Collaboration is an essential tool for all small businesses.
Why? Because we can't do everything ourselves! We need to work together to accomplish our goals.
1. Collaboration Can Inspire Creativity:
Who doesn't love a group brainstorming session? No matter the kind of inspiration you need – be it for marketing, management, or business strategy – it’s best to avoid the tunnel vision effect that often creeps up when you are focused solely on your own situation.
2. Grow From Collective Knowledge:
Non-competing small businesses who supply the same customers are a great place to start looking for people to share advice and knowledge with. Take advantage of another person's experience dealing with the same sorts of challenges and share your experiences.
3. Co-Operate, Co-Promote, Co-Market
You will find opportunities to co-promote will let you make the most of each other's strengths. You can co-sponsor an event or create a coupon for use at both of your businesses. Try making an ad showcasing several local companies thereby sharing the advertising costs.
4. Join a Small Business Group
Join a Group (Like Per Diem's Small Business in a Box) to access insights and a community of likeminded business members. The members are all committed to helping the small business world thrive.
Leveraging a solid foundation in Marketing, Administration, and extensive experience in business ownership including the non-profit world, Per Diem's experts help business owners evaluate their needs and strategize ways to best meet them. Utilizing partnerships with industry professionals our consultants connect business owners to trusted professionals to help elevate your company to success.
Semi-Private and Private Space Available
Our spaces are flexible in pricing and use, via the 1st and 2nd floors where there is also co-working space and conference room capabilities.
Pop Up Shops
This is Perkasie's first ever collaborative pop-up retail shop devoted to emerging local creatives and vendors. Saturday morning 10am-1pm, our artisans and peddlers will bring their merch for a weekly dose of unique show and sell.
Check out these pictures from a past Pop Up published in the newspaper:
One thing we can all agree on is that female entrepreneurs don't get enough press -- even the successful ones.
So let's take a step toward changing that.
Here's a guest post from Mary Fernandez, a visibility strategist who helps entrepreneurs stand out online. (She's also created a handy guide that will help you discover how to skyrocket your online presence.)
Every successful entrepreneur started somewhere.
There's no "magic pill" that effortlessly launches you out of your cubicle confinement and into the free world of entrepreneurship. For some, the dream to be your own boss grows for a long time, even years, before it finally comes to fruition.
The truth is, great success in business grows from just one, tiny seed.
We asked some of our favorite women entrepreneurs to share how they got their start in business. Their answers revealed the deep motivators and personal qualities that drove them to make their big idea a reality.
By reading about how they grew their businesses over the years, our goal is that you'll identify a similar entrepreneurial seed, within yourself.
Here's what these women had to share about getting their start as entrepreneurs.
1. Sue Bryce
"My path to self employment seemed to me, a natural evolution.
"But, it wasn't based on a great desire to build a business. Rather, it was borne out of necessity. After 13 years mastering my craft, I was still an employee and I simply had reached a ceiling of how much money I could earn in my career.
"After the initial fear and hurdles, the learning curve is so great I came very close to failure. Instead of giving up, I started to develop a deep sense of passion for motivating and educating myself to reach greater heights in business and income. It became a challenge for me, and I don't know any other way now. After 13 years of self-employment, I still challenge myself to create on a larger and larger scale every year.
"My desire to build, create, and learn, surpasses my fear. Every challenge I'm faced with now, becomes a greater experience of learning my true power."
Now, Sue's teamed up with Tiffany Angeles to break down their biggest business lessons, and teach a class on how to Make More Money and Discover Your Worth.
"Don't give up, don't take anything personally, and don't take no for an answer," Sophia advises.
Since founding Nasty Gal as an eBay store in 2006, selling vintage clothing, Sophia has transformed the business into a multimillion-dollar empire with its own clothing line that was named the "Fastest Growing Retailer" in 2012. Recently, The New York Times Bestseller of #GIRLBOSS has stepped out of her role as the CEO of Nasty Gal to become the executive chairman and shift her focus to overseeing just the creative and brand marketing functions of the business.
Without any fashion or business experience before starting Nasty Gal, Sophia credits much of her hard-earned success to her inability to accept failure as an option. "The people who told me no, were the people who eventually told me yes," she adds.
