Boosting Girard Avenue’s creative economy

A new web­site un­veiled by the Gir­ard Co­ali­tion aims to tap in­to the fun­drais­ing power of sites like Kick­starter and ap­ply it loc­ally.

On­line, “crowd fund­ing” has be­come big busi­ness.

The idea — get­ting a large group of people to chip in and of­fer in­di­vidu­al dona­tions — isn’t new, but lately, it’s be­come all the rage to cre­ate pages on sites like Kick­ or In­ for those who need to raise money for any­thing from open­ing a theat­er to buy­ing a few hours in the re­cord­ing stu­dio.

A quick vis­it to either of these sites will show how thou­sands of dol­lars have been raised for pro­jects as var­ied as or­gan­ic mi­crowave pop­corn to help­ing a theat­er group present a play about su­per­her­oes.

The pro­jects — and the dona­tions — fill the map, with op­por­tun­it­ies avail­able all over the world.

But, if you’re look­ing to sup­port a pro­ject in dire need of out­side fund­ing, why not en­sure that the money is spent loc­ally to sup­port ef­forts in the com­munity?

That’s the idea be­hind Act­Gir­, a new pro­ject cre­ated by the Gir­ard Co­ali­tion to sup­port non-profit groups, pro­jects that are be­ne­fi­cial to the com­munity, and loc­al artists all along Gir­ard Av­en­ue.

The site tar­gets its ef­forts in Fair­mount, Fran­cis­ville, West Pop­lar, East Pop­lar, North­ern Liber­ties, Brew­erytown, Cabot, York­town, Lud­low, Kens­ing­ton South and Fishtown.

“We work with a lot of com­munity or­gan­iz­a­tions,” said Ty Hulse, busi­ness de­vel­op­ment man­ager for the Gir­ard Co­ali­tion. “We were al­ways stuck on ‘OK, let’s share this fund­ing pro­ject with your people.’ But, with so many pro­jects, it’s hard to keep up with everything.”

To sim­pli­fy the pro­cess, last week, the Gir­ard Co­ali­tion launched Act­Gir­, a site sim­il­ar to Kick­ or In­, but more loc­ally fo­cused and open to pro­jects that might also be on those sites.

This is just a dif­fer­ent, cent­ral­ized, loc­al place for those who need fund­ing or those who would like to sup­port loc­al pro­jects, said Hulse.

“If you go to Kick­starter, you’ll see that Kick­starter takes every­body,” he said dur­ing an in­ter­view at the Gir­ard Co­ali­tion’s new headquar­ters at 740 W. Gir­ard Ave. last Wed­nes­day. “But, this is Philly at a loc­al level … People are in­ter­ested with what’s hap­pen­ing in their neigh­bor­hood.”

But, how is this dif­fer­ent from the myri­ad pro­grams com­munity groups provide throughout the city?

While the Gir­ard Co­ali­tion’s tar­geted area — all along Gir­ard Av­en­ue from the Schuylkill River to the Delaware River — in­cludes a num­ber of com­munity groups, Hulse said un­like those groups, the co­ali­tion fo­cuses spe­cific­ally on eco­nom­ic de­vel­op­ment and sup­port­ing small busi­nesses, from store­fronts to loc­al artists in the cre­at­ive eco­nomy.

“Our goal is to get busi­nesses to ex­pand and hire more people,” said Hulse.

And, one way he said the loc­al eco­nomy can be sup­por­ted is through ac­know­ledging and em­bra­cing the area’s artist­ic cul­ture.

“I be­lieve one of the best ways to work to im­prove the eco­nomy is through art,” he said.

In or­der to do this, the Gir­ard Co­ali­tion of­fers small busi­ness con­sult­ing to help loc­al busi­ness own­ers and artists learn to com­pete with lar­ger busi­nesses.

On Act­Gir­, one of the pro­jects that needs fund­ing is this very ini­ti­at­ive.

Called the Cre­at­ive In­cub­at­or, the pro­ject provides artists with one-on-one train­ing to help pro­mote their work and grow their busi­ness.

“A great chef doesn’t ne­ces­sar­ily know all about busi­ness. They learned how to be a cook,” he ex­plained.

Un­like tra­di­tion­al busi­nesses, where products and ser­vices are de­veloped and sold based on cus­tom­er needs, artists of­ten work the oth­er way around.

“They have to fig­ure out who their audi­ence is based on what they have cre­ated,” Hulse ex­plained.

Hulse, an Old Rich­mond res­id­ent, has worked with film and art groups in the past to grow their busi­ness. He be­lieves ini­ti­at­ives like Act­Gir­ can help not just one busi­ness, but an en­tire cre­at­ive eco­nomy.

“We are slowly grow­ing,” he said of the Gir­ard Co­ali­tion. “We can man­age a lot more, our cap­ab­il­it­ies have ex­pan­ded.”

But, more than the cre­at­ive eco­nomy, pro­jects on Act­Gir­ run the gamut of ideas from new se­cur­ity fea­tures to mo­bile health clin­ics in Haiti — an ini­ti­at­ive of Ex­plorers Sans Fron­ti­ers, a non-profit based in Fishtown.

But, it’s not just about gath­er­ing fund­ing for these pro­jects. Hulse said that Act­Gir­ can also be used as a way for loc­als to find pro­jects where they’d like to vo­lun­teer their time.

“We can cus­tom­ize it, so, if you’re not look­ing for money but you need vo­lun­teers for a week­end, we can set that up too,” he said. “Or we can set up something that col­lects books for schools. Or it could just be a pro­ject where people can vote for what they would like to see in the com­munity.”

The new web­site launched last week, and as of Fri­day, Ju­ly 15, there were only 10 on­line pro­jects. But soon, Hulse said, that will grow and shortly the Gir­ard Co­ali­tion will be rolling out “wid­gets” to con­nect pro­jects to Twit­ter, Face­book and oth­er so­cial me­dia sites.

For more in­form­a­tion, vis­it Act­Gir­ to view the pro­jects and learn more about this new ini­ti­at­ive from the Gir­ard Co­ali­tion, Inc.

Re­port­er Hay­den Mit­man can be reached at 215-354-3124 or hmit­ 

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