BY: KAYLA SMITH

Kyle and Elora Prichard were unsure what to expect when they joined the Propel men-tor/protégé program two years ago. After a short meeting with the program director, Doug Minter, the owners of Eden Floral Design were on board and quickly discovered the value of the program.

“The Propel program saved our business,” said Kyle Prichard, co-owner of Eden Floral Design. “The business boot camp trainings were significant to our company’s continued success. During one of the trainings we learned about profit margins and found our company’s numbers were way off. Doug sat down with us and broke down our monthly sales versus costs. We realized that in about 60 days the company would no longer exist. Immediately we made adjustments and changed our pricing structure. Now Eden Floral Design is a profitable business. Our sales have more than doubled since year one, our customer base has increased, and we are making money.”

Eden Floral Design was one of 10 companies recognized at the 2017 Propel Protégé Graduation and Salute to Mentors on July 14. Held at Scruffy City Hall, the graduation marked seven years of the program’s success in supporting small business growth. It honored its graduates, thanked their mentors, and welcomed in a new class of protégés. Social media guru Mark Schaeffer was this year’s guest speaker.

Graduating companies and their mentors included: AyerWaves Entertainment, mentored by Bandit Lites and Possum Trot; Darkhorse Entertainment mentored by Nano Mechanics; Eden Floral Design mentored by SunTrust and Lincoln Memorial University; Hibachi Pizza mentored by Titan Political Strategies; Mountain Laurel Leadership mentored by Cannon and Cannon; Quadramorphics mentored by Possum Trot; Outlier’s Advantage mentored by DME Leadership Development Consulting; Prime Medical Training mentored by Affirm Consulting; Sailaway Learning and Academy mentored by WIN Learning Systems; and Skillworks mentored by Johnson and Galyon.

“The overarching goal of Propel is to grow revenue and jobs for the small business participants,” said Minter, director of small business at the Knoxville Chamber. “While revenue and jobs are essential, we also aim to increase the self-awareness, knowledge, and business development maturity of each firm. The ultimate measure is that after two years the firm can look back and find themselves better off after their experience in Propel.” Propel prides itself on its economic inclusion and the diversity of the people and industries in the program. It is designed for small, women-, veteran-, and minority-owned businesses, and pairs established community business leaders with a protégé that is relatively new to the marketplace. Protégés have represented over 30 different industries with revenues between $100,000 to $500,000 and two to six employees. The Propel program is available to 15 Chamber of Commerce participants and its partners include the Small Business Development Center and SCORE of Greater Knoxville. Supporting sponsors of the program include the Knoxville Chamber, Knoxville-Oak Ridge Innovation Valley, SunTrust, and the Tennessee Economic and Community Development department.

Propel prides itself on its economic inclusion and the diversity of the people and industries in the program. It is designed for small, women-, veteran-, and minority-owned businesses, and pairs established community business leaders with a protégé that is relatively new to the marketplace. Protégés have represented over 30 different industries with revenues between $100,000 to $500,000 and two to six employees. The Propel program is available to 15 Chamber of Commerce participants and its partners include the Small Business Development Center and SCORE of Greater Knoxville. Supporting sponsors of the program include the Knoxville Chamber, Knoxville-Oak Ridge Innovation Valley, SunTrust, and the Tennessee Economic and Community Development department.

The Propel program is available to 15 Chamber of Commerce participants and its partners include the Small Business Development Center and SCORE of Greater Knoxville. Supporting sponsors of the program include the Knoxville Chamber, Knoxville-Oak Ridge Innovation Valley, SunTrust, and the Tennessee Economic and Community Development department.