2 min read September 2021 — The Nashville Entrepreneur Center connects entrepreneurs with critical resources to create, launch and grow businesses. In an interview with Invest:, CEO Jane Allen discussed why Nashville has attracted so much attention as a site for relocations and expansions, the role of the Entrepreneur Center in this activity and her outlook for the area.
What differentiates Nashville’s entrepreneurial and business community from others?
The simple answer is that this is the best place in the United States to grow a business. I used to say this was the best-kept secret in the country. We have no income tax, a great quality of life and good government. This is a vibrant city that is alluring and inviting for people to live and work.
The welcoming spirit that we have here in Nashville makes it so much easier to start a business because people are willing to take initial meetings. The entrepreneurial vibe of Nashville is also unique. The business community supports the entrepreneurial community; they look at us as a valuable partner. We’re successful entrepreneurs because people helped us when we were starting, and now it’s our responsibility to help other entrepreneurs as they get started. This energy permeates through the city and will continue to do so as we navigate the explosive growth we’re experiencing. We’re known as the Volunteer State and that is a direct reflection of our message.
What is the role of the Nashville Entrepreneur Center?
Part of our role is bringing innovative and entrepreneurial solutions to our existing businesses, and helping local businesses that have been here for a long time remain forward-thinking while also making sure that there is synergy to help newcomers grow. Darvis is a prime example of this. The company has a great leadership team, an excellent product, and we felt their presence in the community would benefit some of our existing businesses. Once these newcomers gain customers here, investment typically follows, and then companies look to relocate.
We’re also focused on making sure we aren’t wasting any time, whether that be the entrepreneur’s time or the prospective customers’. Time is our most precious commodity and even if these companies don’t receive new business, they’ll at least get very good feedback. Through our programs, we also have phenomenal mentors and advisers who volunteer to share their expertise and insights.
What are you anticipating with regard to future growth in Nashville?
More companies are interested in relocating to the Nashville area now than they were before the pandemic; about 25% of the total economy is composed of entrepreneurial companies. Healthcare, entertainment and music have been here and continue to grow. However, almost every company we work with is a tech company. Tech is just where there seems to be snowballing growth, especially with the Oracle and Amazon announcements. It’s not so much the industry, whether that’s retail, logistics, and so forth, but rather a growth in the tech products and services in this region.
Where do entrepreneurs who have exited their companies fit in Nashville’s entrepreneurial ecosystem?
If you’re an entrepreneur, you need to come here. No matter where you are in the entrepreneurial life cycle, we know where to plug you in, whether you are just starting out in phase 1 to circling back in phase 4. For example, we have a group of phase 4 entrepreneurs who have had successful exits, and they get together to hear from speakers on various topics and connect with some of our program participants.That’s part of our goal: to connect entrepreneurs to the resources they need, and sometimes that’s simply each other.
What is your outlook for Nashville’s entrepreneurial community?
When times are good, people don’t change. When times aren’t good, people are open to change. Needless to say, entrepreneurs are who helped shape how we live today, and helped us come up with solutions for some of our toughest challenges. We aren’t the Startup Center, we’re the Entrepreneur Center. When we collaborate to support entrepreneurs, everyone wins. We work with organizations like Nashville Technology Council, the Nashville Area Chamber and the academic institutions to ensure that the spirit of entrepreneurship is thriving. And so there has never been a better time for entrepreneurship and there’s never been a better time for Nashville, Tennessee.
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