KNOXVILLE, TN (July 2021) -Local entrepreneurs Randy Boyd and veterinarian Dr. Joseph Kendricks presented checks totaling $6,500 to the top three winners of the CO-STARTERS annual business pitch contest presented by the Knoxville Area Urban League.
Boyd and Dr. Kendrick, of Asheville Highway Animal Hospital, co-funded the cash awards for the CO-STARTERS winners. Kendrick is affectionately known as “Dr. Joe” and is a long-time, respected member and contributor in Knoxville’s black community.
The KAUL 10-week CO.STARTERS program allows entrepreneurs to build and test small business ideas while gaining feedback from their classroom peers and instructors and input from local, successful business owners. At the end of the program, participants pitch their business to a panel of judges for a chance to win cash awards that can help to bring their visions to fruition.
The 2021 winners are:
1st Place – Lance Williams, IssssStr8 Attire LLC, $5,000
2nd Place – Monica Smith-Albright, D’vyne Creations, $1,000
3rd place – Efrain Fermin Julio, La Cocina Otomi Mexican Restaurant, $500.
“These three entrepreneurs created a vision to start a new venture and followed their passion with a commitment to become a successful business owner,” said Phyllis Y. Nichols, president and CEO of the Knoxville Area Urban League.
Small businesses are the bedrock of a community. The CO.STARTERS program helps to empower small business entrepreneurs to bring new jobs to the community.
Williams owns IssssStr8 Attire LLC, specializing in one-of-a-kind custom apparel. Williams started the apparel line to promote his music. He plans to use the CO.STARTERS award to help expand his e-commerce efforts, update the apparel website, upgrade equipment, and travel to venues to promote the business.
Williams said, “The CO.STARTERS program has been a great benefit and helped me focus on what I need to do to grow my business and how to execute that plan,” Williams said. “I set 30-, 60- and 90-day goals to promote my brand, create new custom designs and have all merchandise available for sale on my website.”
Smith-Albright created D’vyne Creations, a made-to-order bakery specializing in gourmet cookies packaged individually with custom labels and are shipped/deliverd in gourmet gift bags, gift boxes or in the larger Taste of D’vyne Gourmet assortment for meetings and special occasions such as birthdays and anniversaries. The home-based business has access to a licensed kitchen.
“The inspiration behind our name and business came out of our desire to start our family,” Smith-Albright said. “After experiencing three devasting losses, we were blessed with a divine gift in the birth of our daughter, Ayanna. Her birth brought new life and overwhelming joy, peace, and satisfaction, not only to me and my husband but to our family and friends.”
Smith-Albright became a work-at-home mother to care for her long-awaited child. She plans to use the CO.STARTERS award to upgrade and build a secure and user-friendly website for better customer service and online sales.
“The program helped me understand the dynamics of starting a new business and learning who your customers are and how to manage and maintain financial records, including income statements, balance sheets, and profit and loss statements,” she said. “I learned business basics, best practices and practical information for starting and maintaining a small business from successful business owners who have experienced decades of success in Knoxville.”
Efrain Fermin Julio, La Cocina Otomi Mexican Restaurant, which will feature authentic Mexican ingredients in Mexican dishes that are delicious, nutritious and healthy. Julio is relying on his background in cooking and an extensive collection of recipes.
“I want to make authentic Mexican food that everyone can enjoy and that also is good for them, combatting the perception of Mexican food being unhealthy,” Julio said. “My passion comes from my heritage, and my recipes are inspired by family tradition and made with love.”
The Knoxville Area Urban League administers business training, job training, job fairs and more and capital loans. The office is located at 1514 E. Fifth Ave. in East Knoxville (behind the Magnolia Ave, Regions bank branch). The office is now open from 9 am to 4 pm Monday through Friday. To apply or information on its programs, visit the website here thekaul.org; phone 865-524-5511; or email firstname.lastname@example.org. The Knoxville Area Urban League is a United Way partner agency and an affiliate of the National Urban League.