Alice Loy: Co-founder of Creative Startups & Author

Author Alice Loy is a Co-founder of Creative Startups, and has researched the creative industries for 15+ years. She has lived and worked in Europe, Mexico, and Central America, designed and taught university level courses ranging from Social Entrepreneurship to Environmental Ethics, and holds an MBA and PhD in Strategic Communication and Entrepreneurship.

How did you get into the industry?

13 years ago I was teaching a class on Social Entrepreneurship at the Business School at the University of New Mexico. Half of the MBA students in the class were starting creative companies – a flamenco dance school, a Navajo education program, a music company. And I had zero case studies and no guest speakers to address the questions they were asking. So, I quickly dialed a friend, Tom Aageson, and asked him to meet up with me and share his insights. We started meeting every week and within 2 years had founded the organization which would become Creative Startups.

We launched the Creative Startups Accelerator when we realized that our entrepreneurship education programs were good, but not game-changing. The accelerator has been a galvanizing force and to date we have graduated 111 startups from five continents.

Any emerging industry trends?

The creative economy is growing at a faster clip than any other sector - globally - except health care. The growth trend will continue as China, India, Latin America continue to grow their middles classes and broadband reaches into every corner of the planet. The rise of local content - film, music, entertainment - will continue as consumers seek stories of their own cultures, languages, and contexts.

Any industry opportunities or challenges?

Challenges in the startup accelerator space abound.  There are lots of lousy accelerators out there, which may start to dampen demand. And there are lots of great accelerators that may consider getting into our domain. But by far there are more opportunities than challenges.  Our biggest opportunity is to continue to attract creatives who will redefine the industries they lead. The entire planet is waking up to the power of entrepreneurship. Combine that with how hungry people are for content from their own culture, their own place, and the rise of the creative entrepreneur has only just begun.

Inspiration for the business idea, and your vision for the Business?

Poverty inspired the business. Poverty in rural and urban New Mexico. Poverty in the minds of artists. A poverty of ideas come from our state’s leadership. Despite exceptional cultural riches and landscapes that enchant, New Mexico has been 50 out of 50 on every economic and social wellness list for decades. The only way out of this poverty is to dig deep into who we are, start from our origins, our socio-cultural substrate, and begin to build wealth from our greatest asset: creativity. New Mexico is blessed with myriad and ancient cultures that mix and make up new forms of expression.

So we began to seek out the vanguard creatives in our backyard. And we found more than we expected. We found Meow Wolf, now a game-changing immersive entertainment company shifting the landscape of family entertainment. We found Native Realities, Etkie, Inmerssion, and more. From the world’s first indigenous Comic Con to altered reality for families, New Mexico harbors innovations emerging from our past, reaching far into our future.

What's next for the Business in the near future?

We are excited about the book tour I am doing to reach cities around the world with stories of successful creative entrepreneurs. City leaders are challenged to address an uncertain future: AI and machine learning are changing the profile of work; broadband permeation is connecting disparate people and markets; and climate change is disrupting age old traditions and urban mega-cities. Leaders need solutions that engage youth, create equitable wealth generation, and give people meaningful work. The book delves into data and stories from around the world and shares inspired tales of creatives who have, through successful entrepreneurship, generated solutions to these challenges. The book explores how leadership can cultivate creative economy ecosystems and support for entrepreneurs.

Your key initiatives for the success of the Business?

Our goal is to launch 5 accelerators in five new locations by 2020. We had set the goal of serving 250 creative companies by 2020 and we are on track to achieve this goal. But we have not launched an accelerator in Africa or Latin America and we aim to do so in 2019 or 2020.

Your most difficult moment at the Business? (and what did you learn?)

My most difficult moment with Creative Startups came when, with 3 days to go on our first accelerator we had only received 9 completed applications. I sat on my bed and cried and prayed that something would change. The next day I called a friend who runs an accelerator in Seattle who said, “How many have started applications?” I asked the software provider to send me a list. 139 started applications. I was floored. I emailed every single one of these people and in the end we received 57 applications our first year.

