Matthew Cross, 34, founding partner and CEO, OE Experiences

40 Under 40 Class of 2022 member Matthew Cross, founding partner and CEO of OE Experiences.

Through his background in finance, Matthew Cross has focused his energy on developing the hospitality industry in East Tennessee. Much of Cross’ work through his company, OE Experiences, has helped bring more development to Sevier County, which will have a larger impact on jobs and money in the area.

Cross recognizes the need for investing in the hospitality industry in a way that will benefit both businesses and consumers. His ongoing work can help bring businesses in and grow existing businesses in East Tennessee.

When you reflect on your career so far, which achievement stands out most?

Our firm represents the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and the experiential development, The 407: Gateway to Adventure. This has sent us overseas, grown our team, and given us the responsibility to represent a unique partner as they develop a project for the benefit of their sovereign nation. We have helped secure over $200 million of investment, with an eye to even larger opportunities in the near future.

What is the greatest professional obstacle you’ve had to overcome and how did you overcome it?

Our firm began in February of 2020, and I was present at the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) Leadership Summit when COVID closed Disneyland. As our company is based on the experience economy, our firm and industry, like many others, ground to a halt right when we began our journey. Adapting and surviving this period was intensely challenging, but we have been rewarded for our tenacity with immense opportunities.

What will you focus on in 2023?

I want to continue to develop my knowledge base and source opportunities for our world-class team to impact developments across the United States and globally. The market has affirmed the need for entertainment and compelling businesses to entice people out of their homes to engage with transformative and memory making experiences. This is a hard business objective to fulfill but incredibly rewarding to achieve both emotionally and financially.

What is your biggest professional dream?

I like to think of myself as a cog that enables large, complex machines to function. My dream would be to have our team, our brand, so closely associated with success that we could elevate projects to standards that define the market.

What mistake did you learn the most from?

I learn from every mistake, and I have made many. I view my mistakes as being made for the benefit of myself and my partners so that they won’t be repeated. No mistake stands out as key or central to this philosophy, as I have learned to embrace and label failures quickly so that they can be corrected and learned from.

What motivates you?

I am blessed to be doing exactly what I was meant to in life, so every day motivates me.

What is the most overrated piece of business advice you’ve heard?

“The customer is always right.”

If you’re a consultant, then you aren’t doing your job to be sycophantic. Embrace humbly that you don’t know everything, but assert with confidence what you believe. Identify your failures, and let your success speak for itself.

What trait do you most want in a co-worker?

Communication and trust.

What about Knoxville would you like to improve?

Knoxville continues to grow and improve every year. Growth brings challenges to infrastructure, sustainability and quality of life. A unified vision and long-term strategic plan is core to common ground among stakeholders to Knoxville’s growth, and the continual communication and reinforcement of that plan should permeate every level of our community.

What don’t people know about you?

I’d say quite a bit, but I love to trade stories. I look forward to sharing them in future opportunities!

  • Family: Wife Sandra Cross and daughter Evelyn Cross
  • Years worked at current company: Two
  • Degrees and certifications: Bachelor of science in finance, Wake Forest University. ICAE and IAAPA certifications.
  • Community involvement:¬†Treasurer for Themed Entertainment Association Board of Directors-Eastern North America Division



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