What does a grassroots approach to community building look like? Just ask the team at Epicenter Memphis

Memphis, like every other significant American city, has a bustling downtown. But there is often a disconnect between the activity in the heart of the city and the isolated neighborhoods that surround it.

This poses a unique challenge to Epicenter Memphis, the city’s entrepreneurship hub. Sparking interest in entrepreneurship and community building is relatively easy in the active downtown, but reaching the residential neighborhoods requires deep relationship building and collaboration. To this end, Epicenter partners with over 50 organizations in the Memphis area.

“When a starter approaches Epicenter looking for a way forward, he or she will go through a resource navigation process,” explained Taylor Sherbine, Community Manager at Epicenter Memphis. “A professional from Epicenter will connect the starter with either a service Epicenter itself provides or an Epicenter partner in the starter’s neighborhood or specific need area.” This web of referrals and recommendations builds a strong web of trust between similar organizations in the same industry. 

This localized, grassroots approach to community building and economic development is at the heart of the CO.STARTERS ethos.

Epicenter Memphis does offer its own programs, including ZeroTo510—a 90-day biomedical device accelerator for innovators seeking FDA 510(k) clearance or exemption. Another offering is the Logistics 365 Incubator, providing year-round support to tech-based businesses. Epicenter provides these programs in addition to a host of workshops and seminars. 

Taylor Sherbine // Community Manager at Epicenter Memphis

However, very little support exists for entrepreneurs outside the downtown. Many groups and organizations aim to serve the communities outside the inner city, but they lack the robust, built-out programming that Epicenter can provide. Especially key to Epicenter’s outreach is CO.STARTERS core program, which they run through many of their partner organizations in each location. 

In this way, Epicenter approaches CO.STARTERS in a unique manner. Instead of running the CO.STARTERS program through their own offices and space, they bring CO.STARTERS to neighborhoods through their local partnerships. This localized, grassroots approach to community building and economic development is at the heart of the CO.STARTERS ethos.

“Our work would be literally impossible if we didn’t have such a strong community of existing entrepreneurs that want to give back and offer their support,” Taylor shared. “Everyone in Memphis is always looking to give back. It’s an amazing city.”