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Downtown Medford gets a business buzz

Nothing beats a brick-and-mortar office for getting business done. That appears to be the basic idea behind a new downtown startup, the Medford Cowork Collective.

After six weeks in operation, 28 entrepreneurs have set up shop inside the Collective, located at 122 E. Main St.

“I find I get distracted at the house,” said Danielle Seay, owner of the marketing and skill-building company GSD Professional Service.

She finds her focus inside the 6,000-square-foot former Nui Kai Fish Co., which has been transformed into an expanse of open office areas, meeting rooms and private offices that resembles a coffee-shop environment.

In fact, the first thing that greets visitors and entrepreneurs is Middleford Coffee shop, which is available to the public for takeaway espresso orders, though seating is reserved for businesses inside the building.

Kids, pets and dirty dishes are a big distraction for anyone who tries to work at home, so Seay likes the idea that she can devote all of her attention to business at the Cowork Collective, the brainchild of Abigail Schilling.

“It’s also nice to engage with other business owners,” said Seay, who has worked out of the Collective since last Friday. “Abigail has curated nice spaces for every kind of worker.”

This type of workspace model for businesses isn’t a new idea around the U.S. — Ashland has Rogue Coworks — but it is new to downtown Medford and helps add more buzz on Main Street.

Seay, who lives in Ashland, said she has many clients in Medford, so it made sense for her to set up shop at the downtown location.

To celebrate the start of the Collective, a grand opening will be held from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., Wednesday, March 4. Tickets are $10, and the event will offer appetizers and a drink ticket. See www.soredi.org/events to register.

At the event, Southern Oregon Regional Economic Development Inc. will talk about a new initiative that will provide seed money for startups.

Schilling planned everything out for a year and spent six months looking for the ideal space, while securing investors and overseeing an extensive remodel of the building.

She said she had a waiting list of entrepreneurs, and she made sure the building has lots of electrical outlets, a speedy internet connection, flat-screen monitors and conference areas.

“We’re growing fast,” Schilling said. The building can accommodate about 100 businesses, though not all of them would be in the building at any given time.

The basic membership is $99 a month, and many of the business owners need just a table on which to place their laptops. Drop-in customers can pay $25 a day to use the building. Pricing varies depending on whether someone wants a dedicated desk or other amenities. Customers can obtain access to bike storage, kitchens, a shower, lockers, mail service and locking file cabinets.

Upstairs offices that are fully furnished run up to $1,400 a month. Access to the building is available 24/7. For more information, see www.medfordcowork.com/

Schilling said the coffee shop in the front is the first thing people see when they walk in, and the baristas welcome newcomers, acting as a sort of front desk for all the businesses inside.

Like many of the entrepreneurs she works with, Schilling has a background in cowork spaces around the country, including in downtown Los Angeles.

The casual space she has created doesn’t look like the cube farms found in most businesses.

Brandon Kidwell, with the internet technology business Sunrise Computing, said he had a 650-square-foot office previously.

“It didn’t seem worthwhile to keep it,” he said. “I could have gotten away with just 200 square feet.”

Kidwell said he found working from home to be difficult because he was constantly distracted by pets and kids.

“Here I can be in a work mode,” he said. “Also, you get a little stir crazy being at home all the time.”

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on www.twitter.com/reporterdm.

The entrepreneur-focused Medford Cowork Collective is located in the former Nui Kai building in downtown Medford. Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune
Abigail Schilling spent more than a year creating the new Medford Cowork Collective located on Main Street. Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune