Take a lesson from the Nashville entrepreneurial community: pivot and adapt

April 30, 2020 / Share:


A letter from CEO Jane Allen

Following news coming across the world, entrepreneurs are taking action to solve the problems we’re all facing in light of the Coronavirus pandemic. 

PlaceMat founder and InFlight entrepreneur Ryan Reisdorf recognized the oncoming impact of COVID-19 months before it began. Having started his on-demand dinner party business in nursing school, he built his business around health, sustainability, and community relationships.

And so when it came time for restaurants to limit their service or even close their doors, Ryan was ready, pushing forward on plans he thought were far off goals: Recruiting dislocated local chefs to prepare to-go and delivered meals from clean, vacant AirBnB rentals across Nashville, and supporting those who are suffering due to the ongoing pandemic. 

In his words: “It starts with integrity and the why behind your business. In this environment, it’s not about dinner parties.”

According to the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, twenty-five percent of Nashville’s economy is built on a foundation of entrepreneurship, and as people stay home to protect themselves and their loved ones, Nashville businesses of all industries, of all sizes, of all purposes and creeds, are experiencing some sort of disruption.

For some, this means temporarily closing the doors of a brick-and-mortar location, learning how to work with an all-remote team, coping with delays in much-needed resources, organizing product delivery and pick-up, laying off staff or even terminating operations. 

For other businesses, that means finding new ways to thrive and help those around them.

In under 72 hours, Music City Tents and Events founder Joe Freedman put plans in place to transform his rental business into a testing center deployment hub that can help save lives. He and his team have been coordinating efforts across the Southeast to provide tent-based testing centers for employees of grocery stores and produce companies.  

The company has thousands of tents ready to go, Freedman said, and while time was short to pivot to the new model, the company’s history working with natural disasters made it a clear choice when deciding the next move.

“We’re doing our part and will continue to do so,” Freedman said.

Meanwhile, CEO and co-founder of QwickTouch Alisha James has been working tirelessly towards the beta test of her platform, which will provide a virtual space for citizens returning to the community from incarceration to meet with parole officers and mental health professionals. 

With 16 years of criminal justice work under her belt, James understands the parole process more than most, and believes that this time of social isolation should be an opportunity for validation and improvement. Since social distancing has been implemented, she has seen conversations with her partner organizations change dramatically.

“We were already thinking about it. It’s gone from a nice-to-have to a need-to-have in this situation,” James said, noting that she is already planning new features to add based on feedback she has received during this time.

As entrepreneurs are the backbone of Nashville’s economy, it is more important than ever for businesses to do what entrepreneurs do best: Pivot and adapt. 

Likewise, our community has done the same to support them. 

Organizations across the city have produced webinars and hosted events to guide business owners and entrepreneurs looking for relief resources, and have made these resources available to the public. 

 The U.S. government has taken steps to offer financial aid to small businesses who are struggling to keep the lights on or make payroll — in addition to the recently-passed Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, which includes $350 billion in paycheck protection loans for small businesses. 

Statewide entrepreneurial service organizations are continuing to educate current and future entrepreneurs for a new business landscape by creating vital virtual curriculum for those they serve. Likewise, Tennessee is recognizing the importance of innovation in COVID-19 recovery and supporting entrepreneurs that are addressing these challenges through the Tennessee Innovation Crowdsource Platform.

In the days following the March 3 tornado, the Nashville Entrepreneur Center and its partners rallied behind the city’s entrepreneurs to create resources for business owners to recover and regroup in the aftermath. From educational resources to a space to sit and use the internet, the community rallied to support. 

And we continue to work together to support them now, in this new time of disruption, providing virtual curriculum-based programs, hosting events to help them to maintain their relationships, providing community webinars on topics like survival, the CARES act, and managing a virtual workforce.

As we continue to work to flatten the COVID-19 curve in Nashville and across the U.S., entrepreneurs will continue to need support, resources, sound counsel and community to keep them moving forward. 

And we need your help to do that. 

  • Do you have experience in navigating business in a tumultuous time? 

  • Willing to mentor an entrepreneur as they work through each new challenge?

  • Have access to tools and resources that would benefit entrepreneurs growing or questioning their businesses during this time? 

  • Want to help us enable others to reach their goals? 

Consider a donation and partner with us to deliver those tools to the entrepreneurs who are in need.  With the help of the Nashville community, the entrepreneurs among us will be stronger than before, actively shaping our response to and recovery from these events. 

Together, we can help our entrepreneurs prove what it means to be #NashvilleStrong. 

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