Hawaii's First Coworking Space | Trippin’
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NextSpace (Venice)

Juicy Journals 
LOS ANGELES, CA
Tuesday 4/29/14

LA was the first leg of the journey, with four spaces to get to before Amtrak-ing out to Kansas City! The first space was NextSpace in Venice. I’ve had my reserves about multi-locational spaces, always wondering how they foster the individual identity of each space and its community. But seeing the way Carl interacted with drop-ins and new members, and talking with him about the neighborhood developments, it became apparent that each NextSpace location is like the neighborhood coworking spot.

Across the street, Joe Silver is building a studio out of the old Post Office. Google opened its first office in Venice, which was soon followed by a migration of other companies and startups to the westside/Santa Monica area. The area is becoming a kind of crossroads between entertainment and tech, and has been dubbed ‘Silicon Valley’, which locals didn’t really appreciate, “…because we have our own identity that’s besides [Silicon Valley]”, Carl explained. Carl is someone who has lived in Venice Beach for over 16 years, and our conversation made me wonder – what is coworking’s role in gentrification? Perhaps it is a cause – facilitating the population that’s encroaching upon the neighborhood. Perhaps it is a result – an indication that there are already those now living in the area with higher income. Perhaps it is a buffer – providing current residents with the flexibility to work where they live. As for Carl, a long-time resident, NextSpace and coworking have provided him with a place to work (he is also a musician), and a job that he enjoys.

Watching the neighborhood go by from behind the large tinted windows, there was always a boarder or a bicycler. The sun was shining, and the beach was calling me from just two blocks away. To the land of bikes and boards, I had to bid Venice a dieu to head downtown; development is something that’s happening in Kaka’ako so I’m sure our conversations of neighborhoods and coworking will continue!

Click the pictures below for commentary descriptions!

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Juicy Journals

Hey everyone,

Juicy Journals is a log of my trip for the Global Coworking Unconference. It’s been two years since Tony and Rechung attended Juicy, so I thought, “Why not me, in 2014!” To and from the unconference, I’ll be stopping where I can, and visiting spaces along the way. This is somewhat of an ode to last summer, and my failed attempts at the Millennial Trains Project. I hardly raised a fraction of my goal, but my two supporters and the MTP journey inspired me to jump on a train anyways (something I’ve been wanting to do since stumbling upon Silver Streak one late night on AMC). 

Below are the cities and coworking spaces visited in the order of travel.

Cheers,
Britney T-M

 

Juicy Journals

 LOS ANGELES
NextSpace (Venice)
Blankspaces (DTLA)
Opodz
Kleverdog Coworking

KANSAS CITY
– GCUC | 5/1・5/2 ・5/3
– ThinkBig
– Port
– Spring Accelerator
– Google Fiber

ST. LOUIS
– Nebula Coworking

INDIANAPOLIS
– The Bureau

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Jelly Journey

TRIPPIN’

By Britney T-M
Jelly Journey follows Britney T-M as she makes her way to DC for George Mason’s Social Innovation Program. This is a feature for the BoxJelly blog series TRIPPIN’, which follows BoxJelly community members out of the box on their off-island adventures. Follow the Jelly Journey on Google Maps.

HI

Britney T-MBoxJelly intern Britney here. Welcome to the first post of TRIPPIN’ – a summer series for the BoxJelly blog, featuring different coworking spaces I come across during my travels for George Mason University’s Social Innovation Program.

It’s amazing how time flies. In January, I thought, “Wow, I’m going all the way to Virginia to study social innovation!” In February, I wondered, “Wow, I can visit so many friends along the way!” Then in April, I said, “Wow, I should visit all these coworking spaces too!” So now I am.

These other spaces, what would they be like? How did they start up? Do they have free coffee and/or beer too?  The who/what/where/when/why’s may be different, but all of us are taking off on the same coworking wave. Tomorrow I’ll be paddling out and seeing how others have navigated the industry swells.

During June and July, join me for my off-island jelly journey, TRIPPIN’ around the mainland!