3. Pamela Slim
"In addition to working full-time as an employee for 10 years, I had also been the volunteer executive director for a non-profit martial arts school in San Francisco.
"My typical day was about 15 hours straight. Work, jump on the metro over to the studio, train capoeira for 3-4 hours, then do administrative work before bed. Weekends were filled with classes, performances, and putting up fliers around the city to attract new students to the school.
"The tipping point came right before my 30th birthday. I got pneumonia from the non-stop grueling pace, and realized I needed to make a career move. So, contrary to how I advise my clients, I leapt with no plan, just the desire to get off the merry-go-round and find a more sustainable path.
"After a few months of recovery and half-hearted job search, I contacted my old manager who had moved to Hewlett-Packard and asked her if she needed a little help. I started working as a consultant, and I felt like a huge fire was lit inside of me. I loved being a consultant. My problem had never been about the work, it was more about the right work mode.
"I realized that the 10 years I had volunteered as an executive director had prepared me for entrepreneurial life. I knew how to create and fund big programs. I knew how to build a network and mobilize people to a cause. I knew how to sell and market. So, now that I had my own shingle out, I took off and built a thriving and fulfilling practice.
"This year, I celebrate 20 years in business for myself. It hasn't always been easy, but it continues to bring me great joy and satisfaction."
4. Tara Gentile
"I decided to become a business owner after I was looked over for a promotion while nine months pregnant.
"Six months after my daughter was born, I started a little niche website and community. I then purchased an existing blog business, and almost overnight, started making more money than I had in my previous job.
"My business has evolved significantly since then, but I'm so grateful for the way I started!"
Tara, one of our most successful business instructors here at CreativeLive, has successfully gone from selling her services, to packaging them into digital products for her clients. It's helped her significantly scale her business, and now she teaches a class about how to turn your services into a product.
5. Melissa Galt
"The year following my graduation from Cornell, my mom died suddenly of a brain aneurysm. It took me the ensuing five years to understand the lesson in her passing. Life is too short to do something you don't love. She had been a maverick in her field, an Oscar winning actress who knew at age 7 what she wanted. It took me a bit longer.
"I decided to pursue my dream of interior design, and went back to school full-time, while picking up full-time work in the field. However, I was still frustrated that I was not in charge of my day and my decisions.
"Ultimately, my headstrong nature was both my undoing and my new beginning...
"I'd planned to launch my startup in September 1994. When I asked my manager for time off, she said I didn't have it. I said I did, and dug my heels in. Arguing with your manager when you need your job is never wise. I walked out.
"I was unemployed, in debt, and six months premature to my planned launch. I launched immediately while taking up side jobs supervising a catering kitchen and teaching busy professionals (aka potential clients for my interior design practice) during evening education programs.
"It was that magical place you hear about where fear meets breath and becomes unstoppable exhilaration. I worked 15 hour days, 6 days a week, because I wanted to. I couldn't wait to get up, and hated to go to bed at night. I was totally on fire. I went from $70K in debt to rocking six figures and debt free in 18 months and that doubled every year for five years. Today, I design both home and business environments, while also advising the business and lifestyles that go on inside of them.
"My advice is to find what lights you up, and do whatever it takes to make it happen. You will meet with unexpected success."
"Remember those huge posters of beautiful places that decorated kid's rooms in the '80s? When I was young, I wanted them but couldn't afford them. Then I realized, if I ordered them for my friends and became a distributor, I could get mine for free. So at the age of 12, I started a poster distribution business out of my bedroom.
"Later in life, I worked at Elle Magazine as a photo editor. I had a lot of freedom to express my ideas (after all, ideas are what a magazine thrives on). But still... something was always missing. Upon further examination, I arrived at three facts:
- I wanted to be the boss.
- I had a lot of ideas, and my bosses didn't necessarily agree.
- I wanted to change the world.
"And here I am today! I've been an entrepreneur pretty much my entire professional career. You have to overcome the fear, and it's a lot of work, but the rewards are fantastic."
"My first entrepreneurial venture was selling my hand-painted barrettes at recess in grade school, even though I was not supposed to be.
"My dad owned an automobile part store and often brought home model paint that I would use to paint fun, colorful, preppy themes on hair clips.
