Monthly Archives: December 2014

Crews Center

By Cheryl Hayes

The Crews Center for Entrepreneurship is “the hub of entrepreneurship at the University of Memphis.” It is a great resource for faculty and students  who what to develop innovative projects and idea. The Crews Center for Entrepreneurship is also a helpful resource for anyone in the Memphis community who seeks assistance with their current or future startup ideas.

I had the opportunity on November 9th to visit the Crews Center for Entrepreneurship. During my visit at the Center, I met with Mike Hoffmeyer. Mike is the director of the center and he is very knowledgeable in all things startup. I met Mike in the center’s conference room. While waiting for Mike to enter, I noticed a chart was posted on an easel in the far right corner of the room. On the chart was the business model for a startup company. I examined the chart to learn that it was the very same model Dr. Brown presented in JOUR 7100 class.

After about five minutes, Mike entered the conference room to meet with me about a startup idea. I explained to Mike some of the details of my team’s startup idea; for example, I informed Mike of my team’s problem and solution behind our startup idea. Next, we discussed the audience for the startup idea. I noticed that Mike was asking me questions based on the structure of the business model chart. He was quick to provide feedback regarding our customers and offered ideas we  should consider for our startup project.

After my meeting with Mike and just before leaving the center, I was given a tour of the facility and man I must say the Crews Center for Entrepreneurship is an attractive space. It has a modern-day tech look. On the main floor was the entrance area, which leads into an atrium area that has information posted for visitors to peruse. Then there is Mike’s office and to the left of Mike’s office is a larger space in the corner where several people were gathered.

To the far east end of the atrium was the conference room to the right and one or two other rooms or offices to the left. At the entrance is a staircase that leads up to the collaboration area. This space is designed for individuals and groups to use to brainstorm. It has several tables, computers, printers, whiteboards for brainstorming and other equipment and supplies needed for group collaborations. Faculty and students can reserve the space at any time to work on their ideas or startups.

I learned a lot during my visit to the Crews Center for Entrepreneurship. It is a great networking resource for myself as well as others who seek input, advice, or entrepreneurial training. Mike is a great listener and can offer great ideas. I encourage anyone interested in starting a business to visit this center.

Tagged ,


By Nicholas Beshiri

After researching entrepreneurial events in Athens, there were many at my disposal. Between the University of Georgia and Four Athens, a local technology startup incubator, there was something almost every day of the week. I had no idea this community was so large until doing research for this class. When I looked over the calendar of events, most of them were just simple meet-and-greets at local bars around town, but one caught my eye. I decided to attend the open house for a new technology start-up in Athens called Hackyard.

Hackyard is described as a non-profit hacker space located in the Four Athens tech incubator in Athens, Ga. The goal of the non-profit is to provide a workshop space for the community as well as teach classes that range from the basics like Intro to Electronics to the more specific Build your own i3 Prusa Rework. Although I have very little knowledge of the subject matter that many of the classes cover, I thought it was a really cool idea for the community. To have a space that is so specialized in these fields could bring an entire new industry to the Athens area.

Like many of the gatherings put on by Four Athens, the open house was a low key event and gave people from the surrounding community the opportunity to come in and explore the space without having to enroll in a class. The space is set up in such a way that anyone one could draw inspiration from it. Although modest, the one large room had everything one would need to build their own computer hardware, including a 3D printer, or learn computer animation. Hackyard also held several computer stations that are used for classes in software development and coding. After walking around the space for a few minutes, I saw a familiar face from my days in film school at UGA.

One of the members of the team, Josh Marsh, was a grad assistant in a few of my undergrad classes at UGA. Marsh’s title on the website reads: Hacker-artist, Hackaday writer, animator, 3D printer and electric vehicle guru. I was excited to see that someone from school had also stayed in Athens and was a part of such a great project. It brought this class into perspective and helped me to see that I could also become a part of a startup similar to Hackyard in the future.

Attending the Hackyard open house was a great experience. It was great see a startup that is still in its infancy and developing. Hackyard will hopefully continue to grow, and with the classes it provides for the community, it has the potential to help develop several other tech startups around town. This event also inspired me to become more involved in these types of events around town. The people who were at the event were extremely friendly and I had similar backgrounds as the attendees. Being able to talk to likeminded people about their different ideas and experiences is a great way to spend a few hours each week. The open house will definitely not be the last event that I attend and I am looking forward to attending one of the “Hackathons” in December to see what hacking is all about.

