Sisters Cravings

The women behind the Kingsport smoothie shop, Sister’s Cravings are just one group of business owners who will be recognized through MED Week. In this photo from 2020, The Downtown Kingsport Association along with BoomTown & Co. (left) awarded Sister’s Cravings (right) with COVID-19 Recovery Micro-Grant funds.

KINGSPORT — Aundrea Salyer has a list of minority- owned businesses in the region. She’s hoping that by next week, locals will know their names and what they offer and add them to their own list of places to frequent.

Kingsport will host its first-ever Minority Enterprise Development Week Sept. 19-25. MEDWeek is a nationally recognized week designed to highlight businesses that are owned by someone belonging to a minority group.

Salyer is the Kingsport Office of Small Business Development & Entrepreneurship executive director with the Kingsport Chamber. For her, the week is about supporting minority-owned businesses, sharing information and bridging gaps between groups.

“The whole point of this is to grow minority businesses in the region,” Salyer said. “We want to grow it by at least 10%. We want to keep growing that number. I want to know who they are. I want to know how we can help. And I want them to engage.”

MEDWeek kicks off on Friday with an online Minority Business Roundtable from 9 to 10:30 a.m. at kosbe.org/events. The event will include results from the United Way of Kingsport’s recent minority business survey.

It also will include a panel of business owners from each of the Tri-Cities who will discuss their struggles and experiences. Tyrone Mitchell with Technically Aesthetic Construction will represent Johnson City, Alicia Camp and Esther Rodolphe with Sister’s Cravings Juice Bar and Grill will represent Kingsport and Kelly Cole with Publishing Advantage Group will represent Bristol.

“We’re hoping this becomes an annual thing,” Salyer said. “It’s going to be great to discuss (the survey results) with actual minority business owners.”

Salyer isn’t stopping with the minority business owners she is currently aware of, though. One of her top goals is to add to that list. That’s where she hopes the survey for current and future minority business owners will come in handy.

“We know it’s not an all-inclusive list,” Salyer said. “It’s one of those situations where we needed to publish something so other people say, ‘I need to be on this list.’ By hosting MEDWeek, we hope those businesses will come out of the woodwork and say, ‘I do want to be engaged. I do want to be involved and be on this list.’”

The list includes minority business owners from Kingsport and around the region. In creating the Tri-Cities’ first MEDWeek, Salyer teamed up with Adam Dickson — the supervisor for the Langston Centre in Johnson City — to reach more minority businesses and offer growth opportunities.

“If you focus on Kingsport, you’re going to have a few,” Salyer said. “If you focus on the region, you’re going to have more. This definitely needs to be a regional activity.”

Throughout the week, the team will feature minority-owned businesses through social media posts and local media outlets. The local MEDWeek is also designed to share available resources through organizations such as KOSBE and the Tennessee Small Business Development Center.

Salyer also hopes to connect minority business owners with people who might not be aware of the stores, restaurants and shops.

“We hope that when people see the businesses being featured they will do business with them,” Salyer said. “That’s another thing we’re really pushing during MEDWeek. We want people to shop with minority businesses during that week. We would love it every day, but especially next week.”

Minority businesses and businesses in general have certainly grown over the past two years, Salyer said. The number of clients Salyer typically works with has grown from about 100 to 338 — and only seems to keep going.

“That’s not gone away,” Salyer said. “Those numbers have been climbing. The pandemic has doubled our work.”

One specific group she has seen grow is veteran business owners in addition to minority business owners.

“Veteran entrepreneurship has definitely increased. I had three starting out and now we are at around 20,” Salyer said. “Ethnicity numbers have improved as well. I envision as we continue with MEDWeek, that will only get better.”

Above all, Salyer hopes the information, inspiration and awareness gained over the next week doesn’t fizzle out by the following Monday. She hopes it creates long-lasting change that only grows from here.

“I want people to step outside their comfort zone and try something different during MEDWeek,” Salyer said. “Encourage people that are interested in starting a business. Encourage them to seek out the resources.

“I don’t want people to go back to the way we were. I want people to spend a few dollars with these minority businesses — be more aware when they are buying something to just spread the love.”

For more information, go to http://www.kosbe.org/. To complete the survey, go to http://survey.alchemer.com/s3/6519010/2021-MEDWeek-Survey-of-Minority-Businesses.

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