Meet Pete McPherson, VP of Makervillage

pete mcpherson makervillage

Have you seen those Facebook posts where your friends share their first job? Or a full list of every job they’ve ever had?

These lists usually include bagging groceries, washing cars, delivering pizzas, paper routes, etc. These are fun to look at on Facebook, but our society usually considers these old jobs as meaningless.

Our society is wrong.

Your old jobs are supremely important. They shaped who you are today. They probably give a more accurate picture of how we work…than our professional resumes.

  1. Resumes are tailored to showcase our highest accomplishments only, giving a tiny glimpse of what we’ve done.
  2. A complete job list showcases where we came from, what experiences we’ve had, as well as provide amazing insights into our “life skills,” (which are a FAR greater indicator of success than your GPA and college clubs.)

Hi, I’m Pete!

I just came on board as VP of Makervillage, and I’ve been charged with executing the vision of Tricia Steele and the Board of Directors.

And yes, I’ve also been charged to write my own introduction. 🙂

While I’m tempted to brag about how brilliant and driven I am, or how I’m really, really ridiculously good looking…I thought it might be fun to introduce myself with a list of everything I’ve done. Both successes and failures.

You won’t find these on my LinkedIn profile.

Pete A-Z

That's me.
That’s me.

1999 – First job bagging groceries at Kroger. Minimum wage? $5.35 an hour.

2000 – Start teaching private lessons in percussion. The side hustles begin.

2000-2004 – Summer camp counselor for Rome Parks and Recs. I laid the SMACKDOWN on some 4-12 year olds in dodgeball. Undefeated in 3 summers. Great job.

20002003 – I become drum line section leader as a sophomore (usually reserved for seniors or juniors). Upperclassmen hate me. My ego grows. We win awards, but I alienate people. Years later, I’ll eventually figure out what went wrong in my own personal leadership development.

2001 – “Fry side” in the Applebees kitchen. Learned how to smoke cigarettes. That’s about it. Regional manager didn’t want me to quit though, so there’s some pride.

2003 – First year of college. Major: Music Performance. I’m really good at it, but I begin my 6-year long crusade against doubt.

2004 – Begin working at Cold Stone Creamery in Athens. I get promoted to assistant-manager after a few months, hire my good friend…then we both get fired. To this day I don’t know why.

2005 – I drop the music major. I major in business, then Italian (yes, the language). I stop going to classes. I have no idea where I fit into the world.

20052006 – I begin delivering pizzas for Papa Johns. This is the best job I’ve ever had, as I truly get all the pizza I could ever want. My roommates also love me working this job.

2006 – UGA kicks me out after spring semester. Guess they didn’t like me failing 4 out of 5 classes. (To be fair, I never actually went) I’m depressed.

20062008 – I begin DJing, bartending, and eventually managing a club. The most interesting job I’ve ever had.

2006 – After a semester off, I return to UGA. I’m still lost, but I absolutely refuse to let my parents down.

2008 – I begin working at the UGA bookstore. Quite the turnaround from the club job. I only last 4-5 months before I quit.

20082009 – Pete’s dark ages. I struggle with classes, girlfriends, work. I get addicted to World of Warcraft, and essentially live in isolation.

2009 – with the help of several loved ones, I graduate with a degree in sociology from UGA. Family is thrilled (and relieved). I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.

2009 – I try substitute teaching. I only make it two days. Never again. Not strong enough.

2010 – I speak with a mentor, and decide to go back to school for….accounting. I’ll eventually have my masters, but I have to take a ton of undergraduate courses first. On day one, I decide I’m going to crush this.

2010 – I began working at Shorter University, carting students to class in a golf cart.

20102012 – I crush school this time (funny what happens when you actively choose to succeed). I gradually find more direction, and graduate with a 3.9 GPA and a Masters in Accountancy.

2012 – I begin slinging coffee at Swift & Finch. I study for and pass all four parts of the CPA exam in 4 months, and get recruited by a top-10 public accounting firm.

20132014 – I begin work at CohnReznick in Atlanta. My first real job has me auditing real estate deals for 75 hours a week. I learn more about business in 6 months than ever before.

20142016 – I move out of public accounting, and begin working at Northside Hospital in Atlanta. I have a ton of responsibilities and love my team. I do amazing work per my bosses, but over the course of two years, I learn what corporate America is…and what it isn’t.

mid-2015 – I make a conscious choice to let my entrepreneurship take over. If you want to know more about this, let’s get coffee.

2015 – I begin blogging, building websites, and experimenting with online business. I make money here and there, help a few people, but quickly realize that the online business market is so incredibly saturated with selfish people. It’s a hard life, but 100x more rewarding.