"The passion I had for art and painting turned into a nice side hustle, and eventually gave me the confidence and validation to do what I loved at a very young age."
"I felt dead inside working at my corporate job but was too scared to leave.
"I was looking for a business I could start on nights and weekends. After checking into different businesses, I actually won a camera, so that sealed the deal for a photography business. I built that business by moonlighting for a few years until the income surpassed my corporate job and then went full-time.
"That business gave me the freedom and flexibility to pursue my dream of speaking and teaching people how to be successful with money. Even though it was painful to leave my corporate security, I am forever grateful that I did, because it led to a life and business I love!"
Now, Tiffany has joined forces with Sue Bryce to teach an incredible class on how to Make More Money and Discover Your Worth.
"After a successful corporate career in a Fortune 500 company, losing my dad to cancer led me to redefine life and the impact I want to create. I knew that I didn't want my boss's job, any of the other senior management roles, or to work more 12- to 14-hour days. I also knew I didn't want to sacrifice my quality of life, and regret not living.
"That's when I decided to start my business. I brainstormed which skills I could build upon, and what people needed. At the time, my friends were searching for more career direction, so I offered 30-minute career clarity sessions. I booked 4 sessions and got my first three clients.
"I realized shortly thereafter, that I didn't really want to help people with their careers. Instead, I wanted to leverage my corporate experience to help small business owners build their sales processes, and develop winning sales systems that could stand the test of time."
10. Mayi Carles
"I was 7. I had just discovered the lemonade stand.
"Wait a second! Kids can just sell lemonade on the front porch and people give them money? WOW!!! I was blown away.
"Soon enough, I had set up my own front lawn kiosk, except that instead of selling lemonade, I crafted little masterpieces made with a little paint spinner toy thingy. The line of kids reached the end of the block. Not to brag, but I was a ROCK STAR.
"Right then and there, I knew I was born to do this.
"As it turns out, the reason why my art pieces were selling like hot tamales for 50 cents a pop was because they came with a bag of Hershey's kisses. Mayita, my mom smiled as she made the infamous confession, the chocolates were a dollar at the store. Dang!
"Alright, maybe my first business idea wasn't profitable, but I learned the art of putting myself out there with a sense of self-worth at a very young age. That pillar has been instrumental in building my current creative empire."
11. Mei Pak
"I got my first taste of entrepreneurship when I was 10 years old.
"One day in school, we were allowed to set up a small table to sell whatever we wanted during recess. I brought a zip lock bag of hundreds of tiny semi precious stone chips that I had gotten from my mom's favorite jewelry store for less than $10. I knew the other kids would love them and sold five little stones for $2.00.
"In retrospect, I'm not surprised the concept of buy low, sell high came so naturally to me. This kind of stuff is what I was meant to do."
"I was never an entrepreneurial kid, but I was always a dreamer and a rule breaker.
"After graduating college with a French degree in 2009 during the middle of the recession, I quickly realized that I was 'unemployable' and decided to start finding ways to make money for myself. A few business ideas later, I started my copywriting business, and have never looked back."
13. Kimra Luna
"I got my first taste of entrepreneurship when I started my own booking agency when I was 18 years. I started booking concerts for fun, and it turned into a full-time gig."
14. Jenn Scalia
"Entrepreneurship was something I was always destined for. But until a few years ago, I had always adhered to the status quo of having a 'real' job.
"After two layoffs in two years, I got a gentle nudge from the Universe that I needed to create my own destiny and my own financial security. While staying home as a full-time mom, I started looking for opportunities where I could use my skills to make money. That's when I discovered that I could be an online coach, and decided to dive in head first."
"Like many others, my dive into entrepreneurship was prompted by opportunity and necessity.
"My husband and I had just returned from a stint in the Peace Corps, and--although former employers in Honolulu invited us back to the positions we'd left two years earlier--we wanted to settle down in Oregon. So, we took a raincheck on the generous job offers, and began searching for positions in Bend, Oregon, that matched our journalism, public relations, and marketing backgrounds.
"With few such openings and no advertising or marketing agency to reach out to, entrepreneurial instinct took over and we seized the moment. We laid out plans for starting our own agency, registered a business name, drew up a list of potential clients, furnished an office (barely), put a sign on the door, and started a six-month sprint to profitability.
