How To Keep Momentum After Startup Week Fort Collins

As Startup Week Fort Collins nears its epic end, let’s make a plan to keep the momentum into next week and beyond. Whether you got your first taste of coworking, got your mind blown by a musician or felt a much needed boost in motivation as a freelancer, it’s important to not let this enthusiasm dwindle.

Step 1: Outreach

Reach out to everyone in that pile of business cards you collected. Mention something that they said that really resonated with you. Invite them out for a coffee or beer just to talk and get to know one another better.  Ask to take a tour of their company. Mine through the Sched again and pull out company names or people you really enjoyed meeting. Follow them on twitter, like their Facebook pages and read their websites.

Step 2: Digest Your Notes

Did you take as many notes in your awesome FCSW17 notebook as I did? Now is the time to go back through all your notes. Check out the books, blogs or resources that you wrote down. Pull out action items and put them on your list to tackle next week. This post you’re reading right now was actually a footnote in my notebook. Look at me! Taking action!

Step 3: Participate OR Amplify

My key takeaway this week is a new awareness of how many people are doing AMAZING things in our community. Now is the time to participate in those activities by attending meetings or helping to push us forward as a group. If you can’t possibly take on another task, then please be an amplifier. Tell your friends and coworkers about the great progress that is being made. Awareness is the first step to Amazeness! Here are some things I learned about this week:

What are you going to take action on next week? Tell us in the comments below.

 

Coworking: Must-Have Supply List

Seven years into running a coworking space in Fort Collins, I’ve finally compiled a list of the most game-changing items you can purchase for your coworkers. From desks to dishes, Cohere has the scoop on everything from power strips to parchment papers.

We’ve had our fair share of desk iterations at Cohere. From highly customized and huge curvy desks with integrated power to bomb-proof dorm desks, I’ve finally found the best option for us and they are $99 each. Sweet. Please raid your IKEA accordingly. (IKEA is not paying me for this post. In fact, I was so wary of yet another desk that would fail me, I only bought two so the coworkers could test-drive them for several weeks).

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The IKEA THYGE desk measures an ample yet space saving 24″x 48″. Its legs attach with some effort but the overall effect is one of total stability and feels high end even though you’ll be giggling over your frugality. The legs ADJUST from 23″ to 35″ making it comfy for even the most stubby-legged members. Once our desk transition is complete, we’ll have 2 short, 2 medium and 2 tall desks for members to choose from.

The smooth uncluttered surface provides lots of spare room for your flex-deskers like remote software developer, Ian, above and enough room for the permanent dual monitor setup of remote software developer, Kevin, below.

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The thing we’ve missed most from the early days of Cohere is the integrated power we had in our custom desks. IKEA finally solved this problem for us by creating a clamp-on mount ($10) and pairing it with their power/usb strip ($14.99). Add their cable storage under mount basket for a nearly seamless office experience. For those of you doing math, that’s just $128.99 per workstation (you only need 1 cable storage basket per two desks).

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Cons: these desks aren’t on wheels but the feet of the legs are smooth enough that they are easy to slide around on carpet. If any of you have found a wheeled desk option that is this high quality for the same price, I’ll eat my bank statement.

Now that we’ve got your members working productively, they’re going to need snacks. Member Laurel casually asked me one day, “hey, for the next version of upgrades, can we get a toaster oven?”

Seven clicks and two days later, we unwrapped this beauty ($24.95). Laurel originally thought it would be a nice supplement to our stocked PB&J bar but I doubled-down on the idea and bought cookie dough.

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I’d love to say that we have exercised restraint and reserve warm cookies-on-demand for Fridays or Mondays but we don’t. Someone bakes goddamn hot cookies every damn day and it is spectacular. I highly recommend these mini break-aparts by Nestle. Pair your new baking members with parchment sheets ($5.89) for easy cleanup and an adorable mini-spatula ($8.99). Ignore the review where the lady says the spatula is “too tiny.” She is absurd.

Last but not least, I give you the thing that a member bought and put on my desk with the note, “Angel, this dish brush will change your life. Trust me.” -Lucinda

We’ve never had a dishwasher at the Old Town Cohere locations so we soldier on by hand-washing; never quite satisfied by other dish brushes, sponges or scrubby things.

