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Papy: Bull Street Labs becomes home to magical mix

Maybe you’ve heard this one before: A web startup, a marketing consultant and a social entrepreneur walk into a bar. Oh, wait … maybe it was a game-makers group, a mural policy workshop, and a self-driving car coalition walk into a bar. No, that wasn’t it. Anyway, all these different people walk into the bar and wonderful things happen. That’s essentially what’s happening in Bull Street Labs.

You can’t throw a rock around Savannah without hitting someone who is up to something brilliant. This city fosters scrappy, innovative mold breakers who see the world a little bit different, whether that lens is through tech, local business, or a startup grind.

The problem comes in knowing who’s doing what. Even in a city of Savannah’s size, it’s easy to get caught in silos, whether by neighborhood or cubicle. But what if you create a space for all these folks to come together and work? That’s when the magic starts happening.

“I work here every day so I see interactions between a lot of very different people,” says Mark Bruemmer, Bull Street Labs resident and founder of XSCapacity, an e-commerce marketplace that rents equipment that would otherwise be idle. “I can tell them about my venture and have an opportunity to learn what they are doing. Bull Street Labs is a place to meet others in the tech community, as well as in other communities.”

Collisions between entrepreneurs and innovators are highly valued in the startup community. These interactions serve as a way to connect, partner and learn.

“Bull Street Labs allows the Self Driving Vehicle Coalition of Coastal Georgia to have the safe space to think freely,” says team leader Clinton Edminster. “It’s paramount that we think beyond today and having the space to bounce ideas off other innovators is key to moving forward successfully.”

“I recently spoke at 1 Million Cups in Bull Street Lab’s auditorium,” says Amy Condon, founder of The Refinery Writing School. “The opportunity came when I was opening The Refinery, so it gave me the chance to tell my own story. And out of that interaction came three separate meetings the next week.”

Amy’s classes include everything from creative nonfiction to the art of editing – topics that struck a real chord with many 1MC participants.

“I know how to create and market my product, but I don’t know how confident I am in telling my story” said one attendee, eagerly adding that he’d be signing up for several classes. We oftentimes have access to everyone and everything we need, but we just aren’t often in the same rooms together. Bull Street Labs is solving that issue.

The facility has also become a gathering place for established Savannah-based companies.

“We use the Lab for strategy sessions,” says Mark Lubbers of Gauge Interactive, a local e-commerce firm. “They’ve got projectors, whiteboards and plenty of space. It’s also a great place to meet other folks doing interesting things.”

Yvonne Jouffrault brings her employees, contractors and partners together at Bull Street Labs, not only as a staffer with Georgia Tech’s ATDC, but also as founder of two companies: Tour Buddy and Flye.

Being in the collaborative space has been so influential on Yvonne’s work that it shifted the way she views having a company in Savannah. The creative jump led her to co-collaborate with several organizations and individuals on a forthcoming campaign called #madeinSAV which showcases the many different small companies, startups and economic innovators who are saying yes to Savannah instead of leaving for other cities.

Next month the Technology Association of Georgia (TAG) will join ATDC and The Creative Coast at Bull Street Labs.

“There’s real energy and momentum building here and we want to be in the middle of it,” says Casey Harrington, TAG’s Program Director in Savannah.”

Success with a capital S can be a messy business, but learning from others helps make the path clear. By establishing a physical space where people can work on their dreams and interact with other folks who’ve already turned their dreams into paychecks, we’re cultivating an environment where creative and innovative endeavors can blossom into serious economic solutions for Savannah.

So next time when the joke about the web startup, the mural policy group and a social entrepreneur comes up, it won’t seem so much like a joke but, instead, a real way of building economic and cultural capital.

Ready to come make great things happen? Then come on down to Bull Street Labs. It’s a good place to call home.

Coco Papy is the community manager at Bull Street Labs and The Creative Coast, a non-profit organization supporting local innovators which is made possible by the City of Savannah and the SEDA. Connect with Coco at coco@thecreativecoast.org.

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