Greater Memphis Chamber Launches Ascend Memphis Business Development Pilot Program

Release date: 12/15/2016

Memphis, Tenn.—The Greater Memphis Chamber launched the Ascend Memphis Business Development Pilot Program in an effort to increase the success of small businesses in Memphis and Shelby County. In this first year, fifteen businesses from the Chamber’s Chairman’s Circle, referred to as Leaders, have been paired with fifteen advanced or intermediate businesses, referred to as Members, to provide business development assistance. The member businesses are designated as a local, small, minority or women-owned business. The two will work together for twelve months, beginning in December 2016, to enhance the capability of program participants to be competitive, achieve entrepreneurial success and contribute to the strength and vigor of the local economy. Participation is of no cost to the Leaders or Members. The Chamber did a nationwide evaluation of best practices to find the most effective programs in this space. The Ascend program was based on these best practices.

A year ago, Congressman Cohen asked the Greater Memphis Chamber, the lead economic development organization in the region, to take a lead on growing minority & women-owned businesses in Memphis.
“This is a large and correct step by the Chamber as the economic wellbeing of Memphis must include minorities who have too long not been given an adequate chance to earn a piece of the economic pie. I want to congratulate Phil Trenary for his foresight and follow through on getting this program started,” said Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09).
The Chamber’s Chairman’s Circle is a leadership body created to engage Memphis business leaders on a variety of issues that affect our community. The groups’ intentions are to cause transformational change through leadership and working closely with civic partners and public officials. Their participation in the Ascend Memphis Business Development Program is an excellent extension of their commitment to creating a better Memphis and Mid-South.

"Over the past year there have been many discussions on what it would take to be successful at helping small, minority & women-owned businesses grow. The answer always came back to connecting companies with the business leaders in our community who could offer their guidance, knowledge of resources, contacts and best practices.  We couldn’t be happier about the response and commitment from our Chairman’s Circle members and member companies who are participating in this program. I have no doubt we will see great results from these business relationships,” said Phil Trenary, President & CEO, Greater Memphis Chamber.
The Chamber enlisted the assistance of TRUST Marketing to create and manage the Ascend Program. TRUST is a minority-owned business that has contributed to the local economy for 25 years. Their team, headed up by Howard and Beverly Robertson, will assist the participants throughout the entire process.

“TRUST is delighted to be engaged in assisting in the growth and development of small minority businesses. This program is long overdue and addresses some of the inequities identified in The City of Memphis 2016 Disparity Study results. As a minority business, I am invested in driving the success of this program,” said Beverly Robertson, Principal, TRUST Marketing.
The participating Members were selected from over 32 applicants who had to meet guidelines of the Ascend Memphis Business Development Program which includes proving that their business is ready for the next level, that its leaders would be receptive as well as benefit from the guidance of an established, more seasoned business and its leadership. 
Chairman’s Circle Members Participating: Baker Donelson, Barnhart Crane, Carlisle Corporation, Commercial Advisors, Data Facts, Dixon Hughes Goodman, Duncan-Williams, Highwoods Properties, International Paper, Johnson Controls, Kemmons Wilson Companies, Linkous Construction, Power & Telephone Supply, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, SouthernSun Asset Management, Montgomery Martin Contractors
Member Companies Participating: 1Source, Evaporcool, Hagler Bruce & Turner, PLLC, Healthcare Institute, Industrial Equipment & Specialties, Jones & Tuggle,  Neighborhood Pro Builders, Nickson General Contractors, Right Resource, Stragistics Technology, The Burger Joint, Think Inspired, TopCat Contractors, True Concierge, X-Cel Business Products, Durham Housing Services
This program is one part of what the Chamber is doing in conjunction with the Supplier Diversity Collaborative whose goal is to grow local small, minority and women-owned businesses (MWBE). The Chamber is also focused on establishing and implementing a Universal Acceptance and Universal Certification Program as well as the creation of a Web Portal to provide MWBE’s with automatic bid notification (public & private), links to business development service providers and a universal acceptance application. It will also serve as a comprehensive database of certified local MWBE companies for businesses and economic development agencies. 

For more than 175 years, the Greater Memphis Chamber has been the lead economic development organization for Memphis/Shelby County, and is a private, non-profit, membership-driven organization comprised of 2,300 business enterprises, civic organizations, educational institutions and individuals.