(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second article in a series spotlighting the East Knoxville start-ups that are pitching in the upcoming “Paradigm Challenge” competition set for Saturday, June 17, at the Eternal Harvest Life Center East Campus, 2410 Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. Festivities begin at 10 a.m., and the public is invited.)
The “Paradigm Challenge” is a Launch Tennessee-supported and Knoxville Area Urban League-led (KAUL) effort to bring new business starts into the East Knoxville community. As noted in this previous teknovation.biz article about the program, KAUL has been supported in the programming by a number of organizations including the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center, Knoxville Chamber and its Propel program, Tennessee Small Business Development Center, and Greater Knoxville SCORE chapter.
We asked the Entrepreneurs who will be pitching their ideas to answer a set of questions. Today, we feature Tanika Harper, Owner of Harper’s Naturals.
- Tell us about yourself and, if applicable, your other team members . . . names(s), background(s), experience, etc. I’m Tanika Harper, owner of Harper’s Naturals. I am also the owner of Elite Facility Maintenance, which is a partnership business and founder of Shora Foundation, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. I have a B.A. in English, a B.A. in Sociology, and an M.S. in Criminal Justice. I have been an entrepreneur for 10 years. I am a mother to one little girl, who is seven. I am born and raised in Knoxville, TN. My current hobby is being a mentor to teen moms through a youth serving organization.
- Describe the focus of your start-up and the problem you are trying to address. Why I started Harper’s Naturals: I started Harper’s Naturals because I was diagnosed with an auto-immune disease, called Sjogren’s. It causes an individual’s mucus producing glands to dry-up causing severe dry mouth, eyes, and skin. Other side effects are joint and muscle pain. Before and during my diagnoses, I was in daily pain, and my body was not reacting well to the medication that I was given. Through research and speaking with my doctor, it was made known that I should try to alleviate chemicals on my skin through cosmetics. Daily cosmetics such as soap, lotion, and deodorant have chemicals in them which cause inflammation in the body, and for me, that unnecessary inflammation was causing added pain and discomfort. After a few months of research and reading, I began to start making natural products in my kitchen. Those products became Harper’s Naturals that you see today. I use or have used all of the products because there was a personal need for it. The problem: There are too many toxic chemicals in body care products that are not healthy. Some of these chemicals have been linked to causing skin irritation, allergies, inflammation, cancer, auto-immune diseases, etc.
- What was the impetus for applying to participate in the Paradigm Challenge? Currently, Harper’s Naturals in an online web-based business. My goal is to expand the company and offer products to Whole Foods and Earth Fare. The $10,000 will allow me to hire a company that will formulate my products, which helps with time and production costs.
- What has been the greatest value the programming and mentoring have provided thus far? The greatest value has been looking at the financials and figuring out how Harper’s Naturals is doing compared to the market and meeting with people who really care and have my interest at heart. The people that I have worked with just want to see me succeed far beyond the “Paradigm Challenge.”
- What do you expect to accomplish by the June 17 Demo Day? I expect to have had conversations with Earth Fare and Whole Foods about the possibility of carrying one or two of Harper’s Naturals products. I also expect to have a final cost of what it would cost to formulate a product. My final expectation is to challenge myself on how to gain more revenue beyond online orders and trade shows.