Category Archives: entrepreneurship

Q&A with Tech2020 CEO Kevin Kragenbrink

Kevin Kragenbrink served as the interim head of Tech2020 for nearly six months until being named permanently to the position of CEO last month. I sat down with Kevin to talk about his vision, as well as the challenges and opportunities ahead for the organization, which marks its 20th anniversary this year.

Carly – When you were first named interim, it was really not considered a longer term commitment. What changed your mind?

Kevin – I got into the process sort of helping identify what the organization could and should be doing for the future and helping to sort of define that with the board. It just got e0515_kclo_carly_KevinKragenbrinkxciting for me to see the opportunities that Tech2020 has and the things it could accomplish, I think, as part of the region’s entrepreneurial support system. My passion has always been helping business owners succeed and getting their businesses to where they want them, just as Tech2020 is so well positioned to do that. As we got a little further along in the process, I just said this is a lot more exciting than I expected it to be and a lot more in line with my passion than I expected. Continue reading

Ruby Tuesday founder backs NY’s Mexicue

A New York restaurant concept that combines Mexican and barbecue foods has a found an investor in Sandy Beall.

Beall, who in 2012 stepped down as CEO  of Maryville-based Ruby Tuesday 40 years after he founded it, now owns 25 percent of Mexicue, a fast-growing restaurant concept that has three New York locations. It plans to open two new locations each year, according to a New York Times feature that was published today.

11128587_853459971370071_6083254315259203084_nBeall got involved when the restaurant owners approached investors hoping to raise about $500,000 for its second restaurant

“I’ve invested a lot in Mexicue because I believe in what we’re doing,” Beall told the New York Times.

The restaurant began in 2010 as a food truck selling on New York streets and opened its first brick-and-mortar store in 2011. It saw revenues top $6 million in 2014. Continue reading

Two Knoxville startups selected for 36|86

Two Knoxville startups – Bandposters and Survature – have been selected to be part of this year’s 36|86, a LaunchTN event in June that aims to celebrate entrepreneurship and culture.

The companies are among 36 from seven Southern states and the District of Columbia invited to participate in Village 36, where they will get to network with investors and other entrepreneurs.

They will also have the opportunity to pitch for a chance to win $36,000. Continue reading

Local entrepreneur gets “Shark” shout-out

A week before Shark Tank’s casting crews came to Knoxville, local entrepreneur Charles Brown, founder of No Quotes, got a Twitter shout-out from none other than Daymond John.

John, a fashion mogul who started the clothing and hip hop apparel company FUBU, is part of the Shark Tank cast and took time to meet one-on-one with Brown at a Game Changer meeting.

On April 20, John tweeted sporting a No Quotes hat.

Because he already had contact with a Shark, Brown was exempt from participating in Knoxville’s casting call on Thursday.

More on Brown and his efforts to come.

Shark Tank draws familiar Knoxville faces

The chance of landing a spot on ABC’s hit show Shark Tank is slim – 150 of 40,000 who applied last year got on the show – but that didn’t stop nearly 180 people from giving it a try.


There were many who drove hundreds of miles to Knoxville to make their one-minute pitch on Thursday to casting members, but amongst the crowd were some familiar faces.

Here are a few Knoxvillians I spotted:

Lisa Wiles of Fan-e Shaker – an adjustable pom-pom skirt designed to snap on pompoms that can be traded out for different colors to support fans’ favorite teams. I wrote about Lisa’s efforts back in 2014. She said she decided at the last minute to come make her pitch to the Sharks’ crew. Continue reading

Report: Chattanooga, Memphis tops for startups

Chattanooga is the best city in Tennessee to start a business, according to a report released today by WalletHub.

The personal finance company evaluated start-up opportunities in 150 of the most populated U.S. cities. Tennessee’s four largest metropolitan areas all landed in the uppermost half of the list, though Knoxville again was last when compared to its sister cities.

Chattanooga earned the highest ranking in the state coming in fourth overall. Memphis came in close behind at seventh.

Nashville was ranked at 20th while Knoxville was 32nd.

The company considered each city’s “access to resources” and its “business environment” and then identified 13 related metrics such as the number of small businesses per capita, financing accessibility and the educational attainment of the local workforce.

At the top of the list was Shreveport, La., followed by Tulsa, Okla. and Springfield, Mo.