PART 1: Randy Holmes’ career reflects an entrepreneurial life

Open Chord(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first in a four-part series focused on Knoxville businessman and entrepreneur Randy Holmes.)

By Tom Ballard, Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurial Initiatives, Pershing Yoakley & Associates, P.C.

Would you characterize a person who is a former pizza franchise Co-Owner, Press Operator, nasal dilator manufacturer, and now music store/performance venue/coffee shop owner as a serial entrepreneur?

Chances are you would, particularly if you ever met Knoxville native Randy Holmes, who has held each of these roles and others during a 35-year career that started immediately after graduating from high school.

We had the opportunity to chat at length with the very personable Holmes during an interview at his current venture – Open Chord Brewhouse and Stage – at 8502 Kingston Pike in West Knoxville. It’s his latest, but we expect not last entrepreneurial undertaking.

The self-described lifelong musician became a partner in Rik’s Music & Sound, Inc. in March of 2012 after selling WEBTEC Converting, LLC.

“I had to get into something,” Holmes said. With his interest in music, becoming an investor in an industry he loved seemed like a good idea.

“We had different visions,” Holmes said of his partner, adding in his characteristic humorous way, “He got the kids, I got the house.” The house was renamed the Open Chord, and it was under significant renovation the day we visited. The changes reflect Holmes vision for what is possible and desirable.

His latest venture reflects a lifetime of challenging conventional wisdom and not being afraid to try new things, traits essential to a successful entrepreneur.

The journey from high school graduation in 1979 to the Open Chord in 2014 was anything but linear.

“I played around for about a year,” Holmes said of the 1979-80 academic year when he was enrolled at the University of Tennessee, majoring in Mechanical Engineering.

“I was doing well with trig, but failing English,” he admitted. So, when his parents advised him to take some time-off and get a job, he did just that, joining Tennessee Tape and Label where he made $3.50 an hour.

He quickly moved-up to being a Press Operator for the company that was an industrial converter for 3M Corporation. As defined by Wikipedia, ”the converting industry takes these continuous rolls of thin, flat materials — known as webs — threads them though processing machines (such as printing presses, laminating, coating and slitting machines), and converts or changes the web of material into an intermediate form or final product.”

“I was not like the other guys,” Holmes admitted, adding, “I didn’t want ink on my hands.” Nevertheless, the promotion set him on a path that, with a few exceptions, defined his career for the next three decades.

NEXT: The years with Tennessee Tape and Label.

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