"Why six months? That's exactly how long we figured our cash reserves would last. When I tell business planners to know their funding runway, I speak from experience.
"With the clock ticking, we beat the six-month deadline, grew the agency to one of the top 15 in the Northwest, accumulated more clients, friends, and stories than we could count, and 15 years later sold it to new owners who made it the platform for launching their own entrepreneurial journey."
16. Phoebe Mroczek
"To be honest, I've been an entrepreneur for as long as I can remember. From the stationery stand in my driveway and my fifth-grade scrunchie business, to the dual-level marketing company I joined in college, it's really not just a passion. It's a way of life.
"While I dipped my toe into the corporate world in Asia, behind the scenes I'd started an events company and shortly afterwards, a travel blog to document a 15-country motorcycle trip.
"As I built my online network, I bumped into some internet marketing resources that changed the course of my path up until that point. The most influential person I discovered was James Wedmore, whose mentorship gave me the confidence and clarity to develop my business. This was the kick in the pants I needed to define and flex my entrepreneurial muscles.
"Within 12 months, I'd made six figures and more importantly, built a business that helped female entrepreneurs all around the world. So, I guess you could say I got my start as an entrepreneur a couple years ago once I made the decision to go for it. With a little coaching and a LOT of fear, I went for it and the rest is history!"
17. Amy Schmittauer
"How did I get my start as an entrepreneur? Hard freakin' work.
"When I realized at my 9-5 that I wanted to work for myself, it was a year and a half before I actually left to make it happen. During that time, I was getting any and all experience I could in my field, on the side of my full-time job. I spent vacation time and extra money on conferences, networking, and working for anyone who would let me help. First for free and then for cheap, until I had confidence in my portfolio and made the leap to focus on my business alone.
"Everyone wants the decision to be easy or great timing, but it never will be. Do the work. Prove you're going to keep doing the work when you're the only one in your corner. And then make it happen."
If you're ready to start (or grow) your own business, you need to learn how to value yourself. Check out Make More Money and Discover Your Worth, over on CreativeLive.
Think of all of the sprawling business plans, coffee conversations and number crunching that go into the early days of a small business. Someone is ready to make that big dream a reality, pursue their ideal life balance, or bring a tenacious product idea to life.
Whatever the inspiration, running a business is hard -- and many will fail along the way. But today I want to explore the potential impact of those early ideas becoming a success, and the hard decisions it can take to remain a viable business.
You’ve established your market and attracted attention
Say you’ve opened a quality coffee shop, created a delicious new pizza, or developed an innovative piece of technology that nobody has ever seen before. You’ve done something really well – and the market sees its success.
You should be really proud of what you’ve achieved; I have no doubt you put in some hard yards and decisions to get there. But it doesn’t always end there. Because success breeds competition, and sometimes, the competition is bigger than you.
Poking the gorilla
Many small businesses face manageable competition every day, and some competition can be healthy for market conditions. But what do you do when the challenger is out of your league? When -- after you’ve prepped and nurtured your market -- someone threatens to spend big in the war to win your customers?
I call this corporate competitor the big-business gorilla: and it can cause a lot of loud noise and destruction in just a few moves. Local or foreign, retail chain or superstore -- chances are your big business gorilla has deeper pockets, a more aggressive attitude to getting itself noticed, and a higher tolerance for failure than you. For any small business, that can be intimidating.
So, do you sell or do you stay? And if you hold your ground, how do you ward off something so big?
The strength in small
When Xero customer Ben Lee launched his automotive engineering business, Rhino 4x4, he faced stiff competition from larger national motor vehicle part suppliers. As a small business headquartered on the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria, Ben’s team learned to distinguish itself from the competition -- by being fast and unique.
“We don’t look at competitor products or try and emulate what they do, we do the opposite -- we think differently -- while others fail to change their ways. We stand out through our innovation, and that means being able to act promptly on new designs and use the best technology to streamline our processes.”
Multinationals may be large and powerful but they are also slower and more predictable. Make your size your strength -- ask yourself, can you adjust to market needs with greater agility or increased quality?
Don’t try to balance the scales
You don’t have to achieve the same scale of service to succeed either. Instead, remember what made you special in the first place -- and make those differences matter.
