NASHVILLE—It’s a alive Monday morning at Pinewood Social, a sprawling coffee shop, restaurant and bar set aerial on a barefaced overlooking the Cumberland River, and 30-year-old Amanda Lairsey is already sipping her additional Cuban coffee of the day. Lairsey, who blogs at a website appropriately alleged “The Caffeinated Woman,” opts for that additional cup to accumulate her activity as she juggles her responsibilities as a beginning architecture controlling and buyer of her own consulting company.
The South Georgia native, who speaks with a bendable southern accent, accustomed in Nashville bristles years ago, aback her husband’s job confused them from South Florida. Lairsey was alive as an appointment ambassador at a bounded architecture company. It was an blow that she concluded up in architecture in the aboriginal place: Lairsey had ahead formed at a law firm, additionally in an authoritative capacity, and artlessly confused to a architecture close to run their back-office functions. She had no accomplishments in the industry.
Not continued afterwards her accession in Nashville, though, the owners of the architecture aggregation she was alive for breach up. “All of a sudden, I said, ‘Well, I appetite to own what I do … so I partnered with somebody else.” Today, Lairsey is aperture a annex of a architecture aggregation that she’s partnered with in Nashville. The aggregation does mostly beam work, admitting it additionally has affairs for gutters and siding.
Lairsey is audible in her industry. “Construction is absolutely male-dominated,” she says. “I absolutely appetite to breach bottle ceilings.” (Perhaps an acrid admiration for accession in the beam business.) The anniversary I accommodated her, she’s about to sit for the Tennessee Bartering License Exam, which will acquiesce her to aggrandize the business to bartering properties. “I’ll apparently be the abandoned woman demography it,” Lairsey chuckles.
“I appetite to change the way women are beheld in the architecture world,” she continues, “Because in construction, women are absolutely beheld added as bays wives [than anything],” continues.
Top: Amanda Lairsey and her team. Bottom left: Promotional actual for Lairsey’s business. Bottom right: The aggregation alive on a roof in the Nashville suburbs. | Mark Peterson/Redux Pictures for POLITICO Magazine
Chatting with Lairsey, you get the faculty that she doesn’t absolutely allegation all that caffeine. She’s abnormally energetic—but then, afresh she’d accept to be accustomed what’s on her plate. In accession to her assignment in construction, the beginning authority architect additionally owns and operates two added businesses: the Society of Women Business Owners (Sowbo), a networking accumulation for Nashville’s changeable entrepreneurs, and The Lairsey Group, her business consulting outfit.
In her ambitious zeal, Lairsey is far from abandoned in Nashville, a burghal of about 700,000, and growing. In 2017, the accounts armpit Wallethub crunched abstracts from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Babyish Business Administration, attractive at statistics such as what allotment of businesses are endemic by women and the boilerplate acquirement advance of those businesses. Wallethub begin that, amid the 100 bigger cities in the country, Nashville’s is the best busline breadth for changeable entrepreneurs. (There allegation be commodity in that Tennessee water; Chattanooga ranked additional for women entrepreneurs; Memphis ranked fourth.)
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And Nashville is decidedly abundant arena for millennial entrepreneurs: The burghal boasts the second-highest amount in the country of babyish businesses endemic by 20- to 34-year-olds, according to analysis by the Kauffman Foundation, a nonprofit that supports and studies entrepreneurship. Lairsey’s adventure may be remarkable, yes, but she’s additionally adapted in the average of that Venn diagram of surging Nashville business owners—female and millennial.
Making affairs all the added interesting, best of these start-ups accept annihilation anon to do with country music, Nashville’s iconic industry. Tennessee’s basic is growing and economically diversifying at a arresting rate. That said, every accomplished artisan is, in a sense, a small-business owner, abrading out a active by gigging live, conceivably alive as a affair musician, and generally captivation bottomward a day job, too. It’s a burden one hears consistently in Nashville, from entrepreneurs of every stripe: “Everyone actuality has a ancillary hustle.” For best blooming business owners here, what was already their ancillary hustle eventually became their basic business. Throw in a atom of the Protestant assignment belief and the acknowledged archetypal of creatives-turned-business-magnates like the Queen of Country herself, Dolly Parton, and you accept a compound for ambitious success as audibly Nashvillian as its acclaimed hot chicken.
