Connecting the Dots
Just like many others, I was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri.
Let me rephrase that: I was born and raised in one of the many white, suburban bubbles that exist west down Highway 40 from the city of St. Louis.
All things considered, I had a fairly normal childhood, filled with little league, sleepovers, and the unfortunate divorce, which has become all-too-common.
As a child growing up in the suburbs, it’s hard to notice and truly experience diversity. There were some students bused in from the city, but our public high school was predominantly white kids from middle to upper-class families.
Growing up in this environment, it’s easy to accept this world view as an absolute. This isn’t necessarily surprising considering the quickest way to grow is to experience diversity first-hand, which there can be a lack of.
Fortunately, I had a few key opportunities that expanded my worldview outside of this bubble:
Traveling abroad at a young age. In high school, our band took a one-week trip to Prague in the Czech Republic. Although I may have been too young and immature to fully appreciate the opportunity, it was my first exposure to others my age from a different country and culture.
Going to college. As much as I may be retrospectively unsatisfied with my design education, I can’t help but appreciate the chance to meet others from different cities, backgrounds, cultures, and walks of life. This was a pivotal time to not only learn, but mature as a social being.
Collaborating with others abroad. A few years ago, I had the life-changing opportunity to travel abroad again (this time to France) and work with others from all over the world on shared ideas. My team alone was made up of people from Norway, Portugal, Estonia, and the United States. This experience has changed me the most in terms of maturity, expanding my world view, and reaching a higher level of empathy.
After these experiences, I decided to come back and stay in St. Louis.
This wasn’t because of some underlying allegiance to my city. In fact, it was more selfish. St. Louis can be a strategic place to pursue entrepreneurship due to a relatively low cost of living, low barrier to entry for most networks, and most importantly, the ability to prove a concept with REAL people, not just the 1%.
In terms of creating value on your own terms, I’ve pursued everything including a freelance career in design, writing, cofounding an a cappella organization for young students, starting a freelance collective with others, providing resources for new freelancers, and now, a company that is connecting people with shared ideas and complementary skills.
By no means is this my attempt at humble bragging. I’m simply making a point that I’ve experienced a lot of what St. Louis has to offer for those individuals who have decided to create their own professional lives. And I’ve noticed one inherent problem with this city:
There are so many incredible dots that look like individuals, organizations, communities, hubs, and neighborhoods, but no one is successfully connecting them.
Instead, there are more dots being created every day. These dots are addressing a lot of the same issues and adding to the noise.
Not one to introduce a problem without a proposed solution, I think the first step towards saving this city is to start connecting the dots that are already here.
For example, capturing and sharing a compelling narrative around St. Louis creators and small business owners seems to be a common goal among many local visual storytellers. However, there are countless individuals and agencies attempting this on their own with varying degrees of success.
Instead, why not remove a little bit of ego and combine forces to create a better overall product with a larger impact?
Another example is the innovation communities in St. Louis. There are numerous accelerators, incubators, and coworking centers, but very little collaboration between them. If they were to acknowledge their place in the overall process and share resources, much more progress could be made in creating sustainable companies.
At the end of the day, this is just one person’s perspective. I’m sure there are varying degrees of agreement and disagreement. Hell, there are even people already addressing this problem. I’m only one of them.
If you are too, we should talk. Because at the end of the day, there is no reason to reinvent the wheel. Instead of creating something from scratch (that already exists), let’s take the talent and resources we already have and create something new and even more useful. After all, isn’t that the true definition of innovation?
Do you agree? Do you disagree? Either way, I want to hear why. Let’s continue this conversation below in the comments or on Twitter at @williamfrazr. This is something I’m extremely passionate about. If you can relate, we should connect and talk more about possible solutions.
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