For Tisa and Krystal Conway-Cunningham, putting their talents on display isn’t as important to them as helping others discover their talents and learn how to showcase them.
Tisa and Krystal are both teachers at Frankfort High School. Tisa, a Frankfort native and graduate of Franklin County High School, teaches freshman lab.
“I help them navigate objectives, study and teach them how to take a test,” Tisa said. “We have mental health days where we do positive affirmations.”
Krystal, who grew up in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Birmingham, Alabama, also does positive affirmations with her math students at FHS.
“I have positive affirmations on the board on test days,” Krystal said. “To let them know that they can do it.”
Calling themselves the “self-care gurus” of Frankfort High, Krystal and Tisa not only teach the students but provide mentoring. They talk to the kids and help them discover their talents, then provide guidance as to what kinds of career fields they could enter.
“There’s a lot of artistic kids in our school who don’t want to do traditional jobs,” Tisa said. “There are kids who want to do interior design and photography. They want to do arts and humanities.
“We try to help them figure out what kinds of jobs are in those areas. I tell them, ‘Don’t limit yourself to a 9 to 5. Do what you love.’”
That advice is exactly how Krystal and Tisa live their lives. They love teaching — even though when they were kids, they both said they’d never grow up to be teachers — however, they are also both creative and have entrepreneurial spirits.
Krystal and Tisa met at Kentucky State University, where Tisa obtained bachelor’s degrees in mass communication and business administration management. She is working on a master’s degree in environmental studies. Krystal obtained a bachelor’s degree in chemistry, a minor in math and a master’s degree in environmental studies. She also obtained a master’s degree in teaching from Morehead State University with a concentration in gifted and talented and math grades 5-12. She has a certification from Eastern Kentucky University to teach environmental science and a doctorate in education and grades preschool-12 administration.
The two have been married since Dec. 10, 2014.
When Krystal and Tisa aren’t working with students or studying themselves, they like to work out their creative sides by making crafts, painting and cooking. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit and they were cooped up inside with each other all day every day during the shutdown, they made it a point to do something creative each day. That’s when they got serious about their business that they had since 2018. In 2020, they filed their paperwork and incorporated their business, C-Squared Creations 502, LLC.
Based out of the Franklin Center for Innovation: Makerspace, 801 Schenkel Lane, Tisa and Krystal operate their business, which creates T-shirt quilts, crocheted blankets, customized items — like cups, mugs, shot glasses — gift baskets, custom designed T-shirts, vinyl signs and more. They also offer catering and cooking classes, and do event set-up.
“They call us the Jills of all trades,” Krystal said. “If you can think it, we can do it.”
Up until they moved into the makerspace in 2021, Tisa and Krystal had been doing all of the work for their business from their home.
“We needed to separate work from home,” Krystal said.
Tisa likes that the makerspace offers them a variety of tools to work with.
“We have availability to 3D printing, Cricuts and embroidery machines,” Tisa said. “The fun thing about this space is we get to play with different things.”
There is also space for them to host events.
“We do events for youth ages 2 to 10 years old and 11-19, and adult classes,” Krystal said. For the events, Krystal and Tisa lead the children in crafts. Over Christmas, they had an ornament-making event.
Tisa has also taught youth cooking classes with Yes Arts and has plans to add more cooking classes for youth and adults. Her future goals are to start a restaurant with an adjoining community garden.
“I think we need to get back to that,” Tisa said. “There’s a food desert in Frankfort and I want to help fight that. My mom was a single parent and the thing she taught me was ‘if you can only give one thing, give food.’ I fell in love with cooking and I want to pass that down.”
They also bring their students to the makerspace and teach about owning a business.
“We have offered students internships,” Krystal said. “They can see how to start a business and what it’s like to own a business. I show my students what they need for adulthood, like how to write a check, purchase money orders, how to do a zero balance with a budget, budget for Christmas — giving every dollar a name.
“I’m going to teach them how to sell a notebook on Amazon and do a game on how to market their notebook the best on Amazon. I’m teaching them that they can still make money before they graduate. There’s ways to make money that they don’t have to turn to the streets.”
Tisa and Krystal are both published authors. Krystal has a book called “She is the Ish,” which was published with other artists. Tisa has published “Celebrating Her Excellence: A Book of Poems,” “Choosing Me” and “If It Is To Be Writing Journal.” All books are available on Amazon.
They are in the process of co-authoring the book “At the Intersection,” which will be about them being female African Americans, Christians and lesbians.
“We went to church faithfully when we first started dating and then had bad experiences,” Krystal said. “We have since focused on our spirituality and one-on-one relationship with God. Our book will talk about being at that intersection.”
Tisa and Krystal say they work well together and share everything with their business across the board.
“We really do complement each other well,” Krystal said. “We started out as friends, and doing counseling has helped us to get to the point that we don’t get tired of each other. We set a foundation in the beginning on how to overcome issues. We both have dealt with rejection and negativity, and learned we can’t bring that baggage into our situation.”
However, Krystal said that none of what they do would be possible without the help of their support system.
“We have an advisory board that includes our cousin Kathy Cunningham — she’s there for every event, whatever we need. She does it without asking for a dime,” Krystal said. “My mom, Shana Conway, also helps. The last two on the board are Regina Hill and Tearayer Blyth. They look over new designs that we need outside eyes on. They keep us accountable.”
As far as their outlook on the future of their business and their lives together, Tisa says they “just want to do something that helps the community and helps us to share our gifts.”
“We like giving people a piece of our heart and making people happy,” Krystal said. “Whether it’s through food or art or a customized item.”
Tisa said they want to help open the doors for future makers and to get them inspired about their ideas and bring them to life.
“I want to challenge those people to get out and make those things come alive,” Tisa said. “We have some great creative people in Frankfort. A lot of people are inspired by us and everyone here in the makerspace.”
Tisa said her overall goal in life is to make sure the people of Frankfort know that “we are all connected in one way or another, and it’s up to us to take care of the community and each other.”
Krystal said that she wants her legacy to be that she was a “teacher that cared and saw each student as themselves and that she was the overall person who was genuine 24/7, 365 days a year and would give them the shirt off her back.
“We’re the C-Squared kids,” she said.