anyone in the job market can tell you its been a disturbing mess
trying to find anything at all. Especially to those involved with
the various forms of entertainment and media. But in this unknown
place in time a lot of people are finding ways to get by in the art
of freelance work. And one place in particular is making it easier
for those individuals to have a work environment for them to continue
making a living.
--- The BetaLoft over on 2nd South has been doing well the past few months. Catering to both the average business mind while also providing those with a hand in local entertainment a place to handle their own odds and ends. I got a chance to chat with the Loft's owner and manager Drew Tyler about the creation of and the goals of the Loft, as well as some brief thought on local digital entertainment. Plus pictures of a brief visit I took last week.
Gavin: Hey Andrew, first off, tell us a little bit about yourself.
Andrew: I'm a video producer in Salt Lake City. I consider myself a jack of all trades digital and master of one — Editing. I have been in video production for nearly ten years, and recently took a break to get my Master's degree in Mass Communications. I married my best friend over eight years ago and together we have two beautiful kids, one two and a half, and one six months old. Additional tasty bits about me... I love to cook gourmet, I love the ocean & Disneyland, I love music and creating things and I love to teach.
Gavin: For those who don't know, what is BetaLoft?
Andrew: In short, BetaLoft is a collaborative workspace for independents and professionals alike. It's a place where you can enjoy the flexibility of working for yourself, and still have the structure & social benefits of working with others. Think executive suites meets coffee-shop.
Gavin: Where did the idea come from to start up this kind of project?
Andrew: I had the idea over a year ago to create some sort of “digital salon.” I wanted to offer media services and support to the many freelance videographers here along the Wasatch Front. A kind of an umbrella operation for independent media producers. Long story short, I pitched the idea to business types, and they all said it was unsustainable. So the germ of the idea of co-working has been with me for quite some time, I just didn't know if it was feasible. Until... my sister forwarded an article from the Tribune about a space that had just opened in Orem. Cowork Utah. The Cowork Utah website and the newspaper article introduced me to the term 'co-working' and led me to some fantastic co-working resources online. I was like a kid in a candy store, reading everything I could on the movement, devouring every blog post, exploring all the existing co-working spaces' websites. I examined the models and methods, and explored the concepts; sustainability, synergy, collaboration etc. My co-working 'research' almost overshadowed my Graduate Research. In finding the trend and literally the word 'co-working' I found my concept of a “digital salon” could be sustained.
Gavin: How did you go about getting funding for this and planning out the supplies you needed?
Andrew: It took quite a bit of time. I planned for half a year, deciding on what to offer and who to offer it to. I started looking for funding when I knew the idea was going to be fulfilled. However, in the beginning I self-funded the launch of BetaLoft with the gracious blessing of my wife who allowed me to use over 75% of our personal savings. I found a tremendous Zion's Bank branch manager, Scott Sluis, who assisted me in jumping the many flaming hoops of the SBA. It took almost 4 months from the time my Loan was approved, to satisfy all their desires, before I got the Loan. As for supplies, I looked at the other co-working spaces in the US and gleaned ideas from each of them. I also knew that depending on what space I ended up in, the furniture needs would change.
Gavin: What was it like finding the location and how did you decide on the downtown location?
Andrew: Finding the location was actually quite simple. I sampled a handful of people and the consensus was that downtown made the most sense because of the newness of the co-working concept. Downtown has so much to offer beyond the vibe that is downtown. The TRAX stop is less than a block away, as is the Gateway, so between those you can grab a bite to eat almost anywhere downtown. Once BetaLoft has established itself in its current location, we will branch out and open spaces in the other areas of the Wasatch Front.
Gavin: For those curious, what do you completely have equipment wise that's available for them to use?
Andrew: The Loft is setup to offer everything you would need to run a business, and then some. Specifically our members and visitors have access to desks, WiFi (22MBps down/5MBps up), Printers, Fax machine, Mail Services, Kitchen amenities-(Fridge, Microwave, Coffee Machine, etc.), Lockers, Group Desks, Conference Room and Private Offices. We also have a full audio and video podcasting studio available to rent, and are equipped to provide multi camera live streaming from any event.
