(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second article in a series on Cohort 3 of the “100Knoxville” program, an initiative that aims to help Black-owned businesses grow by $10,000,000 in five years. Look for more stories in upcoming issues of teknovation.biz.)
By Kailyn Lamb, Marketing Content Writer and Editor, PYA
Aly Taylor, Founder of Make a Way Foundation LLC, sees herself as a person of action. Working in public health, Taylor said she would often hear from people that they struggled to make it to appointments because of a lack of transportation. Some seniors, people living in rural areas, or those who could not afford cars had barriers to healthcare.
“I kept hearing it often, over and over again,” Taylor said.
While she had anecdotal data showing her it was a common problem among her patients, Taylor said the data didn’t matter to her. It was a problem people had been facing for a long time, and for Taylor, the more important question became, “What are we going to do about it?”
While Taylor said she was unsure she wanted to work in transportation, she relied on her faith and knew this was her path.
“I just need a little bite. Just tell me that there’s a problem, and I’ll say OK, let’s find a solution.”
Finding a reliable team of drivers is key to Taylor’s business. The “100Knoxville” program has helped find solutions for recruiting, she said. For her team, drivers have to care about the community. If people just want to drive, there are different apps available for that kind of job, she said.
“We are looking for drivers that have a heart for the community. They want to serve,” said Taylor. “The basis of it is that you have to have a passion for working with people that are underserved.”
Although she offers transportation to anyone in a vulnerable population, Taylor said she particularly wants to help communities that are in recovery from drug or alcohol addiction. This is a hole she sees in non-emergency medical transportation networks that already exist.
“We have a vulnerable population of people in or receiving recovery that need access to healthcare, to recovery treatment, and if they don’t get those things, it really can make or break their recovery,” Taylor said.
Partners like “100Knoxville,” operated by the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center, are crucial when helping community-based businesses, Taylor said, particularly for entrepreneurs of color. Community partners help pour resources into underserved populations.
For Black entrepreneurs, Taylor said, “We’re well aware that the playing field is not always even, and we have to work a little bit harder and chase a little more. I knew I was going to need the support from my community, my peers, in order to help my community of who I wanted to serve.”
Much like the “100Knoxville” Lead Facilitator, Kandis Troutman, Taylor said it is important to her to pass her knowledge on to help others in achieving their goals.
“If you have something valuable to share with the next person, you’re just handing the baton off,” Taylor said.
In addition to learning from the “100Knoxville” program and Troutman, Taylor said the five businesses all learned from each other as well.
Now that the five-week program is over, Taylor said she is hoping to implement better human resources and hiring strategies at Make a Way. Since the business is still new, she has been keeping her transportation services within a small region, but she is already starting to see where she can expand the business.
“I’m seeing so many additional possibilities for myself to be able to expand what we’re doing right here in Knoxville,” she said. “It’s really been great to open my eyes to additional things that I need to pay attention to.”
Eventually, Taylor hopes her business will encourage people in similar communities to step up and give back.