Ryan Wilson opens $3M private club, The Gathering Spot
March 11, 2016 |
Atlanta native Ryan Wilson has opened The Gathering Spot, a cutting-edge, private, members-only business, and social club, geared toward young professionals, entrepreneurs and creatives that desire a work environment comparable to traditional co-working spaces and country clubs, but with a modern twist.
The Gathering Spot’s first location launched just a few months back in Midtown Atlanta by Wilson and business partner TK Peterson. The two Georgetown graduates united after witnessing the lack of workspaces for millennials during their undergraduate years in Washington D.C. After two years of fundraising and investment seeking, the duo was able to secure a whopping $3M for their brilliant startup.
Peterson and Wilson’s primary goal is to foster communication and collaboration with the next generation of business professionals by providing 24/7 access to innovative events, concierge services, state-of-the-art technology and a full-service restaurant and bar. Rolling out spoke with Wilson to find out why he chose Atlanta as the home of The Gathering Spot, the difficulties of obtaining investments as a Black entrepreneur and what cities they plan to expand the business to next.
What sparked the idea to create The Gathering Spot?
I was living in Washington D.C. I started doing a lot of community organizing work there. I just didn’t have a place to get my work done. I was going to Starbucks, Caribou Coffee and I got to the point where I started to look for a home, but the only thing that was available were co-working spaces. I wasn’t starting the business at the time so it didn’t really make sense to go there. I ran in the opposite direction where I started to look at country clubs that had some work space. I didn’t find those environments to be designed for people that are my age or living my lifestyle. With my co-founder, we started talking about ways to update the city club model and it be something where folks from all walks of life can enjoy the benefits of having the resources they need in the club, but the look, design, and technology fit their interests. It was about 2-and-a-half years ago that we started the whole thing.
Why did you decide to launch The Gathering Spot in Atlanta instead of Washington D.C. where you were a resident?
I grew up in Atlanta and I am familiar with the city. With all the entrepreneurs, professionals and the creative industries, Atlanta has here I felt we needed a physical place for all three of those communities to come together. The development that is happening in Atlanta right now is really exciting and we wanted to be a part of Atlanta’s growth as more people move back into the city. We felt it would be a great opportunity to give them a home. It’s a place where they can eat and work.
What steps did you take to find the right investors for your startup?
Funding is the most important piece of any project. We had a friends and family fundraiser and we also created a pitch book that we would bring to people that we felt would be interested in the project. It took time and we spent a year fundraising and looking for the right location. Particularly for our business, it’s difficult to get folks to see the vision of a physical space when you don’t have one. Again, it’s a small group investors that came in for this first project and they are also interested in helping us create a national network of clubs. Right now we are trying to find the next location.
What kind of adversities have you faced as a young, Black entrepreneur?
Being young and in this business, you face challenges, especially as an African-American. There are several layers of challenges that are added to it. How do we start to overcome it? We have great partners in this project on every corner that have helped us with the design. We have Gensler, which is one of the best architecture firms in the world that has helped with furniture selections, contractors and A/V teams. When folks start to see that there’s been some real thought behind how to make the business successful, you’re able to knock down some of those barriers.
Has your major at Georgetown University been beneficial when starting your business?
In undergrad, I was a government and sociology major. It focuses on the study of people, which is kind of what we do a little bit of here. I went to law school, so the law degree has been interesting here. It is helpful in a lot of ways and the big point is just problem solving. The big challenge for an entrepreneur is just solving the different problems that come up throughout the day.
Can you detail the application process for how members are selected to join the club?
You go online and apply on our website and our membership team will review those applications. They will invite a certain number of those applicants to an interview and after the interview, we meet again and send out acceptances. Our test is not about where you work, but more about who your are and what you do. We are looking for interesting people who are involved in the city. That is what it takes to be a member of this club. To be candid, I haven’t accepted everyone that’s applied, but again, we are trying to make sure that the folks that come here are going to invest in the community that we are building and ultimately serve as a resource for other members of the club. We are really thoughtful about each person that we accept.
What are the costs to join the club?
I can’t tell you. It’s around the same amount that you will see at other city clubs, but because we’re focused on trying to make a connection with people that are applying, we save that information, too. It is at a price point where we would want startups, professionals and creatives to be here. We are priced to make sure that they all can be.
For more information on joining the club, go to www.thegatheringspot.club.