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Entrepreneurship : For Good

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Arts and culture equal big business in Hillsborough

Editor's note: Due to the uncertainty of the impact of Hurricane Irma, the Hillsborough Arts Council has canceled this Sept. 14 event at Tampa Theatre.

Many may think supporting the arts is an act of charity or something done just for fun, but a new study outlines the true value in terms of dollars and sense. In fiscal year 2015, the nonprofit arts and culture industry had an economic impact of $433.2 million in Hillsborough County alone.

That’s the message Randy Cohen, VP of Research and Policy for Americans for the Arts, will share between 8-9 a.m. September 14 at Tampa Theatre, 711 North Franklin St., in downtown Tampa.

“So often people just see the arts as being a quality of life issue, and they don’t think about the economic impact,” explains Martine Meredith Collier, Executive Director of the Tampa-based Arts Council of Hillsborough County.

The Arts and Economic Prosperity study by Americans for the Arts, its fifth, documents the economic impact of the nonprofit arts and culture industry in 341 regions within the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

The Arts Council paid $10,250 for the local impact study with funding from the Hillsborough County Economic Development office and the Gobioff Foundation. The council joined the study as a partner to receive a customized analysis.

The numbers show the arts have had a growing role. Since fiscal year 2008, the economic impact of arts in Hillsborough climbed from nearly $298 million.

Collier points out business and government support for the arts is good for business. “It really is not a frill. People want to live in communities that have a vibrant cultural scene,” she says.

Today’s young entrepreneurs can choose to live wherever they want. “They can live anywhere as long as there is an airport and a computer connection,” she explains. “They’re choosing where to live, where to raise a family, by what that communities offer. If you don’t have a vibrant cultural scene, you’re cutting yourself off.”

Of the $433.2 million, arts and culture within the City of Tampa accounted for $349.2 million, according to a separate report.

In the Tampa Bay region, nonprofit arts and culture had the most dramatic economic impact in Hillsborough County, followed by $295 million impact in Sarasota County and nearly a $241 million impact in Pinellas County, according to estimates. The economic impact of the industry in Manatee County was some $47.4 million, compared to nearly $46.6 million in Polk County.

The event, which begins with networking at 7:30 a.m., is free and open to the general public. Interested parties are asked to RSVP.

Cohen has published one of the largest national public opinion studies on the arts, Americans Speak Out About the Arts. He also publishes Arts and Economic Prosperity and Creative Industries, two premier economic studies of the art industries. His blog, 10 Reasons to Support the Arts, earned the Gold Award given by the Association of Media and Publishing.

The council, in its 50th year, will be using findings from the study through its three-year strategic plan. “We’re going to be continuing to promote the value of arts and culture through our strategic plan,” she says.

The study found nonprofit arts and cultural events drew visitors who spent an average of  $67.51 per person, in addition to admission.

It shows 78.7 percent of those who visit Hillsborough County for a cultural event come primarily for that event. “The [non-resident] survey also asked local resident attendees about what they would have done if the arts event that they were attending was not taking place: 51.3 percent of resident attendees said they would have ‘traveled to a different community to attend a similar cultural event,' " the report notes.

Forty-two percent, or more than 2 million people, who attended local arts events included in the study were non-residents. They spent nearly $155 million in addition to admission fees.

The arts industry supports 14,962 full-time jobs with a household income of some $329.1 million in Hillsborough County.

Nearly 65 percent of the nonprofit arts and cultural organizations took part in the study countywide. “We were very successful in getting all of the larger budget organizations,” Collier adds.

Art lovers can learn more about the area art scene through the Art Council's new publication, A Guide to Arts and Culture, available in print and digital formats.


For Good: Fast Pitch seeks entries from Tampa Bay Area nonprofits

It’s like Shark Tank, nonprofit style. And it’s coming to Tampa November 9. Ten nonprofit organizations will be competing for some $40,000 in an event inspired by the popular TV show for businesses seeking funding.

Tampa will be the first Fast Pitch event with an accelerator program through the Seattle-based Social Venture Partners. It also is the first Fast Pitch event for the Tampa chapter started in 2014; nonprofits will be vying for funding from SVP partners.

We really want to give them an opportunity in Tampa to amplify their impact,” says Jennifer Finney, a partner for SVP and member of the team spearheading the effort. “It’s zero cost to the nonprofit and to the attendees.”

The program seeks to better equip nonprofits to “execute their mission and their vision, as well as have access to all the tools and the resources that we can provide,” Finney explains. “We want a build a space for them to really collaborate.”

Nonprofits must apply by August 14; finalists will be announced August 21. The pitch competition is slated for November 9, although the location has not been finalized.

