Creating a venture that combined her talents, pointed her towards her goals and made her happy is what Jenifer Ross found with her new business W@tercooler. She has developed a coworking space in Tarrytown New York where she offers entrepreneurs, small business owners, and mobile workers another option for a workspace other than their dining room table or local coffee shop.
Jenifer’s entrepreneurial spirit was fostered shortly after her kids were born. Her mother had collected more than 3500 pieces of Red Wing American Pottery and was ready to sell them, so Jennifer opened a gallery to showcase the art and have her kids nearby.Â As a downtown business owner, Jenifer jumped into the local merchant scene and organized a monthly event around music, art and food to promote the downtown area.
“I love to connect with people and help others get connected, and have gotten to know a lot of people in my community,” Jennifer says. Often referred to as the “fake mayor of Tarrytown”, she worked as an assistant village administrator, did fundraising and development for her local library, and worked on preservation efforts for neighboring towns, all freelance positions. One day sitting with a friend at her local coffee shop, she remarked how cool it would be to have a space where local entrepreneurs could all work together but separately on their own ventures. Her friend mentioned coworking, and this sent Jenifer to the web to learn what a coworking space was all about.
Discovering the idea behind gathering like-minded entrepreneurs together, she wanted to create her own coworking environment. Her tasks included finding the right space, renovating it to create an atmosphere of community, figuring out how to structure membership, and how to market this new idea. Remarkably, Jennifer was up and running in about 12 months. Jenifer’s past experiences all cumulated in this format. With a master’s degree in Architectural Preservation, taking an empty pace and turning it into an inviting office came naturally. The name came from her own work experience years before when she and her then-boyfriend, now-husband, would chat at the water cooler of her firm. “The water cooler is known as a place where you can connect with co-workers and share a bit of social time, so the name seemed appropriate,” says Jenifer.
Members can rent a full time desk or purchase hourly or daily passes with full use of the office equipment and access to the shared kitchen and conference room. Members have access to the internship program, which brings in high school and college-age interns who are available for small jobs. In an effort to give back during tough times, Jennifer offers “Unemployed Mondays“ where a desk is free to use to anyone looking for a job. Her children, now ages 9 and 11 walk to the Watercooler space from school where they can enjoy the TV lounge room with head phones.
A master at creative marketing, Jenifer gathers groups to create community in a variety of ways. She offers yoga to her members on Wednesday mornings, workshops on Thursday evenings that cover topics ranging from social media to self publishing, and she’s even adding a mixology and master chef class, all for people to socialize and connect. “You do business with people you know, and my space is here to foster those relationships.”
In addition to desk users, Jenifer has diverse group of businesses using her space, from the tutor who brings in students on an hourly basis, to the writer’s workshop that rents the conference room on Saturdays, to the IT guy who is planning a live web cast on Wednesday evenings. The profit centers from the space are endless and Jenifer is using social media, word of mouth, local press, and old fashioned post cards to get the word out that the W@tercooler Hub is here to connect people and businesses.
Only 4 months into her new venture, she hopes to be profitable by January and she’s already getting inquiries from people who want to franchise the idea in other towns all over the country. Jenifer says, “In today’s world where everything is so digitally driven, having face to face time becomes even more essential to happiness and success. This new model of coworking supports the way people work today.”
Use creative marketing to connect people to you and your venture.