Business directory

Knoxville Black Business Directory Connects Community to Black Entrepreneurs

The Knoxville Chamber of Commerce estimates that there are at least 500 black-owned businesses in Knoxville.

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee – The Knoxville Black Business Directory, an online space where people can find black businesses from all walks of life, launched October 1.

“What we wanted to do was put a place online where these businesses could be found by the larger community,” said Damon Rawls.

Rawls is one of the people behind the project. He said the goal is to connect businesses with the wider community. The directory features companies like Tanika Harper’s, which started Harper’s Naturals six years ago.

“It’s a natural skin care company in Knoxville, Tennessee,” she said.

But his business has a personal story. She said she started it in 2014 after being diagnosed with an autoimmune disease. Her condition meant that she couldn’t use anything with chemicals, so she decided to create something that would help her and later others.

“It became a demand… so I started Harper’s Naturals,” she said.

Helping others is also part of Demetrice Hall’s story. He is part of the directory of black companies and after a career in the air force, he has a new mission.

“Veterans have a preference,” he said.

He is in charge of VETsmart, a Tennessee logistics company. Part of its mission is to employ veterans and their families. He said spouses of veterans and children of veterans are preferred in his business.

He hopes he can hire people from his neighborhood soon after growing up in Lonsdale.

Harper and Hall both said at a time when businesses are struggling, community support is vital. They also said the support of their communities is vital even after the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We need people to intend to do it now and in the future,” Harper said.

And if she could offer advice to budding or budding business owners, she would tell them to hang on.

“Keep pressing… learn to pivot… collaborate with someone… don’t give up… let’s go and we’ll get there together,” she said.

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