When Theresa Badgett first met Ryan Wilson, he was a teenager doing the grunt work at his parent’s company, Ryla. Badgett was the vice president for finance and even then she could sense the right stuff in Wilson.
“At that early age, I could see the leadership, passion and work ethic that has resulted in tremendous personal growth and success for him,” said Badgett, now the chief financial officer of Chime Solutions.
Wilson used all those qualities to co-found The Gathering Spot, a private membership club that features an event space, co-working space and full restaurant and bar.
“Our vision for the club is to be an authentic community of value-driven collaborators. Our aim is to curate authentic experiences and demonstrate that private clubs can be both professional and social spaces,” Wilson said. “We strongly value collaboration and connectivity and believe that the best way to create change is through relationship-building.”
The plan is working. The Gathering Spot, which employees 27, had $2 million of revenue in its opening year and is on course for $3.3 million in revenue in 2017. That’s why Wilson is this year’s winner of the Rising Star award, which honors an outstanding entrepreneur under the age of 35, in Atlanta Business Chronicle’s 2017 Small Business Person of the Year Awards.
“I started The Gathering Spot because I have a real passion for connecting people and believe that community building is essential to fostering innovation and solving problems,” Wilson said. “TGS is more than a club, it is a community of purpose-driven professionals, thinkers, and creators building meaningful professional and social relationships. I’m inspired every day by the members of our club and extremely motivated to continue to curate unique experiences and host events that will help move our community forward.”
Wilson co-founded TGS along with his college roommate T.K. Peterson after the pair had searched for just such a place to further their own professional and personal development but never found the right fit. After the pair graduated from law school at Georgetown University in 2015, they moved to Atlanta and built the kind of place they had been looking for.
The Gathering Spot has tried to reinvent the private membership club model by designing the club with three unique areas — one of co-working projects, one to be used as an event space and a third that contains a full restaurant and bar. The club, which is located in West Midtown, makes use of technology, including cashless dining payments, a mobile app to RSVP for events and book conference rooms, and mobile-phone access-controlled doors. Its members-only events range from workshops like “How to Secure an Angel Investor” to discussions about the state of film in the city of Atlanta with the Mayor’s Office of Film and Entertainment and the cast of the “Fast and Furious” franchise. The club hosts between 20 and 30 events each month and has hosted nearly 1,200 private functions since its opening.
“For someone to graduate from law school and to do something totally different shows he is not scared to take a chance,” said Percy Vaughn, the vice president of the eastern sales operation for Kia. “He is willing to work hard and always looking for advice on what it takes to be better. He has the energy to work hard to make his business successful. The one great quality about Ryan: he cares about others. He goes the extra mile to make sure his team members enjoys the success of The Gathering Spot.”
The club’s revenue comes from four streams — membership dues and fees, event sales, restaurant sales and in-house event and marketing consultation. Wilson’s business is easily scalable. In fact, he plans to create a national network of private clubs where members can have access to local business communities and club benefits as they travel across the country.
“The strategy is to implement a franchise model with corporate and franchisee-owned locations in major metropolitans, with membership continuing to be drawn from the corporate, creative and entrepreneurial communities,” Wilson said.
The clubs can also be a benefit to their communities, as the Atlanta location has demonstrated. The club provides meals to Peace Preparatory Academy students and teachers daily.
- Title: CEO & Co-founder
- Company name: The Gathering Spot
- Website: www.thegatheringspot.club
What would you tell the next generation of entrepreneurs? Build businesses that solve problems and that are grounded in a sustainable business model. After that, success rests on the strength of your team.
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