Brainerd BizSpace creates rooms for entreprenuers, start-ups
BAXTER — A business incubator is hoping to attract entrepreneurs, start-ups and home-based companies.
Scott Hall sees his creation as a place where people can brainstorm and bounce ideas off each other, and even help each other as they grow. Consider it the place fledgling companies may grown after leaving their birth places in the family garage.
“I’ve had this idea for years,” Hall said.
Talking with friend Becky Flansburg — writer, blogger and virtual assistant — helped Hall get his start. Flansburg was part of an effort called iSpace, an earlier version of a collaborative work space that may have been ahead of its time. Hall was ready to give the idea another shot. After looking for a place to incubate his own business incubator, Hall connected with Darren Larson, vice president/branch manager of BlackRidgeBANK. The bank just happened to have open offices in its lower level it had been trying to lease for a long time. Hall said Larson was in favor of fixing up the space and using it to foster and encourage growth in the lakes area.
“It’s the community,” Hall said of the potential to put a variety of professionals and entrepreneurs in the same collaborative space. Perhaps a high-tech start-up with offices across from an attorney or accountant or graphic designer. Perhaps, Hall said, they could be resources for each other as they grow.
“That was my hope,” he said.
Hall opened his doors in February. He may be a familiar face from the Lakes Area Habitat for Humanity ReStore in Brainerd, where he is ReStore manager. His interest in business began early. Hall grew up in northwestern North Dakota, where the oil business now booms. As a teenager, his thoughts were consumed with plans to be an auto mechanic. His teachers had their hands full in trying to pry his attention from his Hot Rod Magazine. His goal was attending Wyoming Technical Institute. There he found the long-anticipated career of working on automobiles wasn’t really what he wanted.
More than eight years in the 367th Engineers Battalion including deployment in Afghanistan gave Hall administrative experience for more than 500 people. After returning from overseas, he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do next. While on leave, he was asked to help out at the ReStore.
His long simmering interest in small business blossomed along with his community involvement. So he took a chance on his ideas for a shared workspace.
“If I can provide low start-up fees to get somebody else up and going, it works,” he said. Pulling on his own experience and with a young family at home, he wanted to see if the office space concept could work in the lakes area as well as it was in other cities.
BizSpace has seven offices of varying sizes. And costs depends on frequency and intensity of use. Internet is provided.
Companies may used dedicated office space. Hall also set up an open office where people — perhaps traveling representatives — need a day office to catch up on paperwork, calls or computer work.
For home-based businesses, it gives owners an office space to meet clients or host groups in a conference room away from the family home.
For those using the space 10 hours a week, costs are $50 per month. At 20 hours a week, the cost is $150 per month. Those splitting the difference, pay $100 per month. Offices may also be rented by the hour for $20.
A conference room down the hall is shared. Internet is provided. But getting the word out proved more difficult than imagined.
Ross Richardson, owner/agent at S&R Insurance Services, was looking for office equipment at the ReStore when he and Hall started talking about office space as well.
“Our business relationship started over a file cabinet,” Richardson said.
Richardson and his business partner Scott Rude became Brainerd BizSpace’s first tenants and since have expanded to include more offices at BizSpace.
“We grew fast,” Richardson said.
Now established, Richardson said they were ready to move out to Highway 371 by Grizzly’s. What started with less than a handful of agents has expectations for 20 to 25 agents in Minnesota by the end of the year and to cover the entire state in 2015. S&R Insurance specializes in Medicare insurance. They didn’t see the growth rate coming so fast. The BlackRidgeBANK location was comfortable and easy to describe to clients.
“This has been great,” Richardson said seated by his desk in Brainerd BizSpace. “His concept is really good. I know what he’s trying to do. It’s just getting his name out there. His heart and his mind is in the right place.”
Richardson said the concept reminds him of the HBO TV series “Silicon Valley.”
“You’ve got high speed everything in this building,” Richardson said. “The fiber optics, everything you need is here.”