Pueblo’s Creative Economy
Pueblo has been a maker city since its beginning nearly 150 years ago. A steel and rail town, Pueblo was literally built by the hands of men and women with creativity, ingenuity, a solid work ethic, and a strong commitment to community. Today, our creative community is alive and flourishing. Formulary 55, a small batch producer, makes modern botanicals for bath, body, and home. Steel City Art Works, a cooperative gallery and store, features the works of over 40 regional artists. Pueblo Diversified Industries, a nonprofit corporation and strong community resource for people with diverse abilities, produces handmade paper products, art, and decorative items and has plans to expand their support of artisan entrepreneurship. Our many galleries provide opportunities for local artists and artisans to show and sell their work. Pueblo Arts Alliance provides studio, retail, and small-batch manufacturing space for local creatives. Pueblo’s Creative Corridor hosts events throughout the year, including First Friday Art Walks, Fifth Friday Open Studios, and Festival Fridays with music, dancing, food, and drink.
But there is still a large portion of our creative community not sharing in these successes. We want to change that, and we see two primary opportunities to help more of Pueblo’s makers, artists, and creatives thrive:
- provide custom-designed training, technical assistance, mentoring, coaching, and support for creatives who want to build a new business or expand an existing one; and
- help create an environment that creates more opportunities for collaboration and community among Pueblo’s creatives, artists, and makers.
Who will benefit from Pueblo’s Maker Cities Project?
Before beginning our proposal, we convened a diverse project team. Then we invited local makers, artists, and creatives to a gathering (in person and on Facebook Live) to discuss their needs. Using appreciative inquiry, we gathered stories, dreams, and ideas on how to build on what we already have. We conducted a survey to reach even more creatives.
Once funded, we intend to reach out to, and include, as many Pueblo creatives as possible. We have a strong commitment to reaching out and supporting persons who don’t always have a seat at the table. First on that list are creatives of limited economic means, and particularly those in Pueblo’s East Side, a neighborhood geographically separated from the rest of Pueblo by I-25, that has experienced significant economic and infrastructure disinvestment. The neighborhood is a food desert and has limited basic services. Eastside Action Support Team (EAST), a nonprofit committed to improving the lives of East Side residents, will work to ensure East Side creatives have access to project resources. We also have a strong commitment to including persons with diverse abilities. Pueblo Diversified Industries (PDI) uses an incredibly empowering approach to serve this population. They envision the people they serve using their creative talents to create art, products, and businesses. They serve people who are often overlooked in discussions about the creative economy – or any economy, for that matter. We will ensure that they have access to the services provided under Pueblo’s Maker Cities grant project.
What work will be undertaken in Pueblo’s Maker Cities Project?
Talent is not lacking in Pueblo. We are overflowing with it. Creativity is not a problem. It’s in Pueblo’s DNA. Work ethic is not a problem. Can-do attitudes abound here. We hold up Puebloans as examples of people who make a good, fulfilling living using creativity and innovation as the engines that drive their business. But we have many more Puebloans with unrealized potential. We are prepared to meet the challenge of helping our creatives – particularly those without obvious advantages – build our creative economy and experience personal success.
Our goal? To build and deliver programs that use best practices and proven methods to help Pueblo’s creatives participate in the creative economy and grow businesses. We will measure our success by the number of new businesses supported by our efforts; the new venues/events/retail outlets available for local creatives to sell their products and services; the extent to which we help small and microbusinesses build their capacity and grow; the increase in connections within our local maker economy; and the increase in profile of our creative community – and its power and importance in local economic development.
Our stakeholders are the creative community. Artists, makers, small-batch producers, artisan entrepreneurs, creatives, writers, performers, and more. Our partners are many and diverse. They include
- Southern Colorado Innovation Link (SCIL), who will develop and deliver a business validator program customized to the needs of creative entrepreneurs;
- Kadoya Artrepreneur Program (KAP), who will develop and deliver a business accelerator program crafted for our target audiences;
- Southern Colorado Small Business Development Center (SBDC), who will provide ongoing coaching, mentoring, and business development services for graduates of our validator and accelerator programs and existing creative businesses;
- Startup Pueblo, who will help with outreach to the creative community to build awareness around the project;
- Neighborworks of Southern Colorado, who will participate in our validator and accelerator programs, providing education on raising business capital and assisting participants in applying for loan capital through their programs;
- Steel City Maker Center, who will be a resource for makers and creatives to develop ideas and build prototypes;
- Pueblo Diversified Industries (PDI), who will be our partner in reaching and serving persons with diverse abilities;
- Eastside Action Support Team, who will help us ensure that creatives in Pueblo’s east side neighborhoods have access to our programs;
- Southern Colorado Economic Development District (SCEDD), who will serve as team leader, fiscal agent, and grant administrator; and
- A committed team of educators, coaches, mentors, supporters, makers, and doers who will support our efforts in many ways.
