OSWEGO, NY – New Year, new you. Right?
Well, if you are an entrepreneur, small business owner or work from home, this may mean you are looking to focus more on your business and Lighthouse Coworks is the place for you.
But what is Lighthouse Coworks, you may ask?
Lighthouse Coworks “offers business people the opportunity to share office space and services in a professional, socially stimulating environment,” explained co-owner, Ellen Clark.
In short, the cowork space available at 186 W. First St. in Oswego is a professional place for people who are interested in renting space to work on a daily or monthly basis.
Different payment options are available for people’s different needs.
There are a total of four offices and six desks available for rent with plenty of work space for drop-in users as well.
The building provides everything a working person may need including wireless internet, printing services, copy machine, private meeting spaces and even free coffee and tea.
A person interested in renting space has a variety of options to fit their personal needs.
A drop-in rate of $15 per day or $100 per month is available for someone looking to stop in from day to day without making a more permanent commitment to space.
A rate of $200 per month is available for someone looking to rent a desk space, meaning the renter has full access to their own desk and is able to leave their belongings in their work space.
A rate of $400 per month is available for someone seeking office space, meaning the renter has a full, private office to utilize at their convenience.
Anyone renting a desk or office on a resident basis has 24/7 hour access to the building where as those renting on a drop-in basis can access the building during normal business hours, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Residents also have access to a kitchen area with cabinet and fridge space as well as bookshelf area in the conference room for storage, among other benefits.
Owners, Clark and Gary Ritzenthaler are committed to fitting any and all needs of their renters.
One of their current renters was in need of a specific telephone set-up to directly receive calls from another state to their office. The renter now has his phone wired to receive those calls.
“It’s nice that we can meet the needs of our clients,” said Clark. “However, they like to work, we provide it. Couches, desks, tables; we have various ways for people to work and do their best.”
Clark and Ritzenthaler believe their teamwork and collaboration are helpful traits to the success of a cowork space, but also believe their location is just as pertinent.
Lighthouse Coworks is located on the second floor of the former Marine Midland, also commonly referred to in the community as the marble bank building.
Currently, the SUNY Oswego store is located on the first floor of the building and Lighthouse Coworks is on the second and third floors.
Located on West First Street, the building is right on the bus route and conveniently located near many local businesses.
“Being in this location, it gets people downtown. It gets them shopping, eating, exploring locally. It’s good for the community and when this business really works, it will have people eating at local restaurants, using our banks and our gyms. It will provide more reason to do things downtown,” said Ritzenthaler.
“Our location is phenomenal,” added Clark. “We could not be in a better location.”
Clark understands the important of location firsthand as this was one of the factors that sold her on the idea of co-owning a cowork space.
After the local Bed and Breakfast that Clark had been working at was sold, she decided to open her own business called Experience Oswego in which Clark serves as a concierge.
While actively seeking office space specifically in the downtown area, Clark happened upon SUNY Oswego professor Ritzenthaler at a weekly business owners group in Oswego.
Ritzenthaler already had the idea of bringing a cowork space to Oswego and as Clark saw herself as a perfect candidate for needing a cowork space for her business, the two began plans to bring this progressive business to the downtown community.
Officially opening in April of 2015, the two business owners had encountered their share of first-year hiccups.
However, they remain confident that Lighthouse Coworks helps make Oswego a progressive city with even more opportunities for residents and visitors.
“We are ahead of our market. The question is how much? The trend is growing for these types of working situations, having a single person business or work from home approach. How long does it take to get to Oswego County or reach the people already here?” said Ritzenthaler.
Ritzenthaler, as the half of the co-ownership that is very knowledgeable on the idea of coworking, finds comfort in the success of coworking spaces in other places such as Toronto, where he attended a conference on the subject in September and Syracuse, where a cowork space that is three years older than Lighthouse Coworks has provided a wonderful example of what the Oswego location has the opportunity to become.
“This is such a new concept that nobody knows exactly how to do it. There are very few coworks in towns as small as Oswego but in our vision of what Oswego needs to be, what kinds of jobs or people or working situations do we want downtown? This is it,” said Ritzenthaler.
Originally from Victor, just outside of Rochester, Ritzenthaler attended SUNY Oswego and did graduate schooling in Florida but still chose to return to Oswego on a permanent basis to teach at the college and give back to the community he felt so close to.
He chose to become really involved in the business community and has visions to wire entrepreneurship into the community in ways similar to those he experienced in other places.
“There’s a community of business people in Oswego who want and know how to make things better. People are meeting and exchanging ideas. At some point, I’d like to play a role in building a start up entrepreneur culture in town, including students,” said Ritzenthaler.
Born and raised in Oswego, Clark has similar goals with running Lighthouse Coworks.
As concierge for Experience Oswego and chair of the Promotion and Tourism Advisory Board, their cowork space gives Clark an ideal location to best run her business and work independently in a social environment.
Knowing the perks of coworking firsthand, Clark hopes to help others in similar working situations reap the same benefits.
“We want to help entrepreneurs. I think the sign outside says it best, ‘Work independently, together.’ It’s very stimulating to be in an office, around other people working,” said Clark.
In its first year, the Lighthouse Coworks owners have spent much of their time on educating the community on what coworking actually is.
According to their flyer, “coworking is a solution to the problem of workplace isolation for independent workers. Members can easily establish a low-cost and flexible business presence, connect with others and build communities of interests and talents.”
Throughout the year, Clark has spoke at clubs and events, and Lighthouse Coworks sponsored the Oswego Summer Concert Series held at Veterans’ Park every Friday night in July and August to help promote their business and get the word out there as to what co-working is.
Meanwhile, Ritzenthaler has attended conferences and developed relationships with other coworks to better understand coworking and how to present it to the Oswego community.
While at a conference in Toronto, Ritzenthaler was in shock to find there were six coworks on one street.
“The market is there. Coworks are growing rapidly because there is such a market for it,” he explained.
For 2016, the vision of educating the public on coworking is still dominant.
However, the two aim to switch their focus to more of group involvement.
Aside from individual work space available for rent, Lighthouse Coworks has a lounge, conference room and multipurpose room to accommodate any size group for a meeting place for any subject.
“Going in to 2016, we would love to have tons of workshops and events. There’s a lot of smart people in this area, not just small business owners but people who know things like taxes or wine. We want to get people together, sharing knowledge, only good things come from that. Even something as simple as a game night, just get people together, talking. Books, art, writing, scrap booking, anything,” said Ritzenthaler.
“Our community areas are rentable to anyone including our conference room and lounge. We even hosted a Christmas party in our lounge area this year, we also have a prayer group that meets in this area. It’s small enough that it can be homelike and comfortable but it’s big enough that there can be space when needed. We haven’t done a lot of educational workshops, but that is something we would like to get more involved with. And if you rent a cowork space from us, these event locations are included as well,” added Clark.
So, if you’re looking to take your business to a new level with the New Year, Lighthouse Coworks may be the perfect place for you.
For more information, visit their website at www.lighthousecoworks.com.