Top: A woman performs in Nashville’s Broadway district, acclaimed for its alive music. Bottom: A bar in burghal Nashville. | Mark Peterson/Redux Pictures for POLITICO Magazine
A few hours afterwards Lairsey has accomplished her business at Pinewood Social, 15 or so changeable business owners accumulate at the address of the Babe Scouts of Average Tennessee, a sprawling circuitous amid in Nashville’s chic Duncan Copse neighborhood. They’re there for the affair of Lairsey’s Society of Women Business Owners (Sowbo, arresting “So-Bo”).
The ambience is appropriate. In Nashville, it turns out, they alpha their changeable entrepreneurs young. Reasoning that the Babe Scouts are the “original changeable entrepreneurs” accustomed their cookie-selling prowess, the Girls Scouts of Average Tennessee afresh launched an ambassador centermost for girls, the group’s grants ambassador GiGi Rose tells me. There, they advise their adolescent accuse the basics of business. There are no babe scouts at Sowbo tonight though, aloof women, mostly in their 20s and aboriginal 30s, actuality to network, allotment tips and accept to a allocution from their active leader. Sowbo says it has about 80 associates above the Nashville area; amid a dozen and 20 appearance up to the account meetings. (The contest are additionally streamed alive on Sowbo’s website, so those who can’t accomplish it can still chase along.) Besides the basic account accumulation meeting, Sowbo additionally facilitates smaller, added frequent, events, like “coffee and conversations.”
The business owners actuality this black angular heavily against artistic industries—though not necessarily music. For Amber Brannon, 26, the appellation is adapted there in the name of her business: Copperheart Creative. Copperheart, her afresh accustomed LLC, is a full-service branding operation—it designs websites, logos and book material—for bounded businesses spanning countless industries. Brannon, a self-described “military brat” who grew up primarily in Ohio, confused to Nashville in 2012 and formed for a assumption of announcement companies. She was a “job jumper,” she says, alive at bristles altered branding agencies over aloof a few years.
Top: Ashley Goldman and Dana Maize alive in Ashley’s home collapsed in Thompson Station, TN. Bottom left: Amanda Walz at assignment at an breadth coffee shop. Bottom right: Dr. Carlee Brockman, a Nashville-area chiropractor. | Mark Peterson/Redux Pictures for POLITICO Magazine
Brannon, who admits that aback she confused to Nashville that she “hated country music,” accomplished bound that she basic to set out on her own. She “got complex with business owners groups,” like Sowbo. Joining up with Sowbo and added groups not abandoned absorbed her up with dozens of abeyant clients, but additionally showed her that her dream of active her own business was no fantasy. “If they can do it,” she recalls thinking, “I can.”
Another who could do it is Ashley Goldman. Goldman, 25, a built-in of Cleveland, Tennessee, a babyish boondocks a Chattanooga, owns and operates Evergreen Events, a architecture and event-planning business. Eighty percent of her business is weddings, she says; and indeed, the abstraction for starting her business “came out of planning [her] own wedding,” she says. Business is able in this “growing city,” Goldman says, and Nashville has additionally become a best for an accretion cardinal of destination weddings. (It’s become alike added of a hub for available and bachelorette parties, as the abominably -drenched streets of assertive genitalia of burghal on any accustomed black demonstrate.)
The Lodge, a aggregate accident and assignment amplitude in Franklin, TN area abounding of the region’s entrepreneurs congregate. | Mark Peterson/Redux Pictures for POLITICO Magazine
Few, if any, of the accumulated at Sowbow are Nashville natives. Mandy Walz, 26, came to Tennessee from further than most, though: Admitting American, she grew up in Buenos Aires, area her parents formed as missionaries. She alternate to the States to abstraction the music industry. Now, she runs her own photography business, accomplishing the lion’s allotment of her announcement on Instagram and Google. Groups like Sobow are “so helpful,” Walz says. The associates “don’t see anniversary added as competition.” They’re there to coact and advice anniversary added out, Walz says.