“As a small businesses, we’ve always prided ourselves on excellent communication with our customers,” says Ben. “So in the last three to four years, we’ve used that to grow a Facebook community of almost 13,000 followers. Direct feedback from our consumers now determines the direction of our product, and gives us a cutting edge over the competition.
“Not only have we rapidly taken a percentage share of existing market, but we’ve created a whole new market. We don’t just sell to four-by-four drivers craving functionality, we cater to young drivers who just want their vehicles to look good.”
An economy of outlasters
There are millions of small businesses in Australia who, between them, employ half the Australian workforce -- and they’ve not become the backbone of our economy by chance. It takes strength, awareness, agility and belief to outwit and outlast the competition.
So next time a big business competitor jumps and shouts at your customers, don’t use up all your energy trying to jump higher and shout louder. Stay grounded and whisper something deep and meaningful instead.
With a small business, having the right people at the table is essential. Make sure you take the time to really evaluate candidates instead of hiring just anyone to solve an immediate staffing problem. Having the wrong person in a role can negatively affect the entire team and possibly ruin your company's reputation with customers.
First, be clear about your expectations from an employee. Identifying essential skills is well, essential. What knowledge, expertise and traits are you looking for in an employee? Make sure that the questions you are asking can help determine that their past job experience will be relevant to your position.
Background checks are for everyone! It can seem awkward but it may save you some future pain. For example, if the position you are hiring for requires travel and the person you are hiring has a criminal record, there are certain countries that will deny them entry. You don't want your project delayed with an angry customer and an employee sitting at the border because they seemed like a nice person.
Make sure to create a great compensation package. The last thing you want is for a good employee to leave after a few months because they got a better offer. The time and effort it takes to find another valuable candidate is worth the cost in the long run.
Last but not least, try out an employee first with a 90 day introductory period. This allows both of you to see if long-term employment is a good fit. Some candidates may seem like they are correct for your company but as you get to know them they don't mix culturally or are lacking a necessary skill. Better to move on quickly than prolong the inevitable.
Picture a hip, energetic coworking space. Now erase the beer kegs and Ping-Pong table, and conjure, instead, pale pink walls, cozy reading nooks, oversize bathrooms with stocked showers and a library full of books by lady writers. Welcome to the world of women-only and women-centric workspaces.
Picture a hip, energetic coworking space. Now erase the beer kegs and Ping-Pong table, and conjure, instead, pale pink walls, cozy reading nooks, oversize bathrooms with stocked showers and a library full of books by lady writers. Welcome to the world of women-only and women-centric workspaces.
In San Diego, Felena Hanson opened Hera Hub after noticing that local coworking options tended to be all suits or all bros.
“I wanted a space that supported women,” she says. “It’s a demographic that was badly ignored.”
Appealing to women includes, of course, the interior design, but it has to be more than skin-deep, Hanson says. Hera Hub, which has expanded to six locations, including Stockholm, has an angel investment arm for female entrepreneurs. At Rise, a mentorship program allows teenage women to meet with and shadow members. And The Wing’s programming recently included a book club, a seminar on depression and anxiety, a workshop on spring floral arrangements and a talk by former Obama consigliere (and Wing member) Alyssa Mastromonaco. “Women are constantly managing and juggling,” says Hanson. “With a women-centric space, they’re able to be open and candid in a supportive setting.”
By the end of 2017, nearly 1.2 million people worldwide will have worked in a co-working space. While 60% of all co-working spaces are not profitable, co-working has definitely been a huge trend in the last 10 years.
WeWork hasn’t invented co-working, however, with more than 130 locations and 100,000 members, it’s definitely leading this market. Now, WeWork is trying to extend its appeal beyond startups and freelancers into the lucrative market for corporate clients, as it recently announced that IBM has agreed to sign a membership deal for all desks in WeWork’s 88 University Place. It's the first reported case of a single corporation taking an entire WeWork space. But WeWork is not alone in the market. In fact, 14,000 co-working spaces will be in operation worldwide by the end of the year. It seems that what started as a niche product is now changing the way offices are designed and consumed, as offices become a service. In recent years, a few other highly innovative companies were established with a mission to shape the future of our working environments.
