Celebrating the 2021 Access Music City Business Champion of the Year: Tom Woodard

Two years ago, Empower Tennessee began presenting the Access Music City Business Champion award to recognize businesses in our community that exemplify access to people with disabilities. 

Our 2019 recipient, The Frist Art Museum, was chosen based on its ongoing belief and practice that people with disabilities have the same right to access visual arts. The 2020 recipient, Mobility Solutions, was chosen based on its relentless efforts to provide quality transportation services to people with disabilities throughout the Nashville region. 

In this, the award’s third year, we recognize a Business Champion who is a creative catalyst for inclusion, choice, and independence for people with disabilities – characteristics that are obviously aligned with the mission of Empower Tennessee. And as we were looking into the details of our Champion’s work, we soon realized that they had a devotion to the community that was broad and deep – so much so that this year’s recipient is not a single business. Rather, our 2021 Champion leads numerous businesses that have as part of their employment model a strong desire to provide integrated and competitive training, mentoring, and employment opportunities for people with disabilities. At the heart of these desires and the person who has made these opportunities possible is Tom Woodard. 

Tom is a native Nashvillian with over 30 years of experience in creative brand development and producing videos and music. And while part of his claim to fame is co-creating the Budweiser frogs in the mid-90s, Tom’s fame for us is in his leadership of three local businesses: Westwood Avenue, Woodard Brothers Distributing, and On The Avenue.  

Born from Tom’s creative spirit, Westwood Avenue is a consulting firm that is all about creative communications for a better community. Their tagline is, “Let us put words in your mouth.” His team is a hand-selected storehouse of talent and is a model for disability workforce integration. Their projects include graphic design work for Salvation Army, video production for Battle Ground Academy, and broadcast media for End Slavery Tennessee. 

Woodard Brothers Distributing provides custom solutions for managing inventory, packaging, and shipping for companies large and small. It began in 2016 as a single contract and also with a passion to employ people with and without disabilities. Today, Woodard Brothers has expanded capacity both in services and location and competitive, integrated employment is part of the established culture of the company. 

In 2019, Tom and his brothers, John and Matt, recognized that people with disabilities often need a place and space to “ease” into the workforce. They created On The Avenue as a creative training studio where opportunities to explore and participate in creative passions and productions are plentiful. On The Avenue provides valuable support and training to its participants, including life planning and social integration skills. As Tom says, “It’s … all about how we can live and work together … more abundantly.” 

So, it was clear to us, and hopefully now to you, why Tom Woodard was the choice for this year’s award. His beliefs are evidenced in his work and his work speaks for itself. 

Empower Tennessee is honored to present the 2021 Access Music Business Champion Award to Tom Woodard at a ceremony during EmpowerCon on October 22, 2021

What is the Access Music City Business Champion Award?

Each year Empower Tennessee chooses a local business champion that purposely makes strides to include people with disabilities. This business champion ensures that people within the disability community can participate, engage and be included in all the activities, goods and services that business provides. This business champion listens to the needs of the community and takes action.  

You may nominate up to 3 business champions you believe meet or exceed the criteria of this award.