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  • Writer's picturePallavi Goodman

Nicole Vasquez, Founder of The Shift - Changing the Way We Work

Since the time she was a child, Nicole Vasquez says she has been bringing people together. Things like planning and organizing birthday parties and picking which restaurant to go to.

“For me, coordinating and bring people together was not only exciting but enjoyable. And the reason I enjoy bringing people together of different backgrounds to share ideas and information is that it’s so fulfilling to learn from other people.”

Vasquez is the founder of The Shift, a co-working space in Chicago’s Uptown area. Even before she launched The Shift, when she was working her corporate jobs she had started a small events company on the side where she would organize, as she says, “modern-day dinner parties”. She would sell tickets to these parties where someone could show up alone and the payoff was meeting 15 new people at the party. Even as she hosted these events she also went to other events in the city and sometimes found herself in co-working spaces. She said she was particularly inspired by 1871 and she wanted to bring the idea and energy of its space to her neighborhood.

“I wanted to have a physical space to gather people and do exactly what I love which is bring people together of different backgrounds; but I also wanted them to have a space where they could work, learn, meet, get to know one another.”

She also recognized an opportunity that there was a need for co-working spaces in Chicago neighborhoods. Most of these spaces were limited to the city’s downtown area and people who worked in different Chicago neighborhoods were stuck either at home or coffee shops. But she wanted it to be much more than just a physical space. “You mean create a community?” I asked. “Yes!” she said, “building a professional community inside these walls was much more intriguing and interesting to me than just opening a space.”

“I was excited by that idea so I researched it and prepped and spoke to many people about it and tried to save as much as I could.” Eventually, about a year after she first thought about it Nicole quit her job and opened The Shift. And she did it all on her own. Did she consider taking on a partner? She says she did but eventually she wanted to prove to herself that she could do it on her own, make mistakes and learn from those mistakes. Also, she wanted to prove that co-working spaces did not have to be huge, 10,000 square feet of unwieldy space but something compact and effective for those using it.

Vasquez spends time supporting, promoting and connecting members once they are on board. When a member signs up, she sits down with that person and asks three questions:

  1. What are you working on? 2. What are you looking for? 3. How can you help others?

She creates a member profile that any Shift member can look up. She holds Member events every two weeks, things like snack social and member lunches. Members are encouraged to share knowledge through “show and tell”, presentations which could range from 30 seconds to 20 minutes about something they are working on. Members learn something new and meet other members at these events. Members receive additional benefits such as free promotion on social media, on The Shift’s newsletter, and website. Members also teach classes usually about business and marketing.

Vasquez has now opened another location at Logan Square. “I always had the idea of opening multiple locations but I also want to empower other people to open spaces in their neighborhoods.” Why? “Well, it would be a disservice to the people in the neighborhood if it wasn’t run by someone dedicated and knowledgeable about the neighborhood; someone who is a community builder.” So her plan for additional locations is to partner with people from a particular neighborhood so that they can run that space.

“What’s interesting is that we were asked about this (to open another location) before we even planned it. Because people love the idea they want to see this in their neighborhood. They know it can be a catalyst for economic development, for innovation. It’s very exciting.”

Vasquez also does co-working consulting which means she can help anybody looking to open a similar space in the city. She organized a summit called “Convene” for co-working space owners and managers. She says that while they are all about creating community the co-working organizers didn’t have a community of their own until she stepped in and organized Convene. Now she is taking Convene to other cities such as Washington D.C. “It’s their city, their space, I’m just there to facilitate;” she was taking it to Boston, LA, and San Francisco next.

She’s also a Director for DeskPass. DeskPass is like ClassPass for the mobile professional who cannot be tied to one desk all day. These professionals need desks available at different places at different times during the day depending on where they are at any given time.

Vasquez’s story is one of belief, determination and persistence to a cause – build community by working together. She was quick to see the value and benefit of co-working spaces when such spaces were at a nascent stage, just beginning to gain ground. Today she is the owner of The Shift, the Second Shift and a community builder.

#organize #entreprenuership #commnunity #coworking #colearning #women

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