woman leaning against a brick wall in a white jacket
woman leaning against a brick wall in a white jacket

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

I’m the great-granddaughter of a coal miner, granddaughter of a shoe salesman, and daughter of a career military officer, a living demonstration of the Irish ascent through the story of America. And the mother of two daughters, a red-haired 14-year-old who is stubborn and strong as the day is long, and the mother of an auburn-haired 17-year-hold who just joined a volunteer fire company.

The family stories we repeat shape who we are. Hard work, service, courage, poetry, the battle against the oppressor  – these are themes I recognize in my family’s narrative. This spring, a lost year from the start of the pandemic in the United States, we’re thinking about what’s changed and what hasn’t (here’s a great story by Nina Roberts about how musicians lives may change).

What stories will we keep? What realizations do we act on? The important changes are at the individual level, which add up to collective movements. My great-great-grandparents put feet on a ship to escape British brutality …

The pandemic is sending a surprising number of people home, to small towns and cities that seemed backward before but now seem the perfect backdrop for richer and more meaningful lives. Here’s one story I’ve been following: Jake Becraft, founder of Boston-based biotech Strand Therapeutics, wrote a moving Medium piece about his dad’s role in developing a way to mass-produce penicillin during World War II. How many days and lives were lost in this pandemic because we didn’t pay enough attention to vaccine manufacturing and distribution, including the question of how to build trust?

Now, Jake has launched Peoria Bio-Made. With a grant-funded budget of $100,000 and, he says, city leaders enthusiastic about his idea, he’s looking to hire his first employee to focus on this initiative to turn his hometown into a bio-manufacturing hub – so that next time, we’ll be faster.
Sláinte, Jake. When hope and history rhyme, it’s because enough people took change into their own hands to make it so.

This story and others on New Builders Dispatch are made possible by a sponsorship from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation is a private, nonpartisan foundation that provides access to opportunities that help people achieve financial stability, upward mobility, and economic prosperity – regardless of race, gender, or geography. The Kansas City, Mo.-based foundation uses its grantmaking, research, programs, and initiatives to support the start and growth of new businesses, a more prepared workforce, and stronger communities. For more information, visit www.kauffman.org and connect with www.twitter.com/kauffmanfdn and www.facebook.com/kauffmanfdn.

A business journalist for 20 years, am the founder of Times of Entrepreneurship and the co-author of The New Builders.