Tagged ,

Pretentious Beer Glass Company

By Lori Shull

Matt Cummings and two friends who are fellow glass artists are transforming a successful Etsy shop into a brick and mortar shop, gallery and microbrewery.

“We’re always backordered,” Matt said when he gave me a tour of his new space, then under construction. “We average four or five weeks on backorder.”

Pretentious Beer Glass Company has jumped on the craft beer bandwagon in a big way; Matt has created a bunch of forms that have been specially designed to enhance beer’s taste. He’s been brewing his own beer for years and has several recipes that he’ll be taking commercial from the back of his downtown Knoxville shop.

“There’s no real craft beer scene in Knoxville,” he said. “Craft beer is a proven industry and it’s just getting started here.”

It’s also a way for him and his counterparts, Thoryn Ziemba and Sam Meketon, to balance their incomes. Matt and Thoryn especially specialize in glass sculptures that cost thousands of dollars; it tends to be feast or famine.

“There’s this weird myth out there that if you can’t succeed in school, become an artist. What Matt and Thoryn teach is that if you want to be an artist, you’d better be disciplined,” said their professor and mentor Curtiss Brock. “The myths of being a flaky artist die when you have gas bills that are two or three times the average rent.”

In opening the space, which is two connected storefronts, Matt is making his business tangible to consumers, by encouraging them to drink his beer in his glasses and watch glassblowers in action in the studio, as well as giving other glass artists a place to come. The space includes a retail shop, beer garden, the brewery, spaces for artists to blow and craft glass and a gallery. Customers can sit at bar tables and watch it all happen.

The three guys are clearly passionate about what they are doing; they have to be. They are betting a lot on this space and dealing with things that they never thought they would.

In opening the company, Matt has patented one of his designs and selected all but one of the shapes so that they had to be handmade to prevent competition from China.

He’s dealt with commercial leases, all kinds of inspections from the city of Knoxville to make sure they are following zoning, mechanical and fire codes.

Lori photo

One of the spaces – the one that will house the gallery and hot shop, didn’t have any electricity and some major plumbing problems. They couldn’t afford to get the space laid out using computer-aided design, so they visualized it all themselves. Good thing they’re artists and visual people.

After talking to Matt, Thoryn and Sam I realized that as difficult as it is to come up with a good idea, write the business plan and attract investors, it’s even worse to actually make a brick-and-mortar business come to life.

I also can’t wait to go back to Knoxville to see how it turns out.


Startup Case Study: Upworthy

By Cheryl Hayes is a social media startup company launched in 2012 by Eli Pariser and Peter Koechley with $4 million they raised from New Enterprise Associates and angel investors, according to and privately held by Cloud Tiger Media, Inc in New York City.

The media startup started out with 11 employees, plus the two founders. The startup currently has 40 employees, including reporters, curators, and website and content engineers. Check out the Upworthy team at According to Upworthy, its audience consists of “The Daily Show” generation. Upworthy attracts an audience that likes to stay connected to what is going on in the world, but prefers to learn about what happening in the world in a fun way.

Upworthy has done an excellent job at reporting current news, which links viewers to videos that are fun to share on social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook. Upworthy has an eye-catching website that lists various pictures to represent news events followed by a catchy, clickable headline. For example, click this link to see a video report. Upworthy reports a wide variety of news from around the world, including  topics such as  community, diversity, the economy, entertainment and culture, the environment, gender, guns and crime, health, immigration, LGBTQQ, military, parenting politics, science and technology.

Upworthy describes their goal as trying to “help people find important content that is as fun to share as a FAIL video of some idiot surfing off his roof.”  Upworthy strives to provide news that is awesome and meaningful as well as entertaining, enlightening, shocking and significant. Upworthy’s media technique is best described by David Carr, a well-known reporter for The New York Times, as “serious news built for a spreadable age, with super clicky headlines and a visually oriented user interface.” Read Carr’s 2012 article about Upworthy at

Upworthy is also good at making its content go viral. Upworthy often uses a two-phrase headline that is recognizable and it is easily shared from one social media subscriber to hundreds, thousands and even millions of other connected subscribers. In turn, Upworthy receives a great number of hits.

