To thrive in today’s robust and competitive economy, startups need opportunity, plentiful resources and creativity. Memphis is one of the few cities in the country where this attractive combination is astonishingly easy to come by.
As the birthplace of rock ‘n’ roll, the home of the blues and the BBQ capital of the world, Memphis was practically made to promote competitive startups in multiple industries. Our residents are brought up with a creative mindset and an ability to think outside the box, so it’s no wonder many up-and-coming entrepreneurs hail from Memphis.
There’s no end in sight to the startup boom in Memphis
Did you know Memphis is considered the epicenter of the Maker Movement? This thriving group of entrepreneurs, musicians, inventors and artists use items others have cast aside to create new music, arts and crafts, products, jewelry and more. Makers are essentially entrepreneurs who have the ability to build upon what already exists to create a new and useful end product.
Needless to say, this ability doesn’t come from just anywhere, which is where our city comes into play. Memphis provides an environment in which makers are both inspired and driven to use their talents to improve the lives of local residents and beyond.
Every beat in Memphis vibrates in tandem with the dreams, innovations and ambitions of upcoming musical entrepreneurs. With demand fueled by Sun Studio, Royal Studios and Stax Records, music technology is a big deal in Memphis—and startups are leading the charge in everything from digital audio workstations to metadata improvements.
Medical and biotech
Medical technology is also booming in Memphis. St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital calls our city home, which serves as a powerful draw for startups bringing new solutions to the fight against childhood cancer. Zeroto510, a first-of-its-kind medical device startup accelerator that helps med tech entrepreneurs get their products to market quickly, has launched 25 companies in the past five years with over $12 million of investment funding. And the Memphis Bioworks Foundation is providing free med tech education while creating new enterprises focused on bioscience and sustainability.
Unbeknownst to some, Memphis is a leader in the agritech space. A perfect example is The Seam, which was founded by leading global agribusiness companies and specializes in commodity trading and management systems. In December 2000, it began operating the world’s first completely online, anonymous exchange for cotton trading. Since that time, the company has leveraged its software and application development expertise in agriculture to expand into other commodity segments, including peanuts, grains and dairy. Big names are taking note of Memphis’ agritech entrepreneurs – Ashton Kutcher funded the agricultural technology startup Cowlar, which makes smart collars for cows to improve herd health and optimize operations. Meanwhile, Skycision, a startup launched by the Memphis Bioworks Foundation’s Ag Innovation Development Group, uses drones to help farmers take better care of their crops.
Memphis invests in entrepreneurs
Startup growth and entrepreneurial development cannot take place in a vacuum—rather, a fledgling business must be nurtured toward success through a combination of consistent funding and abundant opportunities. One of the things that make Memphis such a startup haven is its commitment to investing in entrepreneurs.
Outsiders who associate our city solely with Beale Street, the blues and tasty ribs may not see what takes place behind the scenes: a commitment to innovation, collaboration and entrepreneurship that facilitates the growth of enterprises focused not only on music and food, but just about anything else you can think of. For evidence, look no further than Start Co., a Memphis company that strives to provide aspiring entrepreneurs with access to mentors, facilities and investors.
Start Co. also offers accommodations to visiting entrepreneurs in the form of furnished apartments at the historic downtown Exchange Building, which is located right in the heart of the action.
Memphis startups in action
If you’re seeking actual, practical examples of startups in Memphis that define the innovator movement, you don’t need to look far. Musicians are bound to be inspired by Crown Vox’s dark soul-pop sound, while fashion mavens will love Samilia Colar’s uniquely handcrafted handbags for men, women and children. As for entrepreneurs, there’s no better inspiration than Moziah “Mo” Bridges, who signed a licensing deal with the NBA after being featured on ABC’s “Shark Tank.”
Memphis movers and makers are everywhere
You don’t have to look hard to find innovators in Memphis—they’re everywhere. Here’s a look at some of the hottest:
- Crown Vox: It’s dark soul pop is unlike anything you’ve ever heard.
- Faux Killas: Blues meets garage meets classic rock. (Only in Memphis could this kind of sound come to life.)
