WCCC 2011 Startup of the Year nominee form


Published on

This is the nominee form I submitted to the Wakulla County Chamber of Commerce for the 2011 Startup Of The Year category.

Published in: Business
  • Be the first to comment

  • Be the first to like this

No Downloads
Total views
On SlideShare
From Embeds
Number of Embeds
Embeds 0
No embeds

No notes for slide

WCCC 2011 Startup of the Year nominee form

  1. 1. Wakulla County Chamber of Commerce 2011 Business Excellence Award Presented by: Nominee ApplicationI. You have been nominated to compete as the 2011 Wakulla County Start - Up Business of theYear:Official name of your business: The Works Coworking CafeName and title of the person submitting this information: Chuck Robinson, OwnerMailing address: 27F Azalea Dr, Crawfordville, FL, 32327Phone: 850-253-7253 Fax: Email Address:chuck@theworkscafe.comNumber of employees in your business: Full-time Part-time3Description of the products and/or services your business provides:The Works serves gourmet coffees, teas and espresso-based drinks such as lattes and cappuccinos. Wealso have baked goods catered by Sopchoppy’s very own Scratch Cakes. But The Works isn’t your usualcafé. We are also a coworking space. We provide eight shared offices (we call them Think Pods) and aconference room along with free high speed wifi internet access and print, copy and fax services in orderto create a productive environment for the independent entrepreneur and small businessperson who islooking for an alternative to the home office or a traditional leased office.Names and titles of the individuals who own or bear principal responsibilities for operating yourbusiness: Chuck Robinson, OwnerReturn completed application to Wakulla County Chamber of Commerce, Attn: Awards Committee,Post Office Box 598, Crawfordville, FL 32326, or by fax 926-2050, or by e-mailwakullacochamber@embarqmail.com. Deadline for applications is Friday, APRIL 15, 2011.II. Award Criteria: The following criteria will be used to select the winner. Please provide information and examples of how you believe your business best demonstrates excellence for each criterion. 1
  2. 2. Wakulla County Chamber of Commerce 2011 Business Excellence Award1. Growth, Stability and Staying Power: Explain the history and evolution of your business.The notion of a café combined with a coworking space came to me several years ago literally while I wasat Panera Bread in Tallahassee reading a news story on the emerging trend of coworking spaces. As aweb designer and marketer, I often spent many hours in cafés sitting in front of a laptop working onprojects and noticed that I wasn’t the only soul doing the same thing. No matter how many otherindividuals were working around me, however, it was a very isolating experience. After moving toCrawfordville, I tried the full time home office solution, even going so far as to converting a largeoutdoor wooden shed into a comfortable workspace. But what started out being a peaceful environmentsoon became ground zero for distractions and interruptions. Productivity slipped. And that isolation Ifelt in cafés before was still there. I’d try to take lunch breaks at many of the restaurants inCrawfordville only to be disappointed that most did not have wifi. I constantly thought to myself “ifthere was only a place where I could get a nice bite to eat, a decent coffee, and wifi in Wakulla”. Then, inthe midst of the “Great Recession”, I lost my largest client. “The Works had to exist.” That was my thinking and I didn’t want to wait around for it to cometo fruition. After attending the Crawfordville Downtown Plan workshops and listening time and timeagain to the citizens mentioning their desires for cafés I knew there was a demand for a gourmet coffeeshop in our area. But was there a demand for a coworking space? These places are usually found in muchlarger, high tech cities like Boston, New York, and San Francisco. I firmly believe, with all my heart, that Wakulla is more than a bedroom community toTallahassee and that we have the potential to step out of the shadow of the capital in the coming years.Once we emerge from the current economic situation we will have learned important lessons that willprotect us from future downturns, the most important lesson being that we must end our codependenceon our larger neighbor to the north by developing a self-sustaining business environment at home. Wefeel The Works can play a large role in realizing that goal. 2
  3. 3. Wakulla County Chamber of Commerce 2011 Business Excellence Award Ask yourself this question: Is it better for our community to lure one company that creates 200jobs or to create 200 companies with one employee? If you answered the latter then you can begin to understand the importance of a coworking spacein Wakulla. Ideally, a coworking space working at capacity is comprised of a solid mix of existing andstartup businesses in an environment that emphasizes the five tenets of coworking: collaboration,community, sustainability, openness, and accessibility. Startups are really important to the growth of acoworking space with the goal, of course, being the spinoff of a larger company, with more employees,and a larger facility. But startups also need the most nurturing and that’s where existing businesses in acoworking space can help mentor, direct, and inspire their officemates. These shared, symbioticpartnerships are the underlying catalysts for growth towards the self-sustaining economy we ultimatelydesire in Wakulla. Since The Works has opened we have had several members take advantage of the coworkingspaces, mostly accountants due to the tax season. But we have had many interested parties that arelooking for home office or traditionally leased office alternatives. We know a lot of people “get it”. Wecan see the twinkle in their eye, the “aha!” moment, when they understand the advantages of coworkingsuch as the lower overhead, the networking, and