Growing our Future #STLMade | Across STL
How innovators, thinkers, doers and makers are revitalizing the St. Louis region
-Photo by R.J. Hartbeck
Over the past few years, St. Louis has seen incredible growth in our innovative industries, thriving food scene, expanded cultural amenities and has become one of the fastest-growing locations for entrepreneurs – without compromising the affordable, livable nature of our region – and that renaissance is driven by our innovators, thinkers, doers and makers.
Southwest Magazine called the region a “dream factory” and STLMade agrees. STLMade is a movement working to shine a light on the people, innovations, and ideas that are driving growth and change in our region so that residents and non-residents alike can better see the renaissance for themselves. Through stories on theSTL.com, the movement aims to highlight the work being done and the progress being made – from building communities that are more inclusive, to creating new industries and economic opportunities, to finding those ideal careers people never thought possible.
St. Louis is a place where a small business can thrive, or a girl can grow up to achieve career milestones she never imagined. Growing up, Angi Taylor didn’t think a career in science was an option for her. “I was always led to believe that someone like me was not a scientist,” Taylor says. “I was fascinated. I would go into the lab and look at what they did and think, ‘Oh, wow this is amazing, but I can’t do this.’”
That all changed when as an administrative assistant at St. Louis Community College’s Center for Plant and Life Sciences at the Bio-Research, Development and Growth Park (BRDG Park) at Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, she noticed students train in the sciences and land gainful, interesting jobs at BRDG Park. She decided to take classes herself, and because of the program, interned with NewLeaf Symbiotics at BRDG Park before taking a permanent position as a lab clerk there.
“I was not a traditional student. At that time, I was in my mid-40’s and taking classes all over again. But it wasn’t as impossible as I thought,” Taylor says. “We need to do what it takes. Learn something different. Yes, it takes effort, but this is where the future is going. This amazing science is happening right here.”
As the agriculture industry continues to grow in St. Louis, more and more trained specialists at all levels will be needed to staff both startups and established companies. It’s a challenge, but it’s one Taylor thinks the region is ready for. It’s also a challenge that is going to require increasing numbers of talented people to fill the growing agricultural industry, as well as the burgeoning geospatial, tech and finance industries – and the skyrocketing startup community. It means more nontraditional students like Angi Taylor, and a more diverse workforce. St. Louis is leading the charge there, too, as one of the most welcoming and inclusive startup cities. Even the Brookings Institute noted that the businesses, organizations and individuals who reside here are committed to diversifying our workforces and positioning job seekers for global opportunities.
Local programs and organizations focused on promoting equity in tech and beyond, such as LaunchCode, have sprung up in large part to increase the diversity of age, background, gender, race and more.
Meanwhile, St. Louis has several inclusion-focused tech initiatives, including the St. Louis Equity in Entrepreneurship Collective, one of the only programs in the nation focused on building equity in techbased entrepreneurship ecosystems at a regional level, and the Missouri Cures Education Foundation has presented the Women in Science and Entrepreneurship (WISE) Statewide Conference for five years running. The conference features panel discussions with women leaders succeeding in science, medicine, business, technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship.
Local opportunities also exist for school-aged girls looking to build skills and education in the tech space. For example, international supermodel, entrepreneur, and St. Louis native, Karlie Kloss, has offered her Kode With Klossy coding summer camps for girls age 13-18 in St. Louis and beyond since 2015, while in North St. Louis, Hawthorn Leadership School for Girls provides middle and high school girls a STEMbased college preparatory education and is the first public all-girls school in Missouri.
Those efforts are paying off. Just this past April, Seek Business Capital found that St. Louis has the most female-owned startups in the country, and PitchBook noted a high percentage of the VC funding for female-owned startups was for companies based here. The efforts of these communities, organizations and programs make St. Louis one of the most welcoming tech hot spots in the country.
Across STL is a collaboration between the Katy Land Trust and Trailnet, telling the stories of the people and places that make the St. Louis community.
This article was first published in Across STL Volume 3, click here to read the entire issue.