Expo guides innovators from idea to business reality

Matthew Lane • May 18, 2008 at 12:00 AM

John Moore with Livewire Communications Co. demonstrates some of the ideas and products available to budding entrepreneurs during the Innovation Expo and Workshop on Saturday at MeadowView Conference Resort and Convention Center. Ned Jilton II photo.


KINGSPORT — Kingsport resident Mark Hagy has an idea for a product and doesn’t want to sit back one day and have regrets about developing and patenting the product.

“I don’t own a business, but I have an idea that I think might be a good product,” Hagy said. “If I don’t do it, someone else will, and I’ll sit back having regrets.”

Hagy was one of dozens of entrepreneurs, business owners and interested people who attended the first-ever Innovation Expo and Workshop Saturday at the MeadowView Conference Resort and Convention Center in Kingsport.

The five-hour event featured resources to help turn ideas into business realities and provided help to existing businesses on ways to grow.

Representatives from the Holston Business Development Center, the Kingsport Office of Small Business Development and Entrepreneurship, Triad Packaging, Mountain South World Trade Center and Livewire Communications were on hand to talk about their products and services for new businesses in the main exhibit hall.

The expo featured six workshops with topics ranged from taking your idea to a viable business; introduction to intellectual property; financing your business; incubators; how to identify and find talent; and the entrepreneurial leader.

Hagy, who works as a CT Technologist for the Bristol Regional Medical Center, said he is very optimistic about his idea and felt the expo was worth attending.

“I came down here to learn about products and how to get them developed, submitted with patents on them,” Hagy said. “I’ve had ideas before and haven’t gotten a patent on them. I understand it’s very expensive, but one thing I came to find out was if there is money to help you develop that idea because I don’t have the money to do it myself. Hopefully I’ll find that out by the end of the day.”

Angela Vachon, who along with her husband John owns Urban Synergy — a Kingsport company specializing in downtown redevelopment and the adaptive reuse of older buildings — also attended Saturday’s expo.

“My husband and I are entrepreneurs and there are a lot of things we don’t get in this area, in the Tri-Cities. We don’t get exposure to this so it’s a huge opportunity for our area to come to this,” Vachon said.

“We’ve learned a lot we did not know. Intellectual capital, how to protect your rights, and right now we’re learning how to finance small business and entrepreneur ventures and it’s something you don’t think of … some of the sources.”

Vachon said she hopes the expo becomes an annual event.

“I think it’s a great turnout because there’s probably 35 people here and once a lot of people realize what you get out of it, it may be an annual event and get more participants,” she said. “For $75 for the first time, to have that many innovative people in our region, I like that, and I think it’s pretty good for the first year.”

Speakers at Saturday’s expo included Martin Doyle, managing director of Ideationsandbox and Hanover Advisors, business consulting firms specializing in entrepreneurial companies; Christopher Haigh, a registered patent attorney practicing patent and trademark prosecution and intellectual property litigation; Chip Bailey, incubator director of the Holston Business Development Center and a Tennessee Small Business Development Center certified business counselor; Larry Nunley, founder and CEO of AccuForce Staffing services, a national human capital solutions company; Ginger Thaxton, an internationally acclaimed management consultant and trainer who is highly recognized in the staffing and recruitment industry for her knowledge, innovation and problem solving; and Glenn Swift, champion of the University of Tennessee’s MBA Innovation and Entrepreneurship curriculum and the 2006 Stokely Faculty Scholar Award winner for excellence in teaching.

Innovation Expo and Workshop is being presented by Ideationsandbox and the University of Tennessee Innovation Center and is supported by the Kingsport Times-News.

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