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Small Business Festival returns for entertainment and success

W. Kenneth Medley II • May 9, 2019 at 1:15 AM

The Tri-Cities Small Business Festival is kicking off today at Bristol Motor Speedway with breakfast that will begin a weekend of activities including Pitches and Pints, the region’s very own “Shark Tank” like competition.

David Nelson of Startup Tri-Cities is here to tell more about the event that will take place across the region for the three days. Events will occur in Bristol, Johnson City and Kingsport and include everything from 3D printing to how to handle the stress of owning a small business. If one has not planned their weekend this may be a great way to get inspired.

Can you tell me about the Tri-Cities Small Business Festival?

The cities of Bristol basically got together and approached us about bringing a bit of the Austin, Texas, startup scene to the Tri-Cities in the form of a festival. The whole focus of that is really pulling together all types of small business in order to connect each other for information and strategies for building success. As well as inspire others to start their own business and take that leap to stand, grow and hire other people. It is a free festival that spans across three days. It starts with a kick-off breakfast at the Bristol Motor Speedway. Then we have actionable workshops that will help one grow and scale up their business. Friday is a full day in Kingsport, where they are highlighting their brand-new Inventor Center and they are doing all kinds of hands-on workshops in areas of 3D printing to metalworking. If you had an invention and wanted to make a prototype you can do that at the Inventor Center. Saturday, we have a full day in downtown Bristol that starts at 9 a.m. in the Foundation Building. We have different local leaders of small businesses that are coming to talk and share what has worked for them, what challenges they had and some of it is on personal health and wellness; kind of how to handle the stress of starting a business. There will also be workshops on accounting and financial issues.

Why “festival?”

I like to think it is not just work. It is a little bit of a celebration of what has been going on in the Tri-Cities for a little while. It’s really moment to take a step back and celebrate all the growth that we have seen, new startups everywhere from tech, to services, to boutiques, every type of small business. I think a big part of it truly is inspiration. One may have been working heads down on their business for the last few weeks. You come to this festival, you see what other people are doing and it gives you that excitement to go out and do even more. That is kind of where the festival side of it comes from.

What is the history behind the festival?

This is the second year. We did one last year and got it going. It was a fairly small festival being our first one. We got into late, the festival always happens during Small Business Week, basically the first full week of May. We had such a good time and high amount of quality presenters last year that the folks from Austin came back and said they were impressed. They did not expect us to have 40 plus events across the Tri-Cities. Managing all that has been hectic, but the actionable advice that came through has been highly rated by all the people that attended.

It is a wide reaching team that brings a regional approach to supporting small business.

What are some of the highlights?

I am excited for the Bristol Motor Speedway Kick-off Breakfast. That is always a good time. We are up in one of the suites at the speedway. We have featured entrepreneur and speaker Jose Castillo talking about “The Birth of an Idea.” He is a phenomenal speaker that will just inspire and motivate people as he talks about the ways of the things he has learned along his journey.

What is the importance of this event?

I think anytime you bring the startup community together as a whole, great things happen. Last year we had two people that were complete competitors in the software world sitting right next to each other. We were having a discussion on fails and it was kind of a workshop where people were sharing ideas. No one knew these two companies were sitting side-by-side. One shared how they get customers. As soon as that happened the guy turned around next to him and said, I did the same thing and this is what works for me. They had this great discussion along with everyone else about how they approach their customers and get more sales. To me that collaboration really takes the startup community to the next level.

What do you hope is the takeaway for the people participating in the event and what do you hope is given back to the community?

I think the biggest takeaway is that we have some people that are inspired to start their business or new venture; that people are taking their current business and they are growing it and sort of scaling it up or hiring one more person. Then we are really taking that community of entrepreneurs and we are connecting them together. It doesn’t matter it you are tech or a boutique or another type of small business; they all need each other and we all work together to create a more vibrant ecosystem here. I think that is the overall end goal, just truly connecting the community and celebration where we are all coming from and where we are going.

What is the turn out looking like?

We are looking at larger turnout than last year. We are already seeing over 100 people that RSVP-ed but you never know until an event happens. We are just excited to see this grow year after year. Even if we have one or two more people than last year we are excited because that is the core of the community that we are working on.

For a full schedule of events, times and locations visit the Small Business Website at https://www.smallbusinessfestival.org/tri-cities-small-business-festival. It is not to late to join the fun.

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