Hey, West Tennessee! Guess what? theCO is officially one year old, and we’re celebrating with Birthday Week!
It has been an outstanding year for all of our members and their businesses. To begin, I’d like to first introduce myself. My name is Dan Drogosh, and I am the Media and Facilities Manager here at theCO. I work really hard to keep things running efficiently. I also take the time to get to know each and every member to ensure that they receive the full benefit of their membership. Alright, enough about me and more about theCO.
So what is theCO? There are a few different definitions out there adding to the mystique of our building, but I’ll take a crack at it. theCO is a creative and collaborative community of professionals, tinkerers, engineers, and designers. Located right off I-40 in Jackson, theCO aims to be the hub of innovation and entrepreneurship for West Tennessee. It’s the place to meet someone new, learn something new, and make something new. Quite frankly, it’s something to be proud of in Jackson and so much more.
Our first member joined on July 24, 2014. Our doors were officially open! A large part of what makes theCO function is our members. In the early months, each new member we gained also added a new set of skills, experiences, and—most importantly—ideas. We were quickly building a community of creative professionals who unselfishly shared their knowledge, and it felt great. Today we have a strong network of self-made individuals ready to conquer West Tennessee and beyond. I must say, my position at theCO allows me to witness people leaving their comfortable day jobs and stepping into the unknown of starting their own business. From their first client to their first obstacle, I see it all. It’s quite special seeing an entrepreneur grow personally and professionally all under one roof. Our members must certainly be credited for a lot of our success, and unfortunately the unique culture of theCO is often out-shined by the amazing technology we possess. (This is where things get cool and you say, “Wow!”)
After having spent half the summer of 2014 painting walls, fixing outlets, and organizing desks, it felt great to say we were done… Boy, were we wrong. We still had equipment to buy and set up, carpet to install, and a gigabit of Internet to show off. (Thanks, JEA!) Needless to say, we were in construction mode, and flash forward a year… We still are.
theCO is constantly evolving to suit the needs and high-tech wants of the community that supports it. For example, some of our members thought it would be cool to have an Oculus Rift, which is a virtual reality headset that places you in a digital environment with no view of the outside world. The Oculus Rift is certainly on the “must experience” list while visiting theCO. We have finally managed to get our CNC router running after spending almost a hundred hours assembling every tiny nut and screw. The machine is a business savior to some and to others just a flashy expensive tool for their hobby. Either way, it’s simplifying the manufacturing process one large pile of sawdust at a time.
So you’re focused on a sales report from last quarter, crunching numbers, and there is this annoying buzzing sound right in your ear. It may be a mosquito, but it’s more likely our co-founders flying drones inside the building with the smile of a teenager on their faces. Yes, we’re weird, wild, and a tad bit geeky, but we love our high tech toys and you will too!
Speaking of teens, we had another successful CO:de Catalyst competition come to an end. The winners were twelve local high school students who all showed their coding talents throughout the semester. As a reward, local businesses chipped in money to send them on an all-expenses-paid trip to San Francisco. The students received private tours of LinkedIn, Google, and Pivotal Labs. They also got to experience the cool touristy activities as well. A lot of the students now feel much more educated on the careers available to them in the computer programing industry.
One thing that I haven't mentioned much about is the entrepreneur efforts of theCO. Believe it or not, there are people starting businesses everyday in West Tennessee. It’s a scary but rewarding process of which we are happy to help in. Here at theCO, we host a business bootcamp program called CO.STARTERS. Meeting just once a week for a total of nine weeks, participants bring their ideas or existing businesses and focus on development and improvement. This past year we have seen over twenty different businesses roll through the program and grow right under our roof, so keep an eye out for these outstanding entrepreneurs.
We are beyond excited to see what this next year has in store, and as I am finishing up this birthday memoir, we currently have 73 members and counting! I’d like to say thank you to every person and business who has supported our efforts here at theCO—making our ideas actually happen. We hope to inspire many others to follow through with their passions, and maybe someday you'll be one of our success stories we rave about like a proud parent sending their kids off to college. In the meantime we will stick to being our tech-loving selves, and you just come on by and see us.
Dan Drogosh is the Media and Facilities Manager at theCO and a member of the local band Mutual Live.