Nashville Makers

Peter NappiPhillip Nappi, Creative Director and Co-Founder of Peter NappiPeter NappiOtis James, Founder of Otis James NashvilleOtis James NashvilleImogene+Willie's supper+song

As a startup and growing business, we recognize that entrepreneurial efforts need a strong sense of community and support to grow. This recognition was a big reason that we based ourselves in Richmond, where the sense of community is strong and healthy. During our pop-up shop experiences last year, we had the pleasure of visiting several other tight-knit and extremely supportive communities, one of which is Nashville. Along the way, we connected with some really amazing folks who are helping shape Nashville’s entrepreneurial community of makers.

Our pop-up shop was hosted by our friends at Peter Nappi. Peter Nappi makes incredible Italian leather goods for men and women. Primarily, they’re known for their Italian-inspired work boots, designed in Nashville and handmade in Tuscany. In a previous interview with Phillip Nappi, Creative Director and Co-Founder of Peter Nappi, Phillip shared his thoughts on setting up shop in Nashville opposed to a larger city like New York:

“If we were an Italian handmade shoe company based in New York City, we would have been lumped in with another 10 or twenty brands. Since we are an Italian, handmade shoe company based in Nashville, it makes people think – Why Nashville? This begins the conversation about Peter Nappi. Being located in Nashville, we are able to have this unbelievable space, which we would have never been able to have in New York City; and for whatever reason, there is a creative class that is moving away from major like cities like New York and L.A. and relocating to cities like Nashville.”

Being located in a southern city that is rich in culture lends a hand to the creative development of new businesses – our sentiments share strong parallels with Phillip’s perspective. And at the same time, smaller cities are starting to develop a much larger voice in the playing field of national and international markets.

Recently, our friends from Northern Grade hosted one of their pop-up markets in Nashville – an appropriate location considering the cities richness in creativity and support of small business. Another entrepreneur who we met in Nashville, Otis James, participated in Nashville’s Northern Grade event. Several years ago, a commission for custom neckties inadvertently turned into Otis James Nashville, Otis’s own brand of handcrafted bow ties, neckties, and hats. Otis has a similar perspective of Nashville as the good folks over at Peter Nappi.

Reflecting on Nashville’s unique qualities in his journal, James writes, “When I look at all the circumstances that allowed me to come this far, I realize that I couldn’t have done this in any other city. It was perfect serendipity that I moved here. All the friendly people that supported and believed in me from the beginning, the wonderful network of small business owners, and the amazing circumstance that Nashville just happens to be the country’s most talked about city this year in nearly every publication, even international ones—all of these are responsible for this success.”

The entrepreneurial community of makers extends well beyond the world of menswear in Nashville. After all, the city is most well-known for it’s musical roots. While Jack White’s Third Man Records initially began in Detroit, MI in 2001, the business has since hunkered down in Nashville. Third Man Records opened its physical doors to the Nashville community in 2009, and has successfully established its presence as one of the most widely-recognized independent labels and record shops internationally. On Record Store Day last month, White and Third Man Records set a world record for the fastest released record, recording and releasing an album in just under 4 hours. White has helped contribute not only to the musical growth of Nashville, but to the overall resurgence of vinyl and analog processes in music recording.

One event this past year that demonstrated the city’s unflagging support of music and community was Imogene + Willie’s outdoor gathering called “supper+song.” In an inspiring story of people coming together, Carrie Eddmenson, Co-Founder of I+W, shares how noise complaints threatened to disband the backyard summer concert series, but the Nashville community rallied, petitions were signed, and new ordinances set in place for the event to continue. It turns out that the regular get together was bigger than just one business, and more about the sense of community that had developed.

Small cities like Richmond and Nashville are consistently growing and at the forefront are a resurgent set of new and small business backed by strong and supportive communities. We are grateful to have met some of the people behind these unique businesses and entrepreneurial communities in Nashville and are excited to see their growth continue.

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Read our full interviews Phillip Nappi of Peter Nappi and Otis James of Otis James Nashville.

Starting a new consumer goods business? Learn more about The Ledbury Launch Fund, which will award one deserving entrepreneur with $25,000 to help jumpstart their consumer goods business, as well as offer mentorship from Ledbury Co-Founders Paul Trible and Paul Watson.

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