Ideal experience for a customer/client?

Ideally our clients – the people who hire us to deliver accelerators – feel empowered by our services. They feel competent in working with creative entrepreneurs, and connected to a larger creative economy. They feel emboldened by working with us and witnessing the power of entrepreneurship. They feel excited about humanity and our collective potential to build communities that are democratic and equitable, diverse and full of creative expression.

How do you motivate others?

I believe in them and see their full potential. I work hard and always offer to help on projects so people feel they have someone at their side. I share accolades and credit and take the blame when it isn’t mine. I focus on the outcomes and do my best to steer clear of gossip or office drama, hopefully creating an environment of “focus on being effective”.

Career advice to those in your industry?

Give yourself a break. You will f-it-up a lot more than you will get it right. So give yourself a break, laugh at yourself a little bit more, and let go of who you thought you would become. Enjoy who you are and the moment you are in.

What do I do best?

I love building innovative programs to catalyze and cultivate creative entrepreneur ecosystems. Working in urban or rural, developed or nascent ecosystems, I’ve become skilled at seeing the gaps and the disconnects, the assets and the challenges, the opportunities and the talent that shape ecosystems. And with enough time and resources I can usually pull together a coalition of people who, working in concert, build entrepreneurial ventures that generate jobs, creative output, and shared wealth.

I also make a mean green chile chicken enchilada.

What makes me the best version of myself?

Gratitude. I endeavor to always remember that I am lucky, and that yes, I need to work hard to be prepared to accept the opportunities that come my way, but that luck and grace have given me an easier path than most. I remind myself, when I lose a client, or don’t get a project funded, that someone else lost a loved one or a job today. When my brother passed away in 1996 I threw myself into my work with migrant farmworkers. I worked 60-70 hours a week and discovered stories of grief and loss not unlike my own. I found that the more I worked to lift others from their despair the more mine abated. And I began to recall how fortunate I was, despite my sadness, to be alive.

What are my aspirations?

My overarching business goal is to play a lead role in the global movement to support creative entrepreneurs. Through launching the globe’s first startup accelerator for creatives, we are demonstrating that creative entrepreneurs can build companies that create jobs, generate meaningful products and services that connect human beings and increase compassion and shared joy.

My personal aspiration is to grow old with my husband and learn to enjoy life moment to moment, being present every moment.  And I hope my two kids move out some day.

My Biggest Success?

Launching the accelerator for creatives was tough. I had to overcome a lot of naysayers and people who were skeptical that creatives could build companies – or even wanted to. It has taken five years and we are finally past that stage. But the accelerator is still no walk in the park! The success we’ve achieved is pretty amazing: we’ve graduated 111 startups and they’ve raised over $50million in venture financing creating nearly 500 jobs. Best of all, we have influenced the way economic development, university leadership, and investors perceive creative entrepreneurs.  

My Most Challenging Moment?

Like most of us, my most challenging moment did not arise from choices I had made but instead from the inevitability of life and death. My brother passed away when I was 23 and I was living far from home. The choice-making happened two weeks later when I realized that I could either give myself over to hopelessness and fear or lift my chin up and face the music. I faced my grief, determined to become stronger and more resilient. I don’t know that I became stronger but I did become more empathetic and aware of other’s pain. I plowed my energy into helping others and haven’t looked back.

My Motto?

“There but for the grace of God go I.” This saying reminds me that luck and circumstance have been on my side. But for many others, they haven’t had such an easy path. And it is my responsibility to share some of my good fortune with others who have not been as lucky.

My Favorite People/Role Models?

My personal role models include my mom, my Tia Deborah, and my husband. My professional role models include my mom, my Tia Deborah, and my husband!

My Favorite Places/Destinations?

Mexico. Anywhere in Mexico.

My Favorite Products/Objects?

Silver jewelry from Mexico, pottery from Zuni Pueblo, cashmere sweaters from the UK.  

My Current Passions?

Spanish pop-flamenco music and my electric car.

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