We needed to create Fund St. Louis.
One of the fun things about startup companies is that there is always a story behind what motivated someone to get up and put their plan into action. It’s one of the inherently human things about business that really gets to the core of why we spend so much time at work, and really shows you the heart and character of that particular business. We wanted to share the story of why we put Fund St. Louis out to the world and why we so passionately work for its success.
Our story begins with family. My wife Angela and I have spent the first part of our careers in a constant struggle with the St. Louis job market and have always had one foot out the door. It’s been a struggle because it has always been our intention to stay “home” with family. But the bigger jobs and some of the things that can really advance a career are outside of St. Louis for a lot of industries (though not all). We’ve been stuck with the age-old issue of “settle for mediocrity but be close to family” or “leave and chase the big career.” After years of working in St. Louis (and even as far away as San Francisco), we opted for option “C” which was try to create the best career you could with your own business so that you could stay in St. Louis with family and be satisfied with your work and be challenged by your career.
And from what we’ve heard, we’re not the only ones that have struggled with that decision. Time and time again, we run into very talented people who feel “stuck” in their current situation. Usually we hear something like “I’d love to switch jobs, but where do I go? There’s not much else in St. Louis and if I move my kids away from their friends to another city, they’ll kill me.” (insert countless variations here)
We were eating pancakes with the kids one morning when it hit us. We don’t want our children to have to feel like they need to “settle” if they want to stay in St. Louis to be with us and our extended family. (Nor do we want them to move away, either!) They should not have to go through their careers with one foot out the door in constant mental struggle. There should be a vibrant business environment in St. Louis where they can have their pick of great jobs. St. Louis should be a place where they can really pursue a challenging career and feel fulfilled. All while being close to family and raising their kids here where they grew up.
And when we told more people about this story, they felt very strongly that they would love to give those opportunities to their children as well. It struck them that in the challenge of giving our children “every opportunity to succeed” those paths often lead to other cities. It was a recent college grad, though, that summed it up nicely. In explaining that none of his MICDS graduating class were coming back to St. Louis after college, I asked him why he was. He simply said “I owe it to St. Louis to come back. I owe it to the place i grew up in to try and do my part to reverse the trend.” (and with the current unemployment rate of 8.9% in St. Louis County, 11.4% in St. Louis City and a median household income of just over $33k –we couldn’t think of a better time to help our city flourish!)
Well, that’s where we are. We need to stop the deportation of our best talent. We need to better the city we grew up in. We owe it to St. Louis to give it everything we have to change this place for the better. To change this place for our kids. To change this place for everyone that wants a thriving city with more great jobs, great companies, great ideas…for this generation…and the next.
So just simply creating businesses for ourselves and our employees was not enough, we needed to do more. We needed to find a way to enable as many entrepreneurs as we can to start companies and create jobs as well. We needed to begin to change the culture of St Louis to support small business, to support entrepreneurs, and to support the notion that it’s “OK” to work at a company that’s not well-known. That is IS a safe, fulfilling and challenging career. To be proud and FLOURISH in that career.
In short, we NEEDED to create Fund St. Louis. We owe it to St. Louis, our families, our kids, and the spirit of a thriving city to start Fund St. Louis. We’re doing our part to help reverse the trend and we’re very hopeful that Fund St. Louis is a catalyst to a more dynamic and small-business friendly St. Louis.
It’s our time to flourish.