I <3 Toledo: "You will do better in Toledo"

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“I <3 Toledo” posts are the first in a series aimed to give credit where credit is due – to highlight cities and areas in Ohio that don’t get the praise they deserve. In this series, you’ll learn what makes Toledo so great, and why its residents love the growing city so much.

Our first interviewee is Renee Granados, who grew up in Toledo, went to Ohio University to study graphic design, and now runs, along with two other young women, SWAP*TOLEDO – a clothing exchange event (take a look at their blog, or find them on Facebook).

The Business of Ohio: Tell us about yourself – where did you grow up? When did you move to Toledo? What did you study? What do you do now?
Renee Granados: I was born and raised in Toledo. I grew up in South Toledo, where I went to Beverly Elementary and Byrnedale Junior High, followed by Notre Dame Academy for high school. For a brief stint, I left Toledo for Athens to study graphic design at Ohio University, returning four years later to try and break into the field…which brings me to today.

TBOO: How did you come to live in Toledo?
RG: It’s home! BUT….

TBOO: If you initially did not want to move to Toledo, what made you stay?
RG: My initial reaction was to move far away from here after college. Big city dreams, etc. I spent the summer going to art walks put on by The Arts Commission and other community events and reconnecting with friends who’d been away at college. Things were going so well I decided to stay here. Turns out Toledo isn’t as lame as we all thought it was.

What I like most about Toledo is that it’s just small enough for almost anyone to start something on his or her own. Things aren’t big-city expensive and connections can be easily made.

TBOO: How long have you lived in Toledo? How has it changed?
RG: I used to tell people that Toledo is a great place to grow up and as you get older, you can just hope to find some good friends and a basement or living room to hang out in. While all that remains true, it seems like the people of Toledo are really working to make exciting things happen here. Maybe it’s because I’m older now, and have more access to certain networks and people, but I like to think that things in Toledo are on the up.

TBOO: Is it a good environment for the field you work in? If not, do you see that changing?
RG: Yes and no. As far as graphic design goes, I’ve been having a tough time breaking into the field, but that’s because Toledo only has a few really great design firms, in my opinion. There are plenty of careers working in-house for companies, but those seem harder to find. However, as someone who is also very interested in art in general, I love that the arts scene in Toledo is really growing. The Arts Commission gives artists many opportunities to put art in the community (for example, a project that puts local artists’ work on digital billboards around the city, or one that allows artists to design unique bike racks for the downtown area). Events like Maker’s Mart give local artisans and crafters an opportunity to sell their goods. Maker’s Mart was especially exciting for me because I didn’t even realize people were making such amazing crafts locally.  I’m so excited for the next one, happening at Artomatic 419!, which is the largest non-juried art show in Northwest Ohio. From what I’ve heard they’re expecting to have over 300 artists exhibiting over the event’s three weekends. So exciting!

TBOO: What do you want people to know about the different opportunities Toledo has to offer (especially people who are thinking of moving to Toledo)?
RG: I want to say again that Toledo is a place where anyone can make a splash. As a shameless plug for my own organization, I’ll use it as an example. Two other Toledo women and I started a group called SWAP*TOLEDO as a way to plan large-scale clothing swaps for the people of Toledo and donate clothing or money to local charities. It started in a living room and grew to an event attended by about 100 people. I’m not really what you’d call a “go-getter” (well, my colleagues are), but it gave me faith that it’s possible to get things moving in Toledo. It is possible to make a difference and change things up. There’s a sign in a bar downtown with the locally popular slogan “YOU WILL DO BETTER IN TOLEDO” and it’s true, but you have to want it.

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