Innov865 Week is a week-long series of events, taking place September 19-23, 2016, to celebrate and showcase Knoxville as a great place for entrepreneurs to start and grow businesses. We have partnered with the Innov865 Alliance to bring you stories of innovation born in East Tennessee. Today, we’re talking to nominees of the the UT Federal Credit Union Traction Award, Bob Bradley of Newbreak and Courtney Jones of MomSource Network.
Here’s a fun fact: nine out of 10 startups fail. With that reality in hand, it’s perfectly reasonable to praise startups that simply didn’t become part of such statistic. But Knoxville’s entrepreneurial scene goes a step further, by recognizing those in their community that have made the most progress, or gained the most traction since they first pitched at their flagship pitch competition, Startup Day, now in its fourth year.
On September 22, this Startup Day pitch competition will take place along with awarding of the Traction Award, presented by UT Federal Credit Union. “UT Federal Credit Union is pleased to sponsor the Traction Award and recognize the achievements of our East Tennessee entrepreneurs who will continue to thrive in our community,” said Myra Hamilton, AVP of Business Lending at UT Federal Credit Union.
The Innov865 Alliance, the organizers of Innov865 Week, has now announced the nominees for this year’s Traction Award: Bob Bradley of NewsBreak (2014 Startup Day alum), Courtney Jones of MomSource Network (2014 Startup Day alum), and Bryan Crosby of FunLPro Technology (We spoke with Bryan this week about his business).
Their accomplishments since their Startup Day pitches can be studied here, but we wanted to know about just how they were able to get such traction when so many others fail to do so. Also, we wondered how their company’s location in East Tennessee contributed to their growth. Below, Bradley and Jones give us some insight on getting traction.
Bob Bradley, President/CEO of NewsBreak
How were you able to get traction? What ingredients do you need to get traction? Gaining traction for NewsBreak was all about our ability to do three things — Execute. Execute. Execute. Having an idea for a business is one thing, but being able to execute on that idea to introduce a viable business model that is scalable with recurring revenue is something totally different.
It’s extremely important that you understand who your customers or end users are, and what your value proposition is to them. In other words, be true to your business model, stay focused, and provide your customer/end user base with the best and the most differentiated product or service available.
How has Knoxville helped you and your business? Knoxville has been great for us. It has a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem that allows new businesses to thrive, and is supported by the likes of the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center, the Anderson Center of Entrepreneurship & Innovation at UT, Oak Ridge National Laboratories, and the UT Research Foundation. It’s also home to some of the largest and most successful companies in the country, like Pilot Flying J, Scripps Networks Interactive, Regal Entertainment Group, Radio Systems Corporation and Clayton Homes. All have roots here in east Tennessee, and all continue to support entrepreneurship.
Courtney Jones, Founder of MomSource Network
What is your advice to others on getting traction? The best advice that I can offer is to be resilient. We still have plenty of opportunities to grow and to gain more traction. The startup world can offer amazing highs and painful lows but I’ve learned that if you are focused on your mission and still able to be agile enough to pivot to market demands that the real traction comes with commitment. The MomSource team is committed to learning from our mistakes, listening to our constituents and staying the course!
What does this region mean to you from your experience as a startup founder? I’m always proud to be a Southerner but there is no doubt that building a business in the Southeast has magnified my love for this part of the country. People are genuinely supportive of local startups; amazing people are willing to offer their advice, and the resources continue to grow. Silicon Valley? No thanks. I’ll take Tennessee every time!
Startup Day on September 22 is free to attend, but registration is required.