Belmont alum Ryan Schemmel talks entrepreneurship after graduation
“We operate like a gym membership.”
That is Ryan Schemmel’s most basic elevator pitch for his company, Fort Houston.
Fort Houston is a 10,000-square-foot creative space consisting of woodworking, metalworking and printmaking workshops directed toward small business and hobbyists looking to grow and develop their craft.
After Schemmel graduated from Belmont in 2010 as a music business major, he knew he and his partner wanted to create a workspace for upcoming creators. They were aware of a similar place in New York, so his partner, Josh Cooper, investigated the business.
After a year of studying the New York business, they opened in a yoga space that that Schemmel described as half the size of the room the convocation was being held in, Massey Business Center Room 100.
“I’m pretty sure we were the only carpet wood/metal working space,” Schemmel said jokingly.
Schemmel stated they only had 19 people total working in the yoga space. But nine months later, when they moved into their current space, 40 people signed up within the first month and many more after that.
Now, the business is booming. They have clients whose startups have grown to more than 10 employees, at which point they moved from Fort Houston and purchased their own equipment. Schemmel and Cooper lovingly dub these ex-clients “graduates.”
Schemmel also proudly explained how Fort Houston graduates and makers are bettering the city of Nashville. Two local examples he gave are Boulevard Record Shop and House Of, two Belmont-run businesses that have had their furniture and racks built by Fort Houston’s graduates and makers.
Upon inquiry, Schemmel gave fantastic insights as to how his Belmont education prepared him to create Fort Houston. He was a transfer student who came to Belmont two years into his college career, and his main reason for coming to Belmont was to grow his network – and he did.
He met so many different kinds of people from musicians to business colleagues, and they all stayed in touch. The people he met at Belmont introduced him to people who gave Fort Houston its first investment, Schemmel said.
“All this was started by our extended network and knowing what people wanted,” he said.
Schemmel’s piece of advice for aspiring senior entrepreneurs and business majors was even simpler. When you have an idea, open your mouth about it, he said.
Schemmel also recommends trusting your gut, even if it means taking more time to grow the business. He suggests building the business right with the right people, versus building it fast when your gut tells you to not do business with a certain individual.
“Don’t be afraid to be patient,” he said.
Along with that, Schemmel uses this famous idiom to tie everything together: “Time heals all wounds.”
Schemmel invites all to tour Fort Houston Monday through Friday from 1-3 p.m.; find out more online at http://forthouston.com/.
Article and photos by Mohansingh Udhwani Jr.