COMMUNITY CHAMPION: Haley Cawthon, Reporter for Louisville Business First and KY Inno Lead

By Taryn Skees for Amplify — December 23, 2021

Haley Cawthon, a champion of founders and innovators in the Louisville community, is a reporter for Louisville Business First and the lead writer for KY Inno, which provides media coverage of the state’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Haley shares with us the exciting things to come in 2022 for KY Inno, how she got her start in writing and her thoughts on some of the more memorable founders she has featured this year. 

Q: As a champion of startups and founders in the Louisville area, Amplify is excited to hear about KY Inno through Louisville Business First. What can we expect from KY Inno in 2022?

KY Inno launched in September 2021 so we’re just getting started! In terms of content, you’ll continue to see news on new and growing companies, from founder profiles to fundings, both on our website and via our free weekly newsletter, The Beat. (You can sign up for that here.)

But what’s really exciting are the new programs and events we’ll be hosting in 2022. We’re kicking it off on Feb. 1 with our inaugural Startups to Watch event at Noble Funk Brewing Co. in Louisville. We’ll be recognizing 22 early-stage companies folks should keep an eye on next year, and I’ll be moderating a panel discussion with a couple of founders and ecosystem experts.

We have a few more new programs, too, such as Tech Madness, Inno on Fire and Inno Under 25. Our Inno Under 25 of 2021 was just announced in September, so you can get to know them here. More details on Tech Madness and Inno on Fire to come!

Q: In your opinion, what impact (if any) does media coverage have on the success of startups?

I believe it can have an enormous impact. Of course, I don’t think media coverage or lack thereof can make or break a startup, but I do think it can be an easy (and free) tool to reach potential investors, partners and customers.

But on a more macro level, media coverage also showcases that this type of innovation is happening here. When more and more investment dollars are flowing into Middle America, that’s pretty important.

Q: What excites you the most about Louisville’s entrepreneurial community?

The people. 100%. I recently relayed this to GLI, but it bears repeating: Louisville couldn’t ask for better, more dedicated founders. Sure, great ideas are a prerequisite for a thriving ecosystem, but without the people behind them with the drive to push them forward, nothing would ever happen.

I also find myself drawn specifically to the changemakers, the folks that are recognizing where our gaps are and using their power and influence to make a positive difference in the ecosystem. Two of the people on my list changemakers are Amplify’s EIRs — Natalia Bishop and Kela Ivonye.

Q: Are there any local innovators whose stories have stood out to you? If so, who?

Gosh, there are just so many. I’ll highlight a few:

  • Yornest founder Michael Brezendine’s story really stuck with me this. He shared how at 11 years old he miraculously survived the 7.0-magnitute earthquake in Haiti, and how fiddling with electronics in an orphanage sparked his interest in tech.
  • I wrote a profile earlier this year on Chris and Dan Ratterman, the brothers behind the fast growth at Shady Rays. Sometimes startup stories can sound like overnight success, but Chris told me how scrappy the company was in its early days, adding that his dad played a huge role in helping Shady Rays get off the ground by setting up a makeshift shipping facility in his living room with a card table.
  • As a former athlete, I found myself relating a lot to Maya McClendon, founder of Timeout. She told me of her own mental health struggles as a student athlete at University of Louisville, and how the loss of her friend to suicide became her inspiration behind her company.

    Those are just three examples, but I could write you a whole novel about the founders I’ve met while covering entrepreneurship and innovation in recent years.

Q: Tell me a little about your background and how/why you became a writer. 

Sure! I believe my passion for writing started to develop back to 2000. My grandpa was hospitalized for several weeks that year, so I spent a lot of time writing short stories to keep myself occupied in the waiting room. They were silly stories — about acrobatic cats and haunted basements — but they planted a small seed that grew into what I do today.

I had my first newspaper internship at 17 and went to Indiana University Bloomington to study journalism shortly thereafter. Prior to joining Business First in 2019, I was the features editor at the Kokomo Tribune in Kokomo, Indiana, for almost two years. I’ve also worked for The Elkhart Truth and Mount Carmel Register, in Northern Indiana and Southern Illinois, respectively.

Q: Share a fun fact about yourself that not many people know.

I’m currently attempting to learn Japanese! I love languages — I studied German for four years in high school and took four semesters of American Sign Language in college.


Name: Haley Cawthon
Company: Louisville Business First
Title: Reporter, KY Inno lead
Age: 28
Hometown: Winslow, Indiana
Lives: Corydon, Indiana
Family: Husband, Scott, and dog, Winston
Hobbies: Hiking, reading, learning new things

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