“Paradigm Challenge” finale on June 17 will include pitches, food vendors and tributes

Knoxville Area Urban LeagueBy Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

TC Carter of the Knoxville Area Urban League (KAUL) says this month’s finale for the inaugural Paradigm Challenge will be a festive occasion.

The four-hour event on June 17 will include 17 food vendors, many with a presence in East Knoxville, showcasing their delicacies in addition to pitches from eight entrepreneurs who have been working on ideas for new businesses in the community. There will also be a celebration of contributions that three individuals have made to East Knoxville’s Five Points district and a high school robotics display.

“It’s open to the public,” Carter says, adding that he hopes people from across the county and beyond will attend. The festivities begin with the pitches starting at 10 a.m. at the Eternal Life Harvest Center, 2410 Martin Luther King Boulevard. There is no pre-registration.

Funded in part with a grant under Launch Tennessee’s Creative Communities Initiative, the Paradigm Challenge initially selected 10 entrepreneurs to participate in the educational and mentoring activities. Two dropped-out, leaving eight who will be pitching in one of three categories – healthcare, light manufacturing/retail, and technology.

Those remaining entrepreneurs will be spotlighted in a series of stories on leading up to the June 17 event.

KAUL has been supported in the initiative by the Knoxville Business Support Network that includes the Knoxville Entrepreneur CenterKnoxville Chamber and its Propel programTennessee Small Business Development Center, and Greater Knoxville SCORE chapter.

Carter says each entrepreneur will have seven minutes for his or her pitch with the winner in each category receiving $10,000 to advance the business idea.

Between the pitches, there will be a tribute to three Knoxvillians who made a difference in East Knoxville. They are Pat Crippins, Captain Jimmy Rowans, and Harry Spencer.

“These are individuals who have been mentors to me and others and who had a real passion for the Five Points area,” Carter said.

As far as the first year, KAUL’s Director of Economic and Business Development says he is pleased overall with the effort.

“Sometimes it felt like pulling teeth and other times like pushing a train,” Carter explained, adding that he had hoped for more applications. “The participants have been engaged, and I hope it (the Paradigm Challenge) can be a model for other disadvantaged communities.”

What does he see as the biggest benefit?

“This sends a message that East Knoxville has the capacity to be a hub for new business development,” Carter added.

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