LAUNCH Chattanooga provides business tools and guidance to underrepresented entrepreneurs in the Scenic City

Photo by Olivia Ross / Joseph Gonzalez, of Broken Heart Cheesecakes, has participated in LAUNCH Chattanooga's kitchen incubator.
Photo by Olivia Ross / Joseph Gonzalez, of Broken Heart Cheesecakes, has participated in LAUNCH Chattanooga's kitchen incubator.


LAUNCH Chattanooga seeks to empower entrepreneurship, and in so doing, support underrepresented entrepreneurs — especially minorities, women and individuals from low-wealth communities. At LAUNCH, individuals can start and grow businesses that create good jobs and, in turn, sustain a robust local economy. Its leaders hold that the strong ideas, passion and grit necessary to grow existing businesses and build new ones can be found in people from any background.


Established in 2010, LAUNCH was created as a way to support underserved entrepreneurs, with the mission of fostering a culture of empowering them to develop and grow small businesses. In 2011, the nonprofit introduced its flagship Business Entrepreneurship Academy. Whereas African Americans own just 10% of Chattanooga-area businesses and women own just 14%, according to LAUNCH, 71% of businesses under its guidance are owned by African Americans, and 65% are owned by women. LAUNCH claims that, all told, those businesses generate an estimated $11.5 million in annual revenues.


Co-CEO DeJuan Jordan says LAUNCH has two startup programs, both sponsored by Southeast Bank. Food and beverage businesses start in the 16-week KIC Catalyst program (Kitchen Incubator of Chattanooga). Businesses outside that umbrella undergo the nonprofit's 10-week Startup Matrix. "Some come in with just a concept, while others come in with some skills," Jordan says. "We had one person come in with only an idea written down on a napkin. We can take them from concept through launch — identify the customer base, financial structures, messaging and marketing." Once a class is over, LAUNCH provides free coaching and counseling, she says.


Jordan says LAUNCH plans to introduce KIC Nights in 2024, which will tentatively run from 5 to 9 p.m. on the third Friday of the month, March through August, at the KIC (5704 Marlin Road, near Eastgate Town Center). Jordan says plans include a new outdoor seating area for nearly 80 people, as well as a stage for live entertainment. "It's really like an event space," she says. "Giving customers a place to sit and dine, with live entertainment — it's going to be a game-changer." LAUNCH Chattanooga's Food Truck Fridays, sponsored by Tennessee Valley Federal Credit Union, will continue at 5704 Marlin Road on the first Friday of each month, February through November, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.


* 10,000: Kitchen Incubator of Chattanooga square footage

* 812: Entrepreneurs trained

* 513: Businesses started

* 631: Jobs created

* 30: KIC members

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