Creating more women- and minority-owned businesses is the hole Memphis needs to plug in the digital age. In a nutshell that’s the message entrepreneurial guru Andre Fowlkes delivered recently at a lunch meeting of the Memphis chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO).
Fowlkes, who has a Wall Street background, is the creator of StartCo, a business designed to help people launch real companies, even if the business dream is just an idea so far. After his presentation, several attendees said it helped them pinpoint a major hole in the city’s economic outlook and shed light on some challenges they are facing in the development of their business plans.
“In 2012 we were considered the poorest city in America. When you look at 2013 we were the most unemployed. When you look this year we’re the most economically segregated city. These are statistics we want to change and we feel that if we can increase the output of entrepreneurs we can help set the stage for that going down the road,” said Fowlkes.
“We no longer have industries that set the stage for 20, 30 or 40 years. It used to be how the car industry went is how our economy went. I think that the financial crisis taught us that we really need to look at how we are building businesses today.”
Fowlkes then turned to the importance of creating more women- and minority-owned businesses as the hole Memphis needs to plug in the digital age.
“One of the reasons we wanted to reach out to NAWBO was that we realized that most of the people that were walking through our doors were white males and we need to do a better job of including women and minorities,” Fowlkes said
And the city, he said, needs to improve its outreach as well because, “They do play a major part in moving Memphis forward.”
NAWBO Memphis President Kim Heathcott, CEO of Clarion Security (www.clarionsecurity.com), said Fowlkes’ luncheon focus was timely.
“It was perfect,” said Heathcott. “We are expanding our goal to propel women socially, economically and politically, so it was right on the mark.”
Santosh Iyer, owner of AJI Sport Bar & Grill (3689 Lamar), said, “Minorities here need that type of support, and structure that he (Fowlkes) is providing. It’s the right type of support Memphis needs. People are always talking about ideas. He showed how you put them forward.”