What Creates A Strong Entrepreneurial Community? Maker City Summit Answers that Question

Maker City Summit, Panel Discussion, September 2023

For the second year, I attended the Maker City Summit. For the second year, I walked away with new inspiration, ideas, and friends. I can’t help but wonder why more people aren’t attending this event. Maybe they don’t know about it. Maybe they don’t think it’s for them. Maybe they haven’t started their business yet, or perhaps they have a dream but haven’t taken the steps yet to see it play out. Whatever the reason, I hope more people will consider taking advantage of this resource next year. Here is my takeaway on what makes Knoxville’s community powerful and tips I learned about entrepreneurship.

Maker City Summit, Thomas “Detour” Evans, September 2023

With too many people to recognize without leaving out, let me acknowledge two significant contributors to the event: Courtney Hendricks and Bailey Foster. Courtney is the Director of Maker Initiatives at the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center, and Bailey is the founder of Real Good Kitchen. Courtney and her team facilitated the weekend with creativity, professionalism, and fun. Bailey and her team fed the crowd of over 250 attendees and leaders five outstanding meals provided by members of the Real Good Kitchen. Thanks to ALL who worked hard to make it a successful summit!

Maker City Summit, September 2023

The Summit began with a soiree on Friday night to allow for meet and greet time in a casual setting in the Maker Exchange. Saturday and Sunday are packed full of speakers and engagement. They offer opportunities like free headshots, extra access to experts after the conference, and this year, they had a scavenger hunt to explore maker spaces in the city and have the chance to win fun prizes. Yours truly won a portrait session with Javon Renee Portraits, and I am so excited!

Maker City Summit, Zen Room, September 2023

The attendees vary from established businesses to those who have yet to sell a thing. The ages vary just as widely. One thing that doesn’t differ from person to person is the spirit of “collaboration over competition.” I heard this term multiple times throughout the Summit. What does it mean? It means that the makers and shakers in Knoxville believe and practice the philosophy of working together and not against each other.

Maker City Summit, Lounge area by The Nest, September 2023

As I have interviewed multiple individuals and businesses in Knoxville, I have seen that spirit time and again. When you root for everyone, you inevitably succeed as well. Not only that, but the community as a whole is more vital.

Maker City Summit, Panel Discussion, September 2023

The theme of this year’s Summit, chaired by Jasmine Newton and Jonathan Clark, was “Make today. Impact tomorrow.” Workshops and speakers focused on time management, financial literacy, business intelligence, marketing, grant writing, and more. I felt a general push from speakers encouraging attendees to know who they are, both in and out of their business. Knowing your purpose and what you bring to the table helps you to stand out in a crowd. Coming into a conversation with purpose and passion can make a difference in landing that opportunity.

Maker City Summit, Decorate Your Badge Station, September 2023

Finding your identity within the maker space can be incredibly challenging. We ask, “Is there room for me? There is already someone doing what I want to do. There is already someone saying what I want to say. There is someone already playing what I want to play.” And we can’t forget the old imposter syndrome, that sneaking suspicion that you are a fraud, and sooner or later, everyone will know. It plagues many of us, not just those in the creative space.

Maker City Summit, September 2023

Some of the ideas discussed this weekend were:

*Explore everything. Recognize that the more tools you have in your toolbelt, you’ll be better equipped to be a creative problem solver. (Thomas “Detour” Evans)

*Ask yourself, “Who do I want to be?” What makes you happy? Start living in that direction. (Thomas “Detour” Evans)

*Build your community. What can you offer that benefits the community you want to build?

*Focus and Simplify. Tell your own story and stay in your own lane. Find that sweet spot that brings you joy, and work toward building that thing. (Day 1 panel discussion)

*Build relationships. Network. Offer your skills. Build others up. Be curious about others around you. (Day 1 panel discussion)

*Who is your audience? Consider who you are marketing to and use that information to decide how to market your business best. What you offer will not be for everyone, which is okay. (Kristen Combs)

*Stay true to who you are. Don’t compromise. (Day 2 panel discussion)

*Incorporate community into your passion. (Tanika Harper)

*Reframe failure. Recognize that failure doesn’t have to be the outcome. Share your failures with others. (Natalie Franke)

Maker City Summit, Natalie Franke, September 2023

I left with lots of information to think about. Mostly, I walk away with pride in what Knoxville is and the image we are putting into the world. Collaboration over competition. What if that was everyone’s model? That would be a great world to live in.

Are you an entrepreneur? What advice would you give to others looking to grow and sustain their business in this space?

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