When Director of the Thomas F. Cone Center for Entrepreneurship Elizabeth Gortmaker started her role at Belmont five years ago, she began the undertaking of tracking and keeping up with Belmont alumni who had started successful businesses. Looking at her records, she realized Belmont had hundreds of alumni worthy of recognition.
Ranked a Top 25 Program for 2019 by the Princeton Review and Entrepreneur Magazine, the Center will recognize Belmont’s Top 100 Entrepreneurs at an inaugural awards event in the Curb Center’s Maddox Grand Atrium on October 10.
“We actually struggled to narrow our list down to the Top 100,” explained Gortmaker. “It’s remarkable that 90 percent of businesses fail, but we don’t see that holding true for our graduates. 5-10 years later, almost 70% of the companies we have been tracking are still in business.”
Gortmaker said what separates Belmont’s program from other schools is being less technology-based and focusing more on the traditional small business model.
“At Belmont, it’s very much about passion, fulfilling your goals in life, filling a need in the market to help your community and owning a small business,” she said. “We heavily teach bootstrapping and business for a purpose. Most of our students are very socially-minded and we see an element of social justice woven through a lot of their businesses.”
Gortmaker’s initial goal with this event is to engage alumni and build Belmont pride, as well as to get the chance to talk about the Cone Center for Entrepreneurship for those that might want to get involved. She hopes the event will allow the many Nashville-based company founders to network and learn how they can support one another or even collaborate.
The event will recognize approximately 10 Belmont alum-founded businesses in each of its 10 categories: creative, entertainment, experience, fashion, food, product, service, social enterprise, technology and the rising 10 (businesses three years or younger).
Doors will open at 5 p.m., food will be served at 5:30 p.m. and the program will begin at 6 p.m. Belmont President Dr. Bob Fisher and Gortmaker will open the program, and the Center’s first director, Entrepreneurship Professor Dr. Jeff Cornwall, will also speak.
The keynote will be given by the owners of Evamore, class of 2016 alumnae Channing Moreland (songwriting) and Makenzie Stokel (music business and entrepreneurship). All 100 of the top graduates will be honored with a video produced by Pack Films, started by 2012 alumnus Matt Horvath (video production).
Many of the alumni-owned businesses the event is celebrating are helping pull it together. Evamore, a music booking company, booked the jazz quartet for the evening. LMA Designs, started by 2007 alumna Lauren Marie Atkinson (music business), is providing decorations. HiFi Media Co., started by 2014 alumnus Matt Self (music business), is providing a photo booth. When the program ends, the alumni will gather for dessert, swag bags and networking.