By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA
There’s a grassroots co-working effort underway in the region that has gained tremendous momentum in a short period of time, almost like a wildfire.
Knox Nomads (Facebook link here and Meetup link here) might best be described as an organic initiative launched by Melissa Aldridge who moved from Dayton, OH to the Knoxville-Oak Ridge region in late 2016. Ironically, while in Ohio, she was involved in co-working initiatives, so she knew the ups and downs and pros and cons of building a co-working community.
Now, with three other colleagues, the virtual, mostly unstructured effort launched about two months ago already has hosted about 50 sessions and is approaching 200 members who can show-up, based on their interest and availability, at one of three times of the day, several days a week, and at different venues (20 unique ones so far) selected by the four administrators.
There’s the AM (8 to 11:30 a.m.), PM (1 to 4:30 p.m.), and Late (5 to 7:30 p.m.) co-working groups. They meet mostly at one of 30 coffee shops and brewpubs, a set of venues that continues to grow. There’s a West Knoxville group as well as a downtown cohort.
“The administrator selects the venue and announces it,” Aldridge says. “A handful of the members will show-up on the announced days.”
For now, the workday groups average three days out of the five-day work week, while the evening groups meet about two times a week. With enough administrators and member interest, it could grow to up to 15 sessions a week.
As noted on the Meetup site, Knox Nomads describes the effort this way: “we work alongside each other with laptops – and we meet to chat about projects, share ideas, exchange insights, address challenges, and potentially offer mutual feedback on projects as we get to know one another.”
So, what propelled Aldridge to launch the grassroots initiative?
“I had been working alone at home for more than two years,” she explains. She has served most recently as Fund Director for The JumpFund based in Chattanooga, but she felt the need to be around people.
“I was seeking out a community,” Aldridge explained. “I started working at the Starbucks in Oak Ridge where I began meeting people like me.” Those included individuals from a variety of sectors.
While formal co-working spaces are slowly emerging across the Knoxville-Oak Ridge region, they are much more established in other entrepreneurially-focused communities. And, the typical co-working facility is somewhat of a real estate deal – a desk or an office with supportive services like coffee and copiers.
With Knox Nomads, the only commitment is the individual’s time and the expectation that they might purchase something at the designated venue. The upside is a flexible and diverse community for an individual to draw on for expertise and productivity support, as needed.
“It’s a very passive, low maintenance activity so one can focus on their work,” Aldridge says.
For those interested in learning more or becoming a member, join the public groups and check out the coworking sessions accessible from the Facebook and Meetup links.