A Venture to the Venture Cafe


This Thursday, I made an excursion to the Venture Cafe.  The St. Louis Venture Cafe gathers every every Thursday evening @4240 building at 4240 Duncan Ave. #200, in the Cortex District from 3:00pm to 8:00pm. I was pleasantly surprised by the large open environment with large groups of people, young and old, with plenty of accommodations such as coffee and chessboards. Participants had the option to chat with like-minded people and possible collaborators.

Pretty much everyone I met wanted to strike up a conversation with me. I thought this would be anxiety-inducing as I am not the most social person but everyone I met was very pleasant and no conversation felt overwhelming.

I talked with a project manager/engineer named Renard Celestin who informed me that everyone was incredibly friendly. I had to agree.

“Each week is very informative,” the former college football player told me. “It is great place for networking and even just hanging out.”

Others were quick to strike up a conversation with me. I met an 18-year old inventor whose name tag told me that he has been to over 20 events. My name tag revealed my status as a newbie with a 1 in parentheses indicating that this was my first time at the Venture Cafe. I was nervous about this but no one else seemed to mind.

A kind veteran of the Venture Cafe scene (tag indicating 49 attendances) named Harvey explained the basics of the Cafe to me. A salesperson for a brand of coffee called Organogold, he showed me how there were dozens of classrooms located throughout the complex which could be attended based on individual interests. Harvey was a great example of the overall atmosphere, friendly and informative. He exemplified the large number of innovative and business-minded people who I had the pleasure of meeting, even if for just briefly.

Harvey led me to the St. Louis Venture Cafe program manager, Kaori Yazawa, who he told me could answer many of the questions I had regarding the program. Her job was to set up the program and I thought there would be no one better to answer my inquiries into why Venture Cafe would be beneficial to WashU students. I already had a good idea after my short and pleasant experience with the program but she expanded on my positivity.

“Part of the college experience that’s lacking is having students connect to the community in which they live,” Kaori told me. She felt that WashU students could really benefit from attending the sessions, commenting on her own experience of going to college in a city but not experiencing the community. “The upcoming generation is looking to solve problems and there is no better place to innovate and collaborate on these problems than in the community itself.”

“St. Louis has a strong business community but still has a Midwest hospitality,” the Carnegie-Mellon graduate told me. “It’s the perfect opportunity to make this connection to the community in which you live and Venture Cafe aims to enrich students and the entrepreneurial community.”

Yazawa also felt that the welcoming environment could help people realize how broad the application to be an innovator is. “Every person can benefit from learning what jobs are out there.”

I left the Venture Cafe just as it was about to close shop for the week, but was very happy with my experience and would recommend it to any student, business or otherwise, and especially to entrepreneurs.

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