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How Awarding Startups Free Rent for 6 Months Is Kickstarting a Renaissance in Scranton

Photograph by Justin Adam Brown, Better than the Weekend

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The cultural and economic identity of America has long been linked to innovation and entrepreneurship. A thriving economy relies on a balanced mix of established corporations and startups.

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However, a national decline in new business formation is threatening this healthy balance in all but just a few super-performing cities. Startup formation has become geographically clustered, with half of the rise in new business creation from 2010 to 2014 occurring in only 20 of America’s 3,000-plus counties — ultimately creating elite hubs for job growth and tax revenue and limiting those with entrepreneurial spirit in the rest of the country.

Business and real-estate developer Donald Rinaldi, of Scranton, Pa., realizes small businesses are “the engine that drives the economy of any city.” That’s why he ignited an initiative — the “Kickstart Art” challenge — to provide resources and mentorship to creative entrepreneurs earlier this year. The challenge encouraged businesses focused around the arts to compete for a storefront in Scranton’s Bogart Court Boutique Shops, part of the Renaissance at 500 Lackawanna Avenue, a downtown residential and business development that’s also complete with luxury residences, a park, and retail and restaurant space. The award for winning the challenge was free rent for the first six months of a one-year lease. Rinaldi saw the competitive challenge as an opportunity to be the first piece in the puzzle of creating an arts district in Scranton.

“I knew this could help arts-related businesses who always wanted their own brick-and-mortar store to take the next step by giving them a head start,” Rinaldi said.

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Not one but three new businesses won the challenge: Trinity Studios, Grapevine Design & Trinka Studios, and AOS Metals.

Kari Johnson is the artist behind AOS Metals. The shop, which stands for art of simplicity, sells hand-made metal jewelry crafted by Johnson.

AOS Metals owner, Kari Johnson, right, selling her handcrafted jewelry to a customer. | Photograph by Justin Adam Brown, Better than the Weekend

Photograph by Elena Yu, Better than the Weekend

Photograph by Elena Yu, Better than the Weekend

She said she wouldn’t be a business owner without the help of Rinaldi’s vision for an arts district.

“I knew how to create, but I didn’t understand what it took to form your skill into a business — not until Don mentored me throughout the process of the ‘Kickstart Art’ challenge,” Johnson said. “Don went through the ins and outs of what it takes to start a business. I learned a lot from him. We also had to take a free class through the Small Business Development Center to be considered for the challenge.”

Johnson admires what her mentor, Rinaldi, is doing for the city of Scranton.

“He’s making it possible for people to stay in Scranton and not have to leave the area to find success in starting a business or building a career that deals with creativity,” Johnson said. “I didn’t think I’d be able to stay around here and have a business like this. Bogart Court used to be a dirty back alley. The people I talk to who come to the shop keep saying how they’re dying to see more opportunity like this in Scranton.”

AOS Metals also sells hand-made items by other artists.

“I know how difficult it can be to get in the zone of turning your art into a profitable business,” Johnson said. “I want to help other people get in that mindset by selling their items in my store. Whether it’s handmade greeting cards, T-Shirts, scarves, whatever, I know how that when people are buying and appreciating your hard work, it can be extremely motivating to keep creating.”

Handcrafted soap sold at AOS Metals in Scranton, Pa. | Photograph by Elena Yu, Better than the Weekend

Handcrafted wallet sold at AOS Metals in Scranton, Pa. | Photograph by Elena Yu, Better than the Weekend

Handmade birth announcements sold at AOS Metals in Scranton, Pa. | Photograph by Elena Yu, Better than the Weekend

Johnson said she hopes the new storefronts at Bogart Court Boutique Shops will inspire others to stay in the city of Scranton and turn their skills into new businesses in the new year.

 

 

 

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Brit

    December 14, 2016 at 2:55 pm

    Kari at AOS has been an absolute visionary from Wyoming, Montana, I think Colorado and many others. If you’re looking for a unique piece or anything no one else can find go to this girl.

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Living

15 Works of ART that will motivate you to get your life together PRONTO!

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Ikonick.com

The internet is filled with motivational quotes aimed to inspire people to get off their phone and live their best life! If only double-tapping an inspirational quote on Insta would actually prompt due action to get the success you know you deserve, then everyone would be as rich and happy as Bob Saget.

