KNOXVILLE —THE MAKER CITY The Knoxville Entrepreneur Center (KEC) in Tennessee created immediate results along these lines by building a stronger relationship with the Knoxville Area Urban League.

We worked together to identify new Connectors, and KEC reached out to the Knoxville Area Urban League (KAUL). KAUL could be a key Connector to Black product business owners because of the programming they already ran. Terrence Carter, vice president of workforce and economic development at KAUL, joined the team for discussions, and we realized that both KEC and KAUL were running startup programs for local residents. The product businesses working with KAUL were in a program for “lifestyle businesses,” whereas the KEC startup program was more focused on technology-based businesses. The program leaders knew each other, but had worked in parallel, not together, because they assumed that their small businesses were different. In fact, they were both providing similar trainings to product businesses, but not bringing those business owners together to build one diverse community of small-scale manufacturing business owners.

So what changed? Everything did. KEC and KAUL came together to talk about it after the interviews and then started to bring together the product business owners through the Maker Summit and other programming. The following year, the summit featured more Black business owners in Knoxville as a major component of the event, and the team created more inclusive programming so that new programs to help small product businesses scale up now reach the diversity of business owners in the community. Knoxville, Tennessee, created an online directory of the local product businesses. The site is hosted by the Mayor’s Maker Council and run by the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center. It gives product businesses an online destination to join local business development activities and gives customers a way to look through and buy from these businesses. The site is called TheMakerCity. org, claiming the mantel of being “the” city for maker businesses.




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