You know those awesome, fun running events that go on in Nashville and end with a beer in hand?? Well, those are all made possible by Emmit Martin who started I Run for the Party. After being inspired by the energy and atmosphere witnessed at the Peachtree 10k in Atlanta, Georgia, which is one of the biggest 10ks in the world, Emmit decided Nashville needed something similar.
I Run for the Party has become a household brand and name for runners in Nashville. With the staple events being the Halloween Run and the Cinco de Mayo Run, these are truly parties participants look forward to every year. By combining being active and having fun, Emmit has truly started something big in Nashville.
We sat down with Emmit at Casablanca in the Gulch to discuss his entrepreneurial path in Nashville. And let me tell you, this man LOVES Nashville. His passion for the growth and improvements to Nashville was evident throughout our conversation with him. Emmit is so down-to-earth and energetic, even at a 9am coffee meeting he had us laughing and having fun. We are so glad Emmit decided to bring I Run for the Party to life in Nashville!
What did you do pre-entrepreneurship? How long have you lived in Nashville?
I have lived in Nashville since 1996. Before I started I Run for the Party, I was a song-plugger at EMI Music. I quit my job there because I knew I wanted to do something else, but I didn’t know what. I waited tables until I could sustain working full-time on I Run for the Party.
How did you think of the I Run for the Party concept?
Well, it started when I ran the Peachtree 10k in Atlanta, Georgia which is every July 4th and is one of the biggest 10ks in the world – about 60,000 people. It was in the morning, but while you ran everyone was outside drinking and having fun. I wondered why there wasn’t something like this in Nashville because it was so fun! I wanted to create something in Nashville that wasn’t there yet.
Did people ever doubt you or your business when you started to pursue entrepreneurship? Did you ever doubt yourself?
Oh my, everybody doubted me. Nobody thought the running/party thing would work because it was about drinking afterward. None of my friends thought it would work. I didn’t doubt myself because other people’s doubts drove me. The more people doubted me, the more I wanted to succeed.
Tell us how the business has grown and changed over the years? What has been challenging?
I started I Run for the Party in 2005, and at the first race we had 1,100 people, which is huge for a first year 5k. The first race was called “I Run for the Party 5K,” which we did in 2005, 2006, and 2007 in August. There was a massive heat wave in 2007 and the numbers dropped like crazy because it was so hot. I didn’t want to do another race in August, so I moved it to October and called it the Halloween run. Then, I added Cinco de Mayo, July 4th and all the other races we have today. We currently have eleven I Run for the Party events. I Run for the Party also manages races and times races.
The hardest thing has been learning how to have employees. I am so used to doing things on my own that I don’t have a set structure. I’ve just done it for so long, I have mental alarm clocks that go off. I didn’t realize how much I do until I started telling someone everything I do – their face starts glossing over. Most people write things down, but stuff just pops in to my head at the right time. Although challenging, having an employee on board this year is allowing the company to expand and have direction.
Pick one: College or Experience?
I went to MTSU, but didn’t finish, so I would naturally choose experience, but I would never tell someone to drop out of college. Ironically, they used to ask me to go back and speak at Music Businesses classes at MTSU and I also taught classes at Belmont. School wasn’t my thing at all, the structure wasn’t for me. College is great for developing relationships and networking, but you don’t need it to do what you want to do in life.
What would you tell someone who wants to quit their corporate job to do something entrepreneurial?
You have to work somewhere until your business gets off the ground. If you can afford to quit by living off savings, then, yes, immerse yourself in it, but I never had savings. I waited tables until I could do I Run for the Party full-time. I also started side businesses after I quit, and I am still active in the Music Industry to this day.
How does your business support other local businesses?
When you have an event that has so many people, we are bringing people to areas around the city that they may not have visited before and exposing them to it. We have people eating and drinking at restaurants they have never been to or coming in from out of town. We also have a charity associated with every race. We have raised over $100,000 for charities. I used to give a percent of our profit to the charity, but starting this year, the charity now does fundraising throughout the event. The charity is much more involved and can make a lot more money than if they just got a percent of profits. Salvation Army made over $7,000 at the Bridge to Bridge event, which only had 200 runners. The charities definitely get more out of it this way.
Most entrepreneurs constantly have new ideas and directions they want to pursue, how do you stay focused on I Run for the Party?
You think I’m focused?? I guess it’s controlled chaos. Because on one hand I say I am not focused, but then I have to be to accomplish what I do. I am just not structured. I love what I do and I know it has a huge impact, so focusing on the good that I Run for the Party does, keeps me focused.
How do you keep a work/life balance?
Partly because what I do is so fun, my friends get involved in my business so I get to spend time with them that way. I don’t have a whole lot of personal time. My dream is to be married to the person that I work with because it would be so much fun.
Why is Nashville a great city to build a business in? Would you change anything about Nashville?
Nashville is my city, I love it. Nashville is growing. It is a small town with a big city feel, it really is, it feels like a big city. Nashville is a very young town, even the older people are young because of the music industry and the colleges. Everyone has a young feel to them which is what makes the city so energized. I think it’s one of the best places to be an entrepreneur. There are so many things that you can do here. The music and all the talent here is amazing. I get so excited about the growth, I don’t realize how much I talk about it until someone points it out to me.
No, I wouldn’t change anything, I think the past two Mayors have done an amazing job. Since I have been here, downtown has grown! LP Field, Bridgestone, now the convention center, have all been built. The way the city looks has changed – it is transforming into a beautiful city. Actually yes, I would change something! I wish they would fix the roads, I have to get my truck aligned all the time. Other than that, I love it.
What’s your favorite area and/or spot in Nashville?
What can we expect from I Run for the Party in 2012 & beyond?
We are going to start focusing on a non-profit called “What Do You Run For?”. What Do You Run For will be the trademarked slogan for the charity and for a clothing line. It will be the I Run for the Party foundation. Everybody has a reason why they run, there is an answer from everybody whether it’s health or for a family member. I want everybody to be empowered and excited about why they run. We want to go to homeless missions and give back, getting lives back on track. The clothing line would be a similar situation to Toms where a portion of proceeds or an article of clothing goes to charity.
What’s a blog/magazine/book you would recommend?
I like Malcolm Gladwell, the Tipping Point is a great book.
What’s one thing you want people to know about you as a person aside from your business?
I love Michael Jackson. Seriously, love!