Dates
6/6 – 9 INDIANAPOLIS, IN : 
Service Center for Culture and Community, The Speak EasyIndy CoZThe Hinge BureauThe PlatformLaunch Fisher’s

6/9 – 10 BLOOMINGTON, IN : CoWork BTownBluelineSproutBox

6/10 – 11 LOUISVILLE, KY : iHub at NexusMethod (chat with Chris Davis)

6/11 – 14 HANOVER/MADISON, IN: Student Activities Center at Hanover CollegeCoworking in rural areas

6/14 – 7/19 DMV: Social Innovation ProgramPunchRockAffinity Labs

7/3 PITTSBURGH: StartUp Town

7/19 – 26 PHILADELPHIA, PA: IndyHall, Culture Works

7/26 – 8/2 NEW YORK CITY, NY: New Work City

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TRIPPIN’

DMV (Pt. I)
By Britney T-M

DMV
TRIPPIN’ is a summer blog series featuring coworking spaces, as BoxJelly intern Britney T-M travels to attend George Mason University’s Social Innovation Program. Follow the trip on Google Maps.

The Social Innovation Program (at George Mason University)

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SIP 2013! Photo cred: Katie Rendon (Program Director)

From our first day: touring the campus.

From our first day: touring the campus.

So this is it; the reason I’m TRIPPIN’. I approached The Social Innovation Program with the question: “How am I going to learn more about social innovation?” The answer: by doing it. The first week was packed with speakers that presented on everything from accounting to the “myths of social entrepreneurship“. Then for the following four weeks, we broke out into teams and performed consulting projects and created our own lean-startup models. Our team consulted for a performing arts organization and a service center, and attempted to address the gap in technology education for undeserved communities. Other consultation projects included work with organizations from farmers’ markets to community discussion platforms, and lean startups that addressed issues of ex-offender re-entry and social innovation education at the elementary school level. What a trip!

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Waitin’ for the metro.

Co-living and co-working is a large part of how we were able to deliver so effectively in such a short period of time. We’re seeing this paradigm shift of the way we work, which also includes shifts in the way we live.

InterGen Care at Graduation/Pitch Fest!

InterGen Care at Graduation/Pitch Fest!

By living this way for the 5 weeks of the program, I was confronted by my expectations, and the unexpected. Expectation: I won’t use Twitter until more of my friends do. The Unexpected: I’ll make new friends that will prompt me to up my Twitter game, and I’ll realize how much professional potential there is to unlock (thanks Ramzy!). Expectation: I’ll get to know my roommates, and we’ll learn to live with each other. The Unexpected: My roommates will get to know me, and we’ll have to learn how to live without each other. As a graduate with no “real job”, it was discouraging trying to find opportunity. Having all securities such as prospects, predictability, and instantaneity fall from under you is admittedly scary. But the thrill teaches you, and in the clarity of zero gravity, I have come to what so many others realize: opportunity is created. Expectation: The world is a big place. The Unexpected: The world is infinite.

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TRIPPIN’

Hanover/Madison, IN
By Britney T-M

Hanover/MadisonTRIPPIN’ is a summer blog series featuring coworking spaces, as BoxJelly intern Britney T-M travels to attend George Mason University’s Social Innovation Program. Follow the trip on Google Maps.
Student Activities Center at Hanover College
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The Center was donated by Jo Ann Flubaucher Withrow ’63 in honor of her late husband Ward Withrow ’60. 

Usually those tables aren't there, but there was a banquet going on (versatility!)

This area doubles as event space (versatility!)

Being so close to my alma mater and hometown-away-from-home, I had to visit good ‘ole Hanover and Madison, Indiana. I’m glad I did because Hanover College has coincidentally implemented the perfect coworking environment. Admittedly, I was rejected for a grant to study the application of coworking in the design of public campus spaces at HC, but so was Frank Lloyd Wright’s architectural proposal, so I digress.

This used to be a laundry room.

This used to be a laundry room.

Our Sociological Research Methods class (led by Dr. Robyn Ryle) formulated recommendations for renovation implementations. “Back in my day”, (as in 2012) Phase I of the “SAC” (as we endearingly called it), had a few pool tables, some flat screens, a few ping pong tables, and a ‘theater’ (bunch of sofas in front of a huge flatscreen).

With the completion of Phase 2, there is now a computer lab, a stage with a green room, open area space where pool tables and ping pong tables, meeting rooms, common areas, lunch nooks, and organizations such as the Haq Center lining the first and second floors (yes, BOTH floors are now in use!) which include the student life offices.

This used to be underutilized storage area.

This used to be underutilized storage area.

