Bunker Labs strives to partner with existing local resources whenever possible to support veteran entrepreneurs. In Tennessee, Bunker Labs partnered with Launch Tennessee to expand Bunker Labs’ programming beyond its Nashville headquarters and throughout the entire state.
Launch Tennessee is a public-private partnership funded by the state’s department of economic and community development. They provide access to funding, resource workshops, mentorship, and much more at entrepreneurship centers across the state.
Launch Tennessee provided grant funding in fiscal years 2018 and 2019 and access to Launch Tennessee’s entrepreneurship centers so Bunker Labs Tennessee could reach veterans in four cities across the state: Chattanooga, Knoxville, Memphis, and Clarksville. The Clarksville location allows Bunker Labs to reach transitioning service members currently stationed at Fort Campbell.
The majority of Tennessee’s 470,000 veterans live outside of Nashville, and it takes several hours to drive to Nashville from the eastern and western regions of the state. Through the Launch Tennessee partnership, however, “Bunker can go plug into entrepreneurship centers around the state and be top of funnel for entrepreneurs to access existing resources,” said Blake Hogan, founder and executive director of Bunker Labs.
For example, if an entrepreneur is doing something in agriculture, there’s an agriculture-focused group in Memphis. For entrepreneurs focused on life sciences, there’s a group at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Knoxville that can provide support. Regardless of where the entrepreneur lives, having a state-wide network facilitates those connections.
One success from the collaboration is the story of Jax Taylor, a retired Flight Operations Manager in the U.S. Army. Jax attended the very first Bunker Labs Tennessee Tour workshop at the Clarksville Entrepreneurship Center. She had recently medically retired from the Army and was looking for her next move. At the time, she owned a small piece of land and a few goats. After attending the Bunker Labs workshop, she applied to the Launch Lab Cohort in Nashville and with Bunker Labs’ help, negotiated a six-figure contract for her goats to mow retention ponds for Costco. (Goats are an eco-friendly lawn-care solution and also more nimble and quieter than a conventional lawnmower.) Jax went on to kickstart the Clarksville City Leader team and is now focused full-time on growing her business, Rent-a-Ruminant of Tennessee.
Bunker Labs Nashville and Launch Tennessee also join forces for an annual Week on the Hill that showcases entrepreneurs across the state and gives legislators an opportunity to see the challenges entrepreneurs, veterans and civilians, face. The most recent Week on the Hill is happening this month.