“Chicago is a very neighborhood based community, yet all the coworking spaces I found were downtown, removed from the neighborhoods.” – Nicole Vasquez
Nicole Vasquez knows the challenges of working outside the traditional office setting– whether it’s trying to find a suitable space in your home or fighting for a table at a coffee shop. With the rise in coworking spaces, Nicole saw an incredible opportunity to create a flexible and welcoming atmosphere for coworking and community education. Nicole understands the connection Chicagoans feel to their respective neighborhoods, however, most coworking spaces are located in the downtown area, far removed from the communities in which workers reside. Nicole saw this as an opportunity to create a space in her own neighborhood of Uptown.
Nicole was confident that her community would benefit from The Shift, but struggled to find the capital to make it happen. In 2014, Nicole reached out to Accion and was able to get a $7,000 microloan, thanks to a partnership between Accion and The Hartford through its Communities with HART program. Through the Communities with HART program, The Hartford supports small business owners like Nicole who are having a positive impact in their community. After a year of researching and planning, Nicole opened the Shift in a former laundromat two blocks from her home in November 2014. “Our experience with Accion was wonderful and we will definitely return to get another loan as the business continues to grow,” Nicole said.
The Shift is located in a bright retail space that keeps its doors open to the community. With 30 work stations and an innovative “shift model” the space never feel too crowded and allows members to come and go at their convenience. The Shift strives to offer
a space for non-traditional work schedules and offers access 24 hours a day seven days a week, locker storage, mailbox service, and business concierge service. While many traditional coworking spaces alienate certain work schedules, this is yet another way that The Shift works to empower the community.
What sets The Shift apart from the many coworking spaces popping up in Chicago is the hyperlocal focus Nicole has worked to maintain. Apart from the traditional open work space found in most coworking spaces, The Shift offers many community classes and events. The presenters, many of whom are members of The Shift and the local community, are all industry professionals sharing their skills and ideas. Classes cover topics from Google Analytics, to Short Story Writing, to Social Media Marketing. In addition to these classes, office hours are available with industry experts in various areas in order to offer more personalized one-on-one consultations. Nicole sees this as an opportunity to enrich the community and offer her members more than just a space to work.
Another feature of The Shift that sets it apart from other coworking spaces is its open-industry policy. While many of the downtown coworking spaces are tech-focused, The Shift has members from a wide range of industries, backgrounds, and demographics. Members range from ages 22 to 60 and from backgrounds in public education, non-profit management, marketing, writing, consulting, art, design, and web development.