Wednesday morning felt like a celebration of sorts as visitors swept into Gravitate Coworking’s downtown location.

1 Million Cups welcomed back visitors to the first in-person event since March 2020, when organizers shut the doors at the Science Center of Iowa’s theater for the last time. Pi515 founder and director Nancy Mwirotsi brought two summer interns and three high school students to tell the audience about the nonprofit’s summer Digital Inclusion and Smart Cities campaigns. (Learn more in Friday’s edition of the Business Record).

Near the small-meeting booths, photographer Jami Milne of the Creative Confessional offered pop-up portraits for free. Wallets ran out of business cards to give away within a half-hour, after months of abandonment and virtual events.

It was just the first piece of a monthlong Summer Startup Tour, organized by the Greater Des Moines Partnership and hosted each week by one of the metro’s collective makerspaces: Gravitate Coworking, Maple Venters, Mainframe Studios and xBk Live. The tour’s free events are a way to reintroduce Des Moines residents to local startups, business founders and creative professionals within the city, said Diana Wright, startup community builder at the Greater Des Moines Partnership.

“It’s important to be a bit diverse in choosing our makers’ spaces. We sometimes just think of tech and startup scale-ups, but there’s a whole creative community and musicians who are makers as well,” Wright said.

Each makerspace location offers a different specialty to visitors: While Gravitate draws in tech startup founders and remote workers seeking a shared office space, Maple Ventures — located in West Des Moines’ Valley Junction neighborhood — can host industrial technology startups that need the warehouse space and manufacturing connections from parent company Ramco Innovations.

Mainframe Studios houses more than 130 creative professionals with fine arts, consultation or community nonprofit organizations (including Pi515, a youth STEM development organization).  xBK Live, the newest venue on the Summer Startup Tour, hosts live music, comedy and performing arts and local gaming workshops throughout the year.

“It’s funny, because I’ve had a lot of conversations with the artists, and they literally have the same challenges — whether it’s cash flow and making a sustainable living, or if it’s marketing, finding customers, finding clients. That’s a huge thing as it relates to any founder,” Wright said. “But they have a wealth of knowledge and experience, and I think that’s something that we can do a better job of — seeing all the amazing work they have to share.

“Companies are sometimes the channel partners that entrepreneurs need to gain early traction. We’d love to see companies get involved, whether that’s mentorship, helping to connect an entrepreneur or potentially as a buyer,” she added.