PreFlight program to help entrepreneurs reach new heights

  • Source: Williamson Herald
  • By Jodi Rall

 

One of the most challenging first steps for an entrepreneur is testing out their ideas to see if they have a viable plan, without the associated commitment or risk, according to The Nashville Entrepreneurial Center.

To assist aspiring entrepreneurs, Williamson, Inc. has recently partnered with The Nashville Entrepreneur Center (EC) PreFlight Program to help participants achieve their dream of bringing a startup business to life – step by step.

According to recent statistics, entrepreneurship plays a significant role in the business culture of Williamson County, said Matt Largen, President and CEO of Williamson, Inc.

“We have a higher percentage of entrepreneurs in Williamson County than any other county in Middle Tennessee based on an analysis of our economy,” Largen said.

Because of the high entrepreneurial population, the EC recognized an opportunity to increase the number of successful startups by offering the PreFlight program to those who live and work in Williamson County.

“The PreFlight Program will allow Williamson County entrepreneurs the opportunity to workshop their business ideas in the safety of a classroom setting with their peers,” Largen said. “The program will also allow them access to mentors from the Nashville Entrepreneur Center. I am thankful for the regional asset that is the Entrepreneur Center that will provide training and mentorship for our entrepreneurial community through this important program.”

Support offered

PreFlight is the EC’s pre-accelerator educational program for budding entrepreneurs with idea-stage startups looking to create a foundation for launching a successful business. By partnering with Williamson, Inc., budding entrepreneurs, who live in the county, will have the opportunity to access other entrepreneurs and business leaders that they might not otherwise have a chance to work with or meet.

John Murdock, the EC’s vice president of entrepreneurial development and facilitator of the PreFlight classes, said that the program with Williamson, Inc. will offer an intensive format with on-site teaching rather than virtual classes.

Murdock has worked with more than 1,000 entrepreneurs and helped graduates raise more than $70 million from investors.

He shared that one of the most difficult hurdles for start-ups is focusing on a clear direction, or “creating order out of chaos.”

“Every entrepreneur has a unique set of strengths and weaknesses that they bring to their journey, and different journeys will challenge them in different ways,” Murdock said. “However, a large element of the process that we see people struggle with and that we try to help bring some light to is creating order out of the chaos. There are so many different directions that entrepreneurs are pulled, so many different stakeholders that they touch, and so many different things that they could do, that it can get overwhelming.

“We help provide tools and strategies to analyze that information in a systematic way to create a whole business, not several different, disparate solutions that they are trying to patch together.”

Success achieved

Chris McMurty participated in PreFlight during the spring of 2014 when trying to launch his company Dart Music, a distribution platform for classical music artists.

“I came into the PreFlight with an idea and a dream and left with a viable business plan,” McMurty said. “There’s no way that Dart could have gotten off the ground without PreFlight.”

Currently PreFlight is taking 30 participants on a 14-week journey consisting of 90-minute interactive classes on Wednesday evenings from 5:30 to 7 p.m. to help entrepreneurs meet their goals. Classes begin February 3 and conclude April 27 at the Williamson Inc. chamber office, 5005 Meridian Blvd., Suite 150 Franklin.

“We couldn’t be more excited to expand our partnership with the EC,” said Nick Biniker, Williamson Inc. Business Manager, who is spearheading PreFlight.

“For those working or residing in Williamson County, PreFlight is more than a class and curriculum. Participants will have access to the EC’s fantastic mentor pool and have the opportunity to participate in a pitch day that puts them in front of startup and investment experts for feedback.”

Registration

Sign-up through Friday, January 22 and receive $200 off the regular price. Registration will remain open until all slots are filled.

Participants will receive educational opportunities including, the opportunity to apply skills in ideation, customer development, product-market fit, pricing and pitch-building; unlimited access to the EC’s mentor poll of more than 200 business leaders, startup operators, resource providers and industry specialists; an invitation to attend EC community events like Sip It! Entrepreneur’s Happy Hour with special speakers; drop-in first-come, first-serve workspace at the EC during business hours; and an opportunity to pitch to a panel of startup and investment experts for feedback at the program’s end.

EC began in 2007 with the mission of raising the quality of resources available to Nashville’s entrepreneurial and small business communities. PreFlight was launched two years ago and is branching out into other Tennessee communities and nonprofits across the country to expand the program.

Register online at www.williamsonchamber.com/entrepreneurship/preflight or contact Nick Biniker, Williamson, Inc. at nick@williamsonchamber.com. To learn more about PreFlight and the Nashville Entrepreneur Center, visit www.ec.co/preflight.