Reflections on My Entrepreneur-In-Residence at Impact Hub Seattle

TLDR Version: The “entrepreneur-in-residence” program I participated in at Impact Hub Seattle ended this month. I received first-hand experience learning what makes a coworking space an ideal work environment and learned more about what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur. This entry is also part of my “daily writing exercise” and “publish something” initiative.” Feedback welcome!

Work is changing; its form is no longer confined to office buildings. Increasingly workers around the world are starting to reconfigure what work looks like. For many in Seattle, this has taken the form of coworking, a phenomena that I’ve blogged about previously and enthusiastically support.

October marked the end of the Impact Hub host program I participated in. I was introduced to it through my friend Traca who heard about it on Twitter. While I’ve known about Impact Hub since 2011 when a former client told me they were moving there, I visited the space infrequently for community events and talks over the years prior to being a host. The cohort program allowed me the opportunity to learn more about the inner workings of the space and meet some of its phenomenal members.

hub-outside-2In exchange for a day of hosting for four months, I was given a full-time membership to the Impact Hub. This as many past hosts can attest to presents a variety of opportunities. The best I’ve heard of was the “Hack to End Homeless” campaign engineered by Candace Faber and a few other community members. This campaign made use of the Hub space and community connections to help incubate a series of programs designed to alleviate the effects of homelessness among Seattle’s homeless population. It ended up producing a number of programs such as “We Count” that continue to operate today.

With this in mind, a number of past hosts encouraged me to think about the program as more than a “hosting gig.” One past host framed it best,

Think of it as an ‘entrepreneur-in-residence’ program.

While a core function of the program is designed to serve the members of Impact Hub, i.e. hosts are responsible for ensuring the space is tidy, brewing coffee, and two of my favorites, giving tours and answering member questions. That aside, the remaining time is open. This is further emphasized during the Impact Hub cohort program interview where you’re asked,

What would you do during your time at Impact Hub?

The Impact Hub at the end of the day is a building. But as I came to learn throughout my residency at the Hub, it’s much more when you begin to take a closer look at its inner workings. These factors include the Impact Hub’s remarkable members who are working on projects ranging from creating investment funds for emerging markets to helping make the city of Seattle safer for bicyclists and pedestrians. It also includes the staggering amount of events hosted at Impact Hub that bring together professionals from various disciplines, the buildings collection of amenities, and what I think is overlooked, the Impact Hub staff who are deeply rooted in the Seattle community and versatile professionals with an array of talents and interests.

So back to the initial question, what did I hope to accomplish from participating in the 10th cohort of Impact Hub hosts?

I had two primary goals. The first was to get a better understanding of coworking, i.e. how it works and why people choose it over a home office or coffee shop. And secondly, strengthen Shiba Inu Studio as a business.

The first goal was an exercise in anthropology. As mentioned above, the Hub is a building. It attracts a number of professionals from various walks of life. But why?

That answer became apparent as I began to engage with Impact Hub members on a weekly basis. While coffee shops and home offices often have the necessary requirements and tools for most professionals to accomplish their work, it severely lacks a sense of community and mission.

Coffee shops in particular, are a notable third-place in American society but unlike the second place, work, where people go to make a living, it’s more focused on social elements. The home office has a similar problem, as I can personally attest to. Home, the first place, is designed by nature to be cozy and a refuge from the outside world. These two factors alone make it difficult for a home office to be successful without a bit of re-engineering and thoughtful planning. Most people without traditional offices usually make-do by hacking together a combination of a home office and their neighborhood coffee shop.

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Coworking spaces alleviate this tension by improving the second place, work. At Impact Hub, the members are provided with many of the traditional items found in offices such as desks, printers, monitors, Wi-Fi, and most importantly for many members coffee! This combined with the Impact Hub’s carefully cultivated community centered on social impact and generally improving the world (definition varies from member to member) creates a sense of community you won’t find in your average coffee shop. These factors for many members I found made Impact Hub an ideal work location. It freed them from the sometimes lonely confines of a home office and didn’t require a purchase of a daily cup of coffee.

img_6591unlikely-allies-joshHaving traveled to a number of coworking spaces in Seattle including Galvanize, WeWork, and Ada’s to name a few, Impact Hub has one of the best communities I’ve seen. It invites conversations, cross dialogue, and as proven to me during the Unlikely Allies: Future of Cities conference I participated in over the summer, it has a remarkable amount of heart that is focused on incubating ideas and helping connect new and existing ventures to organizations outside of the walls of Impact Hub.

Returning to my second goal, stabilizing Shiba Inu Studio as a business.

Entrepreneurship is hard. As an accidental entrepreneur, I can attest to how much of yourself you put into your business in making it succeed or not. Often maddening and much like pushing a boulder up a steep hill, it at times can feel impossible. But for many entrepreneurs doing anything else seems illogical.

To that end, this summer afforded me the opportunity to talk with other folks pursuing their own ventures, some solo and others part of a larger team. Chatting with others who were pursuing this version of the American dream, I had the chance to hear lessons they learned, what worked, how they got there, and why they do what they do. These conversations helped me as I thought about my own business further.

Having decided to work on a series of contracts this year vs. one primary anchor client like I did in 2014 and 2015, these conversations helped strengthen my resolve or as I termed it this summer when talking about this idea with folks inside and outside of the Hub, “should I stay in the pool or get out.” Surprisingly, many offered words of encouragement, advice, tools, resources, and connections to help with staying in the pool a little longer.

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My “entrepreneur-in-residence” at the Impact Hub was a remarkable experience that allowed me to observe how coworking spaces function and get a better understanding of what it means to pursue the dream of being an entrepreneur. While I’ll miss my time working at the building weekly, I think I’ll miss the opportunity to connect with its members more. Work even if it’s performed out of a coworking space is at the end of the day about people. Do they excite, inspire, provoke thought, or provide opportunities? If yes, then you’ve found a good place to set up shop!

I am proud to have been a member of Impact Hub’s 10th cohort of hosts. Thank you Traca for introducing me and Lindsey for providing me the opportunity participate in this wonderful program. I highly recommend it for would be entrepreneurs and professionals who are curious about coworking.

Learn more about the Impact Hub Seattle: http://impacthubseattle.com

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[Photos Courtsey of Impact Hub, Joshua Holland, Douglas Porter, and Martin Jakobsen]