Bringing innovation and entrepeneurship home at Ole Miss’ Insight Park

Posted on Oct 23 2013 - 7:13am by Amina Al Sherif
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The courtyard of Insight Park.
Photo by Alex Edwards I The Daily Mississippian

The University of Mississippi’s newest research facility, Insight Park, has become the hub of some of Oxford’s best entrepreneurs, including Ole Miss undergraduates and alumni.

Located by the Ole Miss soccer fields, the complex was built in 2012, promoting sustainability and mixed use space open to rent by Ole Miss community members and the public.

Office space, conference rooms and lab space are readily available for rent.

Around 50 people currently work in the building, including 19 interns and 11 main tenants with two more moving into their space in the next month.

Insight Park has made its mark on a regional scale.

The Tennessee Valley Authority recently voted Oxford the most sustainable community in the region, and a large part of that can be traced back to Insight Park, said director Rick Duke.

“Many alumni want to come back to Oxford to live,” Duke said. “Now Insight Park is giving them the opportunity to do so by bringing their businesses and connections home.”

Duke said a group of realtors from Memphis found the conference space online, and arranged a retreat, staying at the Inn at Ole Miss and holding their meetings in one of the conference rooms at Insight Park.

Branding efforts have begun in order to continue building Insight Park’s presence  with the help of senior journalism and marketing major Kathryn Riddick.

Riddick serves as Insight Park’s main intern and has participated in creating the center’s website, Facebook page, Twitter presence, and group on LinkedIn.

Insight Park will also be featured in an upcoming Innovate Mississippi magazine and is beginning an ad campaign in the Ole Miss Alumni Magazine to generate interest.

Grace(ful) Totes and Social Data Services are two student companies and businesses that have office space at Insight Park. Grace(ful) Totes was started by Meghan Litten, a senior public policy leadership major, and Social Data Services is a computer software building company started by William Ault, a junior computer software major from North Carolina.

Partnered with three other students from the computer department, Social Data services holds student office space at Insight Park.

Ault began as an intern at the research facility.

“I felt so under-qualified when I applied for the internship, but I just did it anyways,” Ault said.

As an intern at Insight Park, Ault did everything from building networking, revamping the website, to helping write the initial executive summary of the research park.

“The whole idea for the park seemed innovative,” Ault said.

The hub has provided him and many others with a 24-hour facility for work, as well as accounting, marketing and business resources. The park even includes mentorship programs for new entrepreneurs.

Ault’s team is currently working on a new app called “Fashion Cents,” a fusion between Instagram and Pinterest, but the customer is allowed to shop the items they view. He encourages students at Ole Miss to “get out there and try it.”

Tim Burkhead, who graduated from Ole Miss in 2012 with degrees in finance and real estate, now runs Carbon Brothers Studio, a film and music powerhouse based in Oxford.

Burkhead and fellow Ole Miss students Danny Klimetz and Bryan Flint decided to purchase their office space at Insight Park before a solid idea had even been formed for Carbon Brothers Studio.

Burkhead emphasized the importance of Insight Park and its resources in the success of his company.

“We were really lucky to start the business with such little cash,” Burkhead said. “The park has all the infrastructure you need, and has young and vibrant people who can all be used as resources.”

Carbon Brothers Studio is currently contracted by the Oxford Police Department to create a promotional video, as well as CSpire wireless to create a commercial for Oxford.

“Our generation has been dealt a strange card,” Burkhead said. “It is a generation of opportunities; chase them, research them, create something new — the worst that happens is that you’ll fail.

“Insight Park is a great place to do that. We are still young, we do not know what we need, and the connections provided in the building help you with that.”