7 Takeaways From the Tom Tom Founders Summit

The Tom Tom Founders Festival celebrated its 6th anniversary this year. This week-long festival based in Charlottesville, Virginia, gets its name from Thomas Jefferson, the founder of the University of Virginia, and of course the third president of the United States. The festival honors and empowers founders of creative, civic and entrepreneurial projects and is held during the week of Jefferson’s birthday (April 13). Starting on April 10 this year, the festival came to a close on April 16 and was host to over 300 speakers and more than 60 bands.

The Founders Summit is part of this celebration and is usually held on Friday as the festival comes to an end. This year, as with previous years, the Founders Summit was hosted by the Paramount Theater on Charlottesville’s historic downtown mall. This year’s Founders Summit had a great line-up of local and national entrepreneurs who shared their founding stories. Here are some of my key learnings from the event.

Tom Tom Summit - Ting and Anne-Marie

Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

Feeling anxious or nervous about the professional path you’re taking? This means you’re growing according to President and CEO of New America, Anne-Marie Slaughter. Challenge yourself in order to grow, and be competitive, yet collaborative. She also advised not to take yourself too seriously and to be creative when it comes to problem-solving by considering alternative approaches.

Be Proactive

Look ahead for an opportunity and always think about what’s next. One example presented during the Homegrown Trailblazers segment with Ms. Slaughter and Ting Xu of Evergreen Enterprises and Plow & Hearth, was the changing retail landscape. Major retailers are suffering and on pace to close more brick and mortar stores in 2017 than the Recession of 2008. Today, we need to be happy with change, become flexible, and continually adapt and respond to the evolving environment around us.

Surround Yourself with Family

Xu founded Evergreen Enterprises with her husband in 1993, but you don’t have to be related to someone to consider them family. That extra support from friendships and your professional network will prop you up during hard times, plus you can lean on them for advice and learn from their personal experiences.

Know Yourself

Kim Jordan, co-founder of New Belgium Brewing, stressed the importance of defining the mission and purpose of your company – employees need to care about where they work. Improving your company gets the best from your employees and codifying what you stand for sets a strategic compass.

Transparency Empowers

New Belgium Brewing empowers their staff by sharing strategy and financials. All of the employees at the company are financially trained and understand balance sheets. The hope is that knowledgeable and aware employees will make the best decisions for the company.

Tom Tom Summit - New Belgium Brewing Presentation

Invest Locally

Jordan described the work by New Belgium Brewing to make the workplace more accessible and enjoyable for the employees. Being located somewhere that’s easy to get to is important. Can employees walk or bike to work? If not get involved with local advocacy for community improvements as this not only impacts your company but also the quality of life for your employees. Social responsibility is part of their brand.

Nurture Talent

Allowing talented people to bloom and grow is important at New Belgium Brewing. Jordan advised to get out of the way and allow people to realize their full potential. The earlier Homegrown Trailblazers session also touched on the care economy and how essential it is to care for and invest in other people.


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About the Author: Jasmine Van Schaick is a Senior Marketing Specialist at Musictoday. She manages projects across affiliate marketing, display remarketing, organic SEO, corporate content development and more.