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Gulf Coast and Oxford Entrepreneurship Meetings Get Back to Business

Mississippi is fertile ground for innovation, with new small businesses popping up every year and new startup founders eager to realize their dreams. However, to achieve those goals, they sometimes need to workshop their ideas with peers or learn from mentors and investors who have succeeded before them. Fortunately, organizers in Mississippi have cultivated communities of entrepreneurship—and they’re cautiously back to regular meetings after the pandemic.

In October 2021, Chris Spear, president of Coast Couple Realty, rekindled a group along the Gulf Coast that had previously stopped meeting in 2018.

“With as spread out as the Coast is, finding a firmly coalesced group of people who are looking for the same goals—especially in entrepreneurship, where you’re often fighting your own battles—can be difficult,” Spear says. “I wanted to come up with a common ground where people from different areas of the Coast and different entrepreneurial ventures could learn about each other’s projects, share some best practices, and develop an ecology of entrepreneurs that would benefit everybody in the long run.”

During the meetups, which Spear hosts at his business’ physical location in Gulfport, Miss., entrepreneurs looking to improve their products while building a network of like-minded, business-focused entrepreneurs gather to network, present their ideas and get feedback.

At one meeting, an Ocean Springs founder presented a seafood-based technology to increase oyster yields along the Coast. At the same time, a founder from Bay St. Louis pitched a patented method for producing windows that would drastically reduce energy consumption in newly built homes. Software developers and other online business owners have participated in past events, pitching their products. 

Along with business founders, Spears welcomes investors and mentors to attend, participate and network. Those interested can search for “Mississippi Gulf Coast Tech Entrepreneur Meetup” on to learn of upcoming gatherings. 

Meanwhile, in Oxford, the Oxford-Lafayette County Economic Development Foundation has developed its entrepreneurship and innovation meetup network through the Lyceum Brew program. This informal group gets together on the last Tuesday of the month at Lamar Yard restaurant. 

“We recognize that the economy is moving toward innovation,” EDF Vice President Allen Kurr says. To that end, the EDF takes a strategic and holistic approach to answer the question, “What do we need to do now to be able to attract or grow businesses to ensure that we have economic diversity and prosperity for everybody moving forward?”

When Jackson transplant Christopher Lomax pitched the idea for Lyceum Brew to the EDF two years ago, the EDF set the wheels in motion, and the group began to gain traction in the spring of 2021. 

Kurr encourages anyone interested in business to attend the monthly cocktail hour, from entrepreneurs and innovators to resource providers, university students, restaurateurs and others. The EDF sometimes arranges for guest speakers, which you can learn about ahead of time by signing up to receive the EDF’s newsletter. Meetups begin at 6 p.m. and usually last around two hours.

“We’re not just here to network and to mentor and to get to know each other on a personal and professional level, although we do,” Kurr says. “We’re also here to provide awareness of the technical resources that we have available to us through groups like Innovate Mississippi, the Mississippi Development Authority, the Small Business Development Center, and, of course, all of our local partners.”

To find more details on the EDF’s innovation and entrepreneurship-focused programs, visit