(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the final in a series spotlighting the East Knoxville start-ups that are pitching in the upcoming “Paradigm Challenge” competition set for tomorrow (June 17) at the Eternal Harvest Life Center East Campus, 2410 Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. Festivities begin at 10 a.m., and the public is invited.)
The “Paradigm Challenge” is a Launch Tennessee-supported and Knoxville Area Urban League-led (KAUL) effort to bring new business starts into the East Knoxville community. As noted in this previous teknovation.biz article about the program, KAUL has been supported in the programming by a number of organizations including the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center, Knoxville Chamber and its Propel program, Tennessee Small Business Development Center, and Greater Knoxville SCORE chapter.
We asked the Entrepreneurs who will be pitching their ideas to answer a set of questions. Today, we feature Britnie Davis, Owner of Britnie’s Balloon Bonanza.
- Tell us about yourself and, if applicable, your other team members . . . names(s), background(s), experience, etc. My name is Britnie Davis. I am a 24-year old single mother of a smart and handsome two-year old son, Zahnij Davis. I am Owner and Operator of Britnie’s Balloon Bonanza (BBB), a growing balloon décor company in Knoxville, TN. By day I am a Medical Receptionist. I have worked my way up in the medical field, initially starting out as a caregiver, because I absolutely love to help others which is one of the great benefits to some things I offer in the concept of my soon to be balloon store. I currently work alone in creating and delivering décor, though my uncle Leroy Ewing has been an amazing help. He has been working at Home Depot for almost a decade now, and he does all of my hard framework for my décor. I go there for Leroy to cut, size, and assemble all of the equipment I may need for an upcoming event; and so far everything has been amazing!
- Describe the focus of your start-up and the problem you are trying to address. I am planning to open a full retail and décor storefront in Knoxville. The concept I have planned for the store has never been done before here. The competitor may be similar in some ways, but the supply options of my balloons alone are what make BBB stand out from the rest. I personally am trying to bring positivity feedback back to East Knoxville, along with longevity of a single business withstanding in the area. East Knoxville has been known for many businesses coming and going over the years, and only few that have lasted. I beg to differ for BBB, because I have customers from all over Knoxville and surrounding counties, and I am hoping that the word of mouth of BBB overrides all of the negativity any potential customer may have previously heard about the area of town that will then give them the confidence to have no issue with driving right up to my door. The focus of the start-up originated from my main target market and most booked events which are children’s parties. At any given time, I show up to an event with premade décor and (when) children are present, I am always bombarded by them, and it brings so much joy to my heart of their interest in balloons and how the balloon lady (me) has put them together to create something so magical in their eyes. Children are always interested in watching and mocking me as I assemble décor on site, so I implemented what I call “A Space To Create” where children will be able to attend classes instructed by me in the store, that will not only be fun-filled but also educational – learning with balloons as they will encounter useful brain activities and critical thinking skills such as numbers, colors, shapes and more. This idea will predominately give all children a positive role model to look up to in hopes that they will strive to have a brighter future and particularly those in the surrounding neighborhoods who have unfortunately already seen or experience some of the worst.
- How did the idea to start the company originate? What was the catalyst? Britnie’s Balloon Bonanza was founded in April of 2016 when I came across a tutorial video on how to do a balloon column. I started with roughly $15 and the air from my own lungs and created my very first balloon décor. After uploading two photos of décor I had done, the Internet went wild, wanting more, so here I am just celebrating my first complete year in business having been booked almost every weekend, except three, and some events through the week since last May! My passion for crafts and being multitalented turned my once short and simple hobby into a full-blown business very rapidly. Over the next five months, I would go to work at night and do any research I could about small businesses, start-ups, possible competitions, etc., because by then I knew I held the key to a new innovative future for people and their events.
- What was the impetus for applying to participate in the Paradigm Challenge? Of all the research I had done in the fall of 2016, I came across the Knoxville Area Urban League’s website where I then navigated to find the current classes and competitions they offered for new business entrepreneurs. That then lead me to the “Paradigm challenge,” where I felt I would be a great contestant, not only having lived in East Knoxville knowing the life of its operations, but also just the ideas I had planned for my business moving from home-based to storefront. I am just that ecstatic about the potential growth and opportunities BBB has in store for me and each and every single one of my customers I come into contact with. When I read the information about providing jobs, I knew BBB was a winner. Based off of the customers and fan base I have already, I’ve collected a handful of them who’ve inquired about job positions when I will start needing help. Everyone thinks the balloons are so amazing and a lot of people want in on it, no matter the role!
- What has been the greatest value the programming and mentoring have provided thus far? Being a finalist in the “Paradigm Challenge” has given me value on education. Pure education. As I said before, I went from jotting down ideas when I would daydream about the store to receiving a call for being a top 10 finalist. That led me taking the CO.STARTERS training class. Ultimately nobody wants to lose but we all know everyone will not go home a winner. That said, the way my mentors, instructors, and classmates believe in me and BBB, I would still walk away with my chin high because I am so many steps ahead of where I was just three months ago with the help of Mr. Terrence Carter by making a simple phone call to me that day in February. Knowing that I have the resources to help me get to where I want to be at little or no cost to me has been a great experience. The time and effort my assigned mentor Mr. Cliff Caudill has put in on helping me with my business plan are times I will never forget!
- What do you expect to accomplish by the June 17 Demo Day? By pitching day in June, I hope to have accomplished a Plan B for my final business plan in terms of capital resources, and a nearly perfect speech in preparation of taking home $10k for start-up costs to open my dream storefront