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Creating the New City: Part Two

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 By Ada Kulesza
In Part Two we meet more young Philadelphia working at making a difference in their chosen fields

Zoe Selzer, 28

Green Village

When Kensington was at the center of America's Industrial Revolution, the complex of buildings on North American Street housed a factory and a horse stable. Today, the factory is the Crane Arts building, with artist studios and residences. The stable is used for office space -- and its large hayloft is home to Green Village, a new non-profit business incubator.
If Green Village succeeds it will put Kensington at the epicenter of a new revolution -- a green one -- consisting of small, sustainable, entrepreneurial business. Green Village started as an idea among a few like-minded entrepreneurs. Using foundation and private money, it is now up to Zoe Selzer to take that idea and make it real.

With a curly mane of blond hair glowing in the setting sun behind her, she's actually excited about the worst recession to hit this country since the 1930s. It's forcing more people to follow their dreams.

"With the economy being what it is, a lot of people who have had a dream and a vision ofZoe Selzer use this.jpg being entrepreneurs are ready to take that leap," Selzer says. As Green Village's fearless leader (also known as its Executive Director), Selzer is directing an organization whose mission is to take  small sustainable businesses under its wing, either with a $350, six-week "seed-starter" program (that pairs the business with a mentor and other professionals who will help them get it off the ground) or by housing their offices at the stable.

"It's somewhere between starting a business in your basement and having your own office," she says. Some of the businesses they will incubate include a woman who wants to make cheese ("artisanal cheese," says Selzer, "right here in the city"); a company that makes dye from plants they grow; and two guys who want to start a for-profit bikeshare company. Selzer is especially proud of that one: They'll be moving to Philly just to be a part of Green Village. She's a transplant herself, originally from Wisconsin, She did her graduate work in Colorado and moved from Denver, "for lo..." Selzer catches herself. "For my significant other."

She found herself enchanted with Philadelphia's post-industrial terrain, seeing the bright side in the aging infrastructure and blight: "It's problematic, but it provides space for experimentation, urban agriculture, the opportunity to try new things."

She's a part of an undercurrent of people she calls "creative, sustainably-minded, and well-educated" who are taking advantage of all that empty space, devoting their energies to creating Philadelphia's new economy.

The businesses at Green Village have to account for a "triple bottom line," Selzer says: profit, people and planet. Not only do they have to be viable, they also have to have a net neutral impact on the environment, and have a positive impact on the community. Green Village's philosophy centers on building an economy that's beautiful, diverse, affordable, locally owned and "green" collar -- plus a return to small-scale manufacturing. What better place than along American Street?

"We chose South Kensington because we thought there was a lot of exciting creative energy here," she says. Keeping sustainable businesses together will close supply loops and foster the community - a "green business marketplace." And South Kensington is ripe with this potential, she says. "This isn't a trend," she says, her eyes flashing in vehemence for a split second before her smile flashes back on. "This is how we operate."

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Ed Delahunty, 22

Shawn Smith, 31

Media Giraffes/Emerge Movements

Ed Delahunty dropped out of the business program at Widener because he wanted to do something he loved. Love Park was where he did it, skatboarding. He also enrolled in video school and went to Drexel as a 20-year-old freshman, hanging with his classmates at his Center City pad.

Three years later guitarist Eric G asked Delahunty to film his sets. Delahunty said, "Pay me $150, and you'll have a Youtube video." It was his first Media Giraffes project.

His second paid $1,000. The Center City sessions became weekly meetings. Projects rolled in. They launched a website and printed cards with their signature giraffe-spot design.

Smith and Delahunhty.jpgNow Delahunty is 22. Two days after Valentine's Day, he filed the papers to create an LLC. On May 30, Media Giraffes merged with Emerge Movement, and the new business -- which does photography, videos and other multi-media projects -- seeks to represent a generation that goes beyond questioning lifestyle to questioning the way most businesses work.

"There's these old ideas about business," Emerge founder Shawn Smith says. "We actually live by these like they're the truth, but when you really look at them they're not truth. Like business has to be done from 9 to 5, like you have to look a certain way, you have to follow in certain footsteps to be successful."

Shawn, 31, started Emerge by holding seminars seeking to address a problem.

