Earlier this month, we opened HuntsvilleWest to the public to showcase the next iteration of our coworking project. This was a great opportunity to present our progress and communicate our vision to a wide audience. We had over 400 people visit us, tour our beautifully renovated space, meet our coworking community, and learn about coworking while enjoying refreshments and local brews.
The Open House on March 2nd was the culmination of many months of hard work and over a year of experimentation in what began as only one room at the old West Huntsville Elementary school. But HunsvilleWest has been in the works much longer: Our founder, Brandon Kruse, brought with him the original idea when he returned from West Palm Beach in early 2013. Brandon knew there was a need for a place in town for entrepreneurs to cost-effectively start and scale businesses.
My own interest in coworking started back in 2008, when I worked a remote job as a corporate executive and felt disconnected and unproductive at home. At the time, which was the height of the recession, I run the numbers and after a small market research, concluded that there was not enough traction for a coworking space in town and shelved that project.
Brandon and I met in 2014 as I was starting my work at Rocket Hatch and the HuntsvilleWest project was called the "Huntsville Entrepreneurial Initiative". We talked about coworking, startups, accelerators, and started a conversation that continues to this day. Fast forward to November 2016 when Brandon and I were talking again and agreed that the time was right for both of us to combine our efforts to accelerate the HuntsvilleWest project.
On one side, Brandon had been able to cost-effectively acquire a great building and established a financial framework that provided a sustainable building, not to mention strategically located in what is arguably Huntsville's creative innovation hotspot: the Lowe Mill District. On the other side, I was closing on my 3-year cycle at Rocket Hatch where we had helped spark a growing community of entrepreneurs, independent professionals, and remote workers. We brought in Matt Jones, who was the mastermind behind DesignLab Huntsville, another innovative collaborative space in town where Rocket Hatch held numerous events, Matt, Brandon, and I revisited my 2008 notes, plugged the numbers, put together a solid plan, and HuntsvilleWest 2.0 was born.
Our vision is to apply the lessons learned for over a year of coworking at the HuntsvilleWest Library, the community building lessons learned at Rocket Hatch, and the space interaction lessons learned at DesignLab to expand coworking to the whole building. HuntsvilleWest 2.0 is 45,000 square feet of shared and dedicated work stations, private offices, lounges, meeting rooms, phone booths, and more. Most importantly, our membership is growing steadily and comprises a vibrant and eclectic community where collaboration happens organically. Our values focus on productivity, connection, inclusiveness, and stewardship, and this can be seen in the spontaneous projects that emerge every day between members.
One such example is the project we are launching today, a great collaboration that is the brainchild of member Raeley Stevenson; we call it "Humans of HuntsvilleWest" or #HWHumans. #HWHumans is a portrait series that captures our coworkers and their work. Along with each portrait, Raeley is crafting a blog post that highlights their background, what they are working on, and more.
I cannot think of a more fitting project for us at this point of our development. With new coworkers joining every day, it is important to highlight our community and their hustle. I am thrilled to see HuntsvilleWest emerge not just as the brainchild of Brandon and our team but as the sum-total of our members of which I am proud to be a part. So come over and meet the Humans of Huntsville West!