help from politicians?

While it looks like Aimee Allison is not going to defeat Pat Kernighan in the District 2 City Council race, she still might be a helpful ally in developing a small business in Oakland.

From her campaign website:

Support Small and Local Businesses
• Adopt a plan to attract retail that will include development of key neighborhood business districts like the Grand Lake, Eastlake, Chinatown, and 23rd Avenue
• Encourage Oaklanders to develop independent businesses
• Provide marketing and promotions grant and loans to merchant associations
• Encourage successful, well run small businesses to open a second or third site in Oakland (e.g. coffee shops/restaurants)

other resources and possible supporters

Craigslist Foundation – the non-profit branch of craigslist which provides resources and workshops for other non-profits. My friend Wendy knows the Executive Director, Darian Heyman. They do a non-profit boot camp every year in SF and NYC. I missed it this year, but I might make it a goal to attend the SF camp next summer. is not exactly the kind of support I’m looking for, but who knows… maybe we can draw these hi-tech/startup-focused investors over to the non-for-profit side. Plus, this organization is based in Rensselaer, NY, so maybe they’d be willing to make an exception for a hometown girl. (Or maybe we can skip the whole non-profit thing and go for the big bucks!)

Here’s google search for “bay area incubator.” I haven’t had time to look through these carefully yet.

And here’s a google search for “east bay incubator.” Some good stuff in here about local businesses.

EastBay Works is primarily a career search organization, but there’s some good stuff here about starting your own business.

Oakland Chamber of Commerce – I don’t think my idea will be as appealing to Mayor Jerry Brown as, say, a shiny new big box store, but he’s on his way out anyway… This site includes a Small Business Resource Directory.

possible locations

My favorite space is at 23 Grand at Broadway. It’s next to Front Gallery, down the street from Luka’s TapRoom, and right across from a soon-to-be completed apartment/retail space currently called Broadway Grand. It’s 2000 square feet and costs $3500/month. I have no idea how reasonable that is for the size. Need to do more research here.

There’s another space on the corner of Broadway and Grand that’s 5000 square feet and $9000/month, but I think that’s a little too big/expensive. 🙂

The leasee for both of these spaces is Shahla Davoudi, owner of Elite Reprographics which is on the same block. We exchanged messages a few times and I’m sure I could set up a meeting with her if it came to that. (p. 415.957.1234)

There’s also a space available at 3237 Grand, right near the Grand Lake Theater. It’s $1200/month and it’s quite small (don’t know the square feet) – right next to a discount mattress place. I went to talk to someone there and they were pretty sketchy. But I won’t rule it out – especially for that price. (p. 510-432-0500)

has it been done before and what makes this idea unique is probably the closest to what I would like to create. (Any name similarity is purely coincidental. If it’s too embarrassingly similar I will make a change – though I rather like “Freelance Cafe” (Dave’s idea)). It combines resources for independents with networking opportunities and special events/classes, and it emphasizes making connections between people who would otherwise be alone in their independent freelancers’ world.

Two thoughts on how my idea is different:

1) The physical space – while creates opportunities for independents to meet, it is primarily an online space.

2) I’m not sure about the focus on media. While that is what I know the most about, there are plenty of freelancers/contractors who don’t work in media – for example – contract engineers. These folks have different needs and, potentially, a lot more money.

One thought on how my idea is the same:

1) Maybe I could work with to create my cafe with their backing?

TechShop is a new space in the South Bay that seems really, really cool. It’s kind of like the Crucible (one of my favorite places in Oakland) but it’s for profit. These spots are obviously much more industrial than what I have in mind, but they do share the sense of communal resources and networking for people with like interests.

Here’s a recent news story about TechShop.

Creative Growth in Oakland is a well-established program to support creative expression, but it was created for adults with disabilities. Might be a good model for developing an Oakland non-profit. It’s been around since the mid 70’s.

– not really similar to what I want to do, but a very cool Oakland-based organization that is doing great things. Might be a good partnership opportunity.

Insomnia Cafe in Los Angeles is simply a cafe, but it encourages screenwriters and other independent LA types to sit and stay all day. I love the idea of creating a space like this. Lyssa (amazingly) remembered an article that was written about it the New York Times in 2004.

AudioLuxe is noteworthy in that it’s a local independent startup non-profit podcasting/training organization run by some folks I know-ish (Stacy Bond and Michael Johnson of KQED). They could potentially be a good partner/resource.

stop trying to make it perfect and get started already (aka The Big Picture)

I’ve been talking about starting this blog for far too long. I keep waiting to have the time and energy to create a fabulous and coherent mission statement and a framework business plan to kick it off, but that doesn’t seem to be happening. So I’m just going to start putting stuff up here in all its incoherent glory. We’ll call it brainstorming.

The main idea – more or less – is to create a space in Oakland for freelancers, contractors, and other independents to gather with others doing similar work, and to find resources and networking opportunities to help them succeed (financially, socially, etc.) in whatever it is they want to do with their time.

Here’s my very first list of possibilities for this space. (Keep in mind, this is brainstorming so there are no bad ideas, right?)

  • incubator for individuals with an idea
  • memberships
  • workshops
  • resource center
  • brown bags or donated lunches
  • gym membership and other discounts (health insurance)
  • individuals/artists in residence
  • guest speakers (author of “I don’t know what I want…”)
  • resource library
  • in house gallery/pro tools setup/darkroom
  • media center
  • collaborations with other local businesses – Luka’s, other galleries
  • rental spaces for freelancers
  • special events/fundraisers
  • sabbaticals for independents

So – what now? I need comments, opinions, suggestions, links, resources – anything that will either 1) help make this idea a reality or 2) convince me that this is crazy and unworkable and that I should stick to my day job.

Ideally – each of my posts will encourage a slew of comments from you all, which will lead to more posts and ultimately that fabulous and coherent mission statement and business plan I mentioned earlier. Ready? Go!