Creative Entrepreneurs Flock to VenturePop 2016

                                Photos (except for the selfie) by Trevor Mark Photography

Hi everyone!  A couple of weekends ago, The Warehouse’s staff followed a swarm of colorful creatives to OC Haley Boulevard for VenturePop 2016.  We met dozens of inspiring local entrepreneurs during this two-day whirlwind and felt compelled to share our experience with you :-)

What is VenturePop?  Have you been to a stuffy corporate business conference?  If yes, imagine that conference was a coloring book and your demon nephew attacked it with Play-Doh and fluorescent crayons.  At a corporate conference, you’ll find grey suits and more grey suits; at VenturePop, we saw orange tops, pink bottoms, and 3” heels covered in gold glitter.  Instead of polite laughter and reserved smiles, we witnessed uncontrolled giggling, ear-to-ear smiles, and too many enveloping bear hugs to count.  Add what may be the nation’s only “Shoe-Off” and mid-day Hip-Hop workouts and you begin to appreciate the unique nature of this annual two-day (Sept 16-17 this year) creative conference. 

After its second year in existence, VenturePop has built a community of loyal members who are working to deepen the fabric of the New Orleans entrepreneurial landscape.  Re Howse, co-founder of Sea Gem Studios (based in Thibadoux, LA) credits last year’s conference for helping turbo-charge her business.  “The things that jumped out at me as tools to grow my business, I applied, and in a one-year period, our business grew at least 100%, if not more.  I didn’t even grasp all of the things that were presented; I took just a few things that really spoke to me and applied them and that’s what happened.”

Re, who moved to Louisiana in 2005 when she married a “pirate,” (who upon further investigation is actually a tug boat engineer) brought her assistant Tyla Deroche to this year’s conference, and was again impressed with the content.  “VenturePop basically packed me a whole new suitcase full of tools, ideas, and newfound friendships where I can go off on my own little adventure until I return next year.”

Re’s experience matches up perfectly with the original intent of the three founders: local entrepreneurs Justin Shiels, Ciera Holzenthal, and Kristy Oustalet.  After attending creative conferences in other cities, the trio set about developing New Orleans’ own unique version, which would support entrepreneurs and help ignite the local creative business community.  

We asked Justin to describe this growing tribe, which this year included visitors from Maine, California, and Seattle.  “The VenturePop community is made for the creative entrepreneur.  That includes freelancers, curators, makers and artists, but it also includes anybody who owns a business and considers themselves a creative person.” 

Sarah Covert is one such entrepreneur who is tackling a traditional lane from a unique & creative angle.  Her business, Sarah’s Pet Care Revolution, provides “thoughtful pet care and owner support that intentionally respects the pet, the family, the community, and the planet.”  Sarah explained that “Families and pets are so linked that it makes sense to invest in people.” So, the business actively supports charities such as Hagar’s House, the Innocence Project, and Families & Friends of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children.  She learned about VenturePop from her sister Maggie, who owns Walking Man Studios, and decided to attend because “It’s essential as an entrepreneur to stay connected to inspiration and motivation all the time because you can really get bogged down in day to day challenges and customer service.” 

A native New Orleanian, Sarah left the city before the Hurricane Katrina levee failure and did not expect to return.  However, she was inspired by the post-storm landscape of entrepreneurship and commitment to social change.  “It’s challenging to people who lived here before because we’re not used to change, but having new people here dedicated to building up the community means we as a city will exist for perpetuity.” 

Erin Wexstten recently joined the burgeoning landscape of socially conscious creative entrepreneurs when she left her job as a fashion designer and relocated from Brooklyn, NY to New Orleans this past February.  She now focuses full-time on her company — Oxalis Apothecary —an outgrowth of her long-time passion for making natural, plant-based skin & body products.  

Erin sees New Orleans as an ideal environment for her rapidly growing business, which now sells products through retail locations in nine states, Canada, and Australia.  “The New Orleans creative entrepreneurial community is beyond my wildest dreams great.  I could never do this in New York.  There’s too much noise and I don’t know if I could afford it at the pace I’m growing.  You don’t feel that tension of ‘I’m trying to be better than you and I’m not going to let you succeed.’  People here are like, “Let’s fly together!”  Erin’s decision to relocate from Brooklyn was largely influenced by her experience at VenturePop 2015, and especially the female creatives she met at the conference.  “I’d never experienced people talking and encouraging this kind of dialogue.... They had no fear.  They were fearless, bad-ass women.”

