2013 Spirit of Gainesville Award Winner: Entrepreneurship
A birthright of innovation
Gatorade creator’s daughter honors family legacy with the Cade Museum for Creativity and Invention
Published: Tuesday, November 26, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, November 25, 2013 at 5:00 p.m.
If curiosity and a desire to explore the world around her are inherited traits, then Phoebe Cade Miles has both written into her genetic code.
Phoebe Cade Miles
Years in Gainesville: 22+ Born in Alachua General Hospital, Phoebe grew up here but has spent much of her adult life overseas. She returned to found the Cade Museum in 2004.
How she defines the spirit of Gainesville: “We are exporting ideas, inventions and innovations. To share our innovative spirit with others so that their lives are improved is truly what it means to embody the spirit of Gainesville.”
As one of six children of Dr. Robert Cade, the inventor of Gatorade, she grew up believing learning was meant to be an adventure.
“I’d go with Dad to pick wild plums,” Miles recalls. “We’d bring them home and make jam, with him explaining the chemical process that turns it to jelly, and why the jars had to be topped with wax. He would just teach as we did things; everything for my dad was connected.”
That’s why the 49-year-old loves science, and why she wants other kids “to have that joy of life that came with growing up with my dad.”
To honor her father and open the world of ideas to other families, Miles serves as CEO of the Cade Museum for Creativity and Invention. She also heads the foundation that awards an annual $50,000 Cade Prize, created five years ago to inspire a new generation of inventors, creative thinkers and entrepreneurs.
“We started it as an incentive prize for new startups, in order to get more ideas out of people’s heads and into the marketplace,” Miles says.
Miles has been selected to receive this year’s Spirit of Gainesville award for entrepreneurship, for her support of creative and novel ideas.
“If ‘entrepreneurship’ connotes ‘one who undertakes innovations or introducing new things,’ then Phoebe Cade Miles is the perfect choice for this award,” says Marilyn Tubb, who serves on the museum’s board of directors.
Miles thinks it was prophetic that she was born in Alachua General Hospital, now the site of Innovation Hub.
She left Gainesville to attend college after graduating from Buchholz High School. She earned bachelor’s degrees in history and German from the University of Washington in 1987.
But she married a Gainesville guy, Richard Miles, in 1985. She’s spent most of her adult life overseas, accompanying him to postings with the U.S. Army and State Department.
Richard’s career took the Miles family, which grew to include three children, to Barbados, Berlin and Buenos Aires. Wherever the couple traveled, they began small community projects designed to continue after they left. For example, Phoebe taught kids from an impoverished area of Buenos Aires in a back room of the family’s home.
“We spent 16 years in the foreign service, with three kids, and I loved that life. But we feel like it was preparing us for doing what we are doing here,” Miles says.
And that purpose is creating a museum that will honor her parents and be a destination for families in Gainesville and surrounding counties.
Their children are now grown and Richard has retired from the government to join Phoebe in seeing plans for the museum to fruition.
Son Christian, 25, and daughter Cecelia Miles Hubach, 23, are residents of Washington D.C. Youngest daughter Elena, 20, is a junior at Wheaton College outside Chicago.
Robert Cade had often talked about starting a museum to display his collection of more than 60 Studebaker automobiles “in the context of American ingenuity and development,” Miles says.
For her, it was about much more than her dad’s classic cars.
“We had to figure out a way to showcase the cars, but have the focus of the museum be on creativity, entrepreneurship and invention,” she says.
“That’s the spirit of entrepreneurship, having to figure things out, organize it and make it happen. I love that challenge and the thrill when you are successful. I was reading a definition of ‘entrepreneur’ and discovered that’s what I am.”
The museum will be built in Depot Park, across South Main Street from its current temporary headquarters. It is scheduled to open in 2015. It already offers a busy schedule of classes, camps and outreach programs.
According to Miles, thousands of kids have come through the novel programs, under the direction of Patty Lipka.
“‘Muse’ is the hidden word in ‘museum,’ and we want to stimulate visitors’ creative muses and connect them with ideas, history and philosophies that would stimulate their own creativity,” Miles explains. “We are not a collection-based museum. It is more about an experience and discovering your own creative potential.”
In Miles’ view, the Cade Prize is a natural extension of the museum’s purpose.
“It complements the innovation that is going on here in Gainesville and draws more attention to it,” she explains. There were more than 100 entrants the first year the cash grant was offered. (Entries for the 2014 prize are being accepted after December 1.)
Not surprisingly, Miles’ definition of the spirit of Gainesville also incorporates creativity and innovation.
“From the beginning we were a crossroads for exports, routing the produce and products from all of Florida to destinations throughout the country,” she muses. “The new iteration is also about exports, but now we are exporting ideas, inventions and innovations. To share our innovative spirit with others so that their lives are improved is truly what it means to embody the spirit of Gainesville.”