How did they define and meet a previously unmet need? Upworthy conducted a study to learn what makes up the online world in news. Upworthy’s findings were: 200-word articles turned into 15-part slideshows; 19%; things like “weird old tips about belly fat” 27%; social media about social media; 7% long articles we plan to read sometime 6%; tenacious muckraking journalism about potential new iGadgets 3%; stuff that actually matters .01%; and poorly made porn with weak character development 38%. See article at

According to David Carr’s article “Two Guys Made A Web Site and This Is What They Got”, Upworthy “optimizes content for social sharing to build traffic and, to generate revenue, works with causes to connect them to an audience in return for a referral fee.”

Upworthy’s media content and market strategy includes those two-phrase headliners that “promise stories that will ‘blow your mind,’ ‘change your life,’ ‘make you feel mesmerized,’ ‘electrified’ or otherwise ‘wondtacular’.” as reported by Christopher Zara for the International Business Times. Read Zara’s article here about Upworthy’s headlines. This two-phrase headline strategy leaves those that frequent the website, or receive the shared content, wondering what the story could possibly contain. It draws the viewers to the content by striking the viewer’s interest and immediate need to satisfy their curiosity.


Startup case study: Thrive

By Shelby Jo Fenter

For those who have never heard of Helena, it is a small town in Arkansas located on the Mississippi River. It is no secret that there are many areas of the Delta, including Helena that are in serious need of economic growth. It requires an enormous amount of heart and an even greater amount of hard work to build a startup that is successful.

Thrive, a non-profit start-up founded by Will Staley and Terrance Clark, is known for providing low-priced strategic planning and marketing assistance to local small businesses and non-profits. Their services include brand consulting, social media coaching, print design, web design and much more. Formal development of Thrive began in 2011.

Thrive relies on donations to exist. They accept monetary donations, office supplies, computers and any other relevant equipment. In addition, Thrive has fundraising events and sponsors such as Allstate, Hays Grocery, UPrinting, Hargraves Insurance, HM Lumber, Hickory Hill pharmacy, West Helena Flowers and Gifts and Wal-Mart.

According to their website:

VISION: “Rural America will be a global model for vibrant, prosperous, and thriving communities.”

MISSION: “Thrive designs opportunity in impoverished regions of rural America in an effort to increase economic mobility and decrease rural brain drain.”

I admire this start up because of their desire to make a difference. Thrive describes Helena as “culturally and historically rich, but economically poor.”

One event they hold continuously is called “Helena Second Saturdays.” In 2011, Thrive united with the Phillips County Chamber of Commerce, Main Street Helena, the Delta Cultural Center and the Arkansas Delta Arts Partnership to create Helena Second Saturday. The long-term goal for Helena Second Saturday is revitalizing historic downtown Helena. This free community is a monthly fair located in downtown Helena. The event provides an atmosphere for local artists, musicians, entrepreneurs and citizens to come together and attract visitors. You can learn more about Helena Second Saturdays here.

Thrive revealed its Impact program in 2013, which is “a rural think-tank. Impact projects will utilize external internship and fellowship programs, and invite local professionals and visiting experts to take part in rural development efforts under the 501c3 status of Thrive.”

Thrive believes that baby steps are the key to helping small communities reach their maximum potential.

In an article written by Casey Penn in the latest magazine issue of Talk Business Arkansas, he wrote, “While many Delta communities are struggling to survive, Will Staley and Terrance Clark are working to make sure at least one of them thrives. He elaborates, “After just one year of passing muster, Thrive had already caught the attention of city managers who approached Staley and Clark about running a small business incubator, the Helena Entrepreneur Center (HEC).”

“We make money from pretty much any rock we can pull money out from under,” said Clark, who is quick to defend their methods in a county with a history of abuse of non-profit funds. “We’re not seeking grant money to pay our salaries, and we know that for this to exist [long-term], we have to work as hard as we can to make sure it’s sustainable.”

Will Staley and Terrance Clark of Thrive received the Pat Audirsch Community Advancement Award.

The Community Advancement Award is presented annually to an individual or organization that has had an amazing impact on their community involving community development in Helena.

“During the past five years, Thrive’s efforts has created programs and community-wide initiatives designed to create jobs and improve the quality of life in Phillips County. The Education Innovation Award is given to an educational/training entity that develops innovative approaches to training and education in the Crossroads region,” says Randy Hogan of The Helena Arkansas Daily Word.


