If a plan developed by the Greater Memphis Chamber’s Chairman’s Circle comes to fruition, the entrepreneurial community in the city will get a lot more crowded in the next few years.
The chamber, along with multiple organizations including the Memphis Bioworks Foundation, the Economic Development Growth Engine of Memphis & Shelby County, Innova, Start Co., EmergeMemphis and the Crews Venture Lab, are launching the Memphis Entrepreneurship Powered Innovation Center, an organization that has the goal of creating 1,000 new entrepreneurs and 500 new companies in the next 10 years. The organization will be led by Steve Bares, president and executive director of the Memphis Bioworks Foundation.
The EPIcenter, as it will be known, will assist any entrepreneur starting a business, but will emphasize the city’s economic strengths, including logistics and emerging technologies, healthcare and bioscience.
Multiple member companies of the chamber will have various levels of involvement with the EPIcenter. Richard Smith, managing director of Life Sciences & Specialty Services/US International, Global Trade Services, for FedEx Express, who will represent FedEx, said he plans to take the plan to FedEx’s corporate leadership to gauge the company’s level of involvement. However, having firsthand experience with entrepreneurship, through his father Fred Smith’s founding of FedEx Corp., Smith is looking forward to seeing what companies develop. However, he acknowledges the startup community has been fractured for a few years.
“I see how difficult it can be to deal with Memphis’ fragmented entrepreneurial ecosystem,” Smith said. “This will accelerate and help entrepreneurs navigate the system, and it also creates a strong front door for funding.
J.R. Pitt Hyde, founder of AutoZone, who is also a member of the Chairman’s circle, said the growth of the entrepreneurial sector in the city needs to continue.
“In order for Memphis to get to the next level where startups can move beyond the startup phase requires leadership and support from the business community,” Hyde said. “The Chamber’s Chairman’s Circle is stepping up to transform Memphis into a destination for talent, companies and investment.”