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September 27, 2022 | Tom Ballard

Aspera Life selects Knoxville area as one of nine inaugural launch cities

By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

Two Nashville business executives who have years of experience in executive searches and coaching have joined forces in a new venture to help businesses with annual revenues of $250,000 to $2 million propel their growth, and the Knoxville region is one of the nine launch communities.

Named Aspera Life, the new venture is the brainchild of John Kepley, a serial entrepreneur and Past President and 12-year member of the Nashville Chapter of the Entrepreneur Organization (EO), the third largest chapter in the world, and Guice Smith, Managing Director of Guice Smith & Associates, a national executive search firm. Kepley’s LinkedIn profile shows a number of start-ups including Teknetex Inc., a technology specific talent acquisition and consulting firm that is a multiyear honoree on Inc. Magazine’s 500 and 5000 lists.

Kepley and Smith have partnered with Verne Harnish (Founder of the global Entrepreneurs’ Organization {EO} and international best-selling author of Scaling Up) and Daniel Marcos (award winning entrepreneur and Founder of the Growth Institute) to bring an exclusive program designed to equip founders with knowledge from some of the best business minds in the world delivered within a community of peers, allowing their members to share experiences in a confidential and non-judgement space.

Recruitment is well underway for participants in the nine communities for the 18-month program that begins the week of October 17. In addition to the Knoxville region, other launch cities are Cincinnati, Memphis and two communities each in Florida (Orlando and Tampa Bay), Kentucky (Lexington and Louisville), and South Carolina (Charleston and Columbia). Long-term plans are to expand to a total of 50 cities.

Locally, Aspera Life will be offering its bi-weekly sessions at the Sky City Entrepreneur Center in Maryville.

Notably absent from the launch list and future growth plans is Nashville, and there’s a key reason for that decision.

“We are focusing on markets where we see an increasing amount of momentum and an opportunity to partner with those cities to bring founders an exclusive program that will increase their chances of building businesses larger than they imagined,” Kepley (pictured right) explained. “Michael Burcham (inaugural head of the Nashville Entrepreneur Center) co-founded a program with EO Nashville and the Nashville Entrepreneur Center that focuses on founders with less than $1 million in revenue, and it is a major reason for Nashville’s thriving economy. As a past EO Nashville President and current member, I fully support that program, and bringing Aspera Life to Nashville would feel like I’m competing with myself.”

Kepley added, “Michael is a trusted mentor of mine and has been for a long time. He was one of the first calls I made when Aspera Life was just an idea in my head. Having Michael Burcham and Verne Harnish backing Aspera Life gives me a lot of confidence that what we are building has the chance to be something special.”

Like many start-up names, there is clear meaning to the choice of Aspera Life.

“Aspera refers to the aspiration that drives entrepreneurs, and life relates to the hardships they encounter along their journey,” Kepley explains, with Guice calling our attention to this statement on the website: “Aspera Life is designed to provide a trusted community where an owner can interact with their peers to examine and strengthen the trajectory of their business and solidify their foundation to directly affect their bottom line.”

So, what exactly will Aspera Life be offering? In a nutshell, it is the tools entrepreneurs need to facilitate their team (Human Resources), money (Finance), process (Operations), or customers (Sales). It is all captured in three words: community, crews and coaching. The first “C” is obvious; it’s where the business executive lives and can establish the all-important peer network with other participants. Crews refers to the way classes and activities are organized . . . small groups where participants learn together and can share opportunities or challenges in a confidential environment. Coaching comes from the presence of a certified business coach in each community who guides individual participants and their fellow crew members through the program.

Kepley and Guice (pictured left) explained that the program runs for 18 months with the first year devoted to biweekly sessions divided between learning and sharing. Each quarter is then subdivided into monthly sessions on one of three focus areas . . . the entrepreneur, his or her team, and the company. For example, the first month’s focus on the entrepreneur will include topics like “The Four Stages of Company Growth” and “The Three Focuses of a Leader.” Month two shifts to the team with topics such as “Scaling up: Hiring, Functions and Processes,” and month three is about strategy. Months four, seven and 10 return to a focus on the entrepreneur; months five, eight and 11 are about the team; and months six, nine and 12 are focused on the company. An Aspera Life partner, Align Software, will be used to allow members to track their progress.

The learning process is enhanced through the use of curated video training modules from well-known  individuals such as Harnish, Marcos, Christine Comaford (Human Behavior Expert and founder of SmartTribes Institute), and Jack Daly (Professional Sales Coach, Olympian, and best-selling author of Hyper Sales Growth).

For more information, interested individuals can contact Angela Mayer (

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