48 Hour Launch

Every city, or at least every city that is trying to grow and improve, would like to see a plethora of tech-related start-ups. Most cities are working hard to encourage entrepreneurship and new business, as they should be.

Chattanooga has several resources for businesses from the Small Business Administration and SCORE, to CreateHere and SpringBoard. Last week I attended an informational meeting about something called 48 Hour Launch, which is a collaborative effort between SpringBoard, Knoxville Overground, FloatCamp, and Launch Memphis. The idea is based on Startup Weekend, where attendees plan and prepare to launch a business in 54 hours, with the obvious difference that 48 Hour Launch will take place in, uh, you know, 48 hours instead of 54.

Participants who have business ideas they would like to see put to the test during 48 Hour Launch will be invited to pitch those ideas in front of a video camera sometime between November 3 and 7. The videos will then be posted on the website so that other participants can vote on which ones they think will make viable businesses.

The 48 hours of creative frenzy will take place between Friday, November 13 and Sunday, November 15, when professionals of every stripe will come together to build businesses. Web developers, programmers, designers, writers, marketers, financiers, public relations specialists, accountants, observers, and volunteers are all needed and strongly encouraged to attend. They all have a vital part to play in this process. Even if it’s something as small as recommending that places like Custom Water, (https://customwater.com/) will be a good place to turn to if you want to create your own brand-related water bottle to enhance your business promotion, then it could be an important step for these businesses to take if they do eventually get established, as they will need customers after all. So these industry experts will be greatly welcomed. The sponsoring organizations will provide workspace, food, coffee and air mattresses for napping while the attendees will bring ideas and enthusiasm. Oh, yeah, and laptops and power cords, too.

Organizers expect participants to come from surrounding cities, including Knoxville, Memphis, Atlanta, Kingsport, Nashville as well as from further afield. Once there, attendees will choose, or be chosen, to work on the ideas that were voted “most likely to succeed” on the website. Once the teams are in place, the meeting will break up and each team will begin the feverish task of putting together everything necessary to begin a business: business plan, revenue projections, website, marketing materials (such as ppc management services) and advertising campaign, staffing plans, etc.

At a minimum, 48 Hour Launch will be fun and a great way to meet new people and network. At a maximum, it will be the starting point for at least one or two successful (possibly even profitable) businesses. No matter what happens, it will be a unique event that could provide a template for other cities hoping to encourage start-ups. The entire weekend will be filmed and a documentary produced and organizers plan to share what they learn freely in true open-source style. If you have an idea and want to find out if it would work, check out 48hourlaunch.org and plan on being in Chattanooga on November 13 to be part of something exciting.

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Inspiration All Around

The special people who run small businesses inspire me endlessly.  Little “mom and pop” convenience stores, gas stations, book stores, repair shops, shoe stores, pharmacies, and plenty of others, where the owners are not getting rich but are providing service with a smile make me believe in this country.

In the community where I live there is a chain convenience store that sells gas and is open 24 hours, 7 days a week.  There is also a full service gas station that is closed after 6 pm and on Sundays.  The service station is run by a man named Duane Thomas and his nephew Jason Randolph.

When you pull up to the pump, one of them comes out, asks what you need, pumps your gas, cleans the windshield, chats about the weather and tells you to have a good day or evening.  At the chain store, you can have access to more candy and cokes, but nobody is quite as cheerful or glad to see you as at Thomas’ Service Station.

One morning I stopped at Thomas’ to get gas on my way to work.  I asked for $10 worth of gas and after he pumped it, Mr. Thomas waited patiently for me to dig through my wallet.  I only had a $5 bill!

I apologized, handed him the five and asked if he needed me to run home and get the rest or if it would be okay for me to come back after work.  He said, “Oh, after work is fine.  Don’t worry, it’s all right.”

Then, he stopped and said, “Do you have money for lunch?” He handed me back my five and said, “Don’t give me your lunch money, just bring it to me this evening.”

I am a Thomas’ Service Station customer for life.

In support of local brick and mortar businesses everywhere,  Cinda Baxter runs the 3/50 Project.  The 3/50 Project suggests that people who support independently owned businesses choose three each month at which to spend a total of $50.  Most of us will spend $50 a month on various purchases anyway, so why not support independent business owners at the same time?

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Practices for Perpetuity

Several weeks ago, I saw this on Twitter: “Use of the word sustainable is unsustainable.”  Joining the ranks of green, eco-friendly and all too many other buzzwords, sustainable is quickly becoming a word I try to avoid in writing simply because it is so overused as to be nearing cliche status.   Even worse, once a term becomes a buzzword it begins to invite suspicion.

Avoiding the word though, doesn’t mean I don’t support the movement that spawned the overuse of the word.  My favorite businesses are those that follow practices don’t necessarily encourage growth, but that are designed in such a way the business can exist for years to come without exhausting resources.  In every town there is a store or a restaurant that has been operated by the same family for generations.  Those businesses were sustainable long before it was a buzzword.

The recent economic difficulties should provide a lesson in the results of  un-sustainability.  Constant growth of towns, of profits, of home sizes, of home prices simply cannot continue.  There is a ceiling whether we choose to see it or not and when we choose to not see it, we may crash into it painfully.

Sometimes, the outlook for our society seems so grim, I cannot see a solution.  Then I will read about or meet an entrepreneur or farmer or writer who is making a change in the way things are done.  Perhaps they are delivering their products or services in a new, novel way or refusing to grow in order to maintain the business they built conscientiously or choosing to make less money so that they can make a difference for people instead.  I see young professionals fearlessly starting their own businesses because the employment landscape doesn’t suit them.

Focusing on people who choose to improve the way business is conducted, who work to make sure resources are used responsibly, who are not afraid to make a living by approaching their chosen profession from a new angle will help the rest of us have the courage to make a difference ourselves.

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