Knoxville Entrepreneur Center’s unofficial motto is “Big Ideas Welcome” (although we had T-shirts made, so maybe it really is official), but how do you know if your “big idea” is going to work, and how can we help you find out?
Through business education programming, intentional community building, and one-on-one mentoring, KEC is here to help establish and grow your footing at whatever stage you’re in — from food trucks to tech startups, and everywhere in between.
If you’re just getting started, or have an “I wonder if this will float” idea, CO.STARTERS is your best bet. CO.Starters is a 10-week, cohort-based business accelerator that will develop and fine-tune your business idea using the business model canvas as a foundation. You’ll get real-time customer feedback, learn valuable management and marketing skills and receive constructive feedback from advisers, peers, and local businesses.
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“I went through the 2019 Fall Co.Starters program and it helped me understand how my side business could be a full-time business … 2 years later, I own my own commercial building, have one full-time employee and take home more money than I ever thought possible. But more than the business knowledge, I gained a support team that has changed my life.”
— Sarah Loebner, founder, Towns Toffee
The Works is a 12-week advanced startup accelerator built for growth-stage, scalable software and hardware companies. We help entrepreneurs develop a clear growth strategy, work through brand, sales, and marketing challenges, and define key business milestones necessary for continued success. Graduates of The Works accelerator include incredible companies like RDI Technologies, SmartRIA, and Quantum Lock Technologies.
Other growth-focused programs include Inflection. Point, an invitation-only cohort for founders with rapidly scaling companies, and AgTech Mentor Network, a partnership between KEC, AgLaunch, and Launch Tennessee, focused on supporting AgTech startups and companies in TN.
Are you looking for a community of like-minded entrepreneurs, makers, or founders? 
The Maker City and the Mayor’s Maker Council creates collaborative partnerships, programming, and opportunities in support of Knoxville’s maker community. Fun facts: Knoxville was named the first official ETSY “Maker City” in 2017, and our Maker directory boasts over 400 members at TheMakerCity.org.
Let Her Speak, started and led by our own Catherine Porth, is on a mission to bring more visibility, support, resources, and opportunities to women through intentional events, community research, and leadership education. Learn more, and get involved, at LetHerSpeakus.com. Also, Women in Entrepreneurship is a monthly forum for women entrepreneurs hosted at KEC that offers speakers, workshops, networking, and mentorship.
Looking to let the world know about your big idea, and connect with other entrepreneurs and partners? 
#MadeforKnoxville is a multimedia storytelling campaign, website, and live event series that connects and empowers the most diverse group of entrepreneurs our town has ever seen — ranging from “solo-preneurs,” makers, growth-stage tech founders, investors, and established institutions. We’d love to hear YOUR entrepreneurial journey at madeforknoxville.com, and be on the lookout for our live events at stages all over town.
“What’s the Big Idea” is our annual 48-hour pitch competition with $10,000 on the line for bright minds who have a concept or a new enterprise in the seed-capital, startup, or pre-revenue stage. This is a raucous affair with six teams, dozens of mentors, gallons of coffee, and a big finale with a supportive community that rivals any city in America.
“Since winning ‘What’s the Big Idea’, Songboarding has become a familiar name! It’s much easier to have conversations with companies in the community regarding opportunities for partnership. Thank you to KEC for existing and giving startups a name.”
— Mike Benn, Founder, Songboarding
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100 Knoxville is led by leadership coach Kandis Troutman. Five founders of color are paired with five top-level mentors (like Dr. Angelique Adams, Damon Rawls, and Harry Boston), for a five-week business sprint, and receive a $5,000 grant to grow their business. Cohorts have included Jade Adams of Oglewood Avenue, Jarius Bush of Good Guy Collective, and Andrew Osakue of Soul Good. Apply for an upcoming cohort, or learn more about how to support and partner with the program at 100knoxville.com.
“100Knoxville was literally life-changing! I gained so much clarity on where I should focus my energy with my business. The instructor was so helpful and informative.”
— Jarius Bush, Designer and Co-Founder, Good Guy Collective
AND we’ve got brand and marketing-focused programs like our popular BrandCamp classes, Make.Learn.Grow sessions, as well as accounting, legal, and leadership development throughout the year by top-rated industry professionals like Jennie Andrews, Leslie Beale, and Patrick Hunt. If any of this sounds like a fit, we’d love to hear from you. Please email hello@knoxec.net, visit knoxec.com, and follow us on social media. You’ll meet hundreds of entrepreneurs in our community who are learning new things, asking questions, and taking action just like you.

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