Tired of working from your couch or kitchen table? Need a professional space for a business meeting? Want to kick around cool ideas with other smart people? These are just a few of the reasons coworking got started, and why the trend is growing all across Connecticut.
Coworking helps indie businesses, freelancers and startups recapture the big perks of working in an office environment: the inspiration, the melting pot of people and community engagement. For example, freelancers in a coworking environment are bound to run into similar challenges – having a community sounding board is likely to accelerate collaboration, creativity and problem solving.
Last week, The Whiteboard caught up with Ojala Naeem, Incubator Manager at reSET, Mark Pellegrini, Director of Economic Development for the town of Manchester on Axis901 as well as Paul Striebel and Elinor Hargreaves, SBIP administrator and Incubator Manager respectively, at the Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology – four prominent voices in Hartford’s coworking community, and members of COWORK CT.
In a future post, we’ll also bring you MakeHartford and other programs and groups focused on supporting Hartford entrepreneurs.
The beauty of coworking is that it can come in different stripes. Some spaces accept everyone. Many other coworking communities are tailored to, for example, technology startups, innovation, social enterprise or creative professionals.
These spaces are stimulating, inspiring, and fun. Members love to come to work and stay for the increased levels of productivity and community. A community that is helping to grow the local economy.
If you’re starting to think you might need a change of scenery and live in the Hartford area, consider these shared spaces, just 3 of the coworking options available:
Housed in a Victorian-era commercial building on Main Street, Axis901 is a community workspace in the heart of historic downtown Manchester.
Funded by the town, they have a tight-knit community of techies, writers and indie businesses that have claimed the space as their own and have grown it through grassroots efforts. For other members, who work at firms in San Francisco and Boston, the space is their remote office. Still others work in social services, or cowork in the summer when school is out. It’s a wonderfully-diverse community where everyone is welcome.
Axis901 has created a relaxed, creative environment that encourages new, unexpected collaborations. The opportunity for creative types to bounce ideas around, challenge each other and create better products. “A coffee break or conversation across the table can potentially lead to new ideas, new gigs or new options to get work done,” Mark Pellegrini explained. “It’s just the serendipity that comes with being around people instead of a home office.”
Recently celebrating its one year anniversary, “We’re happy about the way the space is evolving, said Pelligrini. “We want to be a regional resource for entrepreneurs and a coworking space that’s driven by the membership. If they have ideas, we try them.” One of the latest is an assigned desk membership for coworkers who want to leave equipment. Another group of members launched a successful peer accelerator; its four participating startups just graduated.
Members are encouraged to host educational events that allow the community to learn, connect and network. There’s no charge for members or the general public to use the meeting space for a free event.
Every Tuesday, Axis901 has Eric Knight, serial entrepreneur and CT Next Executive in Residence (EIR), onsite to meet with anyone that has ideas, business plans and concepts. Appointments are 30 minutes and it’s encouraged to book in advance. Learn more about upcoming events here or make an EIR appointment.
The space is equipped with the latest technology plus a kitchen, meeting rooms with conferencing and projection capabilities, quiet room and private offices. Wireless, printer, scanner, fax and free parking are a few of the other perks.
Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology (CCAT)
Located in East Hartford, the Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology, Inc. is an entrepreneurial hub and incubator space for high-growth tech startups.
They offer tons of amenities in a high tech, professional environment. Its location close to I-91 and I-84, combined with unique business-support resources, have made the Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology a hotbed for Connecticut’s most promising startups and early-stage companies in the tech and manufacturing sector.
“CCAT helps entrepreneurs execute their ideas and connect them with resources that become the catalyst for their business growth,” explains Elinor Hargreaves.
Through its Advanced Manufacturing Center, startups have the opportunity to test and develop their products. State-of-the-art-equipment, including labs with 5-axis machining, 3D printing, laser processes and modeling, and a team of manufacturing-technology experts are available to help startups as they create unique products and research innovative technologies to grow their business.
The state’s Small Business Incubator Grant Program (SBIP) is also managed by CCAT. “The program provides up to $30,000 in grant money for startups implementing a project that advances its growth plan,” according to Paul Striebel. Tech companies located in one of the state’s 13 incubator spaces are eligible. Find more details here on eligibility requirements for the Grant Program.
Two VC firms, as well as academic and government partners call CCAT home, including UConn’s Entrepreneurial Center and Intellectual Property Law Clinic, and the Connecticut Technology Council. Each organization hosts networking and educational events to bring the community together.
Participation is available at different levels: full or part-time private offices, conference space, mail service, copy/fax station, and receptionist support are available. Twenty-four tech companies are currently in the East Hartford incubator. A recent expansion will accommodate more new companies, as the manufacturing and high tech sector continues to grow in the state.
Learn more about CCAT’s technology incubator here and follow them at @CCATInc
In the heart of downtown Hartford, the Social Enterprise Trust (commonly known as reSET) is a mix-used incubator and community coworking space at 99 Pratt Street. Opened in June 2013, reSET has graduated two accelerator classes and its third is underway. They’ve worked with more than 60 groups to advance the cause of business with a social benefit.
Its beautifully designed coworking space, in a turn of the century building, offers entrepreneurs a place where they can go to develop relationships and receive the type of support that they need to take business to the next level – all amid a vibrant atmosphere of creativity and renewal within the capital city. The space welcomes freelancers, small businesses, social entrepreneurs, investors and policy makers. From a daily drop-in pass to a monthly fixed desk, they offer flexible membership options with a multitude of perks.
“Social enterprise businesses are a relatively new concept, but are gaining momentum,” explains Ojala Naeem. “We are laying the ground work for a social enterprise hub in Connecticut to address community and social challenges.”
Like other shared spaces, education and events play a key role in building reSET’s vibrant community. From incubation to programming, reSET offers valuable resources social entrepreneurs need to launch, grow and thrive. A few highlights:
Social Enterprise Accelerator – 14 week program to help early stage social enterprises test assumptions, innovate new ways of generating purpose and profit and develop a strategy to launch their business. The next class will meet this fall.
Social Enterprise Challenge – awards that recognize social entrepreneurs with viable solutions for some of our state’s most pressing social problems. Compete for $10,000 in seed capital and other resources to take business to the level.
And, while Axis901 keeps Executive in Residence (EIR) Eric Knight busy meeting and mentoring with entrepreneurs, his Wednesdays are dedicated to reSET. In Hartford, he often draws people from all over Connecticut who want help getting an idea off the ground. Anyone can go online to book a 30-minute appointment here.
“reSET offers a safe environment for social businesses to grow, alongside other freelancers, non-profits and businesses who are mission aligned,” according to Naeem. “It’s become a family. It’s interesting to see the harmonies and relationships that have been built in the space.” It’s been a fruitful first year for reSET. There’s already talk about expansion to accommodate more new coworkers and private office space.