2016 – My wife and I decide to move back to Rome, GA. I begin scouting out people I’d like to learn from, and whose vision aligns closely with what I want to do in this world. I have a few job opportunities thrown at me, as well as a few foggy “maybes.” I opt-in for Makervillage.

Pete, Luke, & Erin
Pete, Luke, & Erin

I want to see change in Rome and Northwest Georgia.

I want startups and entrepreneurs to thrive here. HERE. Not Atlanta, SF, Austin, or NYC.

I want to support creatives and help them discover how to turn hobbies and passions…into sustainable careers.

I want to provide incredible event and classroom space for local organizations.

I want to teach guerrilla marketing tactics, blogging, and design.

I want to see small companies do interesting and meaningful things, right here in downtown Rome.

I want to see Rome’s River District become something really, really ridiculously cool.

That’s why I’m at Makervillage. Let’s do this.

Incredible things are coming together in Rome, and I’m thrilled to find a company whose soul purpose (not a typo) is to support creative entrepreneurs.

It’s a tough road ahead, but one I’m willing to work towards. Let’s make things happen together.

For more pictures of the Makervillage team in band uniforms, join our newsletter.

(ok not really, but you will find useful content, local events, and occasional deals on tools and resources you want/need)

RACA Joins Makervillage Creative Hub

RACA contribution to Makervillage Creative Hub

Rome Area Council for the Arts (RACA) has joined Makervillage as an organizational partner and plans relocation of its headquarters to the building located at 252 N. 5th Avenue in downtown Rome’s River District.  The arts organization, celebrating its 40th year, will expand their financial resources to artists and artisans and help establish and curate a community art gallery. The organization has committed to a $12,000 annual membership. 

In the last year alone, RACA has provided more than $30,000 in grants to artists and arts organizations. They have provided arts education and outreach such as coordinating supplementary arts curriculum for Anna K. Davie Elementary School students, art camps with the YMCA and Boys and Girls Club, and Art Walk downtown arts and crafts fair. 

The relocation of their headquarters will raca-logoallow them to better access and inform artists about these resources.  In addition, the community gallery provides a way for area artists to display and sell work. The gallery will be staffed and managed by Makervillage and open to the public on evenings and weekends. RACA will curate, plan, and execute 4-5 installations per year alongside other arts organizations.  

“To re-establish a physical presence and help operate a flexible community gallery will allow us to fulfill our mission of impacting the community through arts programming, education, and outreach,” says RACA Executive Director Rainey Campbell, “ we are excited to engage in this creative place with both Makervillage and the arts community in Downtown Rome.”

Makervillage has undertaken a renovation of the building at 252 N. 5th to provide membership-based co-work and startup spaces, artisan workshop areas, and other entrepreneurial resources such as workshops, classes, marketing and fabrication lab, and shipping center.  The first phase of construction is underway and will be completed in August, allowing a limited number of members to begin accessing resources. The RACA office and gallery is expected to be complete later in the fall.

“There has been a strong desire to see an art gallery return to downtown Rome” says Steele, “we entrepreneurs were willing to take the risks and manage the business side, but it would not be possible without sponsoring organizations.  These kind of collaborative relationships are what will continue to build a sustainable creative community and a thriving creative economy .”

To learn more about memberships and sponsorships, sign up at  

Planting Trees

Every Forest was Once a Tree

American Chestnut SeedlingIn a surprise twist of zoning and land development requirements, the very first thing we will do to build out this amazing space is plant trees.  Not just one tree…Not just a few trees…40 TREES.  In the spirit of giving back to our city, we are working with Berry College Biology department to plant twenty American Chestnut trees and twenty Longleaf Pines.  Both of these species have been near extinction in the recent past. Dr. Cipollini’s and his student research team have been at the restoration project for awhile.  This won’t be a formal research project, but of course, it will be very interesting to see what the fail/thrive rate of these seedlings will be in a reclaimed industrial land.  

The metaphor is just so obvious, it’s sappy (pun intended!) Just as each of these tree seedlings is small, we’re banking on their potential. We look forward fondly to the day when a small forest has been created just off the bank of the Oostanaula –  a forest of ancient trees and modern businesses both returning valuable resources to our city.

A rainforest begins…

For the past five years, we’ve experimented.  We benefitted from the tremendous investment made by Civitium to found 7hills Makerspace, and I went in on five buildings up on clocktower hill to test the real estate-as-startup-community notion.  If we just got more creative people and businesses closer together, what would result?

