Wrap it up and roll it out: With 2012 almost behind us, year ahead promises new beginnings for local entrepreneurship

First off, I hope all of you had a wonderful Christmas and holiday season and that whatever New Year’s celebrations you have planned turn out better than expected.

As for me, arriving back at the office after being gone more than a week means I’m sifting through voice messages, emails and other correspondence while wrapping up that final to-do stuff that I need to get done before this year segues into next.

And with that in mind, here’s a little somet

As 2012 draws to a close and anticipation for the new year builds, the future looks bright for entrepreneurs in the Bluff City.

During the past 12 months there’s been a veritable smorgasbord of entrepreneurial activity in Memphis, with enough mentoring, networking and programming opportunities to appeal to anyone possessing a startup sensibility. And 2013 promises an even bigger banquet.

That’s particularly true for the Mid-South Minority Business Council Continuum, which was awarded $1 million from the U.S. Department of Commerce this past year to establish a Minority Business Development Agency center here. The first such center in Tennessee, by year’s end the site had already signed up more than 60 member companies, each of which generate at least $1 million a year in revenues or else are companies in high-growth potential industries that are underserved by minority business owners.

Luke Yancy III, president and CEO of the Mid-South Minority Business Council Continuum. (Photo by Mike Maple/The Commercial Appeal)

And that’s not all. The MMBCC now counts more than 600 member companies, about 100 of which received at least $1 million each in contract awards last year. All told, contracts awarded to MMBCC member companies exceeded $200 million in 2012, a significant jump over the $34.5 million in total contracts awarded just four years ago. And more than 2,300 jobs have been created from those projects and MMBCC president and CEO Luke Yancy III expects even stronger growth next year.

“It’s been an interesting year and substantive things are happening,” Yancy told me. “We’re making great strides in promoting women and minority businesses and we expect to do more to help them grow to scale.”

Over at LaunchYourCity, the organization’s Seed Hatchery program for high-growth potential startups wrapped up a successful sophomore season and in few weeks the participants for the third consecutive 90-day program will get under way. The last two years the group received applicants from around the world for six available spots and every indication points toward continued global interest in this homegrown initiative.

The same is true for the medical device accelerator program ZeroTo510 at Memphis Bioworks Foundation. On the heels of that group’s inaugural boot camp program, the second round of ZeroTo510 will take place in mid-2013 and expectations are high for another outstanding graduating class.

As a matter of fact, recently a representative from the Small Technologies Cluster located just outside Melbourne, Australia, traveled to Memphis to spend a day learning more about the ZeroTo510 plan. I was fortunate enough to get a chance to talk to Laura Faulconer, who heads up marketing and business development for the Aussie startup incubator, and she told me that Memphis topped her list of entrepreneurial ecosystems to visit because of the innovative ZeroTo510 program.

“I’ve done extensive global research on entrepreneurial incubators and communities to see what lessons they can offer us and I can say, there’s nothing else out there like the ZeroTo510 program in Memphis,” Faulconer said during our conversation. “The program is unique and offers an intriguing model that I think other areas will be copying. That’s why Memphis was the absolute first place I knew I had to visit when I made plans to check out different programs.”

Memphis turned out to be the place to visit — and the place to be — for Baltimore native Kyle Sandler, who moved the headquarters for his online startup Nibletz to Memphis a few months ago. Working out of space at EmergeMemphis, Sandler has focused a white hot spotlight on the Memphis entrepreneurial community through Nibletz, which features startups “everywhere else” but Silicon Valley.

And with that in mind, Sandler set about planning an amazing startup conference that will be held at The Peabody in 2013 and is expected to bring more than 1,500 entrepreneurs to Memphis from across the country and around the world. It’s impossible to overstate the buzz that will be generated in and about Memphis during “everywhereelse.co The Startup Conference” on Feb. 10-12.

And that’s just a sampling.

Happy 2013.

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