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'We're able to be trailblazers at this point in time' | Black-owned businesses get a boost in Knoxville

100Knoxville, a nonprofit dedicated to growing Black-owned businesses in Knoxville by $10 million in five years, is helping Black entrepreneurs flourish.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Small companies, those with 500 or fewer employees, make up 99.5% of businesses in Tennessee, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration. However, only roughly 12% have Black owners.

Pat Bardsley is the founder of Gateway Delivery—Knoxville's only locally-owned delivery service, transporting thousands of items, such as groceries, medicine and pet food to people across East Tennessee.

Bardsley was one of the first participants of 100Knoxville, a nonprofit dedicated to growing Black-owned businesses in Knoxville by $10 million in five years.

Bardsley founded his company six years ago and said 100Knoxville helped his business flourish.

"That's really a big thing when you think about it because the disadvantaged are called that for a reason," Bardsley said. "So we have to find ways to bring people who don't normally have the resources to grow into a situation where they can absolutely do that."

Credit: Pat Bardsley

In Jefferson County, partnerships like the one between Gateway Delivery and Lick Skillet Farm are essential for survival. 

"We couldn't operate without what Patrick provides for us, without that local supply to the door," Lick Skillet Farm owner Alex Miller said. "Instead of selling a commodity into big agri-industry, we have to work locally with customers that really value the local product that we produce."

That direct-to-consumer business model is where Gateway Delivery steps in, helping the farm survive and in turn, building the local economy.

"It's wonderful that we've got a local supply chain. Thank goodness we got organizations like 100Knoxville that understand the importance of local business and develop businesses like Patrick's," Miller said.

Credit: Pat Bardsley

Bardsley believes his business will continue breaking barriers, all the while taking what he has learned and passing it on to the next generation of Black businesses.

"It's a very special thing being a Black entrepreneur facing the struggles that we are presented with that most people are aware of because we're able to be trailblazers at this point in time," Bardsley said. "I definitely have aspirations to take it to the next level. I have grand aspirations for Knoxville."


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