A big thanks to WLOX’s Andrés Fuentes for reaching out after seeing our fundraising posts and coming through to interview us about The MSGC Village Co-Working Space. We had BIG fun sharing our BIG dreams for the Village.
Here’s the link to check it out yourself – https://www.wlox.com/2021/02/21/south-mississippi-business-leaders-starting-black-owned-co-op/?fbclid=IwAR3r8dCdPVhRgxDuhYgThArdAvMrZ9_FLJ0Op7TA4ecrt8-XkBO3lXPegk0
One of the best things about developing the co-working space has been crafting something that is individualized and specific to our particular needs as a community. Part of that has meant doing lots of research about coworking spaces both near and far, including those located in New Orleans and Mobile, Alabama. We’re learned so much and yet we had so many more specific questions that we needed to get addressed.
Thank God for Stacy Wellborn, the founder and operator of the Container Yard in Mobile, Alabama. She recently welcomed us with open arms when several of us took a road trip to Mobile to tour The Container Yard and get a personal one-on-one with her about her journey thus far.
Stacy was a wealth of information, including sharing some of the pitfalls to avoid, helpful technology, other possible resources and even how to grow the community within her space. The Container Yard is an artsy, beautiful, and creative space in the downtown area that literally has a railroad container constructed into the building that serves as the kitchenette and heart of the facility.
While we were there, we also had a group strategy session that included one of our team members who also happens to have space at The Container Yard as well. The experience was pleasant, timely, informative and mind-blowing. Our excitement has grown exponentially as a result.
So we signed the lease on this big rambling empty storefront located at 37 Pass Road in Gulfport, Mississippi. The process was terrifying, to say the least, but we had a great attorney, wise counsel, and a property owner who genuinely wants to see us succeed. now, the real work starts and we began the process of seeking all the needed permits and approvals to move this mission forward.
One of our first hurdles was seeking to get classified by the City of Gulfport. Because our facility is the first of its kind in our town, there are no existing rules or language governing the requirements so it sometimes feels like we’re being spitballed to see what will possibly stick. Our goal is to work with city officials in creating smart, sustainable regulations and requirement that are business friendly and mirror those that are already in existence in other cities. We’ll see how it goes moving forward.
One of our early rounds of inspections revealed many of the obvious things that will need repairing. However, we were also faced with the revelation that our sprinkler system will need to be overhauled because, after 10 years of being in a vacant building, many of the sprinkler heads are rusty and will need to be replaced. The estimated cost is $50,000. While we’re not on the hook for that entire amount, we are doing our part of bringing things up to code. For us, that meant an unexpected cost so we did what the under-resourced often have to do – we are seeking to crowdsource the additional funds through an ongoing GOFundMe effort. So far, we’ve raised nearly $7,000 in both online and offline donations. We’ve been so appreciative of everyone who has given to support this effort. If you’re so inclined, feel free to become part of this effort.
Stay posted as we creep towards getting the needed repairs to the sprinklers completed along with a laundry list of other repairs and updates to the building.
The conversation about having a special place where dreams go to soar was always there, tucked into various conversations -both online and offline – about all the magical things that could happen in our communities if we only had somewhere to call our own. Like many things, there always seemed to be far more reasons why we COULDN’T do something than why we COULD.
There’s never enough available resources, no ideal space, not enough people to see it come to fruition, and sometimes, not enough courage. But after going through the past year of COVID-19, social unrest and unbelievable suffering, all the reasons why we could not do this seem to become so insignificant and small.
So when the opportunity to acquire a space presented itself, and an out-of-state investor heard our BIG dreams and decided they were worth betting on and supporting, a merry band of believers started crawling, then walking and running towards the creation of the MS Gulf Coast Village.
Co-working spaces are not a new concept. These creative and unique spaces shared workspaces have existed for years around the world, especially in urban larger areas where there is a bustling creative class. They often include the option to rent an office-life space, a reserved desk, or even just a place to come and work in peace when needed. They also include amenities like private meeting rooms, coffee, printers, wi-fi and more. In recent years, they’ve slowly begun to crop up in populated, but less urban areas.
We’ve been inspired by nearby co-working spaces in New Orleans and Mobile, Alabama. We see how they bring such value to their communities and how they support the growth and collaboration amongst those who decide to join them. And we knew that even in a less urban city like Gulfport, the need for a culturally-sensitive space that intentionally supports diversity and inclusion, community, learning, passion and collaboration was something that should always find a place to thrive. So here we are – on this great journey towards launching The Village. Stay tuned as we grow and trek towards our opening day over the next several months. – The MS Gulf Coast Village DreamTeam