100Knoxville initiative launches with its 5x5x5x5 goals

By Kailyn Lamb, Marketing Content Writer and Editor, PYA

Applications are now open for 100Knoxville, a new initiative set to improve revenue and resources for the city’s Black-owned businesses. The launch was announced during a webinar yesterday morning.

Following in the footsteps of the 800 Initiative from Memphis, which launched in 2018, Knoxville’s version is starting with a 5x5x5x5 program. Five businesses will be selected for the inaugural five-week program. Each recipient will receive five mentors and $5,000 in capital to invest in its growing business. The 5x5x5x5 is one of 100Knoxville’s programs to help local Black-owned businesses grow by $10,000,000 in five years.

Much of Knoxville’s program was inspired by the pioneering work in Memphis. “We don’t have to reinvent the wheel,” Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon said during the web launch. She added that the city of Knoxville could take bits and pieces of the Memphis program and mold them to work here. The city is also working to increase its spending at minority-owned businesses. Around six percent or $8.4 million of the city budget was spent at those businesses last year, Kincannon said.

Darris Upton, the Diversity Development Manager in Knox County, said that many of Knoxville’s Black-owned businesses are leaving the county to find success. This program, as well as community support, can help those businesses stay here in Knoxville.

Jim Strickland, the Mayor of Memphis, agreed and told attendees of the webinar to not lose courage if progress was slow-going.

“There have been so many barriers over the years to stop African-Americans from succeeding,” Strickland said.

But more than giving Black-owned businesses the monetary resources to succeed, 100 Knoxville Founder Brandon Bruce is also hoping to better connect these entrepreneurs to resources and other business owners in the community. Sometimes making the right connection, at the right time, can be more valuable even than money for an entrepreneur, he said during the web launch, adding, “Let’s make the connection and see if we can help each other.”

Resources in the program such as mentors and community connections were crucial to helping Memphis entrepreneurs and business owners grow, according to comments from 800 Initiative alums participating in the web launch.

For Daphne McDonald, Chief Executive Officer and Director of Therapy Services at Speaking Life Healthcare in Memphis, her business didn’t fit into many of the categories for resources such as technology or the service industry. This made it hard for her to access any business training.

“I am a great therapist, but I am not a businesswoman,” she said. “Through this program, I was able to carve out a space for myself.”

The name of the program has a dual meaning. The 100 comes from the approximate number of Black-owned businesses here in Knoxville, according to the last census. Similarly, the 800 Initiative in Memphis was named for the number of the same businesses in that city. The second reason is it is the goal of the program to get applicants with no employees to $100,000 per year in revenue in order to hire new staff. For businesses that do already have employees, 100Knoxville is aiming to help them double their revenue.

Businesses of all types and sizes are encouraged to apply for the 100Knoxville program. Bruce added that even after applications close, he still wants businesses to send in their information. This way those businesses can still be part of the growing network 100Knoxville is building.

Applications for the program are due on February 15. The five-week program will start on March 8. Business owners throughout the community are also encouraged to apply as mentors on the 100Knoxville website. Those applications are also due on the 15th.

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