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September 03, 2019 | Tom Ballard

Tanika Harper discusses this Sunday’s “Maker City Summit” in Knoxville

By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

“We are being intentional about inclusivity . . . underrepresented groups,” Tanika Harper says of plans for Knoxville’s fourth annual “Maker City Summit” that is set for Sunday (September 8) at the Mill & Mine, 227 West Depot Avenue.

The Co-Chair of this year’s event says she was actually recruited to be a member of the Mayor’s Maker Council several years ago to add diversity to the group. Now, the single mom who founded Harper’s Naturals five years ago and Alaina Smith, Founder of Cold Gold, are leading planning for the one-day event that is coordinated by the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center.

“I got involved in the Summit by being involved in the Knoxville Area Urban League,” Harper explained. We spotlighted her start-up in this 2017 article in when she participated in the Urban League’s “Paradigm Challenge” that was focused on East Knoxville start-ups.

As far as this year’s Summit and its particular emphasis this year on underrepresented individuals, Harper says, “We want people to feel welcome to the maker community. They’ll look at who is going to be on stage and known this is for them.”

She adds that making does not have to be a full-time job. That redefinition that a maker can do it full-time, part-time or even intermittently has led to what she believes is significant growth in those in Knoxville who identify as makers.

This year’s Summit will feature two keynote speakers and a number of breakout sessions. Keynoters are Shunta Grant, the Creator and Owner of Because of Zoe Designs, Host of the Business, Life & Joy podcast series, and a business educator focused on female entrepreneurs; and Jonathan Clark, Managing Director of The Carpetbag Theatre Inc. in Knoxville.

How did Harper become a maker?

“I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease and had to eliminate chemicals found in cosmetics,” she said. Reaching her goal required Harper to develop her own line of products that she now sells online (link here) and at two retail locations in Knoxville – Mast General Store and The Phoenix Pharmacy and Foundation, both on Gay Street.

What’s the secret to her longevity as a maker?

“Finding or creating a process that makes it work for you,” Harper says. It’s a juggling act that she has mastered by “knowing what I can make in a day” so she does not feel overwhelmed. Her goal is to be able to ship orders within three to five days of their receipt.

Harper says past attendees were surveyed to determine the best day of the week for the Summit, particularly since football Saturdays in the fall are a challenge. The preferred day was Sunday.

In addition to the programming elements, she says a significant advantage for attendees is the networking that allows “you to meet people who help support your business.”

Click here to read our earlier story on the event and here to review the latest agenda and register.