Better Together: The one thing every entrepreneur needs

A bi-weekly column exploring the intersection of entrepreneurship and community by Sam Davidson

If I’ve seen it once, I’ve seen it a million times: an aspiring or newly launched entrepreneur asks for a meeting to plead his or her case that if they could just connect to one valuable resource they’d be ready to scale their company to the moon.

I listen and nod my head in agreement that yes – their next step is to get the one thing all entrepreneurs need.

While we agree that they need something critical, what that need comprises is where we differ.

A lot of budding entrepreneurs think they just need capital. I disagree.

The one thing every entrepreneur needs is another entrepreneur. 

This week I’ll officially mark a month into my role as CEO of Nashville Entrepreneur Center. For 17 years prior I was on the other side of the table, sharing my entrepreneurial ideas and companies with customers, connectors, funders, and vendors. Over the years I slowly came to a key revelation that applies to nearly any aspect of life, but especially to the entrepreneurial journey.

The height of my success is directly related to the depth of my community.

My ideas were great, but they didn’t become reality until I paired them with key cofounders.

My struggles were typical, but I didn’t find relief until I could vent with someone else on a similar path.

My needs were overwhelming, but they felt less so when I sought advice from successful business owners who had “been there, done that”. 

All around me at the EC is proof that entrepreneurs need one another more than they need capital (at least initially; for many entrepreneurs the need for capital quickly follows). 

This past week alone I’ve heard stories and seen opportunities of what happens when entrepreneurs connect to each other:

    • The EO Catalyst Program offers personal and professional development alongside a tight-knit community of small business owners, eager to grow in leadership.
    • Our Project Twende is partnering with 3686 to host a pop up for Black entrepreneurs to learn about programs in Nashville propelling Black business forward.
    • We announced nine spectacular companies that will be a part of our inaugural Project Fintech cohort (PS come meet them all at our First Look Event on September 19).

    Opportunities like these abound at the EC in smaller and routine ways: the number of entrepreneurs coworking from our location; peer groups that take shape in our PreFlight and InFlight programs; event attendees that build connections extending beyond our doors; our Amplify membership that pairs entrepreneurs with proven mentors; our newly launched Front Door platform in partnership with the city of Nashville that will connect entrepreneurs with even more (after they find their community). 

    No entrepreneur ever did it alone. It’s time we shed the myth of the self-made man or woman. Bootstrapped ventures are common but boot strapped communities are not. Show me a successful exit and while you can probably point to some venture backing, you’ll first point to a community backing.

    Better, together.

    More news from EC