Midtown is a diverse and primarily low-income neighborhood adjacent to Millsaps College. ELSEWorks supports a holistic strategic plan for community revitalization including education, economic development, community and culture, and health and wellness initiatives. The plan is spearheaded by Midtown Partners, Inc., a nonprofit community organization which works to make Midtown a vibrant, healthy, sustainable community in which to live, work, and raise families.
The primary focus of ELSEWorks is economic development, specifically growing Midtown's creative economy. The work under way provides experiential learning opportunities while giving students a way to actively and purposefully engage with and influence our local community through strategic partnerships.
The centerpiece of this economic development initiative is a creative business development center named the Hub Midtown. The Hub is composed of two buildings located in the heart of the Midtown Arts District, the Hatch and the Hanger. The Hub Midtown model provides new business owners access to group workshops and business consultation prior to and during formation, as well as subsequent one-on-one business consulting. See below ELSEWorks' efforts to grow the creative economy in Midtown.
The Hatch with 11,000 square feet provides affordable space and support to start-up businesses and entrepreneurs. The gallery provides space for showings by Midtown artists and is also the site of 1 Million Cups Jackson meeting every Wednesday morning. Mississippi Cold Drip Coffee & Tea Co., founded in 2012 by Raymond Horn, was recruited by ELSEWorks, and is the first tenant to move into the Hatch, and began brewing operations in spring of 2015. “We’ve been involved in helping him select a location for production, and a graphic design for his packaging, along with sorting out a system of financial recording and production policies and procedures,” said Kelsey Worch, MBA 2015 and ELSEWorks business analyst. “We’ve met with him regularly and have gotten to experience and help with a large amount of his company’s development,” said Worch.
The Hangar boasts 20,000 square feet of warehouse space and 3,000 square feet of office space. One of the first tenants in the Hangar was Millsaps art professor Sandra Murchison and her business, Purple Word Center for Book & Paper Arts. ELSEWorks helped Murchison develop her business and funding plan and secure space in the Hangar for Purple Word. Other tenants in the Hangar include Repurposed Projects, Inspire Jackson, Red Squared Productions, and Storied Salvage. ELSEWorks provided Patty Paterson, owner of Repurposed Projects a business plan for her business specializing in furniture made from recycled pallets. Patty said, “ELSEWorks has been with me every step of the way. They’ve just been really great.”
OffBeat, owned by well known Jackson DJ Phillip “Young Venom” Rollins, received assistance from ELSEWorks in the form of a market analysis to support expansion of his alternative culture retail store. Rollins is also a recent graduate of the Business Advantage Program.
TurnUp Studios hosts space for artists Clay Hardwick, BA 2009, and daniel johnson (sic), BA 2011. Hardwick's father is Phil Hardwick, Millsaps MBA 1984, an adjunct instructor in the Else School as well as the Business Advantage Program. johnson (sic) completed the Business Advantage Program.
Pearl River Glass Studio owner Andy Young received assistance from ELSEWorks with a $1 million expansion of his business. Young said, "My craft is 1,000 years old, but when I needed to develop new methods to address market challenges, I turned to ELSEWorks. We had to survive and we had to move forward. The business plan I had at the time was not going to do that. We had to think strategically; ELSEWorks was helpful in conversations about what direction to go."
Midtown Partners Resource Center is run by Midtown Partners, Inc., who is a key partner of the College and supports various education, economic development, community and culture, and health and wellness initiatives in Midtown. Monica Cannon, director of community outreach, and Whitney Grant, creative economies director, participated in the Business Advantage Program. The Center is the future site of Midtown Public Charter School, opening fall 2015.
Soul Wired Cafe received various levels of business assistance from ELSEWorks. Jennifer Goebel, BBA 2013, provided business planning assistance that supported the loan application. "It challenged me in ways I could not have imagined to serve as a consultant to a small business in Midtown—something unheard of for undergraduate students at many colleges and universities," Goebel said.
Studio 2 Concrete/SwingLab is owned by Andy Hilton who is known for his concrete art and SwingLab convertible swings and was one of the first Midtown artists to participate in the Business Advantage Program, and was the first president of the Business Association of Midtown.
Lucky Town Brewing Company, recruited to Midtown by ELSEWorks, in partnership with Midtown Partners, Inc., received assistance with identification of the site location, zoning and funding assistance. As Chip Jones, co-owner of Lucky Town said, “The entire team at ELSEWorks proved to be a very useful resource in developing a schedule and making connections with proper contacts to ensure the process was carried out efficiently. We consider the brewing process a craft in and of itself, so the proposed use fits within the existing fabric of the creative economy.” The ELSEWorks Entrepreneurial Investment Fund is an investor in Lucky Town.
CS's hosts the Beer and Business topical workshops offered by ELSEWorks every quarter to the Business Association of Midtown members. Workshop topics have included: taxes and your business; licenses, permits, and zoning; finding sources of capital; intellectual property; business insurance; and digital marketing.
1 Campus 1 Community Fellow's Residence is the home of Millsaps 1C1C fellows, whose work is focused in the Midtown community. The fellows support Brown Elementary and Rowan Middle schools as well as many other community needs and sponsor the College’s annual Midtown Block Party.
Hope Enterprise Corporation is a private nonprofit community development financial institution. Students assisted with expansion efforts into three rural Mississippi communities that had lost their only banks. Students conducted marketing research, participated in membership drives, conducted financial literacy sessions, and attended the grand opening (where new accounts surpassed expectations!).
The youth entrepreneurship camp was developed for high school students from the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians (MBCI). MBCI is a community of approximately 10,000 members living on tribal land located in 10 counties in Mississippi. The entrepreneurship camp curriculum consisted of a combination of experiences, discussion and lecture, guest speakers, fieldtrips, a mentoring component including exposure to elder tribe members with business skills and success stories, and fun activities.