The OXO brush not only takes the cake, it obliterates the cake with a swipe of the wrist and the push of a button.

I know you are super stoked to read about the features of a dish brush. Here they are in no particular order: it sits up in a stand that collects its own drips (I wish my baby did this), it only dispenses soap when you press the button on the handle, it never gets smelly and it really cleans the dishes!

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Bonus item: a little whiteboard above our sink. This has been the most effective message to date. It’s also a decent reminder to me that even if I have to wash a couple of spoons every morning, I’m doing a job that I LOVE alongside people I LOVE. No dirty dish stands a chance against that kind of happiness.

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DIY Coworking Furniture: IKEA, Craigslist, Garage Sales

Furnishing a coworking space like Cohere in Fort Collins can be overwhelming and costly. It doesn’t have to be! I always furnish my coworking spaces with a mix of new, old and found products. This approach eliminates the threat of having a coworking space that reads like a showroom and instead gives your members lots of nooks and crannies to choose from and creates an eclectic vintage-y vibe.

So Alex Hillman doesn’t panic, here is a picture with people in it since all that follow will just be things–this is a post about furniture after all.

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From Draft to Done Blog Group

Before anyone will sit down they want to know where the power is. These wall mountable heavy duty power strips are amazing. They are sturdy and have 8 outlets! Cohere uses one stripper per table.

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In a world where you can drop a grand on a wheely table I always opt for IKEA. Pair this top with these legs to get a table that comfortably seats 2 for $85.99. Wheels make our rooms configurable for events, yoga or plain ole coworking.

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The same goes for chairs. You can spend upwards of $500 or more if you want a fancy label on your chair and ventilation holes for your ass cheeks but we get lots of compliments on this $79.99 model from IKEA. Pro-tip: as cool as the light upholstery looks, avoid it. Denim will stain those chairs.

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If you need larger desks with storage, these are solid though they take FOR. FUCKING. EVER to assemble.

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Assign your most OCD member the joy of this task. $159.99 each.

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For softer seating, we enjoy a sofa at each of our locations. Cohere sports a fancier version of this, which was our most expensive purchase in 2010 at $299. Cothere has its cute little sister below which I picked up at a thrift store for $80. Yes, that’s brown velour and a lobster pillow.

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Cothere’s itty conference room has this sturdy IKEA table. With the legs the whole thing costs $79.00. The chairs are craigslist finds, brand new in some guy’s basement for $15 each. In the background you’ll see our big Apple TV ready flat screen for presentations and impromptu dance parties. It’s on wheels. Always put your tv on wheels.

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The beauty below came out of a garage sale for $25. I sanded, primed, then painted it my signature turquoise with a dark grey racing strip. Black spray paint on the legs took this table from scrappy to fabulous!

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This mid-century laminate table came from an estate sale for $75. I got the chairs reupholstered and re-studded for $175. The zebra print is an IKEA bargain at $39.99 for how large it is.

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We want to see your clever coworking furniture finds. Please share your photos or links in the comments!

DIY Coworking Furniture: Storage Cabinets

This week we’ll talk storage. No matter how minimalist your coworking space, you’re going to need a place to stash a few cleaning supplies, some Kleenex and extra cables. Lucikly, Cothere came with a lovely kitchenette with lots of cabinet space. Unfortunately, I’m the only person who can reach anything in the upper cabinets so it limits the utility of our kitchen storage. See Suzi Struggle.

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Aside from our kitchen cabinets Cothere has ZERO closets or cubbies in which to store anything. I snagged the below cabinet at an estate sale for $7.50!!! No, the decimal is NOT in the wrong place. I neglected to photo the BEFORE version of this cabinet. It was rough. The whole thing was dirty and the top was a mis-sized particle board nightmare. I removed the hardware and the top, sanded everything and painted it this amazing lime color. It took 6 coats. I’m not lying. We found a perfect solid pine top at Lowe’s and only had to put a few coats of clear polyurethane on it with a super fine grit sanding between coats. We used the nail gun to attach it.

