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Friday, March 15, 2019

STLMade Wants St. Louis to Get Over Its Inferiority Complex, One Story at a Time

Posted By on Fri, Mar 15, 2019 at 8:51 AM

click to enlarge DANNY WICENTOWSKI
It's hard to beat March 14 — known locally as "314 day" — for a reminder to indulge in St Louis city pride. But in addition to providing a good excuse to eat a bunch of local junk food, yesterday also provided the perfect date for the launch of STLMade, a campaign attempting convince St. Louisans that St. Louis is, in fact, OK.

Better than OK, even. With Thursday' kick-off event, which drew hundreds to the Venture Cafe gathering in Cortex, STLMade is seeking to do no less than to highlight a "renaissance" unfolding in St. Louis.

"I think there’s a sense of inferiority we have as a group of residents," suggests Lee Broughton, who's leading the campaign. "We assume that everybody looks at us and thinks that it’s a bad place."

It's not hard to think of reasons St. Louisans might be leery of the city's reputation, from our NFL team lurching off to Los Angeles to the police department imploding to our regular placement atop the rankings of the nation's most dangerous places.

Part of the problem, says Broughton, is that St. Louis residents are missing out on the stories that provide a counterweight to the negativity.

"The news cycle tends to be conflicted about how positively it reflects the region," says Broughton, the former head of global marketing for Enterprise Holdings. "What STLMade is about is saying, 'Hang on a second, we’ve got stuff to celebrate.' There are people doing epic things on a daily basis and we should figure out how to get their stories told."

In the works since 2017, STLMade stems from the coming together of the St. Louis Regional Business Council, the St. Louis Regional Chamber, Civic Progress and 35 other groups. Thursday's event at the Venture Cafe coincided with the launch of a new website,, which rolled out with an array of stories that, in a previous age, might have easily graced the features section in a major metropolitan daily.

But with shrinking newsrooms and limited budgets, stories are falling through the cracks, says editor-in-chief Allison Babka.

"St. Louis doesn’t necessarily know what's happening with in its own backyard," she warns. "Journalistic resources are scarce right now. There are only so many reporters to go around and only so many ways they can cover something." 

Babka, a longtime RFT contributor and its former digital editor, notes that human interest stories — stories like this one about a local veteran making a business out of barrel-aged beard oil, or this piece about the St. Charles company behind the clocks used in NASA's rocket countdowns — are most often "lost in the shuffle of breaking news."

Going forward, Babka says the site plans to add several new stories each week, with both written pieces and highly produced videos.

What do the stories add up to? For Babka and other backers of STLMade, the mission comes down to the brand's three-word slogan, "Start up. Stand Out. Stay."

"There’s kind of a notion to get things done, to start a business, that you have to leave St. Louis," Babka says. "These stories prove that isn't true."


Follow Danny Wicentowski on Twitter at @D_Towski. E-mail the author at
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