Nashville Moment: Courtney Coko Eason
Eason received $40,000 to launch MILK, an app that rewards users for turning off their phones when they shouldn’t be using them.
Written By: Margaret Littman
Photographers: Shannon Fontaine
Courtney “Coko” Eason, Digital Entrepreneur
When Courtney “Coko” Eason worked at Sony/ATV Music Publishing, she also launched a business of her own called Soundtrack Entertainment that organized urban music events in Nashville. She would get a solid crowd and celebrities on the scene, and she was often credited for helping to build street cred for Music City’s hip hop scene.
"But I couldn’t get people to engage when they were at the shows” she says. “They were not paying attention. Instead, everyone was on their phone posting about it on social media."
Being a doer, Eason decided to shift her “frustration to innovation,” she says. Less than two years later, she was named Nashville’s second-ever Code2040 Entrepreneur in Residence (EIR), a year-long program that is housed at the Nashville Entrepreneur Center (EC). The position, funded by Google and Code2040, goes to a nonprofit geared toward helping minority entrepreneurs; Eason received $40,000 to launch MILK, an app that rewards users for turning off their phones when they shouldn’t be using them, such as in the car, at a concert, in school, and even at the dinner table. We asked her how a startupentreprenuear takes time to disconnect. (Fortunately, our phone call was MILK-approved).
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About that name: The app is so-named to encourage people to “milk the moment.” An Apple iOS app, it is in testing now, with plans to launch in the fall. MILK works with brands, such as a movie theater chain, to offer rewards, like free popcorn, to those who don’t use their phones during a film. (The app counts how long the phone stays locked and calculates rewards based on that lack of activity.)
Her idea of a vacation: Armed with her idea, Eason says she “booked a trip to Silicon Valley to get advice on how to get started. I flew out with my mom and made it a birthday trip for her and a startup trip for me. I needed to figure out if I wanted to be in technology. I was back at work a few days later.”
Best Valentine’s Day gift ever: “It was better than roses and chocolate,” Eason says of the fact that she learned she had been picked as EIR on the romantic holiday. One of the provisions is that the entrepreneur has to work on their startup full time, so the first thing the MTSU grad did was give her two weeks’ notice at Sony.
Behind the headlines: In August, the EC sent out an email with the subject line, “She's the coolest person you’ll ever meet.” It showed up in Eason’s inbox, so she clicked it, looking forward to getting to know the person. To her surprise, it was an article about her, MILK, and her EIR role.
Where she is most likely to break the no-phone rule: She won’t look at her phone at a table in a restaurant. “I am a person who has a lot of going on, and I am always thinking and creating. Now that I am a full-time entrepreneur, I dream about work. I am always jotting down ideas on my phone,” she says.