Get to Know T-REX Community Director Kathleen Bauer

Photo by Photomaton.

Walk the halls of Downtown T-REX and you might find yourself gazing at some slightly unusual wall decor.

Maybe you spot an 18th-century landscape but wait, what’s that: A big, green dinosaur storming the countryside? You can thank Kathleen Bauer.

Bauer serves as the Community Director of T-REX, which means she is the go-to person for info on workspaces, events, getting tapped into the downtown entrepreneurial space and yes, upcycled dinosaur art.

How did a communications major whose previous gig was working at an elementary school in U City find her way into the startup space? We took advantage of her open-door policy and sat down to find out.

So how did you find yourself Downtown and working for T-REX?

Prior to this job I was a school secretary in U. City. It was a really different type of job. My degree was in communications and public relations so it seemed like a fit.

It was nice, I had the flexibility in the office whether that was talking to the kids, sending out a newsletter, I could really make it my own. But I got to the point where I couldn’t really evolve in the role and moving up was to become a principal and I didn’t want to do that.

So I was looking for something different and ran into Kelly [Hamilton] and he told me about T-REX. The funny thing is that I’d never heard of it; I didn’t know it was going on.

From the get-go I sort of crinkled my nose at being Downtown because, like a lot of St. Louisans, [to me] it didn’t seem like there was a lot going on. But I applied for the job and met with Rosa [Mayer] and I felt weirdly qualified, coming from the school.

It had the same organizational skills needed, and the same type of personality too. It happened really organically and I really grew into it. Now I am super passionate about it and I can’t imagine myself leaving.

What’s your typical day—or is there even a ‘typical’ one?

My day is a solid mixture of phone time, face time and just people randomly dropping in with a question. A lot of us on the team can handle the same stuff, but I’m in an office that is basically a glass box, so people feel like they can interrupt me all the time (laughs). 

I’m kind of the events person right now. Once we opened the fifth-floor last year, we became a really good place for people to hold corporate events and meetings, so I do a lot of management of that and I’m usually popping out and making sure everything is cool. On a typical day, I’m also giving a lot of tours to potential tenants.

A painting pre-dinotized by Kathleen alongside the finished product. Donated paintings of oceans, landscape, and portraits featuring the incubator’s mascot can be found throughout T-REX.

And now obviously we need to talk about the dinosaur paintings a little bit.

I’ve always liked to thrift, and it was kind of a goofy idea. I actually had a friend who was doing [similar upcycled art projects], and I pitched it to her, but the timing wasn’t right, so I thought maybe I could just do it myself.

I pitched the ideas to Rosa when she was still here, and she said, “Go for it!”. We don’t feel like, as a space, we take ourselves so, so seriously.

Yes, there is a lot of formality in a lot of the stuff we try and do, but as a team and a space, we are warm, approachable and we want to be available. So the paintings are goofy.

I don’t consider myself a master painter; if I were, I’d be doing whole paintings by myself, but I can’t. So the best I can do is mastering generally what a dinosaur looks like.

Any advice for people thinking of coworking or moving their business into T-REX?

This facility is definitely what you make of it. If you’re able to come in and make things happen for yourself, great!

If you’re more shy, it’s a great place to go sit in the coworking space and position yourself where you are going to bump into people and conversation can happen organically that way.

What’s up next for you and T-REX?

We want to grow the percentage of companies that complete our ideal life cycle, which is get incubated here, stay here, grow out of us and stay Downtown. So we’re working on developing a better process by which our people can really feel confident and comfortable with moving out and feel like they have their questions answered.

When people move out of here, it can be a scary world, they have to worry about covering Internet or maybe they are looking at a space that requires renovation, so hooking them up with the right people who can really make their process easier and a lot less scary is what we really want.

We can’t force everyone to stay Downtown and we’re excited for all of the companies that outgrow us, but if we could just get more that stay down here, it’s better for everybody. So that’s what we’re most excited for.