YesPleaseMore: Incubating Denver's Burgeoning Creative Community
In 2010, Brian Corrigan and his business partner Samuel Schimek founded YesPleaseMore, a business platform and pop-up store committed to helping local artists market their work to the public. The organization sells 100% Colorado-designed goods, and helps foster the local creative community by offering co-working space, networking opportunities and grants.
Corrigan spoke to us about his goals and inspirations as well as the importance of YesPleaseMore to Denver's creative scene.
Huffington Post: When did you start YesPleaseMore? And how did you come up with the name?
Brian Corrigan: The name was conceptualized one night when I was home playing the name game. I thought it was a cool name and when we decided to open the second iteration of the store in June 2010 the name seemed like a natural fit.
HP: Why did you start the business?
BC: The business was incubated during Create Denver Week and was located at 1600 Glenarm Place. The origin of the idea was centered on an economic development strategy called "economic gardening." Economic gardening is about "growing" local talent instead of trying to get Microsoft to setup offices in town.
HP: How are connected to Denver? Did you grow up in the city?
BC: I moved to Denver almost a year ago from Washington, DC because I recognized the opportunity that existed here. I was teaching Design at the Corcoran College of Art + Design and most of the examples I was showing to my students came from Colorado. After living through another humid DC summer I decided to pack my bags and move to the "Next Frontier."
HP: What do you hope to accomplish with YesPleaseMore?
BC: Our mission has always been focused on being an economic engine for the creative industries. Seventy percent of the profit directly benefits the designer or artist who developed the product. We've designed the platform so they can take most of the profit and invest it back into growing their business.
HP: How has the business been received by the public and by local artisans?
BC: Both the public and the local artisans have been a huge support. This project definitely requires the help of many people and it wouldn't have been possible without their support. We are very lucky to live in such a supportive and collaborative place.
HP: How does the grant system work? Have all the artists involved come to the store through getting a grant?
BC: The grant system uses a Web application that allows the public to both submit an idea and/or vote on ideas they feel will have feet in the marketplace. The top three ideas with the most votes at the end of the grant cycle receives a $500 starter grant to get the idea off the ground. The three winners from the first grant cycle are in the store but that isn't a requirement to be featured in the store. We have over 70 different artists in the current location.
HP: The store at the Pavilions is temporary, correct? Did you start a store because of high demand or did you want to get the word out? How did it work before the physical store started?
BC: Yes, the store at the Pavilions is temporary. The first store was built as a piece of the Create Denver Week programming and when we saw that the community loved the idea we decided to keep it going. The Pavilions has been an extraordinary partner in this project and gave us space for the second and third iteration. The Denver Theatre District, Art Institute of Colorado, Create Denver, Cypher13, Like Minded Productions, 303 Magazine, Westword and the local creative community also played a big role in helping make this work by giving either sponsorship money or an in-kind donation of time and work.
HP: What are the challenges in running a store like this?
BC: The biggest challenge is the time commitment. My business partner, Samuel Schimek, and I take turns working at the store. Since the store operates on 30 percent of the profit, we work on a tight budget.
HP: Is there an online store?
BC: No, the goods for sale at the store are not available on our website. Our website runs the grant program.
HP: How many artists are involved?
BC: We have 73 artists participating in the program and the extraordinary thing about that is that the quality of the work is not sacrificed.
HP: Do you feel that a store like this fits the "localvore" attitude of Colorado?
BC: Definitely, Coloradans are very supportive of their local economy.
HP: What is your vision for the future of YesPleaseMore?
BC: It would be great if other cities implemented similar strategies to grow their creative communities.
HP: Are you an artist yourself? If so, do you carry your own work?
BC: I consider myself creative. I've always viewed the creative process as a form of problem solving and it to be something everyone can participate in even if you can't paint or draw. Samuel is an artist and he carries his own products in the store.
HP: What are the best-selling pieces?
BC: It really varies from month-to-month but t-shirts, jewelry, paper goods and accessories for electronics always seem to be popular.
HP: Do you find that in the current economic climate that this is something that consumers still want, local handcrafted work?
BC: I feel now, more than ever, this is definitely what consumers want. It's great to see people from New York City, Los Angeles and San Francisco come into the store and say "This is so cool. This could be in my city." Colorado is full of talented people.
HP: What is your favorite thing about YesPleaseMore?
BC: I love that the store has awarded me with the opportunity to meet so many different people.
HP: How many people are involved in the operation?
BC: Samuel Schimek is my business partner in the daily operations but the effort would have not been possible without the help of many people, including: Ginger White Brunetti, Wendy Manning, Matt Trasen, David Ehrlich, Natalie Tonar, Lynn Haner, Dresden Romero and of course, the artists/designers.
HP: Who decides on what artists win the grants? How is it decided?
BC: The community votes on the top three ideas and the three ideas with the most votes receive the starter grants.
HP: What do you want the public to know about YesPleaseMore?
BC: I enjoy telling the public the construction cost. The three different stores were built on less than $1,600. We've used mostly recycled materials and cardboard that we've found in the dumpsters. People are always amazed when we tell them that piece. I think it's inspiring to know that it doesn't cost a million dollars to do great projects.
HP: Why is this type of business important to you and the local economy?
BC: This type of work is important to me because I feel that investing in new ideas and local talent is the way to creating post-crash economic prosperity.