Cash mobs and MEMshop and angels and mentors and launches – they are all part of an atmosphere in our city that encourages small-business development in the shadow of a historic recession.
FedEx CEO and founder Fred Smith late last year put small-business development and its role in perspective, saying it is large corporations that drive the global economy with many small businesses created in the orbit or supply chain of those large business entities.
But the same force of national economies that haven’t been there before joining the global market that Smith has talked about as a historic opportunity for growth even during a recession is also a force at work in a new way of thinking about small-business development.
It is now possible for a small business to have a global reach. We should also point out it is also possible for a small-business owner to get his or her head handed to them in that same global marketplace.
What we find interesting about the local efforts to equip those considering being their own boss with the knowledge about how to get financing is what can happen in the other direction.
These small businesses can also find a place locally and sustain themselves with a smaller operation that requires less overhead if their owners have the knowledge to eliminate more of the unknowns that kill small businesses with the element of surprise.
No effort can eliminate all of those possibilities. And dependence will always be a factor as will the reality of a bad business plan no matter how hard the originator of that idea wants to believe it can work.
For those with capital and a willingness to understand and take risks in these startups there is an added benefit. It might not always look like a benefit. But local investors who can see what they are investing in every day will become better investors if they can take the knocks.
And more understanding on that level has the long-term effect of building knowledge about building wealth. Most of our civic leaders believe such wealth is necessary at a greater level in Memphis in order for the city to build a foundation to prosperity for more that can endure.
The challenge in the current innovation excitement that is hatching in a score of incubators comes when the excitement is leavened with experience for those now seeing how far their idea will go.
Those encouraging the excitement should work to make sure there are lessons to learn from the failures and the missteps as well as the success stories.
The city’s history of business innovation has valuable lessons for today’s dream chasers. They are lessons in hard work, the value of locally-based belief and capital investment and struggle once the fairy dust is gone and the real work of innovation begins.