‘A Mountain Of Risk,’ a letter from Jenny Poon, CO+HOOTS Founder

by | Feb 22, 2016 | Blog, People

Friends, we’re about to embark on something grand and I need your help.

In 2010, I decided to take a mountain of risk. I was about to launch something; a space, but really, more than that. A place that helped people chase their dreams, that helped those who have risked their livelihoods with a business idea and lost everything to get back up and try again, where egos are left at the door and people can support each other. A place that was going to put Phoenix on the map for entrepreneurship. A place that would end the nonsense talk that “there is no talent in Phoenix.”

I spent months hashing it all together — putting my growing design agency on hold, developing a name, strategizing the mission and goals, designing, building, tearing it apart, more designing, writing, dreaming, doubting, and eventually landed on a name. CO+HOOTS, Phoenix’s first coworking space. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I couldn’t stop seeing ideas everywhere that led me back to this concept of a collaborative space that brought entrepreneurs together to help each other. To collide. I threw everything I had into it. Sleepless nights, money, energy, even my marriage and family have become intertwined with CO+HOOTS.

Fear was everywhere. It’s a sick trick fear plays on you. You are the most confident and adamant person, until fear creeps in and you’re paralyzed.

What if this doesn’t work? I’m spending all my time on this, what about my ACTUAL design business that is actually paying my bills? Everyone is right. There is no talent here. This is a stupid idea. Just quit. This is too hard. You’re never going to pull this off. Everyone will see you’re just a dumb girl. Don’t risk being made out to be a dummy. How the hell was I going to fund this? How was this ever going to work? How do we make this something that is genuinely for the community and share it?  I should probably give up now. I’m so alone. Let’s just go take a nap; this is all too stressful. 

But what I always landed on was this:

Our community needs this.

Then, a series of miracles happened. And we all know, you don’t give up before the miracle happens.

After obnoxiously sharing my ideas and plans like a crazy person with everyone who would listen, I had compiled an impressive list of  … wait for it … five people who might be leads, referred from people I had talked to. The first person on my list was Matt Clower, who I didn’t know but would eventually become what I wanted CO+HOOTS to be to the world. An instigator for my craziest of ideas. A support structure for the risk takers.

So with my first follower committed, I was fueled again. Little did I know, the movement was beginning. I signed a lease for the space that would be CO+HOOTS’ first home. We launched a party. We expected … maybe 100 people? Welp. 350 people showed up. 340 of whom were strangers. Needless to say, we ran out of cheese puffs early on. And I am proud to say, those 340 strangers are now good friends and active backers of the Phoenix entrepreneurial community that is flourishing now. I was in awe. The community was here. The talent was here.

Let’s fast forward to today. CO+HOOTS now has 200+ members and is completely member sustained. We have helped more than a hundred companies scale and create jobs. We’ve seen companies through the recession and are now incredibly successful. We have expanded our programs to support youth entrepreneurs and nonprofits. We were recently ranked the No. 1 most innovative coworking space in the nation and a Top 10 coworking space in the world. We have helped our neighborhoods grow by bringing density and activity to wherever we land. Because our membership continued to grow, we moved twice to bigger buildings in the first three years. And we’re moving again.

The location we are in now is at capacity and we’re excited to see development rise around us, but we’re at a point where we have bigger dreams. We need to support more entrepreneurs across more sectors in Arizona. Our goal is to support 1,000 entrepreneurs and 400 youth entrepreneurs and host business-centered lunch and learns every day free to the public. We found a new building to accomplish that.

We’re purchasing it and making it our forever nest. And for a completely local, grassroots company that has never sought out nor had investor backing, purchasing a building is … A. Big. Scary. Deal (Reread the first paragraph on fear).

We’ve decided to choose a location that was up and coming to help be an anchor in the area. We applied for a loan with the U.S. Small Business Association and were declined because we didn’t fit any of their traditional boxes for concepts they support. Apparently, coworking isn’t one of the boxes they can easily check for projects to finance. We’re a little too innovative.

Fortunately, there are more creative ways of financing. We’ve solidified a loan with LISC, a nonprofit community development financial institution, but it comes at a higher interest rate. To bridge the gap, we need your help.

We set up a crowdfunding campaign with a goal of $50,000, which will help us finish building out the rest of the space and allow us to have more room for the dreamers of dreams in our community. With your support, we can exponentially multiply the movement we started six years ago by having more skills-training events that are open to the public — small business classes, youth coding and leadership events and more. That means every entrepreneur no matter what stage they’re at, will have a place where they can find the support they need.

Over the years, I’ve invested $200,000 to get this community off the ground; $100,00 in the last year to help expand the programs to youth entrepreneurs. Every cent has gone back into propelling this community forward such as events and staff to keep the movement growing. Not a single penny makes it into my pocket, because I believe that this movement is bigger than me and it deserves all that I can give. With this new expansion, we’re throwing all that we’ve saved over the last six years into this. We’re doubling down because we believe in the support we’re giving to the community we believe in.

When we started, I had a list of 5 people to help the entrepreneurial and innovation movement in Phoenix and maybe $1,000 to get it off the ground. Today, we have hundreds, if not thousands of you. And you can be a part of what happens next. Each rewards tier in our crowdfunding campaign gets you something awesome; $100 will get you, among other things, a campaign T-shirt exclusive to backers and a personalized thank you video that will make you cry or laugh and definitely love. I hope you join us now and back our campaign. Today, we need you more than ever.

Are you in CO+HOOTS?

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CLICK HERE to check out our campaign page and back this movement today.

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