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Campus expo showcases local startups

By Tyler Stafford
On February 21, 2013

  • University of Memphis alumnus Jack Simon promotes his entertainment company, Brister Street Productions, at the “Intuition to Innovation” expo Tuesday at the FedEx Institute of Technology. Photo courtesy of Tyler Stafford

The University of Memphis' Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation hosted the first "Invitation to Innovation" entrepreneurship expo Tuesday in the lobby of the FedEx Institute of Technology. It showcased 22 startup businesses from the Greater Memphis Area, all clients of the Center.
Also featured was a series of talks and workshops held in the Zone Auditorium. The expo ran from 10:00 am until 5:00 pm, and a total of 300 people showed up for the event.
Kelly Penwell, assistant director of the CEI, explained the idea behind the theme of inviting to innovate.
"We're here at a social level as well as an educational level to evoke change and make entrepreneurship something that anybody can do," she said.
Penwell developed the CEI 18 months ago and said she is passionate about launching local talent. "I tell people all the time - and I mean this genuinely - this is the greatest job in Memphis because our success is measured by the success of others."
Among the startups seen at the expo was Brister Street Productions, an entertainment company and the brainchild of U of M alumnus Jack Simon.
Simon started Brister Street Productions three years ago in his backyard while he was still a student. "I put together shows and concerts, and I saw this as an opportunity to create some income not only for myself but musicians here in Memphis too," he said.
Bristerfest, a local music festival, is scheduled for April 27 and 28, and benefits GrowMemphis, a community gardening and urban farming nonprofit.
Ravyn Patton, an accounting major and intern at the CEI, greeted people as they walked into the expo, standing at a long table displaying programs and free calendars. For each month in the calendar, a different startup supported by the CEI is profiled, beginning with Master Builders for Maximum Function for January 2013 and ending with Bragging Beauty Fitness for June 2014.
Patton was also at the expo to promote the Young Entrepreneurs Club, which is having its first meeting March 7 at the FedEx Institute. "[Being here] is inspirational for me because I get to hear about business plans and success stories. There are people who come here who start from nothing, and within a year or two you see their company come to life," she said.
Patton said she's excited about working at the CEI. "If you find something you want to make your own, this is a perfect way to do that."

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