By WRAL Tech Wire
DURHAM, N.C. – The Makery will occupy the “Smoffice” this summer in Durham.
Smoffice – short for world’s smallest office – is the latest public relations effort by Durham to attract more attention as a startup capital for new and emerging businesses.
Launched by the Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce and Downtown Durham, Inc. (DDI), the Smoffice campaign will provide the winner free office space, furniture, a tablet computer, technical support, and advisory services plus a rent-free condo for six months.
The Makery – a flash sale site that will offer products made by North Carolina artists – is a startup based out of Galesburg, Ill., led by a team of three sisters: Krista Anne, Brita, and Sarah Rose Nordgren who have ties to the Bull City. The three sisters who founded The Makery originally grew up in Durham and will be moving back to town next month to take up the 30-foot space between May 1 and Oct. 31 to begin building their business.
“We all grew up in Durham, but have since lived around the world, including Silicon Valley, Massachusetts, Italy, and Sweden,” said Krista Anne, who found out about the competition via Twitter. “We are blown away by what we see happening in Durham’s startup scene and are eager to join in.”
The Makery was one of 21 companies who competed in the “Smoffice” national competition.
The Makery has a bit of steam coming into Durham as the company recently reached its goal of raising $4,500 on Kickstarter to build the initial Web platform for selling North Carolina wares.
The plan calls for Makery members to receive curated deals on a selection of limited edition art, apparel, and home wares that are all handmade by one of that week’s featured local artists. When a consumer purchases an item from The Makery, he or she will pay less than what they would pay at a craft fair or on an artist’s Etsy site, and will also be exposed to new artists and pieces that have been carefully chosen as “Makery Picks.”
To the artists, The Makery brings a large member base of potential customers, and also provides additional exposure through features on its blog and special, one-of-a-kind opportunities for VIP members.
“The selection committee was enamored with The Makery,” said Matthew Coppedge, DDI’s director of marketing. “We love the way they are combining e-commerce and Web design with a real focus on local artists to give consumers a chance to find great art, pottery, and more at a deep discount.”
The Nordgrens, in addition to the free space and condo, will receive introductions and connections to fellow entrepreneurs and business leaders through DDI and the Chamber.
The total value of the Smoffice package is more than $20,000.
The Smoffice creators hope the prime location of the space will give The Makery a good jumping off point for conversations with business leaders and artists in town.
“We have high hopes for this concept and believe it shows that Durham is home to more than just tech startups and is a place where almost any entrepreneur can thrive,” said Adam Klein, startup strategist for the Durham Chamber. “We love the energy The Makery is going to display daily on Main Street, and the Nordgrens will be able to use the space to connect easily with Durham’s artists and art lovers alike to build a strong base before launching.”
The Smoffice is located in the front of the Beyu Caffe on Durham’s Main Street. Including a desk designed by Center Studio Architecture and built by McDonald York, the space is inside the front window of the coffee shop. The condo comes courtesy Mangum 506, which is nearby.
Klein and Coppedge came up with the “Smoffice” concept. They also created the Stampede, which over two programs has produced 15 companies that remain in downtown Durham. The Stampede packages included free office space, high-speed bandwidth, and other goodies.
Flash sale sites, only a few years old, are tremendously popular. American visits to them have increased 314 percent over the last two years, according to recent reports.
Next up for the Smoffice is The World’s Smallest Ribbon Cutting, complete with tiny scissors and string in lieu of ribbon. In the coming weeks, the Chamber and DDI also plan to announce and launch their next startup initiative.