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Knoxville Area Urban League CO.STARTERS winners receive funds to start, grow business

December 21, 2016

Today, Randy Boyd, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Economic & Community Development, presented a check for $5,000 to Skyler O’Dell, the first-place winner of the CO.STARTERS program. The second-place winner, Kennie Riffey, was awarded a check for $2,500 from Mark Isom, owner of Premiere Building Maintenance Corporation.

Both O’Dell and Riffey completed the Urban Leagues’ 10-week CO.STARTERS training program, which allows entrepreneurs to build and test small business ideas with customer feedback and input from local, successful business owners. At the conclusion of the program, participants pitch their businesses to a panel of judges.

O’Dell was selected as the first-prize winner of $5,000 for True Patience Assistance, LLC, a business that will offer at-home rehabilitation exercises and other therapeutic services.

“CO.STARTERS has been a wonderful experience, and I have learned so much,” O’Dell said. “The information is helpful and really teaches you how to run a successful small business. I am grateful for this opportunity.”

Riffey is the owner of Second Story Construction, a residential construction company that does primarily home renovations.

The Knoxville Area Urban League hosts the CO.STARTERS training program for entrepreneurs at all stages. Whether the business is just an idea or already in operation, the program gives participants the knowledge and experience to turn their passion into reality.

“Small business is at the heart of everything we do,” said Phyllis Y. Nichols, president and CEO of the Knoxville Area Urban League. “We are truly proud of the participants, and we can’t wait to watch both O’Dell’s and Riffey’s businesses grow from their success in the program. Entrepreneurship, business growth and economic development are essential to sustaining our local economy.”

Boyd funded the grant through the United Way of Greater Knoxville.

The next CO.STARTERS class begins March 4, 2017, and the Knoxville Area Urban League is seeking applicants who are serious about starting or growing their business. The Urban League also can offer loans from $5,000 to $250,000 to businesses that don’t qualify for traditional loans at banks or credit unions.

In addition to the CO.STARTERS program, the Knoxville Area Urban League is holding The Paradigm Challenge, a place-based, industry-specific ideation pitch competition that challenges entrepreneurs to solve business and economic growth challenges facing the East Knoxville business community (i.e., Magnolia Avenue, Asheville Highway, Cherry Street, Five Points and Burlington). The competition will target the health care, retail/light manufacturing and technology industries. Anyone residing in Knox County with an idea for a new business can apply online by visiting, The deadline for applications is Dec. 30.

About the Knoxville Area Urban League

Since 1968, the Knoxville Area Urban League has assisted disadvantaged people attain social and economic stability and self-sufficiency through direct services and advocacy. The League works to provide a skilled and diverse workforce; to increase homeownership; to support economic and small business development, and to enhance education efforts for our youth. The Knoxville Area Urban League is a United Way partner agency and affiliate of the National Urban League. The League’s work and results are evident in the lives of the over 8,000 people it impacts each year. For more information, go to

For more information on the Knoxville Area Urban League and its programs, call 865-524-5511 or visit