Pictured: Chris McAdoo, Maranda Vandergriff, and Jordan Peltz on set at Phillips Forged, November 2020


By Chris McAdoo, artist, entrepreneur, and director of strategy & engagement for Knoxville Entrepreneur Center
(This article originally appeared in the Knoxville News Sentinel)

An entrepreneur is defined by dictionary.com as: “a person who organizes and manages any enterprise, especially a business, usually with considerable initiative and risk.” That seems simple enough, and I’m gonna make it even simpler: An entrepreneur really only has two jobs:
1. To create value, and
2. Share that value.
(and repeat as necessary).

To be an entrepreneur is to be in service to others. You can create a new life changing technology, paint a beautiful painting, or have a successful lawn care business. You exist to create a product or a service that matters to people. That’s it. You’ll make good decisions, you’ll make mistakes, and you will find yourself at 3 AM on a Thursday night sweating payroll. You will also find immense joy in creating something new, something that brings comfort, that brings joy, that represents a new way of doing things to the people that need it most. You’ll also be able to provide for your family in ways that you never thought possible.

“It’s not just about what’s now – it’s about creating value in what’s next.”

This past year has pushed us uncomfortably forward – in how we communicate, how we create, and how we share ideas…and it’s those ideas that make us who we are. The entrepreneurial spirit of independence, improvement and challenge of the status quo allows us to create the biggest value of all, and that is to be in service to others. Are you making art, creating the next big scientific breakthrough or simply providing a needed service? We can always be thinking of ways to improve what we do, and it positively affects the people that we serve. Creative thinking isn’t about writing a history report – it’s about looking to the future. It’s not just about what’s now – it’s about creating value in what’s next. 

“Entrepreneurship” may not be for everyone, but entrepreneurial, creative thinking is for EVERYONE. It doesn’t matter what your skill is, what your day looks like, or where you come from. The magic happens when we identify the value of an idea and allow it to flourish. 

Knoxville: we’ve got the resources, we’ve got the right people, and maybe most importantly, we’ve got the will to “get into the ring” to stake our claim as the Maker City. To every business owner and team who has bobbed and weaved their way through the most challenging year of our lives, THANK YOU. To every artist and maker that continues to hone their craft and share it with the world, THANK YOU. To every supportive spouse, tireless partner, and beleaguered accountant, THANK YOU. We’re on the cusp of something big, and it’s not just because the “powers that be” made it possible. It’s because of our people, our entrepreneurs, that are willing to make the big decisions, take the risks, and do the work that it takes to lead. We’re a diverse group that cares about our community, and we want to make a positive difference in our businesses, our lives, and the lives of those around us.

So, Knoxville, let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work. It’s time to show the world what we’re made for.

Artist, entrepreneur, and KEC chief of strategy Chris McAdoo sits down with successful photographer and entrepreneur Jennie Andrews at KEC headquarters, located in the heart of downtown Knoxville, TN. They talk all things creative, growing AND sustaining a business, and all of the ups and downs that come with entrepreneurship. What does it take to be intentional about your creative growth over the long haul? Find out in this fascinating conversation. Jennie is also co-host of our newest “BrandCamp” series, and can be found on instagram as @jennieandrews.

chris mcadooChris has spent over 20 years building businesses, forging a successful art career, and speaking all over the country on the power of creativity and challenging assumptions. Chris lives in South Knoxville, and can typically be found in the woods at Ijams Nature Center. Reach out to Chris at chris@knoxec.net