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Sarah Haston: Hello and welcome entrepreneurs

Sarah Haston • Updated May 1, 2018 at 1:00 PM

“Thank you for joining us today and we are happy to have you here. Welcome.” Those were the words exclaimed at the new Cumberland Ignite Lab during an informational seminar on the entrepreneur class, DISCOVER.   

Cumberland Ignite Lab, an initiative of Historic Lebanon, has partnered with Cumberland University, the city of Lebanon Economic and Community Development and Pathway Lending to bring a curriculum to entrepreneurs who have an idea for a business, but need more education on structure and how to launch. The DISCOVER class is for someone who is thinking, “I have an idea, but I am not sure where to start.” It is also for someone who might have recently opened a new business, but wants to continue to build upon what they have started. 

Last month at the informational seminar Brandon Dowdy, owner of Mowers and More and host of the Southern Woods and Waters on News Channel 5-plus, was the guest speaker. Brandon shared his incredible business journey with the group on how he took the leap to become an entrepreneur. He talked about his challenges, ups and downs, success today and regrets looking back with a new perspective. 

When I asked Brandon to speak to the group, I let him know it would be a small, more intimate group, and our goal was to have a candid question-and-answer session with someone who could lead by example and show the others that it is possible and provide a tell a “here is my story.” 

Brandon quickly said yes, but he was also extremely humbled. In fact, I asked Brandon how I could introduce him to the group and this is what he had to say… “I am just a regular guy that had the work ethic and perseverance to grow a company from nothing to what it is today.” 

Brandon was calm and collected as he shared with the group of future entrepreneurs. Mowers and More was started by Brandon to help pay his way through college and even with ups and downs he was able to turn it into a successful business of today. 

“I now have a full time general manager that manages multiple crews at a time for me, and I am now more focused on the management side of the business as we enter into new markets,” Dowdy said. “Having my know how, when I was given the opportunity to take over and operate the television show, I was able to double its growth in just one year and we are now breaking into new markets and growing exponentially. I have certainly learned things the hard way, but it will teach you the right way for sure! I now feel like I get to enjoy what I do every day, whether I am on a job site or out filming something in the outdoors for my show. I consider myself to be very blessed.”

It was an exciting night because the dialogue everyone engaged in was one of those moments where you just get magic. The people who attended were engaged and on the edge of their seats listening to Brandon tell his story of how he has achieved his goals and is still continuing to grow. It was nice to hear how he has overcome certain challenges that are all too familiar for most entrepreneurs and small businesses. 

An example here is how Brandon was able to duplicate himself and finally “let go” – it was only then was he able to truly grow. This is something I hear about all the time from our local businesses. I listen to their challenges, but it always comes down to a fear of letting someone else do it. Eventually if you are going to grow, you will have to let go. It is just how it works. 

Cumberland Ignite Lab, an initiative of Historic Lebanon, is grant funded by the Tennessee Main Street program. As economic development director, it is so exciting to see such an awesome resource here in Lebanon. Our community reaches out to me all the time for business advice, and I see a real need here that can be met with this opportunity. I am optimistic it will take off and be embraced by our local talent. There is no cost to applicants who wish to take courses. Here are the requirements put together with the help of Pathway Lending – the facilitators for the nine-week courses – for the first class called DISCOVER. 

“I have an idea for a business, but I’m not sure where to start.”

• I don’t have a business plan.

• I’ve been selling a product or service but I have not formally organized my business.

• I am thinking through a new business concept or about purchasing a business.

• I think I want to be an entrepreneur, but I am not sure what that involves.

The course description is a nine-week course – two-hour classes on weeknights – plus three hours of one-on-one coaching

Curriculum takeaways include:

• definition of your business idea and the value you provide to customers.

• a basic understanding of what it takes to run a business, including financial and business terminology.

• understanding of how to conduct basic market research for your service or product and create a customer persona.

• a basic understanding of how to create a profit and loss statement for your business.

• understanding of local permit process.

• pitch night to hone your communications skills about your idea or business.

To apply, visit surveymonkey.com/r/CumberlandIgniteLabDiscoveryApplication.

Historic Lebanon will contact you to discuss your application and class placement upon completion of your application. There are eight spots available, and classes will start soon. 

If you have any further questions, contact Kim Parks, executive director of Historic Lebanon at 615-547-9795 or [email protected] or me at 615-443-2839, ext. 2120 or [email protected]

Sarah Haston is economic development director in Lebanon.

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