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Here’s the breakdown:

  • $7.50 cabinet
  • $15 quart paint
  • $30 pine top
  • Polyurethane from our basement FREE

Total: $52.50

Overall, this little second-hand find was a great deal. It has 4 huge drawers that hold everything from equipment manuals to spare mice(for computers not critters) and headphones. I love it! Have you repurposed furniture at your coworking space? Tell us all about it in the comments!

 

 

What’s Killing Your Creativity?

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One of the biggest reasons why people leave the corporate grind behind for the uncertain life of the mobile professional is freedom.

Freedom to decide their own schedule, choose their own clients, and perhaps most importantly, the freedom to pursue creative passions as a career rather than a past-time.

So what happens when you have your coffee, your laptop, and your favorite spot at Cohere, and…the creativity is gone?

You’re not feeling it. The well is dry. Everything you try feels like a regurgitation of something you’ve done before. You feel like the creativity is dead. Might as well close up shop and call it a day, right? Wrong.

According to research from Harvard University, there are five main culprits that are responsible for killing our creativity. Knowing and spotting them at work in your own professional pursuits will ensure greater happiness and productivity. Check out the five creativity-killers identified by this recent research, and let know if you’ve ever struggled with these particular problems in the past.

1. Role Mismatch: Taking on the wrong clients, accepting the wrong project, or getting too far away from the work we truly love to do is a sure-fire way to sap creativity. The wrong role puts us in a position where we’re constantly struggling to keep up and induces a constant state of creativity-crushing panic.

2. External End-Goal Restriction: Without self-imposed restrictions, entrepreneurs might never make a dollar, but the Harvard research shows that when restrictions about where and how we work are imposed by others, it’s a creativity killer.

3. Lack of Time or Resources: Every freelancer has been on the ramen diet during a dry patch, but it’s a lack of resources like time or a proper workspace that can cut short our creative juices.

4. Lack of Social Diversity: “Homogeneous groups have shown to be better able to get along, but it comes at a cost: they are less creative. This even applies to the social groups you keep, so beware of being surrounded by people who are too similar all the time, you may end up in a creative echo-chamber,” writes Gregory Ciotti for 99u.com. In other words: COWORKING.

5. Discouragement: Loads of studies have shown that a boss delivering genuine praise will have far more motivated and productive employees than one who constantly shouts criticism. We like our effort to be recognized, and when it is, we work even harder in hopes of more high fives and atta girls. Creative people thrive on having others impacted by their ideas. And guess what? That instant feedback, support, encouragement loop is build RIGHT IN to the coworking community. Must be why we’re so dang creative around here.

Seriously though, let know if you’ve ever struggled with these particular problems in the past, and how you dealt with them.

Image via Zeitgeist 1984

3 Reasons Isolation Is Disastrous For Creative Professionals

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Over the weekend, Facebook was a flutter over a new study from Switzerland. The recently published research suggests that writers have a higher risk of mental illness.

The study by the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden found a link between creative professions and mental illness. Writers in particular are more likely to suffer from psychiatric issues including clinical depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, anxiety, and substance abuse. “We’re also nearly twice as likely as the general populace to commit suicide!” exclaimed Media Bistro’s Pandora Young.

Aside from the “no duh” jokes from lots of writers and their friends on social media, many were left asking the obvious question: why?

Lots of anecdotal suggestions were offered by creatives in my social networks: Perhaps the mentally ill are just prone to write; society as a whole judges creativity as a type of mental illness; writing is cathartic so fragile people are more drawn to it as therapy. But by in large, the most common explanation proposed was isolation. Writing is (typically) a solo task, and choosing it as a profession means spending a lot of time by yourself in front of a keyboard. Not to mention that depending on the type of writing, it can be a soul searching process, something that’s always easier with the support of loved ones.

The fact of the matter is, isolation is opposite to our natural inclination. Most of us would never live in isolation, so why work that way?

Here are three reasons why working in isolation can be disastrous for creative professionals:

1. Humans are social creatures. Creatives like the attention and company of our tribe.

2. Creativity doesn’t require isolation. We feed off of the inspiration and challenges of our peers.

3. Self-employed creatives work best when we’re accountable.

So where should we turn when we find ourselves talking to the cat and still in our pajamas at 3 pm? Some people join Meetups, or networking groups, or enlist expensive life coaches to help us stay on track and meet our goals. But if you’re like most creatives, you need a simpler, not more complicated, strategy for success.

