Entrepreneur turns improv skills into a business

When he was a boy growing up in Centerville, Nathan Minns exemplified the definition of “improvisor,” when he decided to do what many other kids his age did in the summer – set up a lemonade stand in his neighborhood.

“I got bored with the lemonade stand pretty quickly,” Minns said. “So I went in my back yard and looked for the coolest rocks and sticks I could find.”

Minns didn’t sell any sticks on that day, but he did sell rocks and that experience fueled his eventual career path – as an improv performer and entrepreneur.

“When I was a kid, I went out and tried new things to see how they would work,” Minns said. “And now that I do improv, it’s the same kind of thing. I hit the stage with nothing prepared and have to come up with something that will work.”

Minns and his family moved to Dublin, outside of Columbus when he was in middle school, but those lessons he learned in Centerville stayed with him. He joined the school band and performed in high school theater. Eventually he went to Ohio State University and majored in marketing.

“I got interested in startups when I was in college,” Minns, who graduated in 2019, said. “I’ve always wanted to do something more innovative in my life and career.”

So he joined a corporate venture studio and ran a few startup businesses for corporate clients. That’s when he realized he really wanted to start his own company. In July of last year, he quit his full-time job in order to focus completely on “Green Light Improv,” – a professional training company he founded in December of 2019.

“Since I’ve grown and developed as an actor, I’ve noticed dramatic changes in myself,” Minns said. “I’m more open and confident and I’m a better listener.”

Minns first discovered improv in 2016 and fell in love, immediately deciding he wanted to try it. He started auditioning but wasn’t successful at first. So he decided to take improv classes to hone his skills.

“After auditioning seven times, I finally improved enough to get into a group,” Minns said. “I learned that improv can be taught. I just needed someone to help me unlock the ability I already had.”

The inspiration for his company came from what he had learned during all that auditioning. He realized that many people don’t necessarily want to be improvisers, but they do want to develop the skills that can help them in both their personal and professional lives.

“The entire first year for my company was in 2020, so I didn’t do much with it,” Minns said. “But once I returned to it and decided to make it full time, I had gained more background and experience.”

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic shut down and for some time afterwards, personal interaction was not possible. Minns struggled with virtual workshops and said now that he can do them in person again, they are much more impactful.

Besides himself, he employs two contract employees who have experience in theater and improv. Both have personal stories of how doing this work has changed them and improved the way they interact with others.

“We use improv as a tool in our team building workshops,” Minns said. “There are a lot of people who are anxious when we first come in and many who say they have no desire to get up in front of people and perform.”

Minns and his team counteract this by ensuring the groups that no one will be put on the spot or forced to do anything they don’t wish to do. They pair people up and keep them in smaller groups as well. Whether the groups are mostly introverts or extraverts or a mix of both, Minns encourages everyone to give the workshop a chance and be open to what might happen.

As the groups work together on a project – like planning an event or a party - they learn to improvise as they go and individuals end up helping one another access the creativity they already have within themselves. They even learn to take risks they might not otherwise take.

“The skills I learned in improv helped me take a leap and find the ground as I was falling,” Minns said. “I made the decision to put myself out there because no matter what, I would learn from the experience.”

And these skills are what Minns and his team are hoping they can teach their clients. Many have already left him testimonials about how the workshops taught better communication skills and strengthened listening and creative skills.

“I am hoping to show my results to senior leadership teams and bring my workshops into more companies and organizations,” Minns said. “This is how I will build long term partnerships.”

For more information, log on to greenlightimprov.com

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