An Entrepreneurial Spirit
Sean Howell ’02 enjoys his entrepreneurial work. Two of his favorite parts of work are: creating a new meeting place for people who wouldn’t traditionally meet, and being exposed to the Northwest music scene in ways that he never was before.
Sean and his business partner, Dean DeCrease, operate Raw Space, a cross between a professional music venue and community center in downtown Ellensburg, Wash. The business, the largest venue of its type in a 90-mile radius, is an initiative of the Elmira Arts Project, whose aim is to promote historic preservation, cultural interaction, economic growth and to create great meeting places.
“It’s been a really big success for us,” Sean says.
A wide array of events take place at Raw Space, including comedy, musical performances from rock and roll to folk music, weddings, civic events, rummage sales, lectures, and other events with unique connections to Pacific Lutheran University.
Sean got involved with the project in early 2011, roughly a year after his business partner purchased an 1889 building and began converting it into a stage with a sound system. The goal was to attract artists to the area and liven up that part of town.
“He was excited,” says Dean, Sean’s business partner and friend of more than a decade. “He’s very interested in the arts and saw this as an opportunity to do something different.”
A Vision for Success
Sean spent most of his life growing up in Fallbrook, Calif., but thanks to having a father who worked for NATO, he had the chance to attend boarding school in Rome for three years before heading to college.
He majored in economics at PLU, as well as concentrating on religion and biology. Involved in many activities around campus, including philosophy club, student radio and yearbook, Sean was most passionate about ASPLU and the crew team.
Since graduation, Sean has enjoyed several finance-related jobs, including working for Thrivent Financial for Lutherans. He currently serves as a financial advisor with Allstate, spending his time between Seattle and San Francisco. His work with Raw Space is mostly done remotely and in addition to his job at Allstate.
Despite all the success the duo has had with the venue, Sean says not every event and performance goes well. “You can have hits and then things that aren’t hits,” he says. “It’s not always fun.”
Dean says he appreciates all the work that Sean does. Although Dean is the man-on-the-ground and Sean provides support from afar, the arrangement works out well. “He provides a tremendous amount of perspective and dispassionate analysis because I’m so deeply involved,” Dean says. “He balances me out. He’s passionate, fearless and energetic. He’s optimistic with a good head for business and a really good heart.”
With 47 rooms that can still be worked on in the vicinity around Raw Space, Sean and Dean hope to develop this currently unused property into other art spaces. Their goal is to keep expanding and to one day be a self-sustaining business. Sean and Dean see great things for the future.
Sean has found ways to give back to PLU. He named PLU in his estate plans, and is currently endowing a fund for students who participated in a study away program in Africa. The award can be used to return to the country of their project, given to the community where they studied or can be accepted as a scholarship.
Supporting What You Love
If you would like information on the many ways you can support the students and programs at PLU, contact PLU Gift Planning at 253-535-7177 or firstname.lastname@example.org today.
By Hailey Rile ’12