Introducing KACE Project Specialist – Eric Ashby
My name is Eric Ashby and I recently joined KACE as a project specialist helping to expand and refine the Impact Management System (IMS) developed by Bridgeway Capital’s Creative Business Accelerator (CBA) to include statewide partners. My educational background is in management, with a focus on the arts, economic development, and strategic planning. I have a BS in arts management from Indiana University, Bloomington and will finish an MA in Arts Administration and a Masters of Public Affairs (MPA) in December of 2022. Prior to joining KACE, I worked with the CBA to update the IMS and support CBA programs during the summer of 2021.
I had two significant takeaways from working with the CBA that inform my work with KACE. One was many creative businesses operate in the manufacturing sector as classified by NAICS codes. Businesses working with things like textiles, fabrics, woodworking, and screen printing are all manufacturing businesses. From materials to labor, creative businesses play an active role in supporting the local manufacturing ecosystem.
My work with KACE focuses on contextualizing IMS data to communicate the impact of creative businesses in communities. With information like NAICS codes in the IMS, we can examine creative business activity in the context of the entire manufacturing sector in the region. This type of context articulates the scope of impact in a clear way.
My second takeaway from working with the CBA was each entrepreneur has a story. Many work other jobs, overcome challenges, and demonstrate incredible resilience to pursue making products they love and believe will be meaningful for others. These entrepreneurs and their stories reflect a sense of place and community identity that is a source of inspiration and celebration.
The data in the IMS supplements entrepreneur stories to connect their time, effort, and personal growth to business growth and positive impacts on their community. Positive impact is captured in actions like purchasing/renting property, employing local people, or collaborating with other local businesses.
KACE – Telling a New Story of Impact
KACE embodies a strong commitment to the marriage of metrics and storytelling. I am excited to grow the scope of the IMS to serve statewide partners and build a strong network of support for creative businesses. KACE offers the opportunity to better understand the various ways creative businesses engage with local economies and with each other. By creating a network that paints a more complete picture of business impact, key public and private partners can channel resources more effectively to achieve shared community goals.
KACE is an important step as a model for statewide cooperation among artists, makers, and supporting organizations to tell a shared story of impact. The KACE story shifts the focus beyond the language of economic impact or tourism to reflect the actions of the businesses themselves and how strategic investments support business growth.
Economic impact reports often focus on total spending when people attend certain craft or creative business events. They often highlight value added as measured through Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the industry. Other reports highlight tourism benefits citing local creative businesses as a way to attract more travelers to certain regions and entice longer stays.
While economic impact and tourism represent benefits which creative business produce or support, I think using them as the primary narrative for support misses more direct impact that reflects the unique characteristics of creative businesses. In the language of economic development and tourism you could interchange creative businesses with a number of different types of entities like a sports stadium, brewery, or amusement park and end up with the same narrative of additional spending.
This narrative is not useful for supporting organizations and does not help funders make strategic investments that benefit the community. There is little actionable information on why creative businesses offer unique value, how to better serve creative businesses, what types of factors propel business growth, or how creative businesses foster community.
KACE provides actionable information built on tracking business growth through access to capital, markets, peers, workforce, assistance, and space. These factors highlight how creative businesses interact with their community and drive positive outcomes that reflect the unique characteristics of creative businesses. KACE can re-orient discussion about the intersection of cultural and commercial vitality in regions across the state of Pennsylvania, such that support is informed by relevant impact metrics and stories.
While KACE is still in the early stages, I think the collaborative infrastructure being built to better understand the creative business ecosystem across the state offers an innovative approach to storytelling and impact tracking. I am excited to continue my work supporting KACE and creative businesses. Continue to check the KACE website for updates and please reach out if you want to learn more.