What started as a hunt for a larger office space to house Blue Skies Marketing and CodeGeek.net has evolved into a unique co-working arrangement for eight Fort Collins Internet-related businesses: The Hive. Located downstairs in the historic National Guard Armory building at 314 E. Mountain Avenue in Fort Collins, The Hive provides an efficient way for small businesses that otherwise might operate out of a home or temporary office to come together collectively to share office space in a collaborative setting.
Please share the story of how The Hive came about.
LM: The Hive is a housing venture for Ron and me, rather than a business venture. We had shared an office at The Executive Center [123 N. College Avenue, Suite 200], and we just outgrew it. We started to look for a larger space that would accommodate us, and after touring numerous possibilities, our agent showed us the Armory building. We instantly loved the layout and the funkiness of the space—and the price was right—but it was way bigger than what we needed for just our two companies.
RZ: Blue Skies Marketing and CodeGeek work with a lot of the same customers on different aspects of their Web projects, and we collaborate with a lot of other Web-focused service providers as well. We thought it would be more efficient—and more fun—if we were all located in the same place. This way, we can provide resources and support to each other and pass along referrals. But that wasn’t our objective when we started out—it’s really just happenstance how it all came about.
You say that The Hive isn’t a business venture for you. Will you expand on that a bit?
RZ: At this point, The Hive is an experiment for us. We have a lease on the Armory space through December 31, 2009, but we’re not exactly sure what will happen in 2010. We hope we’ll be able to stay here or find a similar space elsewhere, but we’ll have to see what happens.
LM: Also, we aren’t competing at all with organizations that offer office space and support services as a business, such as The Executive Center or Front Range Business Centers. We’re not out to make a business from The Hive—we just loved the space and wanted to find a way that we could use it. We more or less hand-picked the companies we approached to share this space with us. They’re like-minded companies in the Internet field that share our belief in the value of collaboration—the TEAM concept—you know, “together each accomplishes more.” So it’s nice to see it play out.
What eight businesses make up The Hive?
LM: In addition to Blue Skies Marketing and CodeGeek.net, Midnight Oil Graphics, Acorn Creative Studio, Final Draft Communications, Floating Point Media, Joe’s Media and InfoProductSpecialist share the space.
What do businesses “get” from being part of The Hive?
LM: Because the rent is very affordable, The Hive provides the opportunity for small-business owners who might be isolated in a home office to have an office outside their home in a collaborative setting. The Hive members rent a small workspace with a desk and Internet service from us, and they have access to a terrific conference room for meetings with their clients or other collaborators. We provide a microwave and refrigerator (which we got through Craigslist, by the way!), but we don’t offer phone service or a receptionist—everyone just uses their cell phone and takes care of their own administrative needs.
RZ: There are a lot of benefits for The Hive members. For one, the office is right downtown, so we’re within walking distance to a lot of restaurants and other businesses, which is convenient. And the collaborators are people we would work with anyway—now we just don’t have to drive somewhere else when we need to meet. Another benefit is having experts right at hand for answering questions. The community is extremely positive, supportive and energetic. It’s fun to be together.
What makes The Hive unique from other office-space arrangements in Northern Colorado?
RZ: One factor is that all the companies here provide some type of Web-related service, so even though we’re independent businesses, there’s a strong sense of unity. And a second factor is the belief we share in the importance of collaboration over competition. We’ve found there’s plenty of work out there for everyone, and collaborating vs. competing is much more productive and fun for all of us.
It’s been more than a month since The Hive’s open house and almost two months since you moved in. How are things going? Have there been any surprises?
LM: We’re extremely pleased with the support we’ve had so far for this venture. We’ve filled the space at this point, and we’ve also started a waiting list for interested businesses. One very pleasant surprise has been to find out how quiet the building is! The way the building is constructed, we find that even though it’s an open floor plan, each workspace is remarkably quiet—we don’t hear each other on the phone, for example.
RZ: The Hive is also a great space for social gatherings. Besides the open house we held in August, which was very well attended, we’re planning another community get-together on October 15, 2009, from 5–7 p.m. We invite everyone to stop by and see what we’re all about.
The capability to host social gatherings was something Laurie and I were excited about when we first saw the space. So much business today is about building community through networking, and face-to-face social gatherings play an important role in that effort. In addition to hosting events at The Hive, Laurie and I curate Ignite Fort Collins, and we’re very active in the Fort Collins Internet Pros [FCIP] Meetup group that Debbie Campbell [Red Kite Creative] started.
LM: We definitely encourage everyone who’s interested in any of these activities to get involved and check them out.
In your opinion, what long-term role will The Hive play in promoting and enabling new marketing tactics throughout Northern Colorado?
LM: Well, that’s hard to say at this point. When you get a group of creative people together, it’s hard to predict what synergies will come out. One idea leads to another and another, and who knows in the future what kind of sandbox we’ll be playing in? But this is the age of cooperation and collaboration, and there’s so much excitement and energy—it’s all around us. Fort Collins is such a great city for business—#2 in the Forbes list this year.
Before we conclude, please tell me a little bit about each of your companies.
LM: Blue Skies Marketing is an SEO [search engine optimization] company that specializes in keyword research, site planning and content creation. We collaborate with CodeGeek on Ignite, FCIP and our new Social Media Jockey venture.
RZ: CodeGeek.net is a full-service Web design and development company. We specialize in elegant design and standards-based coding, and what sets us apart is our team. For years, we’ve networked with professionals across the country, so when clients come in with special requirements, we can bring in exactly the right expert. As Laurie mentioned, CodeGeek and Blue Skies Marketing collaborate on numerous projects, and we share a number of clients.
Social Media Jockey sounds interesting. What’s that about?
LM: Social Media Jockey is a joint venture that Ron and I recently started. In essence, we “ride the social media horse” for our clients on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. We help clients construct their profiles, build their tribes and write posts. We’re excited to see where this type of service leads.
Do you have any final thoughts for readers?
LM: I’d just like to encourage people who have a wild idea to pursue it—say yes to your instincts! The reward is certainly worth the risk—there’s just so much to gain.
Contact The Hive
314 E. Mountain Avenue (downstairs)
Fort Collins, CO 80521
Mark your calendars for the next social gathering:
Thursday, October 15, 2009