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Made for Knoxville: Powerful female force leads KaTom to success

Patricia Bible is the founder, president and CEO of Kodak-based restaurant equipment company KaTom.

KODAK, Tenn. — Each week, WBIR highlights local entrepreneurs and businesses that are "Made for Knoxville" in partnership with the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center.

Restaurant equipment supplier KaTom sits on the side of Interstate 40, right off of exit 407. The woman standing at the top of it all, is Patricia Bible.

Bible is no stranger to breaking glass ceilings. In fact, she encourages women to achieve their dreams.

"Women can look at me and say, 'Hey, if she can do it, we can do it,' because anybody can be sitting in this seat if they so desire," Bible said, as she sat in the Chef Supplies store at KaTom headquarters.

Bible is the leading lady at KaTom restaurant supply. She's the founder, president and CEO.

"I'm shocked to be associated with the word entrepreneur because I grew up just really hard working and didn't think anything more than a 40 hour a week job," Bible said.

Bible grew up in a small Morristown home. Hamblen County was also the location of the first KaTom building  before it expanded and moved to Kodak.

But, when her husband died suddenly in the early 2000s, she had a big choice to make.

"I had to say, 'Hey, what do we do? Do we just close this and go go home and get a secretarial job and move forward with my life with my children's life?' Seemed like the easy option, right? Well, there was more to it than that," Bible said.

She thought about her 100-percent women staffed warehouse, and knew she couldn't leave them in the dust.

"It really did go back to those 18 women, they needed me, and I needed them to get through the grieving and to go to that next step in our life," Bible said.

At that time, KaTom was a $4 million company. Now, it's on its way to being a billion dollar one, with women still lighting the way.

"There's 53 percent of our staff that are women, and that just to me makes that heart go bumpity bump bump bump, because I love that," Bible said.

Patricia was recently awarded with the top 50 "Fastest Growing Women-Led Company" award for the fourth year.

KaTom is also on Inc.com's list for America's top private companies for the 13th year in a row. There's only 15 others in the U.S. who have done that, according to a spokesperson.

The warehouse and offices are filled with inspirational quotes.

"Follow the passion that is in your heart, do not ever let fear conquer you," Bible said.

Growth doesn't come without challenges, though. Bible was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012.

"Which was the same year that we moved here," Bible said. "So I was in the middle of a move at the same time I had been diagnosed with cancer. So the team helped pick up a lot of pieces."

Now, she makes sure KaTom is represented on the side of UT's mobile mammography clinic. The mobile unit even parked at KaTom last Wednesday for mammogram screenings.

Credit: UTMC

"Those women that are really struggling with that diagnosis today, find that buddy, find that pal, find that family member that's going to walk that walk with you and be victorious as you go through," Bible said. "It's hard, but it is doable."

As boxes of restaurant equipment line the shelves ready for delivery across the globe Bible is reminded of her mission.

"There's nothing we can't overcome," Bible said. "Just push, push, push, push and keep opening your mind to greater ways of thinking and greater ways of doing."

KaTom is also getting ready to break ground after the first of the year on another 100,000 square foot addition.