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A New Ally: Venture Studio Holds Official Jamestown Launch

Ally Co celebrated its ribbon cutting with local dignitaries Monday. P-J photos by Timothy Frudd

Katie Castro wants to help local businesses, nonprofits and churches thrive, offering a partner to those willing to put in the work.

Ally Co, celebrated its official launch Monday with a ribbon cutting ceremony hosted at Crown Street Roasting Company in Jamestown. The ribbon cutting ceremony was attended by local dignitaries, representatives from the Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce and members of the community. Dan Heitzenrater, president and CEO of the Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce, thanked the crowd of local leaders and community members for attending the event.

“It’s awesome to see such a great group of people and a lot of leaders in our community here,” he said.

Despite a dreary day, the ribbon cutting ceremony was well attended by the community. Ally Co co-founder and CEO, Katie Castro, said she hoped the optimism and enthusiasm of the business would add “color” and “joy” to everyone’s day.

“This is the vision of Ally Co — to add color to our community, to add hope,” she said. “Ally Co deals in hope. I am leveraging that strategic hope that I have for the future to change what happens right now in our community.”

Chautauqua County Executive PJ Wendel presented Katie Castro, Ally Co co-founder and CEO, with a plaque commemorating the launch of her new business.

Castro said Ally Co’s mission is to “cultivate justice-centered innovation ecosystems” in both Chautauqua County and the Western New York region. She explained the vision of Ally Co is a “renewed hope” for the people of Chautauqua County.

“Hope is the aspirational framework for what we do at Ally Co and for who we’re becoming,” she said. “We believe that the best is yet to come, and that the way that we get there toward that best for our community is together. We are allies for our community.”

The community-minded focus of Ally Co is rooted in Castro’s vision of a venture studio that can help local businesses, nonprofits and churches become successful.

Castro explained a venture studio is a unique concept in Western New York. Based on her business team’s research, Ally Co is the only venture studio in the region.

“Our company is starting startups and we’re also coming alongside existing organizations to be their innovation and change management,” she said. “We help you incubate all the way from initial idea to full market launch. It’s a sweat for equity model, but our process would help yield best results.”

Ally Co CEO and founder Katie Castro thanked local dignitaries, the Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce and members of the community for attending the launch of her new business, while presenting a hopeful vision of the future.

Based on current data, Castor said business or nonprofit startups that launch with the aid of a venture studio are seven times more successful than traditional startups.

Ally Co is also unique because it is not based out of any particular office space. Castro said each of her team members have day jobs and work for Ally Co in addition to their regular jobs.

“We don’t exist anywhere in particular other than we are all in our day jobs and facilitating what we do at Ally Co in our off-time,” she said. “Some of us have flexible jobs and we’re able to flex to other people’s schedules, but we exist on our main portal online www.allyco.org.”

In addition to the collaboration and innovation resources available online, Castro said Ally Co will be meeting with different organizations, businesses, churches and nonprofits to create change and improve various products and programs.

One of the unique services offered by Ally Co is the concept of a design sprint.

“It’s either a one-day or five-day sprint to bring a brand new seed of an idea all the way from the seed to ready to test with users in five days or one day depending on the model,” Castro said.

Currently, Ally Co’s design sprints are facilitated at the Plum Bush House near the Chautauqua Institution. Ally Co will also offer team retreats at the Plum Bush House.

Castro and Ally Co hope to spark fast innovation for a wide range of community organizations by bringing together a vast range of expertise.

“We have experts from all different industries on our team and we want to flex that power to be able to ally with not-for-profits, with businesses and with churches,” Castro said.

As part of the company’s range of expertise, half of Castro’s team of workers are bilingual. Castro said the company has labeled itself as a “justice-centered innovation ecosystem” because she believes in the importance of helping marginalized members of the community find success in leadership and innovation.

“Justice is really at the heart of what we do,” she said. “I believe the best that is yet to come for our community is a diverse and justice focused community.”

Along with its commitment to justice, Ally Co is also committed to helping nonprofit organizations in the community. Fifteen percent of the company’s profits will be invested into a Chautauqua Community Foundation fund called the Ally Impact Fund. The Ally Impact Fund will be used to benefit nonprofit innovation in the region.

Councilman William Reynolds, R-Ward 5, said the vision and the energy of Ally Co. is something the community truly needs.

“I’m just so happy that all of you have the energy and the enthusiasm that this community needs, and to see so many young people be willing to be a part of it and come up with fresh and new ideas and things that can make this city and the region wonderful again,” he said.

County Legislator Dave Wilfong also expressed his gratitude for Ally Co’s vision for the future of Jamestown and the surrounding region.

Representing state Sen. George Borrello, Legislator Lisa Vanstrom, R-West Ellicott, congratulated Castor for the launch of Ally Co

“I just want to say congratulations on your energy and your creative thinking and your enthusiasm about doing something that’s so cutting edge with a positive hope,” she said.

County Executive PJ Wendel also pointed out the positive energy displayed in Castro and her team of employees at Ally Co. He echoed the words of Castro’s speech, emphasizing the need to bring hope back to the region.

“The future is bright here in Chautauqua County, no questions about it,” he said. “I hope in five to 10 years when I’m not here in this position anymore, or maybe I still am, for people to come back and say we made a change now. That’s what Katie started; this is that spark that’s going to start and invigorate not only our county but our region. They’re going to make a statement with this company and this kickoff.”

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