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Jacksonville's Startup Economy: CoWork Jax

Kevin Meerschaert

The growing list of young entrepreneurs calling Jacksonville home is garnering national attention.  

This week, WJCT will look at the people and organizations driving Jacksonville’s Startup Economy. Today, Kevin Meerschaert pays a visit to CoWork Jax downtown.

Under the coworking concept, budding entrepreneurs get together under one roof to share ideas along with meeting and office space. It allows innovators to get away from the distractions that can be found at a home-based office.

The term “coworking” was first used about 15 years ago, and the trend has grown worldwide in recent years.

Cowork Jax was established two years ago in the Purdue building in downtown Jacksonville. 

Innovators use the space  to bounce ideas off each other and use the facilities to meet with clients and network. They are also able to link up with other coworking groups around the world.

Co-founder Elton Rivas said the biggest challenge was finding the ideal location. 

"There was very limited turn-key inventory for a very creative collaborative open brick wall high ceiling kind of space that was really ready to work with us," he said.

"We're really fortunate to be working with the folks from Petra Management. They had the right location for us believed in the concept, wanted to grow with us long term but I think location was the biggest challenge based on the nature of business we are in.”

More than 120 members use Cowork Jax’s facilities. Some are there every day, and others use the space to meet with clients.

The facility has everything the budding entrepreneur needs to run a business from a kitchen to high speed Wi-Fi and meeting rooms.

They also hold events on a regular basis that have the coworkers pitch their businesses to potential investors and clients. Memberships start at $25 a month, but for $249 a month members get a dedicated desk and can use the Cowork Jax location as their business address.

READ: CNN Money's recent article on Jacksonville's emerging startup scene

Chad Shultz is a certified public accountant who works out of the CoWork Jax offices. He said it’s preferable to working from home.

"I'm not stuck in a cubicle or a room with no employees, no one I can converse with," he said. "Here at CoWork Jax I get up and meet new people meet new businesses and even get referrals and get business here."

Chris Brodt is a software engineer who co-founded the company Eventhash, which helps event organizers to use social media and to track who is discussing their events online.

He said he likes the flexibility CoWork Jax provides.

"It's a good opportunity to meet people from lots of different industries that you normally wouldn't," he said. "Definitely a lot more engaging conversation then with my dog at home. So yeah I think it has been really good. I'd say maybe a couple times a week I'll have someone come up to me with 'hey I have this idea I know you do this, maybe you'd be interested in doing this.'"

Tracey Tousey is the executive director of the Do Something Great Today Foundation. 

The foundation uses technology to help link together potential philanthropists with the causes they would like to contribute to.

Tousey said since the foundation is fairly new, it made sense to move into the Cowork Jax space.  

"Our foundation has really only been under way for about a year," she said. "I'm our only full-time staff, so CoWork was a great place for us to be while we were getting started.”

“You have other folks around to bounce ideas off of, to meet folks, to make connections," she said.

Being in a downtown location is important for Cowork Jax members. Elton Rivas said that was by design.

"It's all about the density of those types of people so that's what was most important to us," he said.

"It's a natural place to have it in a walkable location because people want to come in, park, get to work be able to walk to whatever they need to do for lunch or go to a meeting, whatever, come back and then go home for the day and it's hard to do that in some other places in the city."

Rivas said the success of Cowork Jax stems from the creative forces of its members.

An added benefit is having many new and growing businesses in downtown Jacksonville which downtown activists say is vital for future success for the city.

WATCH: A look inside CoWork Jax from WJCT's Hometown

You can follow Kevin Meerschaert on Twitter @KMeerschaertJax.

CORRECTION: In a previous version of this story, Eventhash co-founder Chris Brodt's name was spelled incorrectly.