With the creative spirit and dedication of a born entrepreneur, Fred Gill has spent the last decade building a collection of successful businesses in the fields of entertainment, restaurant and hospitality, and real estate. From his small hometown of Seymour, Indiana to Nashville and on to Hollywood, Fred is conquering new goals with every venture, his inspirational attitude winning throngs of friends and fans along the way. A widely recognized personality as well, Fredbetter known as Two Foot Fredwalks much taller than his actual 38-inch stature. After all, as Fred himself boasts, "SIZE IS MERELY PERCEPTION!"
Born with a form of dwarfism known as diastrophic displaysia, as a child Fred underwent corrective surgeries for a cleft palate, club feet, and scoliosis. When the scoliosis surgery rendered him unable to keep his balance or walk unassisted, Freds grandfather crafted him walking sticks to help Fred meet the challenge. None of this slowed Fred down, as he started driving at age 16 (getting his first speeding ticket a few months later), earned his Eagle Scout badge, and went on to study entrepreneurship at Ball State Universitys award-winning program in Muncie, IN.
"I grew up surrounded by entrepreneurs," Fred recalls. "Both of my grandfathers, my Dad and my uncle all owned their own businesses, so it was a natural direction for me." As a boy, Fred remembers charging admission for backyard carnivals and zoos (featuring, of course, the family pets). Later, Fred went on to start a DJ service, mix-mastering school dances, parties and weddings throughout his teenage years.
When it came time to choose a college, Ball State was a top choice because of its status as a leader in accessibility. However, it was Freds discovery of the entrepreneurship program that sealed the deal. Once there, he found inspiration in his professor Dr. Kuratko. "Dr. K" mentored Fred through his senior thesis, an award-winning business plan for a full-service steakhouse.
Fred put his plan into action upon returning to Seymour, where he opened his first restaurant, Fred N Tobys, at age 22. Freds brother Toby, also a dwarf, later joined Fred in running the restaurant. The business was a success and led to Freds second venture, a delivery and carryout pizza shop named Gillys Pizza. While in the restaurant business, Fred also developed a line of spices called Phat Freddies Seasonings, which he continues to self-distribute.
Recognizing the demands of running a full-service restaurant, and wishing for more time to pursue his diverse business interests, Fred moved on from Fred N Tobys, diving head first into the real estate business by acquiring first, his salespersons license and then Indiana Real Estate Brokers license. This allowed Fred and Toby to expand their residential real estate business, owning and managing up to 250 properties at once. Fred went on to open The Funkey Monkey, a pub-style neighborhood hang that remains a fixture on the Seymour bar scene, at the same location as Fred N Tobys.
Though The Funkey Monkey, Phat Freddies Seasonings, and various real estate projects proved Freds aptitude for entrepreneurship, it was a fateful trip to Nashville in 1999 that revealed his true calling in life-the entertainment business. "As a kid, I never really thought of performing as a career," says Fred. "I always knew I was a ham, but became so entrenched with business in Seymour that I never thought Id leave, and I didnt want to leave." Nevertheless, when opportunity came knocking, Fred answered in a larger than life way.
While attending Nashvilles annual country music celebration, Fred struck up a friendship with John Rich, who had recently left the band Lonestar and would go on to become one half of the genre-bending superduo Big & Rich. John & Fred kept in touch over the years, and in 2004, John invited Fred to be in their upcoming video for "Save A Horse (Ride A Cowboy)." Fred agreed, and it was the beginning of an entirely new career.
As skilled at recognizing opportunities as he is at seizing them, Fred parlayed the video appearance into a regular gig as Ambassador of Attractions for Big & Rich, emceeing their live show and energizing crowds with his crazy on-stage antics. He has also toured with such country greats as Kenny Chesney, Brooks & Dunn, Tim McGraw and a man who has come to be a close friend of Freds, Larry the Cable Guy. A NASCAR fanatic, Fred can often be found, between his touring and business commitments, in the pit of another close friend, 2008 Daytona 500 Champion Ryan Newman.
Fred is no stranger to the small screen, having appeared on numerous country music award shows and co-hosted a post-show fashion segment with Joan and Melissa Rivers. He has been featured on Blue Collar TV, MuzikMafia TV, Las Vegas, Dick Clarks Rockin New Years Eve, Late Night with Conan OBrien, and Jimmy Kimmel LIVEto name just a few!
Hollywood wasnt far behind.
Fred made a cameo in the SONY Pictures feature film Roadhouse 2: Last Call, made his acting debut in the independent film Grilling Bobby Hicks, and recently made a cameo in the feature film Provinces of Night. As of late, Fred has discovered a talent for writing and producing, and is currently developing two reality shows as well as a dramatic script.
"Its the creative aspects of business that really get me excited," Fred explains. "The chance to express myself, and to work with such talented and creative people is my true passion." A self-proclaimed "dot-connector," Freds unparalleled people skills are perhaps his biggest secret to success. "When I was running my DJ business back in high school, Brooks & Dunns Boot Scootin Boogie and several Bon Jovi hits were everybodys favorites. Now Im friends with Kix Brooks, Im friends with Bon Jovi, and its just wild. I still find it amazing."
Ask Kix Brooks about Fred, and youll find hes equally as amazed. "Fred is one of those unique individuals who inspires not just a lot of fun nights on tour, but an inspiration in attitude for everyone he comes in contact with. Hes not quite as tall as most of us, but it sure doesnt slow him down, and you dont spend very much time with him before you realize if you see a handicap, its your problem, not his. Im surely a better person for having known him."
Infusing inspiration and creativity into each new business venture, every new stage, and into the hearts of all he touches, Fred continues to grow his successful empire. With both the courage to dream big dreams and the determination to achieve them, Fred has proven himself an inspiration to us all.