Music is Tierra Kendrick’s first love. She grew up in Memphis, Tennessee, among a family of musicians who always broke out in song or played the piano at gatherings. Her grandfather, Robert Daniel “Honey Boy” Thomas, was a well-known DJ for WDIA, the first radio station in the U.S. programmed solely for African Americans. Quite naturally, she earned a B.S. in audio production from Middle Tennessee State University’s (MTSU) Department of Recording Industry. During her freshman year, she also joined the Army: a seemingly opposite field.
“I grew up in a single-parent household and saw the military as a means to provide for myself,” Kendrick said. “I also never wanted to be a starving artist.”
Kendrick missed the first semester of her sophomore year for basic training, but still managed to graduate from MTSU on time in spring 2015. Then she got the opportunity to go on active duty and pursue a career in the competitive area of military intelligence. She worked her way up to the role of intelligence officer and traveled overseas before becoming a reservist in fall 2020.
“I felt a little claustrophobic and wanted to do something new,” she said. “I’m grateful for everything I learned in the Army but wanted to leverage my expertise in a different way.”
Kendrick launched TAKL Logistics, a ground transportation firm specializing in general and temperature-controlled freight for clients in the Southeast and Midwest. She left the Army equipped with a knowledge of systems and processes she uses in the day-to-day operations of her company—and an ability to thrive in crisis. But Kendrick always took the Socrates saying to heart: “You don’t know what you don’t know.” Last summer she enrolled in Robinson’s Master of International Business (MIB) program with the goal of taking TAKL Logistics to the next level.
“I built consultation skills and developed a greater comfort level with crisis and risk management. My toolkit also now includes frameworks for analyzing whether an emerging market would be right for expansion,” Kendrick said. “I was confident before, but now I really know my stuff.”
The MIB program comprises three semesters completed over the course of 11 months.
“Each minimester lasts seven weeks and is extremely fast-paced,” Kendrick said. “It was like receiving information by fire hose.”
Despite an already overloaded plate, Kendrick opted to participate in a three-week study abroad trip to Casablanca, Morocco, led by Clinical Professor Mourad Dakhli. She took classes at ESCA School of Management with her Robinson peers as well as Moroccan students at various levels from undergraduate all the way up to master’s. One assignment required the group to create a mock venture comprising a U.S.-based and Moroccan business. When Kendrick found herself leading the discussions, she realized her coursework was really sticking.
The MIB curriculum is designed so that every course snowballs into the next, allowing students to establish the foundation they need for each subsequent class. Kendrick’s final project in Evaristo Doria’s International Business Field Study course was particularly complex. Kendrick and a group of classmates were tasked with creating a blue ocean strategy (a product with no to very little competition) that would create sustainable change for the city of Clarkston, an Atlanta suburb that is nationally known for its high population of refugees. Kendrick’s team conceived of Town for Coders, a free one-year program to help Clarkston refugees hone their tech skills. The students presented their plan to city officials at the end of the summer semester.
In July, Kendrick both graduated and accepted a new client that sources construction materials overseas. The timing was pretty impeccable. She also will stay connected to her musical roots with regular voice lessons.
“My dream is to be a background singer for fun,” she said. “I’m hoping to create multiple streams of income and go on tour one day.”