There are now countless possibilities for interaction with all of the diversity in space – student organizational meetings, class project work sessions, networking over ping-pong – the list is endless! A lot of conversation could occur between coworking spaces and institutions with spaces such as the SAC. I am jealous of, but more so very excited for, all future Hanoverians.

Second floor common area.

2nd floor common area.

NOTE TO STUDENTS: Take advantage that costs such as ‘membership dues’ are already factored into your tuition, and quarters aren’t required to operate the pool tables (billiards skills are ESSENTIAL to connect with local sub-cultures of the nearby town of Madison, IN). 

NOTE TO ’12 CLASSMATES: If you need to find me during Homecoming, I’ll be on the beer tour at The Shoebox, or hustling pool tables in the SAC.

Madison, IN

The Broadway Fountain

The Broadway Fountain

In front of the Lanier Mansion.

In front of the Lanier Mansion.

I don’t have much to say (there are no coworking spaces here), except for my expressions of affinity for this little river town. It’s got so much heart and soul if you look, and it unfortunately took me 4 years to find it. It’s a small town, but there are a lot of professionals that are either located here or pass through because of behemoths like the power-plant, that would/could use coworking; not to mention the population of tourists, and community opportunities that coworking spaces tend to bring. The question of coworking in rural areas always tugs at my interests because of Madison being my home-away-from-hometown. If you’re interested in this conversation too, please, get @ me.

Next stop: Social Innovation Program at George Mason University

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TRIPPIN’

Bloomington, Day 1 (Pt. I)
By Britney T-M

Bloomington

TRIPPIN’ is a summer blog series featuring coworking spaces, as BoxJelly intern Britney T-M travels to attend George Mason University’s Social Innovation Program. Follow the trip on Google Maps.

For those of you not familiar with Bloomington, a major fact is that it’s home to Indiana University. Because of the talent that pools here from this mega institution, it’s no wonder the coworking spaces in B-Town established quickly. With sucha  concentration of skills for the area’s labor force, you’ll see companies sprout up in very unique ways, explaining a sort of “wild-card effect” of the midwest in terms of innovation and industry.

Cowork Btown

Coworkin' hard!

Coworkin’ hard!

Cowork Btown

One of many pieces by Bloomington artists that were just recently put on display.

Cowork Btown started in the way most do. The founding members worked remotely for their companies. They met up at coffee shops and loved the social benefits of working together – chatting about the game, sharing info. about recent product releases, etc. But spending $20 every day and having to constantly feed the parking meter inspired them to find a space of their own. With one tweet, they found 10 more people to join them, and BOOM!, Cowork Btown was born.

I met with one of the founding members Aaron White, a lead designer at Formstack, who also works with Bryan and Brandon (trippy!). It’s located in a building with multiple tenants – a yoga studio and investment group are their closets neighbors.

It is a smaller space, only about four or five months old, but is equipped with all the essential amenities – common work area, meeting rooms, and soon-to-be lounge room. They might be able to acquire an extra room as well that they would turn into a copy room with more lounge space. The kitchen space and restroom is shared with the investment group, which is an interesting way that they are unintentionally coexisting with other working professionals. When first finding a space, they encountered a bit of misunderstanding with landlords thinking of coworking more as subletting. It was a reminder for me of how recent this industry has developed.

Back of the chalkboard walled reception area.

Back of the chalkboard walled reception area.

As our conversation continued, the topic shifted towards an area that I think a lot of coworking founders will find themselves in. “We need to partner with someone,” explained Aaron, “…to help manage the community. It’s just that we’ve got full time jobs…family and kids…it’s hard to work on the space.” Planning events, managing new member signups, making sure there’s TP in the restrooms – these are things that need to get done for a space to operate. As founders establish the needs of space creation, who will be there to maintain it?

The potential lounge room.

The TV wall in the potential lounge room.

The simple answer is those who need it. The needs of tech. parks and coworking spaces relate to each other in this way. If no man is an island unto himself, coworking spaces should recognize the channels for which they are part in the ‘archipelago’, or their connection to ‘the mainland’–quite simply, the surrounding community/city and industry ecosystem of which they are in. During our Business Scholars consultancy project, our recommendations continually pointed to institutional partnerships for the sustainability of our tech. park client. For example, Purdue, Notre Dame, Rose Hulman–all of these educational institutions have technology parks who are partnered with them. Universities provide the research and talent, tech parks provide the infrastructure and networks for that research and talent to be implemented and relevant.

