Little Vols Learning Center open house tonight

Jay FitzKarns/Hardin Valley, Our Town Neighbors

Little Vols Learning Center in Karns will hold open house tonight (08/22/23) to introduce the new curriculum for the facility at 7533 Oak Ridge Highway. Owner Michael Dowsey acquired the business from the retiring owners of Two by Two Christian Daycare. The location and phone number remain the same, and Dowsey hopes to retain the staff and children.

Dowsey is a graduate of the University of Tennessee with a master’s degree in social work. He is trained and licensed to operate a child care center and has worked as a manager at one, but he has never owned his own before.

Dowsey received a $400,000 acquisition grant from the U.S. Department of Urban Development (HUD) that was requested by Knox County government. The flow-through grant was approved by Knox County Commission in February 2023, and Dowsey had to match it with $42,000 of his own, according to a report by Knoxville Compass.

He also received a loan from the 865 Opportunity Fund for renovations and expansion. The childcare facility previously served about 50 children aged 1-3 years. An infant care wing is opening soon, and future plans call for an afterschool program.

The 865 Opportunity Fund is designed to expand ownership of small businesses, with opportunities focused on minority- and woman-owned businesses in Anderson, Blount, Grainger, Jefferson, Knox, Loudon, Roane, Sevier and Union counties. Rebranded earlier this year, the fund is a collaboration between Pathway Lending, First Horizon, Pinnacle Financial Partners and Regions Bank with an emphasis on providing loans between $5,000 and $50,000 to eligible small businesses.

The Knoxville Chamber publicized the new business and Dowsey’s milestone as the area’s first small business owner to receive one of the HUD grants.

“The loan application was not difficult,” Dowsey said. “A Pathway Lending coach helped me throughout the process.”

Businesses interested in learning more about the 865 Opportunity Fund can schedule an inquiry Zoom or phone call with Aaron Owen at

Founded in 1999 and based in Nashville, Pathway Lending is a community development financial institution (CDFI) certified by the U.S. Department of the Treasury. In 2021, Pathway Lending made more than $57.7 million in loans and delivered 16,555 hours of technical assistance and education. Get to know its mission and the stories of the entrepreneurs and communities it serves at


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