An ‘Outpost’ for entrepreneurs

November 8th, 2013

News Coverage:

An ‘Outpost’ for entrepreneurs

Whitley Co. EDC opens co-working space

Posted: Friday, November 8, 2013 12:00 am | Updated: 7:32 am, Fri Nov 8, 2013.

By Doug LeDuc

Whitley County Economic Development Corp. has added a co-working space to the resources it is offering entrepreneurs in an effort to encourage business startups in the county.

The EDC Outpost in the former Post & Mail building at 114 N. Chauncey St., next to the Myers Hockemeyer & McNagny law firm in Columbia City, has been in development for most of this year.

The members-only co-working space is designed for entrepreneurs, “road warriors,” service providers and small business owners.

“We did a soft launch and began accepting members in September to make sure we had all the right pieces in place,” said EDC President Alan Tio. “We have seven members currently… We suspect we could accommodate between 16 and 24 members.”

The EDC and some of its local partners “saw an opportunity to take a very nicely redeveloped space that wasn’t being used and make it available … for people who wanted to start a business,” he said.

“We don’t have an incubator facility and thought this would be an appropriate way to offer space.”

The Outpost is providing 746 square feet of co-working space including a lounge area, meeting area, tables and chairs, wireless broadband and a projector, wireless printer, copy machine and whiteboard

In addition to the EDC and the law firm, partners in the Outpost include the Columbia City Redevelopment Commission and the Whitley County Community Foundation.

The foundation also provided funding support for a session of the Kauffman Institute Ice House Entrepreneurship Program the EDC started offering at the Outpost shortly after it opened.

The program was made available through the EDC’s Small Business & Entrepreneurship Initiative, which Tio said he considers a cornerstone of the organization’s economic-development efforts.

The program based on Clifton Talbert’s book “Who Owns the Ice House?” helps aspiring entrepreneurs look at things the way successful entrepreneurs view them. Jim Tolbert, business administration program chair for Ivy Tech Community College-Northeast, has been presenting it.

“It’s a discussion of eight principles that establish the entrepreneurial mindset,” Tolbert said.”The curriculum includes online video interviews with several significant entrepreneurs.”

“They’ve studied these entrepreneurs and have done extensive interviews and looked for common perspectives and distilled those down into eight principles.”

About 10 individuals have been taking the course, attending three-hour sessions on Wednesday nights.

“It’s great. It’s really been fascinating to see the various individuals who are there and we’re working with them on projects of interest to them, and the Outpost is a space that’s available for entrepreneurs who use it sort of as their office away from home,” Tolbert said. “They pay a monthly fee and have unlimited access to the space.”

Tio said members who pay a $40 monthly fee receive around-the-clock keypad access to the Outpost, where they can focus on projects free of the normal distractions they might encounter at home or other locations not designed specifically for conducting business.

There is no fee for EDC services and Outpost members are not required to use them, although they are always available and the EDC office is just around the corner from the co-worker space, he said.

Membership at the Outpost is not restricted to EDC clients, although Tio said he expects many of its members will come from a network of 40 to 50 of the organization’s small business clients or individuals they refer.

The EDC did research on best practices for co-working spaces before opening its own, and borrowed several ideas from the Speak Easy in Indianapolis and Founders in Fort Wayne.

Steve Franks, who helped create the former Founders co-working space on South Harrison Street in downtown Fort Wayne, now works part time for the EDC overseeing its Small Business & Entrepreneurship Initiative.

At times, the EDC will continue to use part of the co-working space for training related to entrepreneurship and for one-on-one lean business startup coaching. And as the businesspeople, inventors and aspiring entrepreneurs there start sharing ideas with each other, the Outpost could help form an entrepreneurial community in the county, Franks said.

“A co-working space is always a little bit more than a table; it’s a place where people can talk,” he said. “Anytime you can get a group of entrepreneurs together, it’s bound to be positive.

“The way I look at this is the Outpost is a good tool for business in Whitley County — part of the toolbox the EDC provides — and it has the potential to help entrepreneurship grow in the area.”