Austin’s Entrepreneurs and Ideas Converge

Posted at: 01/23/2013 5:25 PM
Updated at: 01/23/2013 6:31 PM
By: John Doetkott

(ABC 6 News) -- Part of Austin's Vision 2020 city improvement plan is geared towards helping new and emerging businesses succeed. And on Wednesday the focus was on the "new."

Nearly 60 aspiring entrepreneurs packed a vacant storefront in downtown Austin on Wednesday afternoon, all hoping to find a little inspiration for their new business ideas. And they're not alone.

More than 60,000 people launched new businesses in Minnesota last year, up 18 percent over the year before.

Officials with Vision 2020, which helped organize the event, said meetings like the one on Wednesday help fuel creativity among the city's business community.

“Entrepreneurs tend to want to help each other,” said John Garry, executive director of the Development Corporation of Austin. “So some of the best things you can do for entrepreneurs is just to get them to know other entrepreneurs."

The meeting comes as part of the city's larger plan to attract new businesses to the area.

Businesses like Ellumilite, a specialty lighting company that came to Austin thanks to a partnership with the city's Development Corporation. The group found Ellumilite a new home in a building that had stood vacant for nearly two years.

“It was a good win-win for both Austin and for us to come together,” said Steve Comer, Ellumilite’s executive vice president.

The company, which makes large flexible lighting displays for commercial signage, was founded back in 2009 with the goal of making not only profits, but also a better community.

“That's what an entrepreneur is basically all about,” Comer said. “He wants to get his product out, but he also wants to create a better life for a lot of people."

Officials said they hope that kind of entrepreneurial and community spirit will become contagious and ultimately lead to continued growth and exploration for Austin's businesses.

“We need a culture where it's okay to try things and where the community can rally around you even if you try and fail,” Garry said.

Experts said inventors and entrepreneurs rely on support networks to get their ideas off the ground, and Vision 2020 officials said they hope they helped lay the groundwork for one of those networks on Wednesday.