NEXT Awards Finalists Party [Podcast]

This year’s NEXT Awardswill showcase many exciting companies, but Blake Mankin’s Mr B's Rap App is one of the most memorable.  (Blake is one of five finalists for the Young Entrepreneur of the Year award). The app gives users themed rhyming words and a beat to create freestyle rap. In the clip above, the EC’s own Community Coordinator Kelli Nowers gives it a try, and the result is priceless (thanks Kelli for letting me post this!)

Now in their 5th year, the NEXT Awards continue to honor the best businesses and entrepreneurs making an impact in our community . As Nashville has grown, it has become a hotbed for innovation in several industries. Overall, the awards are divided into five categories:

  • Healthcare
  • Technology
  • Digital Media & Entertainment
  • Sustainability & Social Enterprise
  • Products and Services

Within each of these, companies are divided into three different stages of development:

  • Startup
  • Growth
  • Market Mover

Additionally, there are two individual awards:

  • Young Entrepreneur of the Year
  • Entrepreneur of the Year

The NEXT Awards Finalists Party took place at the all new Studio 615. An opportunity to showcase Nashville’s top innovators, the party was a great place to mingle. I was able to catch up with at least 1-2 finalists in each category and talk about their thoughts on what’s next for Nashville. Below is a quick bio and synopsis for each, but make sure to hear their answers in the audio clip above.

Sam Davidson is the CEO of Batch Nashville, a company that sells local foods and products. Sam grew up in Nashville so he has a great perspective on the local food scene, the city’s growth and how innovation has really taken a hold. He talked about the impact companies starting, and staying, has on the city and on the already innovative culture.. You can follow Sam on Twitter @samdavidsonand LinkedIn and follow Batch on Twitter @batchusa.

Kris Kelso is the CEO of Atlas Health, an early stage company in the healthcare industry. When asked about what’s next for Nashville, Kris talked about the the recent boom in healthcare tech innovation and the entrepreneurs it has brought into the industry. He believes that in the future, healthcare will place a greater emphasis on the consumer. You can connect with Kris through Twitter@kriskelso or via LinkedIn.

Ricardo Anders is the CEO and President of Atiba, a technology consulting firm based here in Nashville. Also speaking with him is Whitney Blessington, their SVP of Sales, Marketing and Account Management. Like Kris Kelso, they talk about innovation in the healthcare industry and how Nashville has the opportunity to become an “it” city, similar to Silicon Valley or Austin. Ricardo and Whitney can each be contacted through their respective LinkedIn pages. Speaking of Health Care, I'll be posting more interviews from my coverage of Health:Further soon.    

In addition to healthcare, the entertainment industry was well represented at the NEXT Awards. Channing Moreland and Makenzie Stokel are Belmont University seniors who have found time to start their own company, EVAmore. They graduated from Cohort 1 of the EC’s Project Music EC last year and now are (both) nominees for Young Entrepreneur of the Year. In the clip, they talk about Project Music’s tremendous impact and the skills they gained through the experience. You can contact Channing on Twitter and LinkedIn. Makenzie can be contacted on both Twitter and LinkedIn, as well.

Christian Paro is the owner of C615 and Studio 615, where the NEXT Awards event was held. He is joined in the clip above by Kevin Kazlauskas, the Executive Producer of Make It Pop Creations. They talk about Nashville's expanding role in Nashville and their vision for Nashville to become “the Hollywood of the South”. Kevin can be contacted through LinkedIn.

Colton Mulligan is the CEO of FoxFuel Creative, a Nashville-based marketing agency focused on creative and digital solutions. In the clip he is joined by Ashley Segroves, a family portrait photographer also based in Nashville. Together, they talk about the future of the Nashville arts and food scene.  Colton can be found on Twitter @ColtonMulligan and on LinkedIn.  Ashley can be found on Twitter @ashleysegroves and LinkedIn.

Another industry represented at the NEXT Awards is social entrepreneurship. One of the leaders in that area is Jerry Stubblefield, the Entrepreneur in Residence at Lipscomb University.

As the presenting sponsor of the NEXT Awards, Lipscomb has been heavily involved in the Nashville entrepreneur scene. Being in higher education, Jerry spoke to the importance of social entrepreneurship, where he sees Nashville heading next.

Last, but not least, is an interview with Thistle Farms, an organization that was highlighted in the last EC blog through an interview with Becca Stevens (she was inducted into the 2015 EC Hall of Fame just a few weeks ago). Featured in this clip are Jennifer Clinger, hospitality and Sheri Brown,manufacturing. They shared their perspective of what makes Nashville so special for social enterprise businesses and what the city can continue to do to uphold this distinction.

The NEXT Awards show where the winners will be revealed will take place on Thursday, November 19 at the Renaissance Nashville Hotel. You can purchase tickets on the Nashville NEXT Awards website.

Special thanks for this episode on our EC Podcast:

  1. Paige Shafrath for on-site production support
  2. Jon Martz for off-site studio engineering support
  3. Blake Mankin for permission to use of some of the  Mr. B Rap App beats
  4. Courtney Cotton & Corey Davis @ The Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce
  5. Photos by Johnathan Jones @thephotojones

Stay tuned for more Nashville podcast audio to compliment our EC Podcast.