University City business incubator for artisans battles for economic development funds

A two-year-old University City business incubator has a program that treats artists and creatives with the same seriousness as technology startups. Eighteen companies are enrolled, and dozens are on a waiting list.

Now Create Space founder Julia Li, who expanded the program into a nonprofit yearlong business boot camp and full-fledged incubator with the city’s financial help, plans to launch a larger incubator facility with the help of a St. Louis developer.

However, a battle over a budget proposal with the city could stall the ambitious expansion that would accommodate at least 20 additional food and retail startups.

Some University City council members are balking at a $150,000 budget item for the project, after giving the project $100,000 last year. The funds are only distributed as proof of expenses are submitted, so the startup for startups won’t be receiving a check without verifying expenditures.

After deadlocking on the measure in June, the council decided on Monday to postpone action allocating its economic development dollars, derived from a local sales tax, until it meets again on July 25. Some council members have objected to the idea of giving such a large amount of public money to a young entrepreneur.

Li said she feels that Create Space is the victim of a “ageist” attack and a political battle that’s not focused on economic development.

Read more: St. Louis Post-Dispatch

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