A Look Back at San Antonio Entrepreneurship Week
As the summer heat sizzled among San Antonio's towering skyscrapers and scorched the paved asphalt that makes up our city streets, droves of young professionals made their way from location to location to meet other likeminded individuals and celebrate what it means to be an entrepreneur in the 21st Century. Although Austin has long been considered the entrepreneurial and tech hub of Texas, San Antonio is posed to give our friends up IH-35 a run for their money, and one of the organizations looking to make this happen is Launch SA, the principal developer of the four-day long event known as San Antonio Entrepreneurship Week (SAEW).
Director of Launch SA, Ryan Salts, elaborated on the purpose of the week’s events and the planned programming they provided. “San Antonio Entrepreneurship Week is a celebration, a recognition, an opportunity for learning across all spectrums, all industries, all timeframes for San Antonio and the entrepreneurial scene that we have here,“ said Salts. “So this was a first time for many things. We’ve never done one in the summer. This was our first time being in June, we normally are in November. It was our first time doing a community brunch, it was our first time hosting something on a Sunday. It all seemed to go really well.”
The week kicked off with the Friendly Community Brunch held at The Friendly Spot Ice House on S. Alamo Street in trendy Southtown San Antonio. Entrepreneurs from around the city gathered to discuss new ideas and share their visions for future entrepreneurial endeavors over classic brunch cocktails such as Mimosas and Bloody Marys and fresh food provided by The Friendly Spot. In addition to the veritable brunch offerings, awards were presented at this event honoring entrepreneurs in four categories: The Community Developer of the Year (awarded to Ben Hodge), The Spirit of Entrepreneurship (awarded to Luis Martinez), The Mentor of the Year (awarded to Crystal Darby), and The Entrepreneur of the Year (awarded to Jeremy Jacob).
“This has never been about recognition, and so getting that recognition feels absolutely excellent,” said Ben Hodge, SAEW’s Community Developer of the Year. “But It’s never been the point or the role, and so I’m just really thankful that Launch SA does what they do so that I have this opportunity to win it.”
The next day, Entrepreneurship Week picked up the pace with several keynote speeches from Sherrika Arch, Christy Prescott, Rick Aleman, Katie Harvey, Katie Danielson, and Kelli Koehler. The day wrapped up with the Venture Challenge Awards Ceremony which highlighted the finalists of the Venture Challenge program and awarded top performing businesses with funding for the endeavors.
The entrepreneurial programming continued the next day with several keynote speeches which attendees could check out throughout the day. These events covered such topics as creative storytelling, mindful meditation, and voting as a small business owner. The week’s festivities concluded that evening with the BunkerLabs Closeout Party at the St. Mary’s St. outdoor cocktail bar, Rumble.
“BunkerLabs is a national nonprofit that is spread across 26 cities across the country,” described Curtez Riggs, a retired soldier and city leader for BunkerLabs San Antonio who provided the libations for the SAEW Closeout Party. “We are focused on taking or assisting transitioning service members to start businesses across the country. Our sole focus is to develop an ecosystem so a transitioning service-member or spouse can step into the business space with minimal costs and with the resources they need to be successful.”
Amongst the glow of the dangling filament lights stretching from Rumble’s rooftop and the blaring music wafting through the air, aspiring entrepreneur Julie Moore reflected on her appreciation for Launch SA’s work in the San Antonio entrepreneurial scene. “I love the work Launch SA does,” said Moore. “They do youth programming, they do everyday with one million cups, they do one on one business advisement with whatever you need, whether it’s a business plan you need help, or you need help with marketing or you just have an idea and you don’t know what to do next, that’s where Launch SA comes in. I think they’re just a great resource for anybody who’s even thinking about being an entrepreneur and anybody who is starting to be an entrepreneur and wants to know about the next steps you can take, Launch SA has the resources for that.”
With the continued success and growing popularity of San Antonio Entrepreneurship Week, one can expect to see the small business landscape continuing to grow in the years to come. With that growth, however, comes a well-connected group of aspiring enterprisers who not only aim to see their businesses succeed, but also the city and community as a whole. “That is what the week is all about. About growing the community,” said Daniela Alvarez, Coordinator at Launch SA. “If you care about having cool things in San Antonio and people opening new ideas in the city, you should be part of the week, because that is what it is all about.”