Indie co-work collaboration comes to BR with Launchpad, EHQ
By David S. LewisPosted Jan 26, 2011
The last few years saw many young up-and-comers laid off from well-paying jobs that were at least somewhat in their field of study. Maybe you went to school for business management, and found yourself working at the bank, or for a large insurance company…still, it was a job, right?
Until it wasn’t, anymore. Thousands of good jobs were lost as large companies trimmed their ships for the storm of recession.
So many people went freelance, or formed their own small businesses, and the coffee shops were alive with the clatter of laptop keyboards, and espresso-soaked young brains got out of their houses and hung out like poets on the shabby stained furniture of cafés across the country.
However, working in a coffee shop has its limitations, too: Inadequate workspace, occasionally loud music, overloaded WiFi networks sagging under the weight of the entrepreneurial spirit.
While co-working began in the late 1970s, it has experienced a boom in the last few years, as more and more young people have stopped working for the man and begun working for themselves. They crave an atmosphere, the “vibe” of coffee over-consumption and creativity, but as they grow their businesses, many find that they have also out-grown their Starbucks.
Enter Craig Bayer and Launchpad.
“I’ve worked out of coffee shops and from home for a large a part of my life – and I hated it. I get kind of weird and anti-social; I walk my dog and then I’m at home all day,” said Bayer. “When I came down to New Orleans, I was working out of my home, and then I found this place.”
That place was Launchpad, a co-work business in the heart of New Orleans’ Central Business District. Spread over three floors, the business offers freelancers and entrepreneurs all the amenities of a modern office: Coffee (naturally), wireless Internet, plasma TVs for teleconferencing, printers, copiers, telephone service – the building even has a gym and a bar downstairs.
Launchpad clients can choose one of three options: for $275 a month, you can come in a work at a desk and use all of the office services they offer, including conference rooms and printing. For $450, that desk is permanent; you can leave your things there, make it your home…no need to pack everything up at the end of the day. For $750, you get a private office that will seat two – you can shut the door for focus, and open it for community.
And now, Launchpad is coming to Baton Rouge. Bayer, who grew up in Baton Rouge and moved to New Orleans for work, has returned to Baton Rouge with one of the most exciting things he found in there: Co-working. Plugging in with the creators of Launchpad early on, now they and he are ready to expand to the capital…and they aren’t exactly aiming low.
“We’re looking at the Crest Building right now, but we haven’t signed the lease yet,” he said. “We’re pretty much on agreement, and everyone knows that’s what we are going after.”
The Crest Building would come with some serious perks, like a breathtaking view from the deck and the Little Village restaurant on the first floor.
“It’s going to look cool, very streamlined, all Ikea,” he said. “It’s going to be a place young professionals want to be.”
Bayer noted that, no matter what, it’s happening downtown.
“We really think that’s the place to be; we’re committed to the downtown,” he said. “We’re not going to do this out in Sherwood.”
Interestingly, the two Launchpads will work cooperatively.
“One of the big driving forces for us is the fact that if you have a desk here, you can work in Baton Rouge for free, and vice versa,” he said.
Co-working spaces tend to attract freelancers like graphic and web designers, attorneys, and marketing specialists—some of the people you need the most when you are starting a business.
Bayer described a “micro economy” that formed at Launchpad New Orleans.
“If you were starting up a new business, say you need to fill out an LLC form. Well, we’ve got three attorneys here that can help with that, and notarize it for you immediately,” he observed. “Let’s say you need a website created. We’ve got website people, designers. Let’s say you need to get a press release put together. We’ve got people in public relations companies, lots of social media companies…
“Pretty much anything you need to start a business, you are going to find someone here doing that,” he continued. “Plus, you’ve got the community to ask people, and everyone here is in the same boat…you can ask them, ‘Hey, how did you do this?’ and you are going to get ten good responses back.”
