Black entrepreneurs in Knoxville talk business, from restaurants to repairs

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Any entrepreneur starting a business will encounter speed bumps, but for black entrepreneurs these speed bumps are often more important.

Damon Rawls, Senior Strategist with The Digital Innovation Agency and founder of the Knoxville Black Business Directory, is a fourth generation black business owner.

His mother owned an assisted living facility, his grandfather was an entrepreneur, and his great-grandfather repackaged and sold day-old bread in stores that did not allow blacks to shop there.

While technology has made it easier for people to bring their entrepreneurial ideas to life, Rawls said, not much has changed over the generations.

“I don’t think we got very far at all,” he said. “There are (challenges with)… access not only to capital but in reference to how communities see your business. Because we still live in a world where black people are seen in a certain way. , therefore, their businesses are sort of inferior views. ”

How to support black businesses in Knoxville

Calvin Mattheis, Knoxville News Sentry

Local media haven’t always told the whole story of Knoxville’s black communities, and historically that includes Knox News. As we work to make sure black communities are truly and fully present in our coverage, there are some important stories we missed along the way.

Join us for a series of five stories exploring the experience of black-owned businesses in Knoxville, from old businesses to new ones.

The Knoxville Black Business Directory helps Knoxville consumers who wish to support black-owned businesses. .

“And part of that, even if you decide to spend black, you spend money with a Knoxvillian; you don’t spend money with a stranger,” Rawls said. “And so, it’s going to grow the economy.”

Damon Rawls, Founder of the Knoxville Black Business Directory
… if you decide to go black, you spend money with a Knoxvillian; you don’t spend money with a stranger. And so, it will grow the economy.

Despite the historic and current obstacles that black business owners have faced, the black business community is poised for growth. A dollar spent today on a black-owned business could help create more jobs in the future, Rawls said.

And when young black people see examples of business success from people like them, it can make their dreams more attainable.

“It was the same when we saw President Obama,” Rawls said. “There hadn’t been any other black presidents. But now, in the children’s lexicon, they know, ‘I can grow up to be president. No matter what the world says, I know it because it is. made.'”

Nationally, less than 2% of senior executives in the 50 largest companies are black, according to a USA Today review. In communities across the country, including Knoxville, some consumers seeking service are still weighing down skin color versus qualifications, Rawls said.

“People have said it by saying, ‘Your ice cream is not that cold. “”, did he declare. “It’s always weighted.… I can’t control the other side of it. I can’t control the image. I can control the output, which is my product that I give away, who will be the best.”

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