Cover photo by Veronica Maldonado, provided by Discover Denton
“Intentionally ambiguous.” Not typically a description for events hosted by community leaders, but in the case of Big Ideas - a lil d creative mixer, it’s how one of the organizers would describe it. It’s fitting, as there are no strict guidelines, categories, or really any limitations for the visions of Denton’s future that you bring to the table. Just think big.
What Creative Mixers Have Brought to Denton
In a recap of the May 2013 creative mixer hosted at Oak Street Drafthouse, one of the very first, Kyle Taylor writes “Denton is very unique in the way that everyone cares about the success of the community - the city, government officials, small business owners, and local citizens are all part of this growing entrepreneurial community that is being fostered in Denton. The people are what make this city the way it is, and your voice matters.”
This sentiment remains true in 2019 and is the spirit of Big Ideas - a lil d creative mixer, which will be hosted at Stoke on August 1st, in conjunction with Stoke’s 3rd anniversary. The concept, then and now, is that if you care about Denton and have a vision that will make the town even better, people will listen, and together, turn that idea into action.
Kevin Roden, VP of Denton-based education technology company, Ready Rosie, and former city council member, along with others, noticed that many creative, ambitious, and talented young Dentonites all had a similar problem: they wanted to make things happen in Denton but there wasn’t the job landscape for them to stick around. So they ended up migrating to Austin, Dallas, Houston, Seattle, NY City, and so on. Part of the purpose of creative mixers was to prevent this migration and retain the creative talent from the intellectual pools of Denton by motivating them to voice their opinions and participate in local politics and happenings.
Serendipitous meetings and those by design resulted in a number of art, music, culture, and tech developments from these creative mixers several years back, when Roden first began organizing them. The products of some of those meetings and connections made can still be seen today.
The executive director for 35 Denton met the owner of the warehouse-turned-popup-music-venue, The Hive, where Armadillo Ale Works is now housed, at a creative mixer, as did the cofounders of satellite software startup, Kubos, headquartered in Denton.
As a result? The warehouse, formerly home to the Hyper Head factory, after being brought up to code and acquiring permits, became The Hive, used as the largest indoor music venue (12,000 square feet) for 35 Denton in 2013 and provided a home to Armadillo Ale Works in 2018. Kubos was well on its way to sending satellites into space.
Additionally, TechMill came into being, the DIME (Denton Independent Maker Exchange) store found its first retail location, and Stoke, coworking space and local entrepreneurial hub, opened. These tech, creative, and entrepreneur initiatives have continued to grow since.
Picking Back Up on Denton Creative Mixers in 2019
In a recent episode of The Coffee Grind by the Denton Chamber of Commerce, Roden and Heather Gregory, executive director at Stoke and floral design entrepreneur, discussed the successes of past creative mixers and their hopes for the 2019 incarnation.
Roden described why creative mixers began back in the fall of 2012, which is what the present meeting of minds aims to do, echoing a question that is still pertinent today:
“How can we [build] from within from an economic development perspective a culture around entrepreneurial activity around startups and around the creative economy [and] start that conversation about what that would look like in Denton?”
The answer was to turn to community members and invite those invested in seeing Denton thrive to gather at creative mixers.
So what does that look like in 2019?
Big Ideas - a lil d creative mixer has two components: the programming portion of having speakers pitch their ideas for Denton, and the networking portion of having Dentonites hear each other’s ideas and choose to meet, encourage, collaborate, or help in some form the people whose ideas resonate with them.
Gregory’s goal for Big Ideas aligns with Stoke’s mission to cultivate community and support entrepreneurs as well. As she states, the mixer is “...The perfect way to celebrate Stoke being [in Denton]. We’re all about helping to create and develop the culture and economy of Denton and so something like this, where people get to come and share their specific ideas and passion, their vision, and hope to connect with other people and really try to spark some of that innovation - new businesses, new initiatives, and new ideas… [takes] it to the next level.”
Connecting movers and shakers, culture makers, investors, developers, property owners, and policy makers along with city staff and city council members could potentially result in a number of big ideas for Denton becoming reality. “You get off the stage and someone who’s interested in your idea will come and find you. People will gravitate toward each other and form connections and deepen relationships,” Gregory noted, “Maybe it’s finding a cofounder or maybe it’s finding someone who has an equal passion and interest in what you want to do and can help you logistically make it happen.”
Some of the topics you’ll hear about at Big Ideas - a lil d creative mixer on Aug. 1st (speakers start a little after 5:30 PM) include a Hispanic Plaza and how to do good with data.
At Big Ideas, you can be a speaker (applications are still open, though space is now very limited (linked)), or be a spectator, seeking inspiration while in the audience and connecting with those whose ideas you found particularly intriguing. Or, if you’re truly just there for $2 Frio’s Denton gourmet pops, we don’t blame you. It is, afterall, Stoke’s 3rd birthday.