Business development groups are hoping a corner of the Stark County District Library’s main branch can become a hub of entrepreneurship.
A section of the second floor has been designated as a co-working space. The Stark Entrepreneurship Alliance, the library and a number of other community groups have partnered to set aside the space for aspiring entrepreneurs.
It’s a one-year pilot program with SEA leasing space from the library. Participants will pay $50 per month to use the space, which so far has a table, chairs, work stations and a computer.
Organizers see the co-working space as a spot where entrepreneurs can network, build relationships and brainstorm.
Participants also will be able to get business counseling from local executives who have volunteered to help. There already are 15 businesses and economic development organizations signed up to volunteer with counseling once a month. Another 10 businesses and groups are weighing possible involvement, said Stephen L. Paquette, Stark Development’s president and chief executive officer.
Entrepreneurship helped build Stark County, said Ronald Manse, executive in residence with the DeVille School of Business at Walsh University. If the region wants to remain vibrant and see future growth it needs to support new entrepreneurs, he said.
About a year ago Manse pitched the idea of a co-working space for entrepreneurs. “There needed to be a place where they could get together and share ideas,” he said.
The Stark Entrepreneurship Alliance, which is affiliated with the Stark Development Board, began reviewing the proposal with several organizations, including the library district. Already a partner with other community groups, the library wanted to build connections with local business.
The co-working space proposal “seemed like a great opportunity to combine forces,” said Josh Harris, communications director for the library.
Because the goal is to help entrepreneurs, anyone interested in the co-working space must apply through the SEA’s website, http://starkentalliance.com/co-working-space.
Applications are being accepted now and organizers hope to have participants using the space beginning March 1.
Officials with SDB and the Small Business Development Center at Kent State University Stark Campus will vet applications. That process will include a short interview with applicants.
“We want to find potential entrepreneurs who really want to grow their business and be in Stark County,” Paquette said. If the applicant doesn’t fit the co-working space model, the business organizations can guide them to other sources for assistance.
The co-working space fee exists to help participants realize they’ve stepped past thinking about a business and actually started one.