Graphic design king Jeff Cole realized inspirational memes won’t do shit for your success unless their design is dope and their message doesn’t disappear after looking away from your phone. The vision needs to be a reminder in constant view. Right in front of your face. On your wall. Cole’s online canvas art company, Ikonick, has a collection of unique images that will likely give you the push you need to stop wanting a better life and commence action.(Better than the Weekend has three pieces hanging in the office.)

Here’s some that you may want to add to your wall.

You Can’t Deposit Excuses ATM

Stop Watching 

Talent

Level Up

Forbes List

Ingredient For Success & Success Marks The Spot

Money Hungry

No Risk. No Reward.

Mind Of A Hustler. Heart Of A King. 

Remember Why You Started

Chance

Nobody Cares

Leave Your Excuses At The Door

The entire collection can be viewed on ikonick.com or Instagram @ikonick.

Now go follow us on Instagram @betterthantheweekend. And then go call your mom and tell her you love her.

 

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Living

Vintage Frat Is the Life of the Party on Instagram Right Now, Possibly Forever

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Gone are the days of moms and dads knocking on wood that social media didn’t exist when they were young, dumb and figuring out the world. Remnants of debauchery from past generations are resurfacing on @vintagefrat, an Instagram account paying homage to legendary fraternity throwbacks.

Here’s some of the of the most lit pics from Vintage Fraternity. (Warning: You may see your mom or dad.)

“Hello Ladies, welcome to pledgeship. I’ll be your guide.”

Saturday’s are for the Brothers. 

Take a moment to respect the most legendary composite of all time. 

Daytona Beach ’89 was wild. #AskYourDad

There was always that one Brother who understood the meaning of life. 

Here’s why your dad’s friends call him Superman. 

And here’s when your dad met your mom. 

Reminding the children of the future that House Hounds need to be the focus of every fraternity house.

And here’s a reminder that Benny the Beaver was probably with your girl. 

Tribute to the Brother who didn’t even attend one class all semester.

Classic Spring Break transportation. 

Sure, Greek Life has it’s fair share of wild times.  

But @vintagefrat is a solid reminder that Greek Life is also a resume builder, putting students in positions that prepare them for the future. 

Mainly, Greek Life is about togetherness. #NeverForget #AskYourDad

Go follow @vintagefrat on Instagram and then follow @betterthantheweekend.

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Living

Why University of Scranton Is the Perfect Place to Find a Husband

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I’m a senior at The University of Scranton in Scranton, Pennsylvania. I’m here to tell you why my school is the perfect place to find a husband.

From the day I arrived as a freshman in search of a degree and a good time, I was told I should also search for a husband here by upperclassmen who were taking courses toward their ‘MRS’ degree. (That’s Mrs., a.k.a. a master’s degree in finding a man.) Oh, they exist. If they haven’t landed a man by the fall semester of their senior year, they’re adding extra credit hours in getting a ring by spring.

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It’s not like I can blame them. I acknowledge that there’s certainly some good looking guys at this school — it’s hard not to.

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But I couldn’t see myself spending the rest of my life with one. You see, there’s a distinct type of guy that typically goes to this school. They’re the epitome of a rich, preppy white guy.

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They tuck in their pastel button-down shirts and sport a pair of loafers to hit the bar scene on a Friday night. Their idea of dressing down is wearing a $42 plain-white Vineyard Vine T-Shirt. They dress like a middle-aged, balding, career-crazed father of three.

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Oh, and they drink like one, too. They basically look and act like a stereotypical man in their 40s who is unhappy with his wife, life, and needs to binge-drink, binge-smoke and binge-fuck his way out of jumping out of the top floor of the Wall Street skyscraper he works in.

Meanwhile, all I want is a cute guy who takes his schoolwork seriously, has a little height on me and wants to eat chicken wings off my curvy bottom.

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But my options seem to be limited to college boys who look like they’re trying to impersonate their fathers.

I guess the girls who told me The University of Scranton is the perfect place to find a husband were right. I just didn’t know they looked like a 42-year-old alumni’s husband.

I guess my only chance at getting a ring by spring is if one of them saves the dad-look for when they actually work on Wall Street. But I’m cool enjoying my senior year with my friends. My philosophy in life is that everything happens for a reason and plans are a waste of time.

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