Erin and many other entrepreneurs we met at VenturePop are self-proclaimed members of the “Slash Generation,” a term referencing the numerous hats creatives wear while working to bring their dreams into business reality.  Example:

Question:  What’s your role in your business?

Answer:  “I’m the graphic designer/copy editor/sales rep/hostess.”  

That’s four roles and three slashes if you’re counting!

Liz Maute Cooke, the host of VenturePop 2016 and founder of Lionheart Prints (Flagship shop @ 8723 Oak St) lovingly referred to Slash Generation members as “Human Swiss Army Knives.”  To sharpen all those tools, VenturePop provided a broad array of practical content for attendees.  Keynote speaker Tara Gentile explained how in order to grow a business you need to change its design (working harder alone won’t do it!).  The Being Boss podcast duo Emily Thompson & Kathleen Shannon described how their unique “chalk board method” helped them set goals and grow their popular podcast & loyal following.  David Jones II, who runs Baton Rouge-based Pioneer Collective with business partner Jesse LaBauve, explained the importance of storytelling in building a brand.  “If people don’t understand who you are, what you’re doing, and where you’re going, they’re not going to follow you.”  Tactical presentations on everything from Instagram to accounting topped off the Saturday/Sunday event.

While most of the presentations focused on practical guidance, one was built to inspire.  The New Orleans-based Dear World project brought the whole Jazz Market to tears with videos of their field work with Syrian refugees and Boston Marathon bombing victims.  Dear World's intimate message-on-skin portraits of humans ranging from celebrities like Drew Brees and the late Stuart Scott to victims of the South Sudanese Civil War have earned the project world-wide acclaim.  Executive Producer Jonah Evans explained how his business partnership with Dear World founder Robert Fogarty originated when they met at Rendon Inn on the night of the Saints 2010 Super Bowl victory, and recounted how the project’s first revenue stream came from tip buckets at bars.  Eli Silverman, founder of Caliper Web Design and member of The Warehouse, reflected that Dear World’s origin story was one of many inspiring “reminders that successful people are just people who start out bootstrapping.” 

After their presentation, the Dear World team handed out black markers and trained its cameras on us, the conference-goers, stirring up intimate conversations (what message do I write on myself?!) and gifting each of us with an individualized portrait memento for the road.

To break up what little monotony existed, dance instructors from Move Ya Brass, a local business founded by New Orleans’ favorite Songbird/entrepreneur Robin Barnes, led the VenturePop crowd through mid-day hip hop dance routines. 

Full Disclosure:  The Warehouse staff can be found moving our brass at nearby Crescent Park (it’s free!) on Tuesdays at 5:45pm with these no-nonsense dance fitness gurus!  Bring ya’ brass down there and join us next week!

Friends, the New Orleans creative entrepreneurial community is alive and well! 

 

 

The Warehouse is a shared office / coworking community in New Orleans’ Bywater neighborhood.

 

 

 

Coming Events at The Warehouse

Now that we are (almost) settled in, we'd like to expand on our member/community events and programs.  We have loads of ideas for our educational, entertaining, and professional development agenda but we would always appreciate your input!  If you or someone you know have ideas as to how we can best utilize our space in this specific territory, drop us a line! Some exciting things we are working on for next month:

YOGA ON THE ROOF--donation based yoga classes for any level.

ART GALLERY SPACE--artists can volunteer to hang their work in our space and in turn we will offer them a free art opening to the public.  Artwork can also be accessed during our business hours for sale to the public for the duration of their time here.

FREELANCE FRIDAY (SEPTEMBER 30TH)--monthly social coworking meetup for freelancers, creatives, entrepreneurs, digital nomads, and telecommuters.   For more info: https://www.facebook.com/events/1811824682428911/

I hope you can join us in any future happenings here at The Warehouse.  We'd love to take advantage of everything that our community and it's members have to offer so if you have any thoughts, ideas, referrals, etc. please let us know!

