Since the inception of the first coworking location in San Francisco in 2005, a new model of work has swept the country, emphasizing the importance of both structure and freedom in the workplace. WORKflow Peoria embodies this ideal, right down to the name itself.
Meet some of the members of WORKflow, central Illinois’ own coworking chapter.
GAINLIGHT STUDIOS. Comprised of business-savvy Matt Lakics and creative eye Derek Oddo, Gainlight’s services center around marketing in print and web design to offer clients a brand that stands out from the rest.
- WORKflow Connection: Lakics and Oddo know Searby as a professor, boss, mentor and now, fellow coworker. After opening Gainlight upon graduating from Bradley, they aired their working-from-home grievances to Searby, who provided an answer. “[He] laid out this sketch on a napkin at One World about how the space would be laid out, how people would interact and the basic [coworking] model,” recalls Oddo. At that point, Gainlight became WORKflow’s first charter member.
- Benefits: “On the first day we moved in, we landed our biggest client to date,” Lakics says of their debut as resident coworkers. That was just the beginning of the growth Gainlight continues to experience. “We are on pace to double what we made last year,” states Oddo. Beyond the bottom line, the Gainlight guys are inspired by the professionalism, affordability, camaraderie and creativity packaged together within the warehouse. “I come in and get instantly inspired to do great work around here,” attests Oddo. “There are a lot of creative people. You don’t get that working from home.”
- Future Plans: Content to stay at WORKflow for now, the Gainlight guys hint that they do hope to eventually outgrow the space. “That will be a good day when it comes…and a scary day and a sad day all wrapped up into one,” Oddo reveals. “And I think that’s John’s vision: to nurture small business to the point where they can grow and prosper on their own.” Lakics adds, “[Outgrowing the space] will be a testament to what this place has done for us, and hopefully what it can do for anyone who comes after us.”
THOMAS SCHUMER GROUP. A number of services fall under the TSG umbrella. On the videography side is Cooper Leigh Productions, owned by Heather Holloway, while Penny Riddle works on the administrative and project management aspects of the team.
- WORKflow Connection: Holloway and Riddle’s coworking experience began in Bloomington, Illinois, at a space known as the Launch Pad. Riddle became its general manager, giving it the “launch” it needed to become successful. Holloway relished the idea of coworking, but was not so keen on commuting from her Peoria home to Bloomington every day. After they met Searby, the Thomas Schumer Group decided to take up space at WORKflow.
- Life in the Warehouse District: “I like the juxtaposition between the old and the new,” says Holloway. “It’s like a new start with an old background, an old foundation with a new facelift.” Commenting on the open, free-flowing environment at WORKflow, Holloway suggests that the Warehouse District is the place to be.
OAK POINT TECHNOLOGIES. Matt Allen, president, and his brother Jason Allen, lead installer, specialize in creating and installing customized audio/video systems.
- WORKflow Connection: After Searby saw an ad for the company, he solicited Allen’s installation skills at WORKflow’s Adams Street location. While going about his work, Allen took note of the building’s loading dock and massive amount of storage space, and the gears in his head began turning. Before long, Oak Point was a WORKflow member.
- Use of WORKflow: “As a business, the biggest struggle was where to accept large freight and oversized bulk items…The loading dock caught my eye right off the bat,” Allen laughs. Before joining WORKflow, Allen had employed a variety of methods for accepting large televisions, speakers and the like, and each proved financially draining. “Our primary purpose as WORKflow members is the storage—having a safe, secure spot.”
- Future Plans: Having staked his claim to a portion of the space currently under renovation, Allen hopes to turn the additional square footage into a showroom. “What the future holds—what I can foresee—is that we are going to double our space down there. By having a showroom, I intend to add at least one more employee to help with the sales aspect.”
GRAPHICAL FORCE. With a roster of talents in web design, mobile technologies and more, Jeff Freeman is well suited to navigate the ever-changing realm of information technology.
- WORKflow Connection: Responding to an ad placed by Gainlight, Freeman began working with Lakics and Oddo on a project basis. “We all had like-minded goals,” he recalls. “And then [they] started telling me about John Searby and what was going on here.” Living in Iowa at the time, Freeman was forced to straddle the line between commuting and working from home. After deciding to move back to Peoria, Freeman knew that WORKflow would be a great resource for him.
- Looking Back: As one of the first members, Freeman has seen WORKflow through thick and thin. “I have seen the ebb and flow of things,” he laughs. Freeman recounts his initial hesitation to leave the Conductor’s Quarters for the Adams Street location. “I was kind of on the fence…because I was trying to justify costs. I knew I could stay where I was, but I was concerned, ultimately, about not being around other people. I think I have worked with practically everyone over here at some point.”
- Wrapping up the Warehouse District: A reformed skeptic about the Adams Street location, Freeman now embraces the ambiance of the Warehouse District. “There’s a lot…that can happen in this area, I think. It isn’t going to happen overnight, but this is kind of how [it] starts. People have to see potential—they have to see that others are doing it,” he reflects. “I hope to see good things happen down here.”
BLUE HORIZON TAX CONSULTING. Kenton Bowles has worked in the public accounting and tax arena for over 16 years. Upon the completion of WORKflow’s new renovations, he plans to add his numbers know-how to the coworking community.
- WORKflow Connection: Upon joining the Peoria Area Chamber of Commerce, Bowles expressed his desire for low-rent office space. The Chamber’s Kylie Rupe set up a meeting with Searby to discuss available opportunities at WORKflow. Bowles was interested in setting up camp there, but the timing was not opportune, falling right in the middle of tax season. For now, he bides his time, waiting for the renovations to be completed before moving in. Meanwhile, he enjoys increasing his bond with the WORKflow community.
- Long-Term Potential: Bowles states that one of his larger interests in WORKflow lies in the future. He explains that Searby has expressed long-term goals of expanding into other cities in Illinois. With his extensive travel itinerary, Bowles would benefit from a network of coworking stations throughout the state. While the fruition of this idea is a ways off, Bowles can’t help but see the potential on the horizon.
TJ DUB WEB DESIGN. From search engine optimization to Drupal and everything in between, Tim Wasson creates eye-catching websites for his clients.
- WORKflow Connection: One day, Wasson searched the Internet for “coworking in Peoria” and stumbled upon WORKflow’s Twitter feed. From there, he attended one of Searby’s presentations. Eager to leave his basement and separate his work from his home life, Wasson signed up for coworking.
- Advice for Future Coworkers: “Go around before you join…and talk to the people who are there,” Wasson advises. “Make sure it’s the right place for you. For some people, it is—for some, it’s perfect.”
JONATHAN LA PHILLIPS, Attorney at Law. Intellectual property attorney Jonathan LA Phillips is the go-to source for members who need advice on protecting their creations.
- WORKflow Connection: While waiting for the results of his bar exam, Phillips began searching Peoria for shared office space. Through a fortuitous string of events, he contacted a friend who knew Lakics and Oddo from Gainlight, and Phillips was on the trail of WORKflow. His curiosity ignited, Phillips called Searby, visited the Conductor’s Quarters and moved in last December.
- Use of WORKflow: For Phillips, the companionship at WORKflow is the most valuable aspect. “Having someone to drink with after work—someone to hang out with while still running my own business,” he affirms, “that’s basically what I get out of it.” He adds with a grin, “You aren’t sitting in your own home driving yourself nuts.”
- Collaboration at Work: As the sole resident attorney, Phillips is always on call for legal advice. He explains that he has written cease-and-desists for Gainlight, contracts and business negotiations for Wasson, and a range of intellectual property work for other members. In return, Freeman designed his enviable website, which often inspires envy in his fellow attorneys.