Entrepreneur Spotlight: Maria Noel
"LAUNCH gave me the confidence to value and ask for my worth"
Entrepreneurship isn’t always about fitting the conventional model of owning a business. Maria Noel, an Alton Park resident, is committed to using her entrepreneurial giftings to serve her community in various ways.
During her professional career, she worked for the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce, The Enterprise Center, Chattanooga Neighborhood Enterprise, and The Chattanooga Times, to name a few. These experiences, in addition to being a professional storyteller and writer by trade, helped her to cultivate marketable skills.
Following Maria’s participation in a 2018 LAUNCH CHA cohort, she spent time building her initial business idea, Christmas tree decorating. Due to the pandemic, however, it was significantly affected. “We go in thinking this is the business we should do; however, sometimes the market demands something different, and we have to adjust.” That was the case for Maria, who pivoted and began spending more time on projects that entailed marketing, writing, public relations, and grant writing.
Maria grew up around entrepreneurs. Her father, the City's Equal Employment Opportunity and Fair Housing director - also owned a shoe repair shop on M.L.K Boulevard and taught shoe repair at Howard High School. Her exposure, growing up around her father and other African American business owners in Alton Park, ignited her desire to use her skills in the marketplace.
Her reputation, skills, confidence, and understanding of her value and worth landed her a contract with The Trust for Public Land’s Alton Park Connector greenway project, where she wrote a history of the Alton Park community (read story here). “It took me from just being an entrepreneur and focusing on myself and my business to being an entrepreneur focusing on the importance of community.”
Maria recognized that, with this project, she could reclaim her community's narrative. “Oftentimes, other people tell our story for us,” she said. “Growing up in the 1960s during the Civil Rights Movement and living through the environmental challenges in Alton Park … helped me understand how what we went through then impacts how we see ourselves today.” Her work on this project served as a springboard to working with various local firms and nonprofit organizations.
In addition to her consulting work, Maria is the president of the South Chattanooga Community Association. Her participation gets to the heart of why she primarily focuses her consulting efforts on place-based, community-centered projects. She feels the more she can mobilize her neighbors and encourage young people to become stakeholders and active participants in the community, the better the chances for transformation.
Leveraging her talents, investing in her community, and doing what she loves in writing, marketing, and consulting shows us all that there is an intersection between our passions, doing good work, and giving back.