By Melissa Pierce, contributing writer
I have lived in Jacksonville for 13 years, but I rarely got around to exploring Downtown Jacksonville, even as a student at the University of North Florida. I always thought Downtown was a deserted and inactive area. This completely changed when I became a design apprentice at KYN last fall.
I’m Melissa Pierce, a recent graduate from UNF’s graphic design program and current apprentice at KYN — a business accelerator team and apprenticeship program that works side by side with start-ups — located Downtown.
Besides helping start-ups, KYN also has an apprenticeship program where students like me work together with other disciplines, gaining real-life experience working with the start-ups. The apprenticeship is different from an internship in that we’re not limited to the day-to-day production work assigned. We also work with one another on our own projects, where we get to collaborate to create something amazing. So in a way, KYN fosters an entrepreneurial environment from within. We, as students and recent grads, are working together on our own project and learning what it’s like to be on a start-up team as well.
We are currently finishing up a food truck app called “Truck ‘n Seek,” which we’ll be unveiling at our DES+DEV ASSEMBLE! event Thursday, May 15, at 6 p. m. at The Barnett. The app we built helps locate food trucks in our surrounding area. Working on this app has given us experience of working as a start-up to produce and release a product that contributes to Jacksonville’s start-up ecosystem.
The apprenticeship program has helped me, along other KYN apprentices, realize Downtown is constantly bustling and is not that desolate empty place a lot of us used to assume it to be. I was introduced to a world I never knew existed in Jacksonville: the start-up community.
From working at KYN and being Downtown, I have learned how connected and close-by the start-ups are. We are within walking distance to several other established start-ups located in the vicinity. CoWork Jax, Ignite by Adecco and SportsYapper are just a few among others. We also had the opportunity to take field trips to various design and development companies like Wingard Creative and Station Four. Once you meet one, you meet them all; we’re a highly intermingled mass of innovative energy!
It’s very important for recent grads and soon-to-be grads to be introduced to the Downtown community because you end up learning a lot about Jacksonville’s past, present and future. These grads may have the same misconception I previously had about Downtown, and now is the right time to fix that!
Learning from, working alongside and mingling with some of the most talented professionals in Jacksonville and witnessing Downtown in the midst of transformation makes me proud to call Jacksonville home.