“Collaboration” and allowance one accession cross business challenges are big capacity at Sowbo. Indeed, it was absolutely because Lairsey herself bare business advice that the accumulation got started in the aboriginal place.
At the end of 2015, while still alive full-time at the now asleep architecture company, Lairsey was additionally demography on ancillary gigs to accomplish added scratch; she had a abiding gig befitting the books at a bounded charwoman company, for instance. “The appetite was to accomplish abundant money myself to alter my salary,” she says. Lairsey, who has been alive aback she was 14, has consistently been athirst to bang out on her own.
To advance her beginning business, Lairsey did what any business-minded millennial would do: she “started a blog,” she recalls. But the accomplishment did not go well: “I accomplished I am not an online marketer, and I should not be accomplishing this,” she says with a chuckle.
Lairsey had a realization: She could accouter the aptitude of Nashville to advice her accomplish her online vision. “Because there are so abounding creatives [here], Nashville is the absolute city” for this, she thought. She acquaint an accident on MeetUp, ambience up a accumulation to altercate online marketing. Lairsey accepted bristles or so bodies to appearance up. She got added than 20.
“After that, we aloof started affair up every ages activity forward,” she says. What had amorphous as a meet-up adherent to blogging and online business bound morphed into one that aggregate tips on all aspects of active a business. “We had bodies advancing adage ‘I appetite to be a baker, I appetite to be a doula,’” she remembers.
A affair of Amanda Lairsey’s Society of Women Business Owners at Frothy Monkey, a coffee boutique in Nashville’s The Nations neighborhood. | Mark Peterson/Redux Pictures for POLITICO Magazine
The accumulation additionally discussed accepted apropos for changeable entrepreneurs like “mommy guilt” and careful husbands. Soon, the accumulation had developed so abounding that they got kicked out of the Whole Foods cafeteria they had been application for their meetings. At that point, Lairsey accomplished she bare to hire space, which meant the accumulation bare a name and it bare to allegation their members. And so Sowbo was born. (These days, active with her architecture business and added projects, Lairsey had affronted over the circadian operations of Sowbo to her adolescence friend, operations administrator Rebekah Polley.)
Tonight, afterwards the associates of the accumulation book into a abounding classroom and booty their seats on folding chairs, Lairsey tells the accumulated a story—one that’s focused beneath on the specific ins and outs of active a business, than a above account of celebration over affliction and advantageous “Imposter Syndrome,” the crippling feeling—supposedly added boundless amid women than men—that one’s success is based on a fraud.
Top: Robert’s Western World, one of the best iconic honky-tonks in burghal Nashville. Bottom left: Two adolescent Nashvillians application the city’s rental scooter program. Bottom right: A man claws a guitar in the abundantly music-driven city. | Mark Peterson/Redux Pictures for POLITICO Magazine
“One day, I came to a complete halt. I woke up one morning, and I took a abysmal breath, and I said ‘I’m such a fraud. If bodies knew who I absolutely was, they wouldn’t accept to me,” she says. “It was a really, absolutely aphotic place.”
For weeks, Lairsey recalls, she acquainted paralyzed; she alike advised bottomward her dreams of business buying and abiding “to the 9 to 5.” But afresh one day, by authentic chance, she heard “The Climb,” the Miley Cyrus song that describes advantageous adversity, on the radio. The lyrics aggressive her not to accord up.
Lairsey, who is proudly religious, tells the accumulation that aback she was addled with Imposter Syndrome, “she was absolutely affronted with God.” She mentions abrupt that she listens abandoned to Christian radio stations in her car, and that, through any downturns she ability hit, she maintains her acceptance that the “Lord is activity to provide.” These animadversion are met with a quiet babble of approval, and alike the casual “amen” from the crowd.
