A recent Slack survey with 9,000 respondents revealed that 72% of global workers preferred a hybrid-remote work environment. For many industries, remote work is now standard and entrepreneurs are considering ways to effectively lead their teams.  

Ashley Kent, Clear Start Creative

Ashley Kent, a Lookout Mountain native, launched Clear Start Creative from Nashville, Tennessee in 2018. Wanting to be closer to her family, she moved operations to Chattanooga in 2019 and brought on her first hire. Since then, her company has grown to four full-time employees and currently serves 16 clients remotely in cities like New York, Barcelona, Spain, Denver and Nashville, Tennessee. TREND spoke with Kent to learn about her experience as an entrepreneur working remotely from Chattanooga. 

“It’s really interesting to see how much [Chattanooga has] changed since being in school. I grew up here, and it’s really cool to see – especially being in the startup space – how much the startup and kind of VC ecosystem has really flourished here,” Kent says.  

Now that her startup is in its fourth year, Kent is experiencing the full benefits of running a remote business out of Chattanooga. There are opportunities for networking and building connections. Chattanooga is also a more accessible community that makes it easier to meet other entrepreneurs. Kent encourages entrepreneurs to open their doors to these opportunities. “You’ve got to be willing to say yes and put yourself out there,” she says.  

During the interview, the ding of Slack notifications echoed through her office. Kent explains how Slack is her team’s main communication platform because of the more casual and conversational tone offered to clients. As the head of a fully remote team, Kent says the key to effective communication is finding tools that fit your needs while staying adaptable and open-minded.  

In a remote work setting, the right team is as important as the right tools. For Kent, finding the right people for her remote team was a top priority. Kent now leads a team of four women who work remotely across the country and share the same values. “It’s pretty cool to see how you can pull together a remote team and still work really cohesively with each other and also with clients, some of which I’ve never met in person,” Kent says.  

Image of Kent and teammates courtesy of Clear Start Creative

Kent explains that autonomy and flexibility within her team are crucial to maintaining a positive remote work culture. She frequently offers encouragement and celebrates her team’s wins, while maintaining the best practices of meeting with her team members one-on-one in order to gauge their workload and avoid burnout. 

Because of these practices, Kent is able to provide a positive experience for her team. “One of my new hires who just came on told me she was commuting an hour a day for work. She just gained an hour back that can actually go toward servicing clients or working together as a team,” Kent says.  

Kent’s experience is one of many entrepreneurs who choose Chattanooga to launch their business. In 2021, Forbes listed Chattanooga as the #1 best work from home destination. Platforms like MakeMyMove’s.com also list Chattanooga in the top 10 remote work hot spots.  

For Kent and many entrepreneurs, the startup culture and high quality of life make Chattanooga the clear choice above other nearby metropolitans. “In Nashville, it’s hard to get plugged into any sort of network. There are like 50 different networks you could be a part of. Here you can be a lot more focused and intentional,” Kent says. 

Learn more about remote work in Chattanooga, here

Learn about the Greater Chattanooga Economic Partnership, here

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