Knotel is a good example. Founded by serial entrepreneurs, Edward Shenderovich and Amol Sarva, the company provides modern businesses "headquarters as a service," giving medium-sized companies a scalable and adaptable office space solution that can grow (or shrink) on-demand based on their needs. Companies can get started right away, without big deposits or long lease commitments. Knotel residents get immediate access to service professionals who manage their space. Each location is culture-coded to each company's unique ethos to give them a place where their brand is tangible and evident in the design.
In less than 18 months, Knotel has raised a $25 million in series A funding, and it’s now in 15 locations around New York City (250,000 square feet). Within the past month, they've signed 93,000 square feet across five properties in Manhattan and Brooklyn. According to Jamie Hodari, co-founder and CEO ofIndustrious, this is a part of a bigger shift in the industry. “Commercial real estate overall is undergoing a massive shift right now, and traditional co-working is just the tip of the iceberg," he says. "Companies of all sizes are recognizing more and more that they need to create engaging workplaces where their teams can be happy and productive. But they’re struggling to do that, given rising uncertainty about future headcount in any one place and increasing pressure of long term leases on their P&Ls. The future of the office will be about high quality, yet flexible spaces that allow companies to create workplaces they’re proud of on a timeline that makes sense for their businesses.”
Backed by RiverWood Capital, Industrious recently acquired digital flexible workplace platform PivotDeskto make it easier for companies to match seats to headcount.
“Industrious is a better fit for customers that are a bit older and looking for a slightly more premium product that feels welcoming, inclusive, and comfortable whether you’re a nursing mother in your late thirties or if you’re a 65-year-old lawyer nearing retirement.” Industrious customers already include Spotify and Lyft, but also more entrenched corporations like Hyatt," says Hodari.
Industrious is focusing on the premium niche market that Australia based Servcorp has been catering for almost 40 years in more than 150 locations. The company has been providing small businesses and fledgling entrepreneurs with affordable access to executive suites and virtual offices in some of the largest metropolitan cities around the world since 1978.
In recent years, the company has invested more than $100 million in developing technology to scale its business and it’s currently working on rolling out beacon technology that will seamlessly allow their members to hot desk in an easy way.
As Servcorp is setting its eyes to grow in North America, Marcus Moufarrige, Servcop’s COO, recently relocated to NYC.“Next year, we hope to have built out our awareness in the U.S. as well as advance the tech aspects of our offerings, bringing members together and building out their needs as far as integrating personalization and automation into a more core offering in our business," Moufarrige says. "We believe that business in general will move towards a more hybrid business model approach – it won’t solely be just co-working or just executive suites, people will want a hybrid of all types of flexible workspace models for their business. Because of this, we are working to create solutions in our offerings and in our technology that allow our members to be more agile and nimble with what their offices need.”
When William Gadea was launching IdeaRocket Animation, he worked out of a coworking space. He wasn’t ready to commit to a multi-year lease, and didn’t think he could qualify for one anyway as a new business. But as his company grew, he leased an office. Now he’s thinking of going back.
“The biggest benefit of coworking is the ability to upscale and downscale on a month-to-month basis,” he says.
Gadea is part of a growing number of entrepreneurs and small business owners who are turning to coworking spaces—one of the hottest trends in real estate for small business. They are discovering a variety of benefits, some of which may not be immediately obvious.
“Many people often mistake coworking spaces as merely being a cheaper alternative to renting a private office; however, this misses many of the benefits they offer,” says Scott Woodley, co-founder and CEO of Tutora, a tutoring company based in the UK.
In Tutora’s early days, Woodley worked out of a coworking space. He says, “I would encourage entrepreneurs to be more imaginative to gain the most from the communal offering: building a black book of contacts who can help you, purchasing resources needed by you and others, or even exchanging skills by working on each others’ projects if you have specialist skills you would otherwise not be able to secure.”
James McArthur, CEO of FormTap 3D, a self-publishing 3-D product platform for inventors, has run a variety of businesses out of coworking spaces. For his current venture, he works out of Electropositive in Brooklyn’s Crown Heights, which McArthur says is focused on social good and community. There he can turn to entrepreneurs who have answers to questions that may be eluding him, just as they can ask him questions related to 3-D printing. “The community and sense of home is what is most important to me,” he explains, adding, “That and coffee.”
