Movers & Shakers – Jodi Pitts & Tyler Asher

Tyler Asher vividly recalls pumping gas on rainy afternoons for customers at his parents’ family-owned gas station. At the young age of fourteen, it was impressed upon him that “the customer always comes first.” Over twenty years later, Tyler has brought these customer-service-driven values back to his hometown of Cookeville, in a capacity far exceeding the humble beginnings he first experienced as a teenager.

Tyler, husband and father of three, serves as the SBDC (Small Business Development Center) Director for the Cookeville Center, covering the Upper Cumberland counties. Their mission is to provide solutions that help entrepreneurs within the community start, grow, and sustain their businesses. From once selling custom-made furniture to having owned an insurance company, Tyler was no stranger to the tenacity and risk involved with being a small business owner.

Tyler’s start as the director of TSBDC could be described as anything but a gradual transition. He began the role in April 2020, and his first mission was to assist small businesses in navigating the unprecedented effects of the pandemic-caused shutdowns. Through leading the implementation of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), Tyler fought to keep small businesses in the community open during one of the most unsettling times in history.

Jodi Pitts joined TSBDC in June 2021 as the business development strategist. A Cookeville native, wife, and mother of two, Jodi brought a wealth of experience, including seven years as a Program Developer and most recently the Director of Education and Community Engagement for WCTE-PBS, with her.

Most importantly, the love she feels for the community is evident through the countless volunteer roles she participates in including serving on committees for the Heart of the City playground build, the Baxter mural project, the Christmas parade, and serving as the Vice Chair of the Cityscape board.

While Tyler and Jodi each have distinct backgrounds, they are united for one cause, the success of small businesses in Cookeville. Both entrepreneurs in their own right, Tyler still runs his woodworking business and Jodi launched Magnolia Marketing in 2022. 

As a result, they have made numerous programs and resources available for the small business community. Most notably, they created and piloted a business internship program. This program hires students from the TTU College of Business and liaises with small business owners who often need support in areas outside of their wheelhouse.

The success of this program has had a positive local economic impact of over $600,000 while simultaneously inspiring centers and communities throughout the country to implement the program as well.

At the end of a long work week, Tyler often savors time with this family dining at one of the iconic WestSide eateries. Jodi enjoys spending many of her weekends with her family and volunteering for community events.

Their “time off” from work is spent within the city they serve daily. Because for both Tyler and Jodi, supporting small businesses in Cookeville is not a finite project but a lasting legacy.

– by Emilie McGrath, photo by Cris Stroud


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Jodi Pitts (@pitts_jodi) • Instagram photos and videos

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Tyler Asher (@tasher702) • Instagram photos and videos


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