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Innovation & Job News

Local artists learn business skills at TEC Garage

Attorney Chris Paradies and creatives

Creative Pinellas and TEC Garage are collaborating on a program to help artists and creative professionals learn the entrepreneurial skills needed to be successful in today’s marketplace.

Thanks to funding from Creative Pinellas, artists and arts-related organizations in Pinellas County can apply to participate at no cost in TEC Garage’s nine-week Co.Starters Program that begins September 5.

TEC Garage is part of the Tampa Bay Innovation Center, an innovation and entrepreneurship center for tech businesses that is managed by STAR-TEC Enterprises, Inc., a not-for-profit Florida corporation “whose goal is to foster jobs and promote economic development through assistance and support programs.” Located in downtown St. Petersburg, TEC Garage houses co-working and incubation space, as well as mentoring programs for emerging tech companies and entrepreneurs.

This will be the third time that Creative Pinellas has collaborated with TEC Garage to offer the course to the local arts community, says Barbara St. Clair, executive director of Creative Pinellas. Creative Pinellas is a nonprofit agency supporting the arts community with grant programs, events and activities.

The agency’s new emerging artist grant was featured in a March 21 story in 83 Degrees Media.

St. Clair says she first learned about TEC Garage when she inquired about the program’s co-working space before joining Creative Pinellas in 2016.

“I was impressed with the quality of the program,” says St. Clair. “Then after I was hired at Creative Pinellas, I met with Tonya Elmore, President and CEO of the Tampa Bay Innovation Center, and we agreed that tech entrepreneurs had a lot in common with artists. Both are creative, independent, self-starters and on the leading edge of change. We decided if there was ever an opportunity for us to combine resources we would do that.”

About 20 artists, including Carlos Culbertson, a St. Petersburg mural artist better known as Zulu Painter, have participated in the Co-Starters Program since Creative Pinellas began offering funding for the course.

“Several artists have told us that it was one of the best programs that they had ever attended -- a life-changing experience,” says St. Clair.

Originally developed by an organization in Chattanooga, TN., Co.Starters is now being duplicated in cities across the U.S. with the mission of teaching entrepreneurs how to turn a creative idea into a thriving and sustainable business. 

According to Tampa Bay Innovation Center president Tonya Elmore, the partnership between Creative Pinellas and TEC Garage provides a “unique approach to the integration of the arts with entrepreneurship.”
 
“The Co.Starters program allows creatives to explore the probability of turning their passion into a thriving venture,” says Elmore. “The biggest take away from participants is that it saved them countless hours and mistakes of trying to launch their business on their own. The added value was being in the room with like-minded individuals experiencing similar roadblocks.“

St. Petersburg’s program is taught by Chris Paradies, president of Paradies Law, a boutique law firm specializing in entrepreneurs and small businesses. JJ Roberts, director of TEC Garage, is a guest speaker in the program. Participants meet once a week for three hours in the evening to discuss topics ranging from team building, problem solving and competition to understanding the customer, identifying the right message and marketing and understanding licenses, revenue, legal issues and distribution.

Read more articles by Janan Talafer.

Janan Talafer is a feature writer for 83 Degrees Media in the Tampa Bay region of Florida.
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