Upstart Memphis aims to jumpstart female entrepreneurship

The words from Eleanor Roosevelt, displayed across the homepage of, provide a brief and efficient intro to the area’s latest entrepreneurial engine.

From the former First Lady:

“You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”

That brilliantly sums up the mission behind Upstart Memphis, a recently launched initiative by LaunchYourCity that’s devoted to boosting the number of female entrepreneurs in our community.

In a recent conversation I had with LaunchYourCity chief brand officer Elizabeth Lemmnods, she told me that in Memphis – as in other areas around the globe – the perception persists that entrepreneurship is an all-boys club. Occasionally women will venture forth to create and lead companies, but most often men are the founding forces behind startups.

Upstart wants to change that.

By approaching entrepreneurship from a female perspective, offering workshops designed for women and led by women, the idea is to encourage more entreprenuerial activity by local women. It’s not an attempt to separate the girls from the boys, Lemmonds said, rather it’s an attempt to address a growing need in our community.

“There’s a trend of more women exploring entrepreneurship, even though historically these types of business endeavors have been overwhelmingly poplulated by men. Things are changing, though, and we see this as a way to encourage women in our community who may be thinking of starting their own business or considering some level of entrepreneurship. We want to highlight women’s innovation and build a community of support.”

Lemmonds hosted a Teck Cocktails event earlier this week devoted to female entrepreneurs and the response, she said, was promising. She expects similar success at next weekend’s 48-Hour Launch (Dec. 7-9) that for the first time ever focus on female entrepreneurship. Of course the startup launch event is open to men, too, but women are expected to take the lead.

“There’ll be more workshops at this 48-Hour Launch” than we’ve had in the past and we’ll have some female mentors who’ll participate and work on different teams,” Lemmonds said. “I’m guessing that it’ll have a little different feel from our previous 48-Hour Launches. Not better or worse, just different. And that difference is something I think Memphis needs.”

Upstart Memphis will offer varied programming next year, Lemmonds said, including workshops, networking events and mentoring sessions. A schedule is still under development, but you can get a good idea of what’s in store by visiting the website.

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