SPN Spaces is a new series that takes a look inside the region’s most inspiring startups, workspaces, incubators, accelerators and organizations.
Once home to a grocery store, Cali Commons is now a unique co-working space in Midtown Omaha that welcomes tech entrepreneurs and artists alike. After many owners and many functions, Cali Commons Co-founders Luke Armstrong and Molly Nicklin purchased the building in 2013.
SPN took a tour of the building (including the basement offices which used to be used for coal storage) and sat down with Armstrong and Nicklin for a Q&A.
Location: 518 N 40th St., Omaha, NE
Luke Armstrong – Executive Director / Co-founder
Molly Nicklin — Community Director / Co-founder
SPN: How long has Cali Commons been open?
CC: We’ve been operating for nearly 4 ½ years, we opened 10/1/2013.
SPN: What gap did you see in the local community that lead you to form Cali Commons?
CC: We noticed a lack of collaborative spaces and places to show your creative work. Initially, we focused on the overlap between artists, local business and remote co-workers. There is an independence of spirit that ties these individuals together.
SPN: You call Cali Commons a “creativity incubator.” What kinds of things happen when you let entrepreneurial mindsets and creativity mingle?
CC: Our “creativity incubator” is a place to activate and realize the ideas bubbling in our community. Cali Commons provides resources needed to take an idea one step further, turning a spark into a concept that can be evaluated by the local community. Connecting with a team of peers can help you jump common hurdles, like how to turn your concept into a prototype or more effectively launch a marketing campaign. It’s a place for collaboration, interaction through storytelling and multiplying your impact through our local community.
SPN: What amenities, benefits and resources do you offer?
CC: Cali Commons offers space for classes, events, live-streaming performances, and a collaborative working environment. We also provide shared, personal access to expensive tools and software including shop tools, saws, paint, easels, computers, printers, cameras and community marketing software.
SPN: Can you tell me a little more about your soon-to-be-launched membership program?
CC: Our Uncommon Core will be comprised of 40 creative individuals who want to move their ideas/concepts forward. We aren’t trying to constrain the types of creativity, but we are pretty sure the members will include artists, entrepreneurs, programmers, musicians, makers, designers and performers. It is our goal to encourage collaboration between these members, providing them a place to interact with their community and grow an awareness of their initiatives. The members support the on-going costs involved in keeping up a creative space with a minimal staff at a rate of $90/mo.
SPN: You’re not currently a non-profit but you’re in the process of filing for a 501(c)3 status. How will becoming a non-profit further help you fulfill your mission?
CC: Cali Commons thinks it’s critically important to help our creative community thrive without taking too much of their resources. As we grow, we want to provide a stable environment filled with resources our members couldn’t afford on their own. When we are able to obtain our 501c3 status, we’d like to focus on improving the quality resources our members have access to while improving our methods for measuring the impact of our creative community. As we grow and prove our value, we would like to replicate our incubator in other struggling creative communities.
SPN: Do you have any upcoming events for people to drop in on?
Yes! Uncommon February will feature two local artists who will be working on a competitive and collaborative challenge. These paintings will be done for a live audience and bits of it will be live-streamed. You can join us for FREE at Uncommon February — Saturday, February 17th from 5-10pm.
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