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PART 2: More insights from Cohort 2 of “100Knoxville” initiative

(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the final article in a series on Cohort 2 of “100Knoxville.” The initiative aims to grow Black businesses in the region.)

We recently published our first article featuring some companies from the second cohort of “100Knoxville.” Here is the Q&A with two of the other companies. To learn more about the companies, read this teknovation.biz article. Read the first Q&A article here. Today’s post features Jeneve Blake (JB) of Dulcie’s Café, and Angela Elder (AE) of Smiles Professional Cleaning Services.

Tell us a little about your business, and when you knew you wanted to be an entrepreneur.

  • JB: I have always wanted to build something that was a family business. Something that the entire family could have a piece of. We discussed a restaurant for a long time, but never really looked into it. When food trucks began being popular, we decided to start one and from there we began a restaurant.
  • AE: I realized I wanted to be an entrepreneur when I was operating someone else’s business without them being present. I realized then that I had the ability and skills to be my own boss and fulfill my dream instead of someone else’s. My dream included being able to help others.

Why did you pick this type of business?

  • JB: My family used to have a restaurant in Queens, NY, on Jamaica Avenue. My aunts and my mother all worked there. They would always share stories about how much fun they would have. We wanted to create those same memories for the younger generation. We also wanted to have something authentic, unique and add our own touch to it.
  • AE: I chose to do janitorial cleaning because no one had a dental office cleaning company. I wanted to be unique. I have 20+ years as an RDA (Registered Dental Assistant). But with COVID-19 impacts, it led me to more opportunities in the cleaning industry. I knew if I could put SMILES on faces, I can put SMILES on places! That’s where I got my company name from: Smiles Professional Cleaning Services.

What were you hoping to get out of the “100Knoxville” program?

  • JB: I was able to get so much knowledge on how to grow our business. I was also able to connect with local business owners who are entrepreneurs in Knoxville and build relationships with other black business owners.
  • AE: I hoped to get money management and a monthly spreadsheet to help me with a budget. As well as a website for advertisement. I also hope to get a mentor to help me with contracts and how to bid on them. I want to be more structured.

What kind of impact does a program like “100Knoxville” have on the community?

  • JB: Black businesses have always been undervalued. Providing a platform to promote and support Black business in Knoxville allows business owners to reach customers from all areas of Knoxville. Exposure is crucial when wanting to continue to grow and thrive.
  • AE: “100Knoxville” has a positive impact on our community by giving small Black-owned businesses more exposure with advertisement. It helps us with the right connections for our particular business.  

What can people in the community do to better support local Black-owned businesses?

  • JB: Continue to support. Spread the word about your experience when supporting Black-owned businesses.
  • AE: The community can help support us by allowing small businesses the opportunity to make investments in loans to further grow own businesses. Space rentals that are affordable. Making billboards more affordable for advertisement. The bigger companies need to be more diversified, including city and county.

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