News and Tribune

Business/Money

April 30, 2014

MOSS: Velocity’s leader not happy sitting still

Tony Schy helps others take risks like he did

JEFFERSONVILLE — A former employer stopped trusting my co-workers and me. Or so it felt.

The employer hired a Jeffersonville company to find out, in part, if I really was married, if our daughter actually was in college. The probe by Chapman Kelly Inc. felt as pleasant as a prostate exam. On the subject of shoving it, I wish I could have done that with the proof I instead mailed.

Tony Schy survived my indignance, to be sure. A few years later, Schy sold Chapman Kelly, which he had co-founded. He became a rich, or richer, man.

And actually to know Schy is to appreciate him and then some. Schy had figured right. Chapman Kelly met a need, however less than warm and fuzzy.

Workers everywhere now must verify this and that to keep their families on health insurance. Schy’s business baby boomed. It ultimately attracted a deep-pocketed suitor that wouldn’t take no for an answer. Schy recalls a boyhood goal of hitting it big by age 40.

The now 43-year-old Schy sold Chapman Kelly 11 days before his 40th birthday.

A New Albany native and Sellersburg resident, Schy these days is managing director for Velocity Indiana. That is a Jeffersonville-based, not-for-profit effort to identify, encourage and push ahead more Tony Schys — people of steely nerves who prefer the view way out on a limb. Of entrepreneurship, Schy said it is not for the faint of heart.

“You have to have a high level of risk tolerance,” Schy said. “I tell them to their faces, ‘You have to have a little bit of crazy in you.”

Velocity Indiana is relatively new but more than relatively important. Your future boss — perhaps mine — could be a Velocity success story. The next Google or yes, Chapman Kelly could blossom with Velocity’s green thumb.

Nothing is assured, however. Schy recalls meeting Chapman Kelly payroll out of personal checking accounts, of losing sleep, of depleting savings and of taking out second mortgages. Schy hammers those he tutors to recognize their longer-than-long odds.

A few dozen such dreamers nonetheless rent Velocity space, lean on Velocity shoulders, partake of Velocity coffee and beer. Some spend Velocity money, provided chiefly by the Paul Ogle and Blue Sky foundations.

With Velocity at this back, Chris Bailey came up with and now markets a brake light for motorcycles that he insists should greatly reduce crashes.

“It’s just the biggest roller coaster I’ve ever ridden,” Bailey said. “One day, it’s the best thing. The next day I’m saying, ‘Oh my God, what am I doing?’

“The highs are high and the lows are low. I really enjoy that.”

Bailey, 28, was settling nicely into corporate America when he opted instead to create Gear Brake. He talks of having eyeballed one-too-many nasty motorcycle wrecks. He also was seriously injured in one.

“Some jerk didn’t see me,” Bailey said.

In Bailey, in most or all in Velocity’s brood, Kent Lanum sees people who do not fear failure. Lanum, president and CEO of the Ogle Foundation, likes the urgency with which Velocity works. If hand holding is good, posterior kicking can be better. An accelerator program, this one is called.

“We’d rather have somebody do a product, fail and learn, do another and be successful,” Lanum said,

Velocity also arranges for Bailey and others to sell themselves to community leaders and to potential investors. Schy and I visited before one such recent Demo Day, as Velocity called a packed house. Schy said entrepreneurs indeed benefit from facing the world, from finding out if they are on to something catchy like Chapman Kelly.

“There’s a fine line between encouraging and giving tough love,” Schy said. “Not every idea is a phenomenally great idea.”

A husband and father, Schy takes advantage of his fortune in part with vacations and mission trips and in part by managing Velocity. He considers his current role a glove-fit way to give back.

“To me this is fun,” Schy said. “Most mornings, I’m pretty excited going to work.”

The son of an entrepreneur, a guy able to shake off worries and focus ahead, Schy never was especially destined for a steady-paycheck existence. He obviously is at home among risk-takers and the smartest among them at Velocity realize the break they get having a wise mentor so handy.

Truth be told, if Chapman Kelly hadn’t been contracted by my former employer, another ambitious firm would have. Opportunities surely abound out on the limb and Schy says never say never about crawling back out there himself.

“I basically look at about any deal,” he said. “If the right one came along, I wouldn’t hesitate to jump at it.”

For more information about Velocity Indiana, visit velocityindiana.org. The group is committed to aiding more entrepreneurs.

— Send column ideas to dale.moss@twc.com

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