Participating nonprofits will be able to prepare for the competition with five different workshop nights and an assigned mentor, she says. Those who complete the two-month program will have a business plan.

SVP, a group of philanthropists looking to give back to their community, has been partnering with Community Foundation of Tampa Bay and the University of Tampa, where Finney is the first female to graduate from the Sykes College of Business with a master’s degree in Entrepreneurship.

“They [Community Foundation members] have a lot of experience in the nonprofit space. They have been very helpful to us,” Finney says. “They’ve been very generous with their time and their resources.”

Finney, 23, transferred to UT when her family relocated from Chicago to Tampa about three years ago. “I fell in love with it, especially their entrepreneurship program. I liked it so much I went for my master’s degree,” she says.

She competed on UT’s HULT Prize competition two years in a row.

Now Finney plans to take a job as an employee benefits advisor with Tampa’s Baldwin Krystyn Sherman Partners in the fall. “We all live in Tampa. We all want to see great success here in Tampa,” she says. “It’s not Chicago or New York by size, but there’s a lot of really passionate and talented people here making Tampa one of the greatest places to live. You really can’t beat the weather.”


Got a big idea for a social enterprise? Community Foundation of Tampa Bay might fund it

Because it’s virtually impossible for local donors alone to meet the financial needs of nonprofits serving people in need, the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay is holding its second Big Idea Grant competition, offering up to $50,000 to nonprofits who pitch the best ideas for either a new social enterprise for their organization or by expanding something they’re already doing. 

The goal of nonprofit social enterprise is to help these organizations become sustainable by relying less on charity and more on self-sufficiency to earn the money necessary to continue to do the good works that they do. 

The caveat, though, is that in order to win, nonprofits must find organizations that are similar to their own in mission, and work together to create a business plan with a clear road to sustained profitability. 

In 2015 the Big Idea Grant participants came up with so many innovative and creative ideas for collaborations that two more donors came forward with $50,000 each so that three different collaborating nonprofit groups were able to move forward with their initiatives. 

One of 2015’s winners, My Mobile Market was a partnership between Feeding Tampa Bay, Suncoast Goodwill and Tampa Bay Food Truck Rally to supply low-income neighborhoods with a pop-up grocery story, supplying affordable, healthy fresh food items like fruits and veggies, and non-perishable staples like beans and rice and peanut butter. 

Matt Spence, CFTB’s VP of Community Impact, says that one of the key ingredients that comprises nonprofit success is allowing a nonprofit to concentrate on what they are already doing well. In partnering with other groups that are doing a similar service but may have more experience with a different aspect of the same mission, these collaborations mean bigger and better results for all involved. 

My Mobile Market is an example of why that works. 

“Feeding Tampa Bay understands food and nutrition and distribution and they do those things extremely well,” says Spence. “What they don’t have experience with, and what Goodwill brought to the table, was in the job training aspect of it, so Goodwill was working with their adult clients to help build job skills and those are the people who man the trucks, who drive it, who sell the food. Those are all Goodwill employees. It’s a way to to connect to different areas of expertise while still allowing the nonprofits do what they do well.”

The deadline for submissions to win the Big Idea Grant is March 3. 

For Good: Seafood processing plant wins Gulf Coast Community Foundation incentive grant

A proposal to create a state-of-the-art seafood processing and distribution plant in Manatee County claimed the top prize on Monday in the inaugural Gulf Coast Innovation Challenge. The winning project “Healthy Earth-Gulf Coast: Sustainable Seafood System” was chosen from a pool of more than 30 proposals in the Gulf Coast Community Foundation’s first ever incentive-grant competition intended to stimulate Florida’s Blue Economy.

The Healthy Earth-Gulf Coast team is comprised of nonprofit and private partners, including the Sarasota-based natural and sustainable foods business Healthy Earth, scientists from Mote Marine Laboratory, the Cortez fishing community and the Chiles Group, a Sarasota-Manatee restaurant group that champions seafood sustainability. 

“What we have is a commodity-based model, but what we need is an asset value based model. We’re currently selling great, wild, organic healthy seafood as a commodity -- and we undervalue our heritage resource,” Chiles Group CEO Ed Chiles explained in a September interview with 83 Degrees.

Chiles says that Manatee County’s “heritage resource” -- gray-striped mullet -- currently leaves the region at approximately $10 per pound and is typically processed overseas before returning to the United States as a salted and cured delicacy known as bottarga, which retails at up to $200 per pound. 

“All the value-added steps are being captured elsewhere on our product,” Chiles says. “We need a state-of-the-art facility so that we can capture the hierarchy of value with that mullet here in Manatee County.”

