By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA
The emphasis being placed on entrepreneurship in Blount County has grown in recent months through the “Sky City Initiative,” and now the community’s prestigious liberal arts college is taking that effort to a new level.
Just before the holidays, Maryville College released more details about its inaugural “Scots Innovation Challenge” that was first unveiled in late September at a College-sponsored event during “Innov865 Week.”
The initiative, which includes four educational sessions followed by a pitch competition, begins January 24. Participation is not limited to Maryville College faculty, staff and students; it is open to the community, something that President Tom Bogart says is in keeping with the institution’s 200-year history.
“Maryville College’s founder, the Rev. Isaac Anderson, lived by the motto ‘do good on the largest possible scale’ and inspired those around him to adopt it,” Bogart said. “Among our small campus community and dedicated faculty, the ‘doing’ of that motto is taken very seriously. The College welcomes ideas that can solve problems for a range of needs for the local and global community.”
It should be noted that the “Scots Innovation Challenge” is the first pitch competition in the county organized to support the local entrepreneurial community.
“We’re excited about this opportunity for our students and the larger Blount County community,” Bogart said when he announced the plans at the September event. “More than a competition, this is also a chance for people to learn from entrepreneurs and business leaders who can teach them how to get a business idea off the ground.”
The format calls for one-hour workshops on Thursday evenings that will cover topics like funding, legal consulting, customer discovery, sales, and marketing. They will begin at 5:30 p.m. in Room 220 of Anderson Hall on the College campus. As noted above, the first session is January 24, and the topic is customer discovery. The next four sessions are January 31 (sales and marketing), February 7 (funding), and 14 (pitch preparation).
Instructors already confirmed include John Gallagher, Professor of Management at Maryville College who also has a strong corporate background; Jeremy LaDuke, Founder of Epic Nine, a Blount County marketing and web design firm and member of the “Sky City Initiative” Steering Committee; and Shawn Carson, a member of the Three Roots Capital team and also an Instructor with the Haslam College at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
“Participants are asked to attend three out of the four sessions,” Christy McDonald, Director of Maryville College’s Career Center, said. She is also a member of the “Sky City Initiative” Steering Committee.
After the four sessions, there will be a two-week break before the inaugural pitch competition set for 6 p.m. February 28 in the Lambert Recital Hall at the Clayton Center for Performing Arts on the College campus. The first-prize winner will be awarded $1,500 with second place receiving $1,000 and third place receiving $500.
“Partnerships with the Blount County Chamber of Commerce, Blount County Library and Maryville College all seek to support the growing needs addressed by the entrepreneurial community,” said Rachel Buchannan of the Blount Partnership and another member of the “Sky City Initiative” Steering Committee.
There’s a registration link on the “Scot Innovation Challenge” webpage.