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WRAY: Supporting Savannah's creative economy

George Bailey, in the iconic movie “It’s a Wonderful Life,” taught us that the small differences we make in people’s lives can make huge impacts.

Life at The Creative Coast recently has been George Bailey-esque and definitely wonderful. While launching our first fundraising campaign this summer, I have heard from loads of people about the amazing effects our efforts have had on their lives.

Amanda Fox of the Bartlett STEM Academy is a prime example. Fox said of launching the STEM Film Festival: “I was inspired by the Pitch Circus I saw at Geekend, and I am hoping to imitate this for my students.”

Imagine that.

I am awed by the achievements of Savannah’s entrepreneurs and grateful for the opportunity to be a part of their journey.

As a nonprofit, it is our job to serve the community. We believe one thing: Higher-wage jobs help every segment of the local community. So we focus on one key strategy: helping local entrepreneurs launch and build innovative companies that have the potential for creating high-wage jobs in Savannah.

Fortunately, we have made strides bringing in outsiders to help build the Savannah economy. This includes great speakers such as Neil Gershenfeld of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Mark Hatch, CEO of TechShop in San Francisco — both inspirational visionaries for the innovative economy.

We have also welcomed incredible angel and seed investors such as Sig Mosley, the Southeast’s most prolific venture capitalist, and John Burke, founder of Silicon Valley’s True Ventures, to visit Savannah and engage in our growing entrepreneur community.

Yet, as with any innovative ecosystem, the power is in the local community. So, naturally, the question from outside investors is always, “What about the locals? Do they support a diverse economy and entrepreneurs?”

To answer this question with more than anecdotal stories, we are reaching out to you, the Savannah community, to find 200 supporters to demonstrate that Savannah is forward thinking. We seek the hearts and minds of individuals who are wondering: “Will there be career opportunities in the local region for our children and grandchildren?”

And, yes, if you send a check for $100, I promise to cash it quick.

The initial stage of our fundraising process opened the doors for people to tell us the huge impact The Creative Coast has made on their careers and businesses. The responses have been thrilling.

A snapshot of the companies we support includes Quicket, a Savannah tech startup with huge potential; Elvaine, whose gorgeous jewelry is smart enough to improve your golf swing and was recently featured on CNN; and Maven Makers, the 5,000-square-foot innovation station offering affordable access to incredibly powerful tools.

As our responsibilities grow, so do the opportunities for us to affect the community.

We moved from being a central connection point on Wright Square to creating a space in a 16,000-square-foot gorgeous railroad warehouse on West Boundary Street where entrepreneurs and innovators can connect and learn from one another.

On Wednesday mornings, roughly 50 mentors, entrepreneurs, friends and investors show up at 1 Million Cups to hear entrepreneurs share their journeys. Talk about increasing your impact.

Speaking of 1 Million Cups, on Sept. 2 Jill Cheeks will look back on specific results this new program has had on Savannahians in the past year. You’ll hear about successful Kickstarter campaigns, a Tennessee accelerator spot, a local startup finding a prospective partner in Montana through 1MC social media, and many, many more incredible stories.

Like George Bailey, I enjoy hearing about all the positive outcomes hard working entrepreneurs have achieved from their interactions with The Creative Coast.

If you believe the route to a stronger, more vibrant future for Savannah lies in a diverse economy, join us at 1 Million Cups each Wednesday. Or be an investor at StartupLounge and Investor Weekend. Or come learn Javascript at this Saturday’s RailsBridge free coding course. Or attend Geekend and learn something new.

In other words, get involved.

By supporting and encouraging Savannah’s entrepreneurs, you will see how rewarding it is to help create a wonderful life, and economy, for our region.

 

Bea Wray is the executive director of The Creative Coast, a not-for-profit organization that promotes the creative and entrepreneurial community within the region. Bea can be reached at 912-447-8457 or bea@thecreativecoast.org

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