There’s no shortage of entrepreneurial spirit and hard-earned success in Nashville. From fashion labels to food groups and every industry in between, there are thriving start-ups helmed by bold, forward-thinking people throughout Music City. We tapped six Nashville entrepreneurs to find out more about how they got their start, and we asked them for their best advice for other hopeful entrepreneurs. Here’s what they had to say.
6 Nashville Entrepreneurs Share Their Best Advice
RHONDA CAMMON | Perfectly Cordial
Premium cocktail and mocktail mixers
Based in Nashville, TN
Founded in 2019
Perfectly Cordial started when Rhonda Cammon saw a need for a delicious beverage that could not only be used in cocktails but also as a standalone non-alcoholic beverage. “I would bartend high-profile and corporate events, and I wanted to offer everyone a craft beverage. So I started making fruit-based mixers using warm, global spices that I was familiar with from my childhood,” Rhonda tells us. Eventually, more people were ordering her non-alcoholic craft sodas than alcoholic beverages. Perfectly Cordial was born from a combination of Rhonda’s personal savings and crowdfunding through IFundWomen. “It was one of the hardest things I have ever done. Crowdfunding requires one to stay humble and reach deep within and past their network.” While she didn’t meet her funding goal, Rhonda did raise enough to start production and eventually move into a new shared kitchen space called Citizen Kitchens.
Rhonda’s best advice for hopeful or established entrepreneurs:
“Have a plan. If you don’t, then you plan to fail. I did not go the traditional business plan route, but I did have a plan for where I wanted Perfectly Cordial to go. A lot of new entrepreneurs start out with a dream or a passion and no next step. So when they reach a goal, they have no clue what to do next and there’s a loss of momentum. A successful business doesn’t lose momentum, so have your next step planned so you can stay successful.”
BRIAN FUENTE | Aero Bar and Aero Build
Mobile beverage bars and custom build company
Based in Nashville, TN; Operating in Austin, TX and Atlanta, GA
Founded in 2017
Brian Fuente grew up in Mississippi and immediately became involved in the music scene upon his arrival in Nashville 13 years ago. This led to relationships with some of the best bartenders, event planners and tastemakers in the city and fueled the creation of Aero Bar. Brian decided to fill a unique void in the event space: beautiful, fun, functional bars on wheels. “If I’m not providing someone with a cappuccino in the morning or an Old Fashioned on a Friday night, I’m likely enjoying one myself with friends and family,” Brian says. Aero Bar’s two custom trailers, Henry and Scout, have quickly become crowd favorites at Nashville events, and Brian has built mobile bars operating in Austin and Atlanta, with many more hitting the pavement across the South soon. This interest in trailers led Brian to establish Aero Build, a custom trailer shop designed for the modern-day entrepreneur and adventurer. Brian is now feeding back into the entrepreneurial spirit that sparked his company by building other homes on wheels for businesses.
Brian’s best advice for hopeful or established entrepreneurs:
“Realistically engage with what I call your ‘success timeline.’ In other words, while timelines are important and should exist to keep goals at an attainable reach, you have to also be careful not to let these time-sensitive ideas of success hinder your drive and creativity. If in six months you are not where you thought you might be, instead of throwing the timeline out altogether, reassess and continue to innovate.”
DREW BURCHFIELD | Aloompa
Live entertainment app developing company
Based in Nashville, TN
Founded in 2009
With a background in entertainment and a passion for live events, Drew and his co-founders started Aloompa in 2009 to change the live experience. “I spent my first three years post-college in the music industry, and I was very eager to jump into something where my contribution and impact could be tied to my reward,” Drew says. “The ideas we started with were so compelling and new at the time, it was easy to make the choice to dive in.” Around the same time, Apple launched the App Store, creating a whole new world for consumers. Drew and his team wanted to build a new way to experience live content from the palm of your hand. Our innovation was met with praise from country superstar Kenny Chesney, and we launched the world’s first-ever artist app shortly after that. They soon turned attention to the events space. Within the same year, we introduced the world’s first music festival app for Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival. That original app has grown into hundreds of apps that now power the live event experiences for millions of attendees each year. “Ultimately, we are fans first, and our mission continues to be to ensure that people everywhere have the absolute best live experience possible,” Drew says.
Drew’s best advice for hopeful or established entrepreneurs:
“Nothing is more satisfying, fulfilling and exhilarating than being able to provide a solution that customers love to a real problem they have. I think many of us jump right to thinking about the potential solution without really understanding the problem we are trying to solve. In order to really make the jump, you need a real problem first, and then a solution. Keep your day job and test your idea any way you can to make sure it lines up with a problem that someone would pay to solve.”
