Offering a range of services and programs focused on the betterment of tomorrow’s Terre Haute, Launch Terre Haute continues to bring bold ideas to the table.
And bold is exactly what Launch Executive Director Shelley Klingerman wants, saying it’s a requirement for anyone who shares the co-working, innovation-centric space.
“If you don’t like what’s being offered in the community, this is an innovation space, a start-up space that if you come in with an idea, we’ll help you vet it and connect you with the resources you need if it has any viability,” Klingerman said.
“We want to be the reason that people can’t say that something isn’t possible in this community. Can’t or won’t are words that aren’t acceptable in this space. We’re not going to be unrealistic, but we’re going to think big in here and we’re going to think bold.”
And like it strives to help others do, Launch saw a bold opportunity and took it in 2014 when it observed manufacturing companies in the area were downsizing.
Looking to capture the talents and abilities those now out-of-work folks might have, Launch reached out and offered them a space to bring their ideas.
“Co-work and incubator spaces were just coming along at that time and so we asked ourselves, ‘Why are we not doing that in this community for that purpose and engage with the great number of higher education students and faculty?’” Klingerman said.
To bring those innovators and creators together, Launch first set up shop in a second-story space near 7th Street and Wabash Avenue. The location wasn’t ideal, Klingerman said, but at the very least offered her and her co-founders a place to pitch their co-work idea and show interested parties how it might work.
After getting the idea off the ground, Launch moved into the office it currently occupies in the Deming Building on Cherry Street in 2016.
Since, Launch has worked to expand its programming in an effort to weave itself into the fabric of local economic growth and become the hub for Terre Haute innovation.
“We are constantly scratching things that don’t work and trying new things that might,” Klingerman said. “And we’re figuring out what this community needs through very intentional programming.”
Some of Launch’s programs include:
• Coffee and Conversation: It’s here that Launch brings together a cross section of the community to discuss what ails Terre Haute – and how to fix it – and what they would like to see come to town – and how to achieve that. Klingerman said she’s amazed at the productivity of the conversations borne of nothing more than a problem laid out before the group. She added that the diversity of the groups are key, saying it often takes attacking an issue from all angles and perspectives to come out with a viable solution.
• Community Innovation Challenge: Like coffee and conversation, the challenges focus on bettering the community by leveraging the group’s resources and connections in the community. The difference being, Klingerman said, is the challenges are presented so that area high school and university students can solve them. In doing so, Klingerman hopes, it will give the students a sense of ownership and responsibility in the community that will convince them to stay and apply their trades locally post graduation.
• Launch and Learn: Geared toward entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs, Launch and Learn is a bootcamp of sorts that introduces them to the basics of innovation and the creative processes. It is also, Klingerman said, another way to connect the students of Terre Haute’s colleges and university’s with professionals already working in a given field of expertise.
• High School meetup: In yet another effort by Launch to attract the driven, creative students of the area, it has started a high school meetup program that asks high-school students what they like, what they don’t and what they’d do to make Terre Haute a more attractive place to live, work and start a family.
Klingerman said Launch also offers periodic training in podcasting, advanced technologies, coding and opportunities to practice pitching an idea or business.
But more than any one program or start-up that has gone on to achieve success, Klingerman said the greatest success of Launch is Launch itself.
“Without Launch being here none of that other stuff would even be possible,” Klingerman said. “Where we can’t make people come in off the street and start a business, we have created a space where that is now possible.
“It’s not our success or our failure when someone starts a business, that’s theirs. We just want to be a place that can help them get to that point.”
What’s ahead for Launch
Looking ahead, Klingerman hopes to see Launch continue to grow its offerings and maybe even find a larger space that can accommodate more members and training.
“This space is wonderful, but whenever we bring something in here we displace our members,” Klingerman said. “So maybe a bigger space, Launch 2.0, where we continue to work with the universities but expand our footprint so that we can invite those universities to maybe host classes here.”
To go along with those classrooms, Klingerman said she’d like to see more office spaces and innovation rooms that better incorporate technology.
“I could come up with a list of things a mile long,” Klingerman said. “But whatever it is it has to offer us a way to grow and better what we have.”
To get there, Klingerman said Launch has to continue to work throughout the community and help area businesses and groups understand who they are and what they do.
“In short, we are here for the betterment of the community,” Klingerman said. “We have to continue to help people understand what we do and understand, ourselves, how to pivot Launch to wherever it best serves the community.
“We started out as a co-work space but realized that we could leverage it even more and began to go after more programming, innovation and emerging technologies,” she said. “And we’re going to continue to find those interests of the community and help foster their growth. We will continue to be the innovation space where you are encouraged, or mandated, to think differently. We will be the engine, the think tank that pushes the community forward.”