(Original feature in The Manhattan Magazine.)
The space of a car was all the room Josh Hicks needed to conceptualize his big idea.
During a drive home to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens with his wife, Shelby Hicks, her brother and his wife, Josh learned that his vision to create a shared space for small businesses was not a new concept. His brother-in-law was already a member of a coworking space in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
"It was like the sun came out for the first time in six months," Josh says, realizing that he and Shelby didn't have to "create this whole animal."
The couple and their team received keys to the building to began renovations about 12 weeks after Josh’s epiphany. They drove to Sioux Falls that same day to participate in a 12 hour think tank workshop with other owners of coworking spaces.
Josh, Shelby, co-founders Derek Richards and Caleb Amundson, and co-owner Allyn Weddle, enlisted a crew of volunteers to stage an eight week renovation of The Fellow’s building at 1125 Westport Drive to make it “modern, clean, and open.”
Concurrently, they pre-sold memberships and prepared for a launch part in April 2016 to beat the exodus that occurs during the summer vacation season. Fast forward. Today, The Fellow’s six sold out private offices have a waiting list, and its 3,000 square feet of coworking space are shared by half of the up to 60 members-small business owners who are 21 and older-who can use it as an office away from home, particularly when no office exists. It’s a small membership fee to use the space, or interested parties can purchase day passes to try it out. The first day is free.
The Fellow has served more than a shared working environment, however. Art shows, live music, non-profit events, and even church services are held in the building’s gathering spaces, which include a consultation nook, conference room, and a cafe- each furnished with technology. Josh and Shelby’s personal experience as small business owners served as their inspiration for opening The Fellow. “My wife and I are also photographers, so we were working from home and coffee shops,” Josh says. “We finally hit that rut of working from home.”
The lack of a true work environment and the distraction of everyday duties began to cripple the couple’s morale. They created their new business venture to avert such a struggle for small business owners like themselves. “The Fellow is for anyone who works from home, coffee shops, or remotely,” Josh says. “It is a space, but it has members.. It’s its own community.”