Fresh Eyes: The freedom to create, will to succeed

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by Ryan Saunders

It’s America, everybody. We want what we want, and we usually get it, but for some reason people seem to be more upset about their favorite television show getting cancelled than the closing of another local restaurant. Of course it is the responsibility of the owners and staff to provide an experience that customers want, but we as consumers play a role in helping businesses survive and thrive in our communities.

We are the customer base, the culture and the spirit from which our city forms, but I am not sure that the general population collectively understands that concept.

I recently re-read an article presenting the issues our local transportation authority is facing in regards to bus service in Greensboro. This topic is very easy to dismiss as “not my problem,” but the end result could have an impact that hits much closer to home.

If we all stand back and let the bus die in our society it is the equivalent of breaking one of the rungs off the ladder in the pursuit of progress. A train, light rail or automated pod system? What is the motivation for spending millions of dollars if we can’t even support a bus? What is the motivation for the entrepreneurs and innovators in our community to take chances if they watch so many other people fail in a culture of apathy? The question of, “Why we can’t have this here?” when we visit Charlotte or Raleigh is an easy answer, and the blame rests on each of us.

We have the ability to create the environment that we desire. It doesn’t have to be a “hipster” thing or a “liberal” thing. Why can’t it just be a “we want our city to be just a little bit cooler so we are going to support new restaurants, try new things and push for innovation in the places that surround us every day” thing? Choose your cause and don’t be afraid to put yourself out there because people will support you if your intentions are pure.

Just yesterday I had a guy reach out to me in regards to a project he was working on and I quickly realized that his goals were very closely aligned with mine. He was talking about taking an existing restaurant and creating an environment that attracted the young and hip. This concept is the lifeblood to what I do on a daily basis.

Our generation has been presented with a challenge, and the cities that you see and admire have stepped up to the challenge and put the pieces of the puzzle together. The ones that are lag behind generally contend with apathy, or the decision-makers just do not understand what drives progress in today’s society. But it is our job to help them understand.

With up-and-coming artisans quickly finding themselves priced out of cities such as New York and San Francisco, these people are looking for new hubs of synergy and collaboration and they could come to a city near you.

Two years ago I met three women who had recently been featured on the cover of Design Bureau magazine. These three women went to college together but had since gone their separate ways in the pursuit of their goals, yet they had now reunited and gone into business together. Coming together from separate corners of the country, they were presented with the challenge of where to start this new enterprise. They formed a list that included San Francisco, New Orleans, Chicago, St. Louis and Atlanta. But the question struck me: Why not High Point? Why not Greensboro?

With up-and-coming artisans quickly finding themselves priced out of cities such as New York and San Francisco, these people are looking for new hubs of synergy and collaboration and they could come to a city near you.

Life is about experience and people generally want the same things, but standing back and wishing does not create change. We have the opportunity to create the environment we want, to create demand for new restaurants, bars, music venues and coffee shops — but we have to realize that we are the culture and life of the cities we live in. Our decisions and actions mark the rise and fall of what our cities will become.

The question is what are you going to do to bring change to your community? The clock starts now.

Ryan Saunders is the founder of Create Your City. A social entrepreneurship venture, which aims to lead by example through events, action and conversations for the purpose of revitalization in our cities. Projects such as Hopfest and the new night bus are part of his plans to create the culture that attracts creative talent. His motto stands that creativity drives innovation and innovation becomes progress.