DAVID LATIMER | New Frontier Tiny Homes
Luxury tiny home builder and designer
Based in Nashville, TN
Founded in 2015
The seed of New Frontier Tiny Homes was planted when founder and CEO David Latimer experienced a major professional disappointment. He was forced to contemplate how he wanted to spend his working hours, the impact he wanted to have on the people around him and the legacy he wanted to leave behind. During this time, David stumbled upon the tiny home movement, and it awoke something powerful in him: a sense of clarity and purpose he hadn’t felt in his professional life. Tiny homes are a confluence of many things David is passionate about. In his words: 1. Original, unique design — design is my first love, and I love that I have total control of all three design facets: architectural design, interior design and staging/decor. 2. Quality craftsmanship. 3. Intentional living — understanding what you actually use and need, and eliminate the superfluous to cultivate a life of experience instead of the acquisition of status and stuff. 4. Affordable and attainable housing — designing high-quality homes that add inventory to the housing market. 5. Reimagining the American Dream — cultivating a life with a great sense of purpose and owning a home without crushing debt or a 30-year mortgage. 6. Sustainability — reintegrating our lives with nature, using less, wasting less, relying on civic utilities and contributing to their volumes as little as possible. 7. Community — redefining what that means in both urban and rural settings. What a beautiful amalgamation of things that actually come together to form a simpler, functional product.
David’s best advice for hopeful or established entrepreneurs:
“You’ve got to learn very quickly whether people are interested in your product or service. Excitement is the first cue. Stated desire to buy it is the next. But excitement and ‘I’d like to buy that’ do not make a business. Only actual purchases matter. Create the minimum viable product and see how it performs. I’m a perfectionist. If you are, learn to compromise quickly in the beginning. Done is better than perfect. Trust me, this slays me even five years into my business. Don’t get me wrong, my perfectionism has helped produce some great work that gives me my competitive advantage and differentiates me in the market. But learn what features and components actually add value in customers’ minds. And scrap the energy spent on precious details that only you will notice. I could’ve saved a lot of time and energy by following this principle.”
SARAH GAVIGAN | The Otaku Group
Sarah Gavigan has worked for herself since she started her own talent agency at 24 years old. “It was a dramatic decision, as I working for the biggest agency for cinematographers in the film business, but they were outdated and saw me as hungry new blood,” Sarah tells us. When they wouldn’t let Sarah sign new talent, she figured out how to get fired “so that I could take my clients with me and start my own agency with nothing more than pure grit and a fax machine.” Two businesses and careers later, Sarah and her husband Brad decided to open Otaku Ramen and make ramen their business. “It wasn’t a hard decision as we had operated the pop-up for almost three years and felt ready. It took us every minute of that time to learn how to run a healthy hospitality-based business,” she says.
Sarah’s best advice for hopeful or established entrepreneurs:
“My only regret in my career is that I didn’t spend the early years working for the giants in my industry, learning from them first. Freedom feels great when you think about owning your own business, but you can never anticipate all the knowledge and structure you need to know to own your own business and actually make a profit. Make five years with an expert your milestone and be honest with your boss that your goal is to own your own someday. When an employee of mine tells me they want to own their own restaurant someday, I will be harder on them, in turn, teaching them more. Set your goals and learn first.”
PATRICK WOODYARD | Nisolo
Handcrafted, ethically made leather goods
Based in Nashville, TN
Founded in 2011
In its first decade, Nisolo has become synonymous with style and quality leather, but the story runs much deeper. Founder and CEO Patrick Woodyard studied global economics and business and double majored in Spanish at Ole Miss. Much of his college years were spent working with entrepreneurs in developing countries. “During that time, a passion for two things emerged: business and social/environmental impact. I wanted to find something that merged the two,” Patrick says.
He ended up taking an economic development job in Trujillo, Peru. “After meeting remarkably talented shoemakers in the city, I learned that they shared common barriers with entrepreneurs in other parts of the developing world,” he tells us. Their greatest challenge was accessing the global market to sell their goods. This struggling industry in Northern Peru employed more than 100,000 people, and Patrick envisioned the impact he could ignite if he started a fashion label that committed to ethical production and nurturing these worthy producers. The Nisolo team is committed to developing intentionally designed, ethically made and fairly priced goods that ensure everyone — from the first supplier to the end consumer — is treated with the respect and dignity they deserve.
Patrick’s best advice for hopeful or established entrepreneurs:
“People make and break a business: hire slowly and fire quickly. It’s about getting the right people in the right seats on the bus. When Nisolo was operating with limited funding for the first few years, it taught us that less is more — don’t over-complicate the business model. Over the years, I’ve also learned to emphasize working on the business instead of in it. This means getting outside of your own head and beyond daily tasks. We call these ‘balcony views’ because they’re times to think strategically or creatively. Now, we have multiple yearly staff retreats and a process for establishing objectives and results. Lastly, I’ve learned that clear direction is key. For all of the times I’ve been most frustrated with individuals on the team, there’s an argument to be made that clearer direction could have been given on my end. Go the extra mile to clarify exactly what needs to be done, then trust the team to make it happen in their own creative way.”
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