Start Up Waco: A Conversation With Greg LemanNov. 29, 2018
By Caroline Mitchell
Start Up Waco is an emerging nonprofit in Waco with a mission to aid individuals seeking to start or improve a business in the Waco area. I sat down with founding executive director Greg Leman to talk about Start Up Waco, Hustle and the future of this nonprofit organization.
Caroline Mitchell: First of all, what is Start Up Waco?
Greg Leman: Start Up Waco is a nonprofit organization. Its mission is to make sure that people with good ideas in the Waco region easily find all the available resources to help them succeed. The way that can happen is by thinking of all of the resources available as an ecosystem as opposed to just individual resources. What we are trying to create is an environment where all of those resources know about each other and know how to join forces for the benefit of entrepreneurs.
CM: What is your role in the organization?
GL: I am the founding executive director. This whole thing was not my idea, but I joined forces with it because my previous role as the director of the LAUNCH accelerator over at the BRIC makes me one of those resources in the community—one of those parts in the ecosystem. I have spent much of my career trying to help people succeed with innovation to create value in a marketplace.
CM: What inspired you to get involved?
GL: I was already tuned into the needs of the community for entrepreneurs to get better help because I was already coaching a number of them. It just made sense with me when they said we needed to bring everything together. I saw the need and wanted to help.
CM: There are hundreds of business incubators for entrepreneurs and innovators. What are the key selling points that Waco has to offer?
GL: There are a number of advantages that Waco has to offer. We are almost the dead midpoint logistically of the whole economy of Texas. Any business that wants to reach multiple metro markets and involve something besides software, that gives us an advantage for coming here. Secondly, if you bring a team here and you’re living on venture capital and you’re paying for that with equity, it takes less capital to run a company and feed and clothe and house your team in a city like Waco. It’s a very different kind of cost structure. Waco still thinks of itself and behaves like a smaller town. It's much easier to gain the attention of all of the resources in town here than it is in a place like Austin. Nobody has a silver bullet methodology, you just have to do the work.
CM: What impact do you foresee Start Up Waco having on our city?
GL: When more people with great ideas flourish, than that produces not only a life change for them—It produces jobs for people they hire, it flows money into the economy that gets cycled and it changes a sense of optimism, possibility and inspires others to do the same.
CM: Where do you see this five years from now?
GL: We want people to say, “I can’t believe how much Waco is different now.” We are starting with a central hub, Hustle, down on 605 Austin Avenue. In a five year period, that focus will need to be multi-centric. We want neighborhood-based centers and a variety of functional centers. For Waco to really know things have changed, you’ll see thriving entrepreneurial centers in all the ethnic neighborhoods as well as highly connected efforts out in Hewitt, downtown, McGregor and so on. It should be a much easier place to start and succeed with a new business idea.
CM: Let’s talk about Hustle. Do you have a set opening date, and do you have anything special planned for the opening?
GL: We are planning a Hustle Block Party on the first Friday of December, December 7. It will integrate into the downtown First Friday activities. We will be able to close the whole area in front of Hustle so the 6th and 7th blocks of Austin Avenue will become kind of a pedestrian zone. There will be people there selling food, there will be other small businesses and it will be an open house. You can come in, look around, see the space and meet some of the people who have moved in. It’s going to be fun.
CM: What will be available at Hustle and who is allowed to use the space?
GL: Hustle, like Start Up Waco, is for everybody. There are costs associated with memberships, but there are also scholarship opportunities for those who don’t necessarily have the ability to write a check on day one. It’s the hub of all the programmatic activity to support businesses. You’re in the middle of all of the action and it’s an interactive environment. You will meet a lot of other people who can offer advice. It’s meant to be a space where you have a high collision rate with people who can help.
“This is for everybody. It’s not just for the startups. It’s for anybody working with an innovative idea for their business or for a new business.”
We would like Baylor Business alums to know is that this is a great place to work even very occasionally as they are trying to continue to innovate their businesses. We would love to support people even in 100+ mile radius who could get value from a membership.
For more information about Start Up Waco visit: http://startupwaco.com/
For more information about Hustle visit: https://hustlewaco.com/