Find out how creative entrepreneurs and small businesses find support to grow and prosper in Nashville, Tenn.
Entrepreneurs aspiring to launch a successful enterprise or grow a small business into a bigger one don’t have to look far to find what they need in Nashville. The city’s central location, highly educated workforce, economic diversity, and low business costs and regulation barriers make it a convenient base for companies starting small. The area is known for its supportive business community and collaborative networks that help startups find their footing and thrive.
Small and mid-sized firms in Middle Tennessee looking to grow can participate in educational workshops, professional development programs and networking events through the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce’s Business Studio. Along with these programs, the studio offers business owners easy access to online resources, including a guide for registering a business in Tennessee and registries connecting users with business opportunities from private companies and local government entities.
Organizations and spaces are also emerging to support creative entrepreneurs such as artisans, chefs, designers, writers and coders. The Skillery, a 6,870- square-foot co-working facility in Nashville’s Germantown neighborhood, hosts workshops and classes for entrepreneurs and independent workers, while also providing members with resources such as business model canvases, financial spreadsheets and customer storyboard templates. The Nashville Entrepreneur Center also offers co-working spaces, along with mentorships and pitch-coaching opportunities. Members can participate in accelerators that provide startups in health care, digital media and entertainment, technology and social enterprise with mentorships and resources to help them grow. In the Wedgewood-Houston neighborhood, the 10,000-square- foot Fort Houston features a full-scale wood shop, print shop, bike shop, photography studio, and miscellaneous work and desk space. Classes and workshops focused on creative pursuits like woodturning, silk-screening and jewelry-making are open to members and the public as well, along with events such as community yoga. Other collaborative workspaces in the neighborhood include WELD and Refinery.
Also serving Nashville’s creative community is the Young Entertainment Professionals organization, a group that supports members through networking events, showcases, mentorship and continuing education.
Small But Mighty
Nashville is full of small- business success stories. One of these is Green Fleet, which launched in 2009 as Nashville’s first green delivery service and has expanded to offer bicycle tours – rated by TripAdvisor as a top Nashville outdoor activity – and a retail shop that sells bicycles, equipment, accessories and apparel. Another is Virsys12, which provides salesforce integration, consulting and training to health-care firms. The company, one of Tennessee’s largest Salesforce Silver Cloud Alliance Partners, advises clients nationwide.
Go West Creative is another firm finding success in Nashville. CEO David Fischette relocated the agency, which provides event, content marketing and experiential campaign services to customers, from Los Angeles to Nashville’s Germantown neighborhood in 2015 – and he hasn’t looked back since.
“Nashville is one of the hottest cities in the U.S. right now,” Fischette says. “I definitely plan to stay here, and I’m excited to see how the city will evolve.”
Nashville’s advertising agencies are also thriving. Two top Nashville communications firms, Seigenthaler Public Relations and DVL Public Relations & Advertising, merged in 2015, following an acquisition by the New York-based Finn Partners agency. The new agency, DVL Seigenthaler, is now the largest agency in the city and state.
Also driving growth in Nashville’s creative industry are marketing firms like FoxFuel Creative, which recently expanded with a move into the L&C Tower downtown, and Industrial Strength Marketing, which scored a spot on the Inc. 5000 list of the nation’s fastest- growing private companies.
Another flourishing agency is Bohan Advertising, which has launched profitable campaigns for corporations like Saint Thomas Health, BlueCross/ BlueShield of Tennessee, Dollar General and Kirkland’s. The firm received Advertising Age’s Southeast Small Agency of the Year award in 2014.
“Nashville is a city that gives a native the opportunity to stay and grow a business,” says David Bohan, who founded the agency in 1990. “I didn’t have to move somewhere else to do what I do. Nashville is not the advertising capital of the world, but it’s a great creative community in which advertising agencies can grow and flourish.”