The Jackson, TN, region's business climate sparks innovation that helps businesses grow and thrive.
Driven in part by the revitalization of the downtown district, the Jackson-Madison County region has seen a resurgence of small businesses. The success of these startups can be attributed to the region’s healthy entrepreneurial ecosystem, which offers new business owners a host of resources, including coworking spaces, business incubators and networking opportunities.
A Space for New Business
TheCO, for example, provides tools to help entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. A coworking space — including conference rooms, small workspaces and larger event spaces — allows for collaboration and networking. A maker space offers equipment, such as laser cutters and screen printers, that helps members create prototypes or product labeling.
TheCO also sponsors CO.STARTERS, a nine-week incubator that gives new business owners practical advice in subjects such as financing, legal, marketing and how to successfully write a business plan. At the end of the nine weeks, the cohort participates in a pitch night, which allows them to present their business idea to a mixed audience of family and friends. They also receive feedback from a panel of judges made up of local small-business owners.
“Having so many different types of businesses and supporting so many different types of businesses just helps level all the playing fields,” says Lisa Garner, executive director of theCO. “When you offer opportunities to small businesses, to businesses that are growing through generations, to businesses that have potential for high growth or to businesses trying to enter a global market, you’re helping them all grow. Then if there are resources for all of them, they are able to help each other and help other businesses, and it becomes this circular system.”
Leveling the Playing Field
Recently, theCO partnered with SOUL Collective to bring business resources to underserved minority business owners. SOUL Collective is a 14-week entrepreneurial incubator focused on elevating the arts, culture, knowledge and wellness of businesses through unity in commerce, education and social entertainment.
“Our program focuses on business administration, marketing and visual branding. We also offer roundtable meetups and networking opportunities,” says Trunetta Atwater, founder of SOUL Collective.
“Our goal is to identify problem areas and lead bootstrapping businesses to local resources that will help them along their journey.”
The SOUL Collective cohort participates in the nine-week CO.STARTERS program, which covers topics such as getting to know yourself and your business, identifying the ideal client, business systems and structure, building and scaling and discovering the bottom line. After completing the nine-week course, the group moves on to a four-week brand camp intensive course taught by Atwater, a small-business owner.
“I help the cohort navigate through structuring a successful product marketing launch, and they learn how to overcome business insecurities by identifying problems and focusing on solutions,” Atwater says. “Diversity in business is vital to Jackson’s economy because the community is diverse. Jackson is a great place for a startup because we believe in community over competition. I’ve found myself connected to many people from different industries who don’t mind sharing the knowledge of growing a business right here at home.”
Small but Mighty
Another major resource for entrepreneurs is the Tennessee Small Business Development Center. A member of America’s Small Business Development Center network and housed in the McWherter Center on the Jackson State Community College campus, the TSBDC works to help entrepreneurs start, grow and sustain their businesses.
“Starting a business is exciting but can be overwhelming. We partner with clients in the process by providing free guidance on writing a business plan, finding funding resources and securing proper licenses, so the business gets off the ground,” says Terri Messer, interim TSBDC director and dean of business and industry at Jackson State Community College. “Moving from the startup to the growth phase of a business comes with a whole new set of challenges,” Messer says. “Our experience and resources help them make sound decisions, such as creating and implementing sales and marketing strategies, hiring and managing employees and analyzing market research. Once the business is growing and it’s time to start running the business instead of working in it, the TSBDC consultant can assist in creating a lasting plan for the future of the business.”
Want to know more?
If you’d like to learn more about the Jackson area, check out the latest edition of Livability Jackson, TN.