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Here's how creative entrepreneurs could be the key to revitalizing this city and others


Here's how creative entrepreneurs could be the key to revitalizing this city and others

WATCH  |  As the country pivots away from mass production, cities and entrepreneurs are teaming up on creative incubators to give makers a boost.

For so long we haven't focused on our creative class.
Julia Li

"For so long we haven't focused on our creative class. On the people who work with their hands, that express their creativity by making," Julia Li, founder of Create Space Generator, told Circa.

Create Space is a non-profit, creative incubator Li founded in 2015 in University City, Missouri, (near St. Louis) to help makers open and scale their small businesses.

Building cities back up

From jewelry and lamps to clothes, wood and food products, the maker movement is playing a central role in bringing industry back to cities.

These folks are hiring local.

In 2014, St. Louis saw the biggest spike in startup growth in the nation, according to the St. Louis Business Journal citing the U.S. Census Bureau.

"And these folks are hiring local. They're hiring, they're creating jobs for themselves, and they're creating jobs for others," Li said.

Startups have created 1.5 million jobs on average per year over the past three decades, per the Kauffman Foundation.

Create Space admitted its second class this fall. It currently has 18 incubatees, and with built in business classes, access to financing and a retail storefront, members are able to test and sell their work.

Makers pay $250 a month to participate.

"Everyone here has a passion for what they do. It's for creatives and artisans that want to transition their passion into their business," Li said.

She launched Create Space with the understanding that makers are startups too.

For some of these makers, starting a business was less a choice and more a necessity after the 2008 recession.

For Brandin Vaughn, "It was time for me to come back home and actually contribute to the fashion scene and the creative scene here."

Create Space Generator (Credit: Circa)

In 2014, President Barack Obama launched an initiative called the "Nation of Makers" as a way to help catapult America’s burgeoning maker movement to the next level, and allowing makers to enter the economy as small business owners.

It drives economic development.
Jodie Lloyd

Job creation potential has the attention of local policymakers. In Create Space's case, the city provided subsidized rent and other financial support.

"If we can attract the millennials, attract the artists, who want to be near that culture, we're going to do that because we know it drives economic development," Jodie Lloyd, manager of economic development for University City told Circa.

Create Space Generator (Credit: Circa)

Cities like Madison, Wisc., and Portland, Ore., are joining forces with makers to push the creative economy forward.

In Austin, Hound Makerspace raised more than enough funds in a recent Kickstarter.

The maker movement is a not a fad.
Celina Muire

Celina Muire, a woodworker and founder of Hound Makerspace, told Circa she launched the accelerator to help makers with their business needs.

"Statistics have proven that the maker movement is not a fad, but a new industrial revolution. The great irony in that is while most makers are celebrated in their craft and one-man workmanship, resources for that one man are few and far between," Muire said.

Create Space Generator (Credit: Circa)

Twenty-six percent of U.S. cities currently have makerspaces, and already one-third (36 percent) of workers in America are people working for themselves, per the National League of Cities.

While the maker movement won't replace traditional manufacturing jobs, what these makers are producing are handcrafted items that sell at a premium -- and there is a growing market for these goods.

"You start to see a picture of the future of the American workforce that is very different," Brooks Rainwater, director at the National League of Cities' Center for City Solutions. "People have opportunities to build their own jobs and really think about how they can contribute to the economy in a very different way."

Small businesses drive the American economy, but in a volatile climate and under a new president, it will be crucial for cities to invest in creating environments startups can thrive.

"I have all the respect in the world for makers, and for everyone in our program, because they said, 'I'm going to be part of the solution, not the problem,'" Li said.


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