Young talent finds plenty of opportunities to connect in Greater Chattanooga.
While on vacation in Chattanooga, the city charmed Kaleena Goldsworthy-Warnock so much she decided to leave New York and move here. She took a bartending job in 2013 at Flying Squirrel, a hip bar with an eclectic Southern menu.
“As I worked my way up from bartender to bar manager to assistant general manager, I became more aware of the incredible startup community that exists within our region,â€ says Goldsworthy-Warnock, 34. “I worked with farmers, business owners and people from nonprofits. Having conversations with them opened my eyes to the possibilities that existed within Chattanooga.”
As someone with an entrepreneurial spirit who wanted to start her own business, Goldsworthy-Warnock tapped into the wealth of resources that Greater Chattanooga offers young professionals to launch The Bitter Bottle, her apothecary that sells inventive herbal bitters (think: chocolate cherry bark bitters), essential ingredients for the craft cocktail movement.
A truth Goldsworthy-Warnock and others have discovered: Young professionals are destined to thrive in Greater Chattanooga. The region boasts several initiatives aimed at helping young talent grow in their professions. Organizations such as Young Professionals of Chattanooga serve as leadership incubators that connect, develop and advance the region’s talent pool.
Plus, when young professionals move to the region, they discover a welcoming community that’s diverse and inclusive and has a robust arts and culture scene, says Austin Corcoran, manager of talent attraction and retention at the Chattanooga Chamber. The outdoor playground at Greater Chattanooga’s front porch – complete with mountains, a river and valleys – is an added bonus for the intrepid.
Where Young Talent Thrives
No matter where young professionals are in their careers – whether it’s just starting off, looking to advance or wanting to get their startups off the ground – Greater Chattanooga has programs and services in place to help make the process seamless.
New to town? ChattaNewbies hosts happy hours to bring young professionals together and also holds a number of events so newcomers can learn the history of the region and where it is headed next.
For those looking to advance in their careers, ProtÃ©gÃ© Chattanooga is a nine-month mentoring program for early- and mid-career professionals, allowing them to learn from local executives.
Plus, a Young Professional Summit includes expert-led career sessions to help professionals grow and succeed. The 2020 panels, for instance, delved into topics like developing business plans, how to know when you’re ready to launch your own business, job search and interview tips, among other topics.
As Goldsworthy-Warnock was launching her apothecary, she found several small business support opportunities and engaged with Co.Starters, an entrepreneurship network. She took part in a “Will This Floatâ€ pitch event for female-led companies. She also secured a crowd-funded loan and has worked with the Small Business Development Center to receive business advice and counseling. Her manufacturing facility is in Hamilton County’s INCubator, which houses 127,000 square feet of startup support inside the Business Development Center on Chattanooga’s NorthShore, making it the largest business incubator in Tennessee.
When she was ready to launch The Bitter Bottle, the community supported her business. Her product line debuted in December 2019, and she sold over 200 bottles in the first month to four local retailers and at pop-up shops.
“The support I have received has been absolutely astounding,â€ she says.
In addition to the career opportunities, the Greater Chattanooga region boasts amenities that appeal to young professionals who not only want to advance in their careers, but have fun on their off time. In addition to ample career opportunities, housing remains affordable in the region, with average home prices in Chattanooga well under $200,000, according to Zillow. Tech and innovation are in the city’s DNA, and residents in the region are civically engaged with a reverence for nature.
Affordability was a driving factor for Kirby Garrison, 30, who moved back to Tennessee from New York to open up Monkey Town Brewing Company in Dayton with his father five years ago. When he’s not brewing, he likes to slip away to Chattanooga for live music and to explore the restaurant scene.
Garrison, who was born and raised in the region, brews tasty beers for the restaurant’s 20 taps. There’s something for every type of craft beer enthusiast at Monkey Town, with IPAs and blonde ales on the menu. But Garrison specializes in funky sours, recently experimenting, say, with a strawberry shortbread sour made with vanilla beans and strawberries. He also used lemons to create a small-batch lemon meringue pie brew.
Since opening Monkey Town, the father-son duo has expanded the menu to 50 or so offerings so that people can stop in for a good meal and cold beer after hiking, fishing, rock climbing, trail running or kayaking in the region.
After all, craft beer and epic outdoor adventures are always a perfect pairing.
If you’d like to learn more about the greater Chattanooga area, check out the latest edition of Chattanooga Region Economic Development.