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What can artists learn from social entrepreneurs in the investing, startup space?

Laura Callanan is a founding partner of Upstart Co-Lab, an impact investing team taht seeks to connect artists, social entrepreneurs and funding schemes.
Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio
Laura Callanan is a founding partner of Upstart Co-Lab, an impact investing team taht seeks to connect artists, social entrepreneurs and funding schemes.

If you’ve spent any time around the startup space, you know that connecting entrepreneurs with funding is an essential part of the mix for a new company to be successful. You’ll also know that “creativity” is a buzzword entrepreneurs love to throw around.

But what about the initial creatives: artists? Laura Callanan is the founding partner of Upstart Co-Lab, an impact investing and business development team that seeks to connect artists with social entrepreneurs and funding mechanisms.  

In the St. Louis region alone, arts and culture institutions generate some half a billion dollars  in economic activity each year, but it is often a one-way cash flow, with low levels of investment to fund the arts and artists.

On Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air, Callanan joined host Don Marsh to discuss her work. She doesn’t see artists as any different from social entrepreneurs doing work in the startup scene and wants to reverse the flow of funds to help those artists do their work.

“Our mission is to create opportunities for artist-innovators to deliver social impact at scale,” Callanan said. “A social entrepreneur is someone motivated not by getting wealthy themselves but using all those techniques entrepreneurs use in business to do something good in the world, their community.”

Callanan said that creative people frequently gravitate toward solving problems, and thus, they often work in a similar pattern to that of social entrepreneurs.

“They use their artistic aptitudes, imagination, skills, perseverance to address important topics in our communities: environment, kids, health, job creation,” Callanan said. “A lot of artists are doing that work but they’re rarely acknowledged, rewarded and understood to be the social entrepreneurs they are.”

Two examples Callanan gave in reference to this type of work were Jeni Britton Bauer, who got her start as an artist and eventually crafted the popular ice cream chain Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream, and Etsy, a platform that connects creators with a marketplace for people to buy their wares online.

Listen as Callanan discusses the work of Upstart Co-Lab and the overlap between artists and social entrepreneurs:

St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Mary EdwardsAlex Heuer and Kelly Moffitt give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region. 

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Kelly Moffitt joined St. Louis Public Radio in 2015 as an online producer for St. Louis Public Radio's talk shows St. Louis on the Air.