Editor’s note: This story is part of a series from Startland News highlighting entrepreneurs, businesses, and creators leading revitalization and redevelopment efforts in and around the historic 18th and Vine Jazz District. Click here to read additional stories from this series.
As the founder and CEO of public relations firm Lillian James Creative, Aaron Fulk is used to fixating on a company’s branding.
So when she was seeking a new office space for her employees who preferred a return to in-person work, Fulk knew exactly what to prioritize.
“I decided, ‘If we’re gonna do this, let’s find something that matches our brand,’” Fulk said.
Parson told her about a space available at 2000 Vine, a redevelopment project of the two historic buildings at 20th and Vine Street led by Parson and two other local business leaders.
“When we walked in, it just felt like us,” Fulk said.
More than just another space
And just like that, Lillian James Creative became one of the first businesses to join the 2000 Vine family, officially occupying its office space in the north building in June.
This came after the company opened an office in the River Market in August 2019, a move that was ultimately doomed by COVID-19 and remote work.
However, as public health conditions improved, Fulk said, she heard from some employees that they would like to return to an office environment.
“We were looking for someone who appreciates the [18th and Vine] District,” Parson said. “Someone who’s not there just because they can afford to be there, but someone who truly understands what it means to be a part of this jazz district. I think she clearly understands that.”
Click here to see more photos of the 2000 Vine space.
Fulk pointed to the rich histories of jazz, baseball, and food in the 18th and Vine District — as well as her personal lived experiences as an LGBTQ woman in a mixed-race family — as factors that drew her to the area.
“My family has always purposely loved that area, and the history of it,” Fulk said. “It’s everything that started Kansas City.”
She said her step-son Khrystian, who is Black and Latino, was at the top of her mind when she chose the location at 2000 Vine.
“My son needs to see business owners like Shomari and Jason,” Fulk said.
Fulk founded Lillian James Creative in July 2016 after eight years working in sales and marketing roles.
An early and avid adopter of social media, Fulk built her career without a college degree, and while raising her two biological children by herself, prior to meeting her partner, Ja’net.
In fact, her two biological children, Lilliana Grace and Devin James, are the company’s namesakes. Fulk said she added “creative” because it was the most searched word at the time for companies seeking marketing and PR professionals.
In August, Fulk announced the company had added three more employees, bringing the total to 10 across six states.
Ultimately, Fulk hopes that the new office will expose her clients, and a new demographic, to the history and the development under way in the 18th and Vine District.
“You’ve gotta touch it to really get it,” she said. “Once people are down there, then they’ll get it.”
This story is possible thanks to support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that works together with communities in education and entrepreneurship to create uncommon solutions and empower people to shape their futures and be successful.