“There’s a lot of support. If you’ve got an idea in business, nothing is perfect; here, you can always run things by [your co-workers],” said Shuchi “SK” Khurana, 34, and a client of Launchpad NOLA. “For example, when I was working on a logo, I just went over there and asked their opinion.”
Khurana is in the business of product management for biomedical devices…and now, thanks to a co-worker he met and teamed up with at Launchpad, also has a side business developing specialized iPhone apps for professionals such as engineers and doctors.
“That’s the sort of meeting-of-the-minds that you see develop,” said Bayer. “You see a lot of people start working with other people, and do some pretty cool stuff.”
Nearing press time, we learned of another local entrepreneur whose business is entrepreneurs. Louis DeAngelo, of Entrepreneur Rising, in a team with Jared Loftus of Tiger District.com, and Chad Ortte, of the Rising Realty Group, is also planning to open a co-working community in downtown Baton Rouge.
“We’ve got about 30 [clients] so far who are close to committing to it,” he said. We’ve had interest from first-stage and early-stage entrepreneurs, and also entrepreneurs that have built and sold several business and now want to have a space to be around the energetic young, hungry entrepreneurs. The space and the context is really about energy and enthusiasm, passion,” he said. “Not stuffy, not corporate, not linear, but more an environment that really promotes collaboration and teamwork.”
DeAngelo said that, while the location for EHQ, (for Entrepreneur Headquarters) is to be finalized soon, the basic premise will be the same as Launchpad: to provide an environment for entrepreneurs to work and network in a hip environment, but with more of a focus on featured events and programming, such as seminars and expert consultation.
“There’s two different aspects to what I want to do: the first is, help them clarify the game that they are playing…the other area, which I think is even more important, is helping entrepreneurs figure out how to bring their best self to the game.”
Sean Simone is a student at LSU and the creator of Baton Rouge’s SeNSE, which is a community of Louisiana entrepreneurs who network with each other at their monthly “Pitch Nights,” or through the website www.BREntrepreneur.org. I took his temperature on the phenomenon of entrepreneurs enterprising on entrepreneurs in Baton Rouge…and it was balmy.
“You’re rubbing shoulders with other hungry, start-up entrepreneurs,” he said, and mentioned the potential opportunity to attract investors and venture capitalists.
“I know that downtown is going to be the place, that’s the hot territory,” said Simone. “There’s an opportunity to have a better relationship between government and private business.
“Say it’s the end of the day, the legislators come down from the Capitol, entrepreneurs leave the co-working space, they go to Tsunami…then, all of a sudden you have a conversation between government and entrepreneurs,” he elaborated. “Downtown is the meeting point. I think it’s the place where the scene is going to be created in Baton Rouge.”
Simone believes that now is the time for entrepreneurial endeavors to see some life in Baton Rouge.
“I think it’s probably a few things coming together at the right time, and I think the recession was one of the key ingredients,” he said. “There’s a shift; people realize that the government will not be able to take care of them, and they realize that corporations are not meant to help employees, they’re meant to employee them…so you either have to be born rich, or take care of yourself.
“This city is ready for some new companies to shoot up and hire 500-1000 people,” he added.
We all have to work somewhere, for the most part. Some get to coast, of course, but their lives are clouded by the gnawing sensation that the rest of us hate them. At the end of the day, one need determine where they would like to work the best.
Much of the research for this article was done at Perk’s Coffee and Teas. The Dig Magazine offices are luxurious, palatial, even…but there is something about sitting around ten people desperately high on caffeine and doing ten totally different jobs that can’t be replicated by “The Company.”
“The nice thing about coffee shops is that vibe, of people doing things,” noted Bayer. “We always have that vibe [at Launchpad]. People don’t hate coming to work, they don’t goof around,” he went on. “They like coming to work, and the vibe really fuels that.”
For more information, visit www.LaunchPadNOLA.com
Feel your own entrepreneurial spirit trying to break out? Get some feedback and meet some like-minded people at the next SeNSE Social, Feb. 15, at The Office nightclub (421 Third St., Suite B)