Staunton Innovation Hub
Staunton Innovation Hub
In downtown Staunton, nestled between Augusta Avenue and Central Avenue, the Staunton Innovation Hub (SIH) spreads over the length of a block offering 30,000 square feet to foster innovation in the Shenandoah Valley.
The Hub’s mission is to rescue barriers to innovation and offers flexible coworking membership, private office spaces and larger anchor spaces. Also included: a rooftop with stunning views of Staunton downtown, conference rooms, phone booths and event space. High speed internet and freshly brewed coffee by Crucible coffee roasters fuel the coworking community as much as chili cook-offs, Spirit Weeks, community service initiatives and Halloween throwdowns.
“We love seeing small businesses and entrepreneurs grow beyond their imagination and the Hub is a great space to bring together the resources needed to make that happen! One of our members joined us in early 2018 as a flexible coworking member who then took over a 1,200 square foot anchor space.”, says Hannah Cooper, director of the Staunton Innovation Hub.
Another entrepreneur who found a home at SIH is Justin McBride with Brisket Taco Company. Justin moved to Staunton from Texas in 2020 and joined SIH while working full-time in his corporate job. He explains, “Moving from the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex of 6.5 million people to Staunton (with a population of 25,000) is a culture shock on its own. Add the fact that it was during a global pandemic, after about a year of working from home and not having much to do outside in the way of activities or nightlife made me feel disconnected and claustrophobic at times. Once I learned what the Staunton Innovation Hub was, it fit exactly what I was looking for: Get out of the house, connect with other people and have a comfortable environment to work in.”
Justin initially dreamed of opening his own Taco restaurant while still living in Texas but due to COVID-19, he put the idea on the shelf. Until he moved to Staunton. His new friends started tasting his brisket and smoked foods, and encouraged Justin to pursue his dream. “After the first Hub Happy Hour I attended more events. Word started spreading about Brisket Taco Co. and I was approached by and introduced to people who wanted to help. Being from Dallas, there’s typically a catch. Someone is always wanting to sell you something or has some sneaky ulterior motive. But as I started to let my guard down, I realized those offering their help truly wanted to help me get my business off of the ground and partner in ways that I never would have thought of. Brandon Bishop of Crucible Coffee, for example, has helped educate and advise me on opening a food service business in Staunton. We’re also working on a partnership to provide Crucible Coffee to our customers. Anika Horn and Debbie Irwin looped me into some of the entrepreneurial training at the Shenandoah Community Capital Fund (SCCF) and became great advocates of my business to other small businesses such as Slyde @23.”, Justin shares, and gives us a little preview: Once spring and summer are here, we’ll see even more of these partnerships come to fruition. Did anyone say live music?
Hannah Cooper talks about the next step for the Innovation Hub, “When we started in 2018, we were 100% pre-leased before we opened our doors. We are home to over 110 businesses and 250 active members. As our membership has grown over the past four years, we decided to extend our mission into the Harrisonburg/Rockingham area by opening up the Harrisonburg Innovation Hub”.
The space will be around 27,000 square feet with a similar membership makeup and it will be located at 25 N Liberty Street taking up a full block just like in Staunton. The Hub will have about 60 private offices, a rooftop deck and an audiovisual room for video and audio recordings. While you can join the waitlist now by visiting Harrisonburghub.com, the official pre-leasing opens in the summer of 2023. The space is scheduled to open in late 2023.
The Staunton Innovation Hub has become home to a network of entrepreneurs, business owners, service providers and entrepreneurial supporters that make up a major support system to entrepreneurs in the space. Community manager Amy Lessley is the master connector. She not only provides support to the businesses in the hub but also connects them to the resources they need to be successful. “We host a happy hour each month that is typically sponsored by one of our members. Recently, our member Passport Title Company hosted and connected with another member who is in real estate – they had no clue about each other and now they’re doing business together. That’s the value of the community we’ve built here. But for me, connecting people isn‘t just about their businesses. It’s about connecting humans. And yes, sometimes I have found that these personal connections turn into business opportunities down the road but it all starts with seeing and valuing each other as members of our community. All levels of interest and every subject matter is welcome here and they often come together in unexpected ways. But there’s beauty in that, because it makes the whole – our community – greater than the sum of its parts.“, Amy says. While coworking spaces were severely affected by the pandemic, the Staunton Innovation Hub hardly saw any attrition. As community manager, Amy checked in with members one-on-one and hosted weekly coffee chats via Zoom. While people weren’t coming to the Hub during the height of the pandemic, they kept their memberships and returned once it was safe to do so.
To learn more about the Staunton Innovation Hub, visit stauntonhub.com, follow them on social or join their next happy hour April 11.