Interview with Julia Youngs - Creative Tracks Ambassador

Julia Youngs is a Project Manager at Creative Startups, USA. She acts as a Creative Tracks Ambassador, ready to ask your question on creative entrepreneurship, startups accelerators and networking!
Julia, Could you describe the scope and aim of Creative Startups? What services do you offer to creative entrepreneurs?
The scope of Creative Startups seems to be growing daily, which I suppose is a good problem to have! I’ll break it down in bullet points as I think that might be clearest:
● Creative Startups Accelerator: The Accelerator is a 10-week online program for later stage entrepreneurs looking to jumpstart their creative business, with the program culminating in a financial pitch. Right now our Accelerator is located in Albuquerque, NM; Winston-Salem, North Carolina; and Kuwait, but since the program is online we have worked with startups from around the world.
● Creative Startups LABS: The LABS are a new program we launched in Spring 2017 for idea-stage creative entrepreneurs based locally in New Mexico looking to take their business idea to launch, and prepare them to apply for an accelerator program.
● LOBO Labs: The Creative Startups LOBO Labs is a new program we will be launching in Fall 2017 in conjunction with the “Innovation Academy” program at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. This course will focus on introducing undergraduate students across discipline to the world of creative entrepreneurship.
● Workshops/Lectures: We also offer a number of specialized workshops/lectures based on client needs surrounding creative entrepreneurship and economic/community growth.
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Can you tell us how your daily work is as a Project Manager in your organization?
My daily work, much like our projects, changes rapidly and often. We like to think of Creative Startups as a startup, and we embrace a quick-thinking and quick-paced mindset. In my role I’m primarily responsible for managing our Albuquerque-based projects, including the Albuquerque Accelerator, Albuquerque LABS, and our local workshop series. I also play a small role on some of our international outreach calls and often speak on Creative Startups’ behalf at conferences and events. What I do on any given day really varies, and I’m appreciative of a work environment that is collaborative, flexible, and independent. Somedays it feels like sending a million emails, somedays its wrangling an event for 50 or 100 entrepreneurs, a presentation at City Council (ABQ), or meeting with prospective applicants. Everyday is energizing though as it gives me the opportunity to connect with passionate entrepreneurs and help build the resources in our ecosystem to support creative, impactful, community and economic growth.
What kind of entrepreneurs and projects have you come across through your work in your Region? Could you tell a bit more about one in particular that can be inspiring for young creative entrepreneurs?
At Creative Startups we take a broad and all-encompassing view of the creative industries, and as a result have worked with a number of varied and unique companies. This includes everything from luxury jewelry, 3D printed artwork, VR technology for medical providers, craft ice cream, and much more! Our most well known company is undoubtedly Meow Wolf from Santa Fe, NM. Meow Wolf is an art collective that went through our Accelerator in 2014 and has absolutely exploded since. You really have to see Meow Wolf to understand it (seriously, Google it for a visual treat!) but it’s somewhere between museum, Disneyland, playground, and psychedelic funhouse. But more than just a fun immersive art experience, Meow Wolf is a startup that has dramatically changed the social and economic landscape of Santa Fe. In their two years since coming through our program and 1 year since their March 2016 opening, Meow Wolf now has over 150 employees and has earned over 1 million in profit from the 500k+ individuals who have come through their doors.
Forgive me for not limiting it to just one company though, as there are two others that I think are important to mention (also local to New Mexico!): Etkie and Native Realities. Etkie is a luxury fashion line that provides fair-wage and sustainable employment opportunities to Native American beaders living on the Navajo Nation. Etkie has grown from New Mexico to showing in Paris Fashion Week, Elle Magazine, and in 90+ high-end boutiques around the world. Native Realities is a publishing company that focuses on authentic representations of Native and Indigenous peoples in comics and texts, by Native and Indigenous artists, and they hosted the first ever Indigenous Comic Con this past year! All of these companies are great examples of how creative companies are driving economic, social, and cultural change in cities across the world and are truly catalysts for innovation.
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Which kind of business model do you think fit the most for creative enterprises?
Honestly, if I’ve learned anything in my time at Creative Startups it’s that there isn’t one right fit for creative entrepreneurs or creative enterprises. Part of being an entrepreneur, especially a creative one, is disruption and creating opportunities where there might not seem to be any. A lot of creative startups don’t easily fit within the paradigm of a ‘traditional’ business model or neatly on a business canvas, and part of being a really successful creative entrepreneur is charging forth anyways and creating your own model. That being said, I do think there is a gap in the way Business, as a formal educational concept, is taught and structured for creatives. From what we’ve seen, in most cases business education programs (especially in higher education) don’t offer much for creative entrepreneurs or do much to even attract creatives to their programs. In parallel, most programs for creatives in higher education also neglect teaching business skills. This divide perpetuates a sort of narrow thinking around what a business should look on the surface, or in a business plan, like to be conceived of as successful, and often limits how creatives think of themselves and their business potential. Closing this gap is part of what Creative Startups is targeting with our work in equipping creative entrepreneurs with the knowledge and skills to develop a sustainable and profitable business model that works for their ideas and their companies.
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Creative Startups is developing its activity around the word, how is this challenging?
We are indeed and it’s definitely been a learning experience! It’s also been wonderful and so exciting. Applications are open now for our new Accelerator program in Kuwait called “Savour: Everything Food.” Savour focuses solely on startups in the food vertical in the MENA/GCC region. All of our licensee sites are really driven by the expertise of their local, on-the-ground experts who are also our site founders, mentors, and site support. This local presence is paramount for us to thoughtfully and strategically navigate the startup ecosystem outside of the US. Really, the greatest challenge is internally pacing our rapid expansion, which isn’t necessarily a bad problem to have!
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How would you evaluate the international connections/networking of creative entrepreneurs in your network? Do you think international connections are important?
I think international connections are unquestionably important for any entrepreneur today. Really, how could they not be if you want to scale your business? Given that Creative Startups has mentors and startups around the world I’d say that our entrepreneurs have a strong foray into the larger international startup network, but there is of course still room for growth. The entrepreneurial network in New Mexico is strong and active internally, but I don’t know how well the New Mexico network is connected to the larger network of creative entrepreneurs globally. I’d say that in general though, the network for creative entrepreneurs still needs to grow as it often lacks the intersection between creatives and the tech/startup world. Networks for creatives are often segmented into specific categories (fashion, cuisine, film, etc) or into more general categories (craft or hobby) that aren’t quite accurate to the complexities of the creative economy. The international network surrounding the creative economy is so much larger and is seriously big business that necessitates more push towards the integration of creatives, tech, and startups.
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Any becoming projects you would like to share with us?
We’re about to launch applications for our Albuquerque and Winston-Salem based accelerators, and Kuwait’s applications are open now, which is huge! We’re wrapping up our first cohort of the LABS program and looking at opportunities to scale that nationally/internationally as well.
By Aurélie Delater, Creative Tacks Manager, INOVA+
To know more about Julia: click here
To see the profile of all the Creative Tracks Ambassadors: click here
To know more about Creative Tracks Ambassadors: click here
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Great Interview
Rating: Accepted
2:06PM 3 May 2017
Swimming the entrepreneur ocean is really difficult, but we still need to keep up. Great work Creative Startups!!