Giving thanks for some notable wins

In a few days, families and friends across the nation will join in a parade-watching, football-cheering, turkey-eating frenzy.

And then, fueled by leftovers, many will brave crazy crowds to usher in the holiday shopping season.

But between now and then, let’s take a moment to look back and consider a few of the wins that the Memphis community enjoyed over the past year.

For example, consider the efforts of Kevin Boggs and the team he leads at the FedEx Institute of Technology at the University of Memphis. Working to promote technology transfer and boost entrepreneurship in this region, the folks at FIT have worked tirelessly to bring the Crews Ventures Lab to fruition.

Nearing completion, the facility will offer a pre-incubator space for U of M students and faculty to develop and launch startups.

Also housed at FIT, the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation under the leadership of Kelly Penwell offered myriad educational and professional development programs this past year, all free of charge, to aspiring entrepreneurs. Obliterating its original benchmark of launching three CEI-affiliated startups in two years, Penwell’s team has instead supported the creation of more than two dozen enterprises in the last year alone. And she believes next year will be even busier.

And then there’s the medical device accelerator ZeroTo510 program, which roared off to an amazing start earlier this year by providing six biomedical startups with funding and a 90-day boot camp experience to prepare for U.S. Food and Drug Administration clearance for their products.

Facilitated by Allan Daisley, director of innovation and sustainability initiatives for Memphis Bioworks Foundation, the first-year initiative proved so popular that the program is already planning for season two.

Another huge win for local entrepreneurs this year occurred when Luke Yancy, president of the Mid-South Minority Business Council Continuum, announced that Memphis was awarded $1 million from the U.S. Department of Commerce to establish a Minority Business Development Agency center here, the first in Tennessee. The facility will assist minority enterprises in a variety of areas with the goal of creating successful, scalable businesses that contribute to job growth and community development.

And we can’t forget the work of the LaunchYourCity team — co-presidents Eric Mathews and Andre Fowlkes and brand officer Elizabeth Lemmonds — who vowed to ignite entrepreneurship in Memphis this year and through programs such as Seed Hatchery, 48-Hour Launch and Office Hours, did exactly that.

Buoyed by the added support of Memphis Mayor A C Wharton and Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell, both passionate advocates of all things entrepreneurial, and Gov. Bill Haslam and his Startup Tennessee initiative, our city and our state are creating new pathways for innovation.

This is only a sampling, but I believe it paints an inspiring picture of some of the incredible people and organizations promoting entrepreneurship and small businesses in our community.

And I’m thankful for all of them.

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