
She also said that some expenses that have caught her off guard even with a solid business plan and financial projections in place. “Now that I have a general manager in place, I can now spend more time raising money for the team.”
Bobb says that WBCBL’s other team owners and coaches have stepped up to provide mentorship immediately after joining the league. ”Their guidance and direction have really helped me take the team to the next level and stay focus on the main purpose of building opportunities beyond basketball.”
She is currently focused on building opportunities for players in and beyond basketball. Last month, she took three players to the WNBA combine in Dallas,Texas, and meet some WNBA legends and tryout for the WNBA. Each Music City Icons player will have a financial planner that will coaching them on their financial future. “The players will also be doing monthly volunteer community service to include feeding the homeless, mentor young basketball players and reading to children.”
As the team owner who also happens to have an award-winning coaching business, Bobb will be hosting monthly educational workshops where the players will be learning about health and wellness and exploring entrepreneurship and other career opportunities. “Each will have a plan in place once their basketball careers are over.”
While juggling these business challenges with the Bunker Labs classes, Bobb has really enjoyed being part of the EPIC cohort. “They have so much faith in my business and the support has been amazing. They always challenge me to think in a different why and help me to brainstorm solutions to some of my start-up challenges.” She also would recommend the Bunker Labs program to other veterans, because it’s “great to be around others that speak the same language and genuinely want to see you successful.”
In asking her how her military experience influenced her career trajectory, she says the following: “Discipline and focus which are two the core ingredients of a successful startup. Since I am still running my business full-time I have to be a master at time management and focus. The military has given me the confidence, skill and determination to be a successful business owner. It has giving me the ability to focus on the most important elements of running a business.”
Photo Credit: Lauren Runnels