It’s hard to own a successful business, says Julie Blaylock. The first two years are critical, especially for restaurants and retail businesses which face stiff online competition.
She should know. She’s the president/CEO of the Farragut West Knox Chamber of Commerce. She’s been in the role for two and a half years.
“I’ve got my feet under me now, but I know how much I don’t know,” she laughs.
The chamber strives to make those first two years, and all the years that follow, a little easier for local businesses. The chamber is a membership-based organization with approximately 650 members. Those members band together to advance commerce in the community, she says.
“Our job is to support members and provide opportunities to build relationships, which lead to new business.”
In addition to receiving resources, advertising and networking opportunities, chamber members can apply for scholarships for training/education. Scholarship funding varies with each budget year, but this year the chamber will award $5,000 to members businesses. It’s just another perk of membership.
The town of Farragut provides financial support for the chamber, although membership extends throughout Knox, Loudon, Blount, Anderson and Sevier counties. The organization’s popular networking events, held each Thursday, are already booked through the end of 2020. But Julie would like to see more business owners let go of the “do-it-yourself” mentality and reach out for help.
“We’re just so good at putting the right people together. We want to see every single business succeed.”
Julie’s passion for working with businesses developed organically. She has a master’s degree in English and was applying for doctoral programs when her mother became ill. She put her plans on hold and went to work for a local architect. Julie faced her own health crisis in 2010 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Not long after that, the architecture firm downsized due to the recession.
She learned about an opening at Farragut West Knox Chamber through a coworker and interviewed with the chamber’s former president/CEO Bettye Sisco three times. Her third interview was at a chamber event, where her networking skills were observed. She got the job and served as Bettye’s executive assistant for five years. During that time, she learned that she loves to work with people.
Julie is encouraged by positive business developments in Farragut. She’s glad to see new life coming to empty big box stores (“That can’t happen fast enough”) and is excited about Top Golf coming to town. She’s pleased that Trevor Hobbs, the town’s new assistant to the town administrator, is looking into ways to smooth the path for new business owners. She also thinks that the town’s revamping of its sign ordinance may be an opportunity for businesses to do a better job of getting the word out. Plus, there’s a good energy between the Board of Mayor and Aldermen and the staff.
“The only place to go is up,” she says.
Wendy Smith coordinates marketing and public relations for the town of Farragut.