There is soon to be a tech park in Bloomington as well. With the IU and a growing tech. community, Bloomington certainly has fertile ground to grow and prosper as a town. And with young and ambitious professionals such as Aaron and the team of Yellow taking their early career steps in B-Town, there will be much more to look out for.

Blueline

Blueline

Blueline

Revenge is never a straight line“, and neither is any journey. Exploring coworking spaces means exploring communities, and the stories of people in that community. It was only after speaking with Aaron that I knew about Blueline, a coworking space that finds its niche in the creative realm rather than the tech. space. So after Cowork Btown, I trip’d myself over a few blocks on 6th St. and a half block north up College Ave. to Blueline.

Founder Chelsea Sanders with Bertie.

Founder Chelsea Sanders with Bertie.

Founder Chelsea Sanders graciously agreed to meet with me on a moment’s notice. After graduating college from Illinois State University, Chelsea landed in Bloomington for an art director’s position at Auxiliary Services for IU. By that point, she had already started Blueline Media Productions, a creative agency doing full marketing and branding campaigns for companies. An artist of photography herself, she eventually wanted to have her own business and gallery to give local artists a chance to showcase their art and host shows. “With artists, it’s more than likely that the majority of people don’t have the money,” exlains Chelsea. “They’re just trying to have a show…it’s expensive to rent a studio or gallery space. So if you share, it’s just cheaper.”

The fashionista of "What I Wore"(whatiwore.tumblr.com)

The fashionista of whatiwore.tumbr.com. (Co)Work it, girl!

As she made enough money, she resigned from the director’s position to fill that gap. Fast-forward through a few locations and you’ll find Chelsea right off the main square. She’s livin’ her dream, working amongst other creatives – a copy writer, a video director, their corresponding employees and interns, and even fashion blogger Jessica Quirk!

Backroom.

Backroom.

At Blueline, there’s a reception/couch area, a general workspace, a laptop/desktop bar, and a dedicated office space in a back room that is home to three programmers from Three Amigos. The conference table is a center piece of sorts in the space, and for shows, everything is cleared to transform the space into a gallery. Most of the furniture are refinished pieces from an old furniture store, lending to an antique/vintage vibe.

Center table.

Center table.

Memberships break even on the rent, but making money isn’t the point. This gives her a chance to make her business and have like-minded people to work with, which is another one of those innovation metrics difficult to measure. The next steps she wants to take involve community oriented events. She is currently working with one of her clients to host a leadership workshop for Blueline and community members (which is arguably an added value for her client, in access to exposure and networking).

We have this same exact Atlas at home.

Trippy: I flipped through this Atlas at my house, right before flying out of HNL.

While conversing with Chelsea, we talked about the changing culture of competition. Even with Cowork Btown and an upcoming technology park, competition looks like it will take a backseat to collaboration. The challenge that Chelsea sees is basically more of a marketing issue – how people understand what the space is, how it is used, and the referral of members.

"Live what you love" + "Work the way you live" = Blueline + BoxJelly

“Live what you love” x “Work the way you live” = Blueline + BoxJelly

It reminded me of kayak racing and running track. Coaches would tell us the clock was our only competition. Co-working, co-operation, co-mmunity…the stories of these spaces are all conceived with the purpose of benefiting through co-operation. I have a feeling that there is a redefinition of the competitor happening along with this paradigm shift of the way we work.

Bloomington continued in Day 1 (Pt. II)…
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TRIPPIN’

Indianapolis, Day 2 (Part I)
By Britney T-M

Indianapolis, IN
TRIPPIN’ is a summer blog series featuring coworking spaces, as BoxJelly intern Britney T-M travels to attend George Mason University’s Social Innovation Program. Follow the trip on Google Maps.

Yesterday had me going from the moment I got off the plane, but the first full day in Indy took me all around the city. These four spaces visited took me uptown, downtown, and also out-of-town. Even though the Midwest is slowly growing its coworking scene, there have been a number of developments in the last few years, and had me quite busy during my Indianapolis stay. Day 2 rounded out a total of six different sites in the city, and will probably see a few more as time goes on.

