(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the final article in a series spotlighting the latest initiative of long-time Knoxville Entrepreneur Tom Boyd.)
By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA
Tom Boyd has made an impact through his various start-ups in the region, but one senses that he fully believes that the causes he is addressing through “Ancient Lore Village at Boyd Hollow” could have an even greater impact on this region and the nation for generations to come.
After all, he’s focused on promoting good at a time where discourse is mostly negative, criticism is rampant, and the competitive nature of many individuals has reached record levels.
“I did not intend to build a village of good … until I started imagining in detail what it could be,” Boyd said. However, like any good entrepreneur, he’s clearly “all in” now with a big vision and a bold strategy.
At Ancient Lore Village, the elaborate landscaping, water features and stone walls make visitors feel like they have stepped back in time to a more peaceful world. In the evening, dogs herd sheep in the pasture and millions of magical fireflies light the valley. Live music washes over the hillside from the Artisan Center and friends and families gather around campfires.
As noted in the first article in this series, the plan for the 40-acre site adjacent to his South Knoxville home has an entrepreneurial component as well as a societal focus. To the naysayers who are fighting the plans, Boyd has a simple message: “Understand what we are doing.”
Ancient Lore Village will include 100 unique homes, all partially underground and grass-covered, and 50 treehouses. Concepts for the homes are shown on the start-up’s website. We were given a special opportunity during our interview to experience a virtual reality tour of one of the homes thanks to Matt Cross, Chief Executive Officer of Boyd Hollow Resorts Inc.
The dwelling is 1,600 square feet with two master bedrooms and sleeping space for four children. Cross described the homes as “cozy, homey, and unique.” The treehouses are also unique, designed as 12 per quad with a central meeting and socializing house. Twenty of the treehouses will accommodate wheelchairs.
When you spend a night or two at Ancient Lore Village, don’t expect to watch television. The houses will be devoid of them. That’s part of the strategy to have individuals talk to each other, playing board games focused on topics like strategy and cooperation, or exploring the 40-acre village.
Yes, that means video games are out and, in fact, there are special requirements for the games that will be provided in each lodging area. They must have a positive, reinforcing focus. “You can only win by doing something good,” Boyd says.
Each of the homes and treehouses will be equipped with chairs, beds, tables, etc. developed by local craftsmen which is the basis of the entrepreneurial focus.
“Entrepreneurs who understand our vision can bring us anything they want that can be used in a home,” Boyd says, but adds, “It has to be good.” The serial entrepreneur says he’s been “swamped with ideas. You cannot believe the creativity in East Tennessee.”
Boyd says equipping the 150 lodging facilities with locally-designed and manufactured products is just the start for entrepreneurs. “You can buy everything in the houses in our online store,” he says. “We will be Amazon for every product they make.”
In many cases, Boyd says the entrepreneur will simply develop the idea and earn a royalty as it is manufactured by others and sold through the Ancient Lore Village website. He hopes, however, that many entrepreneurs will launch their own companies to make the products, thereby creating jobs for local residents.
“We’re investing tens of millions of dollars, and I would love to see thousands of jobs created locally,” Boyd says. “We will create tons of entrepreneurs. No one can make under $20 an hour.”
With 14 more Ancient Lore Villages planned across the Southeast, the financial benefit to local entrepreneurs could be huge.
Boyd also plans to launch an entrepreneurial school within Ancient Lore Village. “If I think this guy can make it, we will support him,” he says.
Cross adds that Ancient Lore Village will also have is own unique restaurant that builds on the overall goal of focusing on good. Tables will be community-style seating, causing families to have to eat with others.
Ancient Lore Village will be a haven and showcase for local talent. Artists, craftsmen and musicians will exhibit, work and perform at Ancient Lore Village as part of the resort’s commitment to keeping ancient traditions alive. Working with Knoxville Entrepreneur Center (KEC), Ancient Lore Village hosted an Entrepreneurship Event in late May attended by more than 50 East Tennessee artists, craftsmen and musicians who are interested in being part of the Artisan Center at Boyd’s themed resort.
The multi-million dollar resort, expected to open in 2020, plans to draw 200,000 visitors annually.