PILSEN — The mayor cheered city efforts to grow neighborhood small businesses through the Kickstarter fundraising website in a roundtable discussion Monday.
Calling it "unbelievably innovative" and "a great tool," Mayor Rahm Emanuel lauded the Seed Chicago initiative, which has selected 11 neighborhood projects to promote through Kickstarter.
"We're a city of neighborhoods," Emanuel said. "A vibrant economy in our neighborhoods is essential."
"Kickstarter has a lot of this energy and momentum," said Joyce Fernandes, of archi-treasures, and it has thrived in the arts community, as with her community-based art projects, such as Logan Square Impressions.
"It taps into people's desire to commit to the city, see it grow," said Julia Stasch, who moderated the discussion as co-chair of the plan's neighborhood strategy team.
Seed Chicago was announced last week as the city's curated Kickstarter page, a neighborhood initiative growing out of the larger World Business Chicago economic-development program. Guided by Accion Chicago and the Local Initiatives Support Corporation, it selected 11 inaugural projects to promote through Kickstarter.
Leaders of those projects explained their efforts to Emanuel as part of the roundtable discussion at La Casa at the Resurrection Project, a Pilsen agency playing host to a neighborhood festival featuring local businesses and cultural events. Ulises Zatarain, of the Resurrection Project, lauded Seed Chicago's emphasis on projects with "cultural significance."
Natalie Edwards, of the Growing Home community farm in Englewood, said she'd already noticed a difference in fundraising.
"The support we're getting from Englewood, and not only Englewood but communities around us and the North Side, is tremendous," Edwards said.
Saying the vacant lots in Englewood could be converted to better use, Emanuel said, "You may have more land on your hands before you know it. Urban agriculture can be a key part of economic strategy."
"You see a community rallying around something," said LaManda Joy, of the Peterson Garden Project.
Marisol Sarabia and Ziba Sarabia-Lennox, of MaZi Dance Fitness, said they hoped to expand to a third location with their "ballerina bum" fitness program.
Demetria Hayden, of the hair-braiding firm Altogether Lovely, said she hoped it would produce funding that would allow her business to expand — capital she hadn't been able to obtain in more conventional manners.
Manny Hernandez, of Tamale Spaceship, said he hoped to give his popular food truck a permanent site in the Pilsen area. "We just want to be part of this community," he said.
Mike Tomas, of the Garfield Park Community Council, said he hoped it would fund a new farmer's market in the area and development along the Kedzie corridor.
Residents can fund projects that interest them, and earn rewards, through the Seed Chicago site.