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UTC’s Mike Bradshaw leading new Urban Vision Initiative

By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

“There’s an urgency to what we are doing,” says Mike Bradshaw, Entrepreneur-in-Residence in the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) in the Gary W. Rollins College of Business at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (UTC). He’s referring to the roughly 18 percent of Chattanoogans who live in poverty and the role that entrepreneurship can play in helping reduce that number.

Thanks to funding from the Jack and Charlotte Frost Family Foundation, CIE has launched the Urban Vision Initiative (UVI) to support disadvantaged individuals who are developing new businesses in underserved areas of Chattanooga, and Bradshaw is coordinating the effort.

“These folks are looking at how to bootstrap their businesses to provide the lifestyle they want for their families,” the always upbeat Bradshaw explains. “They have this energy and enthusiasm around what they can do to win customers, not necessarily investors. They don’t want someone to write them a big check.”

The inaugural cohort is comprised of nine entrepreneurs who are, in turn, supported by what Bradshaw (pictured right) describes as “eight energized paid interns” from across campus. Over the next five years, UVI’s goal is to foster the creation of 100 sustainable new ventures by disadvantaged entrepreneurs in Chattanooga.

UTC was the sixth university to join the Urban Business Poverty Initiative (UBPI) developed by Mike Morris, a faculty member at the University of Notre Dame. The goal is to promote programs across the country which serve to help low-income people start and grow businesses of their own, and Bradshaw says there are more than 20 other cities that are a part of the effort.

“We’ve taken that program and innovated around it,” he explains. “Some of the content comes from UBPI but we’re creating much of it out of whole cloth. And, we’re the only participant that has paid interns, thanks to the Frost Family Foundation.”

The program launched September 10, a Saturday morning where the nine entrepreneurs spent four hours in what Bradshaw describes as their bootcamp. The last formal session is October 22 but the participants will continue their work for a total of 10 months.

To recruit the inaugural group, Bradshaw says he “relied on the local entrepreneurial ecosystem.” That included Launch Chattanooga, Tech Goes Home from The Enterprise Center, CO.LAB, La Paz, Pathway Lending, Tennessee Valley Federal Credit Union, and the City of Chattanooga.

In addition to the paid interns or “student consultants” – Bradshaw’s term, the UVI program also connects the participants with successful business owners who can be mentors, connections to other community entrepreneurial resources including microcredit, and awareness of microcredit programs led by national lenders and local banks.

The inaugural participants are:

  • Veatrice Conley of Unveiled Bridal Studio that gives customers an intimate, premiere experience selecting the perfect gown for your special day.
  • Shawnice Beard of Callie’s Avenue, a start-up focused on enhancing the bond between a new mother and her newborn through curated products with you and your daughter top of mind.
  • Marshawn Hardnett of Enchanted Events Chattanooga that produces memorable events that are everything the client imagined it to be.
  • Cardell Davis of The Transition Digital Evolving that, as its name implies, is focused on growing the digital presence of its clients, bringing in new customers, and strengthening their relationship with their markets.
  • Walter Lindsey of Unity One East Inc. that provides a full portfolio of physical security services to ensure that its clients’ employees and property are protected from physical threats.
  • Marcus Price of Chosen’s Pressure Washing that uses the right blend of cleaning solutions applied at the ideal pressure by our licensed and bonded team will protect its customers’ assets while letting their property shine.
  • Kenyatta Ashford of Neutral Ground where the focus is producing a culinary experience that satisfies the palette, informs the mind, and celebrates African culture for one and all to enjoy at Neutral Ground.
  • Calvin Woods of Cal’s Headlight Restoration, a fully mobile service giving customers’ headlights a new look with a smooth finish, better vision while driving at night, and an enhanced overall beauty of the vehicle.
  • Shateria Smith for Simply Props provides a decorative, memorable experience for all events with trendy, bold and unique décor.

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