Talent is everywhere, opportunity is not, and availability does not equate to equitable access. The TN Placemakers Entrepreneurship Fund helps communities provide opportunity and access for small businesses and entrepreneurs that are or will be a part of the community. The application period is currently open and ready for new applicants.

But first, what is a placemaker?

Placemaker: An individual or group of people whose primary goal is to create and shape places where people can live, work, learn and play. Placemakers often combine innovation with insight into the needs of a certain place to create something unique and positive for the inhabitants and visitors. They strive to create vibrant and meaningful places, usually by blending traditional concepts with modern technology and innovative approaches.

One example of a TN Placemaker is Kim Parks, Executive Director of Historic Lebanon.

After spending some time volunteering with the local chamber, Parks gained an interest in economic development and how to renovate historic properties, while also returning a profit.

Through a TN Placemakers grant, Historic Lebanon was able to bring new life and business to properties that had been experiencing very little foot traffic.

“That is what Historic Lebanon tries to do,” Parks said. “We try to look at the historic aspect of things, but we also want to improve the economy of places and help the entrepreneurs.”

Photo Credit: Historic Lebanon

Another example of a TN Placemaker is Hal Bowling, Co-Founder and Executive Director of LAUNCH Chattanooga.

Bowling and his team started LAUNCH Chattanooga in the Alton Park neighborhood in 2011, and since then, they’ve helped start 400+ businesses and introduced entrepreneurship to more than 1,000 high school students. They’ve also helped groups in 20 other cities start their own version of LAUNCH.

“At the end of the day, it’s all about serving our community and making sure everyone that’s in it has opportunities to succeed,” Bowling said.

Photo Credit: LAUNCH Chattanooga

Want to know more about how your community can take advantage of the TN Placemakers Entrepreneurship Fund? Keep reading below.


What is the TN Placemakers Entrepreneurship Fund?

A pool of monetary resources dedicated to assisting communities across the state, from rural to urban, to obtain funds for broad and diverse activities that support and develop small businesses and entrepreneurs in their community.


Who can apply?

Those eligible to apply are nonprofits that have been established for at least three years, educational institutions and government entities. This includes economic development organizations, chambers of commerce, development districts, public-private partnerships and other non-profit entrepreneur support organizations.

TN Placemakers is intended to support and develop small businesses and entrepreneurs; however, the funds may not be used for the benefit of a single business only.


How can I use the funding?

There are two groups of funding, but applicants can only apply for one group.

Group 1 is split into three categories: Assess & Plan, Build & Sustain and Support & Train.

Group 2 has one category: Pivot & Recovery.

The funds within each group and category can be used for a variety of things. See below for a short description of each.

Group 1

  • Assess & Plan: Determine gaps in the community and ways to close them, including retail development, tourism, agribusiness, coworking spaces, commercial kitchen incubators, entrepreneurship training services, disaster recovery etc.
  • Build & Sustain: Purchase furniture, fixtures and equipment; offset operational costs to reach sustainability (rent utilities, installation of gig service etc.). This is applied primarily to physical locations, such as commercial kitchens, pop-up shops, coworking spaces etc.
  • Support & Train: Use for small business and entrepreneurial development activities, including mentor-protégé programs, coding classes, pop-up shops, craft and artisan development, pitch competitions, economic gardening, succession and disaster planning.

Group 2

  • Pivot & Recover: Support small businesses and entrepreneurs impacted by COVID-19 through technical assistance, operating expenses, technology or microgrant programs.


How much funding is available?

The maximum grant amount for Group 1 is $100,000, and applicants can apply for funds in one, two or all three categories.

  • Assess & Plan: max $15,000/grantee
  • Build & Sustain: max $75,000/grantee
  • Support & Train: max $25,000/grantee

In Group 2, Pivot & Recover, applicants can apply for one or both parts.

  • Technical Assistance, Operating Expenses and/or Technology: max $100,000
  • Microgrants (up to $1,000 grant funds per business): max $50,000


How long is the contract?

The contract can be as long as 24 months. In general, the timeline is:

  • Months 1-18: Implementation and utilization
  • Months 19-24: Observation period, data reporting and close-out of the grant

We are proud of all our TN Placemakers and eager to provide more opportunities for small businesses and entrepreneurs in the Volunteer State. For more information and to apply, please click here.

If you are interested in what other TN Placemakers are doing across the state, check out @tnplacemakers on Instagram.

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