Growing up in Jamaica, Tiekel Finnikin spent countless hours helping his grandmother while she sold toys, fruit, jewelry and everything in between. They’d even spend Christmas morning selling on street corners.

“I learned early that before you ever try to sell your product or service, you have to sell yourself,” says Tiekel. “There were plenty of people competing for a very small number of customers, so the ability to build relationships and trust was a critical skill I learned very young.”

After attending Knoxville College on a track and field scholarship, Tiekel applied the perseverance it took to compete every weekend to finding a career. Starting from the bottom at each, Tiekel worked his way up through food service, technology sales, and cell phone repair.

“At every job, I worked very, very hard to gain the skills needed to be successful,” says Tiekel. “Each time, I’d master as much as I could, but I always wanted a bigger challenge. That’s when I decided to start my own business.”

As a skilled electronics repairman, Tiekel decided to open his own cell phone repair center with a partner. That partnership, however, disconnected and Tiekel was left to start over. He met with dozens of bankers to try to find the funding he needed, but none could make the loan. That’s when a referral to Pathway Lending changed everything.

“After that first partnership failed, I swore I’d never go into business with anyone ever again,” says Tiekel. “But Pathway quickly became the business partner I needed for iDropped. Since day one they’ve been there; not just with the money I needed, but with hands-on help with my accounting systems. When so many others didn’t, Pathway believed in me.”

Tiekel has two full-time employees and a growing loyal customer base. Through it all, he never doubted that he’d succeed. “My daughters are watching me,” says Tiekel. “I know they’re seeing that it takes perseverance and integrity to be successful and we’re proud of that.”

Five years following Tiekel’s first loan with Pathway, iDropped has even more lines. In addition to cell phone repair, he also offers cell phone appliances and products along with a selection of refurbished phones. Tiekel has also worked with Pathway’s business advisory team over the last few years with reconciling QuickBooks, forecasting, pricing his services and implementing strategy. In early 2023, Tiekel joined Pathway’s Ignite Cohort. Through this 6-month program, he works with a team of personalized mentors on focused goals to grow his business. More expansion plans are on the horizon as he’s working on offering a wider selection of refurbished cell phones to meet those needs of his customers.

Need funding to grow your own business in East Tennessee? Connect with your local lender here. Check out our 2022 annual report for more client profiles and impacts!