EC Outlook #3 | Knoxville Entrepreneur Center
Many of its existing programs will be continued, while some will be tweaked.
Jim Biggs says the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center’s (KEC) plans for 2023 will include a number of familiar programs with a tweak here and there and a couple of new opportunities.
Now entering his ninth year as Executive Director of KEC, Biggs says those returning stalwarts include:
- The long-running “What’s the Big Idea?” that will be held in early March with the Knoxville Chamber providing the$10,000 cash prize;
- Four cohorts of the newer “100Knoxville” program focused on Black-owned businesses;
- Several cohorts of “STARTERS,” a 10-week business development program that helps aspiring entrepreneurs put ideas into action and turn a passion into a sustainable and thriving small business;
- “Made for Knoxville LIVE” that debuted in 2022 with two in-person events featuring leaders and entrepreneurs from KEC’s ongoing #MadeforKnoxville storytelling campaign.
- Weekly “Big Ideas Welcome” podcast, hosted by KEC’s Chris McAdoo
- “The Works,” a 12-week accelerator for scalable software and hardware companies;
- “Brandcamp,” a program providing business owners and founders with a deep understanding of the importance of brand planning, and to equip them with the necessary tools and skills to develop a brand plan that will help set their companies up for success; and
- Programming for the local maker community, including Make Learn Grow classes, Maker Mingles, and the annual Maker City Summit.
Several others will be tweaked or added. They include:
- A revamp of “Inflection Point,” a 13-week program designed to help area companies accelerate their revenue growth that is considering a pivot to leverage the community’s outdoor economic opportunities;
- New programming such as at least one “CO.STARTERS” and Etsy class for more rural neighboring communities, funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture;
- Beta testing during the first half of 2023 of a KEC custom-designed five-week, cohort-based program for two levels of start-ups that Biggs equates to a 101- and 201-level college course; and
- A new offering named “Let Her Lead” from KEC’s Catherine Porth and her Let Her Speak organization that would offer separate tracks for established and aspiring female entrepreneurs.
KEC has recently hired a marketing and communications coordinator – Kelsi Walker, bringing staffing to six full-timers, including Biggs, and three contract employees who lead specific programs or initiatives: Holly Rainey, who manages socials for KEC and The Maker City; Jalynn Baker, Coordinator of Storytelling Initiatives (which includes Made for Knoxville); and Kandis Troutman, who facilitates the 100Knoxville program.
“We hope to identify funding to add a seventh person focused on capital,” he said. “Right now, we are defining that role and how we might fund it.”
Unlike two other area entrepreneur centers, KEC does not plan to lead an effort to launch its own angel fund that would leverage the federal State Small Business Credit Initiative that is expected to bring more than $110 million to Tennessee. Instead, Biggs references a separate group that is developing a new local fund.
Citing financial support from the City of Knoxville, Launch Tennessee, and local companies, he said, “We are very lucky that people believe we are doing something valuable here, and incredibly grateful for their continued support.”