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    Memphis business leaders promote minority entrepreneurship

    Photo by Kyle Kurlick

    August 29, 2013 — (right to left) Duncan Williams, Kemmons Wilson Jr. and Joseph R. “Pitt” Hyde participate in a panel discussion on entrepreneurship at the sixth annual Mid-South Minority Business Council Continuum Economic Development Forum. (Kyle Kurlick/Special to The Commercial Appeal)

    Scions of three familiar Memphis families associated with entrepreneurship — Hyde, Williams and Wilson — on Thursday encouraged local business leaders to support local innovators to spur economic development.

    AutoZone founder Joseph R. “Pitt” Hyde, investment banker Duncan Williams and Kemmons Wilson Jr., vice president of Kemmons Wilson Companies, were keynote presenters at “Titans of Industry: Lessons in Innovation, Scale and Leadership.”

    The event was sponsored by the Mid-South Minority Business Council Continuum and held at the Memphis Cook Convention Center.

    Moderated by Larry Jensen, CEO and president of Cushman & Wakefield/Commercial Advisors, the sixth annual event that topped attendance records for last year’s conference by more than 10 percent, said Luke Yancy III, president and CEO of the minority business council.

    “We had about 5,000 registered for Thursday’s seminars and more than 9,000 participated overall,” Yancy said. “We’ve come a long way from our first conference in 2008 and we’ve seen tremendous changes and improvements in our local entrepreneurial ecosystem, but the ongoing challenge is to grow scalable businesses that will expand in Memphis, the region, nationally and internationally.”

    And getting there is most effective when collective, speakers said.

    “Business is a team sport and those that work best encourage their people to work for a cause and give them a purpose,” said Wilson, whose late father revolutionized the lodging industry when he founded the Holiday Inn hotel chain in Memphis. “Leadership determines the direction of a company, organization determines the potential of a company, but its people determine the success of a company so make your company one that empowers people.”

    Minority and women entrepreneurship is vital to the growth and success of Memphis, Williams added. Infusing the local economy with creative collaborations from a variety of contributors will produce an environment that replenishes itself and attracts greater numbers of young professionals to the area.

    “Every city has its issues, be we need to push forward with positives and support a diverse business community that will drive this trend of young people coming to Memphis to work and lead their lives,” Williams said. “Those of us who have been blessed with some level of success owe it to our entire community to serve as mentors and give back to build a stronger Memphis.”

    Lauding such entrepreneurial programs as the training offered by the MMBCC and by startup accelerators like Seed Hatchery and ZeroTo510, Hyde said that a new wave of entrepreneurship is sweeping across Memphis. And while many of the innovative companies are technology-based or part of the medical industry, he encouraged future entrepreneurs to remember a key component of success in any sector.

    “Most businesses are not necessarily that striking in innovation, but seeing an opportunity to provide service in a superior form,” Hyde said. “You have to develop real disciplines of execution and service.”
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