Greenhouse JoCo Executive Director Laura Kennedy explains how the new Greenwood-based nonprofit is building a coworking community
By Nicole Davis
Coworking spaces have increased across the country through the past decade, with more than 11,000 locations across the U.S. Until this fall, there was no such shared office space in Johnson County. Greenhouse JoCo opened in Greenwood in 2017 as a way to offer a professional work setting for entrepreneurs or employees working remotely.
“It’s a growing concept,” said Greenhouse Executive Director Laura Kennedy. “It’s clear there is a gap in Johnson County. It’s been new for the county and new for Greenwood because it’s the first effort to get this community of entrepreneurs and remote employees together. We want to get people in the coffee shops, working at home. That’s been a challenge because it’s not been done before. It’s very much a startup.”
Kennedy is a graduate of Arizona State University, majoring in broadcast and journalism. She worked as a TV news reporter in a few states before moving to Indiana to work for WISH-TV. Having covered stories in Greenwood, she decided to purchase a house in the city. She always wanted to start her own business and had earned her MBA online with a goal of opening a video marketing company. When her contract with the TV station expired last year, she took that as an opportunity to get out on her own and started Tilt Up Media on a full-time basis.
“Having a startup business in Greenwood, I’ve become connected with the business community here,” she said. “I joined the Greenwood chamber and attend about every business networking event possible. Through that, I became connected with the team that was trying to start a coworking space in Greenwood.”
That team included Greenwood Mayor Mark Myers, Tilson HR Founder Brent Tilson and Greater Greenwood Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Christian Maslowski.
The idea for a coworking space had been in the works for a couple of years, but it all came together quickly in the fall of 2017. Space became available to Tilson, transitioning the coworking space from just an idea into a reality. Kennedy volunteered to serve as executive director, doing the day-to-day work, handing membership inquiries and helping to organize educational networking events.
“This space is available through April, so we’re moving fast to see if there is a demand for a permanent space, what community partners we can work with to get that space funded, who will be the members that would sign on,” Kennedy said.
Greenhouse JoCo, operating as a nonprofit, held its pre-launch event the last week of September and started offering memberships on Oct. 10 at its second event.
Dr. Pingnan Shi, a math teacher at Greenwood Christian Academy, was the first member to sign up for Greenhouse JoCo. He has been looking for a coworking space on the Southside for his company, Education Transformation.
“For me, I want to start some type of after-school program and teach high school students entrepreneurship skills,” Shi said. “The future they are facing is that most companies will become streamlined. A lot of jobs in the future, you work for yourself. People hire you as a contractor or you try to sell your service to whatever audience you can find, which is good but it also poses a lot of challenges for high school students or even college students. We don’t teach them those kind of skills. How do you sell yourself? How do you find potential customers? How do you network with other people so that you can elaborate on each other’s strengths. That’s what I’m trying to start is a program like that and I was looking for a place. Greenhouse was basically what I was looking for.”
So far, Shi said Greenhouse has given him a nice, professional space to work after school hours. He said he looks forward to when Greenhouse has more members and he can do more networking.
Greenhouse welcomed its 10th member on Jan. 5. The space offers wifi, a bluetooth printer, private office space and meeting rooms. More importantly, Kennedy said, they are building a community like-minded entrepreneurs and business leaders to help grow startup companies and small businesses.
“What makes people stick around is growing that community,” she said. “When they come to an event or to work, have people who are also starting businesses, working remotely or having skills that they can work on projects together. That’s been our main focus, doing events to bring people together in the same place and time.”
Greenhouse has hosted five such events so far. The next event is Jan. 30, 6:30 p.m. with One Click Ventures Co-Founder Angie Stocklin discussing international product outsourcing. Greenhouse will host an Education Night on Feb. 6, discussing the future of entrepreneurial education.
“The turnout we’ve had, we believe is good and shows that there is some demand for it,” Kennedy said. “Seeing people return for event after event, that tells me they feel it’s valuable and they’re getting something out of it. For Greenhouse, as an organization, we want to make sure we can transfer our membership, our community and our culture to the next, hopefully more permanent space. We hope to continue to have enriching events. We don’t know yet what amount of space would be needed. Launch Fishers is already five years into doing this and they’re very successful. They started in the basement of the public library. We don’t know if this is our library or if we need to find our own basement and get larger as the market demands it.”
For more information, visit facebook.com/greenhousejoco.
Upcoming Greenhouse JoCo events
1530 American Way, Greenwood.
International Product Sourcing
What: Angie Stocklin, co-founder of One Click Ventures, will share her experiences from a journey into sourcing eyeglasses directly from Taiwan and China.
When: Jan. 30, 6:30 p.m.
Education Night at Greenhouse
What: Learn about the future of entrepreneurial education with local leader in the space, Don Wettrick and others.
When: Feb. 6, 6:30 – 8 p.m.