Indy Coz

Entrance to Indy CoZ

Entrance to Indy CoZ

Wendy's!

Wendy’s!

In a neighborhood of office space buildings in the suburban area of Castleton, Indianapolis, it looked like what the Service Center’s lot used to be – bustling malls, loads of restaurant, and of course, covered in asphalt with no sidewalks. To get there, the bus line took me straight through the mall parking lots which was convenient, but dropped me at a stop on the side of the highway, which made me feel kind of like a hobo.Walking to the space, there were properties of companies such as Spectrum Technology, JBD, and even Wendy’s! Finally arriving at Indy CoZ, I was excited to see the layout of one of these behemoths.

Indy CoZ

Indy CoZ coordinator, Megan O'Donnell

Indy CoZ coordinator, Megan O’Donnell

 I met with Megan O’Donnell, a coordinator at Indy CoZ, who took me on a tour of what was once a church. Founder and building owner Frank Howard also acquierd EventzPlus which also operates in the space. There is a tiered membership pricing (base, midlevel, and high), with special discounts on use of the event facilities.

Event space

Event space

Large event space with stage and sound system

Event space w/ stage & sound system

 Although they do not yet have sponsorships, larger corporate entities (perhaps some of their Castleway neighbors?) would do good by having their employees work out of there for networking purposes and gaining the event space discounts for large events. With hotels and malls in the surrounding area, there is incredible potential for events such as regional meetings, company retreats, and team building purposes. They had just hosted a college athlete mentorship program in one of their spaces, which made me think of one of our members. I wish we could offer the same amenities!

Indy CoZ Member, Jared Laughlin

Indy CoZ Member, Jared Laughlin

Their members are mostly individuals whose companies have many tele-commuting employees, are B2B companies, or consultants. Jared Laughlin for instance, has been a member since opening. He happened to just stumble upon Indy CoZ one day, liked Frank and his vision (as well as the price) and decided to join. The company he works for is doing software development for the healthcare industry and is based out of Madison, WI.

Private conference room

Private conference room

Private meeting room

Private meeting room

When asked what some unexpected challenges were for the space, Megan said that getting their name out and translation and education of the coworking concept to people and what they are trying to do were the most difficult aspects. Their location probably doesn’t help with exposure or convenience to the individual worker, but if more companies had employees as Indy CoZ coworking members, their access to a network of other professionals and access to space would be entirely beneficial.

The Hinge Bureau

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Street view, taken from one of the private offices

After Indy CoZ, Scottie picked me up, and we traveled to the southeastern district of downtown known as Fountain Square. It is here that the neighborhood of restaurants, events, and ma + pa stores still thrive because of the spirited community in this historic district. A part of Deylen Realty‘s newest property, The Hinge, The Hinge Bureau is a coworking space in a ‘mixed-use’ building in an area between Fountain Square and downtown Indy. The Hinge features studio apartments, 1-2 bedroom apartments and loft style apartments, all with private balconies, terrace access, and a workout facility that may also be accesible to The Hinge Bureau members. Nestled right next door to the Bureau is Rook – the newest restaurant from the creator of Siam Square and Black Market.

The Hinge BureauThe Hinge Bureau is still under construction, Todd VonDeylen (president, Deylen Realty, Inc) was willing to show us around. Throughout our meet, Todd was quite busy answering construction questions, having conversations with contractors, and speaking with potential tennants, so I was incredibly grateful for the time that he set aside for us to visit.

The Hinge BureauAs Todd walked us through the space, it amazed me that he hadn’t been to many coworking spaces. “It’s always something we wanted to try,” he says. Even though it is still in the process of construction, I can say their first attempt is on point  – mailboxes and lockers right next to the recycling center, general work desk area, kitchenette, two conference rooms, three telephone booths, and ten private offices.

Second floor common area with telephone booths

Second floor common area with telephone booths

Nikki Sutton was enlisted for The Hinge’s interior design, and does an incredible job making the space aesthetically pleasing while leaving room for creativity and productivity to breed, and for functionality to take place. Sutton was also the designer for The Speak Easy, and has already made quite an impression with her work in the Indianapolis community. There were a couple elements that are similar to the BoxJelly – the red corrugated plastic panels and wood elements made me feel right at home.

