TOP50STL Person of the Week: Eric Hamblett
Brian Lunt: Welcome back to the TOP50STL radio program. Each week we like to highlight someone in St. Louis who is working on a new business, an economic development idea or working to do positive things in the city. Today, we have Eric Hamblett who is the co-founder and co-manager of the Tech Artista co-working office space in the Central West End. It just so happens to be the world headquarters of TOP50STL. Eric is also a partner in Bazaar Boy, an event registration platform that helps organizers sell tickets and collect attendee data to improve event experiences. Eric, welcome to the program and thanks for being with us today.
Eric Hamblett: Awesome, thank you so much for having me, Brian.
Brian Lunt: So, I was introduced to the Tech Artista space a few months ago by our mutual friend, Kevin McCullough, who owns and operates FLOAT STL. He loves his location over on Locust, but he told me that he got a space here because sometimes he just needs a place outside of FLOAT to meet with business associates, brainstorm new ideas and make quality connections. I could tell immediately when I came in to visit him that Tech Artista had the vibe I was looking for and really the types of people that I want to know. It’s just a unique space with a positive vibe. Eric, can you tell us a little bit about the history of how Tech artista came to be?
Eric Hamblett: Sure, Brian. So, originally I was actually looking for an office space for my event registration company, Bazaar Boy, and haphazardly met the landlord of this space. We both agreed that there was a huge opportunity to turn this building, which has about 13,000 square feet, into a co-working space, both for benefit of the companies within but also to grow the neighborhood and benefit a lot of entrepreneurs that were working here. This was a little bit before the Cortex campus had really gotten the co-working under their belt and a little bit before a few other spaces opened up, so it was a really unique opportunity just to get the ball rolling in the Central West End.
Brian Lunt: That’s great. That’s really great stuff. Can you tell me about some of the businesses that are housed here? What kinds of businesses are here?
Eric Hamblett: Sure. So, I like to describe Tech Artista as the liberal arts of co-working. We really embrace diversity. We have everything from, you know, digital marketing professionals to nonprofit strategists all the way all the way down to some local service providers like accountants and legal specialists.
Brian Lunt: That’s great! So, I know you mentioned Cortex before. What would you say really makes Tech Artista different from the other co-working spaces like Cortex and T-Rex downtown?
Eric Hamblett: One of the unique value propositions that we provide is really both the diversity but then also the really rich amenities that are here. We have an in-house gym with two trainers; we have an in-house salon; and we’ve just added into the mix a photo studio with a fully-equipped Makerspace and studio. So, on top of the great location and the great space, the amenities are able to add a lot of community value and give people an opportunity to interact in spaces that they aren’t the most comfortable in always.
Brian Lunt: That’s awesome! I mean, it’s just such an awesome space. So, the space is obviously really well done. What’s the ideal profile of the people you want to attract here?
Eric Hamblett: So, the ideal profile? That’s a great question. The first thing is open-mindedness. We’re really looking for people that not only are looking to grow their own business, but are looking to facilitate and collaborate with other entrepreneurs in St. Louis. Another type of profile we’re looking for are folks that are in the earlier stages of their entrepreneurial endeavors. We like to think we feed the St. Louis ecosystem and pipeline with early-stage entrepreneurs so by creating a space where it’s okay to fail, it’s okay to take a little bit more risk, we hope that we can create you know a bigger, start-up economy here.
Brian Lunt: That’s awesome! That’s obviously one of the reasons why I’m here. It’s just a great collection of people and a lot of unique things that happen here. One of the things I love about Tech Artista is the workshops and events that are hosted on a regular basis. There’s actually a panel discussion coming up I think on April 12th about the future of film in St.Louis that I’m really anxious to attend. What other types of events have you hosted in the past and what do you guys have for the future?
Eric Hamblett: Our events schedule is very diverse; it’s also just a direct mirror of a lot of the needs and the passions of our community. So, in addition to panel discussions like the film event on April 12th, we also have different gallery openings. We just recently opened up our gallery that’s full of artwork from WashU Sam Fox students. We have another art gallery reception coming up in May. In April specifically, you can expect some more beer tasting events, a board game night and then some other influencer marketing events that were doing with the local magazine that really allows our members to interact with content producers and creators in the St. Louis area.
Brian Lunt: That’s great, really good stuff. So, I have to talk about the Bubble Room because it’s my favorite room in the building. For anyone who hasn’t been here, on the main floor there’s a circular conference room and it’s shaped like a cylinder and all the walls are dry erase. I just love hosting strategy sessions with clients in the room and it really lends itself well to brainstorming.
Eric Hamblett: Yeah, that room has a special place in my heart. You know, we call it the Bubble or the Spaceship Room. When we first found Tech Artista, that structure actually existed. We gave it a facelift but it’s a piece that is so impressively built, it really can transport you to a whole different environment and let the creativity run wild. So, we’re very lucky to have it and we make it available to nonprofits at discounted rates and obviously to our members who can access it any time.
Brian Lunt: Awesome stuff! So, obviously we’re located here in the Central West End. Tell me a little bit about your involvement with the Central West End Association.
Eric Hamblett: Absolutely. So, the neighborhood association is a non-profit and its goal is to promote the quality of life within the Central West End boundaries which can extend all the way down to the Missouri History Museum and even all the way down to SLU, so a pretty big footprint. As a board member of the neighborhood association I volunteer to help plan events and also to grow the membership not only within communities that I network like co-working but also just in my personal network of folks that are interested in moving to the neighborhood and want a place to get plugged in and meet their neighbors. So it’s been an awesome volunteer experience for me and the neighborhood was named one of the American Planning Association’s Top 10 neighborhoods in the country. So, a lot of pride in that respect.
Brian Lunt: That’s fantastic! So, I’ve seen that you’ve spent a fair amount of time of your time outside of the country. I’ve also traveled around the world and I’ve seen a lot of unique spaces in different foreign lands around the world. What do you think it is that makes or can make St. Louis a special city in the world?
Eric Hamblett: I think there are three things that come to mind immediately. You know, one is St. Louis’s heritage as a destination of commerce. So, early on with the fur trades and the prosperity of downtown. You know, I believe that history tends to repeat itself, so we have an infrastructure here that is for a major American city. So, that’s one: the infrastructure. The second would be the low-hanging fruit when it comes to opportunities and solutions that can be created here. The ease of access to decision-makers that are experiencing problems that entrepreneurs want to solve is very direct. I’ve found it amazing to network here and find the folks that I want to get in touch with super quickly. The third thing I’d say I think that makes St. Louis a great city is the ability for the local community to support and collaborate on making great ideas happen.
Brian Lunt: That’s really fantastic. I mean, it’s just a great observation on what makes this town a really special place. I’d really like to thank Eric for coming in to the program today. If you’re looking for a great co-working space please check out Tech Artista at 4818 Washington Boulevard in the Central West End and while you’re here, come by and visit us at the TOP50STL office too. When we come back it’ll be time for a next segment called yay or nay where we highlight your ideas, both good and bad. Stay tuned to find out!