If you build it, will they come?
The movie Field of Dreams has made many of us want to believe that “if you build it, they will come”.
I certainly wanted to believe this eight years ago when I opened up love.MADE, a small business where I sold Ontario-made handmade goods and organized workshops run by local artists.
However, when I was doing market research and thinking about the store’s location and design I got some valuable advice: try this business on a smaller scale before fully launching it.
This led us to pick up a short-term lease that ultimately helped me realize that even though I loved a lot about running a small business, it wasn’t something I wanted to do full time at that point in my life. Personally, I was looking towards building a family and professionally, I realized community development and service were the direction I was heading.
In this community we have a lot of expertise in Design Thinking, not-for-profit leadership and tech innovation and in each of these sectors we try out our ideas before investing a huge amount of resources in the final product. In Design Thinking we test prototypes, in our not-for-profits pilot initiatives, and in our tech startups we develop minimum viable products.
My advice would be to practice a similar approach with two proposed innovations in Waterloo: the festival space in Waterloo park and the new development in the old post office in uptown. In both cases, these ideas can be tested on a smaller scale before moving forward with the current proposals.
With the festival space, one idea worth looking at might be repurposing existing space in Waterloo Region so it is more festival-friendly before building something completely new. For example, by exploring if and how the bandshell could be renewed and reused before getting rid of the baseball diamonds. In the case of the former post office, it might be possible to use that space, or perhaps an empty storefront, to pilot some STEAM programming with youth.
I love the idea of going big. I love the idea of taking risks. In the case of the festival space and the former post office though, instead of “if you build it, they will come” let’s say “people are coming, so let’s build something really great together”.