Topics for Economic Inclusion

The resources in this section highlights policy, procurement and resources targeted towards the advancement of equitable engagement for Tennessee’s Diverse Business Enterprises (DBEs) seeking certification, in addition to resources other underserved and underrepresented businesses.

Entrepreneurs with Disabilities

In a national study of business owners with disabilities, “91 percent said they enjoyed operating their businesses. 73 percent were satisfied with their businesses, 56 percent said that their businesses have met or exceeded their expectations.” Source: RTC Rural“A larger share of workers with a disability were self-employed in 2019 than were those with no disability (10% versus 5.9 %). Source: U.S Department of Labor”  Source: US Dept. of Labor, BLS

Programs, Resources, Certification - federal government website for information on disability programs and services
US Business Leadership Network – helps business drive performance by leveraging disability inclusion in the workplace, supply chain, and marketplace
Vocational Rehabilitation Services , TNDHS  - a program providing services to individuals with disabilities to attain self-employment

LGBT Business Enterprises

"If all estimated LGBT-owned businesses in America are projected, their contributions to the economy exceed $1.7 trillion" – NGLCC

Programs, Resources, Certification

Minority Business Enterprises

Minority-owned businesses comprise 19 percent of the all the firms, with or without employees, in Tennessee, with a significantly higher number, 50 percent, in the Memphis MSA.
Source: BERO 2016 AR Addendum

Immigrants have started more than half (44 of 87) of America’s startup companies valued at $1 billion or more.  Source: National Foundation for American Policy


Programs, Resources, Certification 

Small Business Enterprise 

There are 636,842  (99.5%) small businesses in Tennessee. Source: U.S. Small Business Administration.


Programs, Resources, Certification

Women Business Enterprises

Since the recession, the greatest growth in the number of women-owned firms has been seen in the South (Tennessee and South Carolina tied for 6th).

The 10 fastest-growing states since the recession in terms of combined economic clout – combining growth in the number, employment and revenues of women-owned businesses over the past nine years, Tennessee tied with Georgia in 7th place.  Source: 2016 State of Women-owned Businesses Report


Programs, Resources, Certification

Previously Incarcerated Entrepreneurs

Statistics show that 97% of offenders currently incarcerated in Tennessee will return home one day, but close to half will be rearrested and return to prison or jail within three years of their release. Post-secondary education is a proven and powerful part of reducing recidivism.


Programs, Opportunities and Resources

  • Grants – see the grant section under Quick Links; grant dollars related to previously incarcerated typically go to nonprofits and government agencies to provide support services and training to affect recidivism
  • Jobs4TN – find employers near you
  • Jobs For Felons Hub -  online reentry resource portal
  • Reentering Your Community – A Handbook – checklists, available services, helpful tools
  • Step Ahead: helps job seekers with felony convictions and other criminal charges know their work options

Be inspired – BEST, Rubicon BakeryThistle Farms

Rural Businesses

“In some places, county leaders are realizing that instead of relying on outside investments, their strongest assets are the infrastructure, skills, talent and resources already found within their communities. By focusing on strengths, counties are discovering a host of qualities unique to rural places that are key for retaining residents and attracting new growth.” Source: Cultivating a Competitive Advantage, NACO


Programs, Opportunities and Resources

  • Governor’s Rural Task Force: resources from a wide range of organizations to advance rural communities and economic development
  • HUBZone ​- helps small businesses gain preferential access to federal procurement opportunities
  • Main Street (Tennessee) - provides technical assistance, training and guidance to nationally accredited downtowns
  • National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) - an alliance of grassroots organizations that advocates for federal policy reform to advance the sustainability of agriculture, food systems, natural resources, and rural communities
  • Opportunity Zones (f) - a federal tax incentive for investors to re-invest  capital gains into investing in designated low-income areas
  • RUPRI – provides unbiased analysis and information on the challenges, needs and opportunities facing rural America
  • Southern Rural Development (SRDC) – a mix of strategies to help rural communities seed entrepreneurs
  • USDA Rural Development - work in partnership with the private sector and the community-based organizations to provide financial assistance (not a direct lender)
  • UT Institute for Agriculture – information resource for rural business

Youth Entrepreneurship

The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) estimates that of the entrepreneurs engaged in starting and running new businesses, 165 million early-stage entrepreneurs are young entrepreneurs (age 18 to 25). Source: GEM 2011 Global Report


Programs, Opportunities and Resources

  • DECA - prepares emerging leaders and entrepreneurs in high schools and colleges worldwide
  • Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) - bring business and education together
  • Global Entrepreneurship Week - the world’s largest celebration of the innovators and job creators who launch startups
  • Junior Achievement (JA) - K-12th grade programs foster work-readiness, entrepreneurship, financial literacy
  • Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) - provides programs that inspire young people from low-income communities to stay in school, to recognize business opportunities 
  • FSA Youth Loans (loan program) – loans of up to $5,000 for eligible individual rural youths, (10-20 yrs. old) to finance income producing, agriculture-related projects
  • Scouts - Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts offer various opportunities in entrepreneurship and mentoring
  • Virtual Enterprise - an in-school entrepreneurship program and global business simulation
  • Young Entrepreneurs - current articles, blogs and other media for teens and young entrepreneurs