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LiftTN Microenterprise Urban Core Edition

A TNPlacemaker initiative that provides education, resources and tools to underserved and underrepresented microenterprises located in rural and urban core areas in Tennessee.


Apply now to provide education, resources and tools to underserved and underrepresented microenterprises in urban core areas of entitlement communities.    

We know that “education, resources and tools” is very general. We also know that there are incredible programs, activities and opportunities that are currently moving the needle for businesses in communities across the state and beyond. Maybe one of these programs or activities is happening in your community that needs to expand, or maybe there is one in somewhere else you think would fill a gap in your community.

Here are how two grantees from the pilot round used their LiftTN funds to meet the needs of entrepreneurs and small businesses:

Statewide project: IWW, a virtual incubator, enabled businesses across the state to access key resources, such as writing and submitting bids or RFPs/RFIs for government contracts, bookkeeping and accounting practices that meet requirements, etc.

West TN project:  altShop, a pop-up shop program, enabled retailers and food service businesses to learn the ins and outs of running a brick and mortar business with a specific focus on construction and manufacturing industries.

How much can you apply for?
This is a competitive grant. The total available to grant is $200,000.00.

Who can apply for funding?
Existing nonprofits, local governments and educational institutions registered and in good standing in the state of Tennessee

Which areas are eligible for Urban Core Edition?
All entitlement communities in Tennessee.

Entitlement communities include: Shelby County and Memphis, Jackson, Clarksville, Davidson County, Murfreesboro, Oak Ridge, Knox
County and Knoxville, Chattanooga, Cleveland, Morristown, Kingsport, Bristol, Franklin, Hendersonville, and Johnson City.

What is the contract period for the Urban Core Edition?
The contract period is 24 months; the execution of the project is to take place in months 1-18 with reporting/observation from months 19-24.

The not so fine, fine print: 

  • The grant application must be submitted and administered by the sponsoring nonprofit organization, local government or educational entity.
  • Partnerships, collaborative work and leveraging funds are encouraged!
  • LiftTN is a reimbursable grant program. That means you spend the money as agreed upon for eligible activities; submit respective receipts and other documentations then we reimburse you.
  • Organizations participating in LiftTN will be required to submit proper documentation of all grant expenditures. Failure to follow specified uses or accounting requirements may result in loss of program participation and/or dollars.
  • All expenditures must take place within the timeframe of the grant period as designated by the grant contract.

Application period: June 20 – August 1, 2018

Submit your application online and use the budget document provided.

Helpful hints:

  • Save time on your application by being prepared with all of the requirements before you begin.
  • Cut and paste your responses directly into the online format. The PDF version is below.
  • Save your application as you go – when you save your application an email is sent to you with a link so you can access it later.
  • On the budget, clearly identify the expenses by program and make notes to explain details.
  • Other than uploading your budget document, no images or additional documents may be uploaded with your application.
  • Please note any applicable “soft” commitments from government agencies, non-profits and/or private business and industry may be noted in the application.

LiftTN Application Webinar
Urban Core Edition:
Day/Time TBD

Questions: Please email us at with “LiftTN: Microenterprise Question” in the subject line.

Review application document: LiftTN Application (PDF)

How your application will be evaluated and the process, as well as definitions referred to in the application, can be found in this section.

Application Evaluation
Applications will be reviewed according to the following criteria:

  • Description
  • Project Need (30 pts.)
  • Project Impact (30 pts.), (+10 pts.)
  • Project/program Plan (30 pts.), (+10 pts.)
  • Budget (10 pts.)

Application Process
Applications will be reviewed, recommended and then approved by TNECD’s Grant Committee. All contracts will be sent directly to the grantee for signature and returned to TNECD for final signatures and approvals. Contracts must be fully executed before any work may be performed; meaning no costs may be incurred.   

Definitions: What does that mean?

  • “DBE” means minority-owned, women-owned, service-disabled veteran-owned and small businesses as defined by the Governor’s Office of Diversity Business Enterprise
  • “Entitlement and Non-Entitlement Communities”  The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) identifies entitlement communities in Tennessee to include Shelby County and Memphis, Jackson, Clarksville, Davidson County, Murfreesboro, Oak Ridge, Knox County and Knoxville, Chattanooga, Cleveland, Morristown, Kingsport, Bristol, Franklin, Hendersonville, and Johnson City. Entitlement communities receive funding directly from HUD; these communities are encouraged to work with their local governments to access their annual Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) funds. The state and other communities can be of assistance in setting up this program. All other communities in the State are non-entitlement and access funds through the State.
  • “Low and Moderate Income” (LMI) is a CDBG National Objective that principally benefits persons of low and moderate income (LMI). For quick reference, LMI is defined as a household whose income is less than 80% of the area median income and located in a non-entitlement area. Note: LMI data is independent of other income related data such as free and reduced lunch programs, unemployment and/or poverty rates, etc.
  • “Microenterprise” is a business with five (5) or fewer employees including its owners.  Microenterprises comprise the largest number of business enterprises in Tennessee and are a critical aspect our state’s diverse business climate. Find out more here.
  • “Reimbursement Grant” is a grant in which you have to spend dollars according to the agreed upon budget, document what you spent, and then submit a request to be reimbursed for the dollars you spent. This is why it is critical for applicants to be in the fiscal position to complete this type of grant.
  • “Underserved and Underrepresented” populations include women, minorities and veterans; individuals with disabilities; previously incarcerated individuals; and areas of low- to moderate income (“LMI”).
  • “Urban Core” means those businesses located or whose owners reside in within the city boundary/ consolidated metro in Low-Mod Block Groups as designated by the HUD. To determine if the business owner(s) residence is located in a qualified Low-Mod Block Groups, go to, then click on “Layers,” then expand “Boundaries,” then expand “Other,” and check “Low-Mod Block Groups.” From there you can zoom in and out easily to see streets.

The intent of these dollars is to enable grantees to expand their capacity to deliver new education, tools and resources and/or to expand to new communities.

Unmet Needs: These have not been addressed though this initiative, but are in demand:

  • Co-working spaces
  • Economic Gardening® targets existing second-stage microenterprises in a community by helping them grow through assistance with strategic issues and providing customized research.
  • Resiliency and Succession Planning offers technical assistance to increase microenterprise sustainability and adaptability.
  • Development of worker cooperatives that facilitate management/employee buyouts.

Ineligible Programs/Use:

  • Fund or expand loan programs
  • Workforce development
  • Ongoing operational dollars to run existing program

Grantees are required to complete quarterly and final reports. Please select the button below to complete the report.