Let’s Connect, Bradenton!
When I joined Connect Bradenton as a member during its first few months after opening in 2017, their tagline was “Work the Way You Want.” At that time, I only needed the space for my business partner and I to hold our informal team meetings. For the most part, I still preferred to work from home. I mean, who wants to change out of their pajamas if they don’t have to? However, it was nice to have the option to meet in a professional setting, face-to-face, rather than just over the phone, via email or through collaborative online tools. It truly was up to me; I could work however I wanted.
Since that time, I have worked in many ways and in many places. As a cowork member at Connect, out of a different cowork space, from my home, at coffee shops or bars, at my clients’ offices or walking meetings at Bradenton’s Riverwalk.
My son loved that I had the flexible schedule to walk him to his preschool or pick him up early to go get some ice cream or play at the park. My dogs loved having me home most of the day to let them out or take them on walks. My wife loved that I had time to clean the house, prepare dinner or run errands when needed. I loved that I truly had a work-life blend for the first time in my adult life. I was very lucky.
I respect other entrepreneurs that carve out their own professional opportunities. I am delighted to see so many employers provide flexible workplace schedules or locations. I am encouraged to hear several of my friends getting the opportunity to work from home. We should all be so lucky to have a chance to “work the way you want.”
Since taking on the role as the “Macro Manager” at Connect in May, I have witnessed several different circumstances where local business professionals find our flexible workspace to be an intriguing and attractive prospect.
- The “Disconnected Traveler” who has a specific target market in mind but hasn’t quite felt like they were in the right place for their business to call home. It wasn’t until she happened to join us for our “Let’s Connect” networking meetings that she realized we were that place.
- The “Second Life Professional” who moved from a comfortable corporate career to life as an upheaved entrepreneur. She was looking for a quiet space away from home and her barking dogs.
- Our “In-House Strategist.” A person of many ideas, all of which require focus to hash out which is “the one.” All the while needing someone else to bounce those ideas off to see what the best route is to take.
- The “Perennial Startup” who has everything it takes to be successful and contains the heart of someone who deserves that success. The only missing piece is a community of supportive people around to help achieve that success.
- The work-from-home business in need of a “professional front.” Not just for the sake of appearances, but also for security. Using a home address for meetings & package pickups was no longer a safe option.
The one thing that tied all these professionals together was not found with an office, at a desk, or in a meeting room. All of which Connect has to offer. No, the missing piece was a collaborative group of business professionals. More specifically, they needed each other.
I stand by the taglines that my predecessor came up with and used to market ConnectBradenton over the past two years. However, it was not put perfectly until last week when a trusted confidant and partner came up with the phrase, “Work For Yourself, Not By Yourself.” Special thanks to Brittany Rohr & her team at Rohring Results for perfectly summing up the essence of our coworking community at Connect.
Working for yourself sounds inherently selfish, but that isn’t how these entrepreneurs embody the concept. The people I described above are perfect examples of the dual nature of an entrepreneur. They have a goal to provide for themselves, their families or others they identify as important people in their professional lives. It is by knowing them individually and personally that you find out the additional goals and reasons for their businesses. Not always 100% altruistic, but in my experience, there is generally an aspect of selflessness in their ventures.
The “Disconnected Traveler,” who works as a financial advisor, is a perfect example of this concept. Her industry is inherently capitalistic and opportunistic, yet each person in this business approaches their job differently. Her approach is as refreshing as it is brave. She is a brilliant woman with a personality that is tailor-made for her profession. Her approach as a financial advisor is to find other entrepreneurial young women or women of color and empower them to “take charge of their financial lives with confidence and optimism.” It is her community spirit and her laser focused intention that will no doubt help her find success. And with her success will be the uplifting of her clients, their families and ultimately their community. She works for herself but there is no path to success if she were to work by herself.
The “Second Life Professional” is one of our favorites at Connect. After decades in the banking industry, she ventured out on her own with a dual focus. She found us because she needed a refuge from her barking dogs at home, and eventually realized we were the perfect place for her to narrow that focus and take advantage of her “second life.” Her energy was too much to be wasted sitting at home. We needed her just as much (if not more) than she needed us. Our other members benefited from her expertise and energy for problem solving. We benefited from her “rah rah” attitude and passion or promoting us to her contacts. It was (and continues to be) a great symbiotic business relationship. She’s finding her new way in the business world, and even though our initial relationship was as manager/client, I would be lying if I said we weren’t proud of her. If she stayed home and worked by herself it would have been our loss just as much as hers.
Our “In-House Strategist” is also an example of a second life professional. Her new role in life as an entrepreneur was that of a “strategic professional developer.” That means she can do whatever she wants, for whomever she wants, whenever she wants, just as long as she does it strategically. She has an idea a minute and every one of them is backed by seemingly unlimited energy and enthusiasm. Many of her ideas and suggestions are for us. She challenges us, she questions us, and she makes us think strategically about every decision we make. Yet she tells us that it takes a lot for her to get out of the house and to her reserved desk here at Connect. Not to say she doesn’t want to; it is just a new habit she is trying to create. However, once she gets to her desk…whew! Her momentum is tough to stop. She is a force to be reckoned with and we are honored to have her as a member of the Connect community.
“I stopped by today! and I am in LOVE!!!! Totally in love with this wonderful concept!!!”
“The Perennial Startup” came to us via the “Contact Us” section of our new website (also built by Rohring Results). The first message was straight to the point. It said, “I’m looking for a place to meet on Mon, Wed and Fri from 6-8pm.” A few days later after a quick tour she followed by saying, “I stopped by today! and I am in LOVE!!!! Totally in love with this wonderful concept!!!”She was in love with our concept, and we were in love with the idea of having her as a member of Connect! She started off as a part time member, using our meeting rooms to teach ESL (English as a Second Language) classes. After a few weeks she was hooked, and eventually settled into a private office in our first-floor suite. She is a bridge to the Hispanic community in and around Bradenton. She is a one-stop-shop! Translating, interpreting, notary services and even tax preparation. She came to us in “startup mode.” Now she finds herself in “re-startup mode.” It is great to be a jack of all trades, but the process of identifying your brand and your business’s story is paramount. Being a member who spends a significant amount of time at Connect each week, she is exposed to a number of other members who are more than happy to help her with that process. That is yet another example of working for yourself, but she wouldn’t be progressing as much if she was still working by herself at home. It is our pleasure to serve in any role of that process, even if it is just lending an ear as she works through the problems of entrepreneurship herself.
The work from home businesses that I mentioned above are too numerous to mention. We have mailboxes full of correspondence for businesses that use our address as their address. They do so for every reason you can imagine. Some like having a Downtown Bradenton address. Others use it instead of their home address for safety reasons. We even serve as a single square foot of office space to businesses that want to have a presence in our city, state or nation. The package pickup and drop-off service being a bonus for many. Some just want to use our meeting rooms on an as-needed basis. We welcome any and all and pride ourselves on being a safe and secure option for those businesses and their owners.
While describing my experiences with this group of entrepreneurs, I have used words like perfect and proud, honored and encouraged, delighted and refreshed. I referred to myself as loved and lucky, because of the ongoing privilege I have in my work-life blend. That is what it feels like to be a part of this community of collaborative business professionals. That is what it looks like when you “Work For Yourself, Not By Yourself.”