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New Arch Grants executive director wants to tell her hometown's story

Emily Lohse-Busch received her M.B.A. from DePaul University and launched a strategic communications business in Chicago.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio
Emily Lohse-Busch received her M.B.A. from DePaul University and launched a strategic communications business in Chicago.

The new executive director of an initiative designed to attract startups to the St. Louis area brings a mix of national and local experiences to the position.

Emily Lohse-Busch recently took the helm of Arch Grants after serving as a senior director with Global Impact, a Washington, D.C.-based organization that supports international nonprofit groups. She also worked for a consulting firm in Chicago, specializing in dealing with the nonprofit sector. 

She recently spoke with St. Louis Public Radio's Wayne Pratt about how her wide-ranging experience could be an asset that helps move Arch Grants forward.

On maintaining momentum

Lohse-Busch says the 5-year old effort has some "proof of concept." She points to the recent acquisition of local startup Observable Networks by information technology giant Cisco as a prime example.

"We can follow it from our investment to now Arch Grants being one of the factors responsible for bringing Cisco to St. Louis, which is incredible. And something that should be celebrated," she said.

Lohse-Busch adds that the quality of the entrepreneurs applying to Arch Grants is strong, so there will continue to be a big focus on the current system to recruit startups.

On her goals for the organization

Lohse-Busch is big on retaining talent. She says there is a need to make more entrepreneurs are aware of Arch Grants and other organizations in St. Louis that want to help expand startups and early-stage companies. Lohse-Busch, who grew up in the St. Louis area,  also wants to get the word out about the region's collaborative startup ecosystem.

"People take the meeting," she said. "There's this sense of business leaders, people who have been successful in St. Louis wanting others to succeed."

The Parkway Central High School alum and Washington University graduate said people who are big on St. Louis realize others have to succeed so the region can be as strong as possible.

On dealing with the 'fly over' mentality

For many not from the region, St. Louis does not appear to be a prominent place to start a business —especially compared to areas like Boston or Silicon Valley.

"I don't know if we have to defeat it, as much as just embrace what we have to offer," Lohse-Busch responded when asked how the region can combat the concept that it is in the middle of so-called fly over country. She also says business leaders and residents should not be afraid to talk about the benefits of living here and "be boastful about St. Louis. About this region and all that it has to offer."

On plans for her first year

She wants to place a strong focus in the next year or two on making sure the positive aspects of St. Louis' story are highlighted.

"Not only the story of Arch Grants and the story of all our entrepreneurs and all of the work that they've done. Also, what is the narrative of St. Louis? And how does this all tie back into the starting of this region many years ago? And how is this still just in line with that mentality of we have a lot of things happening here?"

Lohse-Busch is still new to the job. Her hiring was announced July 17, so she's still meeting with people and forming specific plans to move her overall concepts forward.

As she deals with those big aspects of the job, the organization is moving ahead with this year's grant cycle. Finalists will make their pitches to the Arch Grants competition committee in about a month. Between 30-to-40 startups are expected to take their shots at securing up to 20 grants of $50,000. The winners will be announced in November. 

Follow Wayne on Twitter: @WayneRadio

Wayne is the morning newscaster at St. Louis Public Radio.

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