(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is another article in a series spotlighting participants in the recent “What’s the Big Idea 48-Hour Launch” coordinated by the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center for The Development Corporation of Knox County. The competition was won by Erica Grant with Quantum Lock, and you can read our previous article about her initiative here.)
By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA
“I was probably born an entrepreneur,” Anthony Ragland told us when we interviewed the Atlanta native after this year’s “What’s the Big Idea 48-Hour Launch” competition.
At the Sunday evening event held at Scruffy City Hall in Market Square, the resident of Knoxville for the past three years pitched one of his latest start-up businesses called, KnoxvillePage. His Co-Founder in the venture is Alan Sims (a.k.a., Knoxville Urban Guy), Publisher of the Inside of Knoxville blog.
“KnoxvillePage is a local search engine and soon to be local marketplace,” Ragland explains. “Our mission is to help Knoxville residents and visitors find local daily deals and shop local retailers online. We also give people the opportunity to win gifts from local businesses.”
Noting that he has “a passion for small business and entrepreneurship,” Ragland says that, for now, Knoxville is the focus, but he has an expansion plan to launch platforms in other cities if it proves viable in Knoxville. Next up would be Nashville, Chattanooga and Memphis.
“We registered over 100 CityPage domain names like NashvillePage, MemphisPage, and NoogaPage for the expansion,” he told us.
KnoxvillePage has several differentiators. For instance, the homepage is one-of-a-kind and offers local businesses the opportunity to have keyword advertising exclusivity. Ragland says there are 106 keywords on the homepage and only one business can own a keyword at a time. The keywords click-through to a customized- and mobile-optimized landing page where local businesses can promote their business and daily deals to Knoxville residents and visitors. Also, KnoxvillePage will use social media to promote each business that owns a keyword to drive extra traffic, engagement, and consumers to the business.
“It took us nine months to build KnoxvillePage,” Ragland says. “In August 2018, we had a soft launch of KnoxvillePage to test it in the market. We learned a lot and also secured some customers.”
In October, the venture pivoted its strategy and conducted some upgrades to its platform. The KnoxvillePage marketplace, which Ragland describes as a local version of Amazon, is scheduled to launch this month.
“Our marketplace will give people the ability to easily shop Knoxville retailers from wherever they are,” he says. Local retailers will be able to add up to 100 products on the marketplace for free and KnoxvillePage will take a small percentage of the transaction.
“It’s been a lot of work building KnoxvillePage, but it’s also been a lot of fun,” Ragland says of the venture that he has self-funded thus far.
Like so many entrepreneurs who start something new, he saw a need and acted upon it. “When I see a problem, my mind starts thinking of a solution,” Ragland told us. His entrepreneurial undertakings started as a teenager in his own neighborhood in Atlanta.
“There was only one barbershop in my neighborhood,” Ragland says, so he learned how to cut hair and did so from the time he was 12 years old until graduating from LaGrange College where he played baseball and earned an bachelor’s degree in computer science.
Fresh out of college, the personable Ragland was hired by legendary boxer Evander Holyfield where his first assignment was to develop a website ahead for Holyfield’s heavyweight championship match against Lennox Lewis. He says it took him and a small team four months to develop the site, but it was very successful, drawing more than one million visitors during the boxing match.
During his employment at Evander Holyfield Management Inc, Ragland says he was mentored and collaborated with many great business professionals including Jeff Hoffman, Co-Founder of Priceline.com, legendary public relations agent Lee Solters, the “incomparable Don King,” and many others.
After Holyfield’s retirement, Ragland enjoyed a career as an Internet marketing consultant, and successfully launched several seasonal online businesses in his down time. Then, he moved to the West Coast and a position as Communications Specialist and Marketing Director at California State University in San Bernardino.
How did Ragland end up in Knoxville? He says a recruiter called him in 2016 about an opportunity to build a marketing department for a new software company. He was not familiar with the community, but fell in love with the area after visiting and he accepted the position in 2016.
“It was a great experience working for the software company and I successfully fulfilled my obligation to build their marketing department,” Ragland says. “We enjoyed several big wins together. But in January of 2018, I decided I want to be an entrepreneur again,” and the journey to build the KnoxvillePage platform began.