Co+Hoots: Growing the “Culture of Experts”

After starting her own business and working out of her own home,  Jenny Poon began getting frustrated with the lack of communication from the outside world. She wanted desperately to collaborate with other business owners to see what they were doing to overcome challenges and deal with the growing pains of owning a start-up. In 2010, Co+Hoots was developed as a place where entrepreneurs could join forces and bounce ideas off each other and help one another grow. 

On an average day, Co+Hoots hosts about 60 independents or entrepreneurs, creating a diverse group of talented people all working to grow their own businesses. We were able to talk with Jenny about Co+Hoots, collaborative work environments, and the growth of experts within the Phoenix business community. 


Co+Hoots

Words By Nerds: What is Co+Hoots?

Jenny Poon: Co+Hoots is a collaborative work space, a shared work space full of entrepreneurs. On an average day we have about 60 independents, or entrepreneurs, walking in and out of our doors. It’s a bustling work place, full of independent workers, entrepreneurs, small businesses, start-up companies. We have a wide range of businesses, and that’s kind of the draw to this concept of coworking: you can be around this diverse group of talented people.

WBN: Why do you think collaboration is such an important part of starting your business?

JP: There’s a level of competition—but not the bad competition—but the competition that makes you want to achieve better things, I want to learn from other people. I see other people doing amazing things and being really efficient and effective in how they run their small business. I want to learn that! I want to be thrown in a room with people who are at different skills levels—all kind of running in the same direction, all trying to go forward with their businesses, all trying to take that next step—you learn different skill sets, you learn different tools to make your process easier. I rely on seeing what others have done and learning from others to be able to then take that back to my own experiences.

It’s not so much to strive for the giant pocketbook, but to actually be happy.

I feel like that’s the spirit of Arizona, we’re always the last to make our new policies; coworking has been around for over ten years but it’s only hitting Phoenix now…  But the best thing about that is… as it’s happening all across the nation, all across the world, we have a lot of studies on it. We have examples of successful businesses, successful coworking stations, and we have examples of failed businesses and failed coworking stations. We can take all of that information and bring it back, I think that’s really great for Arizona.

WBN: Having observed growing start-ups over the past few years, what challenges have you noticed businesses having as they begin to grow?

JP: You’ll see that there are different phases in small business; we call them your ‘early starts.’  We have individuals who are one-person shops, and then we have people who are still one-person shops but are trying to be proactive and grow their team, and you see them grow into two-, three- and  four-person teams. The problems for an independent worker compared to someone on a team are different. What we’re seeing is that when these teams grow beyond our space, they’re having to deal with other problems; like how do you deal with benefits? How do you deal with insurance?

The problem that we’re solving in our current space is the problem of this middle-tier — businesses that are one- to two-person shops that don’t have office spaces that are small enough, and affordable enough to accommodate this stage of small business. The idea is that being in the same room in CO+HOOTS, collaborating with other people who are dealing with the same problem, is the biggest benefit.

Co+Hoots

On the business level, we’re trying to promote this culture of experts. No longer do we need to be this jack-of-all-trades, you know? For a while there, in the downturn of the economy, people were asked to wear so many

Imagine if there’s a space that’s full of people who have all these superpowers and they’re totally focused at doing what they’re good at, and helping people who aren’t. So just being in this space I connect with people many different skills—the gal who’s doing my bookkeeping I actually met in this space. I sit right next to her. I’m building my team without running the risk of team-building, the risk of employment.different hats. I used to work for a magazine and they started me doing art directing, and then I went into designing, and then I was doing production, and then they asked me to help write some things. Now what I’m actually good at has been diminished. When really if I could [work] full-time with my superpower I would be amazing.

WBN: What’s your favorite part about being in the middle of a growing Phoenix business landscape?

JP: My favorite thing—gosh, I have so many—I love that there’s a thriving culture around here. Just the nature of our policies and the way that our state has been built. We have this underdog culture and I love that fight in the people I see around me. I see more and more people coming out of the woodwork who fight for what they believe in. It doesn’t even have to be entrepreneurial, I see people fight for more bike paths. This idea of being really proud of your community. There’s a lot of pride here, and I’m super excited to be a part of that. I admire people who continually fight.

Then this idea of the Light Rail, connecting these different communities– it’s not like NY, Hong Kong, or Europe, of course, but we’re stepping away from actual vehicles and suburbs, the critical mass concept. Three years ago, our space was only ten people. And now we’re growing really quickly. You’re seeing more trust in our market. You’re seeing people get more work. It’s picking up, and we happen to be a part of it at the right time. Now I can actually see the future. Four or five years ago it was hard to picture what it could be.

Collaborative work spaces phoenix az

It’s very important to the people that live downtown and who work downtown, really promoting our culture, promoting the local economy and the businesses that run them. We fight for that at Co+Hoots. This idea that you can, as a small business, create a living for yourself. For the longest time you thought you’d have to work for somebody to be successful. You could never really build it yourself. But you see small teams grow at Co+Hoots. .

I think we’re shifting, in terms of culture, away from this idea of money. Yes, you need to have some sort of revenue system to survive in this world. Your income level and your happy level grows steadily from 20k to 30k… But when you hit 50 thousand, you are at your peak happiness level. As your income goes up, your happy level plateaus—maybe because of the responsibilities. If your money gets too high, your happiness actually begins to drop, sort of like a bell curve. It’s not so much to strive for the giant pocketbook, but to actually be happy.