"Young people came out of college, people in their early 20s or 30s, looking for something to do with their lives, who didn't have something to step into because the job market sucks," he says. There's another option: "Going out, starting your own business and doing what you love."

Delahunty has been shooting photos since he was a child in Delaware County. At age 12, he was doing video, getting onto a skateboarding DVD at 16, which is when he started shooting covers for AC Magazine and College Mansion's girlie calendars. Now Media Giraffes sponsors World Café Live Boombox Collective events, and is talking with legendary local musician and skater Chuck Treece about a record label - the music arm in the Giraffes' trinity of music, film and photo.

Emerge handles merchandise, with a t-shirt label that reads, "Love the talent you are. Let it support you. Willingly entrust everything to your passion. Make your way through life as no one's master, and no one's slave."

Delahunty's smile beams from unshaven cheeks. "I'm wearing my Vans and my cut-off ripped shorts and my surfer hat. There's no dress code. I woke up today, had a meeting - breakfast with a really cool dude. Went skateboarding for a couple hours...We can do what we want when we want to and get everything done that we need to be successful."

Reaching out is key. At Media Giraffes that means divvying projects and staying local. "Other production companies would charge $500-$800 per hour per camera. You know what? I could do that, and I am doing that with certain clients. But I support the passion. I support what these people do and how much they love it," Delahunty says.

Emerge will offer seminars for aspiring entrepreneurs who want to do business on their own terms. "Fundamentally," Smith says, "we will change the way that people look at entrepreneurship because we're not actually changing anything. We're capturing what's already happening in the world."

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Lloyd Emelle, 26

'The Computer Genius'

Every few days, when Lloyd Emelle goes to the Philadelphia Police Department, he'll walk up the stairs, feeling a little taller, "as if I'm somebody who's important in the city," he laughs.

"I'll get on the elevator sometimes and Commissioner Charles Ramsey's in there," he says, with a touch of a (Houston) Texas accent. "He's a no bullshit-type guy. Always straight-faced, never smiling. I'm just a cheerful guy, but whenever I see him I try to straighten up, you know."

Not that working as the code-writer for the police department's website is a completely straight-laced gig. With his team Emelle codes software that breaks down the barrier between citizens and the police.  The old police website was a humdrum affair -- the most exciting thing on it was a map of police districts.Lloyd Toby Emelle.jpg

Now, the department has Youtube videos, tweets, media alerts and a way to leave anonymous tips online. Emille says they're working on a database for people to post locations of their surveillance cameras, to make it easier for police to collect footage.

Before Mayor Nutter appointed Commissioner Ramsey in 2008, the police website was traditional and difficult to update, according to the department's Director of Communications, Karima Zedan: "When Commissioner Ramsey arrived, he realized there was a need to create an online presence that was interactive and easy to use, and provided relevant and timely information."

The dpeartment put out a call and Hyaline Creative, the company Emille's started with designer Dan Steinberg, scored the contract.

"It's made the police department more accessible. An initiative, an event, a recruit class graduation, an officer whose done excellent work, partnerships taking place in the city - it's given us a platform, and that's the way it's helped us communicate with a lot of different constituents," Zedan said.

Emelle had experience doing upgrades, since he'd been working on a (terribly corny) tech make-over show called "My Home 2.0," a Verizon-sponsored reality program, which aired early mornings on Fox. His audition got him cast and earned him the moniker "The Computer Genius."  Despite being a geek, he's got charisma and wit to boot. He brought the 2.0 concept to the Philly police when Steinerg asked him to do a police project - thus Hyaline Creative began. His computer work stitches together Steinberg's design, Ms. Zedan's desire for an up-to-date platform, the Commissioner's vision, and Mayor Nutter's quest for safe streets.

"Last year there was a young lady murdered out here in Northern Liberties," Emille says. "She was killed at night time, and the department was able to get some surveillance video." They released the clip online, and within days investigators had arrested a suspect.

"The city's crime rate has dropped 40 percent since Ramsey became commissioner; Emille likes to think his work has helped to some extent.

All in a day's work for the "Guru" - another M.O. Emille goes by. Having had a taste of show biz, New York, and corporate tech, he's content to launch his business where people have less fame and glitz, but more soul.

"I meet the most interesting people, and they have that Pennsylvania accent," he drawls. "Telling a joke. It's lighthearted. People have that happiness. It's a delight. I love it."

 

 

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