By Megan Tackett
Sopris Sun Staff
In 2005, the United States boasted one coworking space, according to the Commercial Real Estate Development Association. By 2016, there were more than 11,000 worldwide, with nine on the Western Slope. And now, one exists at the Third Street Center in Carbondale.
GlenX — which started as a play on TedX because the company organized speaking engagements in Glenwood Springs — has evolved as a subsidiary of Social Bridge into a full coworking space and, eventually, a business incubator.
“You can describe the last couple of months as kind of our beta phase,” Social Bridge Executive Director Mike Lowe said of the new communal office. “We’re open, but it’s a soft opening. We’re hoping to continue to solicit input from our members and from our community partners on what’s the best fit.”
Coworking spaces have been a booming phenomenon as entrepreneurship, self employment, telecommuting and work-from-home models have continued to reshape how people make an income. It’s especially true in Colorado: according to the 2010 Census, 10.9 percent of people who live in the Boulder metropolitan area work from home most of the workweek — one of the highest percentages in the country.
It’s tough to get exactly comparable statistics for the Roaring Fork Valley because Carbondale, for instance, does not have business licenses.
“What I do know is that 64 percent of Chamber members are small businesses with one to three people,” said Andrea Stewart, Carbondale Chamber of Commerce executive director. That number includes self employed people, who are more likely to work from home or telecommute.
That’s one of the reasons GlenX founder Altai Chuluun and Lowe chose Carbondale as home for the new space. “It feels like the Third Street Center has the right spirit for what we’re trying to do,” Lowe said, adding that the Chamber, Town of Carbondale and Carbondale Rotary have all been strong advocates of the endeavor.
The idea of a coworking space is to create a community-oriented office for those without a dedicated business address. It’s an ideal way for small business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs to motivate each other while developing their own pursuits. Because business owners from different industries are sharing the same space, it’s often a learning opportunity, as well.
“Ideally, in the cowork space, those are the type of things that will organically happen because you have those different types of people,” Chuluun said. “So with the financial advisers and the mentors and whatnot, especially for the startups that are just learning about [entrepreneurship], then in that space, we can connect the right people.”
As of now, membership to the coworking space is free until Jan. 1. And there is sort of a weekly groove Chuluun hopes to see happen: Mondays would be opportunities for people, members or not, to come in and take advantage of complementary consulting. Tuesdays can be a “communal problem solving day,” he said, and Wednesdays and Thursdays will be dedicated to promoting local entrepreneurs and partner events. “Fridays will be the fun work day,” he said with a laugh.
While it’s possible they will roll out a fee structure for those services once GlenX has more officially launched on the New Year, the space and its services will remain free to the community until then. Additionally, the next development goal for GlenX is to move from being a coworking space to a fuller business incubator — for Lowe and Chuluun, that means courting investors for future projects. The culmination of that effort is planned for an event next spring, to be held at the Third Street Center.
“Typically, incubation doesn’t really show up until a good year after [a launch], but the Carbondale community is really interested in that,” Lowe said. “We’ve been approached by a number of investors, and I think we’ve got a number of people looking to get ideas in front of investors. The spring event is sort of a Match.com of investors and good ideas.”
Investment capital is not just for the entrepreneurial elite with the next global idea, Lowe said. “We’re confident we can get people with good ideas to put together slide decks to pitch to investors, but we want also to make sure we identify those companies that are doing well. Sometimes, it’s not always the big idea. Sometimes it’s just, ‘Hey, I want get some capital to start up my little restaurant or my barber shop. We want to be responsive to those people as well.”
And they are already hitting the pavement in that regard. Chuluun in particular is passionate about working with teenagers to increase education about entrepreneurship. They already have three groups of high schoolers ready to sell products during the holidays, including a company specializing in skateboards.