GOSHEN Walking into the Launchpad above the Goshen Chamber of Commerce, you can feel it is not your typical office environment.
There are no cubicles and no ordered desks. There’s not a wall in sight.
In fact, there’s really nothing impeding movement or vision throughout the room. And the many windows throughout the space provide plenty of natural lighting.
Yet these details simply accentuate the type of working atmosphere Chamber officials and current Launchpad members are working to cultivate within the Launchpad.
The Chamber’s small business incubator opened early this past summer for clients in need of workspace while trying to get their businesses off the ground.
Though the model has shifted slightly, the Launchpad is providing space for local entrepreneurs to grow their companies and work to support one another in the process.
Filling the Launchpad was slow-going at first. But the Chamber’s collaboration with Gina Leichty and Grace Bonewitz of Eyedart Creative Studio has recently put the space on the fast track to filling up.
Originally, the Chamber was looking to fill the space with start-up businesses that would use the space to get their companies off the ground.
“There are a number of places like this,” Leichty said, citing other incubators in Indianapolis and West Lafayette. “But it’s uncommon for a city the size of Goshen to be this progressive with styles of work environments,” she said.
After only a few members signed up after the Launchpad first opened, Leichty and Bonewitz began informal discussions with Chamber officials about how to best identify possible members.
Those discussions led to opening the space up to what Chamber President David Daugherty refers to as “microbusinesses.”
He defined the term as already-established individuals who run their own business from home who might want, or need, a separate space for work.
“It could be writing, it could be really selling just about anything you can imagine,” Daugherty said. “But it’s the idea that you’re working at home or out of your house and you really need a place to get away from the noise and get work done.”
Through networking with some contacts, Leichty and Bonewitz have been able to attract quite a few more members to the Launchpad.
The Chamber initially envisioned being able to accommodate 20 clients in the space, and currently have about 11 different member businesses utilizing the Launchpad, with a few more applications likely on the way.
“We’re not at 20 clients yet, but we’re building pretty quick thanks to the help of Gina and Grace,” Daugherty said.
Currently, the space is home to eight microbusinesses, two small business clients and one Goshen College student.
The work done by members varies from magazine publishing, freelance writing and marketing to information technology for banks and furniture design.
“It’s a wide variety,” Daugherty said.
The team of Bonewitz and Leichty didn’t help only attract new members. They also helped provide some life to a layout that was seemingly lacking it.
With the shifting of some furniture and addition of the paintings and plants, the Launchpad became much more welcoming to potential members.
The collaboration between Eyedart and the Chamber is simply one part of the larger approach to business that permeates the Launchpad.
“The whole workplace environment is really shifting for a lot of small businesses,” Leichty said.
“The idea that you would go and rent a small office somewhere is not something that people in our demographic are really looking for.”
When considering members’ applications, the Launchpad’s advisory board, of which Leichty is a part, looked for individuals that would be willing to work with and help support one another.
“That’s something we’re being very intentional about is trying to promote each other’s businesses,” Leichty said.
“So anybody that does come in, you sort of have in mind the idea that you’re willing to collaborate with others and help others succeed.”
Even the layout is not akin to a traditional office setup.
Tables, both for sitting and standing at are scattered throughout the room. A plant sits atop each of the desks to help spur creativity and production. The walls are covered with original paintings.
Interaction between members is made a top priority.
Bonewitz provides a word-of-the-day on a whiteboard near the front of the room. Members have held contests to help foster the small community. December’s contest was exercise-related. This month, members are taking part in a water-drinking contest.
Cupboards, a small refrigerator and a coffee machine are available, and snacks and drinks are shared among members with only one rule: Bring more than you take.
And each member of the Launchpad is expected to help support and work with other members.
Group and one-on-one discussions are a common occurrence when one member wants some fresh ideas.
A business looking for someone to write something up might enlist the help of one of the freelance writers.
“We’re working at creating the environment where we work together as a team,” Bonewitz said.
“Even though all these people have different businesses they’re working on, we want it to be a fun environment where you can bounce ideas of off one another and brainstorm.”
“The idea is rather than being competitive, it’s very collaborative,” Leichty said.
The atmosphere in the Launchpad is something that could be gaining steam among younger small business entrepreneurs, Leichty said.
She believes what’s happening on South Main Street is just an example of how small companies will conduct their business in the future.
“Collective work environments are much more acceptable and desired,” she said.
“To recruit the kind of talent that Goshen wants to have and Goshen wants to grow, a place like this is really just a key component to making that successful.”