- Samilia Colar: Colar runs Texstyle, which makes handbags for men, women and kids using leather and ethnic fabrics.
- Erica Bodine: You’ll find Bodine’s delightful, handmade utilitarian stoneware at the Memphis Farmers Market—and you’ll love it!
- Craig Brewer: You likely know this movie director from “Hustle & Flow” and “Black Snake Moan,” but he’s also responsible for launching a youth film festival.
- Ira Sachs: This indie filmmaker has been creating humanist dramas since “The Delta” premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival back in the ‘90s—and several of these are set in Memphis.
- Angie Steele: Salon owner and serial entrepreneur Steele’s motto is “Go be great.”
- Moziah “Mo” Bridges: This teen Memphian’s business, Mo’s Bows, was featured on “Shark Tank,” and he has since entered into a licensing deal with the NBA.
The list goes on and on, but one thing is certain: Memphis makers are on the move.
Incentives and programs designed to boost new Memphis start-ups
In addition to state and regional incentives, there are also many different local financing incentives to provide the start-up capital that a fledgling company needs to get its head above water. In addition to financing incentives, local foundations offer grants for education, exterior improvements of buildings and small business development programs.
Pick your industry
Memphis isn’t known just for its music. There are also agricultural companies that are headquartered in the area. People can also choose start-up opportunities in the health and medical field. St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital is one of the biggest research hospitals in the country and located in Memphis. The opportunity for growth in any of these areas is overwhelming.
An abundance of resources and investors
The Greater Memphis Chamber is just one of the many resources that are available to entrepreneurs in the Memphis area. New concepts in terms of office spaces and working from home are also adding to the mix, allowing entrepreneurs to choose the environment that is most comfortable and productive for them. When it comes to investors, there are many individuals out there who are looking to support “the next big thing” and help some lucky business owners bring their dream to life.
Whether you have lived in the area all your life or are looking for a new place to re-create your dream, Memphis is a hotbed of fresh ideas and individuals who are willing to explore new avenues. As an entrepreneur, you look for opportunities and resources that will allow you to achieve your goals. Memphis has everything you need to create the perfect storm in terms of being a success. Explore the opportunities and put your dreams into action!
Available Options for Startups
There are a number of financial options available to small business owners not only in the city of Memphis but offered by the state of Tennessee. These grants and financing do depend on the kind of business and the location, so it is important to seek out all potential assistance through the Greater Memphis Chamber. The professionals on hand can help direct startup owners in the right direction for financing.
Beyond financial help, many startups do not immediately need a large office or storefront. However, having a physical presence helps boost networking potential while also placing the brand name and products in front of consumers. Whether a larger space is not needed or it is not financially feasible when the business is getting started, there are other options available.
Start Co. is a Memphis-based company that works directly with small business owners and startups, providing facilities in addition to financial investors looking to pump money back into Memphis businesses. Start Co. uses the Exchange Building in downtown Memphis to provide accommodations such as furnished offices. The building, which is right in the middle of all the business action, makes it easier for startups to connect with potential business partners.
Open for business
The city of Memphis is open for business. Regardless of the industry, if business owners have a great idea and want to follow their passion, the city of Memphis is more than happy to accommodate and do what it can to assist.
Ready to join us?
Memphis’ start-up movement awaits. Join the movement today and learn more by checking out the articles below:
- Why Memphis might be the edgiest startup hub in the country – Inc.
- Meet 18 of the newest startups in Memphis – Memphis Business Journal
- See who’s available to help you succeed – Start Co.
- Another Memphis-based resource for you – Made By
- Top 10 cities with the lowest startup costs (SPOILER: Memphis made the list) – SmartAsset
- How the Memphis maker movement is helping startups thrive – Memphis Flyer
- From Austin To Memphis: What It Takes To Build A Music-Tech City – Forbes
- Medical Device Startup Founders Flock To Memphis for ZeroTo510 Cohort – Memphis Daily News
- 19-story “startup village” is home to entrepreneurs in Downtown – High Ground