Collaborative work space

How much difference does it make where you work? The environment, space layout, sound, visual cues? The social interactions? The commute? The inspirations or distractions? The tools and resources?

I’ve just joined a new coworking collaborative – The Grove Dallas, a new ad-venture growing from The Grove New Haven. This has been described as the next stage of evolution from the home office and the coffee shop office. A great alternative model is the likes of Union – which is an intentional community formed from the base of a purpose built coffee shop.

What I like about The Grove is it’s intentionality around collaboration. While I may not be working on many “group projects” I do value having creative innovators close by so that I can gather inspiration, input and feedback from them. I enjoy hearing what other people are doing, which may be completely unrelated and yet somehow sparks something in me that does propel my project forward. And there are often synergies that develop – the whole being greater than the sum of its parts – that kind of thing. If I’m not in this kind of environment, then how can I have that experience?

Since I started my business in February I have largely been working from home, squatting in coffee shops like Panera and Starbucks. I attend networking meetings and do my 30 second commercial at the chamber of commerce, Netweavers, etc. I joined Success North Dallas, which is a collection of highly successful and motivated folks. All of these are good places to meet people and make connections for business referrals. I have not experienced them to be great places to develop collaboration. That may say more about me and my work style than anything. Either way, I haven’t been getting what I needed.

I just started reading a book by Bill AuletDisciplined Entrepreneurship. On nearly every page I find something that makes me to a head slap and realize I would have been more productive, efficient or effective if I’d read this book a year ago (or 15…) Among those insights is the critical importance of finding partners for a successful business venture. Aulet argues that the most viable endeavors are not solopreneurs. Partners bring added insights, corrective input, energy and enthusiasm, etc. One of the things that I have had trouble finding since starting this venture is a few good partners. I have had numerous generative conversations, but all have stopped short of full-fledged collaboration. I have already seen that The Grove is a perfect place for generating these very relationships.

I don’t know how long I’ll work here, or where it will lead. What I do know is that the investment of self – to say nothing of time, energy, effort, and money – is already paying dividends. AND I know that wherever my path leads, this community and what it is teaching me will bear fruit for years to come.

Small Business Incubator, Community Development, and the Church

The following is an introduction to the idea of churches being participating partners in small business incubators through leveraging our space, our network of relationships, and our pool of talent in order to support individuals in the community in their efforts to provide stable incomes to themselves and others through small businesses.

Small Business Incubator Ministry

We are called, as followers of Christ, to meet people at their points of need – not just spiritually, but also physically, mentally, and emotionally. One of the ways that we can do this is to support individuals and groups in their efforts to provide gainful employment for themselves and others through small businesses. Churches have several resources that can easily be brought to bear on this effort.

1)     People in our congregations have business knowledge and experience to share

2)     People in our congregations have a desire to encourage others

3)     People in our congregations have networks that could help business owners

4)     Our facilities could be available for office space, conference room space, etc.

5)     All of this could provide a community of resources and support for people starting small businesses in our area.

What would we want in exchange? Eventually, we may want people to at least cover the cost to the church of having them here – i.e. sharing the expense of increased utilities, copier costs, increased internet bandwidth, coffee and supplies, etc. This might be on a sliding scale such that in their first 3 months, people pay nothing. In Months 4-9, people pay an incremental amount, perhaps $10/month. After 9 months, if people choose to stay in our facility or another within the network, then they would pay a slightly higher fee – $35-50. This would be a self-sustaining model that would provide the resources to support even more people.

The project would rely on the training and support available from the Small Business Development Center and other similar resources.

What this is not: This is not churches or their members starting business so as to employ people – though that certainly could happen if they so choose. This is not churches or their participants taking the primary lead in offering training – we would rely on the SBDCs to take the lead on that. This is not bait and switch were we get folks on campus so as to corner them with an evangelistic message – meeting people’s needs is itself an act of evangelism.

Links to local resources:

Links to regional and national resources:

Links to existing incubator models

Links to other related articles