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October 27, 2022 | Tom Ballard

Latest cohort of “100Knoxville” program announced

The Knoxville Entrepreneur Center (KEC) has announced the sixth cohort of its “100Knoxville” program, and this group of five founders is sponsored by Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

The five-week sprint, which begins in early November, matches the entrepreneurs with mentors who will help them clarify strategy, make connections across the entrepreneurial community, improve operations, and, most importantly, increase sales. Announced in January 2021, the “100Knoxville” program is dedicated to helping Black-owned businesses in Knoxville grow by $10,000,000 in five years through investment of time and talent, and access to social, political, and financial capital. Each cohort is facilitated by strategist and business consultant Kandis Troutman.

Cohort 6 is comprised of:

  • Tonya M. Hairston of Hairston’s Naturals, LLC, paired with mentor Jade Adams. Hairston is a Master Herbalist and Holistic Health Practitioner with 20 years of experience in the dermatology industry. Hairston’s Naturals is a 100 percent organic, natural, and handmade solution for issues such as alopecia, eczema, and psoriasis.
  • Nicholas Sokol of Algaeo, paired with mentor Rob Cochran. Sokol is building the Algaeverse. Through the use of adaptable caps, our technology turns any single use plastic bottle into an algae bioreactor. Algaeo’s goal is to promote the growth, use, and enhancement of Algae and its related markets. Our ultimate vision is to make algae a primary use ingredient for food, fertilizer, energy, and carbon sequestration to mitigate the impacts of climate change.
  • Ty Roberts of Gennisi Birth Services, paired with mentor Angelique Adams. The company is a certified birth and postpartum doula that provides emotional, physical, and educational support to expectant, laboring, and postpartum parents.
  • Melanie Bell of Bell Leotards, paired with mentor Damon Rawls. Bell Leotards mission is to provide gymnasts with fun, comfortable and stylish competition leotards, and practice wear.
  • Nicolas Fletcher of Man Of My Hustle Clothing Company, paired with mentor Jarius Bush. The company was created to establish, stimulate, and motivate the next businessperson, and to bring awareness for creating opportunities to generate a better state of mind and culture in our communities.

Each company will also receive $5,000 from ORNL towards growing their business.

“ORNL’s success is connected to the growth of the entrepreneurial ecosystem in East Tennessee,” said Susan Hubbard, Deputy for Science and Technology at ORNL. “We’re supporting 100Knoxville because we understand how access to expertise and mentorship can help new businesses and entrepreneurs flourish.”

Hubbard oversees the lab’s partnerships in technology transfer, economic development, and strategic partnerships. To apply for the next cohort or to support 100Knoxville, visit

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