Conference room

Conference room

Built to accommodate 54 members, The Hinge is positioned towards young professionals. There was an “if you built it, they will come” sort of mentality, which never seems very sustainable. However, Todd pointed to all the different vantage points that position The Hinge for its residents and users – the walkability of its location, the cultured neighborhood, the centralized location in the city, and the large number of independent workers in the software, tech, and creative fields in Indianapolis.

When asked what type of community he envisions for the coworking space, he sees a lot of creative types, writers, coders, and marketers. I thought it interesting when he said ‘writers‘; it seemed to indicate an understanding of and interest in the existing community they were entering.

RookOnce we finished touring the space, Scottie and I stopped off at Rook – a non-traditional banh mi shop featuring a menu that has Thai, Laotian, Vietnamese, Indian, and American influences for their sandwiches.

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At the table with our sandwiches

I’m a sucker for anything in a peanut sauce, so I got the Black Wing which featured beef in peanut curry – the flaming spices were gently toned down by the smooth peanut curry and cooled with the traditional carrots, radish, and peppers. Scottie got the Crow’s Nest, which features Chinese BBQ pork – that salty and slightly-sweet taste tango danced me away to a feeling of satiation, and filled all of my palate’s desires.

The menu

The menu

Siracha

Condiment station and trash/recycling recepticles

It took a while for the order (probably because there was a table of 10 right before us), but looking around at all of the design elements was an inspirational feast. There was a paper roll for the menu, monochromatic billings from old performances in Fountain Square lining the walls and ceilings in the ordering station, and a condiment area that hygienically stationed the recycling and trash all into one compact space. But it’s when I saw the whole lineup for Siracha, all in the 28oz. bottle size, that I knew these people weren’t f*ing around.

Restroom lighting

Restroom lighting

Taste, design, and style are all important elements, but when all of that successfully incorporates functionality into a space, it is nothing short of amazing. The Hinge, the Hinge Bureau, and Rook – all of it was inspiring, even in the simple fact that knowing that places such as these not only look good in the plans, but also show promising signs during their fruition.

The Platform

The Platform

After such a delightful lunch, it was hard to get back into work mode. The thought of traveling into the center of the city (and later 30 minutes out of it), was slightly draining. But you don’t come all the way for nothing, then cry about it when you go home because you didn’t go big…so even without a confirmed appointment, I thought we needed to stop by this space.

20130607_133935Why I say ‘need’ is because The Platform is a coworking space with tenant organizations that are focused around social innovation – which is unique in the coworking industry in general, and exactly what we’ll be learning about at George Mason. An initative of LISC, with the city of Indianapolis, The Platform is geared specifially towards non-profits devoted to neighborhood revitalization.

Second floor common area

Second floor common area

As the old west wing of the City Market, it would have been demolitied if not for LISC’s idea to make a coworking space. The $1.5 million renovation of the 14,000sq.ft. space was funded by Rebuild Indy (Mayor Ballard’s economic development fund). I wasn’t able to schedule a meeting with someone from The Platform, but I thought I’d stop by anyways to see if we could have a general tour. Elise at the front desk was very accommodating, and took us around the space. She works with the Food Coalition of Central Indiana,  which operates out of the space and mans the front desk as part of a services-for-membership trade.

General coworking area

General coworking area

The first floor is composed of the front desk offices, a large general space which can be used for events and is used for the farmer’s market in the winter, and workplace area. The second floor has the tenant spaces as well as conference rooms and meeting rooms, and a lounge area. When going into the City Market, we realized that it actually connects to The Platform through the back of the LISC offices!

Looking down from the second floor

Looking down from the second floor

It describes itself as a design center where the Indianapolis people can design their communities. All tenants are related to neighborhood revitalization and building – Growing Places Indy, Indianapolis Coalition for Neighborhood Development, and Wishard Health Services are just a few tenants to name. It’s great when you’re working next to someone and get an answer to your quick question about WordPress plugins, so just imagine how that will translate to the next macro level of communication between organizations. Hours of research and barriers to information can be reduced, and the productivity needed for change and implementation can be increased to the next power of progress. It’s all very promising!

Indianapolis, Day 2 continued in Part II…

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TRIPPIN’

Indianapolis, Day 1
By Britney T-M

Indianapolis, IN
TRIPPIN’ is a summer blog series featuring coworking spaces, as BoxJelly intern Britney T-M travels to attend George Mason University’s Social Innovation Program. Follow the trip on Google Maps.

