Memphis to Host Tennessee Entrepreneur Conference

At age 12, Moziah Bridges–Mo for short–is already contributing to Tennessee’s economy. The “kidpreneur,” as many call him, has been featured in the likes of Forbes magazine and on “Shark Tank,” a reality TV competition for American entrepreneurs.

He is the epitome of homegrown economic development.

Mo has told media outlets that he started Mo’s Bows in 2011 when, as a “young, dapper man” he couldn’t find bow ties to complete his attire. He started selling the bow ties on the shopping website Etsy, but has since begun marketing them in Memphis, Tenn., area stores.

Mo will be a special guest speaker at the Tennessee Entrepreneur Day May 13 at the FedEx Institute of Technology at the University of Memphis. The conference is sponsored by The Council of State Governments and the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.

“From kidpreneurs to Klondike bars, we’ll present the people and the plans producing results in Tennessee,” said Tennessee Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, the 2014 chair of The Council of State Governments. Norris and West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, the 2014 CSG president, have made jobs and economic development a major part of their yearlong initiative, “State Pathways to Prosperity.”

“Entrepreneurship is one of the keys to economic development,” Norris said. “It facilitates new business, which, in turn, facilitates jobs. It’s a key component in our workforce development initiative. Entrepreneurship is another pathway to prosperity.”

State leaders know entrepreneurs not only create jobs, but also contribute to an increase in wages and standards of living.

“The formation and growth of new businesses is the fundamental source of job creation and innovation in every U.S. state,” said Dane Stangler, vice president of research and policy at the Kauffman Foundation.

Norris sees that firsthand in the district he serves.

“In Memphis, the chamber has an ambitious plan to create 1,000 entrepreneurs resulting in 500 new businesses in the next 10 years,” he said. “It’s the perfect place to learn about this type of innovation in economic development and workforce development.”

But bringing a new product or service to market can be a daunting prospect for innovators–from gaining access to capital to navigating the legal and regulatory landscape. State policies can either hinder or foster that entrepreneurial spirit.

“Policymakers should continue to examine their state’s environment for business creation and identify barriers that may hinder entrepreneurship,” said Stangler.

In addition to Norris, speakers for the May 13 event are:
Jason Wiens, lead policy engagement manager, The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation;
Jeff Chapman, manager, Economic Development Tax Incentives Project, Pew Charitable Trusts;
Steven J. Bares, president and executive director, Memphis Bioworks Foundation;
Charlie Brock, CEO and president, Launch Tennessee;
Larry Gibson, manufacturing director, Unilever;
Ted Townsend, assistant commissioner of strategy, Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development; and
Kelly Penwell, director, Experiential Learning Lab, University of Memphis, with special guest, Moziah Bridges, founder of Mo’s Bows;
Andre Fowlkes, president, Start Co.;
Eric Matthews, founder, Start Co.;
Carol Reed, executive director, Northwest Tennessee Entrepreneur Center;
Richard Billings, CEO, Screwpulp; and
Stan Elliott, director, Missouri Innovation Campus.
For more information, visit the CSG State Entrepreneurship Days webpage.