While it is important to recognize the entrepreneurial successes of current Pace students, it is also important to highlight the success of Pace alumni who are out working professionally in the real world. Pace showcases some of these small businesses owned by alumni on its website to spread the word about them and promote their work.
Lily Wagoner graduated from Pace in 2019, and her sister Norah is currently a senior. They co-founded a successful online jewelry business, TWIST By W, in 2016, when Lily was fifteen and Norah was twelve years old. “We now have over five years of business experience and clients rely on our creativity and ability to design unique pieces for all ages,” said Lily. “TWIST has grown from just a small number of local customers on Instagram to now having thousands of nationwide customers across our social media platforms as well as our website that has constant traffic.” Even though Norah is not yet a part of the alumni community, she is already planning for that part of her future. “I hope to continue working on TWIST By W after college by continuing to create new jewelry pieces while studying business,” said Norah.
Jon Birdsong graduated from Pace in 2003 and founded and currently owns Intown Golf Club. Intown Golf Club is a private, indoor golf and social club that has 12,000 square feet, 10 Trackman golf simulators, coffee, lunch and dinner along with a substantial bar. “The idea was discussed over lunch at Jack’s Deli in Buckhead,” said Mr. Birdsong. “At Atlanta Ventures, we look at markets and came to the realization that if you want to play golf in the city of Atlanta, you have three options: Top Golf, five municipal courses which are crowded or private clubs that are over $100k to join with a 3-7 year waitlist. These are the “market” conditions for a golfer in the city of Atlanta. Add into the equation that a new 200+ acre golf course will never be built inside the city limits of Atlanta. This leaves a market of golfers looking to scratch the golf itch that is affordable, fast and convenient, and then wrap the social club around it, and it’s a great place to catch up with friends during lunch or after work!” Mr. Birdsong shared that they plan on growing to every major NFL city over the next 10-15 years, the next cities being Charlotte, Nashville, Philadelphia and Washington D.C.
Lynn Guyton graduated from Pace in 1990 and started Learning Linkz Tutoring. Learning Linkz is a full-service tutoring company that offers academic subject tutoring from Pre-K through college, standardized test preparation like SSAT, PSAT, ACT, SAT, college essay writing and more. “Essentially, if your school is teaching it, we can provide tutoring to help,” said Mrs. Guyton. “I actually started tutoring right after I graduated from college in 1994. I would go to my parents house and tutor in their basement after work a couple of days a week. Then, in 2002 I started tutoring out of my house. It became readily apparent that there was a real need for tutoring for all academic subjects, especially high-level math, so in 2014, I created Learning Linkz to fill that void.” Learning Linkz continues to evolve to meet their students’ needs and to make sure they are always providing the best support they can for their students.
Katie Stahl graduated from Pace in 2001 and founded SAGE (Supporting Artistic Growth and Entrepreneurship) Studio. SAGE is a nonprofit studio and gallery in Austin, Texas for artists with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD.) “Our mission is to nurture and amplify the voices of artists with disabilities, so that they may meaningfully engage in the social, economic and creative life of the community,” said Ms. Stahl. They also look for outside exhibition opportunities for our artists. “We just returned from our third year exhibiting at the Outsider Art Fair in New York City, the premiere art fair in the world for self-taught artists,” said Ms. Stahl.
Ms. Stahl and her partner Lucy Gross started SAGE in 2016. “Prior to last fall, we operated out of small spaces. Last fall, we had the exciting opportunity to move to a 1600-square-foot space in a more visible area of Canopy, with lots of foot traffic and surrounded by some of Austin’s best regarded art galleries. Since making the move, we have welcomed over 3,500 visitors into our space.” Since starting SAGE, they have represented the work of more than 50 artists with IDD; mounted 22 exhibitions; been featured in Austin Monthly, Arts + Culture Texas and Forbes Women and been recognized as Austin’s “Best Outsider Art Advocate” by the Austin Chronicle. They have even facilitated collaborations between their artists and Vans shoes, Whataburger and the Joe Biden campaign. “Rick Fleming, our first artist, has built an avid fan base, Zoomed with Joe Biden (who personally commissioned him to do a portrait that his team sold on a tote bag) and sold over $50,000 in art and merchandise.”
These alumni all credit Pace as a major contributor to their success. “Obviously Pace gave me a quality education in an environment that fosters true learning, so Pace gave me a great foundation, but it also provided me with teachers who I learned a lot of nonacademic lessons from, such as how to tailor your teaching style to how each individual student learns,” said Mrs. Guyton. “Pace taught me critical thinking and time management,” said Ms. Stahl. “I had wonderful teachers who inspired a lifelong love of learning.” She also shared that “through Pace’s Community Engagement program, I was a volunteer coordinator for Atlanta Volunteer Action, my first experience in the world of nonprofits. I also developed my writing skills at the Knightly News, experience I am glad to have when I am writing grant proposals.”
“Pace Academy has contributed to our business and its success in various ways,” shared Lily Wagoner. “Through the Pace community, we have been connected with a lot of parents and their businesses who have given us advice and provided us with some amazing opportunities to help TWIST By W grow. We can definitely credit Pace Academy with helping us flourish into successful women in business.” Norah agreed, saying, “Pace helped me with my time management while learning to balance my school work and running a business.”
“Pace was instrumental to my work with Intown Golf Club and Atlanta Ventures in general,” said Mr. Birdsong. “While attending Pace was extremely stressful, like I’m sure it is today, I never felt boxed into a persona. I loved being involved with sports (golf and basketball) as much as I liked working on crew and being part of plays while participating in Chess Club. My two regrets: not writing for the Knightly News and not listening to the debate coach when he said I should join it. One of my favorite parts about The Academy has been the openness to explore areas of interest with freedom.”
They all also learned new, important lessons from running a business. “I have learned the importance of surrounding myself with great people who are as passionate about this business as I am,” said Mrs. Guyton. Mr. Birdsong learned, “The market is a huge factor on how big an idea or company can be so make sure to get in one that is growing rapidly.” Lily shared, “I have taught myself numerous marketing techniques and strategies, various computer software programs, how to pioneer a website, how to obtain an impressive clients list of all backgrounds and the list goes on. Running TWIST By W has led me to study business in college and want to pursue it for the rest of my professional career.”
Mr. Birdsong advises current Pace students to “find something you personally want to work on and try to get better at that craft every day. It could be something the school provides or not. In the world I live in (technology, software, and startups), what you as a student do or build is way more impressive than a resume that checks a few boxes. Learn to code, learn to sell or learn to market and you will be 5-8 years ahead of anyone looking to start a career in technology when they graduate college.”
“Take these years and build: build websites, build community, build friendships. Some of my greatest friendships still today are with fellow Pace graduates,” he explained. “Write and explore but do it with the intent to fulfill your curiosity and for you, not to check a box for a college admissions administrator.” Mr. Birdsong’s final advice is, “give entrepreneurship a try! It is one of the most impactful ways to make a difference in the lives of employees and build a thriving economy and nation.”