Gavin: Was setting everything up difficult for you guys? And how was opening day and that first month like?
Andrew: Setting things up wasn’t that difficult, we did a lot of research so when the time came to make decisions, we already knew what to do. The first month we knew there wouldn’t be many aware of us, so we set out to make the space the coolest and most productive we could, knowing that those that found us, would gladly tell their friends.
Gavin: Who are some of the people who have joined up and what kind of projects have you seen come out of the Loft so far?
Andrew: In our short four months of operation we’ve seen a great variety of professions; PR companies, Technology evangelists, Agile consultants, graphic designers, developers, programmers, videographers, students, entrepreneurs, marketers, and more. As for projects, I’ve seen several ideas and concepts take root and begin to grow. I’ve been to several spontaneous collaborative lunches that originated from BetaLoft as well. As our membership grows the amount of collaborative projects will grow too.
Gavin: How do the memberships work, and what's the difference between them and just doing Freebie days?
Andrew: Members enjoy the full benefits of the Loft, the mail services, the community feel, the access, etc. Freebie days are a way for someone who’s interested in co-working to come in and kick the tires. I can’t expect someone to stop in for the first time and sign on right away (although some do). Most folks only need a day or two to experience co-working to decide if it will work for them.
Gavin: What kind of events do you hold at the Loft?
Andrew: You name it! We’ve had RockBand parties, Karaoke parties, Local User Group meetings, workshops and networking events. In the near future we plan to have a board-game night, LAN party night and other things that will introduce new people to the space as well as strengthen the community.
Gavin: I understand people hold classes and learning groups as well. What's kind of stuff can people learn?
Andrew: Again, the sky’s the limit! As long as someone has a topic or skill they want to teach, they can reserve BetaLoft for their class or workshop. Some have used the space for teaching Social Media skills, Programming skills, etc. I teach folks how to do video production, like using Final Cut Pro or how to shoot for YouTube. Sometimes these are scheduled classes, other times it’s very impromptu.
Gavin: What's the ultimate goal of the BetaLoft, and what projects and improvements does the Loft itself have coming down the road?
Andrew: I think the ultimate goal for BetaLoft is to be a place where people can connect. Working side by side gives people the opportunity to engage each other, to learn from each other and to solve the world’s problems one at a time. Personally in the future I hope to encourage members to share their talents and skills with local Non-Profits as part of their membership. BetaLoft will continue to adapt to its members. As our membership grows they will determine what the atmosphere is and what projects will emerge.
Gavin: Just a bit on the local side, what are your thoughts on how we as a community have used technology and adapted it for entertainment and publication?
Andrew: My personal thought on this is that as a whole we’ve done an amazing job of taking any new technology and quickly making it accessible for the public. But too often the focus of incorporating new tech is “How can we monetize this?” The thing I’d like to see is more focus on “How can we use this to serve or inform people?” Too much of our new technology feeds our addiction for mind-numbing entertainment. I believe that companies and corporations can succeed by serving their community first.
Gavin: What can we expect from you and BetaLoft the rest of the year?
Andrew: We’ll be adding new desks and flavor to our already stellar space and you can expect to see more monthly activities, like our tech KaraokeSLC nights (Oct. 29th is our first) and you can expect to see us spreading the good word about co-working! Maybe not by year’s end, but there will be other BetaLoft locations in the near future!
Gavin: Aside the obvious, is there anything you'd like to promote or plug?
Andrew: Sure! I’m often approached by people who would like to see BetaLoft type spaces nearer to them. I am very open to sharing the research I’ve done and expediting the creation of more co-working spaces. If you like the idea, but think downtown is too far for you, still contact us and we’ll connect you with others who are looking for co-working spaces in their neck of the woods. It doesn’t take that much to get a space up and running, but a key component is the people!