Panelists offer insights during “Showing Up for Women Entrepreneurs” event

By Kailyn Lamb, Marketing Content Writer and Editor, PYA

Panelists from the “Showing Up for Women Entrepreneurs” event offered years of experience and advice to attendees, agreeing that one of the most important things is to take advantage of the opportunities presented to new businesses in Knoxville.

The panel, held earlier this week as part of the “Innov865 Week” program, was hosted by Women in Entrepreneurship – Knoxville (WiE) at the new downtown location of the Aught Co-Working space. Panelists included: (1) Stacy Baugues, Founder of PowerUp Fitness; (2) Tanika Harper, Executive Director of the Shora Foundation; and (3) Richard Dapaah, Managing Partner of Seaford Capital Management and Executive in Residence for the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center (KEC). The panel was moderated by Booth Andrews, Owner of Booth Andrews LLC, and a Co-Chair of WiE.

Much of the event focused on different ways women could take advantage of the opportunities available to entrepreneurs in Knoxville, such as programming through WiE, Launch Tennessee, the KEC, and more. Many entrepreneurs say no to opportunities because they don’t have something ready such as a pitch deck or business plan, Andrews said. She added people can often reach out to their entrepreneur network for help in those circumstances.

Baugues, who formed her LLC, wrote a business plan, and applied for the Boyd Venture Challenge, all within 24 hours while in graduate school, agreed.

“I’ve had opportunities to be in ‘What’s the Big Idea,’ ‘The Works,’ and I pitched at ‘Startup Day’ last year. I said yes to all of those things,” she said. “Saying yes to those opportunities has provided a network for me.”

Harper added that even if you don’t win a particular pitch competition, you often make connections or learn something valuable from the event.

In addition to programming resources in Knoxville, both Dapaah and Baugues also talked about reaching out to experienced individuals in the community. These are people who can provide experience, connections, help, or even just an honest answer to an idea, Dapaah said. Having this network can also provide motivation and encouragement, Baugues added.

Andrews also had panelists give a “wish list” of what each person wanted for new businesses in the region. Access to capital was a recurring theme.

“If you look at any statistic, any trend, women are behind in receiving the access to capital,” Harper said.

Dapaah said one struggle for capital is several programs give loans or funding in large dollar amounts. While some programs offer smaller dollar amounts, Dapaah also said there are resources such as iFundWomen. The lack of smaller checks is something that “needs to be addressed. The idea of gaining access to capital is really complicated by the fact that under $50,000 is pretty hard to get the attention of a bank or even a credit union,” he said. “It really requires people to take the initiative.”

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