Guess what?! Coworking provides all of these things. Coworking spaces are populated by a diversity of creatives. Not only will you meet people who do similar creative work to your own, you’ll meet people who do creative things you’ve never dreamed of! Coworkers LOVE to share stories of failure and success, which is inspiring to the less experienced creative. Coworking spaces are also adept at keeping people accountable. Most creatives who join coworking spaces report higher levels of productivity almost immediately. Sometimes there are actual weekly meetings where members check up on each other’s progress, and in other spaces the accountability is more informal, accomplished between friends.

If you’re feeling isolated (and maybe a little crazy?!) TRY COWORKING. Not only is it more affordable and flexible than other office options for creatives, it comes with a built-in community that’s dedicated to keeping you sane. Get your free day pass here!

Image via opensourceway/Flickr

3 Ways Mobile Workers Can Conquer Creativity Blocks

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We’ve all been there. The blank screen. The waiting cursor. The complete and total lack of ideas when something really spectacular needs to emerge, and quickly.

Writer’s block may be the most common term, but these temporary lapses in creativity eventually get their sticky fingers into every professional that relies on their mind to make money. There are all kinds of creative blockages, and they can come from many different things, or from nothing. Maybe you don’t like the client, maybe it’s sunny outside and you want to be playing instead of working, maybe you’re tired/hungry/bored/lonely, distracted or excited about something else.

The “why” doesn’t really matter here. What matter is “how” you’re going to move past the block and get on with your life and work. There are many different tactics recommended for identifying and eradicating mental blocks. Here are some of our favorites:

 1. Release The Kraken 

Even creative work can get redundant sometimes. We can start to feel boxed into our own processes, habits, cycles. When it comes to the 105th logo design or 7,000th blog post, it can be difficult to come up with any idea you haven’t already explored. So, let your mind out of its box. Get a big sheet of paper, or stand in front of a white board, and go crazy. Create a map of the blockages in your mind. Write swear words. Draw pictures. Use big messy shapes. Create connections between things that make no sense. Eventually, something promising might emerge. And even if it doesn’t, you will have released a little tension and maybe even made yourself laugh.

2. Change The Scenery

The great thing about being a mobile worker is that you don’t have to stay in a cubicle or office just because it’s time to work. Feel like you’re going crazy at home or in that coffee shop? Tired of looking at the same pictures on the wall? Sometimes changing our surroundings can change our mood, and when we’re in a good mood, we work better. Cohere loves to provide a new work environment for freelancers that feel like they’re going crazy. We have lots of different rooms and even an outdoor deck where you can get your work on. Don’t suffer through alone–come tell us about your creative blocks. We’re here to help!

3. Exercise Your Mind (Or Your Legs)

When your creative self screams “I hate you!” stomps into its room and slams the door, the best thing to do is let it stew in it’s own juice. You’ve got plenty of other body parts that are perfectly willing to do what you ask. When you can’t seem to break through, step away from the screen and go look for a good book. Read a chapter or five. You might just find that after watching all the other brain cells having fun, your creative self will want to play too. If you don’t have a good book at your disposal, or don’t feel like reading, try going for a walk or jog, no matter what the weather. Just turn your brain off and go. You’ll likely find your creativity waiting at your desk when you return.

What’s your favorite trick for dealing with creative blocks? Share it with us in a comment!

Image via emdot/Flickr

Prospective Intern Cheat Sheet

Cohere’s hiring process for interns can be a bit unconventional. I’ve asked the most recent 2 applicants to attend our first annual chili cook-off as their introduction to the community. No interview questions allowed, no khaki slacks required. In fact, if you hand me a resume, I’ll show you the door. I sure hope you’re reading this.

You might be nervous to come to a social event for your first “interview.” That’s normal and I guarantee that your parents and career counselors are probably googling “Cohere Fort Collins” with confusion. They’re probably scratching their heads wondering how to prepare you for such an innovative interview process. Okay, they probably aren’t using the word innovative.

