In honor of Black History Month, Visit Clarksville sat down with five community members to share their stories, their inspirations, and their messages. This four-part series highlights business owners whose impact on the community goes far beyond their storefronts. Whether that is by painting inspiring murals, providing opportunities for small businesses, mentoring students in local schools, or feeding shelters, these leaders are going above and beyond to serve Clarksville-Montgomery County.

Businesses: Higher Level on Franklin Plaza, Higher Level Hair Studio and Hair Loss Clinique, Ava Freeman & Co.

Ava Freeman Headshot

Tell me about Higher Level on Franklin.

I am part of downtown Clarksville with Higher Level on Franklin Plaza, which is a multi-level plaza that gives entrepreneurs a more affordable space to be downtown and showcase their creativity. It is an adult space that houses a cafe, suites, and a small event space. It's always been one of my dreams to open this type of business and to be downtown. I've been open since October 2022, but I started working on it at the end of June 2021. We actually have a few open suites for anyone interested in joining us!

How do you use your skills to impact the community?

I have been a hairdresser for 30 years, and I have been certified to work with hair loss and hair replacement for 25 years. So I help people with cancer, lupus, stress, and COVID hair loss.

About 15 years ago, I went back to school for life coaching and business strategy. My company Ava Freeman and Company is separate from Higher Level on Franklin Plaza. We do celebrity events, freelancing, weddings, all types of engagements. I do business coaching and teach people how to build their businesses. I host classes that focus on your mental, financial, personal, and family health. I had to learn that to have a successful business, all those departments have to be worked on. So that's what I'm transitioning to. I still do hair, but I believe this is where my purpose is to serve and to help people.

Is there someone in Clarksville’s history who has inspired you?

I'm going to say my family. My grandparents raised 10 kids, all of them doctors, lawyers, dentists, military, most of them educated in principles. One of my grandparents had a 3rd or 4th-grade education, the other one an 8th. My granddaddy was in the military, but he worked for Pat Construction where he built a lot of downtown Clarksville. He was a meek man. He didn't talk much, but you knew when he spoke. My grandmother was a preacher, and she instilled in us the love of God and the love of Christ, and to help people. They had a garden, and I saw them help people. It was in that way they taught us to be leaders.

This building is dedicated to my grandparents, Nathaniel and Susie Mallory Sr. If you come into the building, you'll see all these country names above the doors - Kitty Mae, Patty Jean, Peggy Jo, Clara Bell, Danny Rogers. Those are my aunts and uncles. Starting downstairs, all the way up to the last room, you will see all their names.

So that keeps me moving through here because I feel the love and I want to give people the love that I felt. They were good foundational people. So I want good foundational people in here coming together and growing. I want Higher Level on Franklin Plaza to be a community within the community.

Another person who has been inspirational in my life was my cosmetology teacher, Mrs. Pardue. She was so proper, and at the time we thought it was funny. I thank God for her today because that really stuck with me, and is the reason I want things a certain way today.

Who inspires you today?

There are several, but one in particular is Tiffany Perkins, the founder of Black Clarksville. I have known her for over ten years. She used to be my production assistant and has traveled with me to different events. What I love about her is her drive and momentum. I am so proud of her. You think she's on fire now? Just wait!

Besides your business, how are you involved in the Clarksville community?

I work with local nonprofits, and I am also part of the cosmetology apprenticeship program with local high schools. I have an apprentice who shadows me as she finishes her hours. Right now I have her reading The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. I'm teaching her business, and I have her reading books. On her first day, I had her walk through and tell me what needed to be corrected. She said most young people are only looking ahead of them, so I wanted her to really look around and notice things.

What is your message to young entrepreneurs?

You have to be honest, you have to be able to communicate, and you have to be teachable. If you can’t be those things, you can’t truly be successful.

What makes Clarksville stand out from other cities?

I love the family feel of Clarksville. I really do. I've traveled internationally as a businesswoman and a hairdresser, and I could always come home and be at peace. I could relax. It's the perfect mesh of city and country. You feel safe. I know Clarksville has changed a little bit, but it's just really a great vibe.

What are your favorite local businesses to support?

Being from Clarksville, I'm partial to Miss Linda and Gary at Edwards Steakhouse, and I love Edward across the street at Official Wings. I absolutely love them. They are great people. Because I'm downtown so much, that's where I usually go.

Why should someone visit Clarksville?

I think people should visit Clarksville because you are going to get a “good morning”, and it's a slower pace of life. Maybe it’s someone who isn’t used to it so it may be a little foreign at the moment, but after a while with everything going on in the world, they're going to be like, "Okay, this is nice!"

Check back next week for the third spotlight in this four-part series.