In Newark, a co-working space brings together entrepreneurs, artists

By Naomi Nix | The Star-Ledger
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on July 27, 2014

Isaiah Little, Clark Lagemann and Todd Nakmura use the Converge co-working space to plan an entrepreneurship conference.


NEWARK — Inside an art gallery on a recent afternoon, a handful of entrepreneurs were hunched over laptops working on ideas to bolster Newark’s entrepreneurial scene.

A designer and a businessman discussed logos for a new product. A Livingston resident drafted a small business grant application. Three entrepreneurs planned a conference.

They were just a handful of entrepreneurs and artists taking advantage of “Converge,” a new pop-up space at Seed gallery in downtown Newark.

The setup is relatively simple. Each Thursday, members of Newark’s creative set make use of the free coffee, Wi-Fi and fold-up tables in the one-room gallery as they toil away on individual projects. The space, on the third floor of a walk-up on Market Street, is open from 9 a.m. to 10p.m.

Converge organizers hope the weekly event, which started in May, spurs collaboration and innovation among city entrepreneurs and artists. It will continue until October.

“I thought it would be great to cross-pollinate those worlds,” said Seed founder Gizem Bacaz. “It’s cool to have something like that in an art gallery.”

The co-working space trend has taken off in other cities such as Philadelphia, New York and Los Angeles. And though the scene is less established in Newark, others are planning to open more co-working spaces in the city later this year.

“It’s hard to work at home. It’s hard to work at Starbucks,” said Sean Hairston, who is part of team planning to open a pop-up co-working space in August. “We really wanted to do something where we can make a new tech hub in the city, actually.”

Converge launched in May, in conjunction with the Brick City Development Corporation, a city-sponsored development organization. Since then, the event has attracted a group of regulars.

“It brings a lot of people together,” Bacaz said.

Carving out spaces for new business owners to work together can be essential to their success, entrepreneurs said.

Jimi Olaghere, 28, and Alex Bryden, 24, decided to meet at Converge on Thursday after having a less productive work session chatting online. Olaghere, founder of A Geek & A Gentleman, and Bryden, a graphic designer, were discussing potential designs for Olaghere’s new beard oil business.

In addition to providing work space, Seed also tries to provide educational opportunities for budding entrepreneurs, from a lawyer talking about getting a patten or a representative from the British consulate touting the country’s tech awards.

But sometimes the education is more informal.

“We can mentor each other. We all have different skills sets,” said Mark Annett, a self-described “serial entrepreneur” from Livingston.

Annett said he uses Converge because he appreciates the culture of the community.

While Newark’s entrepreneurship scene may be less established than other cities, the entrepreneurs are more “mission-focused,” he said.

“I could work anywhere, but on Thursdays, I come down here,” Annett said.

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