Tennessee again tops the nation with Global Entrepreneurship Week activities

And Global Entrepreneurship Week celebrates ranking

Forget those specious “Worst Of” lists and dismiss the naysayers who complain that Tennessee offers too little of this or lacks too much of that.

Celebrate instead the rankings from the organizers of Global Entrepreneurship Week — which runs from Monday through Nov. 18 — that show Tennessee will again this year offer the most GEW-sanctioned activities in the country.

That’s right, again.

Tennessee topped the list in 2011 by offering the most events promoting entrepreneurship, and even more activities are set for this year. There are at least two dozen in Shelby County, which is more than the total activities put forth by some states.

That’s a significant showing, but not surprising for the state that was the second in the nation to embrace the Startup America initiative by launching its own version — Startup Tennessee — last year, said Pearson Crutcher, executive director of the Society of Entrepreneurs. The program, launched by President Barack Obama and designed to spur job growth, was first adopted by Illinois.

“In Memphis and throughout Tennessee we have a strong legacy of entrepreneurship, and the exciting thing is that we’re continuing that focus for current and future generations,” Crutcher said. “The surprise isn’t that we’re at the top of the list, but maybe that more people aren’t aware of how vital entrepreneurship is in Tennessee.”

LaunchYourCity’s chief brand officer Elizabeth Lemmonds agreed. “Entrepreneurship is alive and thriving in Memphis, and Global Entrepreneurship Week is a chance for us to show the world what’s happening here,” Lemmonds said. “At LaunchYourCity, we’re looking at this as an opportunity to highlight our existing programs and roll out some new ones to build our entrepreneurial ecosystem.”

Last year Global Entrepreneurship Week attracted 7.4 million entrepreneurs participating in 33,846 sanctioned activities in 123 nations around the world. Figures are even higher this year, with around 8 million global participants promoting entrepreneurship.

For the fourth consecutive year, Society of Entrepreneurs members are partnering with LaunchMemphis leaders to sponsor “Core Conversations” from noon to 1 p.m. Thursday, with successful business owners discussing their careers with fellow diners over lunch.

That’s a proven formula for connecting older generations of entrepreneurs with some of the city’s younger talent, Lemmonds said. And helping nurture the growing startup culture here will be a big focus of the week ahead.

For the first time, LaunchMemphis will offer educational, professional and social programming under the banner “Risk City,” based on the idea that startups involve risks that entrepreneurs must be willing to take and that communities should support.

One of the ways that will play out is during Friday’s marathon lineup at Minglewood Hall, 1555 Madison.

Beginning at 9 a.m., the public is invited to drop by and interact with budding entrepreneurs and established business professionals to discuss local resources for startups. There’ll be food trucks on hand, and a speed pitch program takes place from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., when anyone with any idea — for a company, an event or an initiative — gets two minutes to present a concept and hear three minutes of feedback.

Also on Friday, three preselected startup founders will vie for $10,000 in cash and in-kind services by embarking on “The Amazing Risk.” The daylong competition will require the entrepreneurs to complete customer discovery challenges all over the city, with the team that amasses the most points winning the grand prize.

To help celebrate the winning startup, LaunchYourCity will host an after-party at Minglewood on Friday from 8 p.m. to midnight. The event will feature live music, networking and probably more than a few toasts to Tennessee’s status as the national leader in entrepreneurship programming.

“Global Entrepreneurship Week is a perfect time for us to tell our story and to encourage Memphis to become a more risk-tolerant community where startups can thrive,” said Andre Fowlkes, co-president of LaunchYourCity. “Whether it’s social innovation, for-profit companies or nonprofit organizations, this is an exciting time and there are amazing opportunities here for entrepreneurs.”

For a schedule of events, visit launchmemphis.com.

© 2012 Memphis Commercial Appeal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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