Local couple opens new coworking space for the independent professional.
At Synergy Coworking, Spencer Hudson and Eugenia Podesta offer a coffee shop alternative for quiet, flexible office space.
Photograph by Bill Fritsch
From the pages of In Business magazine.
Synergy Coworking is a dream realized for Eugenia Podesta, 40, and her partner in life and business, Spencer Hudson, 41. The 7,300-square-foot space on Madison’s west side offers business entrepreneurs quiet, flexible professional space away from home and noisy coffee shops.
“I want this to be a welcoming, vibrant space where a person can pursue professional growth, get answers, and get their work done,” Podesta says. “We’re all about getting work done and pooling resources.”
Members can choose from a number of options, from a desk in a collaborative workspace to a private office, and rent varies depending on space needs and frequency. In most cases free Wi-Fi, coffee, access to a printer, and a mailing address are included. Space can be reserved by the hour, day, or longer.
Plans start as low as $10 per month for a drop-in visit to $8 per square foot for a private office, and meeting and conference space are also available for rent. “The idea is to make it easy for people to budget,” she says. “There are no piecemeal things. It’s all included.”
Podesta, 40, was born in Peru, but her family moved to the U.S. when she was five and to Madison when she was 11. Her father was a Spanish professor at UW–Madison, which in many respects set the path she would take.
After graduating from West High School, she returned to Peru for a while but eventually earned a law degree and a Masters in Latin American Studies from UW–Madison. She was very involved with the Latino community here and taught Spanish at both UW–Madison and Edgewood College. For the past nine years she has been employed by a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit, Vital Voices Global Partnership, where she mentors and connects international women entrepreneurs.
In Madison, Synergy Coworking’s dozen members run a gamut of ages and vocations from leadership development to publishing to law. “Synergy Coworking is not designed to be overtaken by technology,” Podesta notes. “This is quiet space. We offer more structure without being too corporate.”
A former member of 100State, Podesta used elements of that experience to shape Synergy Coworking. “100State provided community and did a lot of good for me,” she says, “but there are people looking for the traditional office setup with an option to socialize and communicate, just not all at the same time. Some people want that quiet space and executive-level branding.”
The startup has had its challenges, she admits, particularly in February when she broke her heel while painting the office. Normally Podesta plans events, handles marketing, and makes connections around town, but Hudson recently quit his job as an academic coach for high school students at Madison College to run Synergy’s day-to-day operations. With Podesta recovering, Hudson handled nearly everything.
“We underestimated the impact of that,” she admits. “It blindsided us. We were not at all prepared.”
They were also surprised at how difficult it was to negotiate with service providers, in particular for a commercial printer and security, because of long-term lease requirements. “In cases where one year was a possibility, the monthly costs went up significantly,” Podesta recalls, and wireless providers were all over the map.
“One company quoted us $5,000 a month and another quoted $700! Everyone gives you conflicting advice. I learned that many service providers are just not small-business friendly.
“No, I can’t sign on for a three- or five-year contract. We’re a startup!” she would exclaim.
“Luckily, I have a legal background and lawyer friends,” she adds with a smile.
WWBIC provided Synergy with a $15,000 loan to help cover the building lease, furniture purchases, and equipment, and the couple has also received loans from family members. “If all goes well,” Podesta notes, “we hope to begin making money in four months.”
5201 Old Middleton Road, Madison, WI 53705
608.709.5550 | synergymadison.com
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