Fostering Entrepreneurial Success: ACEI Accelerator Lunch and Learn Series

April 16, 2024

The Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (ACEI), housed in the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Haslam College of Business, recently concluded its spring 2024 Accelerator Lunch and Learn Series. The series featured industry experts and seasoned entrepreneurs who relayed their professional journeys and provided insights to aspiring student entrepreneurs and the Knoxville startup community. A variety of relevant topics were covered, all aimed to help entrepreneurs build strong foundations and poise their business to grow and be investment ready.

“As a student entrepreneur, I’ve enjoyed attending the Accelerator Lunch and Learns this semester,” said Mickey Napier, a senior marketing major. “I’ve been able to learn valuable ways to grow my business, and I’ve made amazing connections with other entrepreneurs as well. From attending this series, I’ve been able to strategically develop my business, and I recommend others to attend the series next semester.”

Common Legal Pitfalls

The first event in the spring 2024 series took place on February 1 and covered common legal pitfalls startups often face. Melissa Centers, ACEI entrepreneur-in-residence, Knoxville Entrepreneur Center board member, consultant and attorney, provided strategic advice on how to navigate setting up a business for early success. She also shared insights on how to test a business and business partners to avoid common mistakes down the road.

Building Your Founding Team

Mark Huber, ACEI entrepreneur-in-residence and business development executive of iSustain Recycling, hosted the second Accelerator Lunch and Learn event on February 22. Huber discussed how to build a strong founding team. He also detailed the importance of knowing your own strengths and weaknesses, identifying your capacity and finding people with the skills, experience and personality to fill the gaps your own weaknesses create.

“You want the right, small team of dedicated people,” said Huber. “Don’t bring anyone on whose mission doesn’t align with yours.”

Fundraising Equilibrium: Balancing Investments, Grants and Everything in Between

The spring 2024 Accelerator Lunch and Learn Series concluded on April 9 with a session on how startups should balance fundraising. Lia Winter, ACEI entrepreneur-in-residence and co-founder of Winter Innovations, shared her in-depth knowledge of multiple fundraising strategies both students and community entrepreneurs can utilize. From her experience of receiving Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grants to raising non-dilutive capital through collegiate pitch competitions, the audience learned real ways to successfully grow a business. 

About the Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation 

The Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation is a university-based resource for entrepreneurship across the region and the state of Tennessee. Its mission is to foster an entrepreneurial culture at UT and across the state by developing student skills, providing experiential learning opportunities, conducting meaningful entrepreneurial research and connecting students with mentors and resources that enable them to successfully start and grow new businesses.


Brennan Hullett,