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November 02, 2023 | Katelyn Keenehan

Brandcamp: Do you have what it takes to build your brand?

Several entrepreneurs with the "Spark Cleantech Accelerator" spent the afternoon at Knoxville Entrepreneur Center learning about how to make their brand stand out.

In today’s fiercely competitive business landscape, it’s a challenge to stand out. Consumers are bombarded with information from every direction – TV ads, Instagram influencers, and companies touting their latest developments on LinkedIn. So, how can your business and brand make their mark?

Brandcamp panelists at KEC.

Chris McAdoo, the Director of Strategy and Engagement at the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center (KEC), has guided numerous startup founders in the art of differentiation.

“At KEC, the key to our success is assisting you in establishing a sustainable business, with branding playing a significant role,” McAdoo emphasized.

He recently hosted a panel featuring Tricia Bateman of Tricia Bateman Design, Tisha Benton, the Vice Chancellor of Communications at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK), and Charley Sexton of MoxCar to discuss brand building. The entrepreneurs in attendance are all a part of the “Spark Cleantech Accelerator.” Some are participants in Spark and others in the Innovation Crossroads program.

What does it take to build a successful brand?

They unanimously stressed that the initial step is creating awareness. Nowadays, much of this can be accomplished through social media. Sexton suggested creating a campaign centered around audience building. It’s all about market research and identifying your niche.

For more specialized startups, the panelists recommended going to trade shows to expand your network and gain more exposure.

Benton pointed out that tracking data, especially in the early stages, is a pivotal part of brand building.

“We often start by trying a thousand different things, and then as some start to yield results, we hesitate to discontinue any of them. However, this is not sustainable. Data helps determine where to channel your efforts to maximize results,” Benton explained. “Budgeting your time is crucial because it’s your most valuable resource.”

Sexton and Bateman emphasized the importance of regularly reviewing the collected data to assess what is effective and what isn’t. Sexton said he assists his clients in setting year-long goals and then breaking down the progression of those goals on a month-by-month basis.

McAdoo challenged the entrepreneurs in the room by stating, “With every post, you are either eliminating or creating friction for your brand.” He encouraged them to consider their social media approach and focus on the message they want to convey.

Lastly, all panelists stressed that authenticity is the cornerstone of successful branding. Be true to who you are and showcase your company’s core values, but avoid overdoing it. Striking the right balance is key.

All of the Spark Cleantech Accelerator participants that attended the Brandcamp will be presenting their final pitches at the Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council’s (TAEBC) Opportunities in Energy event on November 15.


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