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November 15, 2012 | Tom Ballard

KEWG organizer draws from her own “ups and downs” to help other entrepreneurs

The organizer of the Knoxville Entrepreneurial Women’s Group (KEWG) draws from her own personal and professional “ups and downs” to help inspire the 320 members of the group that was founded in early 2010.

In an interview with, Rachel Young described how she came to live part-time in East Tennessee and what she has found here that caused her to be upbeat about the entrepreneurial opportunities that exist.

Young says that her grandmother died and she was asked to check on the family home in Oliver Springs. She found the house in “dire straits,” but she saw an opportunity to fix-up the property and also be involved in a region where she could have an impact.

“Knoxville is where Atlanta was in the late 1960s and early 1970s . . . on the cusp of a boom,” she believes. Young added that “Knoxville is underrated” as an entrepreneurial location, yet she admitted that “it was a little bit of a surprise that Knoxville takes a glass half empty approach.”

At this stage in her life, Young had gone through several painful personal and professional experiences. She was raised in Japan where her parents served as missionaries. She worked after college in BellSouth’s long distance unit in Atlanta until “we worked ourselves out of a job.”

Young also experienced serious personal challenges at the same time when her now ex-husband cleaned-out their house and left town with their children – a six-year old and twins who were two years old. The unemployed Young soon lost her home and lived out of her car until a former colleague offered her space in the family’s basement.

Recovery soon occurred as the children were returned and Young started her first entrepreneurial endeavor – making grapevine wreaths. She later started a company focused on real estate foreclosures, wrote a successful eBook on that company and its strategies, and founded a company called Big Cheese Marketing.

Things were going well until the economic conditions deteriorated in the latter part of the 200s.

“I lost my home again and had to move in with my parents,” Young explained. Rather than being discouraged, she realized that “I still have all of the things between my head that allowed me to be successful.”

So, she once again reached out to old clients, telling them “I’m still here and can do what you need.”

Big Cheese Marketing remains her professionally-focused firm. It bills itself as “vintage direct-response copywriting designed with your customer in mind.”

As her life has once again recovered from what she described as “multiple crashes,” Young is spearheading KEWG. “I wanted to give back,” she says. “Entrepreneurship is tough.”

When Young scheduled the first meeting in April 2010, she expected five people to attend, but 20 turned-out with “zero marketing.”

KEWG is a non-dues group that meets twice each month – the first and third Wednesdays of each month, usually at 7 p.m. Each session costs attendees $15. More information is available at

“I teach them how to run a successful business,” Young says in describing her role with KEWG. “With the digital age, you are not bound by geography.”

She says that “a lot of the struggle in the beginning (in establishing KEWG) was to overcome the false beliefs. We had to breakdown pre-conceived notions about women entrepreneurs.”

As one who has experienced the entrepreneurial challenges, Young offers some very useful insights.

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