Results were mixed.  Some cool initiatives got underway like #UnexpectedCanvas and photog shooting sessions, collaborative services provided to ABC Studios, plus plenty of workshops and company growth.  We made our first Maker Fund loan (and it’s just been repaid!).  We launched Co.Starters program and graduated 8 new potential companies.  We brokered a deal between the largest flooring company and fifth grade 3D designers.  There’s even one super cool poloroid wall project still up at the Maker House on 5th Avenue.

In the process, we discovered that the few feet of distance between buildings and the one-room mecca of the Historic Masonic Lodge just just didn’t quite fit.  The needs were somewhere in between.  The artisan meetups pointed out the market for co-working space and artist-specific resources. The equipment was not as important as the experience. Blazingly fast, always up, symmetrical fiber internet was necessary but not sufficient to rally a community and provide value.

So, we’ve spent the last year listening and retooling our model and our future plans.  The folks who have built startup communities in places like Boulder, CO and Provo, UT (all eerily similar to NW Georgia) are quick to insist that nothing amazing happens short of long-term vision and commitment by entrepreneurs themselves.  The work of fostering innovation and a strong startup community is a generational project to be done by the doers.  (Recommended reading on this: Startup Communities and The Rainforest)

Commitment to A Vision

Well, we agree.  So, we are planting our flag and doubling down on our experiment.  We see that the uniqueasset possessed by NW Georgia is a vibrant creative community proudly rural by choice.  While the NWGA Creative Economy survey is still underway, we already know that our “etsy-quotient“, or number of Etsy stores per population, is higher than that of Atlanta.  Individuals from big urban areas are moving here wanting a change, a different pace, but still craving the creative community that might have been easier to find in Brooklyn, Chattanooga, or Chicago.

American Chestnut ForestWhile several of the startups growing here (including the one founded by yours truly) are anchored in digital and software creation, this is not about growing technology companies or big exits.  That probably will happen, but it’s not the goal.  We want to nurture startups and entrepreneurs of all kinds.  We want to grow an ecosystem of bigs and smalls, ones and tens, makers of head and hands who are thriving.  Even in failure, people and companies make a contribution and are welcomed to try again, plant something anew.

Fifth Avenue Creative Hub

The new home for Makervillage is a warehouse at 252 North Fifth Avenue.  We will build it out to 13,000 square feet and work to built it from the ground up for creatives.  Primarily a Co-work Space, we want to welcome members to utilize both open and private spaces for work and focus. In our Startup Pods, those with more dedicated needs will have access to some space of their own.  Artisan Pods will foster the messiest of our creative members to work and store materials safely.  The A/V Pod will be set up to support one-stop product photography and voice recording for stores, product demo videos, or voiceovers.  The Shipping Pod will empower artists and etsy-ers to easily pack and ship with large work table, needed packing materials, discounted meter rate, and daily shipping pickups. The Gallery, open to the public a few days a week, will provide a display and retail spot for artists in our region as well as a hella inspiring place to work. Finally, the NWGA Code School will live in the brain of the building and open in the fall.  Most importantly, some really amazing partnerships are in the works which will make this collaborative vision possible to execute.

Already, the first tour with our most committed creatives revealed new ideas and ways the building could facilitate more creative endeavors, and as long as folks step up to lead those efforts, I will continue to support the building adapting to accommodate its members. We know that success will look like variety of events, pop up discussions, trainings, impromptu concerts, food truck Fridays, and more formal programs like TEDx or Co.Starters expected regularly.

DISCLAIMER: Not just for creatives. We think remote workers from all industries big and small may want a place to work productively alongside creatives, and so we welcome the lawyers, CPAs, corporate execs as long as you are cool with some irreverence and playfulness in your place of business.

Calling All Creatives!

Calling all etsy-ers, makers, artisans, crafters, artists, and creative companies in Northwest Georgia!

We are conducting the first ever NWGA Creative Economy survey with the assistance of data analysts at Berry College Nonprofit Strategic Services. If you earn a dollar in exchange for something that comes from your act of creation — art, music, writing, design, code, or craft as a freelancer or business owner — then we want to hear from you.

While the contribution of creative people to better quality community has been generally recognized, we want to better understand the impact of the creative economy in real dollars and cents.  What jobs are being replaced by making your own or supplementing your income? As we understand more about the realities of artisan business, what can all arts and business organizations do to better support you, to meet the needs unique to creatives?  This information will only be shared in aggregate and made freely available to the community so that other organizations may utilize the information to obtain grants, provide resources, or better advocate on your behalf.

Would you take 10-15 minutes to think and report on the business side of your making?