the productivity boost. Finding new members will taketime and we understand that. There are many variables involved including the current economicconditions and even just the awareness of The Works. We are working very hard on new memberacquisition as well as building a new and returning customer base of coffee lovers who are relieved that(finally!) there’s a gourmet shop in town.2. Community Involvement: Explain and/or provide examples of how your business contributes to your community.If you read The Works’ “About Us” page (http://www.theworkscafe.com/about-us/), a page that hasnot changed since conception, you will see in simple, plain English how Wakulla and the community areour top priority. We constantly refer people to that page not for the sole purpose of providing themmore information but primarily for our benefit. The page’s objective is to remind us here at The Works 3
  4. 4. Wakulla County Chamber of Commerce 2011 Business Excellence Awardwhy we exist and who we serve. I cannot begin to tell you how vital and meaningful that page hasbecome to us. To that end, The Works has committed to becoming a resource in the community. One of ourgreatest assets to share is our conference room. Already we have had several groups, large and small,such as the non-profit organization NAMI, the League of Women Voters, to cub scout den mothermeetings and student study groups from Wakulla High School take advantage of the space. We havealso hosted several webinars from leaders in their fields to discuss critical social and business issues.Furthermore, when local groups have come to us with their own civic and social campaigns asking forassistance, we have tried our best to not only accommodate them but to also go the extra mile bygarnering support for their causes through our strong presence on social networking sites such asFacebook. If it’s a good cause, we’re not only proud to support it…we evangelize it. Finally, in lieu of tips we simply direct our customers to one of our many collection boxes nearour register and we put some funds in ourselves. Whether it’s a micro-lending cause like CoffeeKids.orgor a local Relay For Life team, we are humbled by the generosity of our community. Ever since weopened, no employee has complained in the slightest about not receiving tips. I am so proud of myemployees never thinking twice about that small sacrifice. We’ve already sent our first donation off andnow everyone at The Works, and our fans too, are excited about the next donation. It’s the little thingsthat make Wakulla greater. This is one of them.3. Innovation and Imagination: Explain and/or provide examples of excellence in product enhancements, service or service after the sale that make your business stand out in the market place.“It’s like a Starbucks, but with offices.” – A customer overheard at The Works. As mentioned before, The Works is not your typical café. By combining a traditional coffeehouse with coworking spaces we have created a unique environment where many walks of life will findthemselves pursuing work or pleasure. 4
  5. 5. Wakulla County Chamber of Commerce 2011 Business Excellence Award We didn’t want to create your typical café ambience and atmosphere either. The light brown ondark brown color combination that alludes to coffee has been overdone by so many coffee houses that ithas become a cliché to be expected. We wanted a look that was unexpected for Wakulla: a metropolitan,yet comfortable design that surprises new customers, forcing their innate double-take. Yes, Dorothy,you’re still in Crawfordville. We knew we wanted a staff that was focused on servicing customers, not serving coffee. Baristasare pretty common but computer-savvy marketers are not. When we hired our staff we made sure thateach person contributed a highly developed skill that would assist our members. A graphic artist, amarketer, and a Microsoft Office specialist, we think, fit that bill. To make their lives easier, we decided to invest in espresso machines that were smarter than us.The typical espresso machine has a difficult learning curve and is hard to maintain. The machines wechose run on specially-engineered pod systems that extract the perfect brew each time and with utmostconsistency. That consistency is critical to serving espresso-based drinks as you cannot serve a highquality product with too much water one pull and too little the next. Finally, we wanted our customers to have what we call a “highly customized coffee experience”.As such, we went with another new technology that has really caught on now with consumers: theKeurig K-Cup system. With this pod system we can now offer our customers over 70 coffee and teachoices. When you take into fact that we can also add high quality flavored syrups and sauces, our coffeecombinations increase exponentially. For those customers who are overwhelmed by the choices, we also offer our popular breakfast-blend style House Roast. And, as it so happens, the blend comes from a new roaster that we’re excitedabout because they happen to be a local roaster! Lucky Goat Coffee of Tallahassee began brewing a littleover six months ago and we are a proud to be one of the first retailers in the area to be brewing andserving locally roasted coffee.4. Economic Development: List organizations that you have been involved in and how your involvement has contributed to the economic health of our community. 5
