This feature is presented to you by the University of Nebraska — Lincoln Master of Arts in Business with a Specialization in Intercollegiate Athletics Administration.
If you had the opportunity to work for yourself doing something you love everyday, would you do it? Would you give up your good job with benefits and a secure paycheck for something that may give you more grey hairs than dollar signs? While you may not; Tom Gelehrter did, and is now reaping the benefits.
“If I can give people goose bumps or make them cry, I have done my job.”
As president and founder of 4th Floor Creative, a full-service creative content production agency, Gelehrter left his job as the Senior Director of New Media and Broadcasting at the University of Cincinnati to pursue his next challenge in life. While a new company, the makings of 4th Floor Creative has been in the works for quite some time.
“Shane, who is part of our team here, worked with me when I was full-time at UC and Shane was looking for an internship. So he interned for me first and later I hired him full-time to work alongside me at UC. He was someone who I would toss ideas around with and we would always joke about putting together a company. The conversations were never serious and it wasn’t something at the time that we thought about sitting down and focusing on,” said Gelehrter. “Honestly, one night after working a game and heading home around 11:30 pm, I was sitting in my car and I had that Eureka moment. I happened to be talking to one of my best friends on the phone and I was like, ‘You know what? I think I can do this.’”
While most may go to bed and wake up the next morning hesitant to truly take the right steps to accomplish what they want to start, Gelehrter was all in, regardless of his experience.
“The next morning I woke up and told my wife that I was going to start a business. She asked me, ‘What do you know about starting a business?’ and I said, ‘Not much, but I am going to figure it out,’” added Gelehrter. “Later that week, I called Shane and I said, ‘Remember how we always joked about doing this? Let’s do it.’”
And do it they did. Just over a year later, Gelehrter and his team have worked with teams and organizations from the American Conference and FC Cincinnati to Virginia Tech, Xavier University and even Ignition Athletic Performance Group.
Even though the success may seem like it has come quickly, Gelehrter knows how much work it has actually taken.
“In 2015, I spent the first few months making calls and doing all of the legwork to the point where we were able to really get going come June and then from there able to survive 2015 and then build into 2016.”
Although not a bonafide businessman by nature, he traces his entrepreneurial spirit back to his childhood days spent hustling for any way to make an extra buck.
“I may have not had the biggest entrepreneurial spirit, but while I was growing up as a kid, I was out hustling to mow lawns and trim bushes for my neighbors,” said Gelehrter. “Growing up, I had an index card box of everything that people would pay me so I could keep track of it.”
This spirit followed him through college where, as a student at Syracuse, he would drive his friends to the airport for some quick cash. Even though Uber would eventually come along and use that same concept to make billions, Gelehrter’s hustling days were far from over.
Now in his mid 30’s, he has successfully taken the leap that many are too afraid to take when it comes to their career.
Not bullish about his success, Gelehrter had a few tips for anyone looking to start their own business.
1. Have Passion
“You have to be very passionate about it and be willing to dedicate the time to it.”
2. Sell, sell, sell
“You always have to be selling. Always have to be looking for the next sale, because you have to find ways to make money. If you can’t make money, you don’t have a business.”
3. Composure is key
“The highs can’t be too high and lows can’t be too low.”
In the business he is in, innovation happens at the speed of light, so in order to keep up, he has to look ahead.
As content creation continues to evolve, he has his eyes on a few areas he thinks might further alter the creative landscape, as we know it.
“Technology is ever evolving, which is awesome. From VR to 360 videos, as content creators we have to stay on top of the trends,” said Gelehrter. “As far as VR, it will be interesting to see how much it is integrated into the college athletics sphere.”
As the calendar has now flipped to January 2017, he is already looking forward to a big year and a year in which he expects his company to continue to grow and thrive while providing the best possible solutions for his clients.
“We have all the pieces in place to be great! It’s all about finding new ways to accomplish things and new clients to service.”
Time will tell how successful Tom and his team will be, but with a group of immensely creative people by his side and a lineup of clients that most would be envious of, 4th Floor Creative is a name to watch going in 2017 and beyond.