093: Emily Lohse-Busch (Arch Grants)

Emily Lohse-Busch on Innovation City

“What if instead of a company coming in and giving support, an entire city came in and supported entrepreneurs?” — Emily Lohse-Busch

Welcome to Innovation City—powered by Venture Cafe—where Tyler Kelley and Michael Johnson, Co-Founders of SLAM! Agency, interview innovators, creators, and disruptors to discover how business is changing in the modern world.

Created and produced by SLAM! Agency in cooperation with Venture Cafe St. Louis and Venture Cafe Miami, Innovation City gives you an inside look at how rapidly business and culture are changing thanks to increasing diversity and inclusion, heightened creativity, and a stronger and better-connected business community. Venture Cafe is the largest combined gathering of entrepreneurs and innovators anywhere in the world. Events are held every Thursday in St. Louis, Miami, and other leading innovation cities around the globe.

Today’s guest is Emily Lohse-Busch, Executive Director at Arch Grants. Arch Grants is a nonprofit organization that is building a new economy by providing $50K equity-free grants and pro bono support services to entrepreneurs who locate their early-stage businesses in St. Louis. Emily sits down with the team to talk about Arch Grants’ goal for the St. Louis economy, providing support and resources to startups, the process of receiving a grant, the struggle of raising capital in the Midwest, the future of Arch Grants, and more!

They discuss:

  • What is Arch Grants?
    • Economic development organization
    • Awards a $50K grant to early stage companies who locate to STL
    • To date they have funded 134 companies
      • 109 are still in business
      • 85% are still located in STL
  • Looking for businesses who are invested in scaling their business and increasing shareholder value
  • Arch Grants wants to rebuild the STL economy from the ground up
  • They don’t want people to come to STL just for the grant, because it’s not enough
    • They want companies to come for the community and network
  • 3 main things early-stage companies look for:
    • Follow and funding
    • Talent acquisition
    • Customer acquisition
  • Providing support and resources to startups regardless of their success
  • Housing many startups in local incubators (Cortex & T-Rex)
  • The 7 month process to receiving an Arch Grant
    • Within the time period, they narrow down hundreds of apps to 20 finalists
    • Utilizing a local support system of venture capitalists, philanthropists, & corporate leaders to judge and narrow down the applications
    • 3 Rounds: preliminary, semi-final, final
    • They provide feedback to the startups whether or not they make it to the finals
  • Many startups will apply each year until they make it through (showing growth each year)
  • It’s important that startups know why they want to start in their desired city and what exactly they are going to do with their grant money
  • The struggle of raising capital in the Midwest
  • Utilizing organizations/events like Venture Cafe, BioGenerator, BioSTL, ITEN, etc
  • The abundance of organizations in STL who want to help small business grow
  • The future of Arch Grants:
    • Continuous attraction and retainment of entrepreneurs/startups
    • Getting older grant recipients to help out with advisement to the new cohorts
    • Transition from a competition and support service to a holistic, nesting environment
    • Continuously building sustainability to allow the organization to bring in new businesses in perpetuity
    • Building out their capacity and increasing their support system
  • Reach out to Arch Grants on their website to apply, help with judging, or donate
  • Follow Arch Grants on Twitter and Facebook