Millennials ability accept the acceptability of accepting affronted abroad from religion—and analysis abstracts do buck this out—but that’s a trend that seems to accept anesthetized by this Bible Belt city. Twenty-six-year-old Amber Brannon of Copperheart Creative, for example, tells me that her move to Nashville was “definitely a God thing.”
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Churches, of course, are accession abode for networking and accomplishment business admission as well. And asceticism infuses the accustomed business association here, too. “I don’t anticipate you’d appetite to be perceived as an agnostic while attempting to tap old Nashville’s resources,” one business buyer adds.
“I absolutely anticipate acceptance drives things here,” Carrie Jeffries, architect and buyer of Nashville-based Bold and Sassy Solutions tells me afterwards over cafeteria at Pinewood Social. She draws a band from scripture to ambitious activity: “I do anticipate we are to abandonment and await on God, but He additionally says ‘You accept to do the work. You don’t work, you don’t eat!’”
Jeffries, now acclimatized in Nashville afterwards a ambulant career and activity that has taken her to St. Louis, Washington state, New Jersey and beyond, has endemic and awash several businesses, including a acknowledged online retail operation. Today, she works as a business coach, consulting alone with changeable entrepreneurs. Jeffries says she sees commodity in the millennials that she networks with and consults for: “There’s a abundant affection that they have, and they appetite to animate it in their businesses.”
Ryan Schemmel, the co-owner of Fort Houston, a “maker space” in Nashville that appearance a copse and metal shop, screenprinting station, offices, and coworking space.
Sometimes that beverage comes literally, as at businesses area millennials body things with their hands. They can do that at Fort Houston, itself a millennial-founded and endemic business. Ryan Schemmel, 30—a attenuate Nashville native—co-founded the business in 2011 afterwards a few years toiling in the music industry. What it is about a lending library for tools: a 17,000-square-foot “maker space,” in a Nashville automated neighborhood, area small-scale artists and entrepreneurs can use accoutrement that they may not appetite to buy and abundance themselves. “Think of Fort Houston like a gym, but for bodies who body being with their hands,” the owners say. In accession to apparatus rental and assignment space, Fort Houston additionally provides abounding networking activities for assorted business owners to advertise things to one another. To wit: An apart endemic coffee boutique on armpit is abounding of board furniture—all congenital adapted there by a carpenter who happened to be a Fort Houston member.
The archetypal Fort Houston associates are “males in their 30s,” says Schemmel. Not exclusively, however. On a contempo afternoon, Meredith Edmonson was adamantine at assignment on some glass. Edmonson, a bottle artisan aback 2005, owns and operates REG Architecture and Supply, a architecture studio. Without Fort Houston, she’d be in in trouble: “It’s the abandoned resource” she has to accumulate her glasswork business going, she says.
The assorted makers and doers of Fort Houston at assignment and blow in the space. | Mark Peterson/Redux Pictures for POLITICO Magazine
Similar assets abide for white-collar entrepreneurs, too. An actionable one is Pinewood Social, area I aboriginal met Lairsey. The hipster ascendancy is a continued way—at atomic figuratively—from the begrimed honky tonks and hot craven joints that ascertain abundant of Nashville’s cultural mural and, tends added appear costly couches, artisanal cappuccinos and $14 ability affair than booze shots and sawdust. If you adorned some balmy exercise, there’s an ironically adorned best bowling alleyway in a sprawling aback room. Outside is a pond basin with an Airstream bivouac set up for casting drinks.
It’s additionally a abode area bodies go to work: The all-inclusive amplitude is abounding with workers—20- and 30-somethings, men and women alike—huddled over their laptops, toiling abroad for hours at a time. In a sense, Pinewood Social is a cooler, indie adaptation of WeWork, the already semi-cool yet antiseptic alternation of co-working spaces that accept taken downtowns above the apple by storm.
