“We engage and support the local community through partnerships with organizations like the Chamber of Commerce, non-profits, and the local tech ecosystem.”

Annie Hodges Granite City Community Manager and Kyle Middleton Granite City Cofounder

According to the Wall Street Journal “The pandemic resulted in the permanent closure of roughly 200,000 U.S. establishments above historical levels”, the resilience of small business owners focusing on hyperlocal business growth through the pandemic and beyond may be the difference for those who made it through.  A community of businesses banding together to support each other’s success to keep economic development moving forward within a hyperlocal environment is a model for success in a post-Covid business environment. 

As part of our small business resilience showcase, we were able to sit down with State Farm agent, entrepreneur, and Cofounder of Granite City Coworking Kyle Middleton.

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us a little bit about your background and what inspired you to start Granite City?

Through my work in the insurance industry, I’ve worked with small businesses and entrepreneurs for over 20 years. There’s something about the entrepreneurial journey and process that I’ve always enjoyed. It wasn’t until after I started doing non-profit work internationally, that I began to experience community in a way I never had before. I was able to witness and be a part of how another culture connects and shares resources within their communities. Sharing in that experience really inspired me to take some of those practices home, and apply them to my passion for collaborating with entrepreneurs. I began to wonder how many other people were out there, passionate about collaborating, sharing, and learning from each other? Were they too, meeting at local Starbucks with other like-minded business owners? Then thought, is there a better space to connect us all?

When most people think of co-working they think of these large corporations like WeWork or Regus in large cities, how has Granite City separated itself from these firms?

To me, there’s a difference between coworking vs having a shared office space where people go to work behind closed doors, heads down. In our space, Coworking means hosting community events, sharing resources, and encouraging personal interaction to spend time together and contribute to the overall energy of the space. We encourage our members to have community with each other.

This past year was very difficult for tens of thousands of small businesses can you share how your members faired during these hard times?

In general, our members did very well. Many of our members are at the top of their industries, very cutting edge, and good at what they do. They’re able to determine how to adapt and grow their businesses, and oftentimes, our members are able to support each other, whether it’s through brainstorming ideas, bringing energy to the space, or encouragement. Many of them have partnered together to create new ventures and products, started partnerships, and even hired each other.

How does the Granite City member community engage with the larger regional business community, and how have you facilitated opportunities for synergy and collaboration?

Granite City is home to leaders within various aspects of the regional business community. On one level, we support and engage with different communities through our member’s leadership and connection points, and on another level, we engage and support the local community through partnerships with organizations like the Chamber of Commerce, non-profits, and the local tech ecosystem. We intentionally have events that support hyper-local restaurants and use collaborative spending to support small businesses. We have event and meeting spaces that allow us to partner and invite others into our space to utilize, and even connect with their own teams and networks.

This year there has been a record number of solopreneurs starting their own businesses, I understand Granite City has a provided local mentorship can you touch on that for us?

Yes, we’re able to offer mentorship in both formal and informal ways. Formally, we partner with the SBDC (Small Business Development Center) to provide consulting, free of charge, for start-ups. We also formed a program called The Hatchery, which is a hand-selected group of veteran founders who provide structured support for our members at Granite City. Informally, through the culture we’ve cultivated, our members mentor each other daily. Whether it be through serendipitous interactions, or scheduled times to connect, our members mentor each other organically. We do our best to encourage our members to engage with each other and be familiar with other’s businesses so that they can find opportunities to benefit from many areas of expertise.

As a local entrepreneur, being integrated into the economic development of the local area and Granite City Event Center being home to TedX Folsom this Fall what piece of advice can you share with a fellow business owner to avoid “burnout?”

Being a business owner is a unique journey. Business owners need to find community in like-minded individuals, who understand the day-to-day aspects of starting a business and growing in it. Having a community around you that understands the highs and lows, understands the challenges and the rewards – it’s invaluable to find that kind of support. Reach out, engage, and talk with other business owners. Whether it’s at a networking event, at a restaurant happy hour, or reaching out to your circle of friends, you can find people that will share in your highs and lows, and help you balance what accompanies that journey.

Finally, thank you for your time and how can our readers get in touch with you to learn more about the amazing work being done at Granite City?

Thanks for connecting with us! The best way to get in touch with us would be to visit our website www.granitecitycoworking.com where you can learn more, and even book a tour to visit us or email us at [email protected].