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The Loop and Jabberwocky Studios: Linda Schust, PhD, and Carrie Gartner, PhD, A Partnership to Empowerment

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Entrepreneurship. Empowerment. Etsy.

It’s a given in today’s open internet environment. Any maker, baker or creative can find a seat at the table and a space to share their ideas and products with the world. 

And it really wasn’t a long shot that the partnership between The Loop and Jabberwocky Studios would be selected as one of five Etsy Top 5 Maker Cities Grants recipients. After all, they exemplify the best of Etsy’s belief that creative communities build stronger local economies for everyone. Best of all, the recognition comes with a $40,000 grant to grow programs identified by the two entities.

Barrier free, inclusive and expressive of the interconnectedness of our diverse community, Jabberwocky Studios has harnessed the power of art to change lives since its inception in 2015. “We use art to build inclusion and equity. When we add the Art component to STEM threads of science, technology, engineering and math, it makes all the difference,” said Linda Schust, Ph.D., founder and executive director of Jabberwocky. “We serve a pretty diverse group of people, foster kids, immigrants and refugees; it’s our goal to serve as a connector to underserved communities and also share our work with the public.” 

Carrie Gartner, PhD, executive director of The Loop CID, or Community Improvement District, co-wrote the grant application with Linda. “A few years back, we started looking at a way to revitalize the business corridor itself. We used images of what was happening in other cities, and people in the community liked the makers’ spaces, workshops, coffee shops, and other concepts and wanted them replicated here.

“We asked, ‘How do we work with these businesses to revitalize the street?’? We approached it as a creative bend on an industry-ish community and developed a plan to rebuild the street so that it stays true to its character,” she continued. “Last year, we were one of six communities to receive a grant from the EDA and Smart Growth America to identify and support local small-scale manufacturers as a way to revitalize the street. This year, the Etsy grant will further this program. Jabberwocky is a great partner on the street, welcoming all walks of life. This Etsy grant meshed the two concepts and it was a no brainer for $40,000 cash!” 

The Community Improvement District of The Loop is a corridor of businesses focusing on fixing, building and creating. These smaller businesses typically employ up to 30 people and focus on retail sales and wholesale distribution. Small makers, particularly those who work out of their homes and might benefit from business counseling and shared workspaces, will benefit from the grant and its larger plan for revitalization and offering support to women- and minority-owned businesses. 

“CID has a five-year plan to improve the corridor,” Carrie said. “Our vision is to make it into small-scale makers and manufacturers. We’ve got folks out there that can do things; the problem is they need to scale up but they can’t do that out of their home. Cooks need a certified kitchen. It’s hard to hire staff to work out of their home or second bedroom. How do you bring people from working out of their home to the next level? That’s why a shared commercial kitchen and other shared workspaces are so important. 

“The grant falls in line with the mission and values of Jabberwocky and The Loop,” affirmed Linda. “We’re co-administering it with the Loop’s CID, who helped build momentum. The money won’t be used for the programs that are currently going on. There will be certain initiatives used to support makers and manufacturers on the business Loop; we’re taking a multi-pronged approach that will provide more direct support to individuals and identify people in the community who need or may be missing a piece to make into a business. The Como Makes branding campaign will assist in finding the people to participate and identify the kinds of services they need to succeed.”

The Loop Community Pop-Up Park offers periodic Maker Faires, opportunities for people who don’t have a storefront to set up booths and advertise themselves, connecting them to the greater community. “We’re aware of the fact that if we want to include minorities, low income and women makers, it behooves us to remove barriers, including financial, language and educational barriers, as much as we can,” Linda continued.

The partnership is working with REDI, Regional Economic Development, Inc., to refurbish Mizzou North’s old kitchen to create a shared kitchen for community food producers. They’re collaborating with MACC-Columbia at Parkade Plaza to build a maker space there that will be open to people in the community who are building things. MACC has received a state grant of almost $1 million to develop this space for students and the public to use.

“Our hope is that by lowering the barriers, people who don’t have access to funding or family wealth or investors can very affordably use this equipment and space,” Carrie concluded. “The ultimate goal is make them successful enough to find a place on the strip to further establish and solidify their businesses.”

To learn more about the exciting work going on in The Loop, visit, and to learn more about the COMO Cooks shared kitchen project.