|UL program supports budding entrepreneurs, business owners|
The Urban League of Greater Chattanooga is joining forces with other local organizations to support small businesses.
"Our ultimate goal is to develop a center where we can offer additional resources for entrepreneurs," Nicole Burney, program director of the Urban League's Entrepreneur Center, said.
The Urban League's program is part of a larger, statewide effort to support small businesses.
Last year, as part of Gov. Bill Haslam's economic development plan, The Company Lab became one of the state's nine regional entrepreneurial accelerators.
The Company Lab received a $250,000 grant to support the mission.
"That was part of our application to the state to become a regional accelerator—we committed to finding ways to support all entrepreneur populations of Southeast Tennessee," Sheldon Grizzle, co-founder of The Company Lab, said.
Grizzle said that there are several business development organizations—the Business Development Center, The Company Lab, LAUNCH and, now, the Urban League— in Chattanooga that each have a specific target population.
"We all have our audiences that come through our doors in very natural and organic ways," he said. "So the best way to serve all those populations is to have many hubs in each of these communities."
Burney said that the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce is also supporting the effort.
The Urban League
Burney started her job with the Urban League about four months ago, but the business development program has been in place since last year, she said.
The Urban League's program includes a SpringBoard class and monthly workshops to support budding entrepreneurs and local residents who already own a small business.
"Eventually we are going to have a resource center where entrepreneurs can come," Burney said. "There will be laptops, wireless access, a place to sit down and host a meeting. We want it to be an overall one-stop-shop."
Funding for the Urban League's effort comes from the city and the National Urban League, Burney said.
In January, Chattanooga City Council members decided to give $75,000 to the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce and the Urban League to support a new partnership targeting the promotion of minority businesses.
The funds had at one time been allocated for the Tennessee Multicultural Chamber of Commerce, according to Nooga.com archives.
Burney wants to get the word out that she is here to help entrepreneurs.
"I really want to be that resource when individuals think about going into business," she said. "I have an open-door policy. [Anyone interested] should stop by and talk to me."
Trisha and Herman Kelly recently used the Urban League's SpringBoard class to launch their cheesecake business, Kelly's Kreations.
"We started it based on my loving Cheesecake Factory products," Trisha said. "My husband decided, 'Since she loves it so much, I'll make these for her.' It started as something to please me and branched out."
After working on the business since 2010, the couple has officially started pushing products this month.
They set up Friday in Miller Plaza's Fresh on Fridays.
The Kellys are currently working from home and will have access to a local kitchen incubator soon.
When they outgrow that situation, they plan to open a storefront.
Working from home and enlisting family members to help has kept the overhead cost low, Herman said.
So far, they have invested about $1,500.
Herman and Trisha said that the Urban League's help, including the SpringBoard class, was invaluable.
The duo said that the step-by-step process they learned in the SpringBoard class made starting a business seem less overwhelming.
"They show you people that started from the same platform that you've started from," Herman said. "It becomes not only feasible, but it becomes reality."
You can reach the Kellys at 423-402-0455, on Facebook or by email.To view article click here.