Sixteen local business owners successfully developed their very own Customized Strategic Growth Plans and are now on the fast track of taking their businesses to the next level.   NextLevel Chattanooga is a 7-month nationally recognized entrepreneurship program offered by the Urban League of Greater Chattanooga in collaboration with the City of Chattanooga Office of Multicultural Affairs, BrightBridge, Inc. and the TN Small Business Development Center.   The award-winning StreetWise ‘MBA’ curriculum was developed by its parent company Interise, a Boston-based nonprofit committed to helping existing small businesses that are interested in growing their businesses to scale. The comprehensive curriculum was taught bi-weekly  and included topics vital to small business success, including financial management, marketing and sales, human resources tactics, business strategy development, and access to new capital and contracts. The curriculum was created in 2004 and more than 3,500 businesses across the country have successfully completed it.  According to Interise, these businesses have been able to create jobs at 8 times the rate of other private sector companies.

"By completing this seven month program, these small business owners have shown their commitment to growing their businesses,” said Jean Horstman, CEO of Interise, the Boston-based nonprofit which developed the StreetWise 'MBA'™ curriculum utilized by the NextLevel Chattanooga program.  “They have invested over 100 hours to develop their Strategic Growth Action Plan™, to analyze and improve their business processes, and to develop the leadership skills needed for second-stage business growth. With our partners, we share a belief that building the capacity of local small businesses is key to social and economic resilience. Businesses completing a StreetWise 'MBA'™ program on average create new jobs at 8x the rate of the private sector as a whole. NextLevel Chattanooga is designed to deliver this same kind of impact locally.”

The sixteen business owners who graduated in the inaugural class of NextLevel Chattanooga and were presented with certificates documenting their completion during a reception held in their honor at the Bessie Smith Hall on November 19 included:           

  •             Dr. Thomas Rumph, Aspire Family Dentistry
  •             Cherita Adams, Blue Orleans Seafood Restaurant
  •             Melinda Bone, Chicken-w-Bones
  •             Charles Bass, CIB Enterprises
  •             James Rogers, Customer Healthcare, LLC
  •             Sarah Hooper, Dish T’ Pass Cooking School & Catering Co.
  •             Amanda Varnell, Dish T’ Pass Cooking School & Catering Co.
  •             Sam Bicking, Docu-Shred
  •             Cheryl Key, John P. Franklin Funeral Home
  •             John “Duke” Franklin, Jr., John P. Franklin Funeral Home
  •             Grace Frank, Grace Frank Group
  •             Norma Maloney, LoAdebar
  •             John “JJ” Jerman, Office Furniture Warehouse
  •             Jason Hill, Papercut Interactive, Inc.
  •             Richard Carmack, RMJ Tactical
  •             Efren Ormaza, Terra Nostra
  •             Wendy Buckner, The Hot Chocolatier

“We are so very fortunate to have such a growing number of small businesses in the Greater Chattanooga Area,” said Warren Logan, President/CEO of the Urban League of Greater Chattanooga. “We are extremely pleased and honored to have had the caliber of small owners and leaders who made the commitment over the past seven months to invest their time to step back & customize a plan to deliberately grow their businesses. Our city and community will continue to thrive when small businesses are able to reach their full potential.”