Meeting of the Minds took a few moments to talk with Herrie Schalekamp about new working relationships between researchers and paratransit operators in South Africa and beyond. Herrie is the ACET Research Officer at the University of Cape Town’s Centre for Transport Studies. In addition to his research, teaching and consulting in the fields of paratransit and public transport reform he is involved in specialised educational programmes for paratransit operators and government officials. Herrie’s activities form part of a broader endeavour to investigate and contribute to improved public transport operations and regulation in Sub-Saharan African cities under ACET – the African Centre of Excellence for Studies in Public and Non-motorised Transport.
5 Ways Akron is Redefining Entrepreneurship
Akron, Ohio, like many legacy cities, experienced a rougher-than-average blow with the economic downturn. But with the help of a new generation of entrepreneurs, the city is also rebounding at a stronger rate than some of its neighbors. Here’s a look into what makes Akron’s entrepreneurship scene stand out and which local programs are supporting its growth.
1. You don’t have to carry a hockey stick.
For decades, the word “entrepreneur” has been associated with highly scalable startups; tech-oriented businesses that were deemed successful when their profit line mimicked the proverbial hockey stick. While Akron has plenty of exciting tech startups, we also celebrate the entrepreneurs whose financial projections have more in common with an escalator (that is, a slow, steady upward slope) than a piece of sporting equipment.
According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of an entrepreneur is “one who organizes, manages, and assumes the risks of a business or enterprise.” This means that the owners of the clothing boutiques, coffee shops, rock climbing gyms, salons, comic book shops, yoga studios and all of our neighborhood businesses that opened their doors in the last few years can wear the mantle of entrepreneurship just as proudly as their app-developing neighbors.
2. We’re not all white males.
In a 2013 working paper by Ross Levine and Yona Rubinstein, the authors noted that “entrepreneurs” are a type. They found that entrepreneurs are “disproportionately white, male, and highly educated.” And while we are extremely proud of our local entrepreneurs that fit that description, our spectrum is broad and welcoming. One of our most exciting tech startups, Komae, was founded by two women, and one of the hottest tables in town, Nepali Kitchen, is owned and operated by a Bhutanese immigrant. Local support organizations like the Women’s Network, the International Institute of Akron, and the Urban League celebrate entrepreneurs’ differences while providing assistance to many different types of businesses.
3. Artists are entrepreneurs too.
In many places, artists – musicians, thespians, and visual artists alike – are considered a different breed. But we recognize that whether they’re selling their paintings or filling tables at the local jazz club, artists are running a business. Organizations like Crafty Mart provide artists and artisans a venue for selling their goods to the public in multi-venue craft fairs that see more than $100,00 in sales for makers each year.
Nicole Mullet, executive director of ArtsNow, an advocacy and backbone organization for Summit County arts says, “Creative professionals are redefining what it means to be an artist. According to the Kauffman Foundation about 34% of US artists are self-employed and part of a burgeoning category of creative entrepreneurs who are generating economic activity, creating jobs, and emerging as a force in local and national economies.”
4. We believe in due diligence.
Steve Jobs’ philosophy, “customers don’t know what they want until we’ve shown them” may work for one in a million. But for the other 999,999 of us, homework is key and can put you ahead of the competition. Prior to opening Sweet Mary’s Bakery, Mary Hospodarsky interviewed dozens of workers in the blocks surrounding her downtown Akron location. She was surprised to learn that quiche was the most-desired menu item; she had not planned to include it on her menu. But she listened to her future customers’ demands and today it remains one of her best-sellers.
Financial projections, customer discovery, and business plans rarely make it into the blockbuster movie, but they’re a smart way to approach a new endeavor. Organizations like the Small Business Development Center, and the University of Akron’s ICorps program and Small Entrepreneur and Economic Development (SEED) Legal Clinic are here to help.
5. We get by with a little help from our friends.
While other cities conform to the popular “six degrees of separation” theory, the Akron network is more like two degrees – and we’re not afraid to use it. Rather than viewing one another as competition, small business owners espouse the “rising tides lift all boats” idiom and are eager to give the next entrepreneur a hand up. So while Cristina and Richelle of Not Yo’ Daddy’s would never share their secret hot sauce recipe, they’re more than willing to divulge how they found the kitchen space they rent and which pop-up markets have given them the most bang for their buck. It’s the same attitude that shaped Launch League’s microcommunities for tech startups. Whether you’re into front end dev or design, you can meet up with like-minded folks to talk shop and swap tips.
Leave your comment below, or reply to others.
Read more from the CityMinded.org Blog
Spotlighting innovations in urban sustainability and connected technology
Brownfields are sites that are vacant or underutilized due to environmental contamination, real or imagined. There are brownfields of some kind in virtually every city and town in the U.S., usually related to a gas station, dry cleaner, auto repair shop, car dealership or some other ubiquitous local business that once benefited the community it now burdens with environmental hazards or old buildings.
In addressing this issue, technology has not been effectively deployed to promote redevelopment of these sites and catalyze community revitalization. We find that the question around the use of technology and data in advancing the redevelopment of brownfields is twofold:
How can current and future technology advancements be applied to upgrade existing brownfield modeling tools? And then, how can those modeling tools be used to accelerate transformative, sustainable, and smart redevelopment and community revitalization?
Across the country, urban parks are enjoying a renaissance. Dozens of new parks are being built or restored and cities are being creative about how and where they are located. Space under highways, on old rail infrastructure, reclaimed industrial waterfronts or even landfills are all in play as development pressure on urban land grows along with outdoor recreation needs.
These innovative parks are helping cities face common challenges, from demographic shifts, to global competitiveness to changing climate conditions. Mayors and other city officials are taking a fresh look at parks to improve overall community health and sense of place, strengthen local economies by attracting new investments and creating jobs, help manage storm water run-off, improve air quality, and much more. When we think of city parks holistically, accounting for their full role in communities, they become some of the smartest investments we can make.