Three Roots leverages LendTN, bank partners and technical assistance to support two woman-owned small businesses

The Complete K9 and The Houndry are woman-owned brick-and-mortar businesses focused on serving man’s best friend. Three Roots Capital (3Roots) is proud to provide them with financing and technical assistance to promote their long-term success.

“3Roots supports small and growing businesses,” said President, CEO and Founder Grady Vanderhoofven. “The beauty of running an outside-the-box financing institution is that we work on major deals, like the recent projects at the University of Tennessee Research Park, and smaller, grassroots operations like The Complete K9 and The Houndry.”

Fallon Houser has always had a soft spot for animals. After running a dog rescue and working for a dog training franchise, she decided to forge her own path and form The Complete K9, a dog training provider focused on nutrition, training, wellness and athletics. It currently has six locations across the greater southeast.

“It’s extremely tough to open a business. Most people who haven’t done it have no idea the long hours, stress, and sleepless nights that go into building something that can help support you and your family,” said Fallon.

Fallon needed financing and business help. She connected with Director of Small Business Lending and Investing Dennis Corley through 3Roots’ relationship with Walt Bowman, a small business specialist at the Tennessee Small Business Development Center (TSBDC) office in Cleveland, Tennessee.

“3Roots stepped in and gave us a traditional commercial real estate loan with a fantastic rate, a business loan to help us consolidate some liabilities, and additional capital for the slower winter season,” said Fallon. “They also helped – and are still helping – us learn more about our industry trends and how to forecast our finances month by month.”

Fallon Houser of The Complete K9

To support Fallon, 3Roots leveraged the LendTN program, recently established by the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development as part of the Fund Tennessee program. The LendTN program utilizes funds made available to Tennessee as part of the State Small Business Credit Initiative (SSBCI), and the purpose of the program is to supplement private capital available to make loans to underserved small businesses in Tennessee. Grady and Dennis believe 3Roots is likely the first lender or investor in Tennessee to deploy capital under the Fund Tennessee program and the LendTN program.

“We’ve received a ton of support, allowing us to ride out slumps and stay on track to grow and offer better services,” said Fallon. “Dennis and Walt have been wonderful to work with and have helped us bring our business to the next level.”

Amanda Lovegrove has a background in managing dog daycares and boarding facilities, while Leah Hunter is a self-described “picky dog mom.” Together, they wanted to open a local daycare center that was transparent and trustworthy.

“We’ve always wanted to provide a space where dogs could be safe, have fun and socialize,” said Amanda.

In 2016, Amanda and Leah opened The Houndry in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. During 2020, they expanded their daycare into a dog adventure company that offers daily nature walks for dogs in the surrounding region. In May 2023, they opened The Backyard, a dog park and beer garden.

“We’ve found a core group of supporters, clients and friends. That makes a huge difference,” said Leah. “Many of our clients have been with us since the beginning. They’re like family to us now.”

3Roots connected with Amanda and Leah through 3Roots Board Chairman David Bradshaw, Oak Ridge Area Manager for Pinnacle Financial Partners. Pinnacle provided a construction loan to build The Backyard, but the business needed access to operating capital to pull the project over the finish line. The project was the right fit for 3Roots’ rural microloan program and additional business coaching.

“The 3Roots team is very welcoming and made the process easy. We are so thankful for their financial guidance and highly recommend them,” said Leah.

While providing access to capital is critical for small businesses, 3Roots is also committed to coaching and connecting entrepreneurs to needed resources and relationships that help them grow and thrive.

“I enjoy working with bright, engaging entrepreneurs with a vision for what they want to accomplish and the drive to see it through – because entrepreneurship is difficult, no matter the industry,” said Dennis. “Working with Amanda, Leah and Fallon has been a pleasure.”

Three Roots Staff Spotlight: Dennis Corley

Dennis Corley has been a valuable member of Three Roots Capital (3Roots) since 2017 and was recently named Director of Small Business Lending and Investing. With a diverse background as a technology executive, advisor and business owner, Dennis offers lending and business technical experience for 3Roots’ clients, especially startups and small businesses.

“I’m not big on taglines, but if I were, mine would be ‘Always be kind and helpful when you can,'” said Dennis. “I like helping people in general and have some business acumen that is helpful to the small businesses I work with.”

Born into a military family, Dennis moved around as a kid, eventually settling in Louisiana. He received his bachelor’s degree in computer science with a minor in physics from Louisiana State University, Shreveport.

“I had no idea what I wanted to do when I graduated high school,” laughed Dennis. “But computers were a big thing in the 1980s, and I’m pretty analytical, so I thought it would be a good field.”

After graduating, Dennis worked for IBM on federal, classified projects in the Washington D.C. area for several years. Following a company restructuring, he joined SAIC as a senior systems engineer, eventually bringing him to the organization’s East Tennessee office.

“I didn’t know much about Oak Ridge. I went to work for them to help them win a specific contract at the CIA – which we did,” said Dennis. “I told them I wanted to get back to the South because I didn’t like the winter weather in Maryland. And after a couple of years, they were true to their word.”

Through SAIC, in 1996, he began working as a loaned executive for Technology 2020 (Tech 2020), the first entrepreneurial support organization for startups in the region. At Tech 2020, Dennis met recently retired Melissa (Missy) Muendel, Shawn Carson, a current lecturer at the Haslam College of Business at the University of Tennessee (UT) and a former 3Roots team member, and Tom Rogers, President & CEO of UT Research Park and a valued 3Roots partner.

“We were doing some cutting-edge stuff for the time,” said Dennis.

Eventually, Dennis became a Tech 2020 employee, and he met future 3Roots Board Member Ray Moncrief and Grady Vanderhoofven, who would become 3Roots’ founder, president, and CEO. Vanderhoofven was working in the same building after he left Oak Ridge National Laboratory to run several venture capital funds with Moncrief.

“I always told myself that I would like to work with those guys someday because what they were doing was so interesting,” said Dennis.

In the early 2000s, Dennis left Tech 2020 to run Digital Crossing Networks, a young Tech 2020 creation and the first provider of data center co-location services in the region. During his tenure, the company was acquired twice – first in 2011 and more recently in 2016.

Shortly after this time, Shawn told Dennis about an opportunity to join the newly launched 3Roots. In 2014, Grady led an effort to help Tech 2020 obtain certification as a community development financial institution (CDFI), which happened in January 2015. In 2016, as Tech 2020 wound down, Grady leveraged Tech 2020’s CDFI status to launch 3Roots. For Dennis, it felt like a natural fit and coming “full circle” from his career at Tech 2020.

“I’m technically the longest-standing employee at 3Roots,” joked Dennis.

In his role, Dennis primarily works on small-business lending and business coaching projects, such as operating 3Roots’ rural microloan program and managing a federal grant with UT Research Park. Dennis also serves as 3Roots’ liaison for the Innov865 Alliance and manages inbound lending and investing requests from small businesses.

“Dennis is not only tremendously sharp and diligent, but he is a genuinely good person,” said Vanderhoofven. “He can operate both ‘in the weeds’ and on a higher, strategic level. From growing and exiting a company to working with startups in our portfolio, Dennis understands what it takes to operate a business, making him an ideal person at 3Roots to support up-and-coming entrepreneurs in our community.”