For those gluttonous a added structured ability from which to barrage their beginning businesses, there’s the Nashville Ambassador Centermost (NEC), a nonprofit with abetment from a array of bounded foundations and philanthropists, a membership-based alignment that allows associates admission to assignment amplitude and networking activities. Founded and 2010 and amid aloof a few doors bottomward from Pinewood Social, the NEC boasts about 500 advantageous members. Contempo acknowledged launches to appear out of the NEC accommodate Please Assist Me, an app that connects homeowners to bodies accommodating to run errands and do affairs for a collapsed account fee and Jammber, an app that helps musicians administer their careers.
Nashvillians at assignment at the Nashville Ambassador Center, a non-profit hub for networking and common workspace. | Mark Peterson/Redux Pictures for POLITICO Magazine
Every burghal wants to allure millennials, of course—and all the bigger if they’re entrepreneurially minded. Those millennials, in particular, can be adamantine to find, though: As of 2014, beneath than 4 percent of 30-year-olds had started their own businesses, compared to 5.4 percent of Gen Xers and 6.7 percent of babyish boomers at the aforementioned age. The adolescence of the business owners actuality is allotment of what makes Nashville so distinct.
Pointing to organizations like the NEC, Jose Gonzalez, an adviser of entrepreneurship and administration at Nashville’s Belmont University, say that here, “in general, it’s accessible to affix with a admiring arrangement of assets that accommodate mentorship, training and alike capital.” And it’s bright that the city’s acceptability as a allurement for artistic types is a huge asset: “Nashville has consistently been a abode area creatives can thrive,” Gonzalez adds.
“Nashville has been a startup hub aback the Civil War—it’s a allotment of our DNA. The ability encourages entrepreneurship, and the economics accomplish it affordable to be an entrepreneur,” adds Ralph Schulz, admiral and CEO of the Nashville Breadth Chamber of Commerce. “The artistic aptitude in Nashville is strong, decidedly in bloom affliction and music, and we’ve congenital aloft that ability over time with targeted assets and abutment for high-growth startups.”
Tennessee’s abridgement of an assets tax apparently helps, too—a point fabricated by Carrie Jeffries—but it doesn’t explain why Sioux Falls or Cheyenne aren’t the new Nashvilles. (After all, neither South Dakota nor Wyoming levies an assets tax.)
Top: A bar in East Nashville, a adjacency accepted with millennials. Bottom: A man carries a guitar accomplished a mural of Maybelle Carter, corrective on the ancillary of Nashville’s Carter Best Guitars. | Mark Peterson/Redux Pictures for POLITICO Magazine
As far as why changeable entrepreneurs in accurate are so accustomed here, allotment of that is acutely due to a assertive affectionate of arrangement effect. The added changeable business owners there are, the added they beget, artlessly because their actual attendance sends a bulletin to others: You can do this. And the countless female-focused networking groups like Sowbo abandoned advice that along.
Dana Maize, a Kansas built-in who opened her own Nashville annual business, One Wild Annual Designs, two years ago, makes accession arresting point. “Think of Dolly Parton,” she says. “She came from nothing, and she fabricated a way, and she gave others a belvedere to get their careers going. Maybe it goes aback as far as that, and Parton aloof congenital a culture,” she continues. Music and blur aside, in added words, Maize suggests that allotment of Parton’s bequest is creating a attitude of changeable collaboration, mentorship and encouraged ambition. (Even Brannon, by the way, who said she hated country music aback she confused to Nashville, concedes she has developed a bendable atom for the style.)
Ultimately, it seems, there’s a assertive adamantine to ascertain appearance to Nashville; a asperous agreeableness and affluent ability not clashing that which has additionally absorbed millennials to cities like Pittsburgh, Portland and Columbus, too. That’s hard, acceptable impossible, to adjure out of attenuate air. Admitting of advance there’s consistently accession option: You could try to attract Connie Britton to brilliant in a accepted television alternation showcasing your city. And if not, conceivably it’s time, like so abounding Nashvillians, to try the ability of prayer.
Ethan Epstein is accessory editor of The Account Standard.
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