Everybody in Durham knows The Smoffice. That’s probably because it’s in the front window of Beyu Caffe, the caffeinated nexus of Durham entrepreneurship. Also, there’s a big sign that says “The Smoffice.”
The “World’s Smallest Office” is the brainchild of the Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce and Downtown Durham, Inc. After The Makery won the Smoffice business plan competition, they moved into Beyu on May 1st.
So, how’s it going? And, what is The Makery? To find out, I staged a Smoffice sit-down with co-founder Krista Anne Nordgren, who started The Makery with her two sisters.
What’s it like working in The Smoffice?
It’s really awesome. The publicity here is really amazing. A lot of people know about The Smoffice even though they don’t know what we’re doing. We have people stop by all the time and say hello, just to see what we’re doing. We’ve had artists drop by and show us some really cool stuff. And the food here is really good.
Do you get a sense that Beyu is a hub for other entrepreneurial things?
I overhear a lot what seem to be important business happenings. I eavesdrop on their conversations sometimes.
Did you ever hear any really salacious gossip?
No, but I’m going to keep my ears peeled.
Isn’t the claim that this is “The World’s Smallest Office” rather dubious?
For one person it feels pretty spacious. For two people it does feel a little cramped.
Does anything weird happen in The Smoffice?
People walk by and take pictures. Sometimes they’ll smile and it’s all in good fun, but sometimes people will stand in front and look at me without acknowledging my wave, which is really strange.
The only bad part [about The Smoffice] is when people don’t wave back to me. And the hot sun. It’s really hot. It’s too hot to be here in the morning because it’s like a little glass cage.
Let’s talk about The Makery. What is it and how did you get the idea?
Our goal is to connect artists making really cool things with a broader audience.
We came up with the idea in January when Groupon was in the news for screwing over local businesses. So the genesis was thinking about that daily deal model as a way that could help out our community.
We were thinking about the artists we knew that were really talented at what they do but their main passion is to create things, not to market or be business people.
So we have a flash sales model—it’s like Groupon’s daily deal, but instead of services, it’s products. It’s a limited time and limited quantity so it adds an excitement of buying under pressure.
The Makery benefits people who want to put their money back into the local economy and also artists who make money off their pieces.
What does ‘local’ mean?
Right now, local is North Carolina. But people from anywhere can buy things. Our goal is to expand to other states.
Are you guys up and running now?
We’re going to launch a private beta at the end of a summer.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I would give a shout-out to Adam [Klein] and Matt [Coppedge] for coming up with the idea and for being incredible resources as soon as we got in this space.