More on Savannah entrepreneurship, the “brain drain”, and The Creative Coast

In my Savannah Morning News column today — Creative Coast and three ideas for regional prosperity — I follow up on Jake Hodesh’s recent call for “a list of three issues that we should seek to improve upon or change in the next five years to help foster a more entrepreneurial culture.”

Hodesh’s list is a bit more visionary than mine, as I describe in today’s column:

In his most recent column, Hodesh outlined three broad goals for the next five years to nurture the “start-up community,” to “increase the retention of our recent college grads” and to “develop a regional strategy to promote and support events, programs, workshops, conferences, festivals and trade shows.”

My considerably wonkier list reflects my own bias toward practicality. When people claim to be serious about something, they need to be able to articulate reasonable steps that can be taken to advance the goal, whatever it is. So my list involves things like zoning, commercial property taxation, quality of life issues such as problematic traffic patterns, etc. My one “visionary” idea in today’s column is one that seems imminently practical to me: a streetcar network connecting many of Savannah’s neighborhoods, with downtown as the obvious hub. Over time, there’s no doubt in my mind that greater economic activity would pay for a public investment like that.

While my list may seem less about entrepreneurship than Hodesh’s, I think it’s all about it. With higher quality of life, with lower costs of living and doing business, and with greater prosperity generally in a city that seems to be forward-looking, Savannah will be an easier and easier place to sell — whether we’re talking about companies looking to relocate, about short-term tourists, about conventions, about young entrepreneurs looking for a fertile field for their ideas.

For more thoughts on entrepreneurship in Savannah — and for ideas about practical steps that can be taken to get someone closer to an entrepreneurial goal, I HIGHLY recommend Kayne Lanahan’s recent guest post — JUST DO IT! — on The Creative Coast’s blog.

Lanahan of course was the driving force behind the remarkable Savannah Stopover, a new festival that brought several dozen indie bands to downtown area venues over a long weekend in March.

How does one take a broad vision for a new festival and make it a practical reality? Lanahan distills her message to five steps:
1. Find Your Wingman.
2. Make The First Commitment.
3. Believe In The Concept With All Your Heart.
4. Have Faith In Angels.
5. Ask for help.

Interestingly, three of those deal with enlisting appropriate assistance from others; a fourth deals with making a commitment to others about what will happen, even if it’s not certain at the time how that commitment will be met. Only #3 deals specifically with one’s own motivation; motivation is obviously a critical factor, but we can’t pull off big projects alone.

In terms of new events and festivals, Lanahan’s remarks are especially relevant. For example, if Savannah ever launches a dance festival, which there has been some buzz about, it would likely have to build bridges in ways just like this.

More generally, while Lanahan’s post doesn’t deal with the all-important issue of finances, her advice bears directly upon entrepreneurship, which often connotes a solitary person pursuing a unique idea. But successful entrepreneurs get others — investors, consumers, supportive friends and family, key volunteers — to buy into their vision by laying the practical framework, by showing the roadmap for getting from here to there.