Winston-Salem Focuses on Developing an Inclusive Entrepreneurial Community through Venture Cafe
Over three years ago, city leaders approved the official slogan of the community, unanimously agreeing to the tagline – “City of Arts and Innovation” – during a City Council meeting in April 2014. Innovation is defined as the action or process of developing a new method, idea or product. Winston-Salem for a long-time has been in the innovation business.
However Winston-Salem has long been dominated by a handful of families, business and community leaders – which means the city has not been entirely inclusive of all people regardless of gender, race and culture.
Approximately three years later, city leaders announced the launch of Venture Café Winston-Salem, and made a big splash with a grand event at Wake Forest Biotech Center and featured high profile leaders from across the region.
Venture Café’s mission is to broaden, connect and support the innovation community through public spaces and programs to help anyone with an idea succeed. They hope to connect individuals, communities and organizations into one tightly woven successful innovation ecosystem right here in the Piedmont Triad region.
Last week I participated in a panel discussion at Venture Café sponsored by Hustle WS that was moderated by Matthew Williams, director of communications in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion at Wake Forest University, and featured Fay Horowitz, program director for Venture Café, James Perry, president of the Winston-Salem Urban League along with leaders from the Hispanic League and M Creative.
The hour long discussion highlighted the need to transform Winston-Salem from largely a “country club” community to a highly inclusive city that focused on the best and brightest ideas, not race, background and pedigree or lack thereof.
I attend the weekly Venture Café events and discover new people with new ideas; thoughts and opportunities working to enlarge our small community with new talent. Winston-Salem has a rare opportunity to lead other cities across the nation in developing an inclusive entrepreneurial community that drives significant innovation and growth.
They simply need people in all shapes, sizes and places to show up with their passion, energy and support.
And that’s what’s happening at Venture Cafe. From Winston-Salem. From Greensboro. From Clemmons, Kernersville, East Bend, Thomasville, King and even Roanoke VA to share their innovation and entrepreneurial dreams. More than 175 folks gather each Thursday to learn, connect and find ways to help one another and our community.
Here’s what happens when you show up at Venture Cafe. Entrepreneurs are finding office space. Investors are learning about new local opportunities. People new to the area are landing job interviews and making new connections. Business owners are finding mentors and resources to help them grow and thrive. Local non-profits are sharing their stories. Experts are sharing their knowledge with those who are hungry to learn.
Exciting connections and opportunities are being forged across every quarter of the city through new relationships. Creative collisions happen every Thursday in unexpected ways – between students and CEOs, designers and engineers, scientists and artists. It’s like a Jackson Pollock painting – it may look like chaos, but it’s highly engineered serendipity.