Here are FOUR tidbits of advice to help you at a social event-interview:

  1. You’ve already received an email from me so you know what to bring. Bringing anything more than that will just weigh you down. Especially when we pit you against one another in a foot race to take down the company flag on the roof.
  2. Ditch the business cards. We’re far enough in to this relationship that I’ve googled you, checked your Facebook pages (before you changed your privacy settings) and seen if you’re on twitter. I know how to find you. I don’t need your tiny paper bio.
  3. Treat this social event like any social event you’ve attended in your life. We’re not so much about leveraging business contacts as we are getting to know each other. Leave your credentials behind and talk about your hobbies instead.
  4. If you’re hired, you’ll have many bosses. Any member can become your boss at any moment. There’s no use in sucking up to one person and ignoring the rest. It won’t get you anywhere.

Stay tuned for more crib notes on how to land this internship. If you’ve just come across this and WANT to be a Cohere intern, let me know why.

Image credit: maveric2003

4 Creativity Resources for Freelancers

Sometimes we all need a kick in the pants. A kick in the creativity pants, that is.

From working on a client project, to rethinking your niche, or in thinking up new ways to seek out clients, at times we need a creativity boost to get our minds thinking in fresh ways. One of the key benefits of coworking is collaborating and ideating with others—or, in other words, being creative with others. Whether you’re a designer, a writer, web developer, or consultant, here are some fun resources to get your creative juices flowing.

  • TED
    “Ideas Worth Spreading”

    Chances are good that you’re already familiar with TED, so this is no shocker. Have you explored Tedx (local) events—perhaps even one that might be near where you live? Hunt through the TED site, and you’re bound to bump into an inspiring talk.
    Tip: Try searching a keyword related to a project you’re currently working on. Watch the video and take notes. You never know how watching a video might infuse a new idea into your project!
  • Ideas Project
    “The home of big ideas about the future of communication and technology.”

    This well-designed site offers a place for people to share ideas about technology and communication. The site is a fascinating, creative way to map out ideas.
    Tip: Be sure to check out the Ideas Map – an incredible visualization of ideas.
  • Brainpicker
    “Curating eclectic interestingness from culture’s collective brain”

    Brainpicker is visually and mentally stimulating site that highlights innovative, fresh ideas. If you have a little bit of time to read, scout around this site or sign up for the weekly “best of” email.
    Tip: Surprisingly, even many of the ads along the sidebar link to interesting, worthwhile sites—so be sure to look at the ads, too. (When is THAT ever a tip?!)
  • The 99%
    “It’s not about ideas. It’s about making ideas happen.”

    Developed by The Behance Network, The 99% is an information-rich source for ideas and articles about how to make ideas happen. It’s particularly focused on freelancers and small businesses.
    Tip: Click on “Tips” and browse articles by category. They’re also hosting a conference the first week in May in New York City–talk about a creativity brain melt!

This, of course, is a short list of sources for creative inspiration on the web. Do you have a go-to website when you need a creative kick in the pants? Share in the comments!

Image Credit: Flickr – creativedc

Coworking: this is your brain on creativity

I’m always amazed by the stuff that ends up on the whiteboards at Cohere.  The coworkers have particularly vivid brain dump sessions late at night or when plagued by tough decisions that need to be made.  Last week’s work filled an entire board on how to promote a headless pig keychain with client instructions to  “make sure the tagline is borderline inappropriate.”  How fun is that!?  I wasn’t able to capture that session in a photo but here are some more that will let you peek under Cohere’s hood to see what’s happening.

Left: I’m not sure what problem they were working on here but it appears to be a mashup of a merchandising problem for our resident fashionista Suzanne and Zachariah’s take on that problem using some PHP coding.  Who knows but it sure does look neat.

Right: Here we have the random happy thoughts board that took shape during Cohere’s grand opening.  Several people tucked away in the library nook to write words of encouragement or funny quips like “I want to play madlibs here.”  How cute is that!?

Left: The phone room is Paul’s favorite place to work out Python coding problems and #inappropriatecorner is host to any number of random quotes and methods of mockery to keep things light hearted.

What is the moral of this visual journey through Cohere’s collective brain?  Don’t judge our weirdness and propensity for silliness, come be a part of it.  There’s a blank board waiting for you.

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