Tag Archives: co-working

Sugar & Olives & Co-Working

One side of Sugar & Olives — Jennifer Balin’s fun, funky space just over the Norwalk line, across from Bowtie Royale 6 — is a restaurant. The other side is an event space, for receptions, celebrations, and bar and bat mitzvahs.

People don’t celebrate on weekday mornings or afternoons. They work then.

Of course, they work differently than they used to. They work at home — surrounded by kids, dogs, house cleaners and leaf blowers. Or they work at Starbucks — surrounded by conversations, constant movement, and baristas calling out wrong names.

Now there’s another option.

Balin — a longtime Westporter who raised 4 kids while also running Sugar & Olives — has turned her event area into a co-working space.

With big tables, high-speed internet, lots of fast table-top charging stations and floor outlets, a laser printer, desk lamps, a tall standing desk, free coffee and tea — plus discounts at the restaurant  — it offers the kind of quiet yet creative atmosphere you can’t get at home.

Or Starbucks.

The co-working space at Sugar & Olives.

Westport author Jane Green is a strong advocate. She encouraged Balin to post the idea on Facebook. Dozens of residents responded.

They’re writers, financial folks, marketers, non-profit workers and more. They pay $300 for a monthly pass, or $200 for a 10-pack. (Special plans are available for Westport Arts Center and Westport Historical Society members. And, Balin says, some companies pick up the co-working tab for employees. She’s got an invoice you can use for reimbursement.)

The vibe, Balin says, is “relaxing, inspirational and chill.” Phone calls are fine — just go to the restaurant side. (That’s called the “conference room,” for meetings and Skyping.)

The co-working space is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. — though Balin can be flexible.

Oh, yeah: There’s a free social networking breakfasting every Wednesday.

Beat that, Starbucks!

(For more information on Sugar & Olives’ co-working program, click here.)

Saugatuck: A Hub For Innovation

Howard Steinberg is a serial entrepreneur.

He started Source Marketing here in 1989. He sold his majority stake 9 years later, then created dLife — a multimedia diabetes education platform.

He rented office space all over town and near the train station. But after stepping down from dLife a year and a half ago to tackle new projects, his work environment changed.

He saw people at coffee and lunches. Yet his home office felt isolating and uninspiring.

Howard Steinberg, at 20 Ketchum Street.

Howard Steinberg, at 20 Ketchum Street.

Westport is filled with solo entrepreneurs and tiny companies operating out of basements and spare bedrooms. When Howard saw MadisonMott — the cutting-edge branding, advertising, digital and social media agency in Saugatuck — and realized there was 5,000 square feet of vacant space next door, his newest venture was born.

Westport Innovation Hub opens officially on September 1, but members begin working there this week.

Or — to be more precise — they “co-work” there.

The Hub is a place where creative people — entrepreneurs, investors and early stage businesses — can work on their own projects. But at the same time they support each other and share ideas. They may share capital too. 

“Ideas will percolate. Things will emerge organically,” Howard says.

The organic percolation takes place in a wide-open, inviting workspace. Westporter David Murray designed yin-and-yang-shaped desks. They’re a far cry from the right-angles seen in offices for the last century — and they’ll go a long way to promote collaboration.

So will the kitchen/coffee bar, with its funky countertop.

Westport Innovation HubThe Hub also features a videoconference room, plus another conference area with a bluestone slab from Gault as its tabletop. (Sam Gault owns the space, and has been a very supportive landlord.)

Monthly fees range from $600 to $1,500, depending on the type of workstation. High-speed internet, cable, printers, copiers, conference rooms — and of course coffee — are included.

Those rates are competitive with area office suites, Howard says. But the work environment is much friendlier than separate rooms with walls and doors.

Howard says about half the people who have signed up so far had been working out of their homes.

He was one of them.

The other day though, he said “the 5 sweetest words in the world” to his wife: “I’m going to the office.”

The Hub's desks invite collaboration. They're more inviting now than this photo shows; chairs have arrived since then.

The Hub’s desks invite collaboration. They’re more inviting now than this photo shows; chairs have arrived.

(For more information on the Westport Innovation Hub, click here.)