Legacy Media Case Study: The Washington Post

By Cheryl Hayes


The Washington Post existed as far back as 1877. The Meyer-Graham family owned the news organization from 1933 until 2013, which is when it was acquired for $250 million by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. As of 2012, The Washington Post was the 8th largest newspaper in the US. As of 2011, it was the 2nd largest online newspaper website. In addition to being a local newspaper for the Washington, DC area, The Washington Post is a nationally-recognized brand for its political news coverage.

What has this organization’s response been to the changing media landscape?

  • Launched website in 1996
  • Jeff Bezos purchased The Washington Post from the Graham family in 2013.
  • Started a living laboratory of business model experimentation.
  • Staff has been given a “runway” for experimentation.
  • Started an initiative to build the reach of Post journalism through digital initiative. The goal was to carry the newspaper into a new era marked by expanded ambitions online and a determination to build a larger national and international audience.
  • Funding efforts to expand online readership.

What lessons they have learned as they work to adapt to digital landscape

  • The changing media landscape is not a death warrant for legacy news organizations, but instead is a means to innovation and growth.
  • Paying attention to their customers:readers, viewers and listeners.
  • If they don’t engage their customers with journalism they can connect with, the competition will.


What kinds of opportunities did they take?

  • Selling The Washington Post in 2013 after seven years of declining revenues versus cutting additional staff, which would have adversely hurt its news reporting.
  • Investment of $250 million cash to implement initiatives aimed at growth and digital transformation.
  • Hired 36 people with the goal of digital transformation.
  • Learned new skills from young journalists who already have the skills, knowledge, enthusiasm, energy and love for journalism.
  • Acquired Slate online magazine in 2005 from Microsoft.
  • Invested in R&D.
  • Issued a set of social media guidelines in 2009.
  • Partnered with The New York Times and Mozilla in 2014 to create tools to improve online commenting systems, which was funded by a $3.89M grant from the Knight Foundation.
  • Launched a blog called Story Lab in 2009, which experiments with new narrative forms in reporting and presentation.
  • Directly compete with Politico by launching a redesigned politics section that emphasized social sharing and interactivity.
  • Utilized Facebook via Trove, a news aggregator that mines users’ FB data to deliver personalized content.
  • First to launch social media app on Facebook.
  • Developed Truth Teller, a live fact-checking tool for audio and video content.
  • Created partnerships with the Texas Tribune and Medill School of Northwestern and the Knight Foundation to fund programmer-journalist scholarships.


What kinds of opportunities did they miss?

  • A new publisher with a background in Republican politics could have been used as an opportunity to impose new editorial policies at The Washington Post.
  • Not using paywalls for online content as a revenue stream.


What kinds of opportunities did they take to grow audience?

  • Offer an enhanced reader experience with new article formats that engage the reader.
  • Launched Washington Post Live in 2011, which hosts 20 – 30 discussion events per year that are free and open to the public.
  • Started a network of user-created political blogs called PostEverything in 2014.
  • Offer a division called PostTV that produces several web shows.
  • Partnered with Watchup, an online newscast that reinvents how news is watched, in 2014.
  • Released an iPhone app in 2010.
  • Released an iPad app in 2012.
  • Launched main app to include a replica of the print newspaper in 2013.
  • Launched social media app on Facebook which draw in 3.5M users in first two months as well as an Android app.

What kinds of opportunities did they take to build new revenue?

  • Initially charged $1.99 for iPhone app.
  • Charged $2.99 per month for full access to politics iPad app.
  • Launched a metered pay plan in 2013 with a digital subscription price of $9.99 and $14.99 per month.
  • Launched Sponsored Views in 2013 where people had to pay to post commentaries.

What specific challenges did they face?

  • Financial challenges due to the decline in revenues; especially from Kaplan Education.
  • The departure of several journalists to form their own online journalism ventures funded by Vox Media.
  • Downsizing of staff
  • Competition from new online media ventures
  • Competition from other internet news media


Baron, Marty. 2014. Optimism is the only option: The Washington Post’s Marty Baron on the state of the news media. April 7.

Coddington, Mark. 2014. Nieman Lab Encyclopedia. July 31. Accessed September 12, 2014.

Craig Timberg, Chico Harlan and Peter Whoriskey. 2014. The Washington Post. September 2.

Kennedy, Dan. 2014. Why is THe Washington Post holding a live event in Boston? May 12.

Tagged ,