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As we continue to celebrate National Black Business Month, it’s only right to educate the community on rising and established businesses made for us, by us. Today, we’re highlighting The Gathering Spot, a Black-owned private membership club founded in Atlanta in 2016.
To date, The Gathering Spot (TGS) has created a space for the community and culture to be celebrated, not tolerated. Co-founders Ryan Wilson and TK Peterson built TGS for two years before opening its doors — an idea that was sparked by Trayvon Martin’s death and frustration surrounding the lack of safe communal spaces for our people. It was then the two decided to create an environment meant to bring each one of us together.
Ryan and TK met in undergraduate school at Georgetown University. As roommates, they built a friendship full of respect and understanding for who each of them were. When the decision came to grow something bigger than themselves, Ryan reached out to TK to pull him on board via email. Today, as co-founders of a fast-growing company with many parts, the two find that the foundation they built early on perfectly fits their working relationship and their mission as individuals and business partners.
Now, TGS has two locations in D.C., and its original in Atlanta. This year, they will continue expanding with a club located in Los Angeles. Genuinely focused on its members, TGS and its founders pride themselves on being full of intention and creating opportunities to grow in our communities. Another major focus is lifting our standards and stepping into the power we hold as makers of culture.
For National Black Business Month, we talked to the founders about their mission with TGS and the future of the business. Check out the interview below!
Much like REVOLT, TGS is centered on elevating the culture. What comes to mind when you hear yourselves and The Gathering Spot’s initiatives being compared to modern-day Black Panther Party initiatives?
RW: I mean we have a responsibility to TGS. We’re part of a continuum of a lot of great people and organizations that have advocated for the interests of Black people. But it’s important to not take that responsibility lightly and so we’ve always leaned into the discussion in a similar way to what you see REVOLT is doing because if not us then who?
TK: I think it speaks to the origin of what we do, and the origin of who Ryan is, and the community efforts that have always been central to the person that I know him to be. I think it fully aligns with REVOLT’s efforts as well because if — like Ryan said — if we’re not speaking about these things and championing them ourselves, there’s no one else. We always say to one another, I think we’re saying more as a community, no one from outside is going to come and save us. So, we have to do the work ourselves and educate ourselves, and push forward for the better future that we’re all working towards.
Can we talk about the structure of TGS and its efforts to uplift the community? What inspired you guys to really get to a point to where we are right now with three locations, and giving back to Black-owned businesses consistently?
RW: There are specific programs or initiatives that we have — the TGS Lifestyle Box where we’re packaging Black-owned companies and selling their goods and services. We’ve created fellowships with major brands to help to have businesses within the community be able to scale. We have our own fund where we’re directly circulating dollars and targeting businesses that need assistance at different parts of their journey. Most of our efforts are about trying to create a context for people to be able to build with one another. That is where to us, where the revolution really becomes really special.
What is one of the principles TGS holds in high regard?
RW: I would just say connectivity but with intention. We’re not here hoping for it to be so, and we work really hard to try to create experiences that help to facilitate those connections. There are some things that we can’t leave up to chance. We got to make sure we’re doing everything that we can to intentionally connect.
TK: I think that [connectivity] is a key principle of what we do... It is not just, ‘Okay, we’re going to get people and put them into a room.’ It’s that we, the programming and the services that we provide — the environment — are all attuned and work towards really helping you will build those bridges with your peers, corporate partners and everyone who is a stakeholder in The Gathering Spot community.
What was the moment that kicked you both into gear? That deciding factor in working together and knowing this would be a good connection to grow on?
TK: We’re both community-centered in that sense, and I think we’re also both deeply family-oriented. I think those two ties have helped us when it comes to our relationship and the way that we build the TGS community. Speaking for myself, I’ve always felt very fortunate to be from the Virgin Islands and to have been able to attend Georgetown, and so many of the amazing life experiences that I’ve had this far and figuring out how to create more of those opportunities. That is something that we always had conversations about and connected to which was like okay, how do we create an environment or how do we impact the environment so that we can have more success stories from our communities?
I feel that. The connected aspect of where you came from to where you are. That energy and that love that built you to be who you are, so you should return the energy. With that, I have to ask what is your why?
TK: I say [my] why is something I always say: Is wanting to create a modern-day institution from the lens that I look at society. I feel like institutions have the greatest impact on the day-to-day and long-term quality of life for most of us, whether that be the criminal justice system or like ACLU, or the YMCA. Those large organizations that do — think tanks and policy suggestions — have an impact. The way I saw it and the way I see it still is that as a community we need more powerful institutions. I feel like TGS for one helps foster the creation of new ones and invigorates the current ones that we have because that’s something that we work towards — helping NAACP and the Urban League when it comes to recruiting new members and staying relevant and programming there. My dream is that hopefully, TGS can become one of those modern-day institutions that advance our needs as a people.
RW: At this point in my life, the thing that I’m most interested in is really trying to make sure that, particularly people of color, I just want the opportunity for all of us to be able to do an experience, all the things frankly that I saw and have seen my peers experience. It’s very important to me, I mean, when you are so many different ways to cut that up. I mean, talking about from a wealth perspective, a creative perspective, and being able to get our ideas out to market or just even from a travel perspective. My why to try to figure out how do we, to TK’s point, build institutions and create frameworks that allow our people to be able to experience all of what life has to offer. I want to try to show people as much as we possibly can, including ourselves. Not saying we’ve seen it all, even, but I do believe it’s possible to become somebody you haven’t seen before but it’s really hard. [TGS] can be the apparatus.