Connections, Community and Creativity
“Coworking spaces are a great place to connect with people who are entrepreneurial like you but who may have a different skill set,” says Nicole Martins Ferreira, co-founder of e-commerce business Galleon Co. “When you work in the same space with a diverse group of people, you realize you have so many great resources around. You can collaborate with other entrepreneurs on projects that wouldn’t be possible if you were working at home in your pjs!”
Many entrepreneurs find coworking to be a great source for networking, collaboration, and even business development. You don’t want to appear to be trying to drum up business, though. “If you do not try to sell your coworking colleagues on your business, but instead focus on building genuine relationships, your business can survive based on the referral business you can get from your coworkers,” says Carrie Wood, chief marketing officer for Lease Ref. “They not only will come to know, like, and trust you, but they will see you in your element—they will see how good you are at your profession.”
Stacy Taubman, founder and CEO of RISE Collaborative Workspace in St. Louis, sees coworking as an ideal way to build social capital, which she says is essential for entrepreneurs, especially women. She says, “Research shows women have significantly less or different access to social capital than men.” RISE is a female-focused coworking space.
Incubators and accelerators are companies that help startups and small businesses through their tumultuous first months and years. In New Orleans, they helped rebuild a city.
The creation of opportunity isn’t driven by a single sweeping action. It’s more often built over time, the accumulation of a huge number of small but essential efforts and institutions. In America’s inner cities, for example, research from the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City (ICIC) has shown that small businesses are the primary drivers of job creation. Given that the unemployment rate is typically higher in inner cities than the national average, job opportunities at these businesses are fundamental to urban livelihoods and economies.
New businesses are part of that equation too. While those first months of operation tend to be the most volatile, as the marketplace wipes out new firms that stumble from lack of experience or capital, nothing seems to help them like incubators.
When access to networking, education and financial resources are in low supply, incubators and accelerators — which now sprinkle the country from Cambridge, Massachusetts, to Silicon Valley — provide would-be entrepreneurs with everything from no-cost or low-cost workspaces and strategic workshops to mentorship and business connections. The ICIC also found that, in most of its case-study cities, it would require only an 11 percent to 20 percent increase in small-business jobs to completely eradicate inner-city unemployment. Incubators and firms that facilitate networking have the potential to support that growth, as research has shown that networks of interconnected businesses operating in a local municipality or region report increases in revenue and employment higher than un-clustered small businesses. Initial pilot programs that fostered cluster networks found that participants grew their employment by as much as 18 percent.
One such organization helping to bring small ventures to life is Propeller: A Force for Social Innovation, a New Orleans–based nonprofit incubator and accelerator that promotes entrepreneurial solutions to the city’s social and environmental disparities, many of which were laid bare in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the levee failure. It supports projects that include barbershops, vegetable markets, coding boot camps and the water-management sector with philanthropic support from JPMorgan Chase & Co. So far, Propeller has helped launch more than 100 ventures that have generated $62 million in revenue and financing and created more than 270 jobs since 2011. And though it’s hard to measure quantifiably, Propeller has helped to cultivate a local cluster that allows small businesses and ventures to connect and collaborate for greater change.
Among Propeller’s recruitment strategies for its entrepreneurs is a series of issue-specific pitch contests. Wetland Resources, one of Propeller’s competition recruits, was mentored by former Weather Channel CEO Michael Eckert; it’s now trying to reduce the time to plant hurricane-proof cypress seedlings from about seven minutes to 15 seconds. Meanwhile, the Urban Conservancy — another contest participant — is working with local homeowners to replace their paved lawns with natural grass, which will better absorb rainwater. “Over a 12-week period, we had weekly meetings with Eckert, and he would keep us on track of setting goals and thinking about our marketing and thinking about our target audience,” says Dana Eness, executive director of the Urban Conservancy.
These are only a few of the causes and startups that Propeller is seeing through to realization. Trees that help maintain a receding coastline, wetlands that can help rebuild Louisiana’s shrinking geography and lawns that help prevent flooding — all of these initiatives were made possible with Propeller’s resources, and they could help save New Orleans.