(Photo by Stephen Babcock)
Last weekend, Thread CEO Sarah Hemminger told a group of out-of-town visitors about the Baltimore nonprofit’s efforts to help at-risk students by linking them with a group of university and community volunteers for support.
This week, Nathalie Molina Niño said she’s inspired to look for ways to go above and beyond in a similar fashion when it comes to a project with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration that focuses on breaking down barriers to starting businesses for female entrepreneurs.
The takeaway came as a part of Breakout, a series of trips that looks to explore growing cities.
“It forces us to look at things that we wouldn’t be able to in the normal course of our lives,” Molina Niño said.
Organizers pick cities that may have negative perceptions from media coverage, and look to provide a more holistic picture of what’s happening.
“Rather than just talk about it in a conference space, we want to take people to the ins and outs of the city,” said Director of Business Operations Jake Serwer.
During the Baltimore visit, the 50 people — mostly from New York, L.A. and D.C. and under the age of 40 — visited Under Armour’s campus. At Betamore, they heard about the local tech sector’s main areas of strength: adtech, edtech, cybersecurity and health. They also marveled at the low property values.
Later, they got a look at how kids are 3D printing at the Baltimore School for the Arts, and saw what Seawall Development is working on in Remington. They also heard from community leaders like Police Commissioner Kevin Davis and Del. Antonio Hayes about the Baltimore unrest. At each stop, the attendees had a chance to meet the Baltimore leaders who presented. There was also a crab feast.
Attendee Ashely Tyson appreciated that the trip addressed Baltimore’s challenges, as well as acknowledged the city’s strengths.
“There’s a lot of learnings that can be shared between different groups that you might not otherwise get if you’re constantly surrounding yourself with other tech entrepreneurs and other social activists,” said Tyson, who recently moved from New York to Detroit. “I think breaking those boundaries down and having people communicate who had never known the other existed is pretty important.”
Organizers also believe that sharing of perspectives can happen between attendees on the trip. Part of their goal is to create a community of people.
“Even though there’s a good steady stream of new people every trip, there’s starting to be familiar faces,” said Molina Niño, who has been on each of the four Breakout trips so far.
In some cases, it may even inspire a move. In part as a result of the Detroit trip, Serwer is moving to the city after six years in D.C. Whether any Baltimore attendees take a similar route remains to be seen.
“The key will be afterward: who dives deep, and who commits, and what partnerships are formed from that,” Tyson said.-30-
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