"It'll be a fun experiment!"
It was June 2020, a few months into the COVID pandemic and global shutdown, when Lauren Goldberg reached out to Jill Eshelman on LinkedIn, inviting her to a virtual coffee video call.
At the time, we discovered that we shared a personal mission to help local community organizations make spaces into equitable, environmentally regenerative, and artistically engaging places. With both of our next career moves up in the air, it wasn't long before we decided that joining forces would "be a fun experiment" and learning experience.
In July 2020, we made the decision to create a new business. It felt scary, but exciting! We spent the next few months working with trusted business coaches and networked our faces off to make new friends and gain mentors in the community development industry. With their help, we determined the answers to key questions every early-stage venture needs:
What do we call ourselves? After some serious list-making, thesaurus-scouring, and word-smithing, the name Thriving Places Collaborative felt the most energizing. We felt it represents our vision for transforming underutilized spaces into economically, culturally, and environmentally thriving places, while working together with like-minded organizations.
What services do we offer? First, we spoke of our individual skills and our interests. It was important that we build a business around work that we would ENJOY doing for clients. We weighed our skills against the gaps we learned existed in the industry. We heard over and over that small organizations would often need to jump through many hoops (like fundraising, gathering community input, navigating city approval processes, etc.) in order to move their placemaking projects forward. It became obvious that helping organizations maneuver through these tasks would be most helpful. We decided to focus our services on project planning and management, community and stakeholder engagement, and evaluation.
Who are our ideal clients? What problems can we solve for our clients? We decided to focus our efforts on helping small community organizations who have public space in their neighborhoods they want to transform but need additional capacity to implement their visions. For many small non-profits and community groups, the day-to-day administration to keep their organizations afloat often take their attention away from such projects. We met with Main Streets organizations, community development corporations, city partners, and other consultancies to confirm that this is indeed where we could add value.
What's our elevator pitch? This one took us a few months of tweaking. And we are still refining it as we go! Right now, it goes a little something like this:
We are Thriving Places Collaborative. We are a consultancy working with community organizations and residents to envision and create public spaces that are artistically engaging, environmentally regenerative, and socially just. We do this through project planning and management, community and stakeholder engagement, and evaluation. We coordinate all elements of the project with a collaborative spirit and sense of adventure!
Building this business has been an incredible journey. It's allowed us to do work we are proud of, for clients we truly enjoy working with!
Here is a taste of the projects we've partnered on throughout our first year:
Parklet Evaluation with Jamaica Plain Centre/South Main Streets & Civic Space Collaborative, Boston
Tim White Way Pocket Park Transformation with West Roxbury Main Streets, Boston
Fundraising for Building #35 Transformation with GARNER Arts Center, Garnerville, NY
Economic impacts evaluation of MassDOT's Shared Streets & Spaces Program (in progress) - MA Statewide
Hope Street Urban Trail Demo (upcoming) in partnership with Providence Streets Coalition, RI
Westie Fest! (upcoming) with West Roxbury Main Streets, Boston
One year into this "fun experiment", Thriving Places Collaborative has evolved well beyond just a stepping stone in our careers. We've built something more impactful and rewarding than we both imagined: an organization that is driven by our personal mission, operates in alignment with our values, allows us to grow as humans, embrace our authentic selves, and make a positive impact on people's lives.
We owe a big hug of gratitude to our family, friends, coaches, mentors, clients, and collaborators for supporting us along the way!
So, what's next? We have some exciting opportunities for new projects in late 2021 and 2022. We continue to build our Rolodex of collaborators. We also know that to grow our business operations, we will need more help! Expanding our team to better support clients and our marketing efforts will be this year's fun experiment.
Yay! Let's keep this momentum going shall we? 🙌 Want to chat with us? Let's collaborate!