The Grove, Dallas may be no more, but its co-founder Justin Nygren is far from done in coworking and the world of social impact.
When Nygren started the former West End coworking space in 2013, it was one of a handful of shared offices in North Texas and arguably the first with a social focus.
The Grove touched more than 300 businesses and organizations and had a total of 500 members throughout its operation. In August, it officially closed its doors after Nygren was unable to negotiate new lease terms with owners of the building at 501 Elm St.
Nygren said he’s “quite satisfied” with The Grove’s four-year run, and he’ll likely not step into a role as coworking operator again.
“I love coworking. I love it as a business model. I love it as a community building tool and opportunity. I’m not interested in running another coworking space,” Nygren said.
Instead, he’s moved into a consulting role helping others refine their coworking businesses and working with nonprofits and social enterprises in program development.
ENTREPRENEURSHIP PROGRAM AT IRMA RANGEL LAUNCHES THIS MONTH
One of his latest projects, which kicked off this week, introduces students at Dallas ISD’s Irma Lerma Rangel Young Women’s Leadership School to the practice of entrepreneurship.
“It’s more than just a class of we’re teaching you this and you’ll be tested on this,” Nygren said. “We’re actually hands-on building their business throughout the course of the semester.”
Nygren has partnered with the North Texas chapter of After-School All-Stars to create the national nonprofit’s first program dedicated to entrepreneurship.
For some students at the Fair Park school, which serves girls in grades six through 12, this might be their first exposure into running a business, he said.
“Now, we have an opportunity to get into their lives at 15-17 years old and give them tools that will put them, I believe, light years ahead of their classmates, if they choose to go to college or their competitors, if they choose to start a company out of high school,” Nygren said.
“I’m really passionate about supporting anybody who is trying to think creatively and innovatively when it comes to education.”
The girls will come on Monday and Tuesday afternoons to work on their business plans along with a mentor. On Wednesdays, they’ll hear real-life tales from business professionals.
“What we’re looking for on speakers is minority business owners, female executives, really role models for the girls at Irma Rangel [that can] help them make that connection between their life right now living in Fair Park and the opportunities that exist for their careers,” Nygren said.
It’s not Nygren’s first focus on youth entrepreneurship.
He served as a board member for Dallas ISD’s Innovation, Design, Entrepreneurship Academy helping the choice school formulate its identity and programming before its launch in 2015.
“I’m really passionate about supporting anybody who is trying to think creatively and innovatively when it comes to education,” Nygren said.
Earlier this year, The Grove offered its own program focused on young business mavens in a three-day workshop called The Capacitor.
Currently, the After-School All-Stars pilot program at Irma Rangel is planned to run through the end of the fall term, but it could extend into the spring.
CONTINUING TO CULTIVATE THE COWORKING COMMUNITY
On the coworking side, Nygren has been working as a consultant with NōD Coworking Founder Chirag Gupta to aid in expansion plans for the North Dallas facility.
“So, helping him shore up the foundation of the business and evaluate what needs to be improved in order to get to where he wants to be in 2019,” Nygren said.
At The Grove, Nygren learned a successful coworking business is not just about throwing desks and chairs inside an empty room. You have to cultivate the atmosphere or spirit of the space.
“No matter who your focus is, the coworking business model is more a hospitality business model than most people realize before they get into it,” he said.
With more than 60 coworking offices in North Texas now, some might be waiting for the bubble to burst, but Nygren said there’s still room for growth.
“I think what we’re probably going to start seeing is a more localized, niche focus in coworking spaces,” he said.
“I think that has the potential to be a real game changer for coworking in North Texas.”
Early on in The Grove’s existence, Nygren developed the Dallas Coworking Collective with Dallas Fort Work’s Oren Salomon as a way to bring the smaller operators together for mutual support and to share best practices.
Now, Nygren is helping Daryn DeZengotita, who helped develop The Mix Coworking & Creative Space, in the early stages of the North Texas Coworking Alliance. That new convening group will encompass leaders of independent coworking offices across North Texas.
“I think that has the potential to be a real game changer for coworking in North Texas,” Nygren said. “When you start working on that level with 60 spaces as opposed to the five or six that we had in the Dallas Coworking Collective, you’re going to be able to leverage a lot more resources.”
Updated 7:08 Oct. 4 to reflect a change in the membership focus for the North Texas Coworking Alliance.
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