Small Business

Supporting and assisting small business and entrepreneurs in the Innovation Valley is a main priority.

In the United States, there are 23 million small businesses which account for 54% of all U.S. sales. These small businesses provide 55% of all jobs and 66% of all net new jobs since the 1970s. In the Knoxville-Oak Ridge Innovation Valley region, over 15,000 businesses exist that employ 100 employees or less. So, whether starting or growing a business, we have the resources here.


Knoxville Entrepreneur Center

Knoxville Entrepreneur Center provides access to a regionally recognized company development program, an involved network of dedicated capital sources, successful local mentors, and world class training.

Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation

The Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation at the University of Tennessee was formed  to foster an entrepreneurial culture at the university and across the state by developing student skills, providing experiential learning opportunities, and connecting students with mentors and resources that can help them successfully start and grow new businesses. 

Center for Entrepreneurial Growth

The Center for Entrepreneurial Growth (CEG) is an entrepreneurial support organization within Tech 20/20. The CEG delivers sponsored programs to assist entrepreneurs in the process of developing an execution strategy that leads to a sustainable company. The CEG's Strategic Company Playbook process is a proven road map model for entrepreneurial startups who have innovative ideas and want grow their businesses.






We know the challenges involved in starting your own business: balancing the books, retaining employees, and getting plugged into the community. When you’re ready to take the leap, we’re here to help you navigate your way through all of those challenges.

Designed for small, woman- , veteran-, minority-owned microenterprises, the Propel program provides you with one-on-one assistance to help you get your business off the ground. Propel has a track record of success in the community and is available in tandem with the mentor/protégé program.


Propel One-on-One sessions provide:

  • Coaching and visioning about your firms growth
  • Referrals and instruction on the various resources available within the Innovation Valley small business ecosystem
  • Strategic planning
  • Networking and connections
  • Sales and market strategies

Mentor/Protégé Program

Innovation Valley’s Mentor/Protégé program is a one-of-its-kind opportunity for your business. In fewer than four years, the program has helped start new businesses and drawn an economic impact of nearly $50 million to the community.

The mentor/protégé program pairs an established community business leader with a protégé that is relatively new to business. Ideal protégé candidates for the program meet the following criteria:

  • Established business for three years or have ten years expertise in their field
  • Agree to Knoxville Chamber membership for three years
  • Articulate clear, measurable goals with the assistance of a mentor
  • Passion to grow your business
  • Willingness to take instruction from others
  • Time commitment of one face-to-face meeting per month

Protégés participate for two years with an option for a third year. Some of the benefits include:


  • Company must be located in Innovation Valley region
  • Applicant must be the ultimate decision maker
  • Business must be in full operation for three or more years. (exceptions can be made if ownership can show applicable business experience)
  • Business should be generating annual gross sales of $100,000. (If the applying firm is a startup with no revenue the concept idea must show a strong potential for growth)
  • Applicant must agree to provide detailed financial statements such as balance sheets, income statements, and/or business tax returns.
  • Supply three business references that have known you in your current business capacity
  • Include a one-page cover letter describing why you should be chosen and what specific objectives you wish to achieve in this program


Doug Minter, the Knoxville Chamber’s business development manager, facilitates the Propel program. With 20-plus years as a small business owner and entrepreneur, Minter can help guide you through the process. For more information or to schedule a one-on-one session, contact Doug Minter at (865) 246-2662.


Tennessee Small Business Development Center

The Tennessee Small Business Development Center (TSBDC) is a network of professional business consultants with 20 locations; 14 of which are service centers, five are satellite offices and one is an affiliate office throughout the State of Tennessee. All TSBDC office locations are geographically disbursed throughout the state. The TSBDC prides itself on providing expert business advice to all types of businesses whether you are a manufacturer, retailer, service provider, or a professional; we are here to help you help yourself. TSBDC also maintains an international trade center.