Steve Bares: "Corporations are the Key to Entrepreneurial Success in Memphis"

In our "Beyond the Bio" blog, we ask MBQ Power Players to write a post of their choosing about their industry. 

Entrepreneurs are not just inventors. They are persistent planners who get up every morning pounding the pavement to get their idea in front of customers with hopes of creating that first purchase order. That is a key milestone for the entrepreneur. It’s when the idea is validated and the product or service turns into a real company.

If you are an entrepreneur with a business plan, Memphis is a great place to be. I believe Memphis is on the cusp of becoming an entrepreneurial and innovation hub for new ideas. Corporate leaders in Memphis are starting to recognize the value entrepreneurial knowledge can bring to the table at both small and large companies. So what is being done, and how can the corporate community support this emerging entrepreneurial ecosystem?

Recently, more than 100 business leaders in The Greater Memphis Chamber’s Chairman Circle announced their commitment to create 1,000 entrepreneurs and 500 companies in 10 years through the creation of EPIcenter. EPIcenter serves as a single front door to the entrepreneurial ecosystem in the Memphis area by directing and coordinating existing resources, as well as developing and leading new programs in key industry growth sectors. The goal of EPIcenter is to assist the entrepreneur in getting that purchase order through mentoring, incubation, education, acceleration and access to capital, while at the same time extending the innovation pipeline of local corporations. It creates a symbiotic relationship that is a win-win for both the entrepreneur and the corporate community. EPIcenter will launch in August.

The one constant in this equation is that Memphis cannot become an innovation hub and a place that attracts talent without support from the local corporate community. EPIcenter is just the first step, and corporate leaders have come together to tap into the entrepreneurship community for resources and needs. Many local corporations can benefit from the wealth of business ideas flowing through the entrepreneurial pipeline by supporting and influencing entrepreneurship and mobilizing capital.

To tap into this wealth of new knowledge, products and services, corporations can support, influence, and financially align themselves with entrepreneurs by:

·       Acting as mentors and advisors and leveraging their experience.

·       Working with companies to test early stage products for viability.

·       Providing access to corporate networks of customers and suppliers.

·       Investing seed or growth capital into early-phase companies.

·       Influencing the deployment of capital from government sources.

·       Creating awareness among national investors and customers.

·       Making purchases from entrepreneurs for goods and services.

An example of a success story where a corporation and entrepreneur joined together to extend the corporate innovation pipeline is a company called Restore Medical Solutions. The company invented a sterilization tray system method, which is designed to lessen the touch points within the surgical sterilization continuum during surgeries. This company went through the ZeroTo510 medical device accelerator program at Memphis Bioworks Foundation, which enables entrepreneurs with ideas for innovative medical devices to take advantage of the FDA’s fast path to market. While awaiting FDA approval, the company was given the opportunity to demonstrate their product to local users. The company's product was well received and upon FDA approval, local hospitals tested and became one of the earliest customers.  The product was successful and the company is on a growth trajectory.

There are numerous benefits for corporations to invest in this emerging entrepreneurial ecosystem in Memphis. By supporting entrepreneurs and small businesses, the corporate community not only extends the corporate innovation pipeline, but it also, ultimately, attracts more talent to Memphis. When ideas turn into products and then local corporations invest in those products, it creates jobs in the area as well as helps retain that talent. Corporations are the key to taking that next step and making Memphis the next entrepreneurial and innovation center.

There is much excitement in the business community and it's a great time to be an entrepreneur in Memphis. I applaud the local corporate community‘s commitment to take ideas to the next level so entrepreneurs can grow and prosper.

Power Player Profile:

Dr. Steve Bares has served as president and executive director of the Memphis Bioworks Foundation, the Mid-South’s go-to organization for creating bioscience businesses, jobs, and investments that expand the economic vitality of our community, since its launch in 2001. Dr. Bares holds a Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry and an MBA and has authored nine patents.  

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