Local entrepreneurs earn $15,000 from KAUL Business Pitch Contests
Randy Boyd, founder, and chairman of Radio Systems Corporation presented checks totaling $15,000 to Audrey Wrushen and Sherene Jacobs, winners of two business pitch contests offered annually by the Knoxville Area Urban League.
Boyd congratulated the upcoming entrepreneurs while presenting Wrushen with a $5,000 check, and a $10,000 check to Jacobs during a ceremony at the Knoxville Area Urban League’s headquarters. Boyd and his wife, Jenny, provide funding as part of their personal commitment to entrepreneurship and opportunity in Knoxville in addition to funding the CO.STARTERS grant through the United Way of Greater Knoxville.
“Support of local businesses and budding entrepreneurs is an essential part of growing a sustainable economy,” said Phyllis Y. Nichols, CEO of the Knoxville Area Urban League. “I look forward to watching these two entrepreneurs use the lessons learned and funding from these programs to become successful business owners and contribute to the growth of our community.”
Wrushen, an accountant with the goal to purchase a Liberty Tax franchise, participated in the nonprofit’s 10-week CO.STARTERS program, which allows entrepreneurs to build and test business ideas through assignments, fieldwork, classroom participation, peer and intense instructor critique from KAUL VP of Economic and Business Development Terrence Carter, and the VP of Housing and Community Development Felix Harris.
Each Saturday morning an established local business owner or seasoned professional shared their time with the class of CO.STARTERS. Hallerin Hilton Hill kicked off the 10-week session with inspirational nuggets of knowledge and wisdom as only he can. The following weeks included; Dr. Joseph Kendricks, Animal Medical Hospital; Charlie Sexton, Moxley Carmichael Public Relations Creative Director; John Davis, Owner of Stop-N-Go Market and Deli; Mark Isom, CEO Premiere Building Maintenance Corp.; Joe and Delnise Moore, CEOs of Always Moore a high-end janitorial service; David Morehouse, Atty; and Cavanaugh Mims, President of Visionary Solutions, LLC; Chris Miller, Impact Capital, and Erin Phelps Knox County Public Library Resources
The group of 10 budding and potential entrepreneurs included; a Realtor, a pet groomer, an interior designer, a psychologist, building repairman, a community news publisher, a cosmetologist, an ACT/SAT tutoring, and of course an accounting and tax manager. By the end of the 10-weeks – only 6 remained.
At the end of the program, participants pitched their business plan to a panel of judges for a chance to win $5,000. The winning pitch was given by Audrey Wrushen who earned $5,000 towards the purchase of a tax franchise.
Wrushen plans to secure a Liberty Tax franchise in June 2019 to accommodate the tax and bookkeeping needs of individuals and businesses through the year while incorporating cloud-based technology. Wrushen credits the CO.STARTERS training program for helping translate her goal into an actionable business plan.
“The CO.STARTERS program was one of the most valuable experiences I have ever had,” Wrushen said. “The class is set up to help you analyze every aspect of your business. I’ve learned so much about my industry, potential customers, competitors and even myself. I now feel confident in my ability to succeed as an entrepreneur and make a difference in the community. I am truly grateful and honored to be chosen as the winner of the pitch contest. To me, it is just validation from God that I am on the right path to my entrepreneurial purpose.”
Sherene Jacobs earned $10,000 in this year’s Paradigm Challenge contest, which is designed to support businesses and promote economic growth in the Burlington community of East Knoxville. Jacobs and her daughter September Sweet-Max, plan to open a coffee shop, “Perk City” at the corner of Magnolia Ave. and Beaman Street next to Chilhowee Park. Jacobs also has the whole-hearted support of her husband Bob who is excited to showcase his wife’s baking skills.
Their plan for Perk City includes a menu of designer scones, biscuits, coffees, and beverages tailored to the area’s tastes driven by community input, affordable pricing, and hyperlocal product sourcing. A charitable component will tie a menu item that will benefit local nonprofits when purchased.
The shop will offer meeting space, activities for young adults, free Wi-Fi, and diverse cultural programming to showcase East Knoxville artists. The pair also intends to acquire a Safe Place certification for the shop, among other benefits that Perk City seeks to provide for the neighborhood.
“My daughter’s passion is coffee, and my passions are baking, people and community,” Jacobs said. “The Paradigm Challenge grant was a great step forward toward being able to construct our goals and vision. These programs offered by the Urban League are so important, not only for financial support but also the support of community professionals and economic development. It assures that we are on the right path and our community’s members are behind us. This vote of confidence gives us hope of making our dreams for the future of East Knoxville a reality. We are so thankful for this opportunity and award from the Urban League and its partners.”
The Knoxville Area Urban League’s business programs, including CO.STARTERS and the Paradigm Challenge, are part of the organization’s primary efforts to fulfill its mission of economic empowerment and stability for people of all backgrounds. Through these programs as well as a lending program, the Knoxville Area Urban League supports entrepreneurs at all stages and brings in successful business leaders to show the way.
Funding for the programs also came from community partners, including the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development’s LiftTN: Microenterprise grants, which provide resources and tools to underserved and underrepresented micro-enterprises in urban and rural areas.
Boyd has been a leader in the business community for many years and is the founder of Radio Systems Corporation, which includes PetSafe and Invisible Fence. He currently serves as interim president for the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.
For more information on the Knoxville Area Urban League and its programs, call 865-524-5511 or visit http://www.thekaul.org.
The Paradigm Challenge is a place-based business pitch competition that challenges entrepreneurs to solve business and economic growth challenges facing the Burlington business community.