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April 12, 2015 | Tom Ballard

Castillo pleased with first “hangout,” plans more soon

Spark PlazaBy Tom Ballard, Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurial Initiatives, Pershing Yoakley & Associates, P.C.

Jose Castillo says Spark Plaza’s inaugural “Co-working Hangout” in Knoxville went well, and he’s planning more in the near future.

“We had a moderate turnout numbers-wise, but everyone who came was either a potential member or offered valuable advice for connecting with others,” the Johnson City-based entrepreneur told us. “I filled-up five or six pages of notes.”

Castillo says he talked with people who were likely candidates to become members of a co-working space as well as those who were simply interested in the concept.

“It definitely is time for the concept to come to Knoxville,” he says. In fact, Castillo believes the city could ultimately support three to five locations. His future sessions will continue to assess the ultimate level of interest.

“Let’s do events, partner with others, and build a community of members,” Castillo says in explaining his approach.

While he does not want to rush decisions, Castillo believes Spark Plaza Knoxville would be larger than the 1,700 square foot initial site in Johnson City. This is a true co-working space without doors and offices.

More recently, he has launched something called Spark Plaza Plus which is an expansion to other space in Johnson City’s downtown. Unlike the initial Spark Plaza, the new concept provides fixed walls and doors for those who have those needs.

A key part of Castillo’s philosophy in growing Spark Plaza is to refrain from a field of dreams approach – build it and hope they will come.

“That’s the wrong way,” he says. “You have to start with the people in the community and build what they need.”

Castillo also thinks it is important for the private sector to do the building.

“We’ve bootstrapped everything in Johnson City,” he says. To learn more about the Johnson City location, click here.

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