Our project plan includes:
- A comprehensive marketing and outreach plan that
- builds awareness of the project among creatives and the wider community;
- emphasizes outreach to underrepresented groups; and
- fills the pipeline with creatives eager to participate in programs
- A continuum of services for creative business development including
- a business validator based on the market-proven best practice model of Identify, Test, and Pivot;
- a business accelerator tailored to creatives;
- ongoing coaching, mentoring, and other services; and
- peer training and coaching by experienced Etsy sellers for novice Etsy sellers
- A community creative project in which artists, creatives, and makers profile one another, using their chosen media (video, painting, poetry, etc.), culminating in a gallery show and community celebration featuring these profile works, aimed at introducing the depth and diversity of our creative community to the Pueblo region and beyond. The gallery show will also showcase the successes of project participants, their businesses, and products.
- A web page designed to connect creatives to resources, programs, and opportunities for community and collaboration – a high priority among the creatives who attended our community gathering and responded to our survey
While we understand challenges may arise, we also know that we have a strong existing infrastructure for supporting entrepreneurs, makers, and creatives and believe our existing programs and services will easily be converted to serve our target audience. Reaching out to underrepresented groups can be a challenge. However, we have mitigated that challenge by engaging partners with subject matter expertise and credibility within these groups. Our project team counts many makers and creatives among us, which will enable us to bring empathy and understanding to the process and to the people we will serve.
In addition to the $40,000 we seek from Etsy Maker Cities, we bring a wealth of skills, expertise, and resources, all of which will be represented as in-kind contributions to this project. As a group and as a community, we are passionate about – and highly committed to – advancing Pueblo’s creative economy.
Our team has considerable depth and breadth of experience managing grant-funded community projects. The team leader has more than two decades of experience in community planning and outreach, administration of foundation, corporate, state, and federal grants, and project management. We are successfully collaborating on a federally funded project to support entrepreneurship and help inventors and creatives develop and protect their intellectual property.
We propose these metrics to build accountability and measure our success:
- The number of people who enroll in, and complete our validator and accelerator programs and employ SBDC’s services (Validator targets: 40 enrollees; 32 graduates; Accelerator targets: 60 enrollees, 48 graduates)
- The number of new creative business startups resulting from the project (target: 18)
- The number of new venues/events/retail outlets made available for local creatives to sell their products and services (targets: two new brick-and-mortar outlets; three new pop-up events)
- The number of artists and creatives participating in the community creative project (target: 40 participants)
- The attendance at the gallery show for the community creative project (target: 360 people over a weekend event)
- The number of new Etsy shops created by Puebloans (target: 30 new Etsy shops)
SCEDD will conduct surveys of providers, partners, and participants at the end of the project to gather data on results and outcomes.
We understand the importance of sustainability. Once we have developed, delivered, and finetuned our offerings through this Etsy project, they will be folded into the offerings of SCIL, KAP, and SBDC.
The Project Team
Shelly Dunham, Southern Colorado Economic Development District’s Executive Director, will serve as the team lead. As an economic and community developer and urban planner with more than two decades of experience, she has managed a wide range of community projects in economic development, business development, equitable development, community engagement, and more.
Mark Madic, Director of Southern Colorado Innovation Link, a Pueblo native, has successfully led business validator programs in Fort Collins and Pueblo, Colorado and is deeply connected to Pueblo’s startup community.
Gregory Howell of Kadoya Artrepreneur Program has had a long career in the creative economy spanning several decades in the United States and Japan. Howell, a gallery owner, arts patron, and change-maker, he has extensive credentials for educating and supporting creative entrepreneurs.
Chaimie Pewitt, Executive Director of Southern Colorado Small Business Development Center, leads a large, diverse team of professionals, coaches, and mentors with a depth of experience supporting small businesses as they grow and evolve. Chaimie’s design-thinking and tech-sector credentials are important contributors to our team’s success.
David Pump, the CEO/President of Pueblo Diversified Industries, leads a team of passionate professionals dedicated to serving persons with diverse abilities in a way that empowers them to fully live into their life purpose. PDI’s programs respect the individuals they serve, honor their talents and gifts, and challenge them to do and be more, all in a way that is innovative among their peer agencies.
Kurt Madic, the co-founder of Startup Pueblo, leads monthly meetups with Pueblo’s maker and startup community, bringing speakers and trainers to Pueblo to support the development and growth of businesses here. Kurt is a recognized leader in Pueblo’s startup community, having championed the needs of makers, innovators, inventors, and entrepreneurs.
The members of this team already collaborate regularly and successfully. In 2019, the team collaborated on a proposal to the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s Regional Innovation Strategies Grant Program to develop Southern Colorado Innovation Link (SCIL). Only 4% of proposals received funding. Ours was one of the successful proposals. Now funded, we are implementing SCIL’s project plan. SCIL is dedicated to the helping inventors, innovators, entrepreneurs, creatives, and makers
- Develop, prototype, commercialize, and protect their intellectual property;
- Start and grow successful businesses in southern Colorado;
- Strengthen the startup, maker, and innovator community;
- Make resources more readily available to the community; and
- Help southern Colorado flourish.
Etsy Maker Cities funding will allow us to build on the successful programs we’ve already developed for the startup community by customizing them to the unique needs of the creative community.
As a team, we know how to achieve results. We are passionate about Pueblo and deeply committed to helping Puebloans succeed. And we are ready to take on the challenge of helping our creative community realize its potent