Help us to paint the picture of the arts as it exists in NW Georgia today so that we might add foster new layers being added to that picture in years to come.

Access the survey here:

You can remain anonymous and provide estimates for any numbers.  

Thank you for all you do.

Leanne Cook: The Creative Collaborator

When I say Creative Director, you think Donald Draper of Mad Men. When I say Medical Marketing, you think of Microsoft Word flyer templates. However, when I pair the role of Creative Director with the genre of Medical Marketing, you are entirely unsure what to think.

Meet Leanne Cook. She’s currently the Senior Marketing Director at Harbin Clinic, the largest privately owned medical clinic in Georgia. In addition, she is the co-owner of Sturdy Girl Sports, an award-winning sports bra designed for the well endowed. To further complicate the formation of any stereotypes, she majored in English Literature while attending Berry College and contributed to the creation of the integrated marketing field in Atlanta. Also, somewhere along the way she squeezed in a Masters of Divinity from Emory University.

As with most passionate people, the road from there to here, wherever it may be, was not an assembly line life. Although she had a gift for words, Leanne did not land the Facebook status worthy job directly after graduation. She did have offers. She did have opportunities. However, the correct combination of patience and providence, soon moved Leanne from a waitressing job at Houston’s at Lennox Square to an internship with a small but noteworthy ad agency. This was the catalyst for a career driven by a passion for fostering creative collaboration.

Along the way, she has worked with a rock star client list including AT&T, Publix Super Markets, and British Airways. Also—no big deal—she has served as the Executive Director of Marketing for Savannah College of Art and Design. From press release writer to top shelf marketing professional, Leanne Cook is a world changer.

How do you pair the chaos of creativity with the specific and measurable goals of a marketing department? What’s your secret recipe?

Creative ideas do not work unless tied very intentionally to the specifics of the marketing strategy. I do not like funny and off the wall for the sake of funny and off the wall. It may work for an Avant-garde artist but it will not cut it in the world of professional marketing. At Harbin, my team and I, all day everyday work to be inventive, be original, and to match our content to our customer. However, the “great ideas” are only art and words unless they track back to the strategy.

And I believe these “great ideas” can come from anyone on the team, a writer, a designer, or even an intern. Behind every successful campaign, the ones people remember and respond to, is a creative collaboration, and behind every creative collaboration is a team determined to produce strategic, sensational content.

Her energy is compelling. Her passion is evident. With over 25 years experience in cultivating creative collaboration, Leanne is a natural leader and a willing teacher. As she continues to propel her team toward excellence, often crafting the copy herself or discovering the “great idea,” she visualizes the role of creative director as a coach for a team of capable and ambitious art directors, graphic designers, and copywriters. Together, they hustle toward the goal of creating that “strategic, sensational content.”

So, she’s not Donald Draper, and she has no particular affinity for Comic Sans. You might be tempted to describe her as a marketing guru, and we might agree. An entrepreneur. A theologian. A former waitress. Labeling a life should never be easy, and in the case of Leanne Cook, why bother, because who knows what she will be doing next.

Crowdfunding for Success: Lessons from Serial Kickstarter

Crowdfunding Workshop Alex Lavidge

Entrepreneurs. Artisans. Creatives. Do you need a source of non-traditional financing to propel your business or idea?  Are you hoping to involve the community in your dream or test your product? 

Seasoned entrepreneur and crowdfunder, Alex Lavidge will be hosting a workshop and Q&A March 8 in Rome, Georgia. You’ll discover the best practices for successful crowdfunding for business growth or product development, the ins and outs of goal and incentive planning, and about the post campaign backer management process, and how to leverage nontraditional funding as a marketing strategy or to grow more traditional financing. 

Who: Alex Lavidge, Entrepreneur-In-Residence at The Company Lab

When: March 8 from 3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Community Room at Heritage First Bank
501 Broad Street, Rome, Georgia

Lavidge has led and assisted with many successful crowdfunding campaigns.

Check out his presentation, “Entrepreneurship is the New National Security”, delivered to RocketHatch in Birmingham, AL.

Speakcheesy receives MakeBank Loan for Food Trailer

Things have gotten cheesier in NW Georgia. Speakcheesy was selected as the first recipient of a $6,000 microloan from Makervillage to purchase a food trailer.

Hillery Sawyer served up gourmet grilled cheese concoctions across the Rome area for over a year…without a truck. Through a series of “pop ups” driven by social media and personal referral, the company generated a profit since the first event and built a dedicated following of over 1,500 Facebook fans. In order to share her menu with more customers and build the sustainable business she knew was possible, she needed a vehicle.

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