HomeArticlesCo+Hoots creates a co-working community for entrepreneurs

Co+Hoots creates a co-working community for entrepreneurs

Jenny Poon and Odeen Domingo. Photo by Mark W. Lipczynski.

When Jenny Poon was starting her own business as a graphic artist, she needed space for herself and one employee. She was also looking for the collaboration and encouragement that often comes from an office setting. But the cost of renting an entire office didn’t pencil out.

After weighing the options, Poon and her husband, Odeen Domingo, created Co+Hoots in Phoenix. It’s a shared work space where entrepreneurs launch businesses, and professionals needing a place to work can rent a desk or small office with shared amenities — copy machines, a kitchen, conference rooms and even educational speakers and networking sessions about growing a business in the tech age.

Poon explains their members “need to get away from the dog and the laundry and the dishes that are at home and be around people [who] are also building businesses and growing their own companies. … Our goal is to be there as a business grows out of this space and into its own.”

Their first space in downtown Phoenix had six members in 2010. Today Co+Hoots fills an entire building near Third Street and Indian School in Phoenix and is home to more than 250 members and 175 companies. Early next year, they’ll open a second location in Mesa.

Even more than the physical space, Poon and her husband are working to create a sense of community among local entrepreneurs. It’s something that came in handy when the couple became parents. Their 4-year-old daughter, Ayda, has grown up in Co+Hoots.

“Everybody here knows her,” says Poon, who was named the Phoenix Business Journal’s 2016 Businessperson of the Year. “We had Co+Hoots when she was born. She calls everyone here Tia or Tio (meaning aunt and uncle). It’s an Asian thing — a sign of respect. We don’t have any family [in Phoenix], but we have had this huge support in the workplace.”

Poon admits work-life balance is still a challenge, even with one’s own business.

“It’s already so hard running a business by yourself, or even with your spouse, but there is a different dynamic when you have kids, and so we want to be supportive of that stage as well. We struggled with it, too!” she admits.

“We encourage people to bring their kids to work,” Poon adds. “Of course there are boundaries. But at spring [or fall] break you will see lots of kids in here, and they work out of the space right next to their parents or hang out in the kitchen area, which is filled with toys for them.”

During the Arizona teacher’s strike last spring, Co+Hoots was one of many businesses that supported #RedforEd; it offered free work space where people could also bring their kids. Poon says they’ll offer “limited childcare” when they open their new Mesa facility. While it will not be a full-time child-care service, Poon says members can take advantage of it for a few hours to get some work done.

Giving back to the community is another of Poon’s passions. To that end, the Co-Hoots Foundation offers programming for women and high school students, many from Title I schools. One of her favorite events is a three-day Hackathon. Teams of teenagers bring ideas they’ve collaborated on throughout the weekend to a “Shark Tank”-style team of judges.

Some of the ideas have included an app to track food trucks and a straw that can turn any water into purified H2O. Poon says she loves the enthusiasm generated by the teens when they work together and see that someone is listening.

“Great ideas come from everywhere,” she says. “You shouldn’t feel like you can’t contribute because of your zip code or your background.”

Poon says her inspiration comes from her parents — themselves entrepreneurs, who owned a restaurant in Minnesota. Her mother taught her she could do whatever she set her mind to. Now Poon wants to pass these same lessons on to her daughter. “It takes someone strong to make someone strong,” is one of her favorite quotes.

Ayda is “an integrated part of our business, and she’s an integrated part of every piece of our lives,” Poon says. “I don’t think you need to separate those two things. … I think the more that we can integrate our children and our lives into how we work, we’ll see a better balance.”

“This is how you make it work as a working mom,” she says. “We are strong, independent people, and we can do anything we want to!”

Co+Hoots is located at 221 E. Indianola Ave. in Phoenix. Learn more by calling 602-688-2825 or visit cohoots.com

Margaret Beardsley of Phoenix is a staff writer and former television news executive producer. She is the mother of two adult children.




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