Memphis, like many other American cities, has a bustling downtown. But there is often a disconnect between the commercial, urbanized activity in the heart of the city and the neighborhoods surrounding it.
When Epicenter came onto the scene, the community already had several resource providers for entrepreneurs, and they didn’t want to simply replicate tools and resources that other organizations had already developed. But they saw a disconnect between the resources being offered and the sparse amount of participation in those services. Some people in the community were overlooked.
Start Co, Memphis’s tech accelerator for high growth startups, effectively churns potential into promise. A problem, however, is that many entrepreneurs are simply not ready for an intensive incubation program. To apply to this kind of program, an entrepreneur needs confidence in their idea, skills, and ability to convey their venture’s potential to others.
Not only are many entrepreneurs not prepared for an accelerator, but most of them will never need one. Not all good business ideas are high growth business ideas. Hair salons, coffee shops, and other family-owned businesses are typically not scaled beyond a second or third location in the community, but they are vital to a community’s economy, local pride, and sense of self.
This is why communities with plenty of accelerators but no programming for early stage or small businesses may experience a frustrating lack of interest in entrepreneurial outreach.
“To reach people, you have to meet them where they are, not where you’d like them to be,” shared Taylor Sherbine, Community Manager at Epicenter Memphis. “A community’s most promising future businesses are mostly unexecuted—they live in the heads of uncertain dreamers.”
So when Epicenter Memphis started thinking about which programs to offer the Memphis community, they recognized this gap—there wasn’t much for the entrepreneurship-curious in town.