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August 29, 2013 | Tom Ballard

Baker finds his entrepreneurial calling

Baker Labs(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second of a two-part interview with Knoxville entrepreneur Gavin Baker.)

By Tom Ballard, Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurial Initiatives, Pershing Yoakley & Associates. P.C.

For the second time in just a few years, local entrepreneur Gavin Baker was faced with a decision about his professional future.

The year was 2009, and Abunga, a family friendly online bookstore, had closed. He found the answer some 15 miles away in Maryville, where Ruby Tuesday was hiring a Social Media Manager.

“We invested heavily in Social Media at Abunga,” Baker explained of the decision to join an established company. He believes that he was the first full-time Social Media Manager in the restaurant industry and cites several accomplishments, including moving the number of Facebook “likes” for Ruby Tuesday from 1,000 to 80,000 in the time he was there.

Baker soon found that his entrepreneurial spirit was calling, so he left Ruby Tuesday and joined Moxley Carmichael, the Knoxville public and media relations firm, as Director of Digital Media.

“I learned a ton in my time there,” he says of the two years working for Cynthia Moxley and Alan Carmichael.

He says one community leader told him how fortunate he was to be a part of the Moxley Carmichael team. “You get paid to see how different companies work,” the leader said.

During his days with the firm, Baker taught classes and “found that I really enjoyed the experience.” So, when the entrepreneurial bug reappeared, Baker left Moxley Carmichael in May 2012 and founded Baker Labs.

He says he wanted to focus on training programs, but quickly learned that “people don’t go searching for Social Media classes.” The result was a pivot to digital marketing consulting “across the board,” including some teaching.

His new work as a consultant and his years in digital media caused Baker to start asking clients, “Do you do a email newsletter?” The answer was generally no, but he found interest if a newsletter could be something that was not complicated or painful for the client.

For Baker, launching email newsletters is a combination of common sense and revenue enhancement.

“Who knows how much revenue is left on the table by not staying in contact with customers,” he asks, believing the answer is significant, particularly for service companies which are his focus.

Greenlight, his new company, was founded this past April to “make email newsletters easy to use.” His strategy is simple. First, he allows customers to be as hands-off as they want. Greenlight designs the newsletter, writes the copy, handles distribution, and provides reporting to the client.

“We make it as turnkey as possible,” he says, all for $200 a month. “It is scalable and repeatable.”

Baker is just a few months into his second company, but his philosophies draw heavily from business biographies and other leadership and management books. His latest read is To Sell Is Human by Daniel Pink.

“You have to be open to have others help open doors,” Baker says, adding that “the best way to make dreams happen is to share them with others.”

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