 

 

 

 

The Warehouse: Where are we now?

We've realized after all our hard work opening The Warehouse these last couple of months, we've failed to give you an update on how things are going around here.  The doors officially opened for business May 16th. A few members who were faithfully committed before our big dusty warehouse even resembled a coworking space moved in a little earlier after patiently waiting weeks for permits to clear, furniture to be delivered, walls to be finished, and the literal dust to clear.  

As I write this article, 15 of our 20 offices, a handful of desks, and our ever growing communal coworking table are occupied with incredible people.  The most amazing part of coworking is being surrounded by folks from every single career path imaginable.  Our walls house web designers, graphic artists, a professor, architects, construction companies, non-profits, a production company, a photographer, and a lawyer to name a few.  We began our venture dedicated to diversity of industry so anyone who walked through the doors would feel like they belonged here.  Luckily that happened pretty organically due to our unique niche in the bywater. We are currently the only coworking space in this neighborhood of New Orleans and our biggest lesson was how significant of a role location would play.  Not only have we created an incredibly versatile work environment but as most of our members live in close vicinity, it has created more of a coworking neighborhood (as we've come to refer to it). Our bike racks are definitely getting their fair share of use!

Summer is a sleepy time of the year around here.  People head for the hills (since we surely don't have any) to avoid the humidity that is more likely to produce the random afternoon nap rather than productive workdays.  I think we've got it figured out though.  The secret to motivated, creative individuals: surround yourself with other motivated, creative individuals. Oh, and iced coffee.  LOTS of iced coffee.

 

 

Our Building's History: 1890's Map

 
An 1890's Insurance Map of 3014 Dauphine St.

If these walls could talk...we imagine 3014 Dauphine St would have some interesting stories to tell.  So we set about researching the history of our beautiful building, which is located in New Orleans's Bywater neighborhood.

We ventured down to The Historic New Orleans Collection (www.hnoc.org) in the French Quarter to do some research.  Those friendly folks (in their beautiful reading room!) found us this late 1800's Sanborn Insurance Map (attached photo). 

Turns out this was once the "J.J. Sporl Cotton Pickery."  Cotton was brought to the Pickery from fields to be dried, graded (separated by quality) and then prepared for shipment to the Northeastern U.S. and to the UK.

More historical info to follow!  We also discovered some stunning pre-renovation photos that we'll share with you soon :-)

 

We're open!

Welp, we've definitely fallen behind in our updates, but are so happy to announce that we're finally open! Still a few minor punch list items to complete, but our first members have started moving in and we're sweeping up the dust.

We'll be posting more photos and info in the weeks to come, but we can't wait to show you what we've been working on these past few months, so come say hi anytime and see for yourself, and we'll grab you a chair if you need a place to work for the day!

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One Step Closer

We have officially completed a very exciting part of our journey.  The floors have been finished! This was such an important milestone as it allowed us to truly visualize the space and what it will become (soon!)  It's neat to see these floors made up of all the little imperfections and tell the story of what this historic space has been over the years and all the exciting things that await in the future.

 

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The Warehouse

Hey guys!  We've spent the last month finetuning, we didn't forget about you!  Most importantly, our name changed.  This was a much tougher decision that we expected it to be, but we decided to pay homage to our beautiful space and keep it simple by calling it what it is...The Warehouse. We are all familiar with the legendary venue on Tchoupitoulas that hosted acts like Fleetwood Mac and the Grateful Dead bearing the same name, but we figured it was ok after 30+ years to revive the namesake.  We won't be hosting epic rock concerts (or maybe we will, who knows!) but we hope to make it just as awesome of a place nonetheless.  We will be posting some pics of the progress soon so stay in touch! 

Things are happening!

We've been hard at work choosing light fixtures, changing lightbulbs to try and get just the right mood, constructing mock offices, and learning how to (poorly) operate a scissor lift.  Tomorrow the concrete floors are starting their refinement period.  We'll keep you posted on all the exciting things coming up!

I'm pretty sure I ran into the wall right after this picture was taken.

I'm pretty sure I ran into the wall right after this picture was taken.