Working Woman in Society
Written by Tyisha Blade // Photographed by Emmanuel Wallace and Cleveland Scene Magazine
Chardonnay Graham shares her struggles and successes with Touch Cleveland LLC
Chardonnay Graham recently celebrated a milestone. Her marketing consultation business, Touch Cleveland LLC, reached its fifth year of operation. Touch Cleveland LLC is an establishment that advocates for small businesses and understands that these types of businesses have many needs. Graham decided to take an approach to helping startups that focuses on servicing small businesses, non-profits and public figures that have focus in community, business and overall economic development. According to touchcle.com, the organization is modeled as a collaborative specifically geared to support small businesses. Touch Cleveland LLC guides startups, and only services businesses that are centered on building the economy around them.
Currently residing in Euclid, the East Cleveland native mentioned that the reason behind starting her business was simple. “Life made me start this business,” she said in an email interview. “I graduated [from Notre Dame College] in 2011, the job market was still a mess — especially in the marketing industry. I searched for jobs for eight months and could not land a position in my field.” After venting to both of her mentors, she was advised to shorten her name to ‘Char.’ “It worked,” she said. “I landed my dream job which turned out to be a complete nightmare and when I found myself back out on the market again, I changed my name back to Chardonnay and made a decision then to always be myself and nothing less.”
“I landed my dream job which turned out to be a complete nightmare and when I found myself back out on the market again, I changed my name back to Chardonnay and made a decision then to always be myself and nothing less.”
Once again, she found herself struggling to find employment. Months had passed and she had no job leads, so she began to occupy her time with freelancing. After she landed a few clients, she decided to officially file her limited liability company (LLC). Her first few clients were startups in various industries — entertainment, fitness and technology, to name a few. Once she developed her niche, she began attracting clients more fit to the mission of Touch Cleveland. “I’ve worked with The Cleveland Rowing Foundation, Greater Cleveland Urban Film Festival, Vineyards and Winery at Chateau Hough, Ingenuity Festival, and now currently, Fund for Our Economic Future and Destination Cleveland,” she added.
Touch Cleveland has blossomed into a successful business in which Graham takes great pride. “I wake up and check my calendar, emails and social notifications immediately…which is actually a horrible habit,” Graham said. “On a good day, I manage to make it out to the gym and eat breakfast. I travel to my clients and work in their offices or wherever else I like inbetween.” She also mentions that her travels keep her engaged in the field and more integrated with her clients. “In the evenings, I’m either attending an event or home continuing to work on some part of my business,” she said.
Touch Cleveland uses the power of marketing to influence and push initiatives that aid in community and business development. “Respectively, as we build and connect with the entities in these sectors, we educate and guide entrepreneurs with not only marketing expertise, but also with the information and resources we already promote for our clients,” she said. Graham hopes to be the center of a connection between smaller enterprises and larger corporations. As a bonus, Graham’s business now has the freedom to consult and guide startups without the eagerness to sell them services. She also recently filmed her first episode of a web series, “Unspoken.” The web series features discussions on issues that are affecting business and the community.
For Touch Cleveland’s fifth anniversary, Graham hosted an event on Jan. 29 at Social A Loft located in the Hotcards building. Her closest friends, family and colleagues joined her to celebrate her accomplishments and embrace Graham and Touch Cleveland LLC. On the menu, spinach dip with veggies, cucumber shrimp bites and mini caprese cups, all catered by Chef Vell. Glasses of wine from a local Cleveland winery, Chateau Hough, were offered with Flame as the red wine and Sassy as the white. Customized cupcake desserts were provided by Brittany Moguel, owner of The Sweetest Treat. Photos were taken by Cleveland Scene Magazine photographer, Emanuel Wallace. Toward the end of her event, a video prepared by Graham’s marketing coordinator, Kofi Amponash, brought her to tears as she reminisced on some of the struggles she encountered and the success that came out of it.
“I’d just like to say, although starting a business wasn’t my plan, it’s the best thing that ever happened to me,” Graham said. “I’m very grateful to have reached this milestone. This [fifth year] event is more than a celebration, it’s a manifestation of dreams and plans written on paper five years ago.” Graham also mentions that her business is proof of what hard work looks like and it’s the greatest form of motivation that she could ever receive to continue moving forward. She and her clients share great working relationships as reflected in the results of their labor. “Touch Cleveland is thoughtful, collaborative and passionate. They bring such a positive energy to each project and deliver results,” said Chief Strategy Officer of Destination Cleveland, Hannah Belsito on touchcle.com. “Touch Cleveland seamlessly integrated with our internal team making the project incredibly collaborative and fun,” Belsito added. Masfield Frazier, General Manager at at Chateau Hough Winery, believes that, “Touch Cleveland does exactly what its name implies. They show you how to collaborate with parts of Cleveland you wouldn’t otherwise touch.” (Also on Touch Cleveland’s website.)
Graham would also like to help college students gain experience in marketing and public relations. She is accepting applications for students to intern at Touch Cleveland. Interested students can apply by emailing their resumes to firstname.lastname@example.org. The positions require that students be a junior or senior in marketing, public relations or communication.