We Need Dreamers Who Get Shit Done | with Wolf Starr

Wolf grew up in the Short North neighborhood in Columbus, Ohio. It was always talked about as being a dangerous place, but he never experienced it that way. It was a very welcoming community, starting with a lot of college professors and beginning to grow with the LGBTQ community. Moving into that neighborhood was an intentional decision by Wolf’s parents — they wanted their kids to have a diversity of relationships.

Wolf’s journey through his early life and career was never cut and dry. His dyslexia forced him to figure out different ways of moving through the world. During his senior year of high school, Wolf ended up not needing to take several of his classes due to previous experience. He wound up in study hall where he had a lot of time on his hands, and — like any normal high school student would — he started to explore the idea of politics. He spent most of his senior year running for the Columbus school board against the same people who put him into study hall. He lost the election, but he was able to get some things changed and became friends with many of the people he ran with.

After the campaign, Wolf became involved in several entrepreneurial ventures. Eventually, he ended up starting the Small Business Beanstalk, where they would connect the dots between different entrepreneurs and small businesses to provide win-win situations. That eventually evolved into a consumer-facing program that gave micro-discounts as a reward for shopping locally.

This idea came about not just out of opportunity, but because Wolf had personally seen the struggles of local small businesses. His aunt and uncle owned a small local chain of coffee shops in California that ended up being targeted by a major chain and forced out of business. He also saw that many of his local retailers were struggling, and he knew that he could do something to help by bringing the community together.

The next step after that was finding a way to help crafters and food trucks, and that led to festival planning. This grew into a partnership with the Independents’ Day Festival, which started as an attempt to revitalize the downtown area until it eventually outgrew downtown. It was one of the most difficult things Wolf had ever done, and the team made it more difficult every year. It was a lesson that Wolf utilizes every day of his life: To work with people who are significantly more skilled or talented at what they do than you are.

Wolf has now moved on to other projects where he is trying to find how they can do the most good for Columbus through innovation and venture support. One theme that has always been true for Wolf’s life is a drive to improve the community that he lives in and provide opportunities for others. He has taken all of the experiences from his life — from the neighborhood he grew up in to the observations he made around local businesses — and used them to build up that community for a new generation, and his goal is to continue creating opportunities and relationships for organizations our community feels passionate about.

What Brett asks:

  • [05:12] What influence did growing up in the Short North neighborhood have on you?
  • [07:35] What was the role of your parents in your life?
  • [14:56] How did you take your life experience and use it as you grew up?
  • [19:01] Did the idea of growing up around a lot of adults influence you?
  • [21:50] How did you get involved in politics?
  • [28:52] What was your thinking behind starting your business?
  • [32:25] What life experience led to the Independents’ Day Festival?
  • [39:03] Can you talk about the decision to not move forward with the festival?
  • [41:11] What are you currently working on?

Lessons for intentional living:

  • Surround yourself with people who are better, more skilled, or more talented at what they do than you are. Be humbled if you are able to compliment and contribute to that work.
  • It’s one thing to notice the ways in which the world is wrong and dream of change, but it’s another thing to make that change. Anyone can dream of a better world, but you need to believe that you can make change happen if you will just take action.