City hosts weeklong local entrepreneurship celebration

Stephanie Kelly, Assistant City Editor

A slew of events in Evanston this week will showcase and celebrate entrepreneurial activity in the city.

The inaugural Evanston Entrepreneurship Week is being held through a collaborative effort between the city and Now We’re Cookin’, a local food business.

Starting Monday, the week of activities coincides with the Global Entrepreneurship Week, with both running through Nov. 23. Evanston’s week will feature events including panelists, showcases and open houses.

“Taking one week out of the year to recognize our thriving entrepreneurial culture is an important, exciting prospect,” Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl said in a news release.

Paul Zalmezak, the city’s economic development coordinator, said the idea for the week came from Nell Funk, the owner of Now We’re Cookin’, 1601 Payne St. Funk approached him and said the week would be a great way to celebrate entrepreneurship, Zalmezak said.

Evanston has become a great place for entrepreneurial activity, and the week would demonstrate that, Funk said.

“There’s an increasing number of resources available to entrepreneurs,” she said. “The city is increasingly active in supporting entrepreneurial activity, and of course the resources of Northwestern are just excellent. All those things have come together in the last few years.”

Events throughout the week include free startup workshops, a discussion and networking event called “Ladies Who Launch,” a startup showcase and a brewery tour, according to the Evanston Entrepreneurship Week’s site.

“We talk a lot about digital startups and we talk about entrepreneurs, but this new craft movement of people, of craft beer — craft distillery is an example — those are also entrepreneurs as well,” Zalmezak said. “It’s not just digital or app development, but also consumer products.”

One of the open houses Monday was held at Creative Coworking, a workspace for professionals, students and entrepreneurs at 922 Davis St. Co-owner Angela Valavanis said she was not expecting a lot of action, but there were a couple people who stopped by for the event.

Valavanis and her husband first started Creative Coworking three and a half years ago, after Valavanis said she realized there were not many places in Evanston that offer quiet spaces and collaborative zones.

The city’s Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Division are both very supportive of startups and entrepreneurs in Evanston, Valavanis said.

There is a startup ecosystem in Evanston that is especially unique to the city’s population of about 75,000, Zalmezak said. Entrepreneurship in Evanston has always been very steady, but the growing difference is that people are now paying closer attention to it, he said.

In the future, Evanston hopes to continue to create a networking environment that encourages startups or new businesses to stay in the community, he said. Companies that come from NU also help to form this community, he said.

“I don’t think one week will (make new entrepreneurs stay),” Zalmezak said. “As we continue to build our support programming, I think this is one way that we could do it. It’s just a reminder to people that this is a great place to start a business.”

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