For almost three weeks, I’ve been forced to keep my mouth shut, telling only those people closest to me—the inside circle of Team Devil Strip. It sucked. Not only am I really excited about the news itself, what it means for us and hopefully for this city, but over the last decade, I’ve largely made my living by blabbering (or reporting) on about the cool and interesting things I’ve learned. So here it is… drumroll please…
We got the Knight Cities Challenge Grant.
Out of more than 7,000 ideas submitted, Unbox Akron was selected as one of the 126 finalists. Once upon a time, I ran for city council in my hometown and lost by 126 votes. I assumed our luck would ultimately fall the same way: Close but not quite there. Then I heard Unbox Akron made the cut, one of the 32 ideas being funded. I’m still a little dazed, even after all the time to digest it.
On the surface, we’re getting $52,168.09 from the Knight Foundation to launch and run an Akron-centric subscription box service. If you’ve used Birchbox or Loot Crate or Graze, you should be familiar with the concept except we’re a little different.
There are boxes for Austin, Baltimore, Nashville and Cleveland merch, but what we’re really trying to do is build up and support a culture of exploration and ambassadorship of Akron. So while there will be samples of locally-made goods in every box to help expose the work of small (and micro) businesses in the area, our mission is to get you out around town discovering Akron’s hidden gems.
That means, if you subscribe, you could get between two and four Akron-made goods plus a downloadable mix of local music, some tickets to a local event, an itinerary of dining and entertainment options to make your next date night easy and a neighborhood guide with some special incentive to check out a specific place. Since it’s already more fun to go exploring with a friend, the best part of Unbox Akron may be that the value increases when you take someone with you.
Then there are the quarterly boxes—all-gear, all-Akron and handpicked to give Akronites abroad a taste of what they’re missing back home.
Of course, there’s more to all this and a lot still to iron-out. But the good news is that Knight is helping us pull this off the right way. As we get closer to launching, I’ll ask you to peek behind the curtain as we meet with potential vendors and talk to potential subscribers so we can get your feedback to help us make this thing work.
Are you excited yet? (We are.)
[su_box title=”The Knight Foundation”]Knight’s mission is to promote informed and engaged communities. The foundation does that by investing in innovations in media and journalism, community engagement and the arts. The Knight Cities Challenge is funding ideas to make the 26 cities where Knight invests more vibrant places to live and work. The challenge asks innovators to answer the question: What’s your best idea to make cities more successful? More at knightcities.org. [/su_box]