When I first landed in Indianapolis, IN, it was a grey and cold. It seemed so unusual, I almost forgot it was June. I packed with the anticipation of it being 90 and 100% humidity, but instead it was 65 and windy. There was no time to be self-conscious about my wardrobe though. As soon as I landed, it was off to the first space with my friend Scottie, who lives in Indianapolis and graciously took time off to shuttle me around/hangout/explore the city for $10/hour!

Service Center for Contemporary Culture & Community

ServiceCenter

Arriving to the Service Center for Contemporary Culture and Community was like coming upon a peaceful oasis in a midwestern wasteland of forgotten suburban shopping malls and streets void of sidewalks. I missed the opportunity to meet anyone from the Center, but found that the space spoke for itself.

‘Served’ by Andy Miller, during Lily Day of Service 2011.

The mural was the first thing we noticed – I mean, how could you not, it’s a huge wall mural. It was one of the murals commissioned as a part of 46 for XLVI, and was what told us we were in the right place. And by “right place” I mean the correct address, but also a positive state of being. In May 2011, Big Car converted this old tire shop in an abandoned mall lot into a community center that includes a library, computer lab, event exhibition space, and a coworking space. Big Car is a non-profit organization, run by a collective of artists, musicians, writers, and active citizens who couple art projects with economic development in order to uplift communities. The Service Center hosts events and offers a wide range of tools and services by and for the community to fulfill director Jim Walker’s intentions to include the community artistically.

Front driveway.

The space is very organic in that sense of development. This wasn’t simply made for a community, but a place that was to be made by the community. Vegetables grew in huge planter boxes atop the large asphalt parking lot, chickens clucked in the pens, and you could see the progression of the the ceiling mural of clouds and blue skies.

The Service Center chicken coop. I peered into the building from the glass of the garage doors into a space that may have been empty of people, but was certainly brimming with life.  There looked to be projects in every corner of the garage space with various tools and materials about. There were flyers up for Big Car and Service Center events, as well as events in other places around Indianapolis.

‘Unite for Culture and Community’, Clayton Hamilton, 2011.

My focus is in social innovation and placemaking, so this sort of space is like a realized dream. Staring from the outside in, it sort of felt like I was missing a really great party. In a way, it was a gentle reminder that community uplift and improvement are far beyond plans or instantaneity; it’s a cultivation and long-term investment, the benefits of which are collective among those in the present, and may not even be realized until the future.

Veggie garden

This made me think of all the development going on in Honolulu. Whether they are for community or commercial purposes, how sustainable will the projects be? Will they implement action by the community or be impositions upon the community? The midwest is often perceived as a dismissable region that’s only good for corn, but it’s organizations like Big Car and The Service Center that earn the title for the Heartland of America.

The Speak Easy

From the outside parking lot.

From the outside parking lot.

For the next space, I gave Scottie a couple hours off so I could use Uber to get to The Speak Easy. When I was looking at The Speak Easy’s twitter, I stumbled upon a retweet from Chris Nakutis about “$20 off your first Uber ride”. Uber is an on-demand request tool for private drivers. The app pinpoints your location, notifies a driver of your request, gives you an estimated time of arrival, and can even give you a fare estimate. Payments are charged through your app service account, so the experience was very seamless. I had the pleasure of riding with Moses. We chatted about Nigeria (where he is from), Hawaii, and his dreams of traveling to the Aloha state. He also asked if I was meeting Thomas, who has been working out of The Speak Easy helping Uber Indianapolis establish itself. “Oh, no, I am not,” I said, but I serendipitously ended up meeting him anyways while I was there.

Top: general work area; Bottom: view of general work area from loft.

It was also serrendipitous that I ran into a member outside who was able to grant my entry into the place. There are key cards for the door scanners, so its no wonder that the feeling inside is one of trust and security. Opened in January 2012, The Speak Easy is adjacent to DeveloperTown, a venture development firm and tech accelerator, who owns the building which houses the two, along with TinderBox and another organization I neglected to get the name of.

A coworking space for  entrepreneurs and startups, The Speak Easy has a large private classroom with chalkboard walls, four smaller meeting rooms, a reception area, book nook, large common area, kitchen and bar, as well as a lofted work area.

Meeting rooms with revolving doors for privacy.

