The following article appeared in the Knoxville News Sentinel, May 12, 2017
By Andrew Capps
The Tennessee Veterans Business Association announced on Friday that the group was relaunching its campaign to unite veteran-owned businesses across the state to help support their interests.
The announcement was made during a relaunching party at the Villa Collina, Dr. Eric W. Barton’s recently acquired mansion on Lyons View Pike in Knoxville.
“I was trying to start a business at the time, a veteran-owned company, and then realized that there were a lot of veteran-owned companies in this area that weren’t connected and weren’t talking to one another,” Williams said.
Williams explained that eventually he landed on the idea of organizing local veteran-owned businesses to create a mutual support network that would help businesses coordinate with each other.
“Once the idea took form and we got everybody together, it became, ‘What do we do with it now?’” he said. “When we started this, the veteran unemployment rate was really high, so we had all these companies together in a room, why not have a job fair/expo?”
The idea stuck, and the TVBA grew until last year when Williams decided that he could no longer keep up with the needs of the association and his responsibilities as founder of Accord Federal Services. That was when Barton, who founded Maryville-based company Vanquish Worldwide, decided to increase his own level of involvement.
“We’ve talked over the years about me being more involved, and last fall (Williams) decided not to have the January expo,” Barton said. “He was to a point where he and a couple of other people were doing everything.”
Now with Barton heading the TVBA, plans to increase its membership and offerings have become more growth-oriented and aggressive.
“We want to open chapters in Chattanooga, Nashville, Memphis, Clarksville, Johnson City, Powell and many other places,” Barton said. “There’s a lot of opportunities for veterans to join together and become a part of what we’re doing.”
According to Barton, finding the right ways to grow has been a challenge, but he and his team are relying on their experience to help the TVBA support its members.
“Right now, we’re doing the things that we’ve learned over time that small businesses really do want,” he said, “but there’s a lot of things that we don’t know about, so it’s a learning process as well.”
For Williams, Barton’s involvement is a reason to be optimistic about the TVBA’s future.
“I think what Eric has planned is pretty phenomenal,” he said. “What we want to see is just more growth, more member services, more opportunities for veterans in the business community to get to know one another a little bit better.”