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How Nashville became a city built on entrepreneurship

Jane Allen and Brynn Plummer of the Nashville Entrepreneur Center share how they’re helping entrepreneurs find the resources they need.

Brynn Plummer and Jane Allen believe the city of Nashville was built on a foundation of entrepreneurship, and through their work at the Nashville Entrepreneur Center, they hope to make it even easier for people to create, launch, and grow a business.

“Nashville is Nashville because of its entrepreneurs,” said Plummer, who works as the NEC’s Vice President for Inclusion and Community Relations. “25% of our local economy is driven by entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial endeavors. So if you were to take that swath out of our economy, we would just be a dramatically different place.”

Since its founding 10 years ago, the NEC has worked with more than 100,000 entrepreneurs, and more than 800 have engaged with the center’s high-touch programs. Of those 800, 84% are still in business today, said Allen, who took on the role of CEO in 2019.

In this episode of Disrupt the Continuum, Allen and Plummer share some of the secrets to their organization’s success, and they explain how they’re helping entrepreneurs navigate the wealth of resources available to them.

Adding Structure to the Ecosystem

Though Nashville has historically had a wide range of resources for people who want to start a business, the NEC has recently focused its efforts on creating a more structured ecosystem, helping entrepreneurs get connected with the specific tools that will best serve their needs.

“It used to be sort of happenstance. An entrepreneur might happen upon the right resource, or they might run into the right person at an event or maybe just hit the correct Google search term,” Plummer explained. “What we’ve tried to do over three to four years has been to smarten up the ecosystem. So not only are we more aware of what’s out there, what’s available in the marketplace, but we’ve also put a lot of work into making sure that we know exactly what fits an entrepreneur at what stage of their life cycle.”

This allows the NEC team to focus on doing the things it does best and referring people to more specialized tools when they need them.

“When I came to the NEC, one of the things I wanted to find out is, what does the NEC do really well and what do the partners in our state do really well? And make sure that we are working together and being collaborative versus trying to compete with each other,” Allen shared. “We want to make it easier for entrepreneurs versus confusing.”

Connecting People Throughout the Entrepreneurial Life Cycle

As Allen looks ahead to new ways the NEC can support entrepreneurs in the future, she believes it’s important to engage with individuals in all stages of the entrepreneurial life cycle.

“There are a lot of people in our community who have started and grown and exited businesses, people like myself, that really weren’t engaged in the Entrepreneur Center. We might have given money to it, but we really weren’t engaged,” she explained.

Allen is working to give those people opportunities to mentor and connect with newer entrepreneurs because research shows that success increases with access to mentorship from people who have been there before.

This is especially important for entrepreneurs of color and others who have been historically marginalized, Plummer added.

“The more that we can have people connecting, the more we can have people providing access and providing knowledge across socio-cultural groups, across economic backgrounds, and across geographic backgrounds, the more success we can have in our entire community.”

Please subscribe, rate, and review Disrupt the Continuum wherever you listen to podcasts. This season we’re sharing Tennessee’s entrepreneurial ecosystem story. It’s about how, as a statewide community, we collaborate and provide resources founders need to build, scale, and execute their businesses. It’s the power of our statewide network and the boots-on-the-ground startups that #BuildTN.

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