New venture engages emerging entrepreneurs and startups
CHATTANOOGA, TN – CreateHere is pleased to announce the opening of The Company Lab, a new entrepreneurial initiative that exists to increase the viability of high-growth start-ups in Chattanooga by helping entrepreneurs determine their next steps and by connecting them with resources to move their venture forward.
“The entrepreneurial programming at CreateHere has taken on a life of its own,” says Sheldon Grizzle, founder of The Company Lab. “We’ve embraced that new life and we’ve brought all of these programs under a single brand called The Company Lab. We now have a much stronger focus, specifically on the high-growth potential start-up community.”
One of the many entrepreneurs for whom The Company Lab’s programs have had a positive influence in the past is Tim Kelly of Kelly Auto Group. “The creation of The Company Lab is a key step toward reviving Chattanooga’s entrepreneurial culture and supporting its growth in the future,” said Kelly. “I’m really excited to know that we will have an organization focused on fostering innovation and helping those innovators flourish.”
In the fall of 2007, CreateHere’s co-founders Josh McManus and Helen Davis Johnson were looking for ways to help Chattanooga’s creative community become more economically sustainable. Their research led them to Mountain BizWorks in Asheville, NC, a nonprofit founded in 1989 as a resource for entrepreneurs and small businesses.
“The thing that really caught our attention about BizWorks was their Foundations Business Planning Class,” remembered McManus. “Helen and I were so impressed by the creative and entrepreneurial culture of Asheville and thought we could create some of that same culture here in Chattanooga.”
Still, building an entrepreneurial and creative culture doesn’t happen overnight. Knowing that these kinds of creative efforts are often difficult to sustain, CreateHere licensed the Foundations curriculum from BizWorks and rebranded it as SpringBoard. The first SpringBoard business planning class was launched in January of 2008 and has since graduated over 250 entrepreneurs over the course of 20 classes, resulting in the creation of at least 60 new ventures.
In April of 2008, CreateHere hired Sheldon Grizzle to take over the SpringBoard program. “I was really excited about the work that CreateHere was doing even though I’ve never considered myself an economic developer,” said Grizzle. “I am an entrepreneur and I work hard to help other entrepreneurs. I understand where they’re coming from and just how hard their job can be.”
The entrepreneurial initiatives at CreateHere, under Grizzle’s leadership, have taken a new direction. Many studies show that revenue and economic growth come from high-growth ventures and much of The Company Lab’s new programming and events will focus on the high-growth sector.
These new initiatives include Peer Roundtables, a monthly meeting for high-growth CEOs; Panel Discussions, bi-monthly seminars geared toward the start-up community; The Accelerator, a systematic process for preparing a high-growth start-up concept for equity capital investment; 48Hour Launch, a 48-hour event to launch as many start-ups as possible; and the upcoming Will This Float? event on November 16, 2010, a business idea pitch competition that offers its winner $10,000+ in valuable in-kind services from local companies.
Each of these programs will now run under the single identity of The Company Lab, a new venture driven by the philosophy that creativity drives innovation, innovation drives entrepreneurship, and entrepreneurship drives sustained economic growth.
“We have to create an ecosystem of entrepreneurship in Chattanooga in order to increase the viability of start-ups,” Grizzle says. “Access to knowledge, mentorship, and debt and equity capital are just a few of the many things that an entrepreneurial ecosystem needs in order to be vibrant. We’re trying to do our part to make that happen.”
The Company Lab operates adjacent to CreateHere at 55 E. Main Street. It is an open space for entrepreneurs to work while determining the next steps for their business.
For more information about The Company Lab, visit www.colab.is.