The Lucy Gibson Notable Woman Award

KAWE named the Notable Woman award after one of its own, Lucy Webb Gibson, to honor her legacy, grace and courage. Lucy had proposed and helped initiate the award.

Do you know a local, outstanding woman who has affected the strategic direction of an organization, contributed to her community, and maintained a life balance in a profession, business, charity, creative art, or sport? KAWE recognizes such a woman annually by selecting from a list of nominees. Nominees must be from the greater Knoxville area. Click the Nomination Form button to submit the name of your own “notable woman.” KAWE membership recognizes the winning applicant at a luncheon in early fall. ​

The Lucy Gibson Notable Woman of 2021

Tanika Harper, Founder/CEO, Shora Foundation, Roots Collective

KAWE President Jackie Bichsel presents Tamika with a gift and check for her charity of choice.

Tanika Harper is the founder and president of two nonprofit organizations that address key issues facing marginalized communities in Knoxville. The Women Foundation provides microloans, training, and other resources for small business expansions and start-ups. Tanika knows firsthand how difficult it is for young women of color to advance as business owners in the Knoxville area. As the owner of multiple small businesses, including Elite Facility Maintenance and Harper’s Naturals, Tanika has experienced difficulty in securing the bank loans and connections needed for start-up and maintenance. This difficulty was exacerbated by her status as an African American woman. She and a group of other Black women formed The Women Foundation to help other marginalized small business owners get the connections, resources, and training they need to make their businesses successful. The second nonprofit, Shora Foundation, provides extracurricular youth programs for children of color, as well as business development programs for adults. As a single mother of an eleven-year-old daughter, Tanika saw a lack of resources available for after-school programs for children. She founded Shora to help fill that gap, with youth programs that provide academic activities, meals, creative projects, and family nights to children in under-resourced areas. Shora also provides training, classes, and webinars to adults endeavoring to develop their businesses.

Tanika’s contributions through both The Women Foundation and Shora Foundation have greatly impacted the economic and educational well-being of the Knoxville community. Because of her efforts, thousands of dollars were placed into the hands of 147 of the most marginalized entrepreneurs amid the pandemic, most of whom are women of color. In addition, more than 50 students (mostly students of color) have been served with out-of-school academic activities that have led to measurable progress in their reading and math abilities. These impacts have not gone unnoticed.

Tanika’s outstanding leadership was recognized with a prestigious recent appointment to Leadership Tennessee NEXT, which is the state’s only statewide leadership program focusing on Tennessee’s existing and emerging leaders and spanning geographic and industry boundaries. Leadership Tennessee NEXT is committed to bringing together diverse participants who are educated, engaged, and inspired to make Tennessee a better place while participating in a program that expands their personal, professional, and community networks. This appointment will allow Tanika to engage and connect with other leaders in a collaborative effort to solve even more complex problems state-wide, including poverty and unemployment.

Tanika is also a member of the Mayor’s Maker Council. The mission of the council is to promote equity in our creative economy by fostering relationships between makers and consumers, by building networks of public, technological, and financial resources, and by creating educational opportunities and partnerships. She chairs the annual Maker City Summit and was selected for Knoxville Entrepreneur Center’s Made for Knoxville Campaign. “Made for Knoxville,” a multimedia campaign, was initiated by the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center to elevate awareness of Knoxville’s diverse entrepreneurial ecosystem while inspiring action and empowering our community.

In addition, Tanika is a newly appointed Board Member of The Knoxville Chamber of Commerce; she received her appointment in December 2020.

This year, she was also nominated to be a Member of Leadership Knoxville. The 10-month learning experience provides opportunities to explore community issues, hone leadership skills, and expand community connections into lifetime friendships. The curriculum is based on servant-leadership principles.

Tanika has managed two businesses and overseen two nonprofits as the single mother of an eleven-year-old daughter. This has not always come easy to Tanika, but her daughter has definitely been her motivation to set healthy boundaries. Her daughter is a competitive gymnast, and Tanika is committed to being present for her practices and events. To maintain balance, Tanika has a practice of not working in the evenings and on weekends. She’s also committed to taking one vacation per year. Tanika is also planning a sabbatical and stresses the importance of self-care.

Despite all her accomplishments, like many women, Tanika has suffered from imposter syndrome, didn’t feel at times that she was good enough, and didn’t feel she had the right to be heard. She had to do some soul-searching and a lot of public speaking (many times to a sea of white faces) to overcome these negative perceptions and gain the confidence to be a leader. Tanika’s mantra is to start small and develop something bigger. The road she has taken, as well as her path forward, certainly proves that it’s working.