Having a place for entrepreneurs, startups and businesses to launch has become increasingly important in our community. And because businesses come in various types, sizes, and industries, the type of space required may vary for each business. Let’s use Startup Weekend to highlight the need for spaces and places to work for our entrepreneurs. In Spokane, we host two Startup Weekends every year (Fall and Spring). Each 54 hour weekend event brings 125-150 energetic individuals together, 50-60 of whom have business ideas to pitch on Friday evening. The entire group self selects 12 ideas and teams form around these ideas for the remainder of the weekend. The bulk of their time is working on market validation and creating a minimum viable product. The event culminates on Sunday evening with team presentations in front of a group of judges, and winners are selected. If you have never participated in or observed a Startup Weekend, I highly recommend it.
Here’s the point – at the end of a 54 hour event where incredible energy, excitement, and enthusiasm are created, the community must harness and maintain the momentum. We have awarded winning teams with several months of free space as one way to keep their business idea alive.
Today, we have a handful of coworking spaces and maker spaces in our community for entrepreneurs to utilize. Places like Share Space Spokane and Fellow Coworking are traditional coworking spaces, where a entrepreneurs can work, meet, share, and learn together. These places are easily transformed into a venue for educational and networking events. The goal is for these physical places to catalyze entrepreneurial activity and create a community for entrepreneurs. Other spaces in our community have more focused missions. Toolbox is a manufacturing co-working space, and includes Spokane Create, a 501c3 non-profit maker space. McKinstry Innovation Center and Ignite Washington provide business services in addition to space for innovators with specific industry focus areas (i.e. clean energy, life sciences, education and high-tech). Even the Spokane Public Library is planning to provide space for very early stage businesses to be in a learning environment with access to myriad research services provided by the library.
Window Dressing is another opportunity being explored. Their concept is to leverage vacant and unused spaces in the downtown core by filling these spaces with short-term art exhibits. Along the same lines, making the spaces available for businesses who need retail space to test the viability of their business. Dressing up or beautification of these spaces is forward thinking and a win-win for commercial real estate companies who are trying to lease or sell their property, for the artists, and businesses who benefit from using the space on a temporary basis.