Entrepreneurialism is Strong in Memphis



Much is written about the large companies that select Memphis for their international headquarters. Something that has been less written about is the entrepreneurial spirit that is strong in Memphis. Not only is entrepreneurialism alive and strong in Memphis today but it has a long history of defining the fabric of this business and socially rich gem of the south.

Sweet Bio Brings More Biotech to Memphis

After incubating for a little more than three years as a lab project at the University of Memphis, Issac Rodriguez launched the company called Sweet Bio earlier this year. Sweet Bio specializes in wound-healing biomaterials with a dental focus, and on the actual ingredients, it uses to do its work. The entrepreneurial company’s first product is a guided tissue/bone regeneration membrane used in oral surgeries that uses honey to help increase gingival healing and decrease bacteria colonization. It’s based on three years of development according to the company.

Panoramic view of statue of Ramses at entrance of Pyramid Sports Arena in Memphis, TN

Panoramic view of statue of Ramses at entrance of Pyramid Sports Arena in Memphis, TN

As part of the launch, several other key players enthusiastically joined the team. As Rodriguez’s mentor, Gary Bowlin, helped him develop it and knew he would need a team to sell it. A year ago, Isaac’s sister 28-year-old Kayla Rodriguez, specializing in business, came on as COO and 24-year-old Marsalas Whitaker, a recent grad of U of M’s engineering program, is Chief Medical Officer.

Since the end of 2015, the startup has raised more than $1 million in capital. Today, it’s finalizing testing to support a submission to the FDA. “Our success is driven by the Memphis ecosystem we call the trifecta,” Rodriguez said. “We’re surrounded by medical device and academic giants, we’re uplifted by organizations like EPIcenter, Bioworks, Start Co., the (Greater Memphis Chamber), and many more.

“We expect to be on the market in 2017 and after speaking with over 100 dental clinicians, we can’t wait to get our product in their hands.”

Memphis Has a History of Entrepreneurialism

With its long history of development and redevelopment, Memphis has a long list of master entrepreneurs. Jack Belz is recognized as a leader of the modern day revitalization of Downtown Memphis. As far back as 1948, Belz first envisioned the possibilities of the downtown sector when he married his wife at the Peabody Hotel. His family purchased the hotel in 1975 rescuing it from dilapidation. He reopened it in 1981, at the same time revealing his dream for revitalizing downtown Memphis. Belz realized his dream by contributing to revitalization projects all over Memphis to leave his mark on the city.

In 2010, Mike Burns retired from Comtrak Logistics, a national transportation and logistics company headquartered in Memphis. Along with the many charitable and entrepreneurial awards that Burns received over the years, Comtrak was named to the Inc. 500 Fastest Growing Private Companies and Memphis Business Journal named Comtrak business of the year.

More recently, Jeff Webb has demonstrated the entrepreneurial “spirit” by founding and growing Varsity Spirit into a national brand. Since the mid 70s, Varsity Spirit has grown into the world’s largest operator of specialty camps in this field. Today, there are more than 250,000 participants annually. In 1981, Varsity Spirit move to the national stage when it conducted its first nationally televised cheerleading competition on ESPN. Today the special event division produces 13 different televised competitions each year and organizes performance tours for school spirit groups to promote events such as Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, the NFL Pro Bowl, and the London Parade. Varsity Spirit is the largest specialty camp operator in the world with over 270,000 attendees each summer. The Company’s apparel division now produces over 1,000,000 custom uniforms annually.

Along with S&P 500 corporations, Memphis is thriving with well established entrepreneurial and startup businesses.

Please leave a comment if this article was helpful or if you have a question.

photoAuthor bio: Brian Kline has been investing in real estate for more than 35 years and writing about real estate investing for 10 years. He also draws upon 30 plus years of business experience including 12 years as a manager at Boeing Aircraft Company. Brian currently lives at Lake Cushman, Washington. A vacation destination, a few short miles from a national forest. With the Pacific Ocean a couple of miles in the opposite direction.