Kristie Wickwire Leaves St. Louis, Missouri to Join INVANTI, a Startup Generator in the Midwest.

Joining Cohort 2, Kristie has begun researching the issues that face America’s small business owners.

Tell us what we need to know about you.

I’m originally from Athens, Georgia, but I’m coming to South Bend from St. Louis where I’ve been living since I graduated college. I went to Washington University where I studied art and writing.

After college, I started my own art and literary magazine called Please Hold Magazine, which was my first, real jump into entrepreneurship. Around that time, I also began co-organizing the St. Louis Small Press Expo, which is an annual event that showcases indie publishers for books, comics, poetry, and so on. I’ve been a part of it since its first year in 2014. It’s run by a group of six independent publishers who are all organizing it together.

Then I was working full-time for the Entrepreneurship Center at Washington University for two years before leaving to join a FinTech startup.


You’ve talked about your love for and experience with the arts. How do you see that playing a role in your process for searching for problems, and hopefully, building a solution with INVANTI?

I’ve always been interested in helping people who are creators and who are doing things out of love for what they’re doing or for the mission that they’re trying to realize. I want to help artists make their art sustainable and find ways to make it able to support them.

Artists are people with purpose. They aren’t going into it because they’re trying to get rich. Artists are entrepreneurs. They are small businesses.

An artist has a unique kind of approach to solving problems because you’re trying to find new ways of working and approaching solutions from many different angles. Art is really about identifying and even creating problems, and then finding solutions to them. I think I’m a natural problem solver because of this — I see things in a different way than a scientist might see something.

I am also an art critic and love to talk to other artists about their work. I help them understand the work as they’ve created it and forge the direction that their practice is headed by helping them articulate what they’re doing and why they’re doing it. I have a lot of fun interpreting what people are doing and having conversations with them to understand what’s behind things and helping them identify an area that could use work.

That’s another thing I’m really excited about —that active listening and interviewing is such a huge part of this process to understand the small business perspective.

You have to listen to figure out what actually needs to be solved and then come up with solutions from there.


Tell us what you know about South Bend and how you feel about moving here.

The first thought that I have about South Bend is that it’s going to be cold. I’m really worried about how cold it’s going to be. I’m trying to get an apartment that’s within walking distance of the office space, which is good, but I’m also setting myself up to be walking instead of driving. It sounds like there’s a growing small business community there and I’m sure that with Notre Dame being so close, there’s probably a lot of young energy coming in and out of the area.

Besides that, though, I don’t know that much. But I’m excited to be going to a new place. I’ve lived in St. Louis since coming here for college, and that was my first big move in my life. I studied abroad for four months while I was in college, so I’m thinking of this similarly, where I’m going somewhere for a short period of time, with clear objectives. I’m going for INVANTI first and I’ll discover the city throughout the process.


INVANTI is a startup generator in the Midwest.

We recruit entrepreneurial talent and provide them deep insight into the most important problems facing Americans today. We then generate new solutions and business models and ultimately build companies that matter: invanti.co