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Entrepreneur workshop to focus on Downtown Alton’s creative corridor

From Illinois Business Journal news services

A workshop is planned to discuss how Downtown Alton and its Broadway corridor are becoming fertile grounds for creative entrepreneurs to grow and thrive.

The event will be held Friday, April 22, at Jacoby Arts Center, located at 627 East Broadway in the heart of Alton’s emerging creative district.

The workshop will be presented by Alton Main Street, Simmons Hanly Conroy and Liberty Bank.

For many communities similar to Alton, fostering small business growth has been the key to transitioning from a formerly manufacturing-based economy. Creative enterprises create jobs, improve quality of life, and are an important complement to community development activities. Such shops and services attract other young professionals and tourists to our area. Often, larger companies make decisions about where to locate their businesses based on the availability of a creative workforce, as well as the quality of life that a town rich in the arts offers to its employees. The Downtown Alton district has long been a hub for many classic creative enterprises, such as visual arts and media, but attendees of the workshop will be encouraged to broaden their horizons on what fields are considered creative, to include industries such as: architecture, crafts, culinary, cultural, design, fashion, film, publishing, software development and technology.

Kicking off the workshop from 3 to 5 p.m., Pam Schallhorn, Community Economic Development educator from University of Illinois Extension, will give a presentation called “Developing A Creative Economy.” Attendees will learn how residents, business and property owners, civic organizations, and city officials can create an environment where these types of businesses will choose to open their doors.

Next, from 5 to 6 p.m., the audience will enjoy a live “Shark Tank” style session, where creative entrepreneurs will deliver two-minute pitches on the current state of their business, project, or idea and receive rapid-fire feedback from a panel of experts. The registration fee for the first two segments of the workshop is $10.00, which includes appetizers from many local food purveyors.

Finally, from 6 to 8 p.m., a “Creative Entrepreneur Cocktail Expo” will be held in the main gallery, which is free to the public. During the party, creatives can browse informational tables from many organizations, businesses and individuals who are offering support to fledgling creative entrepreneurs. They will also be able to learn about available real estate, find opportunities to sell their wares, and land contract employment. The event will also be a supportive atmosphere to network with successful business mentors, financial lenders and media. A cash bar will be provided.

“At the event, a jewelry maker will find outlets to consign her work, someone considering an endeavor in the culinary arts can learn about markets for his products, and local performance artists will receive contact info for Downtown venues who are looking to hire their services,” said Sara McGibany, executive director of Alton Main Street. “The goal is to provide resources and information. I’ve been involved with many circumstances where a creative entrepreneur is great at their trade, but just needed a little support on their weaker spots in regards to business. Sometimes giving a small business owner advice on where to turn for marketing, financial or real estate help enables them to really flourish.”

The Alton Main Street organization and its partners are available to help small entrepreneurs navigate any obstacles they face in order to take their business to the next level. Developers are welcome to attend the workshop to learn about investment opportunities in Downtown Alton’s historic district and become acquainted with Alton’s growing creative culture. Register online, reserve a table at the expo, or apply to be on stage pitching your idea for a chance at cash prizes at:

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