Chattanooga Offers All a Slice of Entrepreneurship

By Kristyna Bronner

What makes a slice of pizza great? Is it a good crust? A homemade sauce? Or is it the savory blend of melty cheese? All of these ingredients together make for a delicious pizza, much like how the various resources in Chattanooga make it a great place for entrepreneurs to live and work.

Just as crust supports the sauce, cheese and various toppings of a pizza, Chattanooga’s gigabit network acts as the backbone for businesses and entrepreneurs throughout the city. Since the high-speed Internet network was installed, it has helped generate at least 2,800 new jobs and added at least $865 million to the local economy. The fast speeds have lured tech startups to the Scenic City, like 3D printing companies Branch Technology and Feetz, which utilize the high speeds for their large file uploads and downloads.

The next ingredient for our pizza is a delectable tomato sauce. The sauce complements the crust, just as the robust entrepreneurial culture in Chattanooga complements the city’s gigabit network. A recent New York Times article cites how the gig has transformed entrepreneurial culture, attracting capital and talent to the community. In fact, Chattanooga currently leads the state in business startups.

No matter how great a crust and sauce, no pizza is complete without the cheese. With a strong entrepreneurial culture and access to the fastest internet in the western hemisphere, businesses can thrive in Chattanooga. While Chattanooga’s gorgeous scenery attracts large numbers of visitors annually, the gigabit network entices entrepreneurs to bring their companies to Chattanooga. In addition to new residents moving to the area, Chattanooga is working to shape the workforce of the future; more than 10,000 college students attend the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Chattanooga State Community College and other universities. The Chattanooga Chamber serves more than 13,000 public school students with its various School to Work programs, and organizations like Learning Blade and TechTown aim to get students interested in STEM.

Much like the endless toppings and varieties of pizza to choose from, entrepreneurs in Chattanooga have numerous resources available to fit their unique “taste.”

Want everything in one place? Try the INCubator. Like an everything pizza, the INCubator has the works, offering entrepreneurs all of the resources they might need bundled in one place. The largest business incubator in the state of Tennessee and the third largest in America, the INCubator has graduated more than 500 small businesses into the community. From the Technology Center to the Chattanooga Area Chamber, the INCubator provides entrepreneurs with all of the ‘toppings’ they need to successfully run their business.

Like a New York-style pizza shop, Lamp Post Group allows both entrepreneurs and investors to eat pizza ‘their way.’ The accelerator venture incubator provides both capital and mentorship to growing startups. Similar to placing an order at a New York-style pizza shop, investors can survey the options of slices (startups) from plain to Hawaiian to chicken ranch, and choose which slice to eat (which startups to invest in). 

Likewise, entrepreneurs receive the financial backing and business support that they need to create their own special variety of pizza.

The Company Lab (Co.Lab), a nonprofit startup accelerator that supports entrepreneurial growth, is much like a deep dish pizza. A layer of crust with high edges holds all of the ingredients inside, just as Co.Lab houses its startups at its Market Street location. Similar to the range of toppings available on a deep dish pizza, Co.Lab offers a variety of programs for entrepreneurs including GigTank, Co.Starters, the Co.Lab Accelerator and various pitching competitions.

No matter the type of pizza, one can always add a dusting of parmesan cheese to make it even better. In Chattanooga’s case, the parmesan cheese represents the high quality of life. Chattanooga has twice (including this year) been voted OUTSIDE Magazine’s Best Town Ever. With a range of outdoor offerings, from mountain biking, rock climbing and paddle boarding, residents of Chattanooga boast an active work life balance. Chattanooga’s outdoor scene is even helping to fuel the startup scene, spurring companies like The Crash Pad, a unique hostel that caters to adventurous travelers in the region. While the average median home price is just $138,000, Chattanooga offers the amenities of a bigger city, like cool coffeehouses, restaurants and breweries.  

For more information about the variety of resources available for entrepreneurs in Chattanooga, visit the Chattanooga Chamber's website here