Entrepreneurship is tough, but tougher done alone.
Moultrie Ball and his wife moved from Charleston to Columbia after he left his job and started his own business, but “working from home ... it’s really easy to get distracted,” he said.
“I needed a place to get away and collaborate with other people,” Ball said.
Colin Griffin craved not only the separation between his work and home environment but a networking environment to help his startup business “spread our wings.”
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As members of Columbia’s SOCO co-working space, they’re part of a group of creative, technology-driven young professionals who not only are among the first to colonize Columbia’s sprouting BullStreet community, but are laying the groundwork for a budding industry in the city.
SOCO and The Iron Yard web development school officially move into their shared home at the newly renovated, historic Bakery at BullStreet building this week, a stone’s throw from BullStreet’s cornerstone minor league baseball park.
Sharing the century-old, onetime bakery building at the old state mental hospital campus, SOCO and The Iron Yard believe they’re in the perfect place to foster the out-of-the-box kind of thinking that drives start-up businesses like Ball’s RumbleLab and Griffin’s Krumware.
“They do pretty incredible work, so part of having an inspiring space is having a story,” said Greg Hilton, a SOCO co-founder and managing partner and the “chief opportunity wrangler” for the Period Three web development company. “Here, while, yeah, there’s some abandoned buildings we have to deal with and the roads aren’t complete, we get to write the story. We get to be a part of writing this new chapter for our city.”
They’re pushing Columbia forward in more ways than one. The Iron Yard and SOCO are pioneers both in the long-anticipated BullStreet community, which is envisioned to become a distinct downtown district as it develops over the next decade and beyond, and in Columbia’s small but growing entrepreneurial and tech communities.
“Our main goal is to create a movement of doers and makers. No more being passive and just being consumers of things,” said Heather Dughaish, campus director for The Iron Yard in Columbia. The Greenville-based web development school has 21 campuses nationwide, but Columbia’s is the first to cohabitate with a co-working space such as SOCO.
“So while The Iron Yard is building straight-up tech talent and they can immediately start contributing to projects and things, (SOCO) has a roomful of creative people of all different types of backgrounds,” she said.
The Iron Yard and SOCO are “the stake in the ground,” Dughaish said, for what’s hoped to become a tech village within the BullStreet community. Hilton pictures businesses one day outgrowing SOCO and expanding their footprints while staying anchored in this tech-driven, collaborative neighborhood.
What’s happening at the Bakery at BullStreet is one piece of “a movement” happening in Columbia, Hilton said.
“When you reach critical mass in a movement, that’s when incredible things start happening,” Hilton said. “There are other beginnings of movements happening right now, and just imagine what happens when they all come together. We’re going to change the game.”
Reach Ellis at (803) 771-8307.
Grand opening of the Bakery at BullStreet
The public is invited to tour the Bakery and get acquainted with SOCO and The Iron Yard this Friday, Oct. 7.
The grand-opening day includes an open house and free co-working day from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., a “Lighting up the Gigabit” ribbon cutting ceremony with Mayor Steve Benjamin at noon, and a free launch party with beer, food trucks and lawn games from 4-7 p.m.
The Bakery at BullStreet is located at 1721 Saunders St.