SNELLVILLE – As an entrepreneur during the last eight years, Josh Sweeney spent each day growing Atcore Systems, a software consulting firm.
As the startup company grew to 15 employees and went through multiple offices, Sweeney said he felt first hand, the challenge that work space plays on a small business.
“As we grew, we had to start looking at office space,” he said. “This led to the search for a temporary sub-lease space that matched our current size, but also offered an easy termination for when we reached maximum capacity. Once we outgrew this space, the only option was to move into a traditional leased office space. Companies that lease out traditional office space require multi-year commitments and also want assurances of the business’s longevity.”
In the business’s early days, working from home presented multiple challenges. Sweeney says a home office didn’t present the level of professionalism that he needed to attract the best talent. If the entrepreneur was not able be home, the employee had to work at another location which inhibited collaboration and organization. Plus an entrepreneur and/or spouse may not feel comfortable with outside employees coming in and out of their home.
From these struggles came GarageWorx, a new business incubator located at 2385 Clower St., Suite B near City Hall.
GarageWorx recently partnered with the Snellville Downtown Development Authority to help defray the cost of the venture at the city-owned building. Mayor and council established a fair lease rate for the space involved.
The partnership came to fruition when Sweeney was volunteering at the Grayson Tech Program at Grayson High School and presented to Heather Kishuns' entrepreneurship class. From there he was introduced to Snellville Economic Developer Eric Van Otteren, who has been looking to create an accelerator locally to grow businesses.
“I wasn't sure exactly what form it would take, but after a few months, I had the vision,” Sweeney said. “Within a short time after, I received a call from Eric informing me that the DDA had an opportunity for us to build a proof of concept. Within 30 days of the discussion, we had launched GarageWorx and were open for members.”
GarageWorx currently has three services with a fourth service in the works. An entrepreneur can get a single “Hot Desk” to work from, a permanent “Dedicated Desk” or a “Private Office” inside GarageWorx. Inside the confines of GarageWorx, entrepreneurs can be around other like-minded business owners in confines which includes internet and Wi-Fi access, snacks and restrooms.
“Being around other driven entrepreneurs and witnessing their achievements, gives you the energy and drive to succeed,” Sweeney said. “The other benefit is collaboration. GarageWorx is an open forum for ‘needs and leads.’ Daily conversations can often result in the exchange of wisdom, useful contacts and laughs.”
Eventually, Sweeney said he wants to offer a formal accelerator and accountability program that anyone can join (members and non-members). The goal is to use a proven peer-to-peer platform to help businesses grow faster and get the mentoring they need.
“Many people are surprised at the amount of value that comes from working in an incubator,” Sweeney said. “They discover that it’s not just about a desk. At first people equate the membership with the cost of the desk. Later they realize that the culture, the motivation, and the energy from being around others is far more valuable than just the desk. They are building their business, building relationships and building a future.
City officials are excited about the venture and hope it spurs business growth locally.
“GarageWorx is a great way to pilot business development in Snellville with the help of the city and DDA,” said DDA Chairman Buddy Scott. “This is a program that will yield great business opportunities for years to come.”
Van Otteren added: “GarageWorx is a next step in growing an entrepreneurial mindset in Snellville and is a significant effort between city leaders and the Downtown Development Authority of Snellville to turn the tide on the city’s daytime exodus to jobs in other places. The City of Snellville is known as an entrepreneurial community. GarageWorx is focused on growing suburban entrepreneurship through high paying jobs here in Snellville.”
For more information, visit https://garageworx.co/
PHOTO 1:From left, Josh Sweeney of GarageWorx and Snellville Economic Development Director Eric Van Otteren.
PHOTO 2: Josh Sweeney of GarageWorx shows off one of the offices inside the Clower Street business.