The NEXT Awards: Celebrating Nashville's Inspirational Innovators

Guest post by Mark Cleveland, NEXT Awards 2014 Entrepreneur of the Year

I attended the 2013 NEXT Awards celebration as a guest of Lipscomb University, and it was an absolutely inspirational experience. In the hallway, I congratulated my friend Scott Snoyer, owner of Brand Imaging Group, who was gripping a NEXT award for the Products & Services/Growth category, crediting his team and wearing a big smile. One year later, walking on stage to accept the Entrepreneur of the Year accolade at the 2014 NEXT Awards was one of the proudest, most heart-pounding moments of my career.

I know what it's like to be compelled to build the "next big thing" or the next "small giant" – and I appreciate that the NEXT Awards are all about celebrating entrepreneurship.

You can see the amazing diversity in the "gene pool" of the Nashville entrepreneur. This DNA is unique and gives birth to a certain "Nashville attitude" which has become one of our core competitive advantages. Whether these company founders are veteran business leaders or still in college, they are part of this highly contagious, creative collective. Southern hospitality is infectious, and no matter where you’re from, something about Tennessee brings out the best in people.

The entrepreneurial spirit is core to who we are in Nashville. From HCA to O'Charley's, Yazoo to Puckett’s, Griffin Technology to Rustici Software, so many great companies have been founded in the Nashville area. The innovators who started and grew these businesses are truly helping build a more vibrant economy in Middle Tennessee.

Attending the NEXT Awards, you're surrounded by visionary entrepreneurs, community leaders and their teams who have all followed their passion, pushing our economy to the next level. I'm looking forward to this year's NEXT Awards on Thursday, November 19, and I hope I'll see you there! Click here to register for the awards dinner.


As exciting as it was to receive top honors among so many of my peers, I would love to lop off each of the six lobes from this award and give pieces to my team members, mentors and customers.

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