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ORNL sponsors 100Knoxville entrepreneur cohort

Jade Adams, owner of the popular Knoxville plant boutique Oglewood Avenue, was a member of the first cohort of 100Knoxville. ORNL is sponsoring the sixth cohort of the mentorship and support program for Black founders of businesses. Credit: 100Knoxville/Knoxville Entrepreneur Center

The Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory is sponsoring a cohort of 100Knoxville, a five-week mentorship and support program for Black founders of businesses.

“We’re honored to support Black entrepreneurs through 100Knoxville,” said ORNL Director Thomas Zacharia. “I look forward to seeing how ORNL's investment in the cohort’s businesses contributes to a stronger and more diverse Oak Ridge Corridor.”

The goal of 100Knoxville, a Knoxville Entrepreneur Center program, is to help Black-owned businesses grow through a focused investment of time and talent, while also providing access to social, political and financial capital. Each of the five entrepreneurs in a cohort is paired with a team of mentors for five weeks to clarify strategy, improve operations and, most importantly, increase sales. Each firm will receive $5,000 to invest at the direction of the entrepreneur with the support of their mentors.

“ORNL’s success is connected to the growth of the entrepreneurial ecosystem in East Tennessee,” said Susan Hubbard, deputy for science and technology at ORNL. “We're supporting 100Knoxville because we understand how access to expertise and mentorship can help new businesses and entrepreneurs flourish."

In her role at ORNL, Hubbard oversees the lab’s partnerships in technology transfer, economic development and sponsored research.

The program’s spring 2022 cohort, 100Knoxville’s fourth, recently concluded and the fall cohort will begin in September. The ORNL-sponsored cohort will follow sometime after. Each cohort is facilitated by strategist and business consultant Kandis Troutman, founder of the Creative Architect.

“Facilitating the 100Knoxville cohorts has been a community building opportunity. Although I’m in a leadership position, the truth is that with each cohort, I get to sit in the seat of being a student. At its core, entrepreneurship is the journey of continuous learning,” said Troutman. “If you really want to know the ‘secret sauce’ of 100Knoxville, it’s that program participants get to learn with and, more importantly, from those on the same journey without judgement, rejection or comparison. Instead, they are welcomed with awareness, acceptance and compassion.”

The Knoxville Entrepreneur Center, a business accelerator, is dedicated to creating a thriving entrepreneurial community that is accessible, diverse and sustainable.

UT-Battelle manages ORNL for the DOE’s Office of Science, the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States. The Office of Science is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit