• Lisa DiVirgilio Arnold

How Small Town Startup started

Updated: Jun 25, 2018

When I moved to Springfield, Tennessee, I have to be honest - community was the last thing on my mind.

Our home and the life we created in East Nashville didn't really lend to getting to know our neighbors. We were constantly traveling for work, so the little downtime we had was spent with each other, the girls, or our families out of state.

But when you by a home, you start to want those roots a bit more. We changed jobs and it allowed us to be home a bit more throughout the week. We had ownership over property now, so you could find us out at 5 am before work or 6 pm after work planting flowers or weeding just to get it done. We were so proud to call this little piece of the world ours.

Quickly, we noticed that others on our street were the same way. We met a few people, who introduced us to a few more people, etc. Everyone in Springfield was so welcoming and kind to us. We learned about everyone's goals and ambitions for our sweet town, and we knew that there was magic in the air.

And with that, we began to talk to folks in the business community to see what was happening behind the scenes of the shops and organizations. People here have an undying passion for their community. There is no doubt there. They also have incredibly open minds and are excited when someone comes in who has experience in a certain field. They love to learn. I brought up this thought to the Chamber when I met with the then president and VP of operations, and they agreed. Small business in Springfield was booming.

The issue was how do you serve small town entrepreneurs in a way that caters to their overwhelmingly busy lifestyles? In other words, how could I help them reach the next level or be the best they could be? Ultimately, how could I help Springfield be the best it could be? After speaking to so many organizations and town leaders, Small Town Startup was born.

Small Town Startup is meant to nourish a thriving small town entrepreneurial scene. It brings knowledge, experience and resources to the small business entrepreneur right where they are, so they don't have to spend big bucks to jet off to a conference and close their doors. To a small business entrepreneur, time is money.

Now, that's not to say that small town business leaders won't go to conferences, but Small Town Startup is meant to deliver high-quality education and events that will help with every facet of their businesses right in their hometown (or close to it). It will provide for every level of business leader: from someone who has a great idea but no clue on how to get it moving to a business leader who has been in business for 20 years but isn't sure if their marketing message is getting out.

By leveraging a growing network of industry experts across the country, Small Town Startup organizes talks, events, conferences and workshops for entrepreneurs to attend throughout the year to learn exactly what they need to, when they need to. Entrepreneurs can choose tracks or take single courses based on their current challenges.

Small Town Startup also recognizes that business and community leaders aren't always adults. That's why our children's program, Brave Imagination League, provides fun after-school and school-break programs that offer exploration in independent thinking, work skills and more. These programs including a Coding 101 Bootcamp, Pop-Up Shop collaborations with local companies and a Business Pitch Competition. The goal is to give children ages 8 and up the ability to learn in a fun, safe environment.

As I've begun to build this all out and work with industry experts near and far, I've realized just how passionate I am about helping small business. As the CEO of Kin, a role I took on at about the same time as I began thinking about Small Town Startup, I can honestly say, small-to-medium business leaders and the challenges they face are the most interesting to me.

It's incredible to see what a single person's idea can accomplish and that's exactly what you see when you step into a storefront on a square or into a non-profit's office. Small Town, USA isn't dead. In fact, it's making its biggest comeback yet, and Small Town Startup is proud to help those who revive small towns in any way we can.

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