Pounds: KickStart updateWritten by Tom Pounds | President / Publisher | firstname.lastname@example.org
There has been a tremendous response to the idea for KickStart Toledo, and we are working on making it a reality.
The concept was borrowed from KickStart Columbus, where the Columbus City Council and several community development organizations sponsored a contest and awarded free downtown office space for a year. The call to establish a similar program in Toledo garnered some inspired responses on Facebook and Twitter. We also received calls of support from local Realtors and elected officials such as Toledo City Councilwoman Paula Hicks-Hudson.
That led to a meeting between Toledo Free Press and three people very much invested in the idea: Artist, activist and restauranteur Dustin Hostetler, W. Gene Powell, president of Spoke LLC and co-founder of Seed Coworking, and Anneliese Grytafey, manager of Economic and Community Development Institute.
It was agreed to pursue available spaces, utilizing our Realtor contacts. But that is where we hit our first stumbling block.
We are looking for spaces but do not have definitions as to what those spaces might contain. Our Realtor friends understandably require a definition of need before they can show any property.
It was Powell who moved the conversation forward.
“I understand the desire to follow a traditional route of property walkthroughs, but this is not a traditional route to kickstarting a business,” he wrote in an email. “Therefore, we need to take a leap of faith, be imaginative, and be willing to waste some time to scout spaces in order to imagine the possibilities (e.g. ‘Hey, Toledo! This would make a great wine bar!’). In order to get buy-in from would-be thought/financial investors, we have to pre-package the spaces as well as the potential business concepts.
“The rule of thumb I’ve subscribed to is that only 5 percent of the population can visualize. We have to do the work for them if this is to go anywhere.
“This is a model that’s taking off in Detroit. The difference is that Detroit is creating pop-up shops that may not be sustainable. Our goal is to create ‘clusters of interest,’ populate them with passionate business owners who held back because they thought they couldn’t afford it, and build momentum on their successes.”
So, help us drive this and determine what is next. We have thoughtful people and professional resources; we need to bring them together and, as the idea suggests, KickStart Toledo. Email or call us so we can keep the momentum going.
Thomas F. Pounds is president and publisher of Toledo Free Press and Toledo Free Press Star. Contact him at email@example.com.
UPDATE: From Anneliese Grytafey, J.D., Manager, ECDI Toledo, Economic & Community Development Institute
It is worth noting that we have a number of different options to consider in how this project takes shape, and have only just started to tap into the other partners and resources that can help. In Columbus, ECDI worked with Columbus City Council and a friendly, generous private developer who donated commercial space as a part of a prize package to the entrepreneurs who won the competition. It was for the good cause of spurring business growth and neighborhood reinvestment.
The winning entrepreneurs also received business coaching, $1000 grants for signage and other resources. The power of several businesses going into neighboring unoccupied spaces all at once really galvanized success for them all. ECDI was also involved in a business planning competition in Cleveland, which had a totally different structure and set of partners. There, the winners received free space in a community development corporation-owned commercial/retail building in the distressed area near the West Side Market. Charter One Bank was another major partner in the Cleveland project and the involvement of a strong CDC helped ensure success.
The projects were different in each market, but we can learn from each of them. We can also see what other partners and resources emerge as a Toledo project takes shape. Whatever the structure, we know that having long-term support and technical assistance for new entrepreneurs will be a key factor. The point is, this initiative has a number of different pathways to consider and I am particularly eager to broaden our group to include others such as government, CDC, bank, foundation and private business partners.
Many folks from these sectors have been working diligently to enhance local entrepreneurial opportunities for quite some time — even it if is not always outwardly apparent. The fact that truly diverse partners such as the ABLE, the RGP, LCEDC, UT, the Chamber, the City of Toledo, Toledo City Council, the Port Authority, Toledo Community Foundation, Stranahan Foundation, United North, LISC and an array of banks supported ECDI’s new Toledo office is a major step towards supporting business growth and neighborhood revitalization that should be applauded. We’ll move the project forward in due time and make sure we find the right structure for Toledo.