A lack of creative spaces can stifle innovation for entrepreneurs in the same way a lack of practice space affects performers. Utilizing hubs and shared spaces to build collaborative work environments can act as a key enabler for social entrepreneurs in the incubation stage.

“It wasn’t like the startup scene formed and then we entered and saw the opportunity. We simply knew this was the direction the world was headed and that there would be a new place for people to gather, to meet and to socialize,”

— Kyle Coolbroth, co-founder of COCO

The Issue:

With traditional hubs of innovation like San Francisco and New York increasingly unaffordable for many start-ups, entrepreneurs are turning to up-and-coming cities such as Minneapolis as a launching pad for their businesses. However, a lack of resources to convene and support collaboration among can make it difficult for these cities to attract them. Just as theatres and dance studios are critical for performers to engage in the creative process, physical spaces play a key role in an entrepreneur’s ability to incubate ideas.

The Solution:

COCO is a “dream accelerator” and co-working space that allows entrepreneurs to work and collaborate in Minneapolis. COCO’s working spaces are designed to energize and inspire entrepreneurs. COCO encourages its members to be social by setting up a profile on the COCOverse where they can find other entrepreneurs with shared interests. Through its partnership with Google for Entrepreneurs, COCO offers activities, events and educational programs to start-ups that work in its spaces.

The Impact:

COCO member and social entrepreneur Hussein Farah found that having access to a physical space that encouraged innovation helped him get inspired and think ambitiously: “I get to come here to COCO NE and see entrepreneurs plugging along; it helps me think about the big picture. This is the perfect environment for that. You’re not isolated, you’re in the midst of big thinkers.” Farah founded the New Vision Foundation, a nonprofit that trains African immigrant youth in Minnesota on the fundamentals of coding and IT. The New Vision Foundation aims to provide hope, a sense of belonging, and a pathway to professional success for young Muslims in the US. Being selected for the COCO fellowship in Minneapolis, Farah is now planning to expand his organization’s reach to new schools in Minnesota.

How it applies to your city:

If your city is looking to create a more integrated and collaborative entrepreneurial ecosystem, consider fostering physical spaces where entrepreneurs can work together and gain exposure to new ideas and resources. Finding ways to encourage collision points leads to a better support system for entrepreneurs and more opportunities to test and collaborate on their ideas.