In May, The Makers Program, founded by Shayba Muhammad, and the Who Raised You? Listening Collective, founded by Karen (Jia Lian) Yang and Treasure Shields Redmond, were named winners of the Arts and Education Council’s (A&E) stARTup Competition. The program — a partnership with the PNC Foundation — challenges local entrepreneurs to find innovative ways to improve St. Louis through the arts.

The Who Raised You? Listening Collective is a podcast exploring culture, family and intersecting identities. The Makers Program, born out of Muhammad’s own struggle as an artist, aims to create a pathway for local, handmade product artists and makers of color to market and sell their products.

Each startup receives $10,000 in prize money, one year of incubation support and space in A&E’s Centene Center for the Arts, professional development and mentorship opportunities. Ultimately, the resources and exposure they receive as competition winners will help build their network and opportunity for long-term sustainability. A&E sat down with the winners to learn more about their startups.

What inspired you to apply for the stARTup competition?

Muhammad: I had an idea for an arts program that had — up until that point — only been an idea. I experimented with a test version of the program several months prior to applying, but I knew that I needed support. I was amazed to see that they were willing to support these community driven programs, even if they were still in the idea stage.

Redmond: If [this project] comes to fruition past the yearlong support, it will become a digital archive for the city. It will be a way for the city and the region to catalog the stories that have been omitted by history. I’m really excited to move forward with teaching digital audio collection, working and empowering people in various communities to collect the stories that they find important.

How do you see your startup growing in the next year?

Muhammad: I see The Makers Program really sitting in the position of a student. So, introducing this programming and learning, adapting and growing in understanding to meet the needs of the first cohort [of participating makers].

Yang: We started out as a kitchen table conversation right in my one-bedroom apartment and I think we’ve gotten to a point where we are excited to go where people are when they’re creating. We really see ourselves expanding the team and collecting stories in a different way.

What change would you like to make with your startup?

Muhammad: I would like to see The Makers Program provide artists and creatives with the resources and guidance they need to build scalable businesses. I would like to see those businesses grow, create jobs and produce a positive socio-economic impact. Most importantly, I would like creatives, particularly those underserved in the Black and Latino communities, to know that there are options in creating pathways to success.

Redmond: First, for us to be a model for collaboration. Jia and I are 20 years apart. I’m biologically old enough to be her mother. So it’s an intergenerational collaboration. It is also a cultural collaboration. We provide a physical model for what happens when you just look for connection instead of looking for a difference. The second thing I’m hoping, I would like to see the city to embrace the idea of its own digital audio archive. The final thing, I would like to see the Who Raised You? Listening Collective be able to empower those citizen sound agents to collect history and to have the city recognize the sound agents when they enter the scene.

To keep art happening throughout the St. Louis region, support programs like the stARTup Competition with a gift to A&E today.

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Hear more from the 2018 stARTup Competition winners at A Midsummer Night’s Drink, hosted by Young Friends of the Arts on July 20. Tickets can be purchased here.