  6. 6. Wakulla County Chamber of Commerce 2011 Business Excellence AwardThe Works is heavily vested in the Wakulla County Chamber of Commerce. When I joined severalyears ago with my other company, Brick Launcher LLC, I was looking for ways to meet new people.That didn’t seem like much. I then realized that I could only get out what I put in. That’s when Ibecame actively engaged with the Chamber. It wasn’t just about the mixers and events, it was aboutunderstanding business as a whole in Wakulla. Incoming President John Shuff asked me to join the Government and Commerce Committee forthe Chamber and I’m thankful I did. We were immediately presented with several challenges thatimpacted businesses in Wakulla County that had to be addressed before the County Commission.Working as well-orchestrated team, the committee put together solid recommendations based on carefulreview and discussion to be presented by the Chamber before the Commissioners. The results were asuccess. It’s something we were quite proud of and, I think, has laid the groundwork for collaboratingwith the County in the future.5. The Future: Explain your vision for your business in the next few years.Roughly 30% of all new businesses fail within the first 2 years. About 50% survive for 5 years. TheWorks, and its accompanying business model, is a new concept that few have tested especially in a ruralsetting. To say we will beat the odds smacks of hubris. But we’re aiming for that 50% graduating class.What’s more, we want our coworking members to be in that 50% success class, too. To meet these goals we will educate our community on the benefits of coworking and encourageactive participation in the environment it creates. In our first year, aside from building brand awarenessabout the café and its delicious fineries, we will reach out to new and existing businesses throughpartnerships, networking events, and what we call “Open Office” hours when the coworking spaces areavailable to use for free. As a benefit to the community and a chance for us to meet new and excitingcivic leaders we will also allow for the use of our conference room to their respective non-profits andassociations to meet. The end result for all these actions should be a powerful word-of-mouthadvertising campaign that pays dividends in the years to come. 6
  7. 7. Wakulla County Chamber of Commerce 2011 Business Excellence Award Once established, The Works will continue to challenge conventional business wisdom that oftenstagnates growth not only in each small business but in the area it calls home. Continuing torevolutionize the office space by growing the number of units available will only be a start. Extendingour members’ brands beyond Wakulla will also be fundamental to our mission. Increasing the number ofpartnerships between businesses through a centralized networking schema means a solid foundation forthe future. Given the above, in three years to five we should begin to see our members’ fledgling businesseslooking for new rounds of funding and this is really where The Works would like to kick in full speed tobuilding Wakulla. We would like to situate ourselves as a connector between our members andinvestors who also serve as mentors. Given the space we provide and our other services, some might saywe would like to become an incubator. Yes and no. Larger rounds of “seed money” or “angel funding”are geared for companies who are ready for that step into an incubator. We would like to be that nichesegment between idea and incubator. The Works: a “bootstrap enabler”, if you will. The funding we’retalking about is “micro” and will become more relevant in the near future as only now investors areslowly and cautiously returning to the markets. Microfunding local startups, especially in rural areas,may prove to be a much more nuanced means of earning ROI while creating a social good for thecounty. After speaking with a number of entrepreneurs in our community, we feel that we’re not too“revolutionary” when it comes to meeting this goal as well as those previously mentioned and those tocome.6. Human Resources: Explain and/or provide examples of excellence in the areas of establishing positive employee morale, employee involvement in business operations/decision making and human resource development.Collaboration and openness are two of the tenets of coworking that we have instilled at The Works.They play a role in our day-to-day operations and will do so forever. Why? Gone are the days of top-down management styles and hierarchies. Today we have leaders, not bosses. Our employees have access to online collaboration tools where they all have an equal ability tocreate, execute and manage any project at The Works that they so desire. Discussion of the projects ishighly encouraged and eventually is used for approval processes. If our team sees a fit course of action, 7
  8. 8. Wakulla County Chamber of Commerce 2011 Business Excellence Awardwe follow it. There is complete visibility at every stage of the project, too. Financing the projectsincluded. All of our company meetings are recorded and shared on our website. We have found thatinstead of inhibiting employees from expressing their opinion that it actually encourages them to do so.Our employees want to share our openness as much as management. This, along with our teamcollaboration, builds employee loyalty and commitment, two ideals that come naturally in thisenvironment. Finally, there’s “Team Clean”. Team Clean is a simple solution to a common problem: during anemployee shift-change there are inevitably certain operations tasks that must have or will be completed.In order to avoid any confusion or frustration, we simply have our employees 1) ask “before I leave isthere anything else I can do” and/or 2) ask “before you leave, can you…”. We encourage the employeesto use the latter tactic, as it is sometimes the harder (therefore, right) thing to do and that it builds ateam environment where, for example, asking for support on their project in the future will be required.7. Disclaimer: Those businesses applying must be free from any government action involving marketplace activities, maintain a satisfactory record with both the government and reporting agencies, and not be in arrears financially to other businesses.N/ASignature of Nominee: Chuck Robinson Title: OwnerDate: 4/14/2011 By signing, I certify that all of the information on and attached to this application is true, correct, complete and made in good faith. 8