An Insider’s Look at Coworking in Santa Cruz

Cruzio Santa Cruz
The following is a guest post by Maria Grusauskas.  Maria is a freelance writer & blogger, working out of Cruzioworks in Downtown Santa Cruz.  You can keep up with her coworking adventures here.

Santa Cruz freelancers and entrepreneurs are catching on: plugging into the positive energy of a shared workspace can do wonders for your productivity.

I joined the Cruzioworks coworking office in downtown Santa Cruz earlier this year, after many months spent in pajamas, freelance writing at my kitchen table. At the time, I knew only that Cruzioworks was the more affordable of the two coworking offices in town (the other being NextSpace), and that if I didn’t join, I’d become a full-fledged recluse with little hope of reversing a downward financial spiral.

For those who would like a definition, “Coworking” spaces are like gyms, only instead of cardio machines and sweat-rumpled magazines, you’ll find desks, high speed internet, and a colorful cast of inspired entrepreneurs.

Thus far, the space has been a fertile environment for networking, collaboration, and getting stuff done—all vital ingredients for any independent worker’s recipe for success. And while the concept resonates well with the creative and community-oriented culture of Santa Cruz, coworking is growing rapidly worldwide: According to a recent report by deskmag.com, 4.5 new coworking spaces opened every workday of 2012, and the number is increasing exponentially.

But I digress. Regardless of the thousands of unique and innovative shared workspaces in the world, ranging from small co-ops like this one I visited in Matera, Italy, to the elite, waiting list-weilding Grist of New York City, Cruzioworks holds its own on the forefront of this movement.

 

Co-founded by Peggy Dolgenos and Chris Neklason, who founded Cruzio Internet 23 years ago in their garage, this coworking space is a long-held dream of theirs. The collaborative environment is partly modeled off their experience working at Santa Cruz Operation (SCO), a tech company that thrived (and partied) in the late 70’s and 80’s in Santa Cruz.

“..our epic love story began at a small business in San Francisco,” said Dolgenos. “We met at an answering service there, and moved down to Santa Cruz for jobs at SCO, which was a great place to work. We modeled our company culture partly on SCO, partly on the other small businesses we’d worked for, and partly on business interactions we’d enjoyed in various places in the past. We really like bringing humanity to the high-tech world.”

The brick and mortar structure they would find to house this coworking dream is symbolic of the changing economic times, where the old, less sustainable ways must be repurposed, reimagined and, in this case, totally renovated.
“Cruzio worked for years to find a proper building to house our high-speed broadbandnetwork headquarters, and we made sure it was also big enough to fit coworkers as well,” said Dolgenos.

On the corner of Church and Cedar streets, they found the perfect “proper building”—the vacated headquarters of the Santa Cruz Sentinel newspaper.

When Dolgenos and Neklason moved in in 2010, they’d transformed the place into a LEED Gold certified building, along with building co-owners EcologyAction and developer Joe Appendrodt. Essentially, they breathed the life back into the building in the “greenest” possible way, from solar panels and electric car charging ports (yes, they get used), right down to the eco-friendly carpeting.

You’d never know by looking at it that this vibrant hub buzzing with high speed internet once played a critical role in the Mesolithic era of journalism.

Untitled - by Doug Ross

Untitled – by Doug Ross

The 160 or so coworking members frequenting Cruzioworks come from all walks of Santa Cruz life.  They range from retired lawyers turned motivational speakers and mate-drinking acccountants to the very tall illustrater Doug Ross, or Emily Cohen of It’s Great Media, who, of all the coworkers, is the most likely to be here well into the pm hours and on weekends, which I must say, is always a comforting and pleasant surprise.  Hilltromper, a website devoted to the outdoors, and the nature oriented spirit of Santa Cruz, also operates out of Cruzioworks.

It’s a laid back bunch who might wander in with sand between their toes or come spruced and ready to meet an investor in one of the private meeting rooms.

“It’s been energizing and inspiring,” said Dolgenos. “So many people are doing interesting things and we get to meet them at the cafe or at get-togethers. We’ve become more involved in the work going on in our community, startups and freelancers and artists and professionals.”

Along with the symbiotic relationship between coworker and company—with membership fees helping to pay for the huge space, and the huge space in turn helping to incubate freelance dreams—comes the promise of a sustainable enterprise, rich with the possibilities of coworking percolation.

All Cruzio Photos by Bernardo Grijalva Photography

Win FREE Coworking Space at Cruzioworks!

Cruzio Coworking Santa Cruz

Cruzioworks has agreed to give away a 5-day pass to three lucky winners.  Winners will receive:

  • 5-day pass at Cruzioworks coworking space
  • Use at your own pace – 5 days don’t need to be used consecutively
  • Meet & work with like-minded local entrepreneurs
  • No expiration date
  • $79 Value

Enter to Win FREE Coworking

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