By Kelly Moffitt, Social Engagement Manager - St. Louis Business Journal
MTV’s Vice President of Insights Innovation, Alison Hillhouse, recently came as part of a five-person team to St. Louis and studied what she calls “generational innovation” going on in the city. Originally from St. Louis, Hillhouse and her team are charged with understanding millennials and then taking that research back to MTV producers, who then use the ideas drummed up from across the country for show development.
Her team came to St. Louis for four days in February and found the energy in the city to be “extraordinary.” You can watch the video embedded below ( or at this link) to get a sense of the young tech entrepreneurs, non-profit founders and artists Hillhouse spoke with, largely centered around Cherokee Street. Though the people Hillhouse interviewed avoided the word “movement” to describe the amorphous feeling, she said there’s a lot of passion to change things not only on a personal level (like you see in New York) but also on a city-wide level.
Her team’s visit to Cherokee Street, including Nebula Coworking space and Smalls tea and coffee, reminded Hillhouse of Brooklyn but rawer as innovations in St. Louis are still happening for the first time. The qualitative research found these were reasons millennials found value in St. Louis:
1. The ability to make an impact—a smaller city gave entrepreneurs the chance to make a significant change with programs like “Sloup.”
2. Space, budget and freedom to experiment: There’s space to try and fail at projects in “beta mode” while living for a low cost.
3. The city is a blank canvas: Abandoned storefronts, warehouses and cheap, old homes offer a space to revamp.
4. The emphasis on community: People are nice here — plus the city is small enough to get connected to many of the creative movers and shakers.
Opinions of St. Louis from outsiders are changing as well, Hillhouse said.
“We spoke with a few Wash U grads who stuck around after graduating who said that five years ago, the people they knew who graduated from Wash U would go straight back to New York or LA, but now there’s a sense that St. Louis is a viable option for starting a business,” Hillhouse said.
The research team found that the vibe in St. Louis fits with what’s going on in other “second cities” like Detroit or Memphis. Previous research her team had done on the American Dream showed that 70 percent of people want to live in a city in their 20s. That passion for urban living was something Hillhouse found corroborated in St. Louis.
So, will what Hillhouse found in St. Louis end up as MTV’s next ‘Sixteen and Pregnant’? Likely not, but you never know what story lines or components of a show might make it in, Hillhouse says.
Get More: MTV Shows
This article originally appeared in the St. Louis Business Journal on July 18, 2014.