The ETX Innovation Center in Beckville is focused on helping East Texans create, collaborate and launch their ideas.
Founded by Jennifer Edwards and Anthony Edwards, the space has been open in Beckville since December, but the Edwards have owned their brand, Academic Workshops, since 2009.
“Basically we’ve gone to different universities and colleges and nonprofit organizations to deliver workshops, and then we ventured into webinars as well, but in addition to that we’ve been bloggers since 2012, and it’s been a great opportunity to engage with the greater Texas community,” Jennifer said. “But one thing that truly tugged at my heartstrings and his heartstrings as well is that I’m a fifth-generation East Texan. I’m a fifth-generation Panola County resident, and so I’m excited to raise a sixth-generation Panola County resident (their daughter), but we wanted to give back to the community that has given us so much.”
The Innovation Center has activities every week, from business academies to innovation workshops, as well as entrepreneurship academies, vision board parties and the occasional game night. The workshops vary in topic, including help with technology, travel tips, finance and more.
“We have financial conversations, so those are another thing we do, we promote financial literacy,” Anthony said. “We know that that is a big challenge that a lot of people face right now. We want to be able to have those conversations so people can be able to improve their situations.”
The Edwards are all about getting people from point A to point B with their goals, helping them get from their idea to the actualization of that idea.
“We are focused on helping East Texans, especially people in the Panola County area, create, collaborate and launch their ideas,” Jennifer said. “So basically you are creating something new, so that (could be) a business, a craft project, that’s even getting a group of people together. You collaborate with other people who have a like mindset, and then you launch your ideas... We have the ETX Showcase at the end of every month, and that actually provides people with an opportunity to showcase what they’re doing in our space.”
Each of the basic workshops is $20, and Jennifer said she wanted to provide an opportunity for local residents not to have to drive far to get these kinds of workshops, and she wants to reduce the barrier to entering something new for people.
The Innovation Center also has two membership options — a personal membership costing $49 for six months and a small business membership costing $99 for six months. The personal membership includes membership in their ETX Connections group and one free innovation session a month. The small business membership includes small business summits, shop ETX showcases, business marketing webinars, promotion of their business to the greater East Texas community, membership in the ETX Business Network and one free innovation session a month.
A workshop series is coming up that is aimed toward high school seniors, where Jennifer will walk them through what they need to do.
The Innovation Center has been open for a month, and the Edwards are already seeing success. Their first cohort of the Entrepreneurship Academy is going on right now, and Anthony said they have women that are doing amazing things.
“They’re getting their paperwork filed with the city, creating their product plans, laying out their rates, creating business accounts, finding business checking and savings accounts — which can actually be a bit of a challenge out here in East Texas in terms of fees and rates and things like that,” Anthony said. “But also just creating promotional plans, getting their business names done, getting their plans out and getting customers, so some of them are already starting getting customers already. It’s exciting.”
The vision board parties they host are free, and these help people visualize their goals.
“What we do is basically we’ll help them create boards where they can get words that are related to things that are important to them, images, and being able to see it on a regular basis sort of puts that reminder out in front of you that ‘Hey, I said I was going to do this this year,’” Anthony said. “And it also creates that excitement about what it is that you want to do. We all have busy things, we all have lives, we all have responsibilities, we have bills, and so having that vision in front of us is sometimes extremely important to making sure that we go where we believe that we’re called to go.”
The Edwards want to give people the opportunity to take control of their lives, whether that’s earning more money, having more freedom or creating business opportunities.
“We want to make sure that East Texas is economically strong going forward because when people have the ability to increase their earning potential, they can do the things that they want do with their lives,” Anthony said. “We want to make sure that more people are able to do that because we know what it’s like to struggle; we also know what it’s like to be in a position where you can do better. So we want to pay it forward.”