Meeting rooms with revolving doors for privacy.

Unfortunately, Denver (exec. director) and I were unable to meet, but she graciously invited me to tour the space and use it for a webinar I had to attend for George Mason. The Speak Easy member Lily Smith and her coworking coworker who let me into the building, were also gracious enough to help me get acquainted with the space.

Classroom, with chalkboard walls.

Classroom, with chalkboard walls.

As I was attending the webinar, I picked up on words like “cities” “drivers” and “Uber” from the guy next to me. At this point, The Speak Easy can claim they are, in fact, fosters of serendipity. “The guy next to me” turned out to be Chris himself, the same guy that tweeted the Uber promo, and Uber Indianapolis’s AGM.

CYMERA_20130609_204539Once I was finished with the webinar, it was time to explore. At first I felt a little awkward in the space; in any coworking environment, being the ‘new guy’ is inevitable because you are walking into an apparently functioning community that has a culture and set of rules you are still being introduced to. It reminds me of when you are first introducing ideas as an entrepreneur, but instead of presenting business models, you’re presenting yourself. You’ve just got to jump in the water; even if you don’t know how to swim, you’ll never learn without getting in. The awkwardness quickly subsided as I talked to members willing to share their Speak Easy stories.

Member of The Speak Easy since May 2013.

Stephanie Timmons. Member of The Speak Easy, employee at 3rd St. Attention Agency.

Stephanie works for the 3rd Street Attention Agency (“basically an ad agency that’s more engaged with clients”). She likes sharing in the energy of the space and the relaxed atmosphere. Her company gathers at The Speak Easy when they don’t want to be virtual, and has offered to pay for her membership. As a 22 year old professional, it will be exciting for her to grow her career in an environment with such a network of developers, programmers, and entrepreneurs.

Members of the Speak Easy, and founders of App Press.

Grant Glas and Kevin Smith. Members of the Speak Easy, and founders of App Press.

Founders of App Press, Smith and Glass have been members from the very beginning. They said working at The Speak Easy  “…has made it easier. There’s opportunity to run problems [among other members].” They’re open to listening to others, and appreciate the proactive spirit for problem solving that’s ubiquitous among members. Chris also commented on this, even after spending just 16 days in the space.

Members of the Speak Easy, employees at Formstack.

Bryan Graham and Brandon Peters. Members of the Speak Easy, employees at Formstack.

Both Peters and Graham work for Formstack, which likes its employees to acquaint themselves with and become part of the community. “There are different distractions at Formstack,” mentions Peters,  “that are not here at the Speak Easy.” The dynamic spaces can lend a more social experience if they sit downtstairs, or a more concentrated environment if they work up in the loft or private meeting room. Formstack is a sponsor of the Speak Easy, so their memberships are paid for as well.

Pay It Forward board

Community board where members can post about capabilities/skills/resources they can offer, or ones they are looking for. There was even a post about starting a Speak Easy soccer team.

Talking to members, the ecosystem of industry in Indianapolis started to unfold itself into something bigger than I had fully comprehended. It’s location in relation to the rest of the country is strategic for companies that have a national or global spread; as a crossroads point of the mainland, its history of production and affordability lends much potential (and capability) for investment; there’s a high number of skilled workers (IU, Purdue, Butler, and a number of large universities are in the neighboring areas). with such a large population, workers as well as organizations have an immediate need to be innovative, and thus, have much more of a support system to be so. It seems like the coworking industry will develop similarly to the tech park industry in Indiana. It made me think of Hawaii’s ecosystem; what are our advantages? Where are our barriers? What are we doing that is inhibiting us? Within the past 2 years, Indianapolis already has five coworking spaces, while Honolulu only has one that is open. Scale is obviously part of this issue, but maybe we are not as progressive back home as we think we are.

I finally ended the day and got to Mark’s house, where I couch surf every time I’m in Indy. I met Mark at Hanover, and while his admission stopped after sophomore year, our friendship continued. As a graduate student of IU’s philanthropic studies program, his insight on funds and endowments in the area started to make sense for the resources that are available to non-profits and businesses. Granted, Indiana as a state tends to be urban-centric, neglecting problems in rural areas; but, the initiatives and actions of those in the Hoosier state are nonetheless amazing, and something the rest of the country would be smart to look twice at.

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