A funny thing happened to Zahra Amanpour after she spent a decade helping small business owners start up and sustain their new ventures.
Their entrepreneurial spirit rubbed off on her.
“I just came to fall in love with their work and the environment entrepreneurs create and surround themselves with,” Amanpour said. “There’s just a great vibe around them and enthusiasm and courage.”
Nearly two years ago, the Jersey City resident gathered the guts to follow their lead.
“I was working for New York City making a really good salary, getting promoted and doing well. I had a career ahead of me,” she said of her position with NYC Business Solutions running economic development and educational programs for entrepreneurs.
“It was terrifying, but I decided to take the leap and walk away.”
Today, Amanpour is the owner of Indiegrove, a communal workspace in Jersey City, where she continues to assist entrepreneurs while earning a living as one herself.
“I started seeing co-working becoming a wonderful solution for entrepreneurs all over New York City and around the world,” she said. “I was thinking, ‘We need one of these here.’ ”
That’s because as the self-employed sector has grown, so has the demand for affordable workspace.
An evolution of the previous coffee shop-turned-home-office modus operandi of entrepreneurs, communal workspaces provide all the office essentials — including Wi-Fi, phone lines, fax, scanner and copy machines, overhead projectors and mail service — without all the distractions.
“Somebody opens the door talking loudly or a baby comes in crying or a lady is shouting an order out, and you’re on the phone trying to conduct a meeting,” Amanpour said of doing business in a cafe. “It has its limitations. That’s why co-working has become what it’s become.”
For a membership fee of $225 to $1,000 per month, small business owners can rent private offices, private desks, meeting rooms or co-workspace in Indiegrove’s 6,000-square-foot facility atop 121 Newark Ave., which is just a half block from the Grove Street PATH station.
“You have to invest a little each month,” she said, adding that curious first-timers should check out Free Co-Working Fridays.
Indiegrove attracts a diverse body of entrepreneurs, said Amanpour, including writers, media professionals, marketing consultants, fitness consultants, lawyers, therapists and, especially, tech startups. The shared workspace has led to shared ideas and a synergy that Amanpour said benefits all members.
“A tech business needs an attorney or an accountant — well, there is one in the next office. Or you need help with marketing, so why not talk to the person in marketing in your community?” said Amanpour of her client’s tendency to tap into the resources surrounding them.
Last June, Indiegrove broke even when its membership reached 50. Today, with 100 members, Amanpour is able to pay herself and consider expanding into additional space in the building.
“There’s a buzz in the space every day,” she said. “There’s momentum. There are people walking in the door every day to find out about our community. It just feels great.”
Amanpour’s rapid success is a boon for Jersey City, Mayor Steven Fulop said.
“To get real job growth we need to be able to attract the creative class, which likes to work in places like that,” Fulop said of Indiegrove. “It’s a great story for Jersey City, and it’s going to be an even better story once a number of those entrepreneurs get their businesses to the next level and can start hiring more employees.”
Amanpour, 34, is working to foster that growth by incorporating her past work with entrepreneurial educational initiatives into her blog posts, networking events and workshops at Indiegrove.
After all, her success, she said, hinges on the long-term success of her clients.
“I always tell them, ‘We’re all in this together.’ ”
BIZ IN BRIEF
LOCATION: Jersey City
FOUNDER: Zahra Amanpour
EMPLOYEES: One, plus one part-timer
REVENUE: Undisclosed, but Amanpour said she broke even when she got her 50th member. She now has more than 100