The Gulf Coast Community Foundation awarded Healthy Earth-Gulf Coast a $25,000 grant to develop its business prototype when the team advanced to the Challenge finalist stage in July. Healthy-Earth Gulf Coast will now receive an additional $375,000 in grant funding to pursue its plans for a value-added processing plant in Manatee County, which the team proposes will create new economic opportunities and revitalize the region’s heritage fishing community.

In addition to the construction of a multifaceted processing facility, Healthy Earth-Gulf Coast seeks to achieve Marine Stewardship Council certification to strengthen a sustainable local Blue Economy centered on mullet, and eventually other locally sourced seafood.

“The problem with aquaculture in the U.S. is that we are grossly behind the rest of the world. The total world aquaculture market in 2014 was $147 billion, and the U.S. accounted for only 1.4 percent of that. We have an $11 billion trade deficit in seafood,” says Healthy Earth CEO Chris Cogan.

“The only aquaculture that exists in the U.S. are ‘Mom and Pop’ farms. They can grow it just fine, but the problem is they can’t do anything with it. Without the proper facilities, they can’t process it and prepare it in such a way that places like Publix or Whole Foods are willing to buy it wholesale. … Everything we do, we want to do sustainably -- whether that’s farm-raising fish, or making a more sustainable market for wild-caught fish, as is the case with grey striped mullet,” Cogan says.

The winning team was chosen by a panel of local business, investment and technology experts who reviewed the five finalists’ proposals and advised the Gulf Coast Community Foundation Board of Directors in the final decision.

The Gulf Coast Community Foundation launched the $500,000 incentive-grant challenge in February. Of the more than 30 teams that applied to the competition, five were awarded $25,000 apiece in July to create their prototypes. All of the original challengers’ submissions, including short videos of their proposals, remain available online at the GCCF website.

For Good: Recycled bike shop wins $1,000 Awesome Tampa Bay grant

$1,000 to the most innovative idea? Four times a year, Tampa Bay residents have the chance to apply for just that.

Awesome Tampa Bay grants are something like mini-angel investors in innovative local ideas. The self-funded community of members who make up Awesome Tampa Bay offer quarterly microgrants in the sum of $1,000 to various projects or proposed ventures with no strings attached.

The group, a chapter of The Awesome Foundation, “funds projects that help make our community an awesome place to live,” says Awesome Tampa Bay’s “Dean of Awesomeness” Rafaela A. Amador. “We’re in our fourth year of grant-making, and it’s been fantastic to see them come to life.”

Previous Awesome Tampa Bay grants have funded Pong in the ParkArt Vending Machine, The Birdhouse Buying Club, and other ideas or efforts to improve the “awesome” factor of the Tampa Bay area.

The latest recipient of a $1,000 grant from the group is the ReCycle Bin, a free bike shop built from entirely recycled parts and filled with entirely donated ones.

ReCycle Bin “touched on three qualities that the Awesome Foundation trustees thought most important: niceness, bigness and 'wow-ness,' ” says Amador, who is the senior director of corporate communications for the Tampa Bay Rays.

The ReCycle Bin operates out of two revamped shipping containers built by volunteers and is “full of donated frames, parts, and tools that are used to build and fix bicycles for our poor neighbors,” explains founder Jessica Renner.

But the ReCycle Bin doesn’t give bikes or parts away freely with no questions asked, Renner explains. Rather, self-reliance and involvement in rebuilding or repairing bicycles is a part of the process.

“Those who are in need of a bike or help with their existing bike are being taught how to build and maintain their bikes themselves,” Renner says.

The ReCycle Bin stations are located at The Well in Ybor City, a center for social services including weekly meals, counseling, a free market, and faith. Work is split among a variety of volunteers: some of whom perform as a labor of love, some who enjoy tinkering with the bikes, and some who “originally came in to build themselves a bike, and now come back to help others,” Renner explains.

That those who have been helped come back to help others is one sign that the ReCycle Bin is a success. The group’s main objective is “to develop relationships across economic divides and build a stronger community, based on sharing skills and resources,” Renner says. 

The passion to help the community through the donation of time and talent by Jessica and all the volunteers with ReCycle Bin was what stood out the most,” Amador explains. “It was a unanimous decision by the trustees to award them the Awesome grant.”

With the $1,000 Awesome Tampa Bay grant money, the ReCycle Bin will “purchase a tent or a carport for our shop, so we will have our own shaded work space,” Renner says. 

Currently, “we are working to gain more volunteers, potentially hold some workshops, and put together a regular bike ride calendar for our bike club, The Well's Angels,” Brenner says.

The Well’s Angels. Now that’s awesome. 
 
Do you have a great idea or project that would help make Tampa Bay more “awesome”? Apply for the next quarterly grant by May 31. 
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