The ‘Mother Falcon’ of Thornton Park Embodies Crummer Mission to Cultivate Community, Progress
Melissa Schumann `08MBA is using her entrepreneurial, innovative mindset to leverage the arts as a way to bring together Thornton Park and the greater Orlando community.
Melissa Schumann says she thrives in chaos.
It makes sense considering the number of hats she wears.
Owner and founder of The Falcon Bar & Gallery in Thornton Park, Mother Falcon Clothing, board member (founder and former president) of Thornton Park Main Street, and now a full-time professor of intrapreneurship at Full Sail University, Schumann says, “if something needs to get done, we have to get it done”.
It’s that dedicated mindset that has helped her become a successful entrepreneur, community leader, and teacher.
Becoming ‘Mother Falcon’
A Winter Park native, Schumann left the state to attend Arizona State University and major in marketing.
Like any graduating college senior, she was looking for anyone that would give her a job and a decent salary. She accepted a job at Altria in San Francisco, a Fortune 500 company that owns brands like Philip Morris.
After spending eight years out West, and knowing she always wanted to return home eventually, she transferred with Altria to Orlando and enrolled at the Crummer Graduate School of Business.
It was an easy decision for her on where to go for her MBA.
“I had always wanted to get a master’s degree from Crummer,” said Schumann. “My mindset starting my Crummer journey was wide open.”
It was at Crummer that she honed her entrepreneurial spirit, dual-concentrating in international business and entrepreneurship.
“I enjoyed the diversity of backgrounds in my cohort,” she said. “There were so many different insights and perspectives. We had everybody from Siemens executives, to engineers, to a dolphin trainer at Sea World, so it was the full spectrum.”
Using her newly learned entrepreneurship skills and confidence gained from Crummer, Schumann embarked on her first entrepreneurial endeavor, opening up her first small business, MotherFalconClothing.com, a graphic t-shirt shop based in Thornton Park.
She built connections with the art community, hosting monthly art mixers where featured artists could sell their art in the shop or have it printed on a t-shirt.
Eventually, the art mixers became so popular, she decided she needed a dedicated space for art and events.
That led her to opening The Falcon Bar & Gallery, located on East Washington Street in Thornton Park.
Her second entrepreneurial endeavor was a bit more humbling, and she learned a sage piece of advice for anyone thinking opening their own business.
“It’s always good to start out working for a large company or a company in general before going off on your own because it teaches you process. It teaches you how to become process-oriented and how to become a process-thinker,” she said, thankful for her time in the corporate world at Altria.
She learned just how difficult entrepreneurship can be, spending six months trying to learn permitting, accounting, HR and all the other challenges associated with being a small business owner.
“The Falcon is my baby,” said Schumann. “What I am most proud of with The Falcon is creating that sense of community. We’ve had people get engaged there, small wedding receptions, so many friends have met there. It’s really cool to create connections and build community.”
Since opening, The Falcon Bar & Gallery has hosted hundreds of community events and local art shows at the establishment.
Elevating Thornton Park & Greater Orlando
In 2008, the City of Orlando rolled out Orlando Main Streets, a program where each Orlando district creates an individualized work plan to create, strengthen, and elevate the district. The City of Orlando helps provide the economic support for each district.
Originally, Thornton Park was not included in the Main Streets program, since it was already considered a successful district due to the events at nearby Lake Eola.
Schumann, a business owner in Thornton Park, did not agree with that.
“At that time, local shoppers avoided Thornton Park during those events due to the perception that there was a lack of parking, which hurt local businesses. I saw an opportunity for Thornton Park stakeholders to work together to create our own identity,” she said.
Going back to her mantra of getting things done when they have to get done, Schumann banded together with the rest of the small businesses in Thornton Park to create an action plan.
Teaming up with a small group of like-minded volunteers, Schumann, serving as the founder and president, championed the process for Thornton Park to gain Main Street status and access funding for the district through the City of Orlando.
“That was a big undertaking. It took a lot of lobbying with the City Council and Mayor’s Office,” said Schumann.
Once funding was secured, Schumann helped start one of the premier events to come out of the Main Street program: the Thornton 2nd Thursday Wine and Art Walk.
On the 2nd Thursday of every month, the community comes together to celebrate art, and partake in an evening of sights, sounds, food, shopping, and beverage tastings all along the walk.
“The first time we did the Wine and Art Walk we had a little table set up, had 50 people show up, and we were so excited about that,” said Schumann. “Now it brings in thousands of people, and it’s highlighted in the City of Orlando marketing materials.”
Today, in-between running the operations of The Falcon Bar & Gallery and serving as a board member on Main Street Thornton Park, Schumann found a new passion – teaching students.
She started guest judging student final business projects from a small business owner’s perspective at Full Sail University as a way to stay involved in the community outside of Thornton Park. Her insights led her to being hired full-time as a faculty member.
“It wasn’t done with the intent of getting a job; it was done to give back. I think when you are very organic with your intentions, good things come of it,” said Schumann.
Photo credit: Jed Johnson Photography.