LiftTN: Microenterprise

  • Overview
  • Eligibility
  • Process
  • Guidelines
  • Application
  • LiftTN: Microenterprise, Urban Core Edition (new for 2017)

    LiftTN: Microenterprise, Urban Core Edition pilot program invites organizations to apply for funding to cover costs in a variety of areas that foster underserved and underrepresented microenterprises. Grantee organizations will provide access to existing and future microenterprises located in designated urban core areas with education, tools and resources. This is a reimbursement grant program, and a total of $125,000 is available in FY2017 (state fiscal year) for award.


    LiftTN: Microenterprise is aimed at microenterprise development across the state. The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development launched the Rural Edition as a pilot in February 2015 with $400,000 in total grant money awarded over a two-year contract to five grantees.

    LiftTN: Microenterprise, Rural Edition

    There are five (5) programs running from 2015 to 2017 across Tennessee.

    West Tennessee
    Communities Unlimited, Inc.

    ALTShops is a popup retail program that recruits business owners and assists them with startup costs, leasing of commercial property and other technical assistance.

    Middle Tennessee and Statewide
    Growth Enterprises (NBIC)

    Incubator Without Walls provides a virtual business incubation program with one-on-one business counseling, as well as location-based training classes

    East Tennessee
    Knoxville Chamber

    Propel (min. 2:11) is a mentor-protégée program that pairs protégés relatively new to business with mentors who are established business leaders. The protégés also receive coaching and technical assistance.

    Sonnenshein Green Initiative (SGI)

    SGI established and operates the Hohenwald Marketplace, a place for local vendors to operate and sell services and goods.

    BizFoundry, TN Code Academy

    Apps and Entrepreneurship teaches youth, 12-18 years old, not only how to make an app or a game, but how to make money with what they create.

    Original program press release:


    Check back for a new round of funding for the LiftTN: Microenterprise, Rural Edition program in Fall 2017.


    The LiftTN: Microenterprise, Urban Core Edition and LiftTN: Microenterprise, Rural Edition programs align, but have slightly different requirements due to their respective funding sources and service areas.

  • Eligibility

    LiftTN: Microenterprise, Urban Core Edition

    Who can apply for funding?
    Eligible organizations include existing non-profits, city/county governments and educational institutions duly registered and in good standing in the state of Tennessee that provide small business education, tools and resources. The contract period for pilot program in short and the organization applying must be able to complete the proposed work in the time allotted. Applicants must be able to demonstrate a need, a viable action plan (including that the resources needed to execute the plan are available) and the projected positive results.

  • What are the eligible areas?
    Urban core areas in Memphis, Chattanooga, Knoxville and Clarksville

    Who does the funding serve?
    Underserved and underrepresented existing and future microenterprises located in or whose owners reside in one of the designated urban core cities/consolidated metro. In addition to businesses operating in those residing in areas of low income and high unemployment in urban core areas, underserved and underrepresented existing and future microenterprises may also include those owned by women, minorities, veterans and/or persons with disabilities.

    Meeting the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) national objective for the definition of LMI is highly encouraged for the urban core edition, but not required.

    Why do you want to meet HUD’s LMI national objective?
    The urban core areas are “entitlement communities,” which means that HUD allocates their Community Development Block Grants (CDBGs) funding directly to them. HUD strongly encourages economic development projects, and specifically, microenterprise projects. So, if you are already aligned with LMI, it will be easier for you to make a case for additional CDBG funding from your respective urban area since you are meeting HUD’s LMI requirements.

  • What is a microenterprise?
    A microenterprise is a business with five or fewer employees, including the owners. The legal structure of the microenterprise may be a for-profit, sole proprietor, general partnership, LLC or corporation (type -C, subchapter-S or for public benefit).

    What does "urban core” mean?
    “Urban core” refers to 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.

    Can an organization apply for multiple programs or multiple urban core areas?
    The short answer is, yes.

    The long answer:
    Organizations may apply for single or multiple programs to run in one of the eligible designated urban core (UC) city/consolidated metro. An organization may also submit multiple applications for multiple designated urban core cities/consolidated metros. However, an organization may not submit one application that captures multiple designated urban core cities/consolidated metros.  For example, you can submit one application for two different programs that take place in Knoxville, but you cannot submit one application for one program that takes place in Knoxville and Chattanooga. In the second example, you can submit a separate application for Knoxville and a second for Chattanooga.

    How much can I apply for in pilot round of the Urban Core Edition?
    You may apply for up to the maximum amount allotted in each urban core area.

    Here are the dollar amounts:

    Designated urban core (UC) city/consolidated metro FY2017 Status Max/UC
    Memphis $75,000 Open for Competition $75,000
    Chattanooga $20,000 Open for Competition $20,000
    Knoxville $20,000 Open for Competition $20,000
    Clarksville $10,000 Open for Competition $10,000
    Total:     $125,000

    Note: Nashville’s allotment is being used for contracting and procurement related assistance for services for minority-owned businesses. Pending approval of additional funds, Nashville will have dollars open for competition in FY2018.

    What is a “reimbursement grant”?
    A “reimbursement grant” means that your organization pays for the various costs and then submits documentation for eligible expenses in order to be reimbursed for the program/services provided. In some cases a small advance may be approved in order to get the program running, but it is a good idea to run your program without it to simplify the end of contract process. The reimbursements must be eligible and fall within the agreed upon budget and scope of services in the contract. It is important to note that you cannot be reimbursed for expenses incurred before the contract is fully executed. It also means your organization has to have the financial wherewithal to meet the contract.

  • Process

    Step One: Apply

    Step Two: Review

    • Applications are reviewed and any follow-up questions addressed
    • Submissions are reviewed and final recommendations made to the Commissioner of Economic and Community Development

    Step Three: Select

    • Applicants are notified and reimbursement grant contract process begins on or before November 30

    Step Four: Contract

    • Grantees submit W9, ACH from grantees
    • Estimated timeline to execute project once Scope of Services (which includes budget) completed: 14 – 30  days

    Step Five: Execute

    • Grantees execute projects/programs during 6 month window
    • Brief grantee training: early 2017

    Step Six: Complete

    • Contracts end June 30, 2017
    • Final reports and reimbursement requests submitted within 60 days of end of contract
  • Guidelines

    Various kinds of education, tools and resources may include, but are not limited to these:

    • “Deep” technical assistance: This refers to education and assistance that takes the business through complicated, time consuming processes that enable them to work in a new way. It is not a broad overview where you hand the business a stack of papers or a thumb drive and say, “Good luck!” A couple, examples:
      • Procurement: going step-by-step through a local, state and/or federal registration/ certification, learning how to read and complete a bid, setting up a bookkeeping system that encompasses the respective contracting entity, specifying services to target industry clusters like manufacturing, construction, in high demand, etc.
      • Planning: working through resilience/succession planning
      • Mentor-protégé programs
    • Economic gardening
    • Worker/consumer/producer/purchasing cooperatives
    • Youth: STE(A)M opportunities with  (i.e. coding classes/workshops/camps with an entrepreneurial element like, if you learn how to make a game, you then learn how to market or sell that game)

